About a month ago, I subbed for a Kazakh teacher who was sent off to Turkmenistan to recruit Turkmen students to come to our university. I asked the Kazakh students to write anything they recall from their history, recent or otherwise, whatever their parents or grandparents had told them. The following is about an event a few students wrote on which happened in Dec. 16, 1986. Because I lived in Ukraine for over seven years I learned much about Chernobyl which was Ukraine’s more recent tragedy end of April of 1986, just eight months before this event that happened in Kazakhstan. (Hmm…what’s the common thread between the two nations?) Here’s what one female student described:
“History is an essential part of a state. Every country has it’s own history of establishment, even the young ones. Comparatively, Kazakhstan as a republic isn’t very old but it’s roots take place thousands and thousands years ago.
Even though nowadays Kazakhstan is an independent country where distinct nations live in peace together, it’s history has a lot of tragic moments. People who lived in our country had to overcome such complexities as World War 2, collectivization, repressions, October revolution.
Probably one of the brightest and tragic dates in our country is December 16, 1986. This was cold winter’s morning. People from different regions of Kazakhstan came to the central squares of their towns and started to protest. A lot of people in Almaty came to the central square, the majority of them were students, this dates is connected with political situation in that period. The head of our country – Kunaev was supposed to be replaced by another leader. However, people didn’t like such change. The protest has an national character because people didn’t want to have Russian leader instead of Kazakh one. The movement in the square in Almaty started to be unruly. Government couldn’t calm down young people. They asked students to go home but they didn’t. Then they revealed more severe measures. They opened the cold water and then opened the fire. Their army didn’t look whether it was man or woman. A lot of people were killed but those who survived were taken to prison.
Today we celebrate the date of 16 th December because it’s the date of our independence. We should say thanks and always remember people who gave their life for the future of their country.”