Sunday, June 26, 2016

The Cityscape of Bishkek

It is strange that the socialist part of the urban landscape of Bishkek remains constant as the capitalist part constantly change. Some businesses have some staying power. Coca-Cola has been here for 20 years and Kyrgyz Concept (a travel agency) has been in existence since 1990 even before independence. But, a lot of the cafes and stores here seem to last only one or two years before being replaced by new ventures. So there are two layers to Bishkek. An older Soviet layer of largely empty or re-purposed buildings and then newer and constantly changing businesses. It is more striking here than other places because very few of the visible symbols of Soviet rule were ever dismantled. The statue of Lenin is still standing behind the History Museum. During Soviet times it stood in front of the museum but other than that it is unchanged. The statue of Marx and Engels that Khrushchev replaced the statue of Stalin with is still just a very short walk away from the Lenin statue. Almost all the sickles and hammers on Soviet built buildings including the old Supreme Soviet which was the campus of AUCA for many years are still up. The 1963 Soviet mosaic on the Ala-Too Cinema is still the same despite showing a never ending parade of Disney movies. In short there has been almost no architectural de-Sovietization in Bishkek unlike other cities in the former USSR. On top of this is all of the new capitalist construction of the last quarter of a century.

1 comment:

derRach said...

Can you post your photos of various locations in Bishkek and the surrounding countryside (like the lake(s) and surrounding mountain views) from your personal perspective? I likely will not go traveling around the world, and don't think I will ever see Bishkek, but am always interested in the sights and landmarks. Perhaps you might consider composing your own Baedeker's Guidebook of Bishkek? Yes, walking is never time wasted. I like that!

Aside: I recall studying a historic Baedeker's of the Provinz of Posen, Germany buried in the archives of a general library of a university. I returned it and personally buried this rare book back deep again in the dusty pile of (almost) never used books where it came from. Wish that I had photocopied it though. I don't ever expect to go back there either.