With his long coat coolly flapping open, Lenin walks down a flight of stairs, followed by some loyal revolutionaries. The scene reminds of the cover of a boy band CD, but it is the centrepiece of the Kyrgyz National Museum, whose whole first floor is dedicated to Lenin and the Soviet times of Kyrgyzstan. Behind the museum, a huge Lenin statue salutes the occasional passers-by, while not far from him Marx and Engels are sitting on a bench amidst a field of roses. In Soviet times, Lenin occupied the prime position in front of the museum, which was still called Lenin Museum.
The Kirghiz hero Manas
Today it is the legendary local hero Manas who is gracing most of the towns squares and parks, including Lenin’s former place in front of the museum. While strolling around we still detect a number of remaining Soviet-time monuments like the monument of the martyrs of the revolution, the monument of friendship of the people, etc., but they are gradually being replaced by more nationalist monuments of Kyrgyz writers or even monuments to the “new revolution” of 2010.
Even the Soviet general Mikhail Frunze, after whom the town was named for 65 years, has largely disappeared from public view. Only his birth-house is still maintained as a museum – or rather, a Soviet concrete block that was built all around a small single story house reportedly belonging to Frunze’s parents. The upper floors of the museum are dedicated to various Soviet military campaigns and staffed by diminutive elderly ladies doing crosswords or physical exercises for want of visitors. One of them learned a little German at school and hums for us what she remembers:
“Kleine weiße Friedenstaube, fliege übers Land. Allen Menschen groß und klein bist du wohlbekannt” (Little white peace dove, fly above us all – you are well-known to everybody great and small). We have to admit, though, that we do not know this German song.
There would be even more statues and monuments to explore in the parks in Bishkek, but we are leaving for Osh tomorrow.