Today at the bazaar (after playing with the old cameras) we found a picture book of Bishkek when it was still called Frunze. Bishkek used to be beautiful, a green clean city (even if I can’t quite believe the brilliant soviet reds and skies tinted the same turquoise in each shot). The book must have been printed in the early-to-mid 1960’s, as it lists the population of ‘Frunze’ at “more than 350,000” (the population was around 262,000 in 1959 and 536,000 in 1979) and is priced at 60 kopek (60 cents of the Russian Ruble). And yet the city it shows is not so different from the one we see today. The opera house is the same, the heroic statues the same, the universities the same, even the buses the same.
Only now everything is worn down, beaten into
decay. But Bishjek used to be beautiful, and it’s parks used to not be cloaked with weeds and streets not full of potholes.
For anyone interested, the back of the pictures has an introduction to Soviet-era Bishkek and place descriptions in Kyrgyz, Russian, English, German, French and Spanish (I’m guessing this was printed as a promotional piece), and I can send copies of any of the print if you want.