BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan – This former Soviet republic has mountains honoring Communist and Russian leaders. Just in time for Christmas, authorities say they plan to name a snowy peak "Mount Santa Claus."
Three climbers set off Wednesday to scale the designated peak and bury a capsule containing the flag of Kyrgyzstan at the summit on Christmas Eve.
Why is a predominantly Muslim and former Soviet land honoring the jolly old elf?
"We want to develop tourism, and Santa Claus is an ideal brand to help us do this," said Nurhon Tadzhibayeva, an official with Kyrgyz tourist authorities.
Plans are afoot to hold an international Santa Claus congress in Kyrgyzstan in the summer, Tadzhibayeva said. The country also intends to hold annual games in which Santas from all over the world will test their chimney-climbing, sled-racing and tree-decorating skills.
Other Kyrgyzstan peaks bear the names of Soviet founder Vladimir Lenin and former Russian President Boris Yeltsin.