Kadji Sai

July 24th, 2014 Sections: Issyk Kul
The beach at Kadji Sai

The beach at Kadji Sai

Kadji Sai is a village on the southern shore of Lake Issyk Kul, about 20 kilometers East of Bokonbaeva, , surrounded by low, cabyons carved by the action of wind and water.

The village itself actually lies a few kilometers from the shore. There is a bus stop on the main road between Balykchy and Karakol that circles the lake at the junction with the road that leads up to the village about three kilometers away.

Here there is a petrol; station, some cafes and a Tourist Information Center.

The other side of the main highway is a road that leads down to a large sandy beach … which is a bit of an oddity on the southern shore … most of the sandy beaches around the lake are to be found on the northern shore.  Here of the southern shore, the beaches tend to pebble ones …

About four and a half thousand people live here.  To be perfectly honest, however, there isn’t that much of interest in the town: a long poplar alley, an old building built by German war prisoners, an orphanage for ethnic Kyrgyz from all all over the Central Asia … and a stone wall … oh, yes, and a berkutchy, (an eagle hunter), who runs a small Bed and Breakfast and gives demonstrations of this ancient traditional skill.

Nearby, a few kilometers to the east of the village, there are a number of archaeological sites … for example,

  • two earlier settlements, including,
    • a fortress is located 1 km east from the mouth of the Kadji Sai river.  It consists of a large building complex – 60 meter square, with a 40×60 meter extension on the eastern side – with walls built with adobe bricks and containing over a hundred rooms, (both residential and commercial), divided by streets and corridors including
    • a caravanserai, dating from the 10th to 12th centuries,

During excavations of the site, objects such as pottery, stone grinders, grinding bars, animal bones and more, were found. 

  • a couple of sites of ancient mausoleums  
    • one has three structures which date back to between the 3rd century BC to the 3rd century AD, whilst
    • the other, along with the nearby petroglyphs, are thought to date from 1000 BC.

Pipes bring mineral water from the hot springs above the village down to the lake shore, about 50 meters to the west of the turbaza, (a resort).  


In recent days, however, the village has emerged once more into the glare of public attention as a result of it’s “secret history” … and its somewhat unfortunate legacy.

Despite the archaeological evidence, the modern settlement is not an ancient one … it dates back to just 1947 and a decision by Beria to o-pen a mine and processing mill to exploit a deposit of uranium  in the vicinity.  It was top secret and went by the name Frunze 10.

Such deposits that existed in the USSR were being mined to provide materials for the Soviet atomic bomb, but the uranium turned out to be low grade and in the 1960s the facility was closed down.

The population was re-assigned to service the coal mines and an experimental plant producing electro-technical equipment which was considered to be of national importance, but ceased operation in 1995.

Apparently, the is not very well secured, and it is said that when rains, (which, fortunately, does not happen often), radioactive water flows to the lake. 


For the record: Uranium is a silvery-grey metallic chemical element which is generally known due to the fact that it is mildly radioactive and for is used in the nuclear industries – including for nuclear weapons.

Uranium is mined in various places throughout the world and some sites in Kyrgyzstan were mined during the soviet period, but uranium mining and processing is no longer economical, leaving much of the local population in the areas surrounding the mines without meaningful work – for example in Min Kush.  There are, however, plans to develop some of the deposits to be found in the Republic, itself and several companies have granted licenses to exploit these.

Kyrgyzstan is more important, however, as a center for processing the mineral. The main center for this is in Kara Balta, (about 60km to the west of the capital, Bishkek), by the processing plant of the Kara-Balta Ore Mining Combine, which is the largest such plant in Central Asia. During the soviet period it processed ore from deposits in Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan.  With the closure of the Kyrgyz mines after independence the plant was able to continue working, processing ore from Kazakhstan, (until 2005, that is, when this activity was stopped due to the lack of raw material), gold and other ores. It currently processes about 450 tons of ore a year, operating at about just 35% of it’s capacity. There are plans to increase production, and in 2004, there was a controversy about a proposal for the reception of nuclear waste from the UK. in particular in co-operation with Russia and Kazakhstan – ore from the Chui-Sarisu deposit in Kazakhstan will be shipped to the complex for processing and then transported to Russia.

In recent years, there has been a lot of attention paid to waste dump sites where it is felt that conditions in the storage of uranium during the Soviet period are deteriorating. One particular site, at Mailuu Suu in the Djalal Abad oblast has caused particular concern due the threat of landslides and it was declared to be one of the 10 most polluted sites in the world in a study published on October 2006. Substantial investments will be needed to secure the “tailings pits” on the tectonically unstable hillside above the town to prevent them from emptying upon the town and river below. Several governments and international organizations have committed to assist in the USD20-25 million project to make the site “safe”.

There were a couple of incidents in 2008 which caused widespread concern worldwide when radioactive material was discovered in Kyrgyzstan – in one case as cargo on a train and another being bought, (supposedly as a souvenir), in a market.



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