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THE Spektator 40 som/сом

№5 May 2009

Your sporadically published guide to what’s happening in and around Bishkek

F ab
Iss eci
Mythical Issyk Kul:

Underwater mysteries

The Spektator guide to Issyk Kul
Rot-Front: A village of Germans in Kyrgyzstan
The lowdown on the Som Gang
The adventures of an emigrating dog
...and much more!

Tourist Maps What’s On Restaurant Guide .
The NCCR North-South is one of twenty National Centres of Com-
petence in Research implemented by the Swiss National Science
Foundation. Created in the understanding that development re-
search and cooperation are of primary concern to Switzerland, it
currently comprises a network of about 400 researchers world-

The Central Asia partnership region comprises Kyrgyzstan, Kaza-

khstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Work in this region has been
particularly challenging as the highly specialised and discipli-
nary research tradition inherited from the Soviet period did not
support integrated approaches, methodologies and concepts.
Since its inception in 2001, efforts by the NCCR North-South and
its local partners have had a major impact on inter-institutional
research collaboration within the region.
Out & About

ContentsThe Spektator Magazine

Issyk Kul: A Slapdash Guide
Don’t begin your Issyk Kul holiday without
reading our guide to some of the high-
lights and pitfalls that await the summer

Restaurant Review: Damashq

Chris Hattayer samples Bishkek’s take
Editor & publisher: Tom Wellings on Levantine cuisine.

Staff writers: Alex Ward (alexward@, Robert Marks
fish This Month
News and Views 12
page 6 What’s caught our interest this Month?

Andreas Hedfors, Chris Rickleton,

Anders Conway, Anthony Butts (an-,
Asel Orozalieva
Guest Contributor: Chris Hattayer COVER STORY: Mythical Issyk Kul
Long before Tolstyak and ice cream, Issyk Kul
was witness to a mysterious and sometimes
brutal past. Tom Wellings investigates.
Design: Tom Wellings
Exodus Over
Although most ethnic Germans have left
Advertising Manager: Irina Kasymova Kyrgyzstan for Europe, David Trilling visits
(email: the old German village of Rot Front and
finds that some have decided to stay.
mobile: 0772 304146)

Stuffed animals
The Som Gang
We begin a two-part look at the characters
who stare out from Kyrgyz banknotes.
Gilpo’s Big Adventure
How to export a street dog to Europe.
The Guide
Restaurants, Bars, Clubs
All the best bars and clubs in town.
page 18
Famous faces

What’s On
The pick of the entertainment listings.
City Map
Don’t get lost.
Issyk Kul Map
Go forth and sunbathe.
Want to contribute as a freelance
Crosswords, sudoku, and other things to
writer? Please contact: do over a coffee.
COVER PHOTO (by Robert Marks)
Lake Issyk Kul from Skazka Valley

The Spektator Magazine is available at locations throughout Bishkek, including: (Travel Agencies) Adventure Seller, Ak-Sai Travel, Carlson Wagonlit, Celestial Mountains, Eotour, Glavtour,Kyrgyz Concept,
Kyrgyz Travel, Muza, NoviNomad (Bars & Restaurants) Cowboy, Hollywood, Metro, New York Pizza, No1, 2x2, Boulevard, Coffeehouse, Doka, Fatboy’s, Four Seasons, Live Bar, Lounge Bar,

Meri, Navigator, Stary Edgar’s Veranda, Adriatico, Cyclone, Dolce Vita, Santa Maria, Golden Bull (Casinos) Europa, Golden Dragon, XO (Hotels) Dostuk, Hyatt, Golden Dragon, Holiday, Alpi-
nist (Embassies and Organisations) The UN building, The American base, The German Embassy, The Dutch Consulate, CAMP Ala-too, NCCR, The Bishkek Opera & Ballet Society.
The spektator is now online at
4 Out & About

Kul a slapdash guide

The great migration is nearly upon us. Soon the ENTION ISSYK KUL and many Kyr- Cholpon Ata
city population will uproot and marshrutka itself gyz people enter spasms of patriotic
through the Boom Gorge (stopping halfway for a apoplexy. Issyk Kul is without doubt Cholpon Ata is the largest village on the northern
shot of vodka, a wee and a cigarette) to the gritty a national treasure. Dozens of ag- shore of Issyk Kul, about halfway along, and some
shores of Lake Issyk Kul - Pearl of Kyrgyzstan, Eye of grandising titles have been bestowed 250 kilometres from Bishkek. Summer always used
the Tien Shan, Goddess of all Lakes, etc. Tom Well- upon Kyrgyzstan’s great unfreezable lake, infeasi- to see hordes of tourists descend with their vouchers
ings goes out on a recce to make sure you are fully ble legends about its creation abound, and the an- for a stay in one of the nearby sanatoria or resorts,
briefed before deploying to scrap for your square nual washing of one’s hands in its slightly saline, and Soviet athletes used to come here to train at alti-
yard of sand this summer. soul-cleansing waters is an annual sacrament for tude. Although there are still large numbers of sum-
many travellers. Despite the litter, the sticky sand, mer visitors, we have heard that the region has lost
the toilets that can’t handle tourist season, and some of its appeal as it has failed to keep up with
the unspeakably horrific Soviet architecture that some of its rivals. Nevertheless, approached with the
blights its resorts, the hairs on the back of my neck right mindset, Cholpon Ata has something for every-
still stand on end as the marshrutka bus trundles one and is an ideal base for exploring the region.
towards the last bend in the road to Balykchy and I
anticipate the deep azure water rising up into view Petroglyphs
against the encircling ice capped mountains. The Cholpon Ata petroglyphs, possibly the best
Explorers, adventurers and other great figures known of the Issyk Kul petroglyphs, are a fifteen
from history have waxed lyrical about the majesty minute drive away from the centre of town and easy
and raw beauty of the region. Some requested to to find. On the drizzly morning the Spektator visited,
be buried by you, others have placed you at the there were instances when we had difficulty distin-
centre of the Earth, the Black Death is rumoured to guishing between a murky coloured smudge and a
have originated from you, and now tourists travel petroglyphed goat – but this may have owed more
from far and wide to get drunk by your shores: to our drink-sodden shenanigans the night before
Glorious Issyk Kul - a truck of cyanide fell in you than to poor prehistoric artistry. For those wishing
but we love you dearly. to petroglyph-spot for themselves pack a blunted
sense of expectation along with your camera.
At the militia station in the centre of town fol-
Issyk Kul: The Great Lake
low Akmatbay Ata Street away from the lake (pass-
The following guide was put together after a recent ing a cemetery and a small mosque on the left), at
circumnavigation of the lake by car. The road (the the junction turn left and continue down Almaku-
A-363) that circles Issyk Kul is fine for all vehicles, chuko Street for a kilometre or so and look out for
Above The bay at Pristan Prezhevalsk, near Ka- although some southern stretches are a little more the large blue and white sign of the petroglyph site.
rakol. The neighbouring inlet, home to the old rugged than in the north. Travelling to Karakol from Note: Small street urchins who say they work for the
torpedo test site, is still off limits to tourists the New Bus Station in Bishkek by shared taxi (five tourist board and are qualified to give guided tours
(Evan Harris) hours/400 som a seat) is preferable to the slower for money are, in fact, lying.
and stuffier bus service (250 som). In season it is
Oposite page Exquisitely quaint cottages and also easy to pick up a seat in a shared taxi to any The ethnographic museum
Russian colonial style buildings define Ka- of the resort towns such as Cholpon Ata (300 som), The museum on the main road near the post
rakol, a town with dusty frontier charm (Tom the premiere resort on the north shore and where office is worth a visit. Despite the information
Wellings) the Spektator began its Issyk Kul adventure... panels being only in Russian and Kyrgyz there are

May 2009 The Spektator

Out & About 5

Impress Your Mother

enough ancient curiosities and old photographs Chet Baisoorun. There are a couple of other small can-
to keep everyone amused for half an hour. There is yons nearby. The area is forested and the glades and
also a room devoted to Issyk Kul’s petroglyph sites rivers make attractive countryside for hiking.
with some nice pictures of the more photogenic
examples. It is possible to buy some of the shy-
With 10 Issyk Kul Facts
rdaks (patterned felt carpets) that are on display
1. It is Kyrgyzstan’s largest lake at about 180
for around 5000 som/125USD which, one would Karakol sits fifteen kilometres away from the water at
km long by 70 km wide and 668 meters deep
hope, helps support the museum financially. For a the eastern end of the lake. It is the largest town and
thorough guide to buying a shyrdak, take a look at administrative centre of the oblast and is where most at its deepest point.
our shyrdak buyer’s guide in issue 2 of the Spekta- Western tourists gravitate towards sooner or later, 2. It is the world’s second largest mountain
tor using the town as a base for excursions into the sur- lake after Lake Titicaca in Bolivia.
Entry to the museum is 40 som (50/250 som ex- rounding valleys. The town was founded by Russian 3. In Kyrgyz it means “warm lake”, named so
tra for permission to take photographs/video). settlers in the 1869 and still retains much of its pio- as it never freezes over.
neering feel. A stroll around the dusty streets of white 4. The tourist season usually runs from June
Accommodation wooden cottages with their sky blue window shutters until September - but the peak season is from
We stayed at the Dostuk Guesthouse that is part of and picket fencing is enough to transport you back to about 25th July until 25th August - during
the“Goluboy Issyk Kul Sanatoria Complex” in the the turn of the 20th century and the Russian frontier this time it may be difficult to find a place to
east end of town (turn off the main street towards – a world away from pre-fabricated Bishkek. The town stay and prices are at a premium.
the lake opposite the ATF bank). For 350 som a per- centre is relatively small - a bazaar, a square of shops, 5. Because of the effect of the mountain rang-
son we stayed in a large apartment with a balcony, a park, university and a single department store - but es to the north and south, the lake rarely suf-
kitchenette and near-euro-standard fittings. Simpler beyond this Karakol sprawls for miles in every direc- fers from severe weather and is usually pleas-
rooms were also available for 250 som. Expect these tion with leafy suburbs of single-story houses. antly warm and sunny during the summer.
prices to double when the season kicks off in June. 6. It is on the flight path for a wide variety of
Mob. 0555 457942. The big concrete sanatorium Altyn Arashan migratory birds.
nearby offers rooms for 15-30USD in the summer. The highlight of the region is the Altyn Arashan Val- 7. Most beaches are on the northern shore
ley that offers spectacular scenery and a wealth of hik- – popular resorts include Cholpon Ata and
ing routes. Yak Tours, which also operates a charming Bosteroi.
Ananyevo guesthouse in Karakol, can organise transport and ac- 8. Soviet cosmonauts used to be sent to sana-
Ananyevo, fifty kilometres east of Cholpon Ata, is commodation. (33922) 22368;
toria around Issyk Kul to recuperate after they
named after a local boy who became a Hero of the
came back to Earth. Yuri Gagarin stayed at
Soviet Union. The village was originally a small Cos- The Przhevalsky Museum
the Tamga Sanatorium on the south shore of
sack settlement and retains much of its Slavic iden- Karakol featured in the closing chapter of the life of
the lake after his historic first space flight.
tity - the rows of exquisitely quaint Russian cottages great Russian explorer, Nikolai Przhevalsky. It was
that line the streets seem to be neater and better here that he came to die after catching typhus on his 9. In spring 2000 there was an accident where
maintained here than in many other villages. fourth and final expedition into the interior of Asia. a lorry carrying cyanide fell off a bridge and
In 1916 Ananyevo provided sanctuary for one of the There is a museum and memorial dedicated to him poisoned a river that flows into the lake. This
surviving Orthodox monks from the Svetly Mys Mas- at the site of his grave about ten kilometres outside led to a dramatic decline in the number of
sacre that happened down the road (find out more of town on the way to Pristan Przhevalsk. To get there tourists for the following few years.
on page 15) and a small Orthodox Church is still open take a taxi (100 som) or bus (marked ‘dachi’, 15 som) to 10. During the Soviet period the lake was
for worship in the village. To the north, at the foot of Pristan Prezhevalsk, the museum is situated on a hill used by the Navy to test torpedoes built in
an eighteen kilometre long canyon, lies the hamlet of just before the town. Entrance to is 50 som. Tashkent. May 2009 The Spektator

6 Out & About
Right The Russian Orthodox Church in Karakol
has now been fully renovated (Tom Wellings)

Far right Fish for sale on the south shore (Rob


The museum exhibits a display of notebooks be- Regional Museum

longing to Prezhevalsky’s second–in–command, The small museum looked after by a big, jolly Rus-
which contain beautifully drawn sketches of wildlife sian lady tells the regional history from ancient
encountered along the way in addition to unflinch- times, through the Russian colonial period to the
ing details of the punishments the Chinese imposed modern day. There are also two rooms full of man-
on their unfortunate prisoners. A wall-sized 3D map gy stuffed animals, perfect for acquainting oneself
shows the routes of his expeditions criss-crossing with the differences between the marmot, the
Central Asia, approaching but never quite reaching muskrat and the gopher before heading off into
the forbidden Tibetan capital of Lhasa, his personal the hills. The museum is in a pretty, colonial style
Shangri–La. Just beyond the monument, there is a building at 167 Dzerzhinsky Street near the centre
fence that affords a glance at the naval base that of town. Entrance is 10 som for Kyrgyz and 50 som
was used in Soviet times as a submarine testing for foreigners.
site. Despite having just a couple of redundant gun
boats these days part of the bay remains a closed Orthodox Church and the Dungan Mosque
area, firmly off–limits to foreign tourists, although Both the cathedral and the mosque are located in
this is clearly not the case for locals who have week- the centre of town. The Holy Trinity Cathedral is a
end dachas along the shore here. fine example of a wooden Orthodox church and
has now been fully renovated. We heard from dif-
Ski base and nature reserve ferent sources that during Soviet times it was used
Now the skiing season is over, it is still possible to as a dance hall and a cow shed, though presumably
visit the base and use it as a starting point for hikes not at the same time. The wooden mosque, that ac-
or just as a pleasant spot for a picnic. The manag- tually predates the cathedral, was built by a team of
er told us that the ski lifts will still operate to take Chinese master builders that was invited to Karakol
hikers further up the mountain if there is enough by Ma-Yu-Ton, a Dungan resident of the town. Build-
demand. To get there, take Masalieva Street and ing started in 1904 and was completed (without the
head out of town for a few kilometres until you use of nails!) by 1907. In 1927, owing to Soviet reli-
hit the park gate, the entrance fee should be no gious suppression, the mosque closed for worship
more than 40 som for a car and four passengers. and was used as a store house; it reopened in 1947
After the ticket office the road deteriorates a lit- and still functions today. The building is now pro-
tle but is still passable by car, even if you don’t tected as a national historical monument. Tourists
have a Landcruiser. When the road splits take the are free to enter the grounds and take photographs
left fork. The distance from the gate to the base is but should act discretely when the mosque is in use.
about eight kilometres. For more information about the Dungans and their
There is a hotel at the base that will be open history take a look at Issue 1 in the Spektator archive
during the summer. Room rates seem to be ne- at
gotiable but expect to pay about 1000 som per
person. There is another guesthouse situated a Accommodation
couple of kilometres before the main base, room We stayed in the Hotel Issyk Kul, situated in private
Above The Bowl of Manas in full flow (photo rates here are a little cheaper and the location is wooded gardens at 38 Masalieva Street - the road to
courtesy of the Karakol Regional Museum) equally beautiful. the ski base. Rooms are available from 400 som per

May 2009 The Spektator

Out & About 7

The Legend of
person per night. There is also a suite for 100USD.

Cholpon Ata
Expect the prices to double during the peak season.
Tel. (03922)20710, 20711. Other options include the
Green Yard Guesthouse (Tel. (03922)29801; email:, Yak Tours Guesthouse (50
som (camping) or 250-400 som; Tel. (03922)22368)
and the Teskey Hotel (600 som; www.teskey.narod. Long ago there was a sleazy khan, famed for his The girl went up into the mountains, hoping to
ru; Tel. (03922)26268; Mob. 0502 801411). Finally, riches and his cruelty, who ruled his realm from find her dzhigit once again. In vain she called his
there is a community based tourism (CBT) office at a towering fortress. Upon hearing tales of a poor name but only the echo of her own voice returned
123 Abdrakhmanov Street in the town centre that peasant’s daughter of inexpressible beauty living to her. The girl began to cry and started to make her
can arrange stays with local families or in yurts (Tel. in his lands, the khan decided he must have the way back home. She had not reached her village
(03922) 55000; Mob. 0772 203087). girl as his wife. when she was grabbed, bagged and blindfolded by
The girl and her father lived by the shores of a gang of the khan’s lackeys. When she was released
a small stream in the mountains. All the local and the blindfold removed she found herself held
Jety Orguz dzhigits (strapping young lads) had tried to woo prisoner in the khan’s fortress. It is better to die, she
About twenty-five kilometres south-west of Kara- the girl but she had rejected their advances. To decided, than to become the wife of the khan.
kol is a lush valley with some striking red sandstone offers of love and marriage, from even the most No amount of persuasion or gifts from the khan
rock formations - the ‘Seven Bulls’ from which the courageous of dzhigits, she always answered that could change the girl’s mind. “I love another and I
valley takes its name (although we counted twelve she loved another. shall never be yours!” was always her answer.
bulls and believe a name change is in order). Who was this beloved? Nobody knew, and she This stubbornness displeased the khan, and
did not know either. he decided to take by force what he could not
Of bulls and broken hearts One day, as the sun was sinking beyond the win with gifts. He again went to the girl.
A legend (legends are mandatory for all tourist mountain tops, a dzhigit on a white steed came “I love another!” she repeated. The khan rushed
sites) explaining how the formation occurred runs for the girl and together they rode off into the at her like a wild animal and she ran to a window.
thus: a Kyrgyz khan stole his best mate’s wife (also sky. A whirlwind blew-up and took them to the “I shall not be yours!” she cried and threw herself
a khan). The aggrieved khan sought advice from a eternal snow of the highest mountains where the from the window onto the rocks below.
wise man about how to get his revenge. The wise lucky dzigit embraced the girl, kissed her, then re- At the place where she fell opened up caves
man, after some beard stroking, told the khan to kill moved from his hand a ring and placed it on her from which gushed pure, clean, crystal clear, wa-
his ex-wife, saying, “Let him own a dead wife, not a finger, saying: “I will soon return! Never remove ter as hot as the girl’s heart. The waters formed
living one”. The wise man being, quite obviously, a this ring and unhappiness will never touch you!” the mountain lake that people called Issyk Kul.
member of the no nonsense school of wise men. After making his dubious promise, the dzigit rode It is said that if you stand on the shore at Chol-
At a funeral feast several months later, the khan off into the night sky. pon Ata (“Cholpon’s Father”) you can see in the
somehow engineered the seating plan so that he Many weeks passed but the dzigit did not re- mountains on the opposite shore the face of the
sat next to his ex-wife. As the feast drew to a close turn. girl’s father whose tears flow down the moun-
and the last of the seven bulls was being slaugh- Meanwhile back at the fortress, the evil khan tainside to salt the waters of the lake as he weeps
tered, the khan took out his knife and stabbed his was making plans. for his beautiful daughter. And, on quiet summer
ex-wife in the chest. From her heart gushed blood The khan’s matchmakers arrived at the girl’s vil- evenings, when the sun is setting, the ruins of a
and other unspecified fluids which washed the lage with gifts and offers - she rejected them all fortress appear under the water and the voice of
bulls down the valley until they lodged in a bit of a saying: “Tell the khan I will not marry him as I love the girl can be heard crying for her beloved dzigit
bottleneck and became sandstone cliffs. another!” who never returned. May 2009 The Spektator

8 Out & About

Nikolai Mikhailovich Przhevalsky was born in
Smolensk Oblast, Russia, in 1839 to a family of
Polish heritage. By the time of his death in 1888,
he was one of the most famous and popular men
in the Russian empire. In four journeys over the
course of two decades, the explorer traversed In-
ner Asia, a region comprising western Mongolia,
eastern Turkestan, and northern Tibet becoming
the first European to reach many of these areas.
Equally noteworthy are the explorer’s scientific
accomplishments. Przhevalsky brought thou-
sands of botanical specimens back to St. Peters-
burg as well as introducing Europe to numerous
species of camel, yak, and other mammals. His
best remembered discovery is perhaps the wild
przewalski horse (that shares the Polish version
of his name), thought to be a primary ancestor
of European domesticated horses. This scientist-
explorer is also familiar to every Russian school-
boy, since countless Soviet publications extolled
Przhevalsky as ‘the first naturalist of Central Asia.’.
Przhevalsky caught typhus at the outset of his
fourth and final expedition from contaminated
river water he drank whilst hunting in the Chui
valley. He died in Karakol and was buried at his
own request at a site overlooking Issyk Kul.

Below The memorial to Przhevalsky, the great There is another rock formation just behind the Barskoon and Tamga
Russian Explorer and naturalist. An interesting Seven Bulls that resembles a broken heart. The
article about the political side of Przhevalsy’s legend for this rock formation states that it is the Barskoon and Tamga are twin Kyrgyz and Russian
travels can be read at: broken heart of a beautiful woman whose two villages at the mouth of the Barskoon valley. The
news27/idpnews_27.a4d (Tom Wellings) suitors killed each other fighting for her hand. eleventh century scholar Mahumud al-Kashgari (also
Both landmarks are famous symbols of the Is- known as Barskhani) was a native of this area. He is
syk Kul region and are favourite images for photo- best known as the author of the first Turkic languag-
graphs and paintings. es comparative dictionary which he wrote whilst liv-
ing in Baghdad between 1072 and 1074. His map of
Valley of the Flowers the then known world has Barskoon at its centre.
About five kilometres south of the Jety Orguz Sana- The road from Barskoon which passes up the Bar-
torium, is Dolina Svetov (Valley of Flowers). The val- skoon valley (the A-364) used to be one of the routes
ley is ablaze with colour from May till early summer of the Silk Road, passing over the Bedel Pass (4284
when there are multitudes of poppies. We have m) into China. It is now the main road leading to the
heard there are petroglyphs here but no-one seems Kumtor Gold Mine, hence it is well maintained and
to know exactly where. Yurts are often set up in the there is a reasonable amount of traffic including lor-
area that can offer accommodation. ries making their way up to the mine and back.

Hiking Waterfall and trekking

The area is fantastic for hiking with many trails lead-Above the village lies a cluster of three breathtak-
ing off into the hills. A popular hike from Altyn Ar- ing waterfalls. They start approximately ten kilome-
ashan to Jety Orguz was outlined in the first issue tres up the valley from the village. The most acces-
of the Spektator, have a look at www.thespektator. sible waterfall (The Bowl of Manas) is a ten-minute for details. walk from the road. For the more adventurous, the
higher waterfalls can be reached by a strenuous
Accommodation thirty-minute hike, rewarded with the opportunity
With grand views of the Seven Bulls the Jety Orguz to bathe in the icy spray cascading down the moun-
Sanatorium, built in 1932 - and the sight of the first tainside. The yurts clustered here also do a good
meeting between Presidents Akayev and Yeltsin line in authentic cuisine, produced from the sheep
in 1991 after the abortive coup in Moscow - offers grazed nearby. You’ll also notice a monument to Yuri
a place to stay for 300 som per person. The sana- Gagarin who recuperated in the nearby Tamga Sana-
torium, with its many outbuildings, cottages, and torium after his escapades in outer space.
corpuses seems as if it has been kept under a dust
sheet since the sixties. When the season kicks off in Tamga Sanatorium
mid April it should offer a good base for the region, From the excellent and much recommended beach
as well as radon baths and other health services. at Tamga (popular for fishing, rowing and motor
Again, expect the price to rise in the peak season. boat rental/daytrips by request) a cool, poplar lined

May 2009 The Spektator

Out & About 9
Far left Horse riding can be easily arranged in
the region. Take a look at the Shepherd’s Way
website at (Evan Harris)

Left The old man and the lake. Private boats

as well as public ferries are common in season
(Rob Marks)

As a Last Resort
avenue leads up the hillside to the Military Sanato- In Tamga, the Sanatorium should be able to of-
rium. Once the privileged preserve of Red Army he- fer rooms for a little less. There are also numerous
roes, it is now open to the public. This makes for a B&B arrangements available in the village (just
genuinely unique place to stay, as amongst the net- ask around), a great opportunity to eat the inter- Want to simply kick back and relax on the beach?
work of saunas, spa buildings and games courts lurk nationally regarded home-grown fruits (and pork Consider the following resorts (marked prices are for
rose gardens containing homo-erotic depictions of fat), and the famous local yellow cherries. peak season and are subject to change):
the defenders of the Motherland, and alongside the A little further towards Bishkek is the Altyn-Kum Akun (Kara-Oi village)
dance class a monument to the guards of the gulags. Yurt Camp in the (amusingly named) Tosor village. 50-150USD room/night
There is also an excellent bar on the hillside look- Recommended to us by several travellers, the camp All year round, 200 bed capacity. Disco, bar, cafe,
ing down on the lake, for spectacular sunset drinks. is situated 100 metres from the shore and offers swimming-pool, DVD bar, computer centre.
Around the sanatorium mess-hall at meal times you fishing, horseriding, and tours to the surrounding Tel. (0312) 695063; (03943) 54135, 54136
will find a loose co-operative of local guides, with attractions. A place to sleep will cost approximately
Sanatorium Aurora
a menu of tempting day trips (all at reasonable set 550 som during the peak season - dinner is 120 som
70-300 USD room/night
prices) such as the one to Fairytale Canyon... extra. Tel. (03946) 95-6-19; Mob. 0772 716663, 0773 Former favourite resort of Soviet apparachiks.
004871; email Tel: (+996) 3943 44543 E-mail:
‘Skazka’ Canyon
‘Skazka’ (fairytale) is less of a canyon than a maze Karven Rest Centre (Bulan Sogottu village)
of interconnecting sandstone gullies, spires and ob- Bokembaeva 125-415 USD room/night
Elite resort;
elisks carved by the wind and rain and baked by the Named after a famous Kyrgyz poet, Bokembaeva’s
sun into a surreal and vividly coloured moon-scape. attractions include a local museum with a collec- Raduga (Sary-Oi village)
On an unmarked dirt trail thirty-minutes drive from tion of paintings by local artists and, to the west, 70-300 USD room/night
Tamga it is a bewitching and disorienting place to the gumbez (mausoleum) of Tara Suu. The village Elite resort. open all year round.
spend a couple of hours exploring. Hidden from lies at the foot of several valleys, including the Kon- Tel. (0312) 627195;
the lake, but providing panoramic views over the gur Olun valley which runs for some distance par-
Royal Beach (Chok-Tal village)
surrounding landscape, this really is an unexpected allel to the road on the other side of the mountain 35-300USD
gem, and generally deserted and untouched except ridge. Nearby there are radon hot water springs, a Tel./Fax: (3943) 23-176
for the lizards that make it their home. salt lake, the ancient settlement of Khan Debe and E-mail:;
the 2500 year old Tuuara Suu burial mounds.
Accommodation Solemar (Korumdu village)
We stayed at the Shepherd’s Way Guesthouse Accommodation 30-190 USD room/night
in Barskoon. Rates were 700 som per person in- By this point of our journey, the Spektator had run Summer time only, 100 bed capacity. Swimming
cluding dinner and breakfast, in the summer the out of hard cash and was forced to camp rough pool, sauna, disco, bar.
Tel. (0312) 661343, 622407 Mob. 0502 329090
guesthouse is very popular with Western tourists on the shores of the lake in an old tent. This was,
and the price rises to approximately 1500 som none the less, an enchanting experience. For Talisman Village (Bosteri village)
per person. Tel. 0312 297406; Mob. 0502 518315; your information, B&Bs are available in town and Summer time only, 32 bed capacity. Bar, cafe, confer-
email:; or visit the excellent we advise you to seek advice from a sympathetic ence hall, tennis, basketball.
website: looking local. Tel. (03943) 36527, 36528; (0312) 582639, 650019 May 2009 The Spektator

10 Out & About


Chris Hattayer inspects Damashq, a new Syrian AFE DAMASHQ, across from the Bishkek of chickpeas, was fine, but less inspiring. It was a
themed restaurant in Bishkek. Humanities University, offers simple, no- little viscous for my taste and I’m curious about
nonsense Levantine fare at modest pric- origin of the bright orange colour – perhaps a
es. Set back in a strip along a busy stretch healthy dose of paprika.
of Manas between Gorkova and the Kyr- Our main courses of chicken shashlik, a kebab
gyz Turkish University, Damashq is heralded by its sandwich, and rice testified to the kitchen’s abil-
bright red lettering and Arabic script. Once inside, ity to prepare simple food well. The meat arrived
it’s a clean (almost sterile) café frequented by both freshly grilled and tender. The sandwich a bit plain
university student and the general public. Several – ground, spiced beef off the skewer and rolled in
partitions offer a little privacy for those seeking a flat bread. Tasty, but I couldn’t help but wonder
more discrete dining experience and break up the what a little garlic or yogurt would do for it.
otherwise open room. Walls are adorned with Syr- A return visit during the lunch hour confirmed my
ian tourism board photos – but the décor is sub- earlier impressions – consistent, tasty mezze – the
dued in contrast to what freshly-prepared falafel
you’d find in Damascus’ “For the main course I experi- balanced crispness with
Arabic quarter. a soft chick pea filling.
Simple and unas-
mented with a Syrian dish they The hearty lentil soup
suming, Café Damashq’s called tiskie , a rich and filling bowl was well-seasoned and
charm rests with its
pleasant, uncommonly
of layered chunks of fresh pita with the accompanying lem-
on wedge nicely cut its
attentive waitstaff and hummous, chick pea, pureed egg- strong cumin base. For
unpretentious cuisine. the main course – I ex-
The menu (in Russian,
plant, spices and olive oil “ perimented with a Syrian
no Arabic or English) dish they called tiskie – a
offers a little something for everyone, weighted rich (and filling) bowl of layered chunks of fresh pita
toward Middle Eastern fare. The usual array of with hummous, chick pea, pureed eggplant, spices,
mezze are present – falafel, hummous, muttabel and olive oil – and was not disappointed.
– along with kebabs and shashlik. For the less ad- Throughout the evening, we enjoyed a tra-
venturous, Damashq offers pizzas and a handful of ditional water pipe argileh (known locally as
local dishes – manty, plov, lagman, and so forth. Kalman). Their menu boasts sixteen flavours,
But when in Damascus, we ordered as if we were though they lacked the first two we requested.
in the Levant. Damashq also presents a modest offering of liba-
The evening of my first visit began with a round tions -- juices, coffees, tea, beer and liquor, but it
of tea – served in the traditional glass tea cups seemed only appropriate to end the meal with a
ubiquitous throughout the Arabian Peninsula. cup of Arabic coffee. After sipping our way to the
Score one point for authenticity. Mezze follow gritty grounds, we swirled the demitasse cup and
– we ordered traditionally and are brought sub- the grounds predicted our future. When looking
stantial portions of bright orange hummous, soft for basic Arab cuisine, a different lunch option, or
eggplant muttabel, and a coarsely chopped salad an unassuming café to enjoy a cup of tea and a
of fresh tomatoes, cucumbers and parsley. Served water pipe, we’ll be back.
Above Freshly prepared falafel with fresh pita (which you must request), the mut- Cost varies with your appetite. A sandwich and
tabel rang most authentic: roasted pureed egg- tea will set you back 150 som. A full meal for two
Top Tiskie – a rich (and filling) bowl of layered plant, seasoned with onion and tahini and dusted persons with mezze, main courses, bread, tea and ar-
chunks of fresh pita with hummous, chick pea, with ground red pepper and cumin, slightly tart, gileh – approx 900 som, including the 10% service.
pureed eggplant, spices, and olive oil (All pho- and drizzled with olive oil – a good start. The hum-
tos Evan Harris) mous, adorned also with cumin, pepper and a pile Café Damashq: Manas 54, Tel. (0312) 549409

May 2009 The Spektator

Who we are
CAMP Alatoo is a non-profit and non-governmental organization
founded in 2005 promoting sustainable development in the mountain
regions of Kyrgyzstan. CAMP Alatoo is a successor organization of the
Central Asian Mountain Partnership (CAMP), a program financed
by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation. Jointly with
its partner organizations in Kazakhstan and Tajikistan, CAMP Alatoo
forms part of the CAMP Network which employs about 25 people.

What we want
The overall goal is to contribute to the improvement of people’s livelihoods
in the mountain villages of Kyrgyzstan by encouraging a more
sustainable use of natural resources.

How we work
CAMP Alatoo pursues a trans-disciplinary and multi-stakeholder
approach based on local, regional and international partnerships
and experiences. CAMP Alatoo develops, adapts and implements
innovative, simple and effective technologies with an emphasis on
awareness raising and involvement by villagers, local institutions,
partner organizations and experts.

What we do
CAMP Alatoo supports the development of mountain villages by promoting
the sustainable use of natural resources through:
• theoretical and practical training
• institutional development of NGOs
• soil and water conservation technologies
• energy saving technologies
• participatory pasture management
• integrated local risk management
• small grants
12 This Month
River water in Kazakhstan too dirty for irrigation
ALMATY, April 30 (RFE) - It can carry carcinogens And detergents enter its waters in large part be- Zhakhyp says that the province uses about the
into rice fields, pass toxins from nursing mothers cause people along banks wash their clothing and same amount of water for irrigation as it did in
to newborns, and is seen as a threat to the health bathe in the river. the 1990s, and that water conservation is improv-
and livelihood of the millions of people who live By the time the Syr Darya enters Kazakhstan ing. He also notes that during the Soviet period,
nearby. from Uzbekistan several hundred kilometers away all waste was simply dumped in the river, which is
It is the water from the Syr Darya, Central Asia’s from the region where the extreme contamination now less common. Also, since chemical fertilizers
longest river, and second-largest by volume. was registered, Zhunusova says, “it is already con- are no longer provided by the central authorities,
By the time it nears the end of a twisting course taminated.” they are used more judiciously.
that takes it through four Central Asian states, the Even before the river reaches its halfway point, As local resident Gulbarshyn Sonarkyzy notes, if
Syr Darya has accumulated such high levels of ag- people know better than to drink from the Syr the Syr Darya is no longer used for irrigation, “our
ricultural runoff such as pesticides and fertilizers, Darya, although locals near northern Tajikistan’s fields and gardens will dry up. This is clear.”
industrial waste, and any number of other con- Khujand have been known to fish its waters. Also clear is that the dilemma faced by Kyzyl-
taminants that some are warning that crops irri- The big question is just how contaminated Orda officials could have broader implications --
gated by the river in southern Kyzyl-Orda province the river is upstream. Is the water already too fears have been raised that lower crop yields could
should be burned. dangerous for agricultural use by the time it force Kazakhstan, the only grain exporter in Cen-
And as bad as that sounds, it may be even worse. passes near Tashkent? How contaminated is the tral Asia, to ban grain exports to its neighbors.
The dire assessment of the state of Syr Darya’s wa- Syr Darya by the time it winds through the Fer- At the conference in Almaty, Burlibaev of the
ter was made on March 26 at a meeting in Almaty ghana Valley, the most densely populated area agency for applied ecology characterized the situ-
of state-sponsored environmentalists and ecolo- in Central Asia? ation as an international problem that calls for an
gists, the sort of group one would expect might international situation.
“sugarcoat” the true extent of the problem. Bleak Future? But cooperation in the face of desperate circum-
During the meeting, the deputy director of Ka- In Kazakhstan’s Kyzyl-Orda province, Bigesh stances that affect them all has not been a trademark
zakhstan’s agency for applied ecology, Malik Bur- Zhakhyp, deputy director of the state water- of Central Asian governments, as evidenced by their
libaev, said that “the Syr Darya is so polluted that management department for the province, says half-hearted attempts to slow the shrinking of the
water from it should not be used for drinking or for that local officials have been doing what they Aral Sea and their failures to find a middle ground in
irrigation.” Rice harvested in Kyzyl-Orda, he said, can to reduce the contamination. He says dec- the ongoing debate over water resources.
was so loaded with cancer-causing agents that it ades of mismanagement have contributed to
should not be eaten. the current situation, but that there are some Yerzhan Karabek and Sultan-Khan Zhussip of RFE/
Burlibaev claimed that intestinal-cancer rates positive signs. RL’s Kazakh Service contributed to this report
of residents in Kyzyl-Orda were the highest in Ka-
zakhstan, and that 90 percent of nursing mothers
in the province were passing pesticides to their Kyrgyzstan in Brief
babies through their breast milk.
Orazgul Zhunusova, head of the state’s depart-
ment for expertise and control of the Aral-Syr
Swine flu measures underway Bakiev nominated for re-election
Darya ecology, confirmed Burlibaev’s findings to in Kyrgyzstan BISHKEK, May 4 (BBC) - The ruling party in Kyr-
RFE/RL’s Kazakh Service. gyzstan has nominated President Kurmanbek Baki-
BISHKEK, May 3 (IRIN) - Authorities have activat-
Zhunusova said that according to data from yev to stand for re-election.
ed plans to prevent the spread of swine flu, Tolon
the latest of the regular monthly samples her Mr Bakiyev will face his former prime minister,
Isakov, a senior Health Ministry official, said in the
office takes, “the level of biological contamina- Almazbek Atambayev, at the polls in July.
Kyrgyz capital, Bishkek.
tion [human and agricultural waste] of the water Tensions are growing between the ruling Ak
“There are no grounds for panic in Kyrgyzstan
for March was 30 percent higher than accepted Zhol party and the main opposition, ahead of the
related to the spread of swine flu,” said Isakov, add-
norms.” recently reported that the river’s elections.
ing that no cases of swine flu had been registered.
water contained high levels of copper, cadmium, Opposition parties have accused the authori-
Disease control and surveillance units at the
and zinc. ties of clamping down on critics, and they claim
country’s major border crossing points, including
the government will try to rig the July ballot.
A River Runs Through It Bishkek’s Manas international airport and the Toru-
The Ak Zhol party won every parliamentary seat
gart crossing on the Kyrgyz-Chinese border, have
The 2,200-kilometer Syr Darya River originates in in the 2007 general elections, which foreign moni-
been informed of the plan: If people with swine
the mountains of Kyrgyzstan, where it is fed by the tors said failed to meet international standards.
flu-like symptoms are discovered they will be im-
Naryn River in the south, and the Kara Darya to the
north. From there the Syr Darya passes through
mediately quarantined, Isakov said. Disappointment at Kyrgyz
some of the most heavily populated areas of Cen-
Bakiyev risks wrath of Uzbeks, media law changes
tral Asia, including the Ferghana Valley, a fertile
agricultural region running across Kyrgyzstan, Uz- Turkmens with his dam projects BISHKEK, April 27 (IWPR) - A year after passing a
controversial media law, the Kyrgyzstan parliament
bekistan, and Tajikistan.
The Ferghana Valley is the most densely popu- BISHKEK, May 6, (Eurasianet) - President Kur- has amended it, without fixing what critics said were
lated area of Central Asia. (click to enlarge) manbek Bakiyev has reaffirmed his commitment its worst features.
The Syr Darya’s path, which once led to the Aral to building two controversial new hydroelectric The amendments passed on April 21 leave two of
Sea, also takes it through ancient Silk Road cities, dams in Kyrgyzstan. the most widely disputed stipulations in place - the
such as Namangan and Kokand (in Uzbekistan), The comments came a week after Bakiyev requirements that half of broadcast output has to
Khujand (in Tajikistan), and Turkestan (in Kaza- sparred with Karimov and Berdymukhamedov be in the Kyrgyz language rather than Russian, and
khstan). And the Uzbek capital Tashkent and the during a regional water forum in Almaty. Down- that broadcasters have to generate rather than buy
southern Kazakh city of Shymkent are located stream Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Kaza- in half of their overall output.
nearby. khstan are concerned that the water they need Private TV and radio stations say these provisions
Aside from the contributions those and other for irrigation will be blocked during the summer threaten their existence as they do not have the re-
urban areas make to the pollution of the Syr Darya, months. Upstream Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan suf- sources to produce more than they do now.
factories, plants, and mining operations along the fer massive energy shortages every winter and The law generated the same kind of controversy
river present formidable environmental hazards. see no other solution. when it was passed exactly a year ago.

May 2009 The Spektator

This Month 13
Communal clash escalates into political row
PETROVKA, KYRGYZSTAN, April 30 (IWPR) - A con- The dispute has now widened well beyond the Raisa Sidorenko, a member of parliament with the
frontation between different ethnic communities individual crime allegation in question. Locals are governing Ak Jol party, took the same view, saying
has blown up into a dispute among national-level now accusing police of using excessive force to that if local government, police and prosecution of-
officials and politicians. quell the unrest, and anti-Kurdish sentiment is rife. ficials had acted in a legal and timely matter, “the
A flare-up of ethnic violence in a village in northern “My wife went out into the street to see what pogroms in Petrovka would have been avoided”.
Kyrgyzstan which got out of hand has had reverbera- was going on after she heard loud noises,” said vil- The opposition is now embroiled in the after-
tions well beyond local community level, with central lager called Akjol. “At that moment, police armed math of the violence.
government and the opposition hurling accusations with batons and shields took her away. I don’t know Green Party leader Erkin Bulekbaev visited Petro-
at one another over the dispute. who to turn to. If I go to the police, I’m afraid they vka the day following the unrest, and was arrested
Around 200 people were involved in clashes on will detain me too.” together with opposition activist Sapar Argymbaev
April 26 as local Kyrgyz and Russians fought with Kurds The day after the violence, several hundred Petro- and two local people. Bulekbaev and Argymbaev
from the same village, Petrovka. The former were de- vka resident blocked Kyrgyzstan’s main arterial high- were charged with the offence of organising distur-
manding that a Kurdish man accused of raping a four- way leading from Bishkek to Osh in the south. They bances, and were sentenced to two months impris-
year-old girl should be handed over to them. were demanding the release of detained relatives, onment. The two others, who are believed to belong
Several people were stabbed and two people punishment for the suspect, and an investigation to the opposition party Ata Meken, were released.
received gunshot wounds. The windows of more into the death of the four-year-old’s grandmother. Interior Minister Kongantiev has turned on the
than a dozen houses were smashed and several The woman reportedly hanged herself after opposition, saying it was aware that there was going
cars destroyed. reporting the alleged rape and becoming disillu- to be trouble, and accusing members of inciting this
Police arrested more than 90 people they said sioned with the lack of results. outbreak of ethnic violence.
took part in the rioting. “The investigation has indisputable evidence
The dispute took on an ethnic colouring as Rus- “There is video footage showing that the mass unrest was provoked deliberately,”
sians and Kyrgyz called for the 500-strong Kurdish a man calling on villagers to give said the minister. “There is video footage show-
community to leave the village within 24 hours. ing a man calling on villagers to give the Kurds 24
The Kurds moved into the village, in the Chu re- the Kurds 24 hours to pack up and hours to pack up and leave the country. Standing
gion 50 kilometres from the capital Bishkek, a few leave the country“ in the middle of a crowd, he urges people to at-
years ago. They are part of a community of some tack Kurdish homes. It’s obvious that calls like this
11,000 scattered across Central Asia after the group Some of these demands were met on April 30, made in a crowd of emotionally charged people
was deported wholesale from the south Caucasus in when the Kyrgyz prosecutor general’s office re- led to the pogrom.”
1944 on Stalin’s orders. ported that the grandmother’s death was to be The minister’s claims have turned a story about
This case bears a number of similarities with a investigated, and that a separate case had been a local clash and allegations of police culpability
clash in southern Kazakstan in 2007, in which Kurds opened with regard to police who, it is claimed, into a full-scale political battle at national level, just
were blamed en masse for a crime allegedly com- committed offences including forgery while han- three months before Kyrgyzstan goes into a presi-
mitted by one individual. dling the rape allegation. dential election.
Residents of Petrovka accuse local police of in- Kurdish community representatives are fearful The main opposition bloc, the United People’s
directly causing the trouble by failing to handle that indiscriminate hostility to them will spread. Movement, UPM, promptly announced that it was
the original rape claim properly. Ibrahim Nadirov, a leader of the Association of suing Kongantiev for slander.
When news of the assault on a child first Kurds of Kyrgyzstan, said a Kurdish family in a dif- In the same statement the UPM issued counter-
emerged, villagers held a meeting to air their con- ferent village came under attack on April 29 and allegations - that the disturbances were caused by
cerns, in particular that police were effectively ig- had windows in their home broken. police “attempting to cover up a heinous crime”,
noring the case. Some told IWPR they had heard “Residents of the village of Petrovka are saying and by local government officials who failed to ad-
that police were paid off to hush the matter up the Kurds should be evicted,” he said, in remarks dress people’s needs and wishes.
“That was precisely what infuriated people. quoted by the news agency. “But where Bakyt Beshimov, who heads the opposition So-
Does that mean no one can protect our rights?” would we go? One family tried to move to Sokoluk cial Democrats in parliament, pointed the finger of
said local resident Japar. district, but the people there held a meeting at blame at central government.
The head of the Kyrgyz interior ministry’s press which the told them not to show their faces and “It is the local administration that is being
service, Bakyt Seyitov, confirmed to IWPR that the dis- pledged to destroy all Kurdish homes.” blamed, but in a situation where the state au-
turbances were provoked by an alleged rape on April Meanwhile, national-level politicians are argu- thorities are far removed from the real problems
7, of which a 25 year-old-man has been accused. ing about who did what to resolve – or incite – this facing people and are making no attempt to re-
Interior Minister Moldomusa Kongantiev insists local conflagration. spond to citizens’ day-today requests, there could
police did respond to the complaint. In remarks quot- Central government has blamed local officials, be many Petrovkas to come in Kyrgyzstan.”
ed by the news agency, he said his men es- and the Moskovsky district administration chief, Three different enquiries are to be launched
tablished the identity of the suspect and launched the district police chief and the district prosecutor into what happened in Petrovka – one by the Ak
a search after failing to find him at home. have all been sacked. Jol party, another by a public committee includ-
When Kongantiev’s deputy Talantbek Isaev Meeting the chief prosecutor and the interior ing local officials, and a third by Kyrgyzstan’s hu-
briefed the Kyrgyz parliament on April 29, he said minister, President Kurmanbek Bakiev said, “It is man rights ombudsman.
the suspect had now been detained by locals and not the outraged people, to whom the local ad- Anara Yusupova, Ayday Tokonova, and Beksultan
handed over to the police. ministration denied justice, who are to blame. The Sadyrkulov are pseudonyms for journalists in Kyrgyzstan.
Isaev noted that the alleged crime was reported fault lies with the heartless bureaucrats who ig-
ten days after it took place. nored [the incident] and tried to cover it up.” Republished with permission from

The Spektator - tastier than besbarmak May 2009 The Spektator

14 Focus
Right A section of the Catalan Atlas showing
an (upside down) caravan of camels travelling
along the Silk Road. See detail below.


Issyk Kul

Tom Wellings investigates several of the HE CLAIM THAT ONE of Jesus’ twelve dis- of the nineteenth century that the Russian explorer
many legends that surround Issyk Kul includ- ciples died in Kyrgyzstan and now lies Peter Semenov-Tien-Shansky saw the atlas in Venice
buried under a Christian Monastery sunk and travelled to Issyk Kul to investigate the area for
ing one Dan Brown-esqe tale of a lost monas-
beneath the surface of Issyk Kul seems himself. However, upon his arrival at the lake and af-
tery on the shore of Issyk Kul that may be the preposterous at first – more likely a ruse ter some earnest poking around, he found no trace
burial site of St Matthew - ancient Palastinian, by an imaginative tourism official to engineer a of Cresques’ monastery. Unbowed, he determined a
tax collector, and disciple of Jesus. pilgrim boom, or the ravings of a delusional Ortho- likely site for such a building on the Kurmenty Bay
dox clergyman, perhaps? But recent discoveries by on the northeast shore of the lake, but again failed
a team of archaeologists has shed new light on St to find any artefacts in the water or on the shore to
Matthew’s rumoured trek deep into the Asian con- lend weight to his supposition.
tinent and parts of the story, it seems, are not quite In the twentieth century there were more at-
so preposterous after all. tempts to find the elusive monastery. This time
interest was fanned further by another legend - a
It begins with a map treasure map supposedly given to a Russian émigré
One of the most interesting pieces of evidence point- in the 1920s by a dying Orthodox clergyman who
ing to St Matthew being buried at Issyk Kul is the me- had been living in exile in China. The map marked
dieval ‘Catalan Atlas’, now kept at the National Library the monastery somewhere along the northeastern
in Paris. The Atlas, a lavishly illustrated rendering of shore of the lake and described great riches buried
the known and the suspected world from the Medi- under its walls. Two searches, one by a leading Is-
terranean to the Far East, was completed in 1375 by syk Kul tribesman and another by a Russian settler,
a Mallorcan Jewish master cartographer, Abraham both failed to find either the treasure or the mon-
Cresques, and was one of the finest maps of its day. astery but the legend refused to die.
Cresques included on his map a remote Central Asian In the 1950s the search was taken up by official
lake named ‘Ysicoll’, previously unknown to Europe- organizations with the knowledge and permis-
ans. On its northern shore he drew a temple decorat- sion of the KGB, but all activity was kept secret
ed with a cross. The accompanying annotation reads: from the public. In 1976 the Kyrgyz Geological
“The Monastery of the Armenian Brothers where the Department took over the reigns and explored
body of the Apostle and Evangelist Saint Matthew is the area around the same Kurmenty Bay site that
kept”. Legend had it that St Matthew was on his way had so interested Semenov-Tien-Shansky. They
to India, but succumbed to the rigours of the road at came to the vague conclusion that the area “pos-
Issyk Kul. His relics were looked after by local Chris- sibly concealed non-ferrous metals” and recom-
tians until they were eventually interred at a Nestorian mended further exploration.
monastery founded on the shore of the lake by monks Archaeology work was started again in the mid
who had fled from persecution in the Middle East. nineties but soon stalled due to a lack of financ-
For hundreds of years the far off lake with its lonely ing. Finally in 1999, with the support of foreign
monastery was ignored. It was not until the middle investors, permission was obtained to carry out

May 2009 The Spektator

Focus 15
thorough archaeological research throughout the of decay. He was canonized by the Russian Orthodox
entire Issyk Kull region and at long last some solid Church in Moscow in 2000 and his body was exhumed
evidence of medieval Christian goings-on began and transferred to Bishkek’s Orthodox Cathedral.
to emerge. Today the few monastery buldings at Svetly Mys
that are still standing have been turned to other uses.
Catacombs by the shore The monks’ store house is now a mill, and the alm-
The latest team to explore Tien-Shansky’s hunch at Kur- shouse and refectory have been renovated and are
menty Bay was led by Professor Vladimir Ploskikh from used by a children’s home . Consequently there is little
the Kyrgyz Slavic University. His team, working on a left to see, but owing to its intriguing past and tales
site that had previously been noted by archaeologists, of local appartitions the settlement exudes an eerie
discovered and excavated stretches of a double forti- allure and is only a short detour from the main road,
fied wall. More digging unearthed an abundance of should you wish to pay a visit on the way to Karakol.
medieval artefacts including ceramics, burned bricks,
weapons and pottery, raising hope that the team Sunken cities
were on to something special. Local villagers then led Strange tales of Issyk Kul go beyond elusive monas-
the team to the entrance of a network of catacombs teries and unfortunate monks - the lake is also host
about 500 metres to the east of the first site. The cata- to a collection of mini-Atlantises. It is believed that
combs had been known to locals for some time but a natural phenomenon causes the water level in Is-
nobody had previously connected them with tales of syk Kul to slowly fluctuate – rising and falling as if it
a monastery. Investigation showed that the tunnels were breathing. This theory would go some way to
had been constructed with professional accuracy and explaining the abundance of sunken ruins. Of the
led to numerous small rooms. At one point, the team many archaeological investigations undertaken in
came across the remains of an arch where some metal recent years, two of the most important discoveries
pintles had been hammered deep into the clay. The occured off Barskoon (on the south shore) and Tyup
advanced corrosion suggested the metal was of sub- (at the eastern extremity of the lake).
stantial age and led to speculation amongst archae- History and legend are blurred somewhat, but
ologists that the two sites were connected. it is said that after conquering Persia in 329BC Alex-
So have the ruins of the Amerian Brothers’ Mon- ander the Great took a group of noblemen hostage
astery finally been put back on the map? Some tan- to prevent possible revolts. The hostages were then
tilising artefacts were recovered by Ploskikh’s team taken along on Alexander’s tramp towards China
including a bronze cross (that was later ‘lost’) but the and India, but Alexander changed his mind about
Professor believes it is too their worth en route and
early to draw any conclu- “An icon of the Virgin Mary that cut them loose on the
sions. The team hopes was housed in the monastery’s shores of Issyk Kul. With
that new expeditions will no hope of returning
delve deeper into the church was said to have shed home some of the Per-
mystery and unearth ir- tears of blood, repelled bullets and sian noblemen built a
refutable evidence of a town in the traditional
monastery - and the more glowed with an ethereal light” Persian style and named
optimistic haven’t lost it Barskhan (now known
hope of finding the fabled relics of St Matthew. But as the village of Barskoon). Gradually, part of the
even if the old Apostle isn’t dug up, proof that the ancient town was flooded by the rising water of the
area was home to a community of refugee Nestorian lake, abandoned and forgotten.
monks living on the shores of a mountain lake in the A research expedition including a team of sci-
heart of Central Asia would be an intriguing enough entists from the Kyrgyz Slavic University and divers
story in its own right. from Russia has recently retrieved over one hundred
artefacts from along the coast between Barskoon
Massacre at the Monastery in Svetly Mys and Darkhan including daggers, a bronze sacrificial
A medieval slingshot away from the site believed to pot, and bronze badges depicting snow leopards
hold the secrets of the ancient Monastery of Arme- that were used to decorate the clothes of a chief.
nian Brothers lies the hamlet of Svetly Mys, the site of At the Tyup site, archaeologists believe they have
an Orthodox monastery founded by the Russian Tsar found the ruins of the famous city of Chigu, the gen-
in 1888. The history of this monastery is well docu- eral headquarters of the ancient Usun tribal alliance
mented, but its short and tragic story has also given mentioned in Chinese chronicles. Their findings sug-
rise to mystery and legend. gest that Chigu was not founded by outsiders in the
In 1916 the monastery was attacked by anti-Tsarist second century BC as some scientists have claimed, Top Artefacts recovered from the costal wa-
rebels who killed all but two of its twenty-six monks. but by local people as much as eight-hundred years ters of Issyk Kul including crosses, early forms
An icon of the Virgin Mary housed in the monastery’s earlier. Archaeologists now think that Chigu was of money and pottery inscribed with Christian
church was said to have shed tears of blood, repelled not just the headquarters of the nomadic ruler, but symbols (All photos from the official expedi-
bullets and glowed with an ethereal light during the a town of craftsmen and farmers as well, shedding tion pamphlet)
attack. One may be sceptical about the icon’s alleged new light on the relationship between settled and
behaviour under fire; nevertheless, it survived the nomadic communities of the day.
ransacking and can now be seen, dry eyed, in the Or- Issyk Kul has been reluctant to give up its secrets,
thodox Cathedral in Karakol. but its beaches and clear blue water are slowly re-
Of the surviving monks, one escaped to Anan- warding archaeologists’ efforts with an insight into
yevo and the other to Almaty; both have since been the region’s complex past. Owing to its remote loca-
canonized. One of the monks, Irakily, who fled to tion, little research has been carried out before which
Ananyevo,was protected by a group of villagers. Af- leads one to hope that the haul of exciting historical
ter the revolution they built a secret cell for him in artefacts and monuments is only just beginning. With
which he lived for twenty years, eventually dying in more hard work and a little good fortune it seems
1937. It is said that thirty-eight years after his burial, Kyrgyz archeologists will soon be better placed to
when another villager was being laid to rest, villagers help us distinguish between the region’s historical
discovered that the monk’s remains showed no signs facts and its many beguiling myths and legends. May 2009 The Spektator
16 Focus
Right Snow-capped mountains rise behind the
main street leading into in Rot-Front. (David
Trilling for EurasiaNet)

David Trilling visits Rot-Front and finds a ELENA KELLER HAS WATCHED her com- fascists to them, we Germans,” says Belendir Rein-
community of ethnic Germans clinging on munity steadily dwindle over the past goldovna, 86, tearfully recalling her ordeal. She
two decades. There was a time when was deported from the Russian Far East to Siberia.
to their traditions despite the departure of
ethnic Germans made up the majority in For five years, she worked as a logger in a forced
many fellow Germans leaving them a mi- her little village of wide, clean streets and labor camp.
nority in their own village. neatly kept cottages, located about an hour’s drive In the 1950s, after the death of Joseph Stalin,
from the Kyrgyz capital of Bishkek. Now they are a Reingoldovna was finally allowed internal travel pa-
minority in the village called Rot-Front. pers and in 1962 she came to Tokmok, not far from
Keller and her neighbors descend from a group Rot-Front and already a center of German culture in
of Mennonite believers who arrived in Kyrgyzia in northern Kyrgyzstan.
the late 19th century looking for a place to freely The German Embassy in Bishkek estimates up to
practice their faith. They scattered across the Chui 120,000 ethnic Germans lived in Kyrgyzstan only 20
Valley, founding places such as Kant and Lyuksem- years ago. There are now less than 10,000, says Am-
burg. By the 1980s, Rot-Front “was absolutely Ger- bassador Holger Green. “I would guess that most
man; there was only one Kyrgyz family,” says Kel- of them feel somewhere between two societies
ler. Down the street, Andrei, fixing his Audi sedan, ... knowing they have some Russian civilization in
agrees. He says the village was once nearly 100 per- them, they have some German civilization in them,
cent German Mennonite. Now, they estimate, only and they live in a newly-independent country with
120 out of several thousand remain. With glasnost a third identity,” says Green, clearly fascinated by the
and independence, most were lured away to Ger- history of Germans in Central Asia.
many by dreams of a better life. When the Soviet Union started slowly opening
Birgitt Wunder, a German teacher at the Ma- up back in the late 1980s, Germany offered citizen-
mashova School, where Keller’s children study, ship to anyone who could prove German ances-
speaks about local history in a room equipped by try. Many jumped at the opportunity. The pace in-
the Volkswagen Foundation. Sponsored by her creased after Kyrgyzstan gained independence in
school back in Erfurt, Germany, she recounts that 1991. Now, Keller observes, “all my relatives are in
in the mid-18th century, the Russian tsarina, Cath- Germany. My brother moved there about 10 years
erine the Great, invited Germans to settle in vast, ago. Here, it is just my children, husband, and moth-
unpopulated stretches of an expanding Russian er. On my husband’s side, he has only has a sister
empire. That opened the way for some Germans to left here.” Just about everyone has a relative in Ger-
eventually make it down to Kyrgyzstan. many, it seems. Children at school describe the gifts
Other Germans arrived in Kyrgyzstan via a more their grandparents send. Uncles, aunts and siblings
forced route. As the Soviet Union fought Nazi Ger- live there; visits are common.
many in World War II, many ethnic Germans were But those remaining are less likely to move now,
deported to Central Asia as a precaution against anecdotal evidence suggests. Green sees a slow de-
collaboration with the invading army. “We were cline in the number of Germans leaving Kyrgyzstan.

May 2009 The Spektator

Focus 17

The German Embassy processed papers for 196 to He says the true number of ethnic-Germans in Above Karina, 11; Angelika, 11; and Veronika,
emigrate in 2007 and 111 in 2008, a sharp fall from the Kyrgyzstan is higher than one would expect, many 11, are German students studying at the Ma-
pace during the 1990s, he noted. Facing complaints being well assimilated. “There are one or two Ger- mashova School in Rot-Front. Veronika is whol-
that “Soviet-Germans” don’t assimilate or speak Ger- man families in every village. Maybe 3,000 live in ly German and the other two girls are German-
man, Berlin has also made tests more difficult. Bishkek and some don’t even know they’re Ger- Russian. All have family in Germany. (David
“We noticed it was not always easy for us to in- man. It is written “German” in their passport, but Trilling for EurasiaNet)
tegrate a large number of people migrating from they don’t have German traditions and many do
the former Soviet Union to Germany. Many of the not know the language.”
ethnic Germans were not German speakers, or For many, Kyrgyzstan is home, regardless of eth-
spoke little German. “You had families who basi- nicity. Besides, for the elderly, change is not easy.
cally would communicate As a child, Eduard Ei-
in Russian at home; the
children would have diffi-
“There are one or two German tsen, 73, was deported
from his home near the
culties integrating into the families in every village. Maybe western Russian city
schools,” Green says. of Voronezh to a labor
“We introduced the
3,000 live in Bishkek and some camp in the Arctic Cir-
obligation to acquire a don’t even know they’re German” cle. After the war, he
minimum knowledge of eventually ended up in
German in their countries Kyrgyzstan. It is home,
of origin,” he adds. he says. “People live a
A minority in her own village, Keller is nonethe- rich life in Germany, but we are used to a differ-
less proud of her German heritage and language. ent lifestyle here. If you need something, you can
“In my family, when we are around the house, go to your neighbor and he will share with you.
we always speak in German. Maybe when the kids They have a different mentality in Germany. I was
go out to play, because there are also Russian and offered to move and live in Germany. I thought
Kyrgyz kids, they speak Russian,” she says. But at about it a lot. But my wife is Russian and I have
the local school, teachers suggest some students children. I couldn’t leave them.”
have only a feeble grasp of the language, and Though Reingoldovna’s situation is similar,
several students admit they are more confident she has no doubts about her identity. “I love that
in Russian. I am German. My bible is in German, I read in
Stephan Munchoss from Saxon-Anhalt, anoth- German and sing in German. I will die German,” Left In 1941, Belendir Reingoldovna, now 86,
er teacher in Rot-Front, describes the language she says. was deported from the Russian Far East to Si-
spoken by his Mennonite students: “They speak a beria. For five years she worked as a logger in
special dialect from the northern part of Germany, a forced labor camp. “We were fascists to them,
near the Netherlands, called Plat-Deutsche. If they Article reproduced with kind permission from we Germans,” she says. (David Trilling for Eura-
talk to each other, I can’t understand.” siaNet) May 2009 The Spektator

18 Focus
Clockwise from Right Kurmanjan Datka, Tok-
togul, Togolok Moldo, Busubara Beyshen-
alieva, and Kasym tynystanov


To celebrate the recent launch of the 5000 som HE SOM WAS INTRODUCED in Kyrgyzstan birthday in 1973. Since then there have been two
note (imagine getting a taxi driver to give you on May 10, 1993, replacing the Soviet ru- international festivals of ballet held in her mem-
change from one of them) we take a look at the ble. In the Soviet Union, speakers of Ka- ory in Bishkek. Her statue, one of only two stat-
lives of some great Kyrgyz figures whose faces are zakh, Kyrgyz and Uzbek had called the ru- ues honouring ballerinas to have been erected
emblazoned across the other som banknotes. Part ble the som, and this name appeared on in the former Soviet Union, currently stands in
two, featuring the big hitters on the 500, 1000 and the back of banknotes as one of fifteen alternative the grounds of the Hyatt Regency. Government
the new 5000 notes will follow next month. names for the ruble representing the fifteen offi- demand for better public access to the statue re-
cial languages of the Union. The word som means sulted in the hotel’s big black perimeter fence be-
“pure” in Kazakh, Kyrgyz, Uyghur and Uzbek, as ing torn down last year.
well as in many other Turkic languages and im-
plies pure gold. Ten som
The ten som note is graced by Kasym Tynystanov
One som (1901- 1938), a scholar, professor and poet. Born in
Abdylas Maldybaev (1906-1978), a Kyrgyz composer a village in the Issyk Kul region, he was taught to
born in Kara Bulak, Batken oblast, has the honour of read and write by his father before attending a reli-
appearing on the usually sweat-stained, marshrut- gious school. He later went to Tashkent to study and
ka-battered one som note. In addition to some skil- began work as a writer for newspapers and maga-
ful composing including the anthem to the Kyrgyz zines. Later he was to work on the development of
Soviet Socialist Republic, Maldybaev also found the Kyrgyz alphabet, first experimenting with Ara-
time to sing as an operatic tenor. The Kyrgyz Opera bic and later Latin characters. His report, ‘The Main
Ballet House is named in his honour. Principles of Creating a New Alphabet’ was pre-
sented at the first congress of Turkologists in Baku
Five Som in 1926 and became the guiding document during
Famous ballerina, Bubusara Beyshenalieva, who in the formulation of the new written form of Kyrgyz.
her later years trained several generations of danc- In 1933 he published a dictionary of linguistic terms
ers and was one of the founders of the Kyrgyz Bal- and went on to write some of the first books to be
let School, stars on the five som note. published in the Kyrgyz language.
Born into a peasant family in the village of Tash- He became a member of the Communist Party
Tube not far from Bishkek in 1926, Beyshenalieva and translated revolutionary songs (such as the
went to to study at the Leningrad School of Chore- ‘Internationale’) into Kyrgyz. However, he was
ography at the age of ten, debuting at the Bolshoi passionate about preserving and promoting Kyr-
Theater in Moscow just three years later. Over the gyz culture and language which brought him
next thirty years she became an eminent balleri- into conflict with the government during the era
na performing in such classics as Swan Lake, Don of Stalin’s repressions. He fell into disfavour with
Quixote, Romeo and Juliet as well as a number of the authorities, was “repressed” in 1937 and exe-
Russian and Kyrgyz national ballets. cuted in 1938. Towards the end of 2002, a monu-
Elected as a member of the Supreme Soviet of ment was erected in Karakol to Tynystanov and
the USSR and the Kyrgyz SSR, she was also award- Khussein Karasaev — a fellow writer and scholar
ed the title ‘National Arist of the USSR’ in 1958 as who also worked on the development of the Kyr-
well as several other prestigious prizes and titles. gyz alphabet and one of the first Russian/Kyrgyz
She died six days before her forty-seventh dictionaries.

May 2009 The Spektator

Focus 19

Twenty som In 1876 the Alai region became part of the Rus- and the young Toktogul began singing at the age
On the twenty som note we find Togolok Moldo sian Empire. When two of Kurmanjan’s sons and of eight. Later, as a shepherd, he made up songs
(1860-1942). Born Bayymbet Abdyrakhmanov in two of her grandsons were accused of running about the hardships of his life - a recurrent theme
Ak Talaa rayon, Naryn oblast, Togolok Moldo was a contraband and murdering customs officials even throughout his career. He remained poor through-
poet, an akyn (a Kyrgyz minstrel) and one of the best her status could not help save them. As her favour- out his life, even losing the woman he loved to a
known twentieth century manaschi (reciters of the ite son was about to be hung in the main square of richer man, and he always performed at gather-
great Manas epic). Unlike Toktogul, the other great Osh she refused the urging of some of her follow- ings of poor people and not for the rich, about
akyn of the day, Togolok Moldo was able to write ers to effect a rescue, saying that she would not whom he composed derogatory verses describ-
and so many of his verses were written down. He ing how they exploited the masses. He seems to
recorded and wrote down many national folk songs have had a talent for this style of verse - he turned
as well as his own verses and many of the texts are
“[His] final period is known as professional at the age of eighteen after winning a
now kept in the Manuscript Library of the National the Soviet period during which traditional competition in which two contestants
Academy of Sciences. made up derogatory verses about each other. The
Born into a musical family, upon the death of his
he composed songs such as ‘Long manaps (aristocracy) were unhappy about some
father, Togolok Moldo was brought up by an uncle live Soviet Power’ and the rather of his songs and he was accused of participating
who was a well-known komuz player. He was alleg- in an uprising against the Russians. Sentenced to
edly given the name Togolok Moldo by his audienc-
wordy ‘What a Mother It Was Who exile in Siberia, he tried several times to escape,
es - ‘togolok’ means round-faced, ‘moldo’ means an Could Give Birth to a Son Such as succeeding on the third attempt aided by rumours
educated person. spread by his friends that he had drowned. His later
Lenin” songs have many references to his Russian friends
Fifty som — Semen and Hariton — who helped him escape
Featuring on the fifty som note, Kurmanjan Datka have her private hopes and ambitions be the cause from his penal servitude.
(1811-1907), was an outstanding Kyrgyz states- of suffering for her people. Her lament has been At first, praised by the Soviets as a socialist - it
woman. She is sometimes known as the Tsarina of preserved in the form of a poem. Her other son is said that democratic ideas in Kyrgyz history be-
Alai or the Queen of the South - the word ‘Datka’ was exiled to penal servitude in Siberia, and Kur- gan with him, and that Kyrgyz poetry dates from
means General. manjan, suffering from insult and shame, retired 1919 when he sang a eulogy of Lenin for the lo-
Born into a simple nomad family of the Mon- from public life giving away all her property and cal commissar - he later fell into disfavour with the
gush Clan in the Alai Mountains she was sup- leading a hermit like existence in a village, refus- authorities.
posed to marry a much older man when she ing all visitors. She died in the village of Mady, near His life and work are usually divided into four
was eighteen, but, breaking with tradition, she Osh, gripping the dressing gown of her favourite periods: the first pre-Siberia period is charac-
ran away back to her father’s yurt in the Alai. In son. She was survived by two sons, two daughters, terized by traditional folk songs and lyrical love
1832, the feudal lord, Alimbek, who had taken over thirty grandchildren, over fifty great-grand- songs; the second by songs of advice and admo-
the title Datka and ruled all the Kyrgyz of the children, and several great-great-grandchildren. nition; the third marks his return from Siberia and
Alai, freed her from the marriage contract and the last years of the Imperial Empire and includes
married her. Alimbek died after a palace coup One-hundred som (the stolnik) the tragic song, ‘I Have No Son’ composed as a lam-
in 1862, and Kurmanjan gathered around her Toktogul Satylgan uulu (1864-1933) who stares entation for his son, Topchybay, who died whilst
the faithful batyrs (heroes) and went on to gov- out from the 100 som note was a Kyrgyz poet - re- Toktogul was in exile; the final period is known as
ern the Alai herself. She was recognized by the garded as a democrat, a thinker, and an outstand- the Soviet period when he composed songs such
khans of Bukhara and Kokand and is one of the ing performer of the komuz. He was born into a as ‘Long live Soviet Power’ and the rather wordy
few women to have been granted the role of poor family in a village near to where the Toktogul ‘What a Mother It Was Who Could Give Birth to a
ruler in the Muslim world. Reservoir now lies. His mother was a good singer Son Such as Lenin’. May 2009 The Spektator

20 Focus

Gilpo’s big
The Spektator departs from its usual hard-bitten OST MORNINGS AT Turuzbekova Ten, I as were a couple of Korean restaurants by way of a
tone to bring you the tale of a young girl, a puppy awoke to the sound of scuttling; clawed last resort. “Olga would be heartbroken” one voice
dog and a two-thousand mile journey to escape feet sliding around the smooth surface of interjected. “We’d have to tell her that we sent it to
the clutches of a Korean restaurant. the fourth floor apartment I shared with live on a farm.” But a day or so later, while we were
my flatmate Olga. Olga was ready to go still stalling on a plan, Olga returned home earlier
to University, which meant Gilpo was too. than expected and changed her beloved pet’s des-
In the three months we lived together I called tiny for a second time.
Gilpo many things other than Gilpo - a name de- Under her benevolent watch, Gilpo developed into
rived from ‘Inter-gilpo’, a street in the prigorodni re- a handsome, well-fed puppy, and a thriving member
Below Olga and Gilpo gions of Bishkek where she and Olga had first laid of the Moskovski park dog community. She revelled
eyes on one another. For Olga, however, it had been in her first snow and quickly became the darling of
love at first sight. the Metro bar, where she received free leftovers and
“I found us a puppy.” she exclaimed excitedly later a barrage of compliments on every visit.
that evening. “Isn’t she beautiful?” It was undeniable “She’s so sweet” cooed a German couple as Gilpo
that Gilpo was a cute dog. Despite being born into happily tucked into a starter course of nachos cov-
urban poverty and being subsequently abandoned ered in cheese and chilli con carne.
by her natural mother, she bore a strong likeness to “She loves people.” replied Olga proudly. “And
Queen Elizabeth II’s corgies. As with doe eyed young pissing on them.“ she might have added.
felons that wind up in the same jail as murders and But despite such newfound celebrity, Gilpo was
rapists serving life sentences, it’s safe to say that our not long for Bishkek. As Olga’s date of departure
subject wouldn’t have survived another day had Olga from Kyrgyzstan came ever closer, a host of suit-
not taken pity on her, rescuing her from a desperate, ors were interviewed before being promptly re-
grimy existence. From her very arrival, Gilpo showed jected, having failed to meet the strict criteria for
gratitude by painting our walls in odious shades of ownership. I found her a lovely Uzbek family that
green and depositing her new diet of dog food, raw lived outside of town and desperately wanted a
meat and Lipyoshka on pet dog, but negotia-
the floor, post-digestion. “If that dog makes it to Holland tions broke down when

Export your own

Moreover, it wasn’t just the mother made the
her own muck she spread before I do I’ll shoot myself in the entirely reasonable

Street Dog
about. When guests came head” suggestion that Gilpo
and forgot to lock the toi- would live with them in
let door from the outside, a yard, on a chain. Olga
Gilpo would bound in and knock the toilet dustbin wasn’t having it. Instead, Gilpo was bound for her
over, re-emerging covered in used bog roll and other parents home in Moscow, with the possibility of
What you need to do. All information provided unsavoury detritus. One night I returned home in- an onward journey to Europe and Amsterdam,
by Olga Rychkova: ebriated and forgot to close my own door. The next where her Mistress would be finishing a post-
morning Gilpo was on hand to creep into my room, graduate research program. The necessary dog
1.) Vaccinate: A five in one shot plus anti-para- leap onto my bed and bring me to life with the sort documentation was secured at a frantic pace and
site pills, registered stamped and sealed. This can of shower no-one wants to take. I reacted angrily, on Christmas Eve 2009, Gilpo was bundled uncer-
be done at any veterinary clinic and costs about throwing her tail-over-head across the room and in- emoniously into a blue plastic container, unlikely
150 soms. Your ball of fur should also obtain a pass- troducing her to some choice swearwords in English, to see the city that spawned her ever again. She
port which costs 50 soms. I recommend a vet called with equivalents in Russian in case she hadn’t under- travelled by train over the vast, snow covered Ka-
Gaukhar, situated near the Sovietskaya/Gorkova in- stood. Acclimatization was hard on both of us. zakh steppe, up through Siberia and onto Mos-
tersection: (0312) 375151. In November, Olga made a trip to the silk road cit- cow without a single clue as to what was going
ies of Uzbekistan, leaving me and our other flatmate on. Whilst human beings from her homeland were
2.) Forms: Exit form and a form to state that your with the unenviable task of babysitting Gilpo. The preparing themselves for a gruelling hand over
dog is not a valuable breed (Gilpo wasn‘t), obtained damned mutt missed her owner something terrible, foot existence in some of the Russian capital’s
from the State Veterinarian Clinic: Sherbakova/Oroz- and howled on the cold balcony where we forced most cramped apartments, scrimping and saving
bekova (0312) 272621. These forms should then be her to sleep as part of an altogether tougher, more to send money to their families back home, Gilpo
taken to the State Veterinarian Department, Bude- negligent regime. Aware of the contempt we held was making the same migration totally unaware
nova 247, where they are then signed. her in, her behaviour grew more and more belliger- of just how lucky she’d struck it.
ent, her appetite for destruction increasingly insa- Back in Turuzbekova Ten’s canine free confines,
3.) Travel Docs: Arrive two hours in advance to tiable. During the course of an evening where some a throng of people drank Sovietskaya champagne,
check your pet in. Cats and dogs require separate friends of ours had expressed an interest in bringing mourning Olga’s absence and celebrating Gilpo’s.
tickets - budget for around a tenth of the cost of a her in from the cold and playing tickle with her, Gilpo The image of our brainless puppy pottering around
human ticket. Animals travelling to Europe must be wilfully ran her claws over a DVD that was lying idle Red Square, with the brilliant candy coloured domes
chipped in their country of origin and have a blood on top of its case near the television. It was a limited of St Basil’s cathedral in the background, was at
test in an EU certified clinic. Central Asia’s nearest is edition version of ‘The Dark Knight’ batman movie. once amusing, relieving and even slightly touch-
in Moscow, and the cost of sending blood there and The collective mood was one of outrage. A decision ing. “A rags to riches story!” someone full of festive
receiving results back may come to as much as $200. on the little beast’s future had to be reached. cheer concluded. But not everyone found the saga
Rules and costs of animal travel to the US are a lot At roughly midnight on the same night, when so heart-warming. One of our close friends had
less prohibitive, although your pet will still need to the majority of our guests had left, we held an emer- been waiting on a decision for a Shengen visa for
be chipped. gency conference over a 2.5 litre bottle of Tolstyak two months. “If that dog makes it to Holland before
beer. Some potential new owners were identified, I do,” he fumed, “I’ll shoot myself in the head.”

May 2009 The Spektator



Bishkek life
Bars and
16 New York Pizza (177, Kievskaya)
Decorated with pictures of the Big Apple and serv-
ing a fine selection of steaks and other American-
themed dishes, NYP is sure to get New Yorkers
2x2* (Isanova/Chui)
Trendy drinking hole with a circular bar and friend-
thinking of home. Also serves what many believe ly staff. A good place for knocking back a few pre-
to be the best pizza in town. $$$ nightclub cocktails. Slouch into one of the comfy
There’s a fine
19 line between20‘bar’ and ‘restaurant’ in
Bishkek. Places more suitable for drinking sessions Armenian lounge seats and try to look cool. $$$
are marked with a star * Landau (Manas/Gorky) Avant Gard (127, Sovietskaya)
Fancy something a little different? If you can tol- We’re not so sure what’s so avant-garde about
erate the arthritic service, Landau isn’t a bad spot Avant-Gard. They put candles on the tables in the
Price Guide (main course and a garnish) for a pork steak or some other Armenian culinary evenings, but there is a distinct lack of Parisian
23 goodies. Also, treat yourself to some decent Arme-
$ - Expect change from 150 som Bohemians. Still, the food is fine and the relaxed
$$ - A little over 200 should do the trick nian conjac whilst your here, you’ll never go near ambience means AG is a good place for a conver-
$$$ - Expect to pay in the region of 350 Bishkek conjac again. Ever. $$$ sation, or a debate on existentialism. $$
$$$$ - A crisp 500 (or more) needed in this joint
Chinese Beatles Bar* (Gorky/Sovietskaya)
25 Ak-Bata (108, Ibraimova) A Beatles themed bar to make Bishkek scousers feel
This place must serve up pretty authentic dishes at home. Huge screen outside for sporting events.
as it’s always full of Chinese playing mah-jong and Shashlyk and cool beer. $$
American waving their chopsticks about. Smoky and stuffy,
7 Conservative (4)
Cowboy* (Toktogul/Orozbekova) but in a nice way. $ Boulevard (Erkindik/Kievskaya)
8 Stress
Bishkek’s (6) restaurant-cum-dance club
all-American Chuchuara Hoga (117, Chui) A small stylish restaurant, offering a refined atmo-
13 now
has (8) more up-market, but wild
gone a little With this Chinese restaurant, a little out of the way and sphere, delicious cakes and wi-fi internet. By Bishkek
nights are still to be had. Dig in to a kilo of chicken rarely visited by tourists, you really feel you are get- standards, the service is usually excellent. $$$$
15 Scale
wings and thenawkwardly (7)
hit the dance floor. $$$ ting the real deal. Request a хого (your own personal
Captain Nemo’s (14, Togolok Moldo)
m 16 Mark indicating changed
Hollywood* (Druzhba/Sovietskaya)
Chinese boiling-pot) and randomly select a variety of
Small nautically themed restaurant with a selection
unusual Chinese delicacies to throw in. Beware, the
As you vowel
would value
probably in German
guess, decorated(6) with
‘spicy’ sauce, although delicious, may leave delicate
of evocatively named dishes including ‘Fish from the
s 18 Icy
movie coldphotos
posters, — glide (anag)
of cinema icons(5)and a
stomachs in some distress several hours later - con-
ship’s boy’ and ‘Tongue from the boatswain’s wife’.
bunch of American kitsch. Hollywood is popular Cosy wooden interior and porthole style windows
20 aLocal
with youngerordinance (2-3)
crowd and is usually packed from
sider the ‘not-spicy’ sauce as a suitable alternative $$
create a hybrid underwater log cabin experience.
5) 21 Applaud
mid-evening (4)A fun place for a few drinks Peking Duck I & II
onwards. Spirits, cocktails and a good business lunch. $$$
before heading off to the clubs. $$ (Soviet/Druzhba & Chui/Tog. Mol.)
Huge portions to feed even the biggest of glut- Coffee House (9, Manas & Togolok Moldo/Ryskulova)
Metro* (133, Chui) tons and an English language menu that provides Treat yourself to some of the finest coffee and
In the impressive location of a former theatre, Met-
Want more? Access over 4,000 archive puzzles plenty of amusing translations. Dancing occasion- cakes Bishkek has to offer at the imaginatively
at remains the première drinking hole for ex-pats. ally kicks off on more raucous evenings. $$ named ‘Coffee House’, a cosy boutique café with a
high ceiling, a long
Then call ourbar and friendly
solutions staff
line on compli-
09068 European flavour. Curl up and read a book, or just
ment a good
338 248. Tex-Mex
Calls cost 60pmenu
perand a wide
minute selection
at all times.
Dungan drop in for a caffeine hit and a chocolate fix. $$$
of drinks.supplied
Service Metro isbyone of the best bets for catch- Hui Min (Relocated to the Hotel Dostuk)
ing sporting events on TV,
Buy 10 great Guardian puzzle although
booksthanks to the A former favourite, we have been told that Hui
for only Concord (Alatoo Square)
£20 inc p&plate(save
kickoff timesVisit
£40). for Champions
guardianbooks.League Min has now relocated to the Hotel Dostuk. Ap- Waiting staff dressed as airline stewards and an in-
football matches, don’t or call 0870 836 0749count on the staff waiting parently the menu has been revamped and the terior featuring some aeronautical paraphernalia
up unless it’s a big one. $$$ prices increased. The Spektator will be checking it attempt to lend a little glamour to this small diner
Answers nomonth’s
to this 12,163 crossword
out soon. We hope they still serve the special Dun- just off Ala-too Square. Good, cheap food and fur-
gan tea, as it’s rather good. ther deals for lunch during midweek make this a
H U S H H U S H S W I M popular spot during the daytime. $$
O T O C A H O Georgian
Cosmo Bar* (Sovietska/Toktogul)
L E A R N R U C T I O N Mimino (27, Kievskaya) Board the sweet smelling elevator, ascend to the
D T E E Q Z T Re-opening soon we’re told, Mimino is nice, cosy and top-floor Cosmo Bar and splash the cash with your
serves up bowl-fulls of steaming, hearty Georgian fare fellow free-spending cosmonauts. Elegant interi-
J I G S A W P U Z Z L E with pomegranate seeds a-plenty. We recommend or, plush sofas, fancy drinks and pretty waitresses.
F O T Y A R the Georgian cheese bread and anything that’s served Huzzah! $$$$
R U N O F F C I R C L E in a pot. Watch out for Uncle Joe at the door. $$$
U E W N H Y Doka Pizza* (153, Kievskaya)
German More sexed up than its Akhunbaeva sister bar,
I N T E L L E C T U A L Steinbrau* (5, Gerzena) there’s a strip bar downstairs, Doka Kievskaya is
t T R L I A N D Don your beer drinking trousers and head down to often a post-party chillout venue for Bishkek’s
F L A V O U R N I C H E Bishkek’s take on a Bavarian-style beer hall. They brew young, rich kids. Enjoy the good food, the lively
their own stuff - such a relief from the insipid bilge vibe, and the coquettish waitresses – just don’t
7) that’s normally sold as lager. Compliment your pint break your beer glass, there’s a stiff fine. Also
L A T E F O R E P L A Y with a plate of German sausage with sauerkraut. $$$ non-stop. $$$ May 2009 The Spektator

22 Bars, Restaurants & Clubs
Dillinger* (Gorky/Tynystanova) Navigator (103, Moskovskaya) Cyclone (136, Chui)
Glamorous VIP complex including a restaurant, A pricey, but pleasant place to while away an af- Smart Italian restaurant with plush interior, effi-
bar and casino. A decedantly decorated and per- ternoon. Sit in the bar area over a beer or lounge cient, polite serving staff and a warm atmosphere
culiarly endearing homage to the notorious bank in the airy non-smoking conservatory. Attentive to alleviate Bishkek’s winter chills. Pasta dishes
robber - we’re sure he would appreciate it. $$$$ service and a refreshing selection of salads, a good stand out among a menu of traditional Italian fa-
place for a light, healthy lunch when fat and grease vourites. $$$
Fatboy’s* (Chui/Tynastanova) are getting you down. $$$$
Civilised, friendly cafe bang in the middle of town Dolce Vita (116a, Akhunbaeva)
Stary Edgar’s* (15, Panfilova)
and a popular ex-pat meeting point. Sensible spot for Cosy Italian restaurant with smiling waitresses
conversation, but if you’re alone there’s a mini-library
The concrete monstrosity of the Russian Theatre con- serving excellent pizza. Also serves salads and Eu-
to peruse (although literary classics are thin on the
ceals one of Bishkek’s finest attempts at a cosy base- ropean cuisine. Small terrace outside for summer-
ground). Check out the American pancakes for break-ment bar. Friendly staff, a decent menu and a collection time dining. $$
fast, top marks. (Undergoing refurbishment) $$$ of old bits and bobs decorating the walls make Edgar’s
Four Seasons (116a, Tynystanova)
an attractive alternative to the city’s mainstream cafés. Japanese
A blues band plays most nights and a pianist adds a
One of the poshest places to eat out in Bishkek.
romantic ambience on some Sunday evenings. $$$ Aoyama (93, Toktogula)
Elegant, yet modern interior and polite service.
Elegant sushi joint frequented by serious looking
Great place to splash out on a special occasion or Sky Bar* (Razzakova/Moskovskaya)
suited-types concluding their latest dodgy deals.
just for the hell of it. $$$$ Sky Bar opened only recently on the eleventh floor The food’s excellent though - if you can scrape to-
Griffon (Microregion 7) of a highrise but it already seems to have taken off gether enough soms. $$$$
A cosy log-cabin affair with a large meat-roasting - popular with a trendy crowd on most evenings.
central fireplace. On one disturbing occasion the The windows offer fine views of the city, although Watari (Shevchenko, Frunze)
waiting staff were about as plesant as a bunch of wouldn’t it be better if they faced the mountains A small Japanese-owned restaurant that serves su-
chavs, but hopefully that was a passing phase. rather than the grey sprawl of Bishkek? Decent shi as well as dishes with a more indian flavour. The
food, even if the menu isn’t overly adventurous refined atmosphere makes it ideal for a business
$$$$ meeting or just a sophisticated night out $$$
Used English Books for Sale! U Mazaya (Behind ‘Zaks’ on Sovietskaya)
Authors available include: Baldwin, Bryson, Possibly Central Asia’s only rabbit themed restaurant. Korean
Camus, Childers, Dostoyevsky, Hemingway, Descend into this underground warren and tuck in.
Also check out the fairy-light adorned flagship sister- Petel (52, Zhykeeva Pudovkin)
Greene, Kazantzakis, Le Fanu, Murakami, Operating in the back room of a Korean family’s
rabbit-restaurant in Asenbai micro region. $$$
Nietzsche, Orwell, Pelevin, Poe, Sebald, house, this is Korean style home-cooking at its most
Zamyatin and many more! Vavilon (Microregion 7) personal. Closed on Sunday. Ring: 0543 922539 $$
Finely presented dishes, reasonably priced beer (60
All titles 100 som. For a full list email: Santa Maria (217, Chui) som) genuinely friendly and attentive service and a
Plush Korean restaurant offering Eastern favou-
music playlist that mixes up a bit of soul, jazz, swing
rites, including exciting Korean barbecues where
Jam* (179, Toktogula) and classical tracks played at just the right volume.
you get to cook your own dinner, plus an extensive
An underground oasis of cool. Jam is a cafe with Live music from 8-ish on most evenings. Definitely
European menu. $$$
a full menu and a lounge bar atmosphere, open worth the trek out to the suburbs ( tell your taxi driv-
till 3am . $$$$ er to turn left at the yuzhniy vorota and head towards
Jumanji (Behind the circus)
Asenbai for about 1.5km) $$$ Lebanese
It’s strange. This place is decorated with fake jun- Veranda* (Gorky/Soviet. Vefa Centre roof )
Beirut (Shevchenko/Frunze)
gle foliage and is based on a crap kids’ film yet still Wow, what a view. Eat rather decent international
Now in a new location, Beirut continues to serve
sort of works. You also get to roll a pair of Jumanji cuisine whilst taking in a superb view of the moun-
enticing Lebanese goodies including falaffle, hu-
dice before you order for the chance to win a spe- tains from the 4th floor terrace above the Vefa centre.
mus, and tasty little meat pie things. $$$
cial secret prize - we like this. $$$ A great place for some outdoor summer dining.
Live Bar* (Kulatova/Pravda - near Ibiza club ) Moldovan
Twenty-four hour sports bar with live music at
weekends. Plenty of leather couches provide the
Indian Moldova Restaurant (Kievskaya/Turusbekova)
ideal place to sip cocktails whilst watching the The Host (Sovietskaya, opposite the Hyatt) If it’s been a while since you last went out for a
Champions league at three in the morning. $$$$ A varied and interesting menu including fine In- Moldovan, this wooden paneled, sturdy-tabled ea-
dian food make this place a real treat. On midweek tery may be the answer to your prayers. Also, the
Lounge Bar* (338a, Frunze) Moldovan Embassy is next door should you care
One of our favourite places to drink in the Sum- days there are also several excellent business lunch to learn more about the world’s favourite budget-
mertime, when we can afford it. Outdoor balcony- deals offering a soup, salad, main course and des- wine exporting country. $$$
cum-terrace high above the street with slouch- sert for 250-350 som. A real stand out and a Spe-
couches and fine veiws of the circus - which you ktator favourite! $$$$
can sometimes smell in hot weather. Nice. $$$ Regional/Central Asian
Meri (33, Gorkova)
Italian Arabica* (Sovietskaya/Kulatova)
In the summer months, Meri has one of the prettiest Adriatico (219, Chui) Descend the steps into an aromatic cloud of hooka
dining areas in Bishkek. International cuisine served 24 Classy restaurant with it’s own Italian chef. Great smoke. The music’s normally reasonably decent
hours a day, more lively nights see jiving on the dance pizza, improved service, and a fine selection of chilled out sort of stuff, the food’s good, and the

floor to all your favourite Kyrgyz pop tunes. $$$ pasta dishes. $$$ waitresses smile. At me, anyway. $$$
Find the best bars in town with the Spektator and

May 2009 The Spektator

Bars, Restaurants & Clubs 23
Arzu-II (Sovietskaya/Lev Tolstoy bridge)
Twenty-four hour joint that’s a godsend for those
Turkish Arbat (9, Karl Marks)
Tel. 512094; 512087
who get cravings for lagman or manty at four in Carlson (166, Sovietskaya) Smart ‘elite’ club popular with a slightly older
the morning. Sometimes smoking isn’t allowed, A good outdoor terrace and some hearty food, but crowd. Strip bar and restaurant in same building.
sometimes it is, however the food and prices are the Karaoke style crooners whop provide evening (Entrance charge 200/350 som midweek, 350/450
constantly pretty good. Comfy booth style seats entertainment are an acquired taste. $$ som Fri/Sat. Strip bar 700 som)
to dig yourself into after a heavy night. $$ Ibrahim (Gorkova/Oshskaya) City Club (85/1, Zhukeyeva-Pudovkina)
Arzu-I (Togolok Moldo, next to the stadium) Several dining rooms including private booths and Tel. 511513; 510581
Offers a hearty selection of Kyrgyz and European a covered outdoor terrace with an extravagant wa- So exclusive it makes the Spektator crowd feel like
dishes and a homely atmosphere. It’s probably a terfall fountain to help you keep cool while tucking cheap scum bags, City Club is one of the posh-
little too chilly for al fresco dining these days, but into your kebabs in the summer. $$ est clubs in town. Get past the ‘face control’ (ugly
there’s also a great outdoor terrace. $$ Konak (Sovietskaya/Gorkova) people beware) and spend your evening with
Forel (Vorentsovka village) This Turkish joint used to be ‘Restaurant Camelot’ gangster types, lecherous diplomats, Kazakh busi-
Twenty minutes outside of Bishkek, Forel is a fish- hence the incongruous suits of armour in the back nessmen and a posse of young rich kids who all
based ‘relaxation centre’ set amongst babbling room, and the rather crappy castle facade. However, seem to have studied in London. (Entrance charge:
streams and offering fine veiws of the mountains. Fish the food is often great, the salads are large and fresh, girls 200/boys 300, Fri/Sat girls 300/boys 500
your own trout out of a pool and have it deep fat fried and the staff are always pleasant. Recommended! Golden Bull (Chui/Togolok Moldo)
for your pleasure. Only salads, bread, tea and juice are (And now open 24 hours a day) $$ Tel. 620131
sold on site but you are welcome to bring any booze
or garnish you desire, it’s also possible to rent a BBQ. Night A Bishkek institution. Full of ex-pats and tourists

literally every night of the week. Long bar, friendly
To get there take a taxi to Vorentsovka village and, if staff, cheapish beer, everyone’s happy. (Entrance
your taxi driver doesn’t know the exact location, ask a charge [girls/boys] free/400 midweek, 150/400 Fri/
friendly villager. Trout is 800som/kilo $$$ Sat. ‘Foreigners’ free.)
There are some Bishkek old-hands who say that
Jalalabad (Togolok Moldo/Kievskaya) Ibiza (9, Kulatova)
things aren’t what they used to be when it comes
Basically the cheapest food (that won’t give you gut A cavernous space with a large dance floor. Danc-
to nightlife in Bishkek. They talk of legendary nights
rot) in the centre of town. While it should stand out ers suspended on platforms 15 feet above the
of carnage, vomit, and debauchery - delights that
for its fresh lagman, Jalalabad is sometimes over- floor, strobe lighting, smoke machines and bang-
contemporary Bishkek struggles to offer.
looked. Probably at its best in summer, when the ing dance tunes. Bishkek’s (half-arsed) attempt
Not so, we say. Take your pick from the list below
shashlyk masters flanking the entrance offer their to create a little bit of the party island. Efforts to
and we’re sure there’s still enough carnage, vomit
creations straight to guests sitting at Eastern-style negotiate a cheaper entrance fee are futile. (En-
and debauchery in town to keep everyone happy.
tables – cross your legs and see how long you can trance charge 350-400 som)
last before cramp sets in. $
Diskoklubs Retro Metro (24, Mira)
Jetigen (Gorky/Logvinenko) Heaven (Frunze/Pravda - in the Hotel Dostuk)
A new place offering European cuisine as well as As Heaven is found inside a hotel it is surprisingly Bright, happy, 80’s kitsch bar, the DJ spins his rec-
the usual local specials. Stands out for it’s deli- unseedy. In fact it stands out for being a bastion of ords from inside the front of a VW camper van. One
cious lagman, fresh lepyoshka bread, and attentive the well-dressed (if one is generous). Turn up in tat- of the most popular places for post-2am partying.
service. $ ty jeans and a t-shirt and you may feel a little out of (Entrance charge: 200/300 som midweek, 350/450
Smile (Chui/Sovietskaya) place; then again, you may not give a shit. Tables by som Fri/Sat. Reservation price 200 som)
Despite the name, you’ll be lucky to see one on the the dancefloor cost 1000 som but include drinks up
waitresses face. Nevertheless, if it’s decent cheap to this value. (Entrance charge 200-400 som) Live Music
food you’re after, this isn’t a bad place to look. The
eggs are just as good as those at Fatboys next door, Fire & Ice (Tynystanova/Erkindik) Promzona (16, Cholpon-Atinskaya)
and half the price. Think about it. $ A slightly grittier version of Golden Bull. Again, for-
eigners can often get in for free. Popular through- Promzona’s far-flung location sadly means a taxi
Syrian out the week. (Entrance ‘foreigners’ free) ride or a long walk home are in order at the end
of a night. Nevertheless, this trendy live music
Damashq (54, Manas - opposite the Humanities Uni) Pharoah (East side of the Philharmonic) venue has a lot going for it: good bands, an exten-
See a full review of Damashq in this month’s Out Shiny, lively ‘elite’ club, apparently popular with rich sive menu, and a hip industrial interior featuring,
& About section! kids. (Entrance charge 400-500 som) strangely, a wind tunnel fan, make this one of the
best nights out in Bishkek. Tuesday is Jazz night.
Russian/Ukrainian Infinity (Micro region 7) Rock or blues bands normally play at the week-
Yet to be investigated. Ask a taxi driver to take you ends. (Music charge 200-350 som)
Pirogoff-Vodkin (Kievskaya/Togolok Moldo) to ‘Infinity’ (and beyond) in the 7th micro region.
Classy restaurant with a turn of the 20th century It’s located way out near the hotel Jannat. Any re- Tequila Blues (Turesbekova/Engels)
atmosphere serving Russian specialities. $$$ ports would be welcome! (Entrance charge ?) Recently re-opened! A possible misnomer, the te-
Khutoryanka (Sovietskaya/Lev Tolstoy bridge) quila is just fine, but the blues is pretty much non-ex-
Platinum (East side of the he Philharmonic)
Unassuming, to put it mildly, on the outside, this istent. Young Russian studenty types mosh away the
Take a seat at the snazzy 360 degree bar and do bat-
place is a revelation on the inside. Delicious food, nights to rock bands in an atmospheric underground
tle with some of Kyrgyzstan’s most convivial ‘elite’ for
reasonable service, Ukrainian brass band music bunker. Weekends are not for the fainthearted, or the
gold-digging temptresses. (Entrance charge 400-
on the cd player. We love it! $$$ claustrophobic. (Entrance charge 150 som)
500 som)
Taras Bulba (Near the Yuzhniy Vorota on Sovietskaya) Zeppelin (43, Chui)
Apple (28, Manas) Zeppelin is in the same vein as Tequila Blues but
Like all the Ukrainian restaurants we’ve tried in
Fat, old, lecherous foreigners not welcome, this not quite so spit and sawdust. On the nights we’ve
Bishkek, Taras Bulba serves great food. We liked
place is for a younger cooler crowd. Multiple bars, visited, there’s been a line up of young rock or punk
the potato pancakes with caviar, the delicious
large dance floor, friendly atmosphere. Thursday bands strutting their stuff, heavier beats seem to
soups and fresh salads. $$$
usually a big night. (Entrance charge 100-300 som) go down best with the young Russian crowd. Full
Zaporyzhia (9, Prospect Mira) restaurant menu.
Recently opened, Zaporyzhia is a cossack fla- Mojito (Micro region 12)
(Entrance charge 100-150 som)
voured restauraunt in a varnish-scented log cab- Another place to be checked out. Do they actually
in. Hearty rustic dishes and a homely atmosphere. serve mojitos? Possibly. Is it a Hemingwayesque Live music also common at Stary Edgar’s and Bea-
Recommended! $$$ club reminiscent of 1950s Havana? Probably not. tles Bar (see ‘bars/restaurants’) May 2009 The Spektator

24 What’s On
Special Event Live updates The Conservatory
Jantosheva, 115
Book Release: Tel: 479542
For all the Bishkek opera, ballet and con-
Concerts by students and professors.
Oral Histories of Soviet Kyrgyzstan cert listings, check our frequently up-
Kyrgyz State Philharmonic
May 15th , The American University (AUCA) dated What’s On listings at: Chui Prospect, 253
Main building, room 403
Tel: 212262, 212235
“Life at the Edge of the Empire: Oral Histories Hours: 17:00-19:00 in summer
of Soviet Kyrgyzstan,” a 250-page, English-lan- Tickets: 70-100 som (sometimes much more for
guage anthology of life stories of older citizens special performances)
There are two concert halls featuring classical, tra-
of Kyrgyzstan, will be released May 15. A book May 14th ditional Kyrgyz, and pop concerts and a variety of
release celebration will be held in Room 403 in
the main building of the American University of Short film: Loss shows.
The Cinema House , 17:30
Central Asia (AUCA), in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, at
4 p.m. on Monday, May 18. Copies of the book Logvinyenko 13 (crossing Bokembaeva) Dates for the summer
will be on sale for 200 som. As part of a project that aims to support young Brace yourself for a summer of fun
Over the past four months, a group of sev- filmmakers in Kyrgyzstan, there will be a show- Aside from the much appreciated International
enteen AUCA students, as part of a project ing of the short film ‘Loss’. The storyline focuses Festival of Santa Clauses, the past six months
coordinated by AUCA Assistant Professor Sam on the deep sense of love of an old man and how in Kyrgyzstan have been rather spartan in cul-
Tranum, traveled around Kyrgyzstan conduct- this affects a younger man. The film shows the tural events, but summer festival season is fast
ing interviews. “Life at the Edge of the Empire,” conflict of values between the older generation approaching! For full details of the following
contains thirty-five of the best interviews they who are often sidelined, and the younger gener- events and festivals and how to book tickets visit
gathered. The average age of the interview ation who are often attracted to criminality and a the ‘What’s On’ section of our website at www.
subjects is seventy-five, and some of them are more violent way of life. (Synopsis adapted from
old enough to have seen the creation, rise, and a strangely worded press release by the Swiss Co-
operation Office). July 18th
fall of the Soviet Union. - At Chabysh Horse Festival (Tajikistan)
The interview subjects roughly reflect Kyr- For additional information contact Nurlan Asan-
bekov. Mob. 0555 961785 - Festival of Kyrgyz National Cuisine
gyzstan’s diversity, including people from all
strata of society, a range of ethnicities, and a Entrance is free
July 25th
variety of religions - a shepherd and a former May 15th - Festival of Cuisine and Folklore
KGB officer, a Korean woman deported from the - Cleaning up Son-Kul Lake, Foklore Show and
Russian Far East and a kidnapped bride, a poet Art Exhibition Opening: Our 20th Century
and an opium farmer. Not only were they asked The G. Aitiev Kyrgyz National Museum, 17:30
to tell their life stories, they were also asked Abdyrakhmanova 196
August 1st
about issues related to religion, language, col- The exhibition will showcase two very different
- At Chabysh Horse Festival in Osh oblast
lectivization, World War II, Stalin’s death, the artists: the traditional realist Naryn Turpanov,
- Festival of Falconry, Hunting Dogs and Unmiss-
Khrushchev and Brezhnev eras, migration, en- and the more experimental, post-modernist
able Donkey Games
tertainment, food, and the changing roles of Jylkychy Jakypov. Visitors will see these two
men and women in society. clear directions of Kyrgyz art encapsulated at
August 6th
For those who are interested in the oral his- the exhibition.
- Festival of Kyrgyz National Ceremonies and
tories but unable to attend the book release For more information contact Gulmira Kamalova.
celebration, the interviews will soon be availa- Tel. (0312) 624505; Mob. 0543 802434
ble online (at and cop-
ies of the book will be distributed to libraries in Entertainment Directory August 8th
- Birds of Prey Festival and Tushoo Kesuu
Central Asia, the UK, and the US. The Puppet Theatre
Sovietskaya/Michurina August 15th
For more information, contact:
Performances on Sundays at 11:00am. - Kyrgyz Kochu Festival
Sam Tranum
Assistant Professor Russian Drama Theatre
Department of Journalism August 22nd
Tynystanova, 122 (Situated in Oak Park)
American University of Central Asia - Kyrgyz National Wedding Ceremony
Tel.: 662032, 621571
Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan Hours: Mon-Sun, 10:00-18:00 August 30th
Tickets 30-100 som
- National Horse Games Festival
A range of local and international plays in Russian.

What’s On is sponsored by
Map: Location guide 7. Beta Stores Supermarket 14. New York Pizza 21. Stary Edgars
1. Tequila Blues 8. Infinity Night Club 15. Cowboy 22. TSUM Department Store
2. Metro Bar (American Pub) 9. Cyclone 16. National Museum 23. The Host
3. Watari 10. Coffee House (II) 17. Navigator 24. Mimino
4. Zaporyzhian Nights 11. Adriatico 18. Sky Bar 25. Arabica
5. Coffe House (I) 12. Santa Maria 19. Boulevard 26. Konak
6. 2x2 Bar 13. Cyclone 20. Fatboy’s 27. VEFA shopping Centre (& Veranda)

May 2009 The Spektator

City Map 25
Gva rdi a
aya Gvardia Molodaya



Lva Tolstogo

a n a s ave.
Manas a

4 5

a n a s ave.



T. Abdymom
Isanova 6 Koenkozo
Isanova 7 8

9 10

nov stadium
old o
Togolok M

Michael Frunze

k Jo

13 12

k o

14 va


Lva Tolstog

Orozbeko 16 Razzakov


18 Razzakov
17 19 Erkind




l Frunze

a ova
Fatianov Tynystan

ova 20 23
Tynystan YA
26 AYA


27 AYA

S 25E TSK 22 va
a Shopoko
A. U

va 24





va May 2009 The Spektator

The Alpine Fund
About Us

Founded in 2000 by American climber Garth Willis, The Alpine Fund seeks to connect Kyrgyzstan’s two greatest resources - its
youth and its mountains. We are a small but very active organization. Our total budget is currently $1500 per month, yet our
dedicated team is able to provide education and mountains programs to about 40 youth each week. (how it all began)

What we do

We currently offer four integrated programs that combine experiential education in the mountains with more traditional les-
sons in the city:

Clouds at their Feet is the wilderness-education program that provides a weekly outing - hiking, trekking, climbing or camp-
ing. Participants learn new skills and important environmental lessons. Imagine the change of perspective when an adolescent
who has never left the concrete walls of the city has the opportunity to literally climb high above their perceived limitations
and look down upon where they once were.
The Alpine Club is the tutoring program located at the Alpine Fund office in Bishkek where children receive twice weekly as-
sistance in learning English and weekly lessons in computer skills. The Alpine Fund office has two computers accessible to its
Alpine Interns is an opportunity for young adults who have been involved in the previous two programs to share what they
have learned with younger students. By instructing and leading outings for younger students the Alpine Interns build up their
own skill-sets. Increased self-confidence and leadership abilities make Alpine Interns more employable in the tourism field.
The Alpine Learning Center is a cabin near Bishkek that serves as the staging area and launching point for Alpine Fund out-
ings. Camping participants often camp outside the cabin, enjoy breakfast from the kitchen and launch their own hiking ‘expe-
ditions’ from this base camp. The primary reason for using this cabin is to provide a safe shelter from the weather but children
here are also able to learn independent living skills such as preparing breakfast and maintaining good hygiene.

Equipment rental

Planning a mountain trip? We have a rental service that offers mountain equipment at competitive rates. This means that you
can enjoy the use of reliable mountain kit whilst helping the Alpine Fund raise money at the same time!

Help us out!

As we are a very small non-profit organization we always have to watch every dollar in our efforts to provide high quality edu-
cation and mountain experiences for our students. It is exactly this small nature, however, that ensures every donation directly
supports our students. Check out our website to learn how to make a donation:
28 Weekend The End
Quick crossword no 12,163
crossword quick quiz
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 1. To how many terms was FD Roo-
sevelt elected US president?
8 2. Which French philosopher-writ-
er wrote ‘The Plague’?
9 10
3. Two countries are landlocked by
other landlocked countries. One of
these ‘double-landlocked’ coun-
11 tries is in Europe the other is closer Are you a Bishkek beeznezmen?
to Kyrgyzstan. Name them both. Take our quick quiz to see if you would fit in with
12 4. The name of which country’s the local entrepreneurial scene.
capital city means ‘good air’?
13 14 15
5. How many bits are there in a byte? 1. Is your ideal wife:
6. In a 2003 list compiled by the a) A peroxide blonde.
US film industry who was voted b) A peroxide blonde ex-hooker.
17 18 best screen villain? c) A peroxide blonde hooker.
7. Which race starts at Putney Bridge?
19 8. What was the name of Manas’s 2. Which of the following best describes your
wife? eldest son:
20 21 a) Somewhat lacking a social-conscience but deep
Oxford/Cambridge boat race 8) Kanikei
Lecter (played by Anthony Hopkins) 7) down a good kid.
tina (Buenos Aires) 5) Eight 6) Hannibal b) In the habit of running pedestrians over with
22 23 Liechenstein and Uzbekistan 4) Argen- the big black five-litre Mercedes you bought him
Answers: 1) Four 2) Albert Camus 3) for his seventeenth birthday.
c) A scholar and a gentleman.
Across 12 Productive
Answers to this month’s (8)
crossword can be found on page 21
1 Secret (4-4) 15 Part of church containing
3. Which music do you prefer to have blasting
5 FloatAcross
— feel dizzy (4) altar (7) Sudoku
16 Person who behaves from the open windows of your Hummer as you
9 Gain 1knowledge
Secret (4-4) (5)
5 Float - feel
10 Disturbance (7)dizzy (4) bizarrely (6) VERY EASY ferry the kids to school/do the shopping with
9 Gain knowledge (5) 18 Stretch of space or time the wife:
11 Amusement that involves
10 Disturbance
interlocking pieces(7)(6,6) (5) a) A bit of Miles Davis or Johnny Coltrane, usually.
11 Amusement
13 Further contest tothat 19 Refuse to admit (4)
involves interlocking
decide b) My favourite gangsta-rap tracks, particularly
pieces (6,6)
a tie (3-3) those that were popular in the late 90s.
14 Ring 13(6)Further contest to decide a tie (3-3) c) I would never be so crass as to own a Hummer,
17 RelatedRing (6)
to rational nevermind blast music from its open windows.
crossword clues

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17 Related
thought processes to rational
(12) thought processes (12)
20 Characteristic
20 Characteristic quality
quality of of something
Stuck? (7)call our solutions line on 09068
21 Suitable 338 248. Calls cost 60p per minute at all times. 4. Which of the following best describes your
something (7) position (in market,Service
life etc) (5)
supplied by ATS.
summer home:
22 Tardy (4) Buy 10 great Guardian puzzle books for only
21 Suitable position (in £20 inc p&p (save £40). Visit guardianbooks. a) A tasteful unostentatious wooden bio-home,
23 Sexual
market, preamble
life etc) (5) (8) or call 0870 836 0749
at one with its secluded woodland environment
22 Tardy (4)
Down Solution no 12,162 – the ideal retreat for immersing myself in the mu-
23 Sexual preamble
1 Grasp (4) (8)
W E T B L A N K E T sic of Bach and the writing of Immanuel Kant.
2 Chosen fixed point (7) B O O I A N
Down 3 Reliable chap (6,6) b) A gold-gated, violet roofed, four storey, faux-
1 Grasp4 (4)
Crazy (6) chateaux I imported in flat-packs from China
6 Move
2 Chosen rapidly
fixed point- make
(7) hissing sound
C A N(5)E K A N G A R O O – conveniently located slap bang in the middle of
7 Capital
3 Reliable chapof(6,6)
California under theKSpanish (8) S R A S S the Issyk Kul Biosphere Reserve.
8 Person
4 Crazy (6) known slightly (12) M U C K E R A T R E S T c) I have foregone the luxury of a second home as I
6 Move12rapidly
Productive (8)
— make A H Q R E R prefer to channel my vast wealth into philanthrop-
15 Part of church
hissing sound (5) containing G
altar R
(7)A N U L A R A S B O
ic projects.
16 Person
7 Capital who behaves
of California under I
bizzarely (6) T E N C H P
18 Strech(8)
of space or time (5) C L E A N S T OM A C H
the Spanish 5. What do you fear most in life:
19 A C O R W E
8 Person knowntoslightly
Refuse admit (4)(12)
S U P E R M O D E L a) Being without mama.
b) That, upon lighting a cigarette, I will be self-
brainteasers immolated inside my very, very shiny suit.
c) That there will never be another rainbow.
On each row place two letters that
can be attached to the beginning _ _ DISH
_ _ SOWN
of the word to the right. When com- (1a) 0 beeznezmen points (1b) 5 (1c) 10; (2a) 5 (2b)
pleted the eight added letters will _ _ THEM
_ _ REAL 10 (2c) 0; (3a) 5 (3b) 10 (3c) 0; (4a) 0 (4b) 10 (4c) -5;
give a word reading downwards.
(5a) 5 (5b) 10 (5c) 0.
What is it?
40+ You are obviously a successful beeznezmen and
Assume you are using a basic calculator. Replace the we are sorry for any offence caused by this quiz.
question marks with a mathmatical sign. Plus, minus, 20-40 To fit in with your peers try to be a little
divide and multiply can only be used once. What are more obnoxious in future.
the highest and lowest totals possible? Under 20 Congratulations! You have no chance of
5?2?9?3=? making it as a beeznesmen.

Last month’s answers 9.50; Flip switch A and leave Correction/apology

it on for 10 minutes. Then, turn switch A off. Flip In last month’s Spektator an answer in the quick quiz mis-
switch B on and go upstairs. If the bulb is off but takenly suggested Kylie Minougue was sixty years old.
warm it was A. If the bulb is on it was B. If the bulb She is in fact only forty years old. We thank her publicist
is off and cool it was C. - for bringing this error to our attention.

May 2008 The Spektator

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