Kyrgyzstan is a former Soviet Republic that is located in the heart of Central Asia. Kyrgyzstan is a small country that lies south of Kazakhstan. The capital of Kyrgyzstan is Bishkek, which is a Soviet planned city. The Soviet planners constructed a beautiful ballet house, cinemas, and parks. All my pictures of Bishkek are the downtown area near the seat of government. The downtown was the best the Soviet Union had to offer. As one leaves the downtown area, the neighborhoods are typical dreary Soviet with an abandoned factory here and there.
The Kyrgyz left the Lenin exhibits intact at the Lenin Museum. The third floor is dedicated to the Soviet Union and the chief architect, Vladimir Lenin, who created and constructed the Soviet Union.
Kyrgyzstan was such a great country, when I was traveling there between 1996 and 1997. I frequently went to Bishkek there to hang out with friends on the weekend. In the beginning after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, Kyrgyzstan was the poorest Soviet Republic that implemented the most market reforms. Kyrgyzstan's future looked bright, and it was opening up its society. It appeared that its society would prosper and grow. When I returned there in December 2009, I was in complete shock. The city changed for the worst. Scores of young, unemployed men were hanging out on every street corner. I was warned to be very careful at night, and avoid the parks and dark alleys! Many young men are poor, and eager for a quick robbery. The ambience of the city evoked an eerie feeling within me.
- The area of the country spans 77,181 square miles.
- The currency is the Som.
- The capital is Bishkek.
- In 2009, the population was estimated at 5,482,000.
- Agriculture is still important sector of the economy.
- Kyrgyzs comprise 69% of the population with Russians comprising 9%. Racial tensions exists between the two groups.
- 33% of the population live in cities.
In 2009, Bishkek had a policeman on every street corner. Unfortunately, the police were worse than the criminals. The government ensured the police were poorly paid. Thus, the police tried to make up for their meager salaries by shaking down people for violations. All fees and fines are paid in cash, and the police do not write a summons to appear in a court. I was there for two days, and was stopped twice on the street by the police. I was merely walking! The leaders in the Kyrgyz government were too busy stealing everything that was not nailed down. It is truly amazing how in 12 years; a country can deteriorate and go into decline. Then Kyrgyzstan had its second revolution in March 2010.
Unfortunately, the government leaders shot themselves in the foot. Rich Kazakhs would vacation in Bishkek and Lake Isykul. Before the revolution, Kazakhs complained about the police corruption. For example, one person said he was stopped by police five times in his car in Bishkek in one day. Each time, the police demanded money. Now, after the revolution, the rich Kazakhs are avoiding Kyrgyzstan like the plague. All tourism came to a grinding halt along with the rest of the Kyrgyz economy.
It breaks my heart to see this country go into decline. During the summer of 1996, I travelled to Lake Isykul, and had a wonderful time. Lake Isykul is a lake in the mountains that is surrounded by many resorts, hotels, and camps. Image attending an open night club at a resort with no roof covered. As I danced, I glanced up at the dark sky, and could see the millions of stars of the Milky Way.
Of all the places, I visited and lived, Kyrgyzstan was one of my favorites. I wanted to live and work in this country, because I enjoyed the beautiful mountains and the mild climate. Between August and January, the sun was shining every day, and it is warm enough not to wear a coat. However, when the sun set, the temperature drops quickly.
Bishkek also had a variety of entertainment and a very low cost of living. I fell in love with the Russian Drama Theater, and became a regular. Unfortunately, I do not know if Kyrgyzstan can move beyond its revolution, and fix its problems. It seems to be perpetually stuck between a Soviet state and market economy.