Bishkek Culture Lab
Learn Russian, Live Central Asia!
Excursions offered by The London School and SRAS take students away from their regular class environment in ways that make full educational use of the student's new surroundings. These excursions are meant to help students learn about local life, augment what they have learned in London School classrooms, and to provide opportunities for students to practice their language in real-life situations.
Hiking in the Tien Shan
Building a traditional yurt
in a Kyrgyz village.
The London School teachers prepare their students for the excursions through readings, video, and photography, and through worksheet activities. By the time the students reach the site, they should have absorbed the background knowledge and already have questions to investigate. The school also provides handouts to guide students in making notes and finding answers to their questions.
Texts about these sites will be connected to language learning materials. Students are also given charts in which they will list questions they have, expectations for their visit as well as keep notes about the event and new language structures and unfamiliar expressions that they hear in conversation with guides and locals while on the excursions.
Students will be given related language assignments to complete after the excursions. They will be strongly encouraged to use their cameras, video or audio recorders, and notebooks to record specific information. All of these materials can be used when they return to the classroom to discuss and make presentations about the excursions.
1. Included Events*
This weekend trip to a Kyrgyz village includes home stay. Jump into the everyday life of a typical village, the handicrafts made, help build a yurt, meet with folk musicians, and watch other traditional ceremonies. Up to this day people in Kyrgyz villages observe ancient Kyrgyz traditions. In the south of Issik Kul region nearly one of every three families has their own yurt and makes local crafts. On the way back students will visit Monument Yrkyn which was built to memorialize the victims of the Russian-Kyrgyz conflict in 1917. The first part of this excursion is spent at the place on the south coast of Issyk-Kul, where this historical event is took place. Students will be see monuments dedicated to people of 1917 and listen to an expert on the subject. The second part of the session will take place with a village family, where students and experts interact over dinner.
Seminars in Understanding Central Asia
Explore the cultures and modern life of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Afghanistan through guest speakers and practicums. Attention is given to the media, civil society, gender, and religious environment in these countries. Excursions are held to Bishkek media outlets, an NGO, universities, embassies and other locations. Students will also learn about local music, handicrafts, and cooking in hands-on, language-based classes. Fall and spring semesters look deeper into each country’s economic and political environment as well. These seminars are held in conjunction with CA-371 and CA-372 from our Central Asian Studies program.
Ata – Beiit
Ata Beiit (The Cemetery of Fathers) is a museum honoring the victims of the Stalinist repressions of the 1930s. Founded as a burial place for 137 people who had been shot in the purges, including the founders of the original Kyrgyz Soviet state, the memorial complex now honors all victims of the Stalinist repressions. The Museum of Ata Beiit houses personal belongings of the killed and archive documents as well as a memorial plaque along the right side of the museum with names of all victims of the repressions from 1937-1938.
Visit a ghost town in the Chuy Valley in northern Kyrgyzstan. The Burana Tower, along with grave markers, some earthworks and the remnants of a castle and three mausoleums, is all that remains of the ancient city of Balasagun, which was established by the Karakhanids at the end of the tenth century. The Burana Tower is a large minaret (an architectural feature of Islamic mosques) located 80 km east of Bishkek. An external staircase and steep, winding stairway inside the tower enables visitors to climb to the top. The entire site, including the mausoleums, castle foundations and grave markers, now functions as a museum and there is a small building containing historical information as well as artifacts found at the site and in the surrounding region.
Manas Ordo is a park built around Manas's Kümböz, a mausoleum most likely erected around 1334 and thought to be the final resting place of the Kyrgyz epic national hero Manas. The monumental epic poem Manas is considered to be the most treasured expression of the national heritage of the Kyrgyz people. The poem is twenty times longer than the Iliad and Odyssey combined. Manas is treasured in the national imagination as the most ideal of heroes, a man who courageously fought against external foes and reunited his scattered people. The site includes a horse track, a museum, a rose garden surrounded by 40 statues of Manas’ soldiers, an offerings site, and a yurt where fortunes can be told. The complex was built in 1995 for the 1000 Years of Manas celebration, the first - and to date the largest – national celebration that has taken place in Kyrgyzstan since its independence. Manas Ordo is situated in Talas region, in the central part of the country to which one can get only having crossed the Tuashu Passage (3200 m high).
Located approximately 20km south of the village of Barskoon (pronounced bars-kone) on the southern shore of Kyrgyzstan's Lake Issyk Kul is the Barskoon Waterfall. We sit by a place where two of the three falls are visible and have a picnic in this beautiful spot. You will find two monuments to Yuri Gagarin here. Legend has it that as he was hurtling into space on the first-ever manned space flight, he looked down and saw this waterfall. After his return from space, he made a point of coming to visit the waterfall, where he left an inscription on one of the rocks. From this point, a steep trail leads up the mountain to the three falls.
Students will visit the Historical Museum, formerly known as the "Lenin Museum,” a must-see in Bishkek for those with an interest in the culture and history of Central Asia. The diverse collection of objects includes such treasures as stones with rock paintings from the petroglyph site Saimaluu-Tash, Talas stones with inscriptions in the runic alphabet, ancient coins, nomadic decorations from the first to the fifth centuries (AD), armor and everyday objects dating from the Bronze Age, and a Turkic stone tools collection. The museum also houses a rich ethnographic collection of objects from the late 19th and early 20th centuries including items designed by Kyrgyz artisans: jewelry, embroidery, weavings, national dress, and highly artistic equestrian supplies.
The museum was built in honor of Mikhail Frunze, a Bolshevik leader during and just prior to the Russian Revolution of 1917. Frunze, born in Bishkek, played a major role in defeating the Tsarist White Army on the eastern front, where he had been given complete command by Trotsky. In 1926, Bishkek was renamed in his honor (and changed back in 1991), and to this day Frunze is known throughout Kyrgyzstan and Russia, where many streets are named after him, as well as a Moscow metro station and one of most respected military academies. The museum tells the story of his life and career, and contains the actual house where he was born and raised.
Museum of Fine Arts
Bishkek's Museum of Fine Arts is mainly dedicated to Kyrgyz folk and applied art and Russian and Soviet art. The museum was built in 1974 as part of the grand scheme to improve the capital. Among its more than 17,500 works, it features a yurt, permanent shyrdaks, and a collection of linocuts based on the Manas epic by Hertzen.
Ala-Archa National Park
Bishkek is located in a hiker's paradise, and one must-see for all lovers of beauty is Ala-Archa National Park, located in the Tian Shan mountains. In Kyrgyz Ala-Archa means "bright juniper" – named for the abundance of junipers in the area. The Alamedin River flows along the gorge, which can be wild and dangerous at the beginning of spring and in early summer. The region has many climbing routes of varying degrees of intensity, which makes it a beloved place for tourists, climbers, and citizens of Bishkek alike – to be used as a recreational area for relaxation, or a training ground for climbing.
2. Also Included in Central Asian Studies (Optional for RSL Students)
Students will go on a weekend trip to another city to gain a wider view of Kyrgyzstan and/or Central Asia. Locations may differ from semester to semester. This weekend is an affordable extra cost for RSL students. It is included (no extra charge) for students on our Central Asian Studies program.
Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Turkemistan
Visit two of Central Asia’s largest economies and one of the world’s oldest civilizations. Visit the major cities and experience the countrysides of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan. Tour major sites, meeting locals, and learning the culture through hands-on activities. This is included (no extra charge) for students on our Central Asian Studies program. Travel occurs within the semester, meaning that RSL students that elect to participate in this travel option may need to adjust their language study schedule. Contact us for details.
Your Bishkek coordinator will keep a close eye on events and let you know of other unique tours or cultural events that you should take in while in Bishkek. These events are often available at little or no cost.
* Please note that this schedule is designed for a full-semester program and not all excursions may be included with programs shorter than six weeks. "Optional for RSL Students" means that additional costs are involved for those on RSL programs who elect to participate.
Find Out More!
Health and Safety in Russia
The SRAS Newsletter
Library: All About Russian
Eurasian Regions and Cities
Journal for Students
More Free Resources!
Questions or comments?