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Discovery Kyrgyzstan travel guide #10/2008
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The Secret Mission of Issyk-Kul

Many tourists, when visiting Issyk-Kul for the first time, admire the beauty of the lake and wonder why they have never heard of this beautiful place. Why is it that this natural phenomenon that inspires anyone who sees it for the first time remains almost unknown to the world?

The reasons for that lie in understanding mysteries and secrets. Mysteries can be of different kinds; anyone may have secrets.

The Secret Mission of Issyk-KulThere are mysteries of a global scale. But to keep a whole country with a huge lake secret…this would only be possible somewhere like the Soviet Union. It excelled at secrets; even simple harmless things sometimes became classified information. But anything connected with industry or the military was particularly prone to the impenetrable veil of top secrecy. Our republic found itself involved in that military-industrial complex system. After World War II it was decided to locate plants manufacturing electronic equipment for the USSR Navy here. This was not a random decision. The former Kirghiz SSR was considered to be an out-of-the-way place and was virtually inaccessible to any foreigners.

The Secret Mission of Issyk-KulThis inaccessibility, coupled with the natural properties of lake Issyk-Kul, its vast size and salinity, similar to that of a sea, determined the fate of this unusual natural miracle - as a torpedo testing site. The lake is surrounded on each side by celestial mountain peaks, which made it easier to impose a regime of complete inaccessibility. A single mountain road led to the Issyk-Kul valley whose access was strictly controlled not only for tourists but also for the local people themselves. No access without a special permit: an authenticated and certified business trip document, a pass with a stamp. No-one could reach the resort coast without such a document. As for foreign guests, Issyk-Kul was totally closed to them.

Through the whole history of the USSR two high-flying foreign guests were the only exceptions and were granted the special honour of seeing the unusual lake. One of them was President of Finland, Urho Kaleva Kekkonen, and the second, a major ally of the USSR from France.

For the wider foreign public, any information about the Issyk-Kul lake was classified. So it was that the natural miracle fell victim to the secrecy policy of the USSR.

The Secret Mission of Issyk-KulAfter the disintegration of the USSR, Issyk-Kul was opened to citizens of any country. Anyone who comes here cannot remain indifferent to its unique beauty that combines the best qualities of a maritime and mountain climate. Healing properties and the huge health-improving potential of the lake located at an altitude of 1607 m (5271 ft) are inestimable. The altitude and the surrounding mountains protect the lake from dust and the contaminated atmosphere of our planet. The resorts of Issyk-Kul are a natural clinic for a great number of diseases connected, first of all, with pollution of the environment. There are numerous thermal mineral springs and therapeutic muds. Indeed, the Issyk-Kul lake is a precious gift of Nature, preserved here untouched.

Today anyone can take advantage of these natural gifts of the largest 'secret' lake in the world. But unfortunately, the Issyk-Kul miracle is far from being known in the world.

These are the consequences of the USSR's top secret that that affect us even now.

By Ubaldakanova Asel

Discovery Kyrgyzstan #4

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