first Russian settlements on the territory of Kyrgyzia developed into
military bases such as Aksuyskoe, Narynskoe and Karakol'skoe.
Established between 1863 and 1873, they derived their names from the
nearby rivers Ak-Suu, Karakol, Naryn. But military affairs were not an
effective basis for economic development and consolidation of the
Cossack empire in the new territories. So a decision was taken to
resettle peasants from central provinces of Russia into the area. The
greatest number of migrants was from the Poltavskaya, Kurskaya,
Voronezhskaya, Khar'kovskaya, Kievskaya, Ekaterinoslavskaya and
Orlovskaya provinces of Russia.
As the peasants' migration progressed, numerous
villages with Russian names started to appear. One of the very first
villages to be given a Russian name was the village of Slivkino named
after the first settler Slivkin. The farmer Slivkin founded his farm on
the Issyk-Kul Lake in 1867 (later it became Slivkino-Pokrovka, and is
now known as Kyzyl-Suu). From 1868 the flow of migrants increased. At
that time the first peasants' settlement of Alamedin was founded on the
river of the same name river (Alamudun) near the fortress of Pishpek.
About 300 families from the Voronezhskaya province settled here.
Several Russian families settled near the ruins of the Pishpek
fortress. Fifty eight families (182 people) are known to have lived
there in 1876, among them forty eight Uzbek families. The villages of
Teplokluchenka (present name Ak-Suu), Preobrazhenskoe (today's Tup),
Semenovka, Bystrorechenskoe (now Kemin), Bol'shoy Tokmak, Tokmak (now
Tokmok), Lebedinovka, Belovodskoe, Aleksandrovka (today's Kyzyl-Adyr),
and others appeared on the maps in 1876. The villages grew in a row
along the post roads, on the river banks and around the lakes.
In 1888 a Russian settler M. Bachin built a house
in Kyzyl-Tokoi that gave rise to the village of Bachino. In 1909 the
fifteen house village was renamed Rybachino. In 1916 there were already
24 houses and 96 residents (Rybach'e Issyk-Kul, today's Balykchi).
During the times of Stolypin's reforms, the
colonization of the region by Russians increased enormously. In 1911
all the provinces of the region were again open for migration. The
number of Russian settlements increased considerably. The new villages
were called after the first settlers: Semenovka, Grigorievka,
Lipinskoe, Samsonovka (today's Kochkor); Kol'tsovka (today's
Bokonbaevo); after land surveyors: Vasilievka, Voenno-Antonovka or the
Tsar's generals: Samsonovka, Fol'baumskoe; after parishes: Pokrovka,
Preobrazhenskoe, Blagoveshenka; after the settlers' places of origin:
Poltavka, Moldovanovskoe, Kurskoe. The names also recalled past
military campaigns: Groznoe, Balkanskoe; or the settlers' hopes for the
new life: Otradnoe, Razdol'noe. Some names gave the description of the
village location: Visokoe, Pogornenskoe, Stepnoe, Kamenka; sometimes
they reproduced Kyrgyz names in a Russian manner: Belovodskoe (from
Ak-Suu), Aksuyskoe, Barskaunskoe, Tasmanskoe.
In search of 'no man's lands' Russian migrants
crossed the steep high passes to settle in the Talas and
Ketmen'-Tubinskaya valleys. "I suppose," wrote the chief of Namangan
district to the military governor of Fergana region, "it'll be better
for us to establish a village there rather than let the newcomers
settle there chaotically." So the governors were allowed to found a
village as proscribed by the Namangan district chief. Thus was the
village of Alekseevka founded, named after the crown prince and
destined for a great future. But after being renamed Toktogul, it was
flooded by the waters of the large Toktogul reservoir.
the Talas valley Russian and Ukrainian settlements appeared towards the
end of the 19th century. Among them are Dmitrievka in 1887 (today's
Talas), Pokrovka in 1881, and Aleksandrovka in 1887 (Kirovka, now
In 1882 in the Talas valley German settlers came
and established a village of Nikolaipol (later Leninopol, now
Bakai-Ata). The villages of the settlers stood out among the ails and
kyshtaks of local people, and the Russian houses served as an example
when the Kyrgyz constructed new dwellings. They started to change their
nomadic way of life for a more settled one by establishing entirely
Kyrgyz villages (Tash-Debe) or Kyrgyz-Russian settlements (Tarkhan,
During the first years of Soviet power forced
measures were used to establish Kyrgyz settlements. During the
collectivization period the process of settlement was completely
finished. At that time the villages, kolkhozes, sovkhozes were called
after the communist leaders, heroes and ideological terms: Marx, Engels
Lenin, Stalin, Kirov, Voroshilov, Kalinin, Chapaev, Chkalov, Communism,
Komsomol, Oktyabr', and so on. Later on most of the towns and villages
were renamed, for ideological, political or nationalistic reasons.
During the Soviet times many places were called after the communist
leaders, national heroes and poets. The town of Kara-Balta once was
called Kalininskoe, the village of Belovodskoe was Stalinskoe, and
Alamedin was Voroshilovskoe.
Most names were long forgotten. Places were once
again known by their previous names. A great deal of renaming is taking
place at present as Kyrgyzstan consolidates and strengthens its
independence. Russian names are being replaced by typical Kyrgyz ones
all over the country and especially in the Talas region, where only the
village of Pokrovka has retained the same name it had at its foundation
in 1881. The capital of Kyrgyzia, known from 1926 to 1991 as Frunze in
honour of the Red Army commander Mikhail Frunze, received its new
Kyrgyz name of Bishkek.
The names of rivers and lakes were less affected.
The lakes were simply given a distorted term "Kul" instead of the
Kyrgyz "Kol" ("lake"). Different nations had their own name for the
lake Issyk-Kul ("hot lake"). The Chinese called it "Je-Hai", "Tianchi",
"Yan'-Hai", "Ta-Cin-Chji", that meant hot, water-filled, salty, clear
lake. Turks called it "Temurtu-nor" and "Tuz kul-nor", that is iron and
salty lake. On the old missionary and first Russian maps it was
indicated as 'salty lake'. To the typical Kyrgyz names of some rivers
the Russian words "Malyi" (small), "Bol'shoi" (big), "Yuzhniy" (south),
The river Engilchek (in Kyrgyz "lichen") and the
glacier were known to everyone as Inylchek. In Soviet times during the
exploration of high-altitude and virtually inaccessible mountainous
regions, Russian names and especially the names of personalities were
given to the majority of remarkable peaks, glaciers and passes such as
Pobeda Peak, Lenin Peak, Semenov and Mushketov Glaciers. These names
are indicated on the maps and are known mostly to specialists.
Russian geographical names which existed on the
territory of Kyrgyzstan reflect a significant period in the life of the
Kyrgyz nation. It is perhaps regrettable that politicization and
nationalism do not always allow the genuine historic facts to be known.
By Vladimir Petrov and Nicolai Schetnikov