The capital of the Kyrgyz Republic, Bishkek is a green, tree-lined city located on the flat steppe below the majestic snow-capped Tien Shan mountains. It was first settled in the 1820s as one of many fortresses built to guard the caravan routes through the mountains to Lake Issyk-Kul and on to China. Originally known as ‘Pishpek’ the city was renamed Bishkek in 1991. Ala-Too Square is the city’s central square, built in 1984 to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Kirghiz Soviet Socialist Republic, at which time a large statue of Lenin was placed in the centre of the formerly named Lenin Square, until 1991 when Kyrgyzstan gained its independence. Today, the square is used for events and celebrations as well as being home to the State History Museum and the Erkindik (Freedom) statue.
In Victory Square, a monument was built to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the end of the second world war; a poignant statue of a woman stands waiting for her husband to return home from the war, and an eternal flame burns beneath three arches of red granite representing a yurt. The monument is manned by a Guard of Honour and a changing of the guard ceremony takes place every hour.
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