Putin Pub (i.e. “What can I do on a Saturday night/How can I offend the Russian Embassy in Bishkek?”)

As I’ve mentioned before, Bishkek has a certain limited number of offerings for weekend entertainment. There are cinemas with movies dubbed in Russian or Kyrgyz (usually no subtitles, but if you ever felt like watching Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles with Soviet-Style badassery – hey!).

(Unfortunately, I didn’t sleuth enough to find the 2014 movie with Russian dubs, but this will give you an idea)

Apart from the soviet-built opera, theater and ballet there aren’t really any theaters or concert halls, and most of the state programs are matinee rather than in the evening). Then of course there are bar/restaurants (Old Edgar’s, Buddha Bar, Metro Pub/The American Pub, the German Blonder Pub) that might offer loud music (meant to write “live music”, but my subconscious butted in). In the summer there are dozens of open-air Kyrgyz restaurants around the edges of the city that serve shashlik (kebabs) and beer late into the night. Back in town there are an equal number of cafes – though “cafe” is a bit of a misnomer, as they often have extensive menus and serve alcohol as well as coffee, juice and coke. I’ve seen but never entered (and never will enter) a number of karaoke establishments.

And then there is of course an ever-rotating number of bars and clubs, some of them standard, some of them downright sleazy. Usually we’ll see billboards go up for a new place every two months or so – most don’t seem to stay in business very long.  One safe fallback is Promzona on the eastern edge of the city – live music (though the band hasn’t changed its tunes for over a year), enough security to be safe, neatly-lined tables and an always-crowded bar, a clientele that pours forth on the dance floor to dance to those ever-same songs with ever-undying enthusiasm. However, the music.is.the.same.each.time.

It may look exciting, but really they’re just re-playing the same old Nickleback hits…

And yesterday I decided I wanted to go to a pub. You know, a European-American pub-pub, the kind of waxed-wood floor establishment that’s like a cafe paying homage to beer.

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The problem is, we don’t have anything of the sort in Bishkek. Every place seems too decked out in bling, full of club-pounding music and fake chandeliers.  The most bling establishment (currently very popular with the twenty-something-children-of-the-mysteriously-rich) is probably Bar 12 where practically every surface has shine.  While googling for pictures, this one popped up in my stream:

Bishkek Bling

While not actually at a bar, it’s a good icon of typical Bishkek bling.  I’ve seen entire cafes decorated like these two girls.

For the quasi-pubs we have/had: Fatboy’s turned into an imitation-upscale Italian experience; Metro Pub comes close but E won’t go near it at night due to the unsavory female clientele; I think the smoky Chicago Pub is still in existence, but due to its basement location it is *cold* in winter; Bar Kvartira (“Apartment Bar” – literally a bar decorated like an old soviet apartment) is usually full, Obama Bar isn’t a bar at all but a restaurant, and a lot of the “pubs” are actually sports bars where people go to bet on games.

The “Apartment Bar”, where waitresses wear hair curlers

Obama “Bar” – not a bar at all, and also not my photo.

So yesterday we gathered up a couple of friends and tried the new “Putin Pub” located by Beta 2 and across from the Jannat Hotel.

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Overall it was ok. For an establishment based on his infamy, Putin Pub had disappointing amount of Putin-style kitsch – I mean, not one picture of a shirtless Putin galloping across the Russian wilderness mounted on a bear, and I’m not sure the mix of fake chandeliers and a disco ball was decidedly Putin-esque.

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But the service was good, as was the decidedly Russian fare. Prices were pretty low for Bishkek, and the live band was not bad – their accordionist played every song with such heel-kicking ump-ah! enthusiasm as to make the original tunes almost unrecognizable. (Because this is kind of a thing in post-soviet countries) But it was not really a pub, so, alas, my search continues (or may just have to be put on pause until we’re next in Ankara).

Also, here’s a cute article on Putin Pub: Sharing a Pint with Putin

Apparently though, the Russian Ambassador to Bishkek believes the pub makes a mockery of their government head, and has been trying to get the place shut down since before it even opened it’s doors.  So drink a pint in protest?

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