Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan, borders the Tian Shan mountain range of Central Asia. It is a gateway to the mountains of Kyrgyz Ala-Too and to the Ala Archa National Park, with glaciers and nature trails. The city's art scene includes the monumental State Museum of Fine Arts and the Opera and Ballet Theater with columns. The wide and central Ala-Too Square presents the monument of Manas, in honor of the hero of Manas' Kyrgyz epic.
The first mention of Bishkek was the Pishpek fortress, built in 1825 by the Khanate of Kokand. Pishpek was built to protect the caravan routes that transported goods between Tashkent and Lake Issyk-Kul, on the other side of the Chuy Valley. After a battle between the Russian imperial troops and the Khanand Khanate in 1860, the fort was destroyed and the area became the border of the Russian Empire. In 1897, the population of Pishpek had a total of 6,600 people, and instead of being a city, it was more like a dusty city of mud houses.