Bishkek (bĭshˈkĕk) [key], formerly Frunze frōnˈzĕ, city (1993 est. pop. 640,700), capital of Kyrgyzstan, on the Chu River and on a branch of the Turkistan-Siberia RR. It is a rail and highway hub and the industrial and cultural center of Kyrgyzstan. Its meatpacking and agricultural machine plants were among the largest in the former USSR. Other industries include metalworking, food processing, and the manufacture of assorted craftworks. Bishkek has a hydroelectric station. The Uzbek khans of Kokand built a fortress on the site in 1846; it was taken by Russian forces in 1862 and became the fort of Pishpek. The city, which grew up around the fort, was chartered in 1878. It was named Frunze from 1926 to 1991. In 1926 the city became the administrative center of the Kirghiz Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic, which was raised to the status of a union republic in 1936. Kyrgyzstan became an independent republic in 1991. Bishkek has a university (est. 1951).