Trans Eurasia travel

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This is the first town of importance heading east of Bishkek along the valley. Kant boasts a large cement factory, a Lenin statue and a war memorial - all pretty standard for a provincial Kyrgyz town. Many ethnic Germans used to live here and in the surrounding area and it might be assumed that the town takes its name from Immanuel Kant, the German moral philosopher. In fact, the name refers to the Kyrgyz for 'sugar tube', and there is a major sugar factory in the town that processes beet grown in the valley, a practice that dates back to Soviet times.

The town came into the news in October 2003 when it was announced its airport would be used as a base for the Collective Rapid Deployment Force of the Russian Air Force. With the decline of Russian bases in Cuba and Vietnam, this was to become Russian's only new base abroad since Soviet times. Although the premise was one of 'joint security', the selection of Kant as a Russian base was undoubtedly viewed as a counterweight to the American military presence at the Peter J Ganchi air base at Manas Airport, which had been there to assist with Afghanistan operations since December 2001. As a result of this, Kyrgyzstan remains the only country in the world with both American and Russian bases. What is perhaps even more surprising is that the two bases are so close to each other: Manas is just five minutes' flying time away.