Soviet history hasn’t been tossed away here in Bishkek, but stands proudly on display in the National Historical Museum in the city center. The mural on the top floor pretty much sums up the whole Soviet mantra – from its celebrated beginnings to its bitter Cold War end.
The signage is mostly in Russian here, but most displays at the Lenin Museum are easy to comprehend.
It’s sometimes hard for the eyes not to focus on President Saparmurat Niyazov’s shining doppelgänger in Independence Park. Gold, however, eventually looses its luster (or in post-presidential times gets replaced) and we have to look closer for the timeless, more subtle, effects at play. Do you see them? How many Rub el Hizb can you count?
Ostensibly this is the Monument to Ten Years of Independence from the Soviet Union, with a wild herd of ten Akhal-Teke (“Golden Horses”) coming over a ridge. These steeds, prized for their speed, endurance, and adaptability, have been bred for thousands of years by local tribes. Those tribes would trade them for arms, gold, and most prized of all a mysterious substance called ‘silk’ with merchants to the east. The genesis of the Silk Road.