There are quite a few little museums spread around Bishkek. None of them is fascinating unless you have a particular obsession, but if you have the time, they all form a little piece of the intriguing puzzle of Kyrgyzstan’s history and culture. Also, they generally have a funny vibe and the caretakers are interesting people always up for a chat. For major museums and more on Bishkek, see the Bishkek city guide.
Frunze Museum – Frunze 364 (cnr Razzakova) – Tue-Fri 09:00-17:00; Sat-Sun 09:00-16:00 – Tel.: 625089; 660604
The museum traces the life and career of Mikhail Frunze, the most brilliant general of the Bolsheviks and the one who turned the tide in their favour during the Civil War in Central Asia. The museum mirrors the house he grew up in and is a nice window into the lifestyle of an upper-class family in the late 19th century. There is a real Soviet, Stalin-won-the-war vibe in the exhibition of the achievements of the city and Kyrgyz Republic during the Soviet period.
The Tinibek Sadykov Museum – Togolok Moldo 50 (cnr. Ryskulova) Tel. 32-47-43 – Mon-Fri 09:00-12:00 + 13:00-16:00
This museum contains some of the smaller works of the Kyrgyz monumental sculptor Tinibek Saykov, some of whose larger works can be found in the Philharmonic, The Martyrs to the Revolution at the corner of Prospect Chui and Sovietskaya and in Victory Square.
The Aaly Tokombaev Museum – 109, Chuikova – Mon-Fri 09:00-17:00 – Tel.: 300357
Tokombaev was a famous Kyrgyz akin (bard), poet and composer, and his house has been turned into a museum dedicated to his life and work. He helped to standardize written Kyrgyz using a modified Cyrillic alphabet. There is an exhibition dedicated to the exodus of many Kyrgyz to China in 1916 following the Urkun uprising against the Russians. (There is a statue of Tokombaev to the South of the Fine Arts Museum).
The Gaspar Aitiev Studio – corner of Tynystanova and Chokmorova.
Explore the studio of painter and sculptor Gaspar Aitiev. The museum houses some of his work including landscapes, sketches in charcoal, and pastels and sculptures from driftwood.
The Semen Chuykov Museum – Chuikova St 87a – Tel. 30-33-64 – Mon-Fri 09-12, 13-17.
Born in 1902, Semen Chuykov is a quintessential Soviet painter. You will find some works as well as some personal belongings and a few pieces by his wife, Eugenia Maleina, a fellow-artist. The museum can be difficult to find. Chuikova lies between Tynystanova and Sovietskaya, near the train station. The easiest access on foot from Bokonbaeva/Sovietskaya is to walk up Sovietskaya toward the railway, pass Turkish Air and a hairdressers, turn right and it will be on your right.
The Open Air Sculpture Museum – in Oak Park
Inaugurated in 1984 to mark the 60th Anniversary of the Kyrgyz Republic, sculptors from all over the Soviet Union were invited to submit pieces under the title “Peace and Labor” and their work was exhibited in the park. Many of the metal pieces, including a bronze bust of Yuri Gargarin, have since disappeared, stolen for their scrap value.
The Toktugul Literary Museum – Toktogul str. 109 – Mon-Fri 09-12, 13-17 – Tel. 62-69-01.
Dedicated to Kyrgyz literature – this museum has many papers, photos, and memorabilia from Kyrgyzstan’s most famous bard.
Mineralogical Museum – Chuy Prospekt 164 – Mon-Fri 09:00-15:30
Contains examples of minerals found throughout the country.
The Zoological Museum – Chuy Prospekt 265 – 20 som – Tue-Sat 9-12, 13-17
Though small and occasionally poorly presented, this museum does provide some insight into the beautiful flora and fauna of Kyrgyzstan.
The National Library – Sovietskaya 208 (cnr Frunze) – Tel. 30-47-04 – Daily 9-17
Although not strictly a museum, the library has over the years since it was founded in 1934 become one of the major repositories of culture in the country. The library collects copies of all literature published in the country, as well as a variety of publications from other CIS countries and further afield.
Murataaly Kurenkeev Museum Inside the Kyrgyz State Music College, Panfilov 162 – Tel (0312) 62-17-57, (0312) 62-18-03
Learn about the life and work of folk musician and composer Murataaly Kurenkeev and the history of the college named after him.
The Olga Manuilova Museum Tynystanova 108 (between Kievskaya and Toktogul) – Tel.: 661174 – Mon-Fri 09:00-17:00 (Closed 12:00-13:00 for lunch)
A permanent exhibition on the life and work of prominent Soviet sculptor Olga Manuilova. There are approximately 50 sculptures (busts, bas-reliefs made of wood, metal, plaster and marble), family photographs, books from her personal library, and documents.
The Ischak Razzakov Memorial Museum 90 Chuikov street
Take a peek into the life of Soviet top brass at the house museum of Ischak Razzakov, former First Secretary of the Central Committee. Check out his books, awards, clothes and interior decorating.
Outside Bishkek there are:
The Ala Archa National Park Museum
A few kilometers inside the park. The two storey building houses the administration offices of the park and has a room dedicated examples of the wildlife found here and Issyk Kul.
Ata-Beit Memorial and Museum in Chon-Tash
Chon-Tash village. Following the road from the city center to Ala-Archa National Park, turn left at the arch with the red star, then after about 2-3 miles, in the center of the village, turn left and the entrance is just past a large farm on the right. There is a grey sign announcing the memorial. Turn right up the hill and follow the road to the parking lot. Open every day, 9am-5pm.
This somber memorial and museum was built to commemorate those arrested and killed in Bishkek in November 1937 for political reasons. It is believed that during the first week of November, 1937, nearly 140 people – most of whom were within the Kyrgyz Soviet government – were rounded up, brought to the “resort” of Chon-Tash, shot and buried in a mass grave in an old brick kiln. The identities of all but one of the recovered bodies have been documented, putting a very human face on the excesses of Stalinist times. The event was kept a secret until the 1980s when a watchman at the time of the murders told his daughter just before he died. After perestroika, she told the police. In 1991, the bodies were moved to a mass grave nearby and a memorial was built. The site includes a striking monument; a museum that includes documents, belongings and photographs of those killed; and the kiln where bodies were dumped.