Archive for April 26, 2008

Reading “The Silent Steppe”

The Silent SteppeInspiration for my screenname “Kazakhnomad” of my blog was taken from this book by Mukhamet Shayakhmetov. I use this name with great respect and admiration for him and his family and all the other Kazakhs who enjoyed a nomadic way of life before communism changed it.  Shayakhmetov is the real “Kazakh Nomad” who witnessed firsthand Stalin’s reign of terror.  I will be forever changed by one Ukrainian student’s essay eight years ago which opened my eyes to the suffering that his nation endured under Stalin’s iron fist.  The truths in this book “The Silent Steppe” concerning Kazakhstan ring true that many in the West do NOT know the evils that happened in the former Soviet Union. 

“The educated world knows little – if anything at all – of the suffering of the nomadic peoples of central Asia under the rule of Stalin and the policy of collectivization launched in 1929…” 

This truth alone, of the West’s ignorance, makes me passionate to have my Kazakh students write (in English) what their grandparents and older generation tell in emotional filled narratives spoken in Kazakh.  I want more of these kind of stories to surface and eventually be published.  My passion is no different from when I asked my Ukrianian students to bring out the stories of their families and what Stalin’s form of communism did to destroy their families.  More is known about the 7 to 10 million Ukrainian people who perished in 1932-33 thanks to James Mace, Robert Conquest’s and others’ writings.  However, I don’t want the final result to be vengeful or retalitory but rather to honor those who died prematurely and valiantly while trying to save their offspring.  The communist experiment was the worst tragedy of the twentieth century, the words from the introduction of  The Silent Steppe say it better than I ever could:

“It [Silent Steppe] is a document virtually unique, and of unchallengeable honesty and exactitude, first produced in a version in Russian under the title Sudba (‘Destiny’) and printed in Kazakhstan in 2002.  Under the deft guidance of his editor…Mukhamet Shayakhmetov has now given access to an English-speaking readership worldwide to the full narrative which seems destined to be treasured as a key resource in the annals of his fellow Kazakhs and their emerging nation.”

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