Gerb Goroda

March 29th, 2016 Sections: Bishkek
A traditional wax seal

A traditional wax seal

The Russian word Gerb is often translated as ‘a Coat of Arms’ … but in heraldry, a coat of arms has a special meaning – relating to the escutcheon (or shield) and tabard (or surcoat) worn by medieval knights going into battle.

Another interpretation that is sometimes offered is ‘a seal’ – as in the Great Seal used by governments to authenticate documents, either by embossing the paper on which they were written, or stamped in ink, or sealed with wax … or, maybe, to show that a container, (such as an envelope or casket), had not been opened.

In some contexts, the generic terms ’emblem’ or ‘symbol’ can also apply.  An emblem is a pictorial element used to encapsulate and embody an idea or concept, (or occasionally and individual), which can be used as an element in, for example, a badge or uniform, a letterhead or on a flag.

Gerbs are used in the same way as heraldic symbols in Kyrgyzstan … although they differ in many respects from traditional heraldic symbols – especially those dating from the Soviet period, when a positive attempt to distance them from the symbolism of Tsarist Russia … and designs similar to seals were introduced.

Often, for example, there is no shield … but a circular design containing elements chosen to reflect the community or organization that adopts them.

The city of Bishkek, for example has adopted a number of Gerbs over the years – but they basically reflect three main designs.

The 1908 Gerb

The 1908 Gerb


The first, (adopted on 1st April, 1908), was a coat of arms – at least, close to the traditional sense of the term, in that it took the form of a shield, framed by two golden sprigs of wheat, (representing the grain grown in the region), tied with a ribbon, and cropped by a crown representing the city’s fort with three crenelations, (symbolizing it’s status as a ‘county town’ in the Russian Empire.

In the upper right corner of the shield was an emblem representing the Semirechensk, (the seven rivers), area to which the city and county of Pishpek (as the city was then called), belonged. The turquoise shield was dissected by a horizontal silver belt decorated with three plowshares, (a symbol of agriculture which was a mainstay of the local community), and bees (a symbol of hard work), appeared in the center of the top and bottom bands across the shield.


The second design was approved by the City Council of People’s Deputies on 22nd September 1978.

This also took the form of a shield, with the name of the city emblazoned across the top band.

In the center, underneath the name, was a round ornament bearing elements of traditional Kyrgyz ozori – symbolizing the wealth of the traditional Kyrgyz culture.

The circle is framed by green leaves reflecting the garden city – with its parks and trees.  The leaves rise from a gear wheel of which three teeth are visible – a symbol of the city’s industrial development.

Above the ornament is an image of a Bishkek, (the wooden stick used for stirring, churning, koumiss – after which the city takes its modern name).

Above this is a stripe with white triangles forming a stylized image of the mountains.

The Gerb of 1978

The Gerb of 1978

Bishkek Gerb - 1994

Bishkek Gerb – 1994


In 1991, the city was renamed Bishkek … and following Independence, in 1994, a new Gerb was adopted.  Until then, the existing gerb served, although the old name, Frunze, was replaced by the new one, Bishkek.

The new emblem  approved in 1994, departed from the traditional shield design, taking, instead, the form of a rectangular silhouette of the fortress, in a light blue – crenelations and all.

Across the bottom is an outline of two mountain peaks, under which the name Bishkek appears in large letters.

Between the crenelations and the mountains is a large diamond shape, (actually, a square tilted at an angle of 45º), with an inscribed circle containing a stylized image of a Snow Leopard





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