Kurmanjan Datka, Kyrgyz stateswoman.

Oak Park in Bishkek

Published: March 21, 2014

Oak Park – Open Air Sculpture Museum /
Дубовый Парк – Музей скульптури под открытым небом
Абдумомунова, между Раззакова и Тыныстанова
Open all hours

The other day on a run, I got lost. Normally, getting a little turned around isn’t a big deal, but normally I’m not on my third day in a new city in Central Asia. Oops. Fortunately, like the other times I’ve been lost while running, I eventually found where I was supposed to be going, and before finding my route, I found something that made the whole debacle worthwhile.

I ended up a lot further away from my house than I originally planned – near the American University of Central Asia, Bishkek’s main square, and a gigantic Lenin statue. Next to these landmarks is a very pleasant park that I’ll be returning to once I can muster the distance again.

It's probably fancy symbolism or something.
It’s probably fancy symbolism or something.

It’s called Oak Park, which is something I learned after describing it in detail to my host mom, who was concerned about why I was out so long. (“Oak Park is not nearby! Olivia, you should pay attention to where you’re going!” “Sorry, Mira…”) It’s similar to a typical park you might find in other parts of the city – it’s got fountains, cuddling teenagers on every couple of benches, people walking dogs in sweaters, and some old Soviet busts.What really makes it more interesting than other Bishkek parks (there are many) is its collection of stone sculptures and statues. From a distance, most of the sculptures look like large rocks, scattered amongst the trees and next to the pathways. As you get closer, you realize the tallish, orange rock is a woman wearing a headscarf, and that oblong one is a kind of rhinoceros, and he’s crying. There’s a woman hugging a fish (or maybe it’s part of her?), an infinity symbol, and plenty of other pieces depicting I’m not exactly sure what.

At one end of the park is a monument to Kurmanjan Datka, an important Kyrgyz military and political leader of the 19th century. She stands elevated in the middle of an arch of columns and looks over a small square that seems to be a popular meeting place for young people. On another side of the park looms the Red Guard Memorial, a tall, red obelisk topped with the classic Soviet hammer and sickle.If you wander Oak Park long enough, you also might find an oversized Marx chatting with an equally large Engells, just opposite the American University of Central Asia.

The park is a peaceful place to run, chat with friends, or ponder how exactly you’re going to find your way home. Whether you’re interested in planning a quick walk or a long afternoon in this park, you can find it off of Abdumomunova or Pushkin street, in between Tynystanov and Razzakov streets. It’s open 24/7, but is probably most pleasant in the daylight, either covered in snow or in the summer sun.

About the Contributor:

Olivia Route is an undergraduate studying Russian and International Relations at the University of Pennsylvania. She has previously spent summers in Russia and is excited to spend a semester exploring the former Soviet Union through SRAS’s Policy and Conflict program. Olivia likes running, eating, nature, and art.