Archive for December, 2008

Liya’s paper: Effects of Soviet Ideology

I – Introduction

“The beak of ideology always precisely gets when hits on heads of fellow citizens, and never gets in grain of true” (Iskander, F.). These words of Soviet writer Fazil Iskander lead us to a question of ideology in the USSR. The appearance of such a strong idea of collective mind was a conclusive consequence of Soviet regime setting. As Soviet Union assumed total equality of all people, those people had to be similar to each other. It was a necessary condition for living in the USSR. So, population rapidly tended to an absolute similarity to each other. At first sight, this process had been going almost successfully. However, on the closer consideration the situation was not so pretty as it seemed to be. Soviet ideology had cut a great amount of Russian intelligence of the USSR and also destroyed millions of lives of people in USSR. The problem of ideology appeared because of extremely inaccurate government’s attitude to people in the country and too strong pressure on the population and which has been passed on to a complex of modern problems in the countries of the former Soviet Union. 

II – Background of ideological problems in USSR

The situation with ideology always was complicated. Before the Great October Revolution there was the imperial regime and there was another pressure on people – a duty to love the Russian tsar. Soldiers were fighting for their country every time and they had no choice. The only way was to go to the battlefield and try to save native lands even at the price of their own lives. Soldiers got trauma and shell-shocked but they were ready to die for the Russian Empire and it’s strong ideology. Merridale (2000) noticed: “For Russian traditionalists, the only way for a soldier to fight was ‘with the cross of Christ before his eyes’”(p. 41). So, before the Soviet Union was organized, the role of ideology was in the religious sphere of life for Russians.

Then after the October Revolution the religious ideology and belief in tsar were crushed and exchanged to a new viewpoint – a collective mind. The population of an enormous state Russian Empire passed from one hand to another and got under a new and stronger ideology. Again there was no way to hide – they had to learn how to live according the new rules.

III – Extent of a problem – the possibility to survive under pressure

These changes became a serious problem for people. An idea of collective mind, the dominance of proletariat and “bright future” built by “dark” part of population seemed attractive only from a safe distance. In reality, there was not so bright and easy life. One of the respondents, Solomon Budiyanskiy tells about the reality of the high socialist society:

“When I was a young specialist I was sent to a business-trip to an ‘udarnaya stroika’ – a great construction near Sverdlovsk. I was inspired by the opportunity of working for my future. However, really the situation was directly opposite to my expectations. When I saw those awful people, who were working in this construction – people who were prisoners and criminals – I understood that there is no any ‘bright future’ ahead – it is a great deceit for a great country”.


According to Solomon’s words, life that seemed noble was in fact horrible and proletariat – people that seemed to be bright and positive, were horrible people. They drunk every day, every hour, they may kill a person without confusion – they were a real bottom of society. The main thing is that they did not believe in any future, communism or any other dogmas. They were totally crushed by the state’s ideology.

There is an amazing fact that elder immigrants from the former Soviet Union have serious problems with their mental health. The adaptation in the new country was a difficult and extremely uncomfortable process for them – life without their specific home land tends to destroy people’s minds (Polyakova & Pacquiao, 2006). Although those Soviet citizens, who are over 60 years old are at risk of serious effects on their lives now.

Moreover, the Soviet ideology assumed consideration of all citizens’ problems publicly. For instance, Military Collegium that is a concrete case of public consideration of person’s private problem (Jansen & Petrov, 2006). Except this strong example there were lots of such cases: school meeting – special ‘lineika’, organizational meeting for consider colleagues’ own problems. It caused differentiation on relationships in the society because such meetings for consideration of private problems were the same as provocations. And people, who had got in these situations, were in a danger of isolation from their social groups (Pascal & Manning, 2000). 

IV – Solution for a problem – Freedom for ideas

Unfortunately, in that situation there was no available solution when the Soviet party had power. The reason of that was obvious – creation of such a strong ideology was an aim of the Soviet government. The only way to rule the USSR was usage of strongest pressure on the population. Now the Soviet Union disappeared with all its features and also the legendary Soviet ideology. But all the problems caused by the 70 Soviet years stay with independent states of former USSR. And the only solution is to delete all vestiges of Soviet times and actually start a new life – to start the way from the beginning again. No matter how it might be difficult – people again have no other choice.

V – Conclusion

The main problem of countries of the former USSR is a confused and disordered way of living. People there are thinking of past ideology, trying to follow it and even feel nostalgia for their past lives. They even are suffering from a strong nostalgia (Fitzpatrick, 2007) . However the solution of these problems is to change lifestyle and viewpoints. For the process of such transition the time is needed, so states should provide significant changes faster. But it is also a ‘stick with two ends’. Governments should finally start caring for their citizens. And it would be the best way to go to the future. ‘The third is not given’. 




Budiyanskiy, Solomon (personal interview) Nov. 15, 2008

Fitzpatrick, S. (2007). The Soviet Union in the twenty-first century. Journal of European

 Studies, 37(1), 51-71.

Iskander, F. Quotes and Aphorisms. From: Wikiquote.


Jansen, M. & Petrov. N. (2006). Mass Terror and the Court: The Military Collegium of

            the  USSR. Europe-Asia Studies, 58(4), 589-602.


Merridale, C. A. (2000). The Collective Mind: Trauma and Shell-shock in Twentieth-century

 Russia. Journal of Contemporary History, 35(1), 39-55.

Pascall , G. & Manning, N. (2000). Gender and social policy: comparing welfare states in

Central and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. Journal of European Social Policy, 10(3), 240-266.

Polyakova, S. A. & Pacquiao, D. F. (2006). Psychological and Mental Illness Among Elder

 Immigrants From the Former Soviet Union. Journal of Transcultural Nursing, 17(40),


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Diana’s Grandparents Solved their Famine Problem

I. Introduction.

Nowadays young people think less about an elder generation, especially about their difficult periods in life, when they were not so far from death… I have heard and read a lot of stories about different types of difficulties from my relatives and from magazines. Also, there are movies about people’s lives at diverse situations. Many people even do not know about hard times, which are connected with The Great Patriotic War.  Kazakhstan’s famine after and during WWII was a great problem for many people but my grandparents found a solution by getting products from their own garden and own cattle.

II. Kazakhstan before World War II.

Before the Second World War in Kazakhstan, as a part of USSR, a situation was not still and stable. Because after establishing Bolshevism, there appeared waves of repressions. From setting up the Soviet government, concentration camps were being created, where ideological enemies of Bolshevism were sent. The main place was The GULAG, where a lot of innocent people died. “A huge number of investigators were employed to provide the “evidence” to cast victims into the GULAG”, Davies (2004). Most of them were people from the intelligence class. All, according to Tolts (2006), about 110 thousands of people were sent to these camps.

Many Kazakh people in auls did not even know about the situation in the whole country of USSR. They were living in their houses, as they had lived before.  Inhabitants of auls could not communicate with cities and towns; it took a lot of time. From different sources they rarely got news from even the nearest towns. Maybe in other data it was not so bad position, but everything was told to me by my grandmother’s sister. Her name is Sara, she was born in 1937, but as she heard from her parents it was not hard to live before World War II. In that time they had enough food to live well.  They had a lot of lambs, about five cows, several horses. Also, in their place was where they could grow their own vegetables. My Great grandfather took care of everything about that.

III. Kazakhstan during World War II.

22nd of June 1941 Fascist Germany invaded into USSR’s territory. In that seriously hard time, Kazakhstan became an industrial center of Front. Every fifth man was sent to the Front, to fight. It was a debt before each country, to protect it from different enemies. Two young ladies wanted to fight for their country instead of a brother or father, because one of them had no male person in her family.  This girl was Hero of USSR, Manshuk Mametova. There were a lot of excellent persons, from Kazakhstan, who could become a Hero! To fight, people needed food, to get more power everyone understood current situation and tried to help as they could… There was organization “everything for the Front”. They collected everything that people owned. My great grandfather was called to fight in 1942…from this time my grandfather thought about his children and said goodbye.

IV. Effects of World War II.

Few people know that “cost of the 1941–45 war to the Soviet Union was a population loss of 26–27 million people” Hayanes (2003). Economy of the Country decreased, but it was tried to be recovered, “Two other factors in the Soviet economic recovery were also partly a result of her role in the Second World War”, Pethybridge (1983).  Starvation became another problem, which had been caused by war, even though this problem was not spread out all over the World. Because of famine, citizens became sick; shortage of vitamins, different illnesses started to spread out. It was not a great famine as was in 1932-1933, when millions of people died, “the number of famine deaths in Ukraine was 3.2 million”, Ellman (2007).


People in auls lost their cattle, they did not eat well. More often they were eating different porridges. As my grandparent aunt said, she with her little sister (my grandmother) with their mother were left alone. They were needed in men’s help, but there was not anyone who could. And because of that many women started to do men’s job. They had just one cow, which was the breadwinner for them, but one day this cow died, fell into well. After that, they approximately did not eat good, useful meal.  

To feed a young generation, women grew different types of vegetables, who had meat; they tried to share with it.

IV. Conclusion

 In conclusion, even in such hard times, when everything was done for country, when people were sharing with their last things for the Front, people did not die from famine because they had an enormous desire to live and find any ways to feed children. They believed that each citizen of USSR must help to save their Homeland.  Who could not do such things, they simply died.


Davies, R. W. (2004). Book review. (Paul R. Gregory and Valery Lazarev, (2004). The economics of Forced Labor: The Soviet Gulag. Stanford, CA: Hoover Institution Press, xviii _ 212 pp.)

Ellman, M. (2007). Stalin and the Soviet famine of 1932 – 33 revisited. EuropeAsia Studies, 59(4), 663 – 693.

Hamzina, S. (2008). Personal interview.

Hayanes, M. (2003). Counting Soviet deaths in the great Patriotic War: a note. EuropeAsia Studies, 55(2), 303-309.

Pethybridge, R. (1983).  Post – War reconstruction. Soviet Union. History Today, 29-32.

Tolts, M. (2006), Ethnic composition of Kazakhstan on the eve of the Second World War: Re-evaluation of the 1939 Soviet census results. Central – Asian Survey  25(1-2), 143-14.

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Zhanna’s Grandfather: The Impact of WWII

I. Introduction

The years of the World War II was very difficult period not only for Kazakh people but for other nations too. Because of that period of time there were real starvation, shortage of goods and clothes. These problems happened because of the long World War II which continued about four years. The war and famine diminished families so that young children struggled to survive, we have our grandparents to thank for the difficulties they endured a children in working hard in such severe conditions.

II. Soviet famine

The Soviet Union has made much of its own process of rapid economic development. One of the most severe problems of that period was the great famine. Although this famine appeared to have resulted in the death of approximately five million people, it was under secret cover for many years because of the strict rules that had a very big influence on the people. The Soviet Union, in fact, had never officially admitted that the famine had existed. American and English studies on Russia occasionally mention a famine in Ukraine but generally provide few or no details. According to Dalrymple D.G. (1964) and his analyses of Soviet famine the great starvation was noted in Kazakhstan too, but even excluding these areas, along with Kazakhstan, the area and the population in the grip of starvation exceeded the famine.

III. Ukraine experience

Ukraine experienced two very severe demographic crises during the Soviet era: the 1932-33 famine and after World War II. Authors Vallin J., Mesle F., Adamets S. and Pyrozhkov S. (2002) have made a research of Ukrainian Population Losses and showed that of all the Republics of the USSR, Ukraine country was one of the most severely hit by the series of disasters that struck the Soviet Union – World War II and the German invasion, the 1947 famine, successive waves of repression, and the massive deportations of the 1930s and 1940s. Also Soviet catastrophes had long been a prohibited subject, even for scientific research. During and after World War II, Ukrainian territory changed dramatically. However the 20 years between 1939 and 1959 represent a very long period compared with the years directly affected by the crucial events and wartime problems experienced by civil populations. Vallin J., Mesle F., Adamets S. and Pyrozhkov S. (2002) conclude that “the full impact of the war and 1947 famine resulted in 7.4 million unexpected deaths”(p.261).

IV. The World’s Hunger

Another scientist Norton (1946) found that the basic food problem during the war was how to settle the huge domestic demand for the better types of food with large commitments for supplying armed forces and allies. The author pointed out that the real difficulty was simply people’s inability to produce the food needed to meet all these demands and engagements and the basic problem of starvation continued into the post- war period. Also one of the main reasons is lack of supply and of land on which to produce the needed amounts of food.

V. Starvation

According to Seeman (2006) during the war a lack of food affected the whole population which led to diseases and caused a high number of deaths. It is very important to note that nutrition was perceived as a problem during the period from 1941 to 1943 in particular. Also in many hospitals there was a significant increase of tuberculosis which resulted because of lack of food. Insufficient food and soap shortage had become one of the reasons of infections and diseases.


VI. Soviet Society

The Great Patriotic War of 1941–45 was part of World War II, which was socially different. According to Zinoviev A. (2006) it included two types of war: one to redivide the world map between the West and Japan, countries that had the same type of social system  and one between countries with different social systems – capitalism and communism. By Zinoviev the war that Hitler’s Germany waged against the Soviet Union was, socially speaking, an attempt by the West to destroy Communist society in the Soviet Union. Also the author noted that:

“The war dragged on for almost four years. In peacetime, that is not

long, but in the midst of total war involving all the most important

aspects of life and the whole population, it is an eternity. To those

who lived through it, the war seemed endless” (p.93).


Also Zinoviev gives an interesting opinion about Soviet Union system. He distinguished that social war showed the dominance of the Communist social system over the capitalist system, its ability to endure difficulties and disasters in time and space. And because of this victory, communism began to spread across the planet.

VII. Conclusion

The great starvation during the World War II reduced families and a lot of people, especially young children and women, struggled to survive by working hard in very severe conditions. Nevertheless my great grandfather and his family experienced this war and all these disasters. My great grandfather was a very brave, honest and kind person. My grandfather Belgibayev S. (2006) said:

“…when the World War II started I was only 13 years old and when my father said about it to me I did not fully understand the meaning of these words. When the years passed and the war ended I really understood it, I felt it and saw by my own eyes how much suffering, devastation, casualties and sorrow this war brought to our nation”.


In that period of time people, especially women and small children, started to work in order to feed themselves. By my grandfathers stories I know that a lot of young children as my grandfather in the years of the war worked in the factories which produced goods for people who went away to the war. They began to earn for living and their childhood passed in very difficult environment. It was a very good experience and at the same time very hard school for my grandfather and all the children who grew up in the years of World War II.



Adamets, S.; Mesle, F.; Pyrozhkov, S. & Vallin, J. (2002). A New Estimate of Ukrainian Population Losses during the Crises of the 1930s and 1940s. Population Studies, 56(3), 249-264.

Belgibayev, S. (2006). Personal interview.

Dalrymple, D.G. (1964). The Soviet Famine of 1932-1934. Soviet Studies, 15(3), 250-


Norton, L.J. (1946). The World’s Hunger by Frank A. Pearson; Floyd A. Harper. Journal of Farm Economics, 28(2), 615-618.

Seeman, M. V. (2006). Starvation in Psychiatric Institutions in Sweden. International Journal of Mental Health, 35(4), 81-87.

Zinoviev, A. (2006). My Era on the Great Patriotic War of 1941–1945. Russian Politics and Law, 44(3), 83-97.

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Aida’s Grandmother: Life in ALZHIR

I. Introduction

70 years ago Kazakhstan was the place of exile and deportation for millions of Soviet people. There were 953 camps and colonies of the punishment system functioned throughout the country in the years of Stalin repressions. One of them is sadly known as Akmolinskiy camp for wives of traitors betrayed (ALZHIR from the Russian initials) the Fatherland was based in the village of Malinovka. That was the sole camp in the USSR, where about 20 thousand women – mothers, wives, daughters of the repressed were imprisoned (Elmann 2007, p. 668). My grandmother who spent more than ten years in ALZHIR, the elite of the Kazakhs, and many others like her survived because of the extremely strong desire to live, to hope, to love and make the Kazakh steppe independent, free, and to keep it for the next generation.

II. Background of labor camps

The command–administrative system leaded by Bolshevik communist party required to totally subordinate to the aims and system of Soviet time, no one had the permission to think, and talk differently (Rosefielde 1994, p1). Individuals, especially well educated people were proactive to establish their own views to be independent, free to think and protect the values they believed in, that means they were against for Politburo’s system. Such people were prosecuted and finally were killed and their relatives became the victims of repressions and deportations. 1932 – 33 years were marked by savage and extra-judicial repression period of time (Elmann 2007, p. 668). It led in 1932 – 33 to a quarter of a million people being charged by the OGPU and more than 200,000 sentences (normally of 5 – 10 years in the Gulag) of which more than 11,000 seem to have been death sentences.

“I was 21 year old new married, young woman and have just started my life with lovely person, we didn’t even had the honeymoon yet, when, suddenly, all my plans and dreams crashed, my husband was killed (after 10 years I knew) and I was repressed for 10 year sentence to ALZHIR, just because I was the wife of the enemy of the country,”

said Mrs. Balken Sultanova (interview 2005) the prisoner of ALZHIR. On July 3, 1937, Head of NKVD (Peoples’ Committee for Internal Affairs) of the Western Siberia Mr. Mironov and Peoples’ Commissar of Internal Affairs of Kazakhstan Mr. Zalin simultaneously received an encoded telegram, which prescribed them to organize two concentration camps fenced with razor-wire and having advanced security and increased guards to exclude escapees. These facilities were not meant for assassins and thefts – they were meant for fragile women: wives, mothers, sisters… Of the two camps Kazakhstan ALZHIR was the biggest women’s colony where instead of three thousand prisoners twenty thousand were kept. The telegram was signed by the Head of GULAG Mr. Berman, but was initiated by Mr. Yezhov. Neither sickness, nor pregnancy or babies could prevent women from being kept here. Absurd, but even the former wives of the parricides were arrested. The authority thought that women shared points of view of their husbands, meaning they were potentially dangerous.

III. Extent of problems – living conditions in the labor camps

“Arrests were quite fast – there was no investigation held: a woman would not even have time to pack her belongings and say goodbye to her relatives, who in their turn were arrested later as well,” shared Mrs. Sultanova.  “Women in home slippers or light shoes on their feet stepped into the thick Akmola snowdrifts”. Prisoners worked in the gardens, took care of cattle. Also, they cut the reeds, worked in the forests and felled the trees to earn daily rate for food. Moreover, they worked in extremely difficult natural conditions because the temperature could fall to -50 º C (Zaitseva & Homburg 2005, p.57).

IV. Solution for problems – hope, love and help

“The daily rate of food was given according to how much you worked, 200 grams of bread and may be sometimes porridge. I was young and worked very hard and over made my daily standard that is why I survived. But, unfortunately many people were dying because of starvation and hard work,” said Mrs. Sultanova.

Also, another Gulag prisoner Hava Volovich in the article of Ruthchild (2000) said very horrific facts about the living conditions in labor camps:

You were allowed into the bathhouse once a month and given half a bowl of water: as for a laundry – forget it. Every puddle of rainwater was precious, and when they wanted to wash their clothes, women would carry their bowls around the camp and get their friends to piss in them, and then use the urine to wash a sweater or a skirt. (p.8)

Children of the parricides were sent to orphanages all over the huge country. Relatives or friends were purposefully divided. But even in the darkest time a human being is led by hope. Only the hope to see their children again helped those women not to break-down in ALZHIR. The hope to see and live again with their family made them survive in that difficult and savage time. “One day when we came after very difficult working day to our barracks, I started to recite the poem of the Alexander Pushkin about brave and hope,” said Mrs. Sultanova. “The jailer of our barrack stayed silently and than added: even we separated you from your family, high elite community and forced to hard work you are still morally unbreakable. I wonder at your power!”

V. Conclusion

To sum up, I would like to add Mrs. Sulatanova’s words: “Extremely strong desires to live made us alive and survive, because we were responsible for the future of the Kazakhs.” Nowadays when Kazakhstan is independent and a sovereign country and have the legal constitution about human rights, we lay our heads to our brave and really patriot hero ancestors. That is why every year on the 31st of May we remind the victims of political repressions and is called as the Memorial Day. The horrific memories of this time period lives not only in books, but also in the memories of the people who survived the Stalin’s terror up till nowadays. The cultural heritage of Kazakhs can be enriched not only with the help of books and Internet but also by accessing the primary sources-the survivors’ stories. History-is our future, for those who don’t know their past will never be successful in future. There is the old Kazakh proverb tells “Who don’t know his history, he is like the tree without roots”. Therefore, history should be treated as a treasure, for it is the only thing that will remain living through ages and will made the new generation of Kazakhstan be proud of their ancestors and be inspired to work and live for the well being of their country.

Works Cited

Ellman, M. (2007). Discussion article Stalin and the Soviet famine of 1932 – 33 revisited. Europe-Asia Studies. 4 (59), 663 – 693.

Rosefielde, S. (1994), Retreat from utopia: the reconfiguration of Russia Socialism. Atlantic Economic Journal. 2 (22), 1-12.

Ruthchild G. R, (2000) Heroes of our time. The women’s review of books. 6(17), 7-8.

Sultanova, B. (personal interview). 25 May. 2005.

Zaitseva E & Hamburg E, (2005). Catalytic chemistry under Stalin: science and scientists in times of repression. Ambix, 1(52), 45-65.

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“Black Ice” AND Rules for Walking in Almaty!!!

Last winter I had someone write in my blog comments who took issue with what I wrote about “black ice.”  He said it didn’t exist and I say it does.  I guess he might say there is no such thing as a “white lie?” Anyway, I tried to walk on the “looks are deceiving but I think it is black ice” this morning to get down hill to my university.  It is no fun to try and navigate on this stuff so I prefer to take the bus to minimize my chances of landing on the sidewalk.  I felt inspired to write down the rules for walking in Almaty since I do so much walking going to and fro in my little area of this former capital.  These are the rules that I try to abide by, maybe some of my readers have others they might like to add.



1)       Always walk with one eye to the ground and one eye looking ahead lest you stumble on uneven pavement or a crack in the sidewalk. Remember also, you are either going uphill or down. Nowhere are you on the level, nowhere!

2)       Beware of open man hole covers but NEVER step on closed manhole covers as they could pivot half way and open up and swallow you into Almaty’s sewer system.

3)       Painted white lanes against black asphalt on the roads (called Zebras) are meant only as pretty patterns to drivers.  Walkers supposedly can legitimately cross here on highly trafficked street but walkers learn to scurry across and NOT walk because it tries the patience of those drivers who actually oblige and “stop” for you. They do a passive aggressive slow roll without stopping to show their tolerance of your presence.

4)       When you are about to cross on a Zebra crossing be sure to wait for others on the other side of the busy street to cross from the other side as there is force in numbers and the cars are more likely to stop for you and them. Not as likely to stop for just ONE pedestrian.  You also have ready witnesses if you are run down by an errant driver.

5)       When cars DO actually stop for you on the Zebra painted lines, mouth the words “Thank You” to them if you are an American wearing a backpack, they would expect English.  Or if you are more native in appearance with a fur coat and accompanying hat, then you should mouth the word “spa-see-ba” and give them a kindly look. The two put together may seem oxymoronic but a smile goes a long way for all drivers who are supposedly stuck in traffic and feel put upon to stop for one mere pedestrian.

6)       If cars inch up close to you within a foot of your body, you are entitled to give the drivers of cars a leering, dark look.  (right, as if you can intimidate them.)

7)       If cars come six inches from your body, under NO circumstances are you to use your swinging backpack, hand in a fist, rock or other sharp object to intimidate them.

8.    If a car actually does knick you as you are crossing legitimately on a zebra striped line, then if you use anything in retaliation, you do so at your own risk.  Drivers have been known to stop their car, get out and throttle the walker who bruised their car.

9)       Best in all above circumstances to gently curse the driver under your breath with the word “jerk” or “idiot.”  That helps to release the pent up tension of your dare devil crossing transaction.  Just let it go at that.  This is life in the big city, not a cake walk in the country.

10)    However, if a car actually stops for you as you cross a zebra but the car behind him does not stop, you have supposedly created a rear-end collision.  Best thing to do as a walker is to KEEP WALKING otherwise you will have both drivers mad at you.  Let them settle the dispute by summoning the police to sort out who is at fault.  Obviously the one who did not stop.

11)    Police now are stationed during peak traffic times at zebra crossings, always follow their cue when to cross.  Thank them as you do and get their perfunctory “pazhalsta” response.  Makes your day to be polite to someone who commonly takes bribes from those pesky, intimidating drivers who want to be in command of the road.

12)    When you come to bus stops as a walker, stay clear of the person who is waiting for the bus and where the bus will presumably stop.  Always veer to the back of the person who will bullet for the open door of a nearly stopped bus.

13)    When you are trying to pass a slower walker in front of you on the sidewalk, weigh the odds as to which direction they will lean towards and take the opposite tack.  Sometimes it does seem that slower walkers tend to go both right and left simultaneously.  At that point, you just have to resolutely take matters into your own hands and gently nudge them and say “excuse me,” preferably in Russian, and then walk even faster past them so they know you mean business.  Once cleared of them, the sidewalk is yours to navigate once again and follow all the above precautions.

14)    However, once the snow has fallen and if not swept up, your “ice legs” need to be in command of the slippery slopes that last the entire winter.  Expect to fall at least once or twice in a winter and if you don’t fall, you have good cleets or boots that have kept you upright.  Brag about your Sorels until all your foreign friends order new, “ice worthy” boots from the U.S. or Canada.  I recommend Canadian for warmth and comfort.  Pay no attention to the locals who wear the highheeled, spiked leather boots worn by stylish women. They happen to be passengers in the big, black Hummer vehicles that try to run you down at the zebras.

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A glance back to my 2008 activities

In anticipation of condensing my last year into a single page for a Christmas letter greeting to friends and family, I reviewed what I wrote every day on this blog for the past year.  I was surprised how much I had written and even more surprised at what I had forgotten.  I scrolled through ALL months of 2008 and the following capitalizes on the high and low points:

Jan. – friends and family, domino games, friends successful adoptions of boys from Ukraine and China, interviews

Feb. – hearts, beauty pageants for niece, ice and icicles, Damah films for students

March – Koke Tobe, technology, orality, pakazooka, American football in KZ, information explosion

April – Krylov’s fable, “Silent Steppe,” Olympics torch parade, President’s visit, computer illiteracy

May – teachers workshops, Kazakh proverbs, wild flowers, catching plagiarists, virtual classroom, Kazakh linguist, artist Nelly Bube, Victory Day, Procrustes Bed, Elephant in the Room, Two-headed serpent

June – university graduation exercises, well kept secret sanatorium, health club privileges, Close to Eden film, tall hollyhocks, refurbished park, Schadenfreude, tall poppy syndrome, Big Almaty Lake, wildflowers, trout fishing, Kazakh traditions, roses

July – why I love teaching, 11 great MA students, fireworks and family celebration, pulling weeds, farmyard photos, our dacha, TX wedding, AZ visits, waterfights, treehouses, canoes in river

August – cobwebs, Frank Thoms, cousin camp, family reunion, 1976 journal of Russia trip, Solzhenitsyn, Hoover Institution notes from Stanford, Dark Night, “The Shack”

Sept. – my students grandparents stories, every day a new adventure into the sad Soviet past

Oct. – British journalist, students write about Almaty, Thesis statements, in-text citations, Astana, ALZHIR, Babushka visits, breakthroughs at skating rink, Aral Sea and Semipalatinsk, Almaty b.d. bash, buried treasure stories

Nov. – George Orwell, Digital Natives, Best Blog Dart Thinker Award, former Ukrainian students, multi-ethnicity, tri-lingual specialists, Dolinka, Karaganda, KarLAG, slow trains, autumn leaves, Groove Zone Duo

Dec. – “Naglyi” students, iron rice bowl policy, job satisfaction, George MacDonald, Hannah Arendt, totalitarianism, 1,000 tiny paper cuts, Kurbanait holiday, Christmas caroling, student centered vs. teacher centered.

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Outta Words, Featuring Photos Instead


Ken and Kanat close to Astana in Tselina in November


view to the south from our balcony


Billboard of the year 2008, soon drawing to an end


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