Day 11: Lenin Peak Base Camp – Osh: Osh was used as a staging post by our group, rather than a destination in its own right. An overnight stop on the way to Samarkand, in such a way as to get us to Samarkand across the convoluted series of border crossings that have resulted from frictions between the nations in the area.

We drive over the 3554m Tol Dek Pass and on into the Fergana Valley to the ancient Silk Road town of Osh. Regrettably the transport did not stop for photos along the way! We stayed in a private house - Iman Jan’s. The rooms were grouped round a central courtyard. It is certainly a family house, not a guest-house - in our room you could see that the family had moved out that day, and would move back in the next - tends to make me a bit uncomfortable knowing that. Communal toilets, basic, but Western type. Osh is not flush, as it were, with accommodation, and I assume this was the best that was on offer at this time.

Osh is the second largest city in Kyrgyzstan. The city is at least 3,000 years old, and has served as the administrative centre of Osh Province since 1939. The city has an ethnically mixed population of about 220,000 comprising Kyrgyz, Uzbeks, Russians, Tajiks, and other smaller ethnic groups. An uneasy peace seems to exist between the groups, a peace that breaks out into open civil war at depressingly frequent intervals. The city's industrial base, established during the Soviet period, largely collapsed after the break-up of the Soviet Union and has started to revive only gradually. We passed a large number of abandoned factories.

The proximity of the Uzbek border, which cuts through historically linked territories and settlements, deprives Osh of much of its former hinterland and presents a serious obstacle to trade and economic development. The recent upgrading of the long and arduous road through the mountains to Bishkek has greatly improved communications.The city has several monuments, including the two that we had time to visit

In 1990, shortly before the end of Soviet power in Central Asia, Osh and its environs experienced bloody ethnic clashes between Kyrgyz and Uzbeks. The riots broke out over the division of land resources in and around the city. There were about 1,200 casualties, including over 300 dead and 462 seriously injured.

In 2010, after riots in Bishkek and other major Kyrgyz cities, President Kurmanbek Bakiyev took refuge in the city to hide from protesters denouncing his government and its response to the nation's struggling economy. Bakiyev supporters took over government buildings in Osh, and also seized the airport, preventing interim government officials from landing. The protesters demanded Bakiyev's return, and forced the provincial governor to flee. The former Osh provincial governor Mamasadyk Bakirov was reinstated. Then on June 10, 2010, riots erupted in Osh, killing at least 400 and injuring thousands of others. "An explosion of violence, destruction and looting in southern Kyrgyzstan on 11-14 June 2010 killed many hundreds of people, Kyrgyz and Uzbeks got killed and destroyed over 2000 buildings, mostly homes, and deepened the gulf between the country’s ethnic Kyrgyz and Uzbeks."

Local media reported that gangs of young men armed with sticks and stones smashed shop windows and set cars aflame in the city centre. Several buildings and homes across the city were also set on fire. The city's police force proved incapable of restoring order, resulting in a state of emergency being declared and the army being mobilised. The Kyrgyz intelligence agency claimed that the 2010 violence was initiated by the just-deposed president, Kurmanbek Bakiyev, who is said to have made a deal with foreign narco-jihadist gangs. However, to the day no serious proof has been presented to the public and media. According to various sources, up to 100,000 ethnic Kyrgyz and Uzbek refugees fled to Uzbekistan. Many refugee camps have been organized in the Andijan, Fergana and Namangan regions of Uzbekistan for citizens of Kyrgyzstan who cross the border seeking safety.

Click on any of the thumbnail images to get a larger photo

The archeological museum is built into the caves at the foot of Sulayman Mountain. From there we climbed up to the observation point at the top of the mountain, and then down the other side. Apparently you get pregnant if you slide down the slide!
Dinner in the courtyard at our accommodation in Osh      

On to Kokand

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