Posts tagged USSR

“I Write as I Please” 1935 book (Part II)

Walter Duranty was a good observer of the Russian people, I would term him a Russophile.  Maybe he sold his soul to be able to be a New York Times correspondent in Moscow at the time when so much was happening so quickly.  I have taken many notes off of the electronic pdf version of “I Write as I Please.”  What is interesting to me are the pages that were missed in the scanning process such as:  p. 48, 77, 230, 242, 333. There may have been others, I’m just saying that the person who scanned this whole 1935 edition didn’t want some things known about Duranty.  The following are my very rough notes from what I read relating to the Russian mentality from Duranty’s perspective:

p. 118 explanation of rushing the process of nationalism wanting to hasten the communist millennium

political anarchy replaced by order and strong central authority But: economic self-sufficiency had vanished

p. 125 – Russians are a romantic folk whose innate sense of drama is stronger than their regard for truth.

p. 126 Potemkin villages

p. 144 – They were Russians, you see, whose racial quality is to live intensely in the present and dismiss doubts or fears or horrid memories with the easy insouciance of children - Nichevo which means:  what of it or no matter

p. 146 – In 1921 - Red Army soldiers in uniform back from fighting Moslem rebels in Central Asia or from “liquidating” Makno’s anarchist movement in Ukraine

Ch. 14 – Red Star - Report the facts as I saw them but to avoid quoting statements of Soviet spokesmen or newspaper, “we do not want to risk the New York Times a vehicle for Bolshevik propaganda”

p. 166 Stalin 1933 said to Walter Duranty – “You have done a good job in your reporting of USSR although you are not a Marxist.”

Walter said of himself “…I’m a reporter, not a humanitarian, and if a reporter can’t see the wood for trees, he can’t describe the wood.”

p. 169 – Wm. Bolitho had taught me [WD] to think for myself or merely that the facts of the last 2 years spoke louder for the Bolsheviks than words create impression that I was tinged with pink myself.

The Wobblies or I.W.W. were not so long in the ideological theory stuff as the Russians

Russians “most would sooner talk than work, or even eat.”

“When you come to know more you will understand the superiority of Marxists in two respects of immediate practicality.  They know what they want and why the want it and are determined to sell it by fairness or foul.

Lenin speech in autumn 1921 – “Kto Kavo” “who beats whom?”

Sent it “mulnia” lightening – where news sent triple urgent

p. 194 Catherine the Great  said one good harvest in Russia atoned for ten years of bad politics

p. 196 W.D. gives Kulak definition

p. 197 “Do you really think America will ever go communist?” W.D. refused to be sidetracked by moral issues or by abstract questions

Chapter – A Prophet with Honor

p. 202 – spring of 1922 – chasm between West and Soviet thinking – Polish Catholic priests were given capital punishment

p. 203 – “Who were these foreigners anyway who dared to tell Russians how to conduct their own affairs?” He [the main priest] has abused Russian hospitality if it is a bigger crime and he is a foreigner

West thinks “anyone accused is innocent until proven guilty” but in Eastern countries and in Russia, “the accused is guilty otherwise he would not be at trial.”  Anglo-Saxon race fights savagely against pre-determined by a preliminary inquiry, otherwise it is injustice

After priest was killed one Russian who worked with foreigners said, “Life of one man had robbed the Soviet of the fruits of 2 years of patient diplomacy.”

Buchkevich execution did more to retard American recognition of USSR for 10 years

(to be continued)

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“A Cruel Wind Blows” (Part II)

Yesterday’s blog was about my impressions of a movie, produced in Canada, that I watched Wednesday morning with the international women’s group in Astana. Today’s photo was taken off the web from the URL below. It is of the nuclear bombed lake created in the Semipalatinsk area.   I would like to visit this northeastern area of Kazakhstan later some time. I know someone from the ladies group who HAS been to this radioactive place.  Wow!

Today I’ll not continue with my impressions of the film we watched but rather show some facts that I picked up off the web (along with the above photo) about the research done concerning this very sad era of communist rule over Kazakhstan. How many times in the 80 minutes that I watched did I shake my head in disbelief listening to interview after interview from the survivors from the Polygon area?  Too many. These Russian and Kazakh people would reveal truths from their perspective one after another. If enough westerners paid attention to this movie subtitled in English, they would know that communism was not about caring for the common man.  No, certainly not the common Kazakh in an out of the way place such as the Semipalatinsk area, not these Kazakhs didn’t count with the bigwigs in Moscow during the 70 year Soviet regime.

This documentary movie has a good title that should maybe instead read “A Cruel Wind Continues to Blow” because the radioactivity in this godforsaken area will harm generations to come.  Read on from this website:  http://new.csc.ca/news/default.asp?aID=1416

“To the unsuspecting eye, an endless landscape of beauty unfolds in all directions. The Steppe – as it’s known by the locals – is an 18,000 km prairie-like flatland, dotted with randomly occurring mountain ranges. Its history has been scarred by the detonations of 456 atomic bombs – 340 underground (borehole and tunnel shots) and 116 atmospheric (either air drop or tower shots) tests. The former Soviet Semipalatinsk Test Site, in northeast Kazakhstan, was the primary nuclear test site during the Cold War from 1949 through to 1989. (Kazakhstan is a country of 16 million, which borders on the Caspian Sea to the west, Russia to the north and China to the east, and gained its independence from Soviet rule in 1991.)

In 1947, the head of the U.S.S.R. atomic bomb project, Commissariat for Internal Affairs chief Lavrentiy Beria, falsely claimed that the area was “uninhabited.” Today the site – also known as the Semipalatinsk Polygon and latterly the National Nuclear Center of Kazakhstan – is under study by various scientific groups who all agree that there are many areas that are not only contaminated but are still radioactive. The question is, how “hot” is it, and is the test site still a toxic source that is strong enough to be harmful to the residents who both live on or near it?

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Although testing ended almost 20 years ago, there are many areas that remain “hot.” Such hot spots were craters created by the underground explosions just 18km northwest of the village of Sarjal. In the Degelen Mountain range, mountain tops destroyed by bombs that were placed deep inside them by way of tunnels that have since been backfilled. We also shot at ground zero, just 50 km west of Kurchatov where the first atomic bomb (Operation First Lightning) was exploded in 1949. This was an atmospheric explosion test site where more than 100 above-ground weapons tests took place. The site currently exhibits measurably high levels of radiation. Surprisingly there are no warning signs or fences to stop people or livestock from getting too close. In fact, sheep, cattle and horses can be found scattered around the Polygon grazing on the grasslands and drinking the water from the craters.

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Photos of CCCP helicopter from 1993

Sorry I missed posting my blog yesterday, I was trying to locate my copy of Solzhenitsyn’s “Gulag Archipelago” where I want to read the last chapter that is about the Kengir Uprising in 1954.  Once I read that, I will post about it. I also want to go visit the Karaganda area (not too far from Astana) where this event happened when the political prisoners said: “Enough is enough!!!” They ran off the prison guards and administrators and enjoyed 40 days of freedom and their own self-governance.

Not much is known about this amazing act of bravery but since Stalin had died the year before in 1953, there were also other smaller uprisings in Kazakhstan and Siberia where the gulag systems were packed.  Naturally, the big USSR tanks came rolling in and snuffed out the Kengir uprising, that unusual period of freedom for the inmates. Many of these prisoners had been unjustly accused of some crime and had no business being in prison.  They wanted to be loyal subjects of the Soviet Union, but it was always a tightrope balancing act to know how to walk correctly during the CCCP (Cyrillic for USSR) period.

In lieu of more words, I’ll just post a couple of OLD, but interesting photos that I took back in 1993 when I first met Ken.  We went on an antiquated Aeroflot helicopter ride one early Sunday morning from Almaty area to a lake with some U.S. Embassy and Peace Corps people. (Brave for us to trust this relic) Quite romantic actually and my grandma used to say that was our first date, not quite but almost.

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“The Big Red Schoolhouse” (Part IV)

The last of a four part series that I have enjoyed showing my reading audience simply because all the writing was already done for me by Irving R. Levine who died at age 86 last year.  He was well known as an NBC news reporter but much earlier in his career he had been in Russia back in the 1950s.  He was suspected of being a spy yet he did his job well as a journalist, not an agent. I appreciate his words documented in the book “Main Street USSR” because it applies to my setting in Astana, Kazakhstan.  See what you think of this last installment, I welcome comments by those of you who are teaching or have taught in Central Asia before in whatever capacity.

“Specialized training at an institute is one of the few roads to success in Russia. There are few other steps by which a young man or woman can climb the economic and prestige ladder. Unlike capitalistic countries, a young man with natural acumen does not have an opportunity to start a business on a shoestring and build it by effort and talent to a large chain of stores. A boy just out of secondary school cannot count on being taken into his father’s successful enterprise because father in Russia owns no enterprise. Membership in the Communist Party, itself the main portal to success in Russia, is open largely to those who have some special talent or skill to offer the state. Thus the number of applicants each year for the Soviet version of college far exceeds the space available, and competition is keen.

There are other reasons, too, for the crash of applicants. Family financial standing plays no role in the decision to continue education. It is not a question of being able to afford it. Tuition now is free. Also, the fact that good marks and scholarship are encouraged from childhood contributes to stimulating interest in higher education among youngsters. The smart boy or girl is seldom the butt of teasing as a teacher’s pet. There is no aversion to “eggheads’* at any age in Russia. Unlike American schools, where the star athlete is likely to be campus hero, students in Soviet institutes have less diversion of this sort. There are teams, but no program of intensely competitive contests among schools with cheerleaders and pre-game bonfires. School, whether grade school, high school, or college, is intended for study, and the emphasis is on high marks in the classroom rather than on a high score on the football field. Even so, occasionally there is newspaper criticism of over-emphasis of sports in some schools.

There is, nonetheless, a perennial problem of rearing Soviet youngsters in the mold of discipline and devotion to Communist aspirations sought by Kremlin authorities. There are frequent cases of student  misconduct, teen-age indolence, and outright hooliganism. Out-of-school influences are usually blamed by the authorities. For example, it is in the home that youngsters are taught religion; this influence is so great that in some villages, despite classroom instruction in atheism, the entire student body stays away from school on minor religious holidays. The decision was made to keep youngsters in school more, under proper Communist influence, and away from the home, the church, and the street. Boarding schools were introduced in 1956, and the plan, as sufficient school space becomes available, is eventually to make boarding schools universal where youngsters will sleep, returning home only on Sundays.

The beginning was modest; 285 boarding schools were opened in 1956, and the number is growing slowly. At first, in order to evoke as little parental resentment as possible, pupils were taken from orphanages, from broken homes, and from poor parents with large families.

The preference given to former workers and soldiers is in itself intended to encourage a serious attitude in student bodies. Infringements of student discipline during the early days of de-Stalinization gave fresh impetus to the program of encouraging would-be students to go to work first. So did the leading roles played by students in the October events in Hungary and Poland in 1956. It was felt by the Kremlin leadership that a person who had served three years in an army unit or two years plowing dry Siberian soil would better appreciate the opportunity offered by education to improve his station in life and would more willingly bend to ideological discipline.

Cases of breach of discipline were many, but in terms of student exuberance in other countries, the transgressions of Soviet students might seem mild indeed. Yet, seen in the Soviet context, they might well give rise to alarm in the leadership. There were instances of previously docile lecture groups in dialectic materialism, for example, being disrupted by brash students plying the instructor with questions intended to undermine Communist theses. There was a report of a Komsomol group at a Moscow institute refusing to elect a chairman presented on a single-name slate by the group’s governing committee.

There was the case of an unpopular Komsomol chairman being suspended out of a fourteenth-story window of the Moscow University skyscraper by a rope around his waist. Elsewhere this might pass as normal spring-fever conduct; in Moscow it is scandalous. There were persistent reports of expulsions.

Branches of student discipline were recorded in the pages of Dawn of the East newspaper in Tbilisi. An article on March 24, 1956, shortly after street disorders in which students played a prominent role, re- ported:

“At many meetings and conferences they often tell of students showing a lack of discipline, often cutting classes. The figures from September 1 until December 31 show that 94,083 man hours have been skipped without any excuses, among them in Marxism-Leninism (2682 man hours), in dialectic materialism (2231 man hours), and in political economics (1665 man hours).

“Sometimes lectures are skipped by whole groups, who instead go for a collective review of a new movie, leaving the teacher to lecture to a virtually empty auditorium. Especially “organized’ in this way are groups in the West European language and literature faculties. Unfortunately their record is closely followed by students in the faculty of physics. In the history faculty, A. Mkheidze and M. Dzimestarhishveli were so rarely seen at lectures that their fellow students could not have recognized them. Almost half of the students cut seminars in dialectical materialism. It sometimes happens that only one or two students from an entire group are present, and once the whole fifth group of the fourth year of the philological faculty cut their seminars.”

The paper told of expulsion of students for violating public order. “Can it be tolerated,” asked Dawn of the East, “that in 1955, for instance, there were 176 cases registered of students breaking rules of socialist order, and the 41 students were detained by the militia for a total of two and a half months?

“Some old prejudices of the area are recreated and some young people, such as a student in the geographic-geological faculty, N. Moudiry, revived the old custom of a runaway marriage. He sneaked away with a girl student from the biological faculty.”

Other cases of misconduct cited were less in the virile mountaineer tradition of this Caucasus region but equally reprehensible to the authorities, such as the student who beat up a taxi driver after a drunken spree and then struck a policeman who arrested him.

There are quips about students who misbehave or do poorly in classes. A Russian friend shook her head disapprovingly as she told about a neighbor’s none-too-bright child who was getting bad marks. “Well,” she shrugged, “maybe he’ll be able to get a job in the weather bureau if nowhere else.”

This rather light-hearted attitude is not shared by Soviet officialdom. Every opportunity is taken in publications, speeches, and edicts to impress upon young people the need for a serious attitude in studies and also in free-time pursuits. This may partly explain why Soviet youngsters spend so many free hours poring over chessboards instead of chatting on the telephone. The Soviet attitude of earnestness, seen in recreation as well as in study, has its roots in the Soviet classroom.”

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“The Big Red Schoolhouse” (Part III)

What is with this spy swap thing, the Russia’s 10 for our four? Are these four really Americans? I’m not sure that is an even exchange, someone needs to brush up on their math skills.  Or are we working on diplomacy skills instead?  In any event this is all an education about what went on during the Cold War period and seems all very ludicrous to me.   I wonder what Irving R. Levine would say about this because he was suspected of being a spy but was not.  I’ve been accused of it as well, a “spy” could mean that you know more than you are supposedly to know about a certain country.  All very strange.

The following quoted material is from Irving R. Levine’s book published in 1959 titled “Main Street USSR.” This particular chapter about education has real meaning to me as a westerner in the capital city of Kazakhstan.  If my blog readers are involved in some way in education in Central Asia, what happened 50 years ago streaming from Moscow is still relevant today.  I’d be interested in your comments about your observations.  For now enjoy what Levine wrote in his chapter “The Big Red Schoolhouse.”

“Russia’s largest institution of higher learning is Moscow State University. It is more properly called “Moscow State University in the name of Mikhail Vasilievich Lomonosov,” in the Soviet fashion of appending the name of an honored individual. Lomonosov was a Russian scientist and writer who died in 1765, after writing a history of Russia, a Russian grammar, and reforming the Russian literary language. Old buildings of the university are situated on Manege Square across from one segment of the Kremlin’s wall. In 1953 a thirty-two-story skyscraper was completed on a fast-growing edge of the city, known as Lenin Hills. The broad base of the edifice rises eighteen stories and only then begins tapering toward the tower which is crowned, as are most of Moscow’s nine skyscrapers, with a huge hammer and sickle.

It is a splendid building with roomy classrooms, laboratories, a large auditorium, and elevators that rise faster than most manufactured in the U.S.S.R. This is probably one of the few universities in the world where a guard stands at the entrance and admits only persons presenting identification cards as students or members of the faculty, lie enrollment is nearly 18,000 students in 12 faculties and there is a staff of 2000 professors.

Somewhat less imposing and more typical is the Uzbek State University dedicated to Alisher Navoyi, the founder of Tadzhik literature. A low, gray stone building on a tree-lined boulevard in Samarkand houses the administration building and some classrooms, its entrance graced by two silver-painted statues of young men, one in civilian clothes and the other in aviator’s garb. Two other three-story buildings comprise the university’s property besides several small dormitories scattered elsewhere in this ancient central Asian city.

The university was founded in 1927, seven years after the area, now known as the Soviet Republic of Uzbekistan, was incorporated in the U.S.S.R. This was a region of illiteracy under the despotic rule of the Emir of Bukhara, who kept more than one hundred wives and concubines, whose word was law, and who devised such excruciating systems for torture as a twenty-one-foot deep pit of scorpions and other insects native to this desert region. Victims were lowered into the pit and left there to endure a horrible death. Whatever more refined forms of oppression the Communists devised for those who resisted their rule in Central Asia, they also established universities, and more than a third of Uzbek state’s teachers are Russians even now.

There are four faculties. Physics and mathematics comprise one faculty. The philological faculty consists of departments of Uzbek, Tadzhik, and Russian literature and language as well as a foreign language department where English is taught. The third faculty is for biology and geography. Finally, there is a faculty of historical studies.

Day classes in these four faculties are attended by 7200 students. There are 1900 in night classes, and 3800 adults take courses at the university. Uzbeks and Tadzhiks, the native peoples of dark skin and oriental features in this vast region bordering on China, Afghanistan, and Iran, comprise 70 per cent of the student body. There are 28 nationalities attending the university. The Rector, an Uzbek, received me in his office, and with members of the faculty we sat at a red-baize-covered table placed at right angles to his desk. It was a typically furnished Soviet office with a portrait each of Lenin and Stalin on the wall across from a painting of the Tadzhik literary hero, Navoyi, seated cross-legged on a rug, dressed in a red native robe and a turban. Except for that touch it might well have been an office in Moscow rather than in Samarkand, one of the oldest cities of the world, the proud prize of conquest of Ghengis Khan and Alexander the Great and Tamerlane. The Rector a short, dark man in his fifties, spoke intently and devotedly of his university.

As in lower grades in Central Asian schools where there are separate schools for instruction in Russian, in Uzbek (a language of Turkish root), and in Tadzhik (of Persian origin), so there are classes in each faculty in each of the three languages.

The university has 36 laboratories, three scientific museums, a library of 600,000 volumes, and a teaching staff of 300. In the first thirty years of the university’s existence 5500 students have graduated. With pride, the Rector said that about 50 of these had gone on to achieve doctorates and professorships.

Now freshman classes consist of 450 students, but in the early years of the university there were only 60 admitted each year, which accounts for the relatively small number of graduates in more than a quarter of a century. Women comprise more than a third of the student body. In a recent freshman class of 450, women accounted for 148. An increasing number of applicants admitted each year are demobilized soldiers and young people who had worked for two years after completion of ten-year primary and secondary school. Of the freshman class of 450, 26 were discharged soldiers and 92 had worked for two years. Refresher courses are offered nights for workers who intend to apply for admission, and the armed forces have similar courses. The Rector was vague about the exact point handicap enjoyed in entrance exams by the preferred soldiers and workers. The impression was that it is rather flexible, and that every benefit of the doubt is given to former servicemen and workers, regardless of their entrance-exam marks, if It is felt that they can cope with the course of study.

“If a score of 20 points on the entrance exam is needed to enter the University,” explained the Rector, “a man who has worked for two years may enter with only 18 or 19 points. It varies with the competition and with the particular faculty as well as with the number and quality of applicants in any year.”

Students who maintain at least a three average receive an allowance from the state known as a “stipend.” The amount of the stipend varies with the students’ marks and increases with each year of a student’s course. Roughly it runs from 300 to 700 rubles ($30 to $70) a month.  An excellent (all fives) student in the freshman year would receive 360 rubles ($36) a month, and in Ms final year the student, maintaining his high marks, would get 700 rubles monthly. (In the case of a student whose parents’ income is less than 500 rubles or $50 a month he would receive a minimum stipend, even if his average was less than three. )

All books required for courses are available in the university library, but a student may wish to use part of his stipend to purchase his own. Books are reasonably priced and seldom more than 15 rubles ($1.50) a copy. Students who live at home usually use their stipends as spending money for clothes, movies, theater, newspapers, and occasional meals eaten out.

It’s possible for a thrifty student living at home actually to save something each month from his stipend. The 1400 students who live in the university’s three dormitories, or hostels as they are called, pay 15 rubles ($1.50) monthly for their crowded quarters.

The starting salary of a first year instructor is 2000 rubles ($200)a month and increases to 2500 rubles($250) by the fifth year. Two hundred and twenty members of the teaching, technical, and maintenance staff of the university are members of the school’s unit of the Communist Party, the largest Party unit in Samarkand. Eighty members of the unit are students, and 90 per cent of the rest of the student body are members of the Komsomol, the Young Communist League. The dominant role played by Russians in the control and management of the Central Asian Soviet Republics is reflected in the fact that one third of the members of the university’s Party unit are Russians.

Like other Soviet educational institutions, the Uzbek State University sets a rigorous course of study for its student body. Classes are held six days a week, six hours a day, for all faculties. Of this, two hours a week is spent in the study of Marxism-Leninism, ideological training in the principles of Communist doctrine.

There were 180 students studying English at Uzbek State when I was there in 1958. They were divided into ten groups five Uzbek-speaking groups and five Russian-speaking. Freshmen majoring in English spend half of the thirty-six hours per week of classes in English courses. After the freshman year the number of hours increases. Lea Rosett, a serene-faced Russian woman with graying brown hair pulled back in a bun, is head of the English department. She had never been abroad and has few opportunities to converse with English-speaking people. She was delighted with the opportunity to practice on me. She spoke slowly, as if to make absolutely sure that she used the proper tense of the verb, but her pronunciation was good and her vocabulary versatile. Mrs. Rosett had received her degree at the Leningrad Pedagogical Institute and had worked for two years in the 1930s as an Intourist guide, showing American and British tourists around the former Russian capital. When war broke out in 1941 she and her family were evacuated to Samarkand. Her husband is a professor in the university’s Mathematics Department. They have a twelve-year old son who attends a Russian language school and is already well advanced in English, says his mother.

It was obvious after a brief conversation with her, that this woman of wide cultural interests and tastes found life in provincial, backwater Samarkand drab and limited. She insisted that they were free to leave any time they wished, but whenever the question came up her husband was called in by the Rector and other university administrators and told how valued his services were in Samarkand and how badly he was needed. Mrs. Rosett explained that many honors and awards had been bestowed upon him, “and he feels a responsibility to remain here.” Members of the faculty are provided with small houses, better living conditions than they might find elsewhere, and this also serves as an inducement for remaining.

Three women, teachers on Mrs. Rosett’s staff, said that I was the first English-speaking person they had ever met and talked with. To compensate for the disadvantage in trying to teach a language they rarely heard spoken, the teachers hold a weekly conversation circle in order to practice English among themselves. The English Department has a speech laboratory with tape-recording machines to enable students to listen to themselves, but, lamented Mrs. Rosett, there was not a single copy of a large Webster’s dictionary in all of Samarkand.

Specialized training at an institute is one of the few roads to success in Russia. There are few other steps by which a young man or woman can climb the economic and prestige ladder. Unlike capitalistic countries, a young man with natural acumen does not have an opportunity to start a business on a shoestring and build it by effort and talent to a large chain of stores. A boy just out of secondary school cannot count on being taken into his father’s successful enterprise because father in Russia owns no enterprise. Membership in the Communist Party, itself the main portal to success in Russia, is open largely to those who have some special talent or skill to offer the state. Thus the number of applicants each year for the Soviet version of college far exceeds the space available, and competition is keen.

There are other reasons, too, for the crash of applicants. Family financial standing plays no role in the decision to continue education. It is not a question of being able to afford it. Tuition now is free. Also, the fact that good marks and scholarship are encouraged from childhood contributes to stimulating interest in higher education among youngsters. The smart boy or girl is seldom the butt of teasing as a teacher’s pet. There is no aversion to “eggheads’* at any age in Russia. Unlike American schools, where the star athlete is likely to be campus hero, students in Soviet institutes have less diversion of this sort. There are teams, but no program of intensely competitive contests among schools with cheerleaders and pre-game bonfires. School, whether grade school, high school, or college, is intended for study, and the emphasis is on high marks in the classroom rather than on a high score on the football field. Even so, occasionally there is newspaper criticism of over-emphasis of sports in some schools.”

(to be continued)

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Astana Billboards of Vets from “Great Patriotic War”

Yesterday’s bike ride along the highway to Astana’s airport yielded many photos of true heroes. Bold and honorable men and women who loved their Motherland enough to fight for their freedom against the Nazi Germans. That is, if you believe the Soviet version that the freedom they gained from the Bolsheviks (means “majority” in Russian which Lenin’s cohort wasn’t really a majority against comrade Kerensky who originally overthrew the Russian czar) was TRUE freedom.  Confused yet?

Let me explain, before the 1917 revolution there were many Kazakh nomads on the steppes who moved their sheep and cattle around and had strong connections with their property and their families that went back many thousands of years. Tradition, tradition!!! My husband (an ex-Sovietologist)  is currently studying about agriculture in Kazakhstan, something he did back in 1992-1995 when he first came to the Almaty area.  My sad and despairing point is that many of these Kazakhs or Kazakhstanis were forced to fight in a war after their nomadic lifestyle had been decimated by the collectivization policies from Moscow. Those who fought in what we as westerners know as World War II was necessarily dubbed “Great Patriotic War” by Leader Stalin (Ironman) as if to rally the troops around the concept of patriotism and love of the Motherland.  If these veterans in Kazakhstan are still living, they probably have many sad stories to tell even before they witnessed the bloodshed of the war on USSR soil.  That was sad enough, the reason I blog is to highlight the neglected facts from a Kazakh perspective that seemingly are covered over by history books written in the Soviet Union’s favor.

I draw my readers’ attention to the misnomer of the name of the war while at the same time I do not wish to negate the tragedy of those who bravely fought in it and saw many of their own die on the battlefield.  They are all heroes and many of those lived on after the war are much loved by their families.  I know, I have all my Kazakh students write about their grandparents and I get story after story about how these vets are greatly admired.  I will feature their photos the next several days to honor these vets as well.

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Madina’s Grandfather was a Distinguished Teacher of USSR

Everyone has grandparents.  I have them too, but I had not any time in the past which I had spent with them.  My grandfather (his name was Satbay) on the side of my mother had closed his eyes by my half year of age.  So, I do not know what kind of person he was, but I know that he was a teacher of math and physics.

When he was a little boy, the authorities had shot dead his parents and he had to change his family name to Aronov.  He did not tell anything about his youth in such a way so my mom cannot narrate me anything that I want to know today.  He was a distinguished teacher of USSR and some information was written in encyclopedia, but it is not enough for me.  His wife, my grandmother, was an orphan too, her mother froze up so she was taken into another family from an orphanage.

What about my grandparent son the side of my father?  I cannot say anything about them too.  I know they lived in Turkmenia all this time and had not any scope to connect with us because authorities did not give any permission for their passage.  Their ancestors had moved from Kazakhstan about 70-80 years ago, when life in their native land had become unbearable.  However, two or three years ago, they returned to Kazakhstan again.  So that twice I have met my grandmother and once my grandfather since my birth.

I don’t feel anything toward them except respect.  I don’t blame them therefore, I just deal with it because I understand that I can do nothing about this problem of not knowing more about them.

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Adil A’s Brave Grandfather Fought the Nazis

During the World War II a lot of people lost their lives in order to make us happy at the present. Huge number of young generation died in this terrible war. I want to tell you about my grandfather who became a hero of the World War II. My grandfather Zhassybayev Aben was born in 1925 in Kazakhstan, Kaskelen region, Politotdel village.

In 1943 he was sent to the Northern part of the Kazakhstani region, to serve for the national USSR army. A lot of young people were sent from the Almaty region to the northern part Petropavlovsk region. After passing three month army courses, they were allocated to serve in each part of the Soviet Union region. Grandfather’s rifle battalion was sent to the Ukraine to defeat German Nazis army. After successful resistance, they invaded into Europe via Warsaw, Sandomir, Kalish cities. All these cities were destroyed by German armies, but most of these were salvaged by the Soviet Red Army. Later my grandfather was honored for his bravery against invading enemy aggression to other countries, especially those which were located in the USSR.

In 1953 he came to Almaty city to study in a university where he passed an exam to the Kazakh National pedagogical university, in a major of Geography. During these years, education for my grandfather was a first place priority. In 1957 with great marks, he graduated. Later in 1957 he was appointed as a professor in a Kaskelen region, Zhetysu village local school. He had good authority among students, everyone respected him because of his punctuality, the way of his teaching and for being fair to everybody. In 1992 he was appointed as a director of the Zhetysu school. My father told me that he was calm, not only at school but even at home.

In a conclusion I want to say that I am very proud that I had such a wonderful Grandfather.

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Igor’s Grandmother Helped Raise Her Younger Siblings

Grandparents are important and influential persons in all people’s lives. They are those people who take care of you and love you. They are special persons who can give you wise advice. As a child I was unbelievably close to one of my grandparents. Her name was Nadezhda and she was born in 1924 in Almaty. Her parents died early, so at the age of eighteen she started to work a lot to earn enough money for her three smaller sisters and two brothers. The only job that she could find for her first time was a ticket seller in the nearest theater.

It was hard times because World War Two drained all the human and food resources from USSR. Nevertheless, neighbors and just, good people helped my grandmother to raise her sisters and brothers. My grandmother wanted to get a better job, but she didn’t have any specialization. That is why she spent all her free time studying and then she was accepted in college. Later she graduated as an accountant. Time passed and life got easier, grandma succeeded in work and married only when all of her sisters and brothers finished their education and were able to care about themselves.

My grandma has always been a gentle and kind person. She taught me respect for others, and showed me with her experience that love and feelings are important things in my life and that I don’t have to pay attention to material things or what people look like externally. Even though grandma was old, she always had a strong desire to enjoy life. Every morning when it was very early, she liked to go to the supermarket. She said that going shopping early in the morning was better because she could find everything fresh such as vegetables and fruits. I think she was right about that. After my grandmother bought everything, she always liked to cook for the whole family. On the weekends she used to go to countryside where she had small house. I remember myself helping grandma to plant trees near that house.

Furthermore, my grandmother was always in tune to the new things in the world. For example, she always cared about fashion, economics or important issues in the world. Grandmother’s goal was to see our family full of happiness and to see us growing up healthy and happy because she wanted me and my family to have a successful future. My grandmother died three years ago, but only now I realize how special she was and how much love she had given to me.

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Tolegen’s Great Grandfather Tried to Rescue Both Sons

People do not often pay much attention to their grandparents’ life, but it is considered as very important knowledge to understand them and even yourself. Furthermore their life is completely different than it is now which was true of my grandfather. Kenzhin Asi was born in 1922 in the village Kowek, that is in Eastern Kazakhstan, in the former Soviet Union. His mother died, so he had only his father who was working out on the field from dawn to sundown and a little brother. In the 1930s of the 20th century in the USSR was having a famine that heavily affected Kazakhstan and its people.

So the Soviet government issued a law, according to which every child had to be taken to an orphanage, this law did not avoid my grandfather and his brother. Things became more terrible when the orphanage started to change its location.  However, my great grandfather did not agree with this law.   So one night he stole his elder son and on the next night he planned to rescue the other one, but unfortunately the next day was the day of moving and his little son gone forever.

Then after some years, my grandfather finished school and started serving in the army, from this point new chapter of his life began. He participated in the Soviet – Finnish war and then in 1941 in Second World War. On 20th of April in 1945 he was heavily shot in the battles near the Balaton Lake and braved the victory in the hospital of Budapest. He was honored by Order Red Star and Medal of Honor. Finally he came back home to Kazakhstan in 1947.

After some years, he married my grandmother. The whole family consisted of eight people; they had six children, five sons and one daughter, my mother. Meanwhile he decided to continue education to get a higher one. In 1960 he graduated from Law School and started working in the law-enforcement agencies. He liked his work and was not retired until he got to age 70, combining his job with looking after children.

In 1995 my grandfather died in love and peace.

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