Legends of Issyk-Kul

The Kyrgyz retell many legends about how the lake was formed, about ancient cities and the catastrophe that drowned them, when water poured out of the mountains and flooded the valley.

One legend claims that Alexander the Great flooded the valley to comply with the desire of a Persian hero, Rustem, who reigned in Andijan and possessed the lands around Issyk-Kul. Before his death Rustem wished that the bones and relics of his companions-in-arms and ancestors should be inaccessible forever. After the conquest of the lands around Lake Issyk-Kul, Alexander decided to execute the last will of the hero. From a girl who had fallen in love with him, he learned of a well that could flood the whole valley. His beloved gave Alexander a casket with a key to the door that covered the entrance to the well. Opening the door, the well bubbled over with flood waters which submerged the surroundings. There is also a legend stating that it was Tamerlane in the 15th century who decided to destroy the rebellious cities around the lake.

According to another of the legends, in the city was a spring from which water flowed out with such a force that each person coming for water, after filling a bucket, hurried to cork up the well's throat with a heavy stone. It happened that a young man met a young woman at the spring and they tarried too long with love chatter. Forgetting to replace the stone on the fountain, the rushing water flooded not only the city but the whole valley as well.

Kyrgyz legend about tragic love and Issyk-Kul Lake

Once upon a time, so long ago that people have forgotten when, there was a city by Lake Issyk-Kul. A fortress of a powerful khan dominated the city. The terrible governor learned that one poor nomad had a daughter of incomparable beauty. The khan sent his jigits to bring the girl to him. However, the girl had a beloved young man, who, before leaving for distant lands, put his ring on the beloved's finger and asked her not to remove it until he came back. "It will protect you from any misfortune!" the young man said. The khan's envoys brought generous gifts to the girl's parents, but she rejected the gifts stating: "I love another and cannot become a wife of the khan!" When the khan's jigits grew more insistent, the girl escaped to the mountains in an attempt to hide herself from them. All of a sudden, with horror she found out that the ring on her finger had disappeared. The girl came back to the village in the hope of recovering the lost ring, but the servants of the khan seized her and took her to his camp. The khan imprisoned the intractable girl in the fortress and tried various means of persuasion to woo her for himself. His efforts were all in vain. "I love another and I shall never be yours!" This was the beauty's answer. Having failed to enjoy the girl's favor by gifts, the khan decided to possess her by force. Like a beast, he charged towards the girl intending to overpower her. But she rushed to the open window and threw herself out. Suddenly the unassailable walls shook, the earth split and water gushed out of a crevice washing away the fortress and the whole city, continuing to pour out until the whole valley disappeared under the lake.