It’s been a long time coming, but the National History Museum in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan has finally reopened. It was closed in 2016 for renovations which were originally planned to last less than a year. You’ve guessed what came next though – it quickly became 2 years, and now 6 years later the renovations have finally been completed and the museum is now open to receive locals and foreign travellers alike.
Several government officials were charged with misappropriating the funds designated for the renovations with even the former Prime Minister Sapar Isakov being sentenced to 18 years in prison. Reportedly over 307million Kyrgyz Som (USD $3.8million) were stolen from the project.
The museum itself dates back to 1927, however the current building in all its all its Soviet modernist glory has housed the museum since 1984. Until the renovations the official name was the Kyrgyz State Historical Museum, however it will now be known as the National History Museum.
Unfortunately for visitors most of the Soviet era displays have been removed, including the amazing section dedicated to the history of the Bolshevik Revolution, statues of Lenin, Marx and co, the murals on the roof and one amazing section which told of the Soviet Union’s anti-nuclear war movement, which included a mural of an American skeleton wearing a cowboy hat while riding a nuclear bomb. The museum now focuses on Kyrgyz traditional pre-Soviet culture.
Regardless of the refurbishments, it is still a welcome change that the main attraction on the main square in the centre of Bishkek is ready for business. No doubt over the last 6 years many visitors have been disappointed to find this impressive building with the statue of Manas on horseback at the front and the largest flagpole in the country , under construction and surrounded by scaffolding.