Overview

Bishkek is a city of wide, tree lined boulevards and capital of the Central Asian nation of Kyrgyzstan. Called Pishpek upon its conquest by Russia in 1862 and Frunze during the Soviet period, the city was renamed to Bishkek following the independence of Kyrgyzstan. Settled high in the mountains, at an elevation of 750 to 900 m (2,500 – 3,000 ft), the city offers a grand view of the, permanently snowcapped, Kyrgyz Mountains to the south. Covering the Chui River Valley, and along the banks of the Alaarcha and Alamedin rivers, Bishkek has the Bolshov Chuysky Canal splitting its northern portion and numerous irrigation canals flowing along its streets.

Though originally relying on light industry and agriculture for the basis of its subsistence, Bishkek benefited heavily from World War II, when many of the threatened west Russian factories relocated to Central Asia. Looking for a safe area from which to produce Russia’s wartime needs, these factories would go on to bring much industrial and economic growth to what had been the small towns of the area. From this period Bishkek developed a strong machining and metalworking industry base that provides for the city even today. The city environs contain a large amount of parks and orchards, with many theatres and universities, chief among those the Academy of Sciences and the Kyrgyz State University. Overall these parks and tree lined streets help greatly beautify the otherwise drab Soviet architectural style that makes up a large part of the administrative and residential portions of the city. As of 2005 the city encompassed a population of around 900,000 people.

History

Bishkek was founded in 1825 by the Khanate of Kokand as a defense for their northern frontier with Russia. But the fort did not maintain its original goal for very long, falling in 1862 to Russian forces and being completely demolished. The site was rebuilt in 1877 though, by the Russians, and named Pishpek, which was a misspelling of the fort’s original name. What followed was a small scale colonization effort by Russia, which would see the city grow to 14,000 people by 1913 and become a chief administrative center. In 1924, the city became the capital of the Kyrgyz oblast (province) and retained that title when the area was reorganized into the Kyrgyz (and later Kirgiz) Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic, though its name was changed to Frunze, in honor of the revolutionary leader Mikhail Vasilyevich Frunze, in 1926.

With the development of Bishkek’s industry, due to World War II, the city rapidly grew in size during the last three quarters of a century. By 1991, when Kyrgyzstan declared its independence from the fading USSR, the city was well deserving of being the capital of a new nation, with well over 630,000 people living within its bounds and a rather well developed industrial infrastructure. The city has rapidly left behind its heritage of heavy industry though, modernizing into a more service based economy with much lighter industries making up the majority of manufacturing. And though the city has been on the political map in the last few years due to a widely held belief in unfair elections, it has managed to grow quietly and rapidly in the most part.

During the war in Afghanistan the United States was given the rights to use the nearby Manas Air Force base for its strikes into Afghanistan. The base was renamed Ganci Airbase and became one of the main US headquarters. Russia would follow that move up with their own claim to a base in nearby Kant.



Sources
"Bishkek." Encyclopædia Britannica. 2005. Encyclopædia Britannica Premium Service 16 June 2005 .
“Bishkek.” Wikipedia. 2005. Wikipedia.org 16 June 2005 .
“Bishkek.” 2005. Tascali Reference 16 June 2005

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