Pishpek Redux

by Nathan Hamm on 10/7/2004

A couple weeks ago, language hat had a post about the changing name of Kyrgyzstan’s capital. A source he translates mentions that the etymology of the old name, Pishpek, was unknown, and that the closest Kyrgyz word was bishkek, a whisk for stirring kumiss.

While reading Hunted Through Central Asia, I came across what might be an explanation. How reliable the author, Paul Nazaroff, a Russian who led a plot to overthrow the Bolsheviks in Central Asia, is on this explanation is certainly unknown to me. It is worth throwing out there though. He says,

The town of Pishpek received its name from a Kirghiz whose flocks and herds used to be in this region. It is pleasantly situation in a smiling grassy valley, almost at the feet of the imposing Alexandrovsky Range, which is part of the Tian Shan.

That Pishpek is someone’s name might perhaps explain some of the mystery of the word.


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– author of 2991 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Nathan is the founder and Principal Analyst for Registan, which he launched in 2003. He was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Uzbekistan 2000-2001 and received his MA in Central Asian Studies from the University of Washington in 2007. Since 2007, he has worked full-time as an analyst, consulting with private and government clients on Central Asian affairs, specializing in how socio-cultural and political factors shape risks and opportunities and how organizations can adjust their strategic and operational plans to account for these variables. More information on Registan's services can be found here, and Nathan can be contacted via Twitter or email.

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