Not just in Soviet times but long before, communities big and small within the Russian realm took pride in displaying their history. Like almost everywhere in the former USSR, villages, towns and cities in Kyrgyzstan cherish their local and national museums as a token of communal solidarity in a way that can only impress visitors. And Bishkek is no exception to that rule. A must is the State Historic Museum on Ala-Too Squaare. Exhibits include stones with petroglyphs from Saimaly-Tash; armor and everyday objects dating from the Bronze Age; discoveries from archaeological excavations such as early nomadic adornments dating from the 1st to the 5th centuries (AD) – including golden artifacts from the Chui Valley’s Shamshyn tomb; a Turkic stone culture collection; Talas stones with runic lettering; ceramic, glass and metal articles; and numerous ancient coins. The Soviet age exhibits give a vivid picture of how life and thought used to be, with descriptions full of the usual superlatives but also expressing a unique sense of popular unity which unfortunately disappeared with the waning of Soviet culture.
Other museums in Bishkek, a bit harder to find but certainly worth while a visit, include the Museum of Fine Arts, located on 196, Sovietskaya Street, and the St. Nicholas Church in Oak Park which houses the Gallery of the Soviet Artists’ Union.