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Last Updated: Tuesday, 20 June 2006, 12:12 GMT 13:12 UK
In pictures: Kyrgyz town of Karakol

The wooden Russian Orthodox church in Karakol

The town of Karakol in eastern Kyrgyzstan is an area where Russian culture still remains strong. The wooden Russian Orthodox church is the town's best known building.

A girl walks past a house with blue trim in Karakol

Russian merchants built elaborately decorated "gingerbread houses". Many are in need of repair but some have been renovated for use as tourist guesthouses.

Two sets of blue shutters on an old house

The ornate features on houses are typical of parts of Central Asia settled by Russians before the Soviet era. Before they arrived, the native Kyrgyz people were nomadic herdsman.

Kuban Imanaliev with the artefacts he has retrieved

The Silk Road trading city of Chigu once stood nearby on lake Issyk Kul, but disappeared in the Middle Ages when waters rose. Teacher Kuban Imanaliev finds artefacts in the lake.

A woman with a group of children, with the orphanage in the background.

St Matthew once visited the area, legends say, and a Nestorian Christian monastery stood here in the Middle Ages. An Orthodox monastery, now an orphanage, came later.

A man sells oranges in the Jakshilik bazaar

Like all of Kyrgyzstan, Karakol fell on hard times when the Soviet Union collapsed. Many people trade in the bazaar to make ends meet, but poverty remains a serious problem.

A snow-covered field near Karakol, with mountains in the background.

Karakol lies in the central ranges of the Tien Shan mountains. It has huge potential for mountain sports and people hope tourism will help revive the town's former prosperity. Pictures and text: Ian Macwilliam

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