Bishkek is the capital and the largest city of Kyrgyzstan.
Somewhat confusingly, Bishkek is also the administrative center of Chuy Province which surrounds the city, even though the city itself is not part of the province but rather a province-level unit of Kyrgyzstan.
Founded in 1878 as the Russian fortress of Pishpek, between 1926 and 1991 it was known as Frunze, after the Bolshevik military leader Mikhail Frunze. The name is thought to derive from a Kyrgyz word for a churn used to make fermented mare's milk (kumis), the Kyrgyz national drink.
Bishkek is situated at about 800 m altitude just off the northern fringe of the Ala-Too range, an extension of the Tien Shan mountain range, which rises up to 4,800 m and provides a spectacular backdrop to the city. Bishkek is connected to the Turkestan-Siberia Railway by a spur.
Bishkek is a city of wide boulevards and marble-faced public buildings combined with numerous Soviet-style apartment blocks surrounding interior courtyards and, especially outside the city center, thousands of smaller privately built houses. It is laid out on a grid pattern, with most streets flanked on both sides by narrow irrigation channels that water the innumerable trees which provide shade in the hot summers.