Issyk-Kul (also Ysyk Köl, Issyk-Kol: Kyrgyz: Ысык-Көл,
Isıq-Köl, ىسىق-كۅل, [ɯsɯqkœl]; Russian:
Иссык-Куль, Issyk-Kulj) is an endorheic lake in the northern
Tian Shan mountains in eastern Kyrgyzstan. It is the tenth largest
lake in the world by volume (though not in surface area), and the
second largest saline lake after the Caspian Sea.
"warm lake" in the Kyrgyz language; although it is surrounded by
snow-capped peaks, it never freezes.
The lake is a
Ramsar site of globally significant biodiversity (Ramsar
Site RDB Code 2KG001) and forms part of the
4.1 Specially protected areas
5 Creation legend
Russian Navy test site
7 Lakeside towns
8 See also
10 External links
Southern shore of
Issyk-Kul in the north
Lake is 182 kilometres (113 mi) long, up to 60
kilometres (37 mi) wide, and its area is 6,236 square kilometres
(2,408 sq mi). It is the second largest mountain lake in the
Lake Titicaca in South America. It is at an altitude of
1,607 metres (5,272 ft), and reaches 668 metres (2,192 ft)
About 118 rivers and streams flow into the lake; the largest are the
Djyrgalan and Tyup. It is fed by springs, including many hot springs,
and snow melt. The lake has no current outlet, but some hydrologists
hypothesize that the lake's water filters deep underground into the
Chu River. The bottom of the lake contains the mineral
monohydrocalcite: one of the few known lacustrine deposits.
The lake's southern shore is dominated by the ruggedly beautiful
Teskey Ala-Too Range
Teskey Ala-Too Range of the
Tian Shan mountains. The
Kungey Alatau of
Tian Shan runs parallel to the north shore.
The lake water's salinity is approx. 0.6% – compared to 3.5%
salinity of typical seawater – and, although the lake level is still
currently some 8 metres (26 ft) higher than in medieval times,
its level now drops by approximately 5 cm per year due to water
Administratively, the lake and the adjacent land are within Issyk-Kul
Region of Kyrgyzstan.
During the Soviet era, the lake became a popular vacation resort, with
numerous sanatoria, boarding houses and vacation homes along its
northern shore, many concentrated in and around the town of
Cholpon-Ata. These fell on hard times after the break-up of the USSR,
but now hotel complexes are being refurbished and simple private
bed-and-breakfast rentals are being established for a new generation
of health and leisure visitors.
The city of
Karakol (formerly Przhevalsk, after the Russian explorer
Przhevalsky who died there) is the administrative seat of Issyk-Kul
Region of Kyrgyzstan. It is near the east tip of the lake and is a
good base for excursions into the surrounding area. Its small old core
contains an impressive wooden mosque, built without metal nails by the
Dungan people, and a wooden Orthodox church that was used as a stable
during Soviet times (see state atheism).
Nestorian tombstone with inscriptions in Uyghur, found in Issyk-Kul,
Lake was a stopover on the Silk Road, a land route for
travelers from the Far East to Europe. Many historians believe that
the lake was the point of origin for the
Black Death that plagued
Asia during the early and mid-14th century. The lake's
status as a byway for travelers allowed the plague to spread across
these continents via medieval merchants who unknowingly carried
infested vermin along with them.
On the beach at Koshkol'
The lake level is some 8 metres (26 ft) higher than in medieval
times. Divers have found the remains of submerged settlements in
shallow areas around the lake. In December 2007, a report was released
by a team of Kyrgyz historians, led by Vladimir Ploskikh, vice
president of the Kyrgyz Academy of Sciences, that archaeologists have
discovered the remains of a 2500-year-old advanced civilization at the
bottom of the Lake. The data and artifacts obtained suggest that the
ancient city was a metropolis in its time. The discovery consisted of
formidable walls, some stretching for 500 metres (1,600 ft) and
traces of a large city with an area of several square kilometers.
Other findings included
Scythian burial mounds eroded over the
centuries by waves, and numerous well-preserved artifacts, including
bronze battleaxes, arrowheads, self-sharpening daggers, objects
discarded by smiths, casting molds, and a faceted gold bar that was a
monetary unit of the time.
Articles identified as the world's oldest extant coins were also found
underwater with gold wire rings used as small change and a large
hexahedral goldpiece. Also found was a bronze cauldron with a level of
craftsmanship that is today achieved by using an inert gas
In 1916 the monastery at
Issyk-Kul was attacked by Kyrgyz rebels, and
seven monks were killed.
Issyk-Kul beach (2002)
Specially protected areas
The first nature reserve in Kyrgyzstan,
Issyk-Kul State Reserve was
established in 1948 to protect unique nature landscapes and waterfowl
at Issyk-Kul. In 1975, it was acknowledged as a Ramsar site. Biosphere
Issyk-Kul covered by
UNESCO World Network of Biosphere
Reserves was established in year 2000 within the administrative
The lake contains highly endemic fish biodiversity, and some of the
species, including four endemics, are seriously endangered. In recent
years catches of all species of fish have declined markedly, due to a
combination of over-fishing, heavy predation by two of the introduced
species, and the cessation of lake restocking with juvenile fish from
hatcheries. At least four commercially targeted endemic fish species
are sufficiently threatened to be included in the Red Book of the
Schmidt's dace (Leuciscus schmidti),
(Leuciscus bergi), marinka (
Schizothorax issyk-kuli), and sheer or
naked osman (
Diptychus dybovskii). Seven other endemic species are
almost certainly threatened as by-catch or are indirectly impacted by
fishing activity and changes to the structure and balance of the
lake's fish population.
Sevan trout, a fish endemic to
Lake Sevan in Armenia, was introduced
Issyk-Kul in the 1970s. While this fish is an endangered species
in its "home" lake, it has a much better chance to survive in Lake
Issyk-Kul where it has ravaged the indigenous species.
In pre-Islamic legend, the king of the Ossounes had donkey's ears. He
would hide them, and order each of his barbers killed to hide his
secret. One barber yelled the secret into a well, but he did not cover
the well afterwards. As a result, the well water rose and flooded the
kingdom. The kingdom is today under the waters of Issyk-Kul. According
to the legend, this is how the lake was formed. Other legends say that
four drowned cities lie at the bottom of the lake. Substantial
archaeological finds indicating the presence of an advanced
civilization in ancient times have been made in shallow waters of the
Russian Navy test site
During the Soviet period, the
Soviet Navy operated an extensive
facility at the lake's east end, where submarine and torpedo
technology was evaluated. In March 2008, Kyrgyz newspapers
reported that 866 hectares (2,140 acres) around the Karabulan
Peninsula on the lake would be leased for an indefinite period to the
Russian Navy, which is planning to establish new naval testing
facilities as part of the 2007 bilateral Agreement on Friendship,
Cooperation, Mutual Help, and Protection of Secret Materials. The
Russian military will pay $4.5 million annually to lease the area.
India also plans to invest in the facility to test all types of
torpedoes such as heavy weight torpedoes and those that have thermal
navigation system. Another advantage that works for the testing center
is that the torpedoes fired can also be recovered allowing scientists
to make physical verification of a torpedo structure for further
India is also planning to use the torpedo test facility to test
Autonomous Underwater Vehicle
Autonomous Underwater Vehicle being developed by NSTL. For this
India has proposed to engage local companies with know-how in torpedo
technology to further co-develop the facility.
Issyk-Kul at sundown (August 2002)
Towns and some villages around the lake, listed clockwise from the
lake's western tip:
Balykchy (the railhead at the western end of the lake)
Cholpon-Ata (the capital of the north shore)
Karakol (the provincial capital near the eastern end of the lake,
formerly named Przhevalsk)
^ a b c d e f g h Savvaitova, K.; Petr, T. (December 1992), "Lake
Issyk-Kul, Kirgizia", International Journal of Salt
Lake Research, 1
(2): 21–46, doi:10.1007/BF02904361
^ a b c d Hofer, Markus; Peeters, Frank; Aeschbach-Hertig, Werner;
Brennwald, Matthias; Holocher, Johannes; Livingstone, David M.;
Romanovski, Vladimir; Kipfer, Rolf (11 July 2002), "Rapid deep-water
Issyk-Kul (Kyrgyzstan) indicated by transient tracers"
(PDF), Limnology and Oceanography, 4 (47): 1210–1216,
doi:10.4319/lo.2002.47.4.1210, archived from the original (PDF) on 4
^ Kodayev, G.V. (1973), "Морфометрия озера
Иссык-Куль" [Morphometry of
Lake Issyk-Kul], News of the
All-Union Geographic Society (Izvestiya VGO) (in Russian)
^ Nihoul, Jacques C.J.; Zavialov, Peter O.; Micklin, Philip P. (2012).
Dying and Dead Seas Climatic Versus Anthropic Causes. Springer
Science+Business Media. p. 21. Retrieved 4 December 2015.
Lake Environment Committee Foundation Archived
2005-09-06 at the Wayback Machine.
^ V. V.Romanovsky, "Water level variations and water balance of Lake
Issyk-Kul", in Jean Klerkx, Beishen Imanackunov (2002), p.52
^ Sapozhnikov, D. G.; A. I. Tsvetkov (1959). "[Precipitation of
hydrous calcium carbonate on the bottom of
Lake Issyk-Kul]". Doklady
Akademii Nauk SSSR. 24: l3l–133.
^ The Silk Route – Channel 4
^ ANI (2007-12-28). "Archaeologists discover remains of 2500-year-old
advanced civilization in Russia". Yahoo! News. Archived from the
original on 2008-01-01.
^ "Advanced Russian civilization found". The Times Of India. Archived
from the original on December 31, 2007.
^ a b Lukashov, Nikolai. Ancient Civilization Discovered at the Bottom
Issyk-Kul in the Kyrgyz Mountains. Ria Novosti. December 27,
2007. Accessed on: July 24, 2008.
^ Islam in the Russian Federation and the Post Soviet Republics: a
Historical perspective by Spyros Plakoudas, p. 10
^ Specially protected nature areas in Kyrgyzstan. Archived 2010-03-24
at the Wayback Machine.
^ Kommersant-Vlast, 'Vys Rossiya Armia', 2005
^ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 12, No. 51, Part I, 14 March 2008[full citation
India to develop state of the art torpedo testing centre in
Kyrgyzstan Date Published: September 18, 2011. Times of India
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Issyk-Kul.
Issyk-Kul from the Spektator Magazine
Lake Database entry for
Issyk-Kul Hollow at Natural Heritage Protection Fund
Remains of ancient civilization discovered on the bottom of Issyk-Kul
Views of lake
Issyk-Kul from Abasayyoh
Jean Klerkx, Beishen Imanackunov (eds.): "
Lake Issyk-Kul: Its Natural
Environment". Springer, 2002. ISBN 1-4020-0900-3. (Searchable
text on Google Books)
Lakes of Kyrgyzstan
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