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Cities and towns
The Kirghiz Republic consists of seven areas: Chuy oblast (regional center Tokmak), Issyk-Kul oblast (center Karakol), Osh oblast (center Osh), Naryn oblast (center Naryn), Jalal-Abad oblast (center Jalal-Abad), Talas oblast (center Talas), Batken oblast (center Batken).
Bishkek is the capital of the Kirghiz Republic. It is located at the foot of Kyrgyz Ala-Too mountain ridge in central part of Chuy valley at the altitude of 750-900 m above sea level. According to population census of 2006, the population of Bishkek is 1 043 000 persons. Bishkek is the largest and most beautiful city of the republic. The Ala-Archa river, the Alamedin river and the Big Chuy canal run across the city. At the beginning of XIX century when Kyrgyzstan was under power of Kokand khanate, conquerors had created on its trading ways fortresses with military garrisons. In 1825 on the ancient trading way connected Central Asia with China, at crossing with Verny path, under the order of Kokand khan Modali a fortress Pishpek was founded (in translation from Turkic it means a stick for shaking kumys). The fortress occupied a site about 6 hectares, consisted of a ring earthen rampart and two lines of pise walls. Caravan-sheds, markets, small workshops and apartment houses for handicraftsmen and dealers were built around it. In 1860 the fortress was taken by storm by military detachment of Tsar Russia. Very soon it was under the power of Kokand khanate again. In 1862 fortress Pishpek was forced by Russian troops again. Since 1866 Russian and Ukrainian peasants start to move here. In 1878 Pishpek had got the rights of chief town of a district. It was the first city of the European type in Kyrgyzstan. Then there was a general plan of building up the city. The plan provided construction of military settlement - a fort post. Mark out of streets, squares and blocks was made the same year. In 80th of the XIX century the city became a center of Chuy valley. Before October revolution of 1917 in spite of the fact that fortification already carried the status of a regional administrative centre, in essence, it reminded an expanding dirty village. At that time, there were some wooden and brick constructions on this place. Development of city began only after 1920. In 1924 Pishpek became the administrative and political center of the Kirghiz Autonomous region, and from that time it began to develop as the capital of Kyrgyzstan. In 1926 Pishpek was renamed into city Frunze, in honor of the outstanding revolutionary, the commander and statesman М.V. Frunze who was born here. This name suited the city very much by then being buried in verdure as a word "Frunze" in translation from Moldavian means "a green leaf". Only in one century a small city and its suburbs became a modern capital with wide streets and squares, original architecture. Bishkek is associated with the name "city-garden", owing to a plenty of parks, lawns and gardens. In 1991, after declaration of independence of Kyrgyzstan, the city was named Bishkek. Today Bishkek is an industrial center of Kyrgyzstan, its political, cultural and educational "heart". It is a modern city with wide streets and beautiful buildings, favorably differing by this from many other cities of the region as from the very beginning it was constructed under the European plan. It is one of the greenest cities of CIS as well and one of the most multinational capitals of the continent (representatives more than 80 ethnic groups and peoples here live). The enterprises of machine-building, food and light industries work in the city. There are universities, institutes, numerous research establishments in Bishkek. There is an opera and ballet theatre, drama theatres, a philharmonic society, a circus, museums, stadiums. During Soviet time, many buildings of modern architecture, dwelling multi-storied micro districts, parks, avenues and squares were built in the city. Bishkek is an important transport node. It is connected with many countries by automobile and air ways.
Osh is the second largest and significant city of Kyrgyzstan, is it located in the south of the republic, in eastern part of Fergana valley, on the banks of the Ak-Buura river. It is one of the most ancient cities of Central Asia. In Kazakhstan division into two capitals - southern and northern - appeared in the last years, in Kyrgyzstan such division was always. Bishkek is the northern capital and Osh is the southern capital. The city is located at the altitude of 950-1070 meters above sea level. The population of the city is about 250 000 people. The first settled settlement of ancient farmers which has been found out by archeologists in the centre of Osh, on the southern slope of Suleiman mountain, has appeared more 3000 years ago, during late bronze epoch. There were celebrations of the 3000 anniversary of the city in 2000 in Kyrgyzstan. The exact date of occurrence of Osh city is unknown. Legends connect the foundation of the city with such characters of world history, as ancient Israelitish tsar Solomon (Suleiman), or Greek ruler Alexander the Great, or even the first man Adam. Osh is surrounded by hills and low rocky spurs of Kichi-Alay mountain range from three sides. One of spurs in the form of a rock in height of more than 100 m towers in city centre and is called Suleiman-Too. From time immemorial the Suleiman-mountain, is considered to be sacred, it is an original open-air temple. Suleiman-Too, (Tahkti-Suleiman "Solomon's Throne") is a symbol of Osh. The height of the mountain reaches 100-150 meters, length is 1,5 kilometers, width - 120 meters, absolute mark of height is 1106 meters above sea level. During more than three thousand years the mountain served as a place of worship of different people. The city has old and interesting history beginning from the V century B.C. Due to its geographical position Osh was the important trading crossroads on the Great Silk Way connecting the Mediterranean and the Near East with Pamir, Tibet, China and India. In the X century, Osh was the third city on size in Fergana valley and important point on the Great Silk Way. Till the XVI century the Suleiman-Mountain referred to Bara-Kukh (Beautiful Mountain). The name of "Takhti-Suleiman" (Throne of Suleiman or Solomon) - has been given to mountain only in the XVI century. Pilgrims from all Asia were reaching for the Suleiman-mountain already in the X century as from time immemorial it is considered that exactly here prophet Suleiman addressed the God, and his forehead and knees printed on stones. Above this sacred for each Moslem place Mukhammad Zakhiriddin Babur (1483-1530), great-grandson of Timur and the founder of a dynasty of Great Moguls, had constructed a small cell, where nowadays there is one chamber mosque renewed on archival sources, it is so called "Babyr's house". The most part of the mountain is now included into structure of National museum reserve "The Great Silk Way" and includes mausoleum Asaf-ibn-Burkhia (XVIII-XIX centuries), ruins of a bath (XI-XII centuries, now here is an open-air museum), mosque Takhti-Suleiman and mosque Jami Ravat Abdullakhan (XVI century). The orthodox archangel Michael church (beginning of the XX century), site of ancient settlement Ak-Buura, historical museum and museum of spiritual culture, museum of local crafts, memorial complex "Eternal fire" with a memorial "Grieving mother", the Kyrgyz and Uzbek drama theatres, art gallery "Saltanat", and certainly, a picturesque and eternally noisy market on the bank of Ak-Buura river, which is already more than 2000 years, are other sights of Osh. Modern Osh grows and develops; there are three universities, institutes, libraries and parks in the city.
Jalal-Abad is the second largest city in southern Kyrgyzstan and the third in the republic. The population of the city is 85 000 people (data of 2003). Jalal-Abad is located at spurs of the Fergana ridge in bottom part of Kegart valley at the altitude of 764 m above sea level. It was founded in 1880 as settlement near to curative mineral sources at the foot of Aiyub-Too mountain. The reason for that were not only favorable natural-climatic conditions of the region, but also well-known medical thermal sources being everywhere around the city. In II century B.C. sulfate hydrocarbonate waters, natrium calcium waters and therapeutic muds were used already for treatment of many illnesses, and the sources were considered sacred. A lot of pilgrims were coming here annually. According to the legend here was a source Chashma-Ayub ("Job's source") which was visited by prophet Ayub himself (biblical Job). Jalal-Abad balneological resort is founded in 1887, it is situated within 5 km from the city of Jalal-Abad at the altitude of 975 m above sea level.
Karakol is a center of Issyk-Kul oblast, one of the first modern towns in the area round Issyk-Kul. Karakol is located in 420 km from Bishkek along eastern shore of Lake Issyk Kul, at the altitude of 1690-1770 m above sea level. Karakol (former Przhevalsk) was founded in 1869 as Russian military-administrative outpost by staff-captain baron Alexander fon Kaulbars, afterwards outstanding Russian military leader, a member of general staff. In 1889 the city was renamed in honor of Nikolay Przhevalsky, a well-known Russian traveler and legendary researcher of Central Asia who died here in 1888. The great Russian traveler was buried on the shore of Issyk Kul Lake at his will. To present day, the tomb of Przhevalsky stands open to all winds, on high shore, above the Kyrgyz lake which he had grown so fond. The memorial complex and Przhevalsky's museum are located in park, near wharf. Today Karakol is a cozy and convenient for life town. Karakol is a hospitable town with the streets built up by mainly one-storied houses in Russian style, being framed by lines of high white poplars, and also surrounded by orchards. About 63 000 people, representatives of more than 20 nationalities live here today. The town continues to be under construction and development, but at the same time citizens of Karakol keep carefully unique look peculiar to their town and unique originality. The most significant sights of Karakol are Dungan mosque and the Trinity Orthodox Church. Dungan mosque is a significant monument of architecture of the XX century. The builders of the mosque were immigrant of East Turkistan, they used the experience and skills of traditional Dungan wooden architecture. More than 30 masters erected the mosque: woodcarvers, masons, masters-roofers under the head of master Chzhou Sy. The Trinity Orthodox Church was constructed in 1894-1895 on a place of the five-domed brick church destroyed during earthquake of 1876. The church keeps the general principle of construction of ancient Russian sextuple temples and is crowned by five cupolas.
Cholpon-Ata (Venus's father, turk.) is located in 250 km from Bishkek at northern shore of lake Issyk-Kul, at the altitude of 1620 meters above sea level. It is the basic resort center of Issyk-Kul region. You can have a course of treatment by muds and waters from mineral sources in many health-improving resorts. There is an open-air museum of petroglyphs not far from the city centre, on the way to the airport. During Soviet times Cholpon-Ata was well-known for its horse-breeding centre where a new breed of horses - "New Kyrgyz" was raised. These unique horses are capable to do without food for three days, thus, performing heavy physical work, they also easily overcome mountain rises. The central road which passes through the whole town is very green, as poplars and other trees grow on its roadsides. It is a well-known Avenue of Rappoport named in honor of the founder and director of a horse-breeding centre. There is a hippodrome in the town where horse-racing competitions and national games often take place. There is a museum in Cholpon-Ata. It is the largest museum in Issyk-Kul region. Here you can see archeological finds, subjects of life and samples of nomads' art.
Balykchi is located in 180 km from Bishkek in eastern part of lake Issyk-Kul, on the crossroads of roads Bishkek - Naryn and Bishkek - Karakol, at the altitude of 1640 meters above sea level. Nowadays the population of Balykchi is about 45 000 people. In the middle of 1880, the retired soldier Bachin, had founded here a farm-stead, started fishery and organized a fishing artel. Except the service of a post path and fishery, inhabitants were engaged in transportation of wood. The settlement had a name of the founder - Bachino. In 1909 here had already lived 100 families, and the settlement had been renamed in Rybachie (Fishermen's). It got the status of a town in 1954 and developed as a large transport-industrial point. In the period after revolution development of settlement is connected with construction of highways Frunze-Przhevalsk and Frunze-Naryn, the railway and development of navigation on lake Issyk-Kul. Since 1991 the town has the name Balykchi ( "balyk" is translated from Turkic - "Fish"). Once Russian researcher Semenov-Tien-Shansky enjoyed the hospitality of people living on the shores of Issyk-Kul lake, and the monument to the traveler standing at the entrance to the town reminds of those nice days and discoveries. The monument was opened in 1982. The choice of a place for a monument is natural and symbolical. Just here in 1856 Semenov had made the first scientific researches in the heart of Tien Shan and had found real sources of the river Chu. Balykchi was one of staging posts of the Great Silk Way in ancient times. Today the town is the major economic center of Issyk-Kul region. Balykchi is a kind of gate on the way to lake Issyk-Kul - a tourist zone of the international significance. Balykchi is a terminal of the railway Lugovoe - Bishkek - Balykchi which connects the town with a railway network of the CIS. Features of transport position of the town define originality of its economy. The most significant building of Balykchi and its modern architectural point of interest is a brick Russian church which has a name of the respected Russian Orthodox Saint - blessed Xenia, who lived in the XVIII century in Saint-Petersburg (Russia). The church was projected and built by archpriest Valentin Nikonov in 1988, on the occasion of the 1000th anniversary of Russia Christening. The place for the church had been chosen nonrandom. Here, on the shore of Issyk-Kul, once a chapel raised up. It was built by the first Russian settlers. The church shows consistent with traditions of Old Russian architecture in church-building. Its originality is that all inside art and painting works were made by Kyrgyz Moslem painter. This is the striking example of peaceful existence and close interaction between Christianity and Islam. Since olden days people who lived along the Great Silk Way were famous for such religious tolerance.
Naryn is located in upstream of the river Naryn in 350 km from Bishkek at the altitude of 2 015 meters above sea level. Today it is a cultural and economic center of Naryn region, the only town in the region. There are enterprises of food and light industry, collages, technical school, musical-drama theatre. Naryn is a center of agricultural production of the republic. The population of the town is 41 000 people (data 2003). Naryn was founded in 1868 as Russian military fortress on a trading way from Semirechie to China on the place a small Kokand fortification. The garrison of the fortress protected the bridge across the river Naryn and on the important trading road Pishpek-Naryn-Torugart and passes across Naryn-Too ridge. First Russian soldiers had dug dugouts, later wooden barracks were constructed. Small trading outskirts of town appeared near the fortress, with time it turned to significant transit trading point on the way to Kashgar. Here also were 3 caravan-shed, customs, several teahouses, 5 handicraft shoe, clothes, inventory repair shops, and also a church, a mosque, a post office, a field hospital, a parish school. Dwelling building up consisted of mud houses. Russian immigrants, merchants from Fergana appeared in Naryn in 80th of the XIX century. The Kyrgyz families began to turn into a settled way of life. In 1927 Naryn got a status a town.
Tokmak is located in eastern part of Chuy valley, on the left bank of the Chu river, near a highway Bishkek-Balykchi, in 60 km to the east from Bishkek. Transport communication is accomplished by the railway and motor transport. The population is about 57 000 people. Representatives of 56 nationalities here live. At present Tokmak a center of Chuy oblast and is considered cultural and industrial centre of Kyrgyzstan. In 12 km to the southwest from the town medieval site of ancient settlement Balasagun and a minaret, nowadays restored and known under the name "Burana Tower" (XI century) remained. Balasagun was the capital of Karakhanid kaganat (940-1210). Tokmak controlled connections between steppe and mountain areas as was favorably located at the entrance to Boom gorge. At the beginning of the XIX century there was a fortress of Karakhanid kaganat here. In 1867 Tokmak became the district city of Semirechie region. Only in 12 years Pishpek became the center of the district. Economic significance of the town had increased in the XX century: it became the second after Bishkek on the industrial potential. Large enterprises of Tolmak are: a spinning factory, a glass factory, the only factory in republic on primary processing of wool. Light and food industries are developed too.
Talas is located in central part of Talas valley at the altitude of 1200 meters above sea level. The city is located on terraces of the river Talas. It was founded in 1877 by Russian and Ukrainian immigrants and was called Dmitrievka. Germans and Dungans lived here. Talas got the status of the town only in 1944. There are some industrial enterprises and multi-storey houses here. Nowadays the population is 35 000 people (data 2003), most of them are Kyrgyz. In the uplands of Talas the major economic activity is sheep breeding, in the lowlands - agriculture. There are many ancient relics and monuments in Talas valley, including numerous sepulchral burial mounds, ruins of medieval settlements, towns and mausoleums. 22 km north-east of Talas, not far from Tash-Aryk village, in the foothills of Manastun-Chikundy mountain, there is an ancient burial ground. Not far from there is the oldest mausoleum ("gumbez") of Manas the main hero of Kyrgyz historical epos. The Mausoleum was built in the XIVth century. According to the legend, the mausoleum was built by Kanikey, the wife of Manas. She had written the name of a woman on the Mausoleum to deceive enemies and protect her husband's body from defilement. Museum-reserve "Manas" and a mosque, forming National historical and cultural complex "Manas-Ordosu" are situated here. The one thousandth anniversary of epos Manas was celebrated in 1995.
Uzgen is one of the most ancient cities of Central Asia. It is located in the south of Kyrgyzstan, in the eastern part of Fergana valley on a bank of the Kara-Darya River. The town is at the altitude of 1012 m above sea level. Usgen was located on the trade route from Central Asia to the Western China. At the beginning of the 1st millennium A.D. Uzgen (Ouze, Uzgend) was one of the capitals of Fergana. Already to VIII-IX centuries Uzgen became surrounded by powerful walls, and by XII century the city developed into the second most important capital of Karakhanids' State. Ancient Uzgen represented a powerful fortress with gates, the roads from them led to China, Samarkand, Kashgar and to all sides of Fergana valley. Time almost has not left us proofs about former greatness of ancient Uzgen. Once there were numerous mosques and madrasahs, only medieval lay-out of the city with one-storied building and narrow streets, also the minaret (XI century) and three mausoleums of Karahkhanids' dynasty decorated by a beautiful terracotta ornament survived to our time. The city has kept rural look with one-storied country estates and narrow streets.