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The Statue Game

Bishkek is an incredibly walkable city.  Big wide sidewalks and plenty of trees create shady retreats during the heat of the summer, and parks abound in the soviet-influenced urban plan.  Also crafted into those plans, and adding to the aesthetic appeal of pedestrian thruways, are an abundance of monuments and memorials.  

Here are some of the key figures that you may see depicted in these statues:

  • Manas:  The hero of the Kyrgyz epic 

  • Chingiz Aitmatov: a celebrated national writer, producing literary works in Kyrgyz during the Soviet era

  • Vladimir Lenin:  Leader of the USSR from 1922 to 1924

  • Mikhail Frunze: a Bolshevik general that led the Soviet advance into Central Asia.  For a significant portion of the 20th century, “Pishpek” (now Bishkek) was named for this Russian leader

  • Ivan Vasilyevich Paniflov:  a Russian general during World War 2

  • Kurmanjan Datka: also known as “Queen of the Mountains”, she was a leader of the southern regions, respected by the main tribal groups at the time, and the Russian authorities.  

Monuments to these figures are seen in the central area of Bishkek, around Ala Too Square and Oak Park.   Also in Oak Park, an open-air sculpture garden is dotted with statues that were crafted in 1984 by artists from throughout the Soviet Union.  The theme is “Peace and Labor”.   A monument to Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels also sits in the park, depicting the two men deep in conversation.

The Friendship Monument, visible at the top of the page, was inaugurated in 1974 in commemoration of the Kyrgyz people becoming a part of the Russian Empire.  Other memorials in the city celebrate the Red Guards, the “Alley of Heroes”, and the Martyrs of the Revolution.  Victory Square, with its massive half-yurt, impressive tunduk, and eternal flame is Kyrgyzstan’s tribute to the 40th anniversary of the end of World War II.  

These are only the main statues and monuments of note, near to the city center.  Walking through the streets of Bishkek, however,  always affords new surprises as an avant-garde spirit mixes with national pride to bring new art pieces into the public sphere.  Giant sunglasses, mechanical dragons, and “nutty” leopards are only some of the installations that can easily evoke a quick smile and fun photo op.  

-by Ruby Mitchell, Online Content Editor @ White Leopard Travel Co.

Official Trailer: Kurmanjan Datka, Queen of the Mountains

The full-length feature film about Kurmanjan Datka is available on YouTube with English subtitles. Directed by Sadyk Sher-Niyaz.

Motherland Statue | Karakol

Holding the Great Sword of Victory, this unnamed woman represents the motherland, and prominently holds her ground at the Great Patriotic War Memorial in Karakol. A beautiful park in its own right, this statue adds to the deep sense of pride and presence that befit the Kyrgyz Republic.

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