Kyrgyzstan Military Forces 22nd Anniversary
It isn’t every day I happen across a bunch of APCs and Mortars just hanging out in the middle of town. Given that it isn’t Victory Day or Defenders of the Fatherland Day and there doesn’t seem to be a revolution on, what could the occasion be? As it turns out, May 29th marks the anniversary of the creation of the Kyrgyz Military.
How does one celebrate such a day in proper proud style? Why, with a parade and a show, of course! It actually reminded me a lot of being a child and going to the Air Show at Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana. There were even about the same level of media in attendance to cover the event for local TV and news outlets.
If attendance is any indication of interest, your average Kyrgyz kid like cool shiny military stuff just as much as I
did still do. The from row almost the whole way around Ala-Too Square was crowded with children (and then me, pushing past and blocking views – all in the name of photography!) but their fathers and family weren’t far behind.
The Kyrgyz military was, by all accounts I’ve read, quite a mess when the Soviet Union dissolved and the independent Russian Federation refused to go on footing the bill. Even after signing the Kyrgyz Military into existence in May of 1992 (5 months after the USSR ceased to be the ruling power here) it continued to rapidly lose officers for several years after as they left the country for Russia.
Seeing the Kyrgyzstan military forces on parade today, you’d hardly realize it. There were demonstrations of weapons deployment and fighting techniques (and a background of Kyrgyz pop and dancers in traditional costumes – that part was all a bit discordant). The crowd favorite was, no doubt, the simulation of rescuing hostages from the tents of the ‘bad guys’ holding them captive. There were plenty of ‘dead’ enemies at the end, the hostages were rescued, and the whole thing was made even more exciting by the use of blank rounds to really sell it.
Just as interesting, though perhaps not as flashy, were the rest of the units on parade. With APCs, SAMs, and the Scorpion Special Forces Brigade all in attendance there was plenty to see. Finally, at the end of all the parades and demonstrations and simulations and parades again, the barriers came down and all the kids got to play with and on the tons of big impressive military vehicles parked nearby. I wasn’t fast enough to get any photos before the hordes hit, but now I know to be ready to race over next time! There will be, I hope, a next time. Here’s hoping that for the next big military commemoration holiday in Kyrgyzstan I’ll be in town!
If you’re in Bishkek as a tourist, the Hostel Inn is probably the most central cheap accommodation. Slightly further away is the Bishkek Guesthouse, though one friend I sent there wasn’t crazy about the older of their two locations. If you’re looking more upmarket, the Hyatt is a bit further on Sovietskaya.
Also, be sure to check out my Travel Guide to Bishkek.