May 12th, 2016 Sections: News
The Isfana sign on the Northwest outskirts of town

The Isfana sign on the Northwest outskirts of town

Isfana is a “young town” in the Batken oblast,  located in the extreme South West of the country,  near the border with Tajikistan … and is somewhat off the beaten track as far as tourists are concerned.

When I say a “young town”, that’s because, although, human settlement on the site can be traced back to the (perhaps) the 9th century, (and definitely the 16th century … archaeologists have discovered materials which identify it with the city of Asbanikat) … it was only granted the status of a town as recently as 2001.

In fact, it is believed that the word “Isfana” is derived from the ancient Sogdian word “aspanakent”, meaning “the land of horses”.

From 1790 to 1876 Isfana was part of the Khanate of Kokand. The Russians in the middle of the 19th century, conquering all the existing Khanates in Central Asia and absorbing them into their Empire … Bukhara in 1868, Khiva in 1873 and Kokand in 1876 … and Isfana became part of Russian Turkestan.

Isfana was granted the status of a village in 1937 when the Sel’soviet, (Village Council – the lowest rung of local authority in the Soviet Union), was established.  Then, in 1996, it was converted into a ‘rural management’ (… but, to be honest, I am not sure what that means … what the difference was), and finally, in 2001, a presidential decree, gave it the status of a city.

During the Soviet period, although it was basically an agricultural region, (cattle breeding – there is a livestock market held twice a week – on Thursdays and Fridays – as well as growing fruit, vegetables and cereals), a number of factorties were established … but these have basically closed since Independence.

It is now the administrative center Leilek district in the Batken Oblast.


The city lies at an altitude of 1350 meters above sea level and has mountains of the Turkestan Range, ( the northern ridge of the Pamir-Alai mountain syste), rising above it on three sides just a few kilometers from the city.

Given it’s location, the climate the city enjoys is sharply continental – with long cold winters, (according to one source ‘very cold’ winters but another says ‘comparatively warm’ … judging from the figures I have seen, I would opt for the latter description), and long, hot … and very dry, summers with short, rainy spring and autumn.

The city occupies just two and a half square meters, but that’s doubled when its six subordinate villages, (Ak-Bulak, Chimgen, Mirza-Patcha, Golbo, Samat, and Taylan), are considered.

Within the city itself live some 18000 people, (most of whom are Uzbek), and in the greater connubation there is a population of 28000, (with the majority being Kyrgyz).  Although there are no official statistics, it is said that many of the residents are in fact absent … working as migrant workers – mainly in Russia.  Over 40% of the families are classified as Poor or Extremely poor.

The city has a number of multi storey apartment blocks – provided with a variety of communall services … but the city authorities admit that much of the equipment is outdated and in need of modernization.


There are six schools in the city … with classes conducted in Uzbek, Kyrgyz and Russian languages depending on the school, and a specialist Music school and a specialist ‘creative center’.  There is also a Vocational School and an that college is associated with an Academy based in Bishkek.  There are also two libraries and … amazingly, given its size … three Museums.

  •  the Historical Museum (founded in 1986),
  • the Ishaq Razzakova Museum (founded in 1990) – dedicated to the first Prime Minister of Independent Kyrgyzstan … a local boy … and in recent years, there have been proposals to rename Isfana after Ishaq Razzakova , who served as the first secretary of the Communist Party of the Kyrgyz SSR.
  • the Museum of Fame (also founded in 1990)

A single park houses a football field and five thousand seater stadium, which is used for social events.  The local cinema closed after Independence.

The city has roads connecting it with Sulyukta, Batken and Osh in Kyrgyzstan … and also with communities in Tajikistan … indeed the main highway connecting the city with the rest of Kyrgyzstan passes through an enclave of the Sogdiyskaya oblast of Tajikistan.  Most of the roads on the town are gravel roads – not asphalt.

There is also a local airport, built in the Soviet period, in 1940, which, technically at least, can accept international flights but as there are no customs and immigration post it only serves domestic flights.




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