A New Park is a Popular Place for Lovers

By Emil Suyunaliev

There is a new place in the city where the lovers at any age can enjoy the romantic atmosphere and make promises to each other of eternal love by putting their hands on the heart-shaped stone right on a small lake.

Two couples Daniel and Aida, 22 year old students at the Bishkek Humanities University, shared their impressions of their visit to a new “Park of Love” in Bishkek. In their words, the Park of Love is a great opportunity for them to express their love and strengthen their relationship.

“We went to the Park of Love and left a padlock on the sculpture in the shape of a heart. We locked a padlock on the heart and threw the key into the small lake in the park. It is a sign. We locked each others’ hearts only for us with the key and threw it in the water so our hearts will be in love forever.”   

Daniel and Aida are one of many couples who enjoy taking a walk around Bishkek and spending their free time together.

“The lover’s park is unique and different from other parks in the city. It is unique with its small lake and a big fountain right in the middle of the lake. Isn’t it beautiful and romantic? We loved it,” said Aida hugging her boyfriend Daniel.

This park has become a popular place for couples to get married. The couples Bektur and Asel, who have just married, visited the park on their wedding day.

“The place is wonderful. We wanted some special place for our wedding. Usually couples go to the Victory Square or the Monument at the southern gates. The Park of Love is the place very suitable for the marrying couples because it has an element of Love and romance. We especially liked the LOVE sculpture.” The popular sculpture is a replica of Robert Indiana’s LOVE sculpture in JFK Plaza in the city center of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Bektur and Asel went to the Bishkek Park of Love on their wedding day and made a promise putting their arms on the heart sculpture.

“That’s a pleasant place to take pictures and to remember the happy times gone by,” said Asel.

Not only young couples visit the park but also the people of older generations. One couple, Daniyar who is 58, and Jamilya, 53, often take walks in the park. According to these sweet couples, they can come and take walks either alone or with their grandchildren and have some nice conversation.

“We love this place. Every time when we visit the park, we can see happy couples holding their hands, and this gives us the love spirit. Even though we passed the strong stage of love, we still love each other and we enjoy our time here.”

From Frunze to Bishkek…life here has changed

Said Shahmandarov, 38, was born in the city of Frunze. He has lived through its many transformations and recalls his memories of Frunze, the collapse of the Soviet Union and birth of present-day Bishkek as if it has happened not long ago. Born in Bishkek, he is now a citizen of Belgium. The aim of this interview is to try to understand what it means to refuse your native country. Why would someone do that? How does he feel about it now? Interview by Jamala Temirbekova.

–       What comes to your mind first when you think of the city of Frunze?

–       The city’s green color and its multinational society. The friendship among all of the people, and peace. These are the things that best describe former Frunze.

–       What was so peaceful about the city back then?

–       Today we don’t normally let our children play outside in the evening. We are not even sure we would be safe walking around at night, but back then it was so different. I remember how we guys used to play guitar,  singing romances in the yard with no fears, whereas today no one even thinks about such things.

Said Shahmandarov remembers former life in Frunze

–       Have you ever done something beneficial for the city when you were young?

–       Of course. We planted trees in our yard with neighbor friends when we were only 10 or 12 years old. Everything was done without any order, out of pure willing to make the place look nice and green. Apart from that, when a kindergarten was being built near our yard we volunteered to help. Not because we got paid or anything, but just because it all felt right.

–       What happened later when you grew up and Soviet Union collapsed?

–       It all took place in the early 90’s. Right then the new culture begun. It was the culture of night clubs which were mostly unknown before, casinos and restaurants open to everybody. There certainly were many restaurants, but you had to be 21 and over in order to enter them.

–       Why did it become so popular in 90’s? All these casinos and night clubs?

–       Because it was all so new to us. Every single one of us tried to show off what he’s got. It was sort of cool to have a new car, good clothes and money, of course. Also, it was a time when so called ‘concepts’ or ‘notions’ (ponyatiya) among us peers came into view. For example, in order to gain respect, you had to do something for it; either fight or have this ‘men’s conversation’. And only this way people would know of you.

–       What was the reason for ‘ponyatiya’ to become so famous precisely in 90’s?

–        Kyrgyzstan has gained its independence, the collapse of the Soviet Union happened and a chaos begun. It was literally everywhere. Everything has changed; people started to learn about democracy, human rights and commercialization. I guess all these factors were dominant in creating a new culture, new rules and new us.

–       There are special places in the city for every person. What are yours?

–       Mostly parks. I think because of the fact that when I was young me and my friends most often used to go to the parks and spent time there. It was fun, always.  There is a place called Chon Aryk, not far from Bishkek, maybe about 10 minutes by car. When I was young, I used to go there, because it has so many fields, and there are flowers everywhere. I used to collect tulips and snow….

–       That is very sweet! What did you do with the flowers?

–       I normally went there before some holiday, usually the 8th of March, International Women’s Day, and gave the flowers I collected to my mother.

–       What’s the brightest memory you can recall from the days of your childhood?

–       My yard. It is the brightest thing I remember. The so called “yard culture” is still a very important thing in my life, as most of the friends I have today belong to my yard. These are the people I know from the very first minutes of being a child. Besides, my parents still live there and I visit them several times a week.

–       Did people change from the time of former Frunze to present Bishkek?

–       It is very sad, but yes, they did change. Today they are more vulnerable and stressed, than before. They were also very fair and kind before.

–       You have changed your citizenship not long ago. How did it happen?

–        I saw no opportunities here. People with university degrees could be seen at the markets, selling stuff. Most of the things are done with money, for money and in the name of money.

–       Was leaving Bishkek a hard decision to make?

–       For sure, but you always try to be where someone cares for you. I lived in Belgium for 10 years before I got citizenship. I experienced the dramatic difference in social, financial and cultural fields between Belgium and Kyrgyzstan.

–       Did you miss Bishkek?

–       Very much. Every time I came back here I felt relieved. Bishkek has always been and still is a place where I belong. Many people don’t understand how a person who loves his city so much can go on to live in some other place, but I have my own view at it. If the country could provide me with all I needed, there would be no need for me to stay in other place for 10 years.

–       What are your hopes for the country’s future?

–       I would love to see the city with good roads, beautiful buildings, so that anyone would be happy to stay here. I think that clear water and trees are things that make this city unique and it would be perfect if those things remain forever. Also, multinational culture is very important in Bishkek. It is like a bouquet of flowers. The more flowers you have in your garland the more beautiful it looks.

A popular center of innovative art

By Chinara Sultanalieva

At the end of a quiet street in Bishkek, among houses with high fences, the bright orange logo of Bishkek Art Center is like an island in grey world.

The door greets you with the welcome sign and dozens of dogs, walking all around the administrative building of the Art center. Even though it is cold inside, thus is a lot of positive energy in this place. There is a strong smell of fresh paint, and palettes that have never been cleaned.

The exhibition hall is never empty of people. Dozens of exhibitions, performances and conferences have taken place there every year since it was established in 2006.

The administrative building, which consists of two exhibition halls and office, is just a part of a complex, which people used to call the “City of Artists” in former Soviet times. Volunteers, some of whom are Swiss citizens of the B’Art Center, help guide visitors. The Swiss have supported the center for more than five years.

The complex consists of 70 galleries. Each gallery is owned by a different artist. And every gallery is a kind of art factory. The variety of genres in which artists work is amazing. But modern art, or what they prefer to call contemporary art, is the most popular among them.

Many of the abstract works seems very strange indeed, but that’s what makes it so interesting.

A young visitor at the innovative B'Art Center

The executive director of the B’Art Center, Shaarbek Amankul, is an artist himself. But for about two years he had no chance to create his own work. “When I was young I was very ambitious, as well as very romantic. I have been almost everywhere searching for adventures and what I called– inspiration and self-perfection–but I calmed down and understood that I should help people, not just myself,” said Amankul.

He spent two years in the army in Turkmenistan. He was restless and wanted to leave several times, but the desert frightened him. After coming back to Bishkek, his father, a famous musician expected his son to become a musician. But Amankul didn’t want to devote his life to music. He moved to Osh and began his work as an artist. Several years later, a group of orphanage children came to his gallery to learn about art.

Twenty years past, but still, Amankul is helping orphans to create art works in Bishkek. Twice a week children learn how to paint and make sculptures.

“I am very happy when I see how children like to create art works! I like to see their eyes shining,” said Amankul. “Children are our future!”

Anyone who is tired of  predictable art, or children and other interested people who want to explore new kinds of art, can find new life in the art center’s exhibitions and galleries. The B’Art world is something which can be interesting and close to everyone. The B’Art Center is located at Karasaeva St. #1 (formerly Druzhba St.) and is open every day except Monday.

The “golden youth”…and our generation gap

Friends at a Bishkek nightclub

By Emil Suyunaliev

There is a growing generation gap between the older people of Bishkek, and the young. Older people have seen hard times—war, hunger, and struggles. Many of the young people—the “golden youth”—are indifferent about such serious issues. They only care about entertainment, fancy clothes and a carefree life.

In the eyes of Janybek, a 21 year old resident of Bishkek, who is a junior student of the Kyrgyz State Technical University, the gap between the young and old in the Kyrgyz Republic is large–and growing.

Janybek has been spending his life in Bishkek, and as an original resident, he tells us his own stories about his home city especially about people there.

“I went to a night club with my young friends. It was interesting for me to observe their life, their behavior, and worldview,” he said. “So, when we went to the club, I ended up in a different world, the world of fancy people, drinks and music.”

These are the “golden youth,” according to Janybek, young people who are wasting their time for useless things instead of studying and doing community services to contribute to their country, and their home city.

“I heard them talk about how they spent their evening, or what kind of clothes they want to buy. These are the topics the youth talk about. They don’t care about what is happening in some region or village of our country. They are not even aware of what is happening here in Bishkek,” he said.

But there is a materialistic mood in the city of Bishkek that contributes to the delusion of the youth, according to Janybek. It is easy and comfortable to talk to people here about different things, but when it comes to world, or money, people become different, more egoistic.

“They have a mercantilist approach to money making, not friendly or cooperative,” he said.

There are two very different realities in Bishkek, the hard life for those who have been hungry and struggle–and the carefree life on those who ignore the older generation’s problems and the suffering around us, he said.

“The older people are uncertain and the youth are light-hearted, but it is still an interesting city, because I can have different experience here. If one day I hang around with my friends and meet fancy and stylish people, another day I can end up talking to elder person about the politics and what is going on in our country.”

These two different generations live in very different worlds in Bishkek.

After 7 years…I miss Bishkek

The city we miss...after leaving it.

By Jamala Akmatalieva

Jalil Asanov is turning 26 years old in a couple of weeks. Born in Bishkek, he has been away from Kyrgyzstan for more than seven years.

Jalil was 12 years old when his parents decided he should be attending Turkish lyceum in Bishkek. It was a good chance for entering foreign university after the graduation. He studied at the lyceum for five years and in 2001 got accepted to Turkish university in Izmir along with five other peers.

“At first we were all excited to go abroad, as none of us never been out of the country”, Jalil recalls. “Everything was new and stunningly beautiful; ancient mosques, the sea, even the air was different from the one in Bishkek,” Jalil continues.

The excitement of being abroad lasted for about a month for Jalil and his other friends. It suddenly disappeared when problems started to come into lives of young students.

“It took me some time to realize how hard it was to live in a city like Izmir, because comparing to Bishkek it was very expensive and we didn’t always have enough food, not talking about clothing and going out. We did receive some pocket money from our scholarship sponsors but it was so little, one would laugh at the sum today,” says Jalil after a moment of silence.

By the end of the first couple of months, when the thrill of living in a different country where not only people but simply every little thing was different, there came another problem.

“We started to miss our city – we started to badly miss Bishkek, as if it was a real person, a family member,” says Jalil.

Jalil revealed that he has never thought of something alike when living in Bishkek; he never believed it was true when people said that the real value of something can be fully understood only when you lose it.

Jalil did not lose his native city, but it was surely hard to stay away from it for so long, without having a chance to visit it whenever he wanted. By that time Izmir seemed to be a complete stranger city for Jalil and most of his friends.

“It happened so, that in order to support my family and my own living; I started to work for a company that produced cutters. I was still a student, you see. Work demanded time and effort and at the end I lost my scholarship, but never thought of giving up. I was eager to come back home with university diploma in my hands.

Instead of four years I studied seven for my bachelor’s degree. It was hard and tough but I finally made it,” recalls Jalil.

Jalil couldn’t be happier when he finally bought an air ticket to fly back home and leave Izmir for good, despite the fact that in seven years that have passed Izmir became part of Jalil.

“Circumstances were so that I could not find proper job in Bishkek so I went to Almaty and found one there. I can’t say I love it but there is no choice. Its life that is forcing me to stay away from Bishkek. I only come here for the weekends. But if someone would ask me, what it means for me to love Bishkek, I would answer straight away,” Jalil says with a sad smile, lighting up another cigarette.

“I was born here, and I belong to this country and Bishkek in particular. There is no other place in the world that can bring me so much peace. That’s exactly what I feel here – peace. I love every little bit of this city, and I think that every Kyrgyz does. No matter how hard life seems at times, I know that there is one small city that will always be happy to welcome me back,” continued Jalil.

A couple of Jalil’s friends visited him in Bishkek last summer. Jalil confessed that he was a little worried when it came to sightseeing, as he thought that not everything will interest native Istanbul citizens, as they live in the city of biggest contrasts. Jalil thought that despite the fact that the city is so dear to him, it will not be able to impress his friends.

“My friends were amazed. They told me they have never been in a city like this – all green and friendly which made the whole place beautiful and unique in its own sense,” Jalil said. “If there could be one word to describe my Bishkek it would be peace, as that’s exactly what it brings to those who know how to not only look but see”.

There are many ways in which a person can express love for the city where he or she belongs to. Some may never say it loud, but love still exists inside them. It can never be measured, divided or faded away, as nothing is more important to know where you belong, where your place and where you came from.

Your city does that – it gives you an assurance of being a part of something bigger, wiser and better than you are, makes you understand that your connection cannot be denied or refused, it is always two of you – yourself and your city.