Posts tagged Akmolinsk

The Future of “World Class” Slave Mentality

Having lived in Astana, Kazakhstan for one year almost a year ago, I was in the very  bowels of the new university’s glorious start. The university once opened fall of 2010 has since been named after the current president of Kazakhstan.  I witnessed first hand how much was/is being invested into the higher education of young Kazakh students. I had many Bolashak [means “future” in Kazakh] scholars who were my working colleagues and friends. After they had lived in the U.S. or U.K. one or two years, they seemed to empathize with me as the westerner trying to wade my way through the murky politics of the new university.

However, I also saw that for their own protection they had to watch out for themselves while working unswervingly for the concept of the greater good, the future of Kazakhstan.  When I was no longer a part of the game of striving and finding my place, they struggled on without me in their own energy.  I believe the “slave mentality” existed for these young people on the lower end of the pole. Many Bolashak scholars were not paid much. Some of these highly trained individuals fared far worse if they could only secure jobs in the national universities in the old part of Astana or Almaty (former capital in southern Kazakhstan).  Supposedly obedience and slavery to the old order would help them rise to the top.

Astana means “capital” in Kazakh.  It was also known as Akmola and Akmolinsk [white grave] after it had been named during the Soviet era Tselinograd. Watch, there will be a name change soon to reflect the vision of the current president, it will undoubtedly be named after him.  “Astana” is just a place holder name.

This new city on the flat steppe may seem artificial with its strange architecture but it certainly gets your attention since most of the time there is extreme wind and cold to hamper its reputation as a capital city to be admired.  Perhaps the president has done much good in moving the capital from the south of Kazakhstan to the middle of nowhere in the north, but at what cost? Think slavery with the internal migrants (sex slaves from the rural areas of Kazakhstan in the brothels of Almaty and Astana) and the labor force who have been brought in from Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan to build these elaborate buildings.

I know for a fact the new university in Astana wants to be considered “world-class” but that can hardly be a reality if most of the people in the western world don’t even know about Kazakhstan.  That has to be infuriating and humbling for those Bolashak scholars who travel to U.K. Canada or U.S.  Yes, to discover people don’t even know their dear country, which they represent and is the ninth largest in the world, actually exists.

I think there is something very artificial about living in such a climate, no different from existing in the summer heat of Arizona where temperatures soar to 100 degrees F or more days on end. You can’t help but admire those who have lived in Astana for over 20-30 years.  The pecking order begins there whether you have any expertise in your field or not, if you have survived this city of wind and cold, you are to be reckoned with.  Note that those who are in the different ministries are the older generation who call the shots. They are to be respected and obeyed. The country will continue to lumber and lurch forward, all the while I wish the best for the Bolashak generation.  Please read this blog that shows photos of Astana and deals with his insights on Bolashak and Astana. “Molapse” was a fellow teaching colleague of mine when we taught at another “world class university” in Almaty. ‘Nuff said.

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My Kazakh Student Sanat’s Highly Esteemed Grandparents

I remember my parents telling me about their own parents from my earliest ages. I tried to put together all I do remember from what I heard into a united story presented below.

Yesshan, my father’s father, was born on 1 January, 1912 in Akmolinsk (contemporary Astana) in family of mechanist’s assistant Zhussupbek and his wife Matluba. He was the eldest of three brothers. Yesshan’s mother was originally from southern parts of contemporary Russia. Her parents moved to Akmolinsk district when she was small and died soon. Zhussupbek’s family brought her up.  Zhussupbek and Matluba loved each other from the childhood and when became mature, they got married. They put their best efforts to give children education. So my grandfather graduated from the Gymnasium in Akmolinsk and later entered Higher Military School in Tashkent.

It was thirties, the horrible time of repressions, when people used to disappear as if they never existed before. Zhussupbek passed away, and after the death of her husband Matluba went to Russia to find out something about her relatives and seek for better place for her children to live. She never returned back. Through all his life Yesshan tried to find anything about his mother, but till now, no one knows what happened to her.

After graduation from Tashkent, Yesshan worked as a mentor at first Kazakh Internat (orphan house) in Akmolinsk, among the pupils of whom he took care of were his brothers. Before Kazakhs did not have orphans since in accordance with Kazakh customs of Amengerlik, children who lost parents were adopted by close relatives, or members of tribe, otherwise these kids had no chance to survive in the severe environment of the Steppe.

The Great Patriotic War had started right after Yesshan’s marriage. So he was called as an officer to the forefront of the war actions. During the battles in Ukraine a shatter from the bomb explosion injured his head. Luckily he remained alive, but he had to wear a plastic insert the rest of his life. After spending a long time at the hospital in Moscow, he came back home far later after the end of the war. By this time his wife, who thought of him died, got married. Yesshan took his son and moved to Merke, a small countryside in the South of Kazakhstan. He espoused again and this time his elect was my grandmother. They had 10 children, and their first child, a daughter, was given a name Matluba in honor of Yesshan’s lovely mom.

My mother’s father was born in Kulan which is about 30 kilometers far from Merke in 1921. He was called to The Great Patriotic War at the age of 18. He was a participant of Leningrad siege. During winter time he had to spend hours laying in the snow or on the ice of the Neva River to secure the border of the city from the fascists’ assault. For him the War ended up with the breach of the siege ring.  He had to spend a long time in hospitals to recover. After the war he lived in Moscow with his wife, working as a policeman. But he could not endure the Moscow weather (consequences of getting cold during the Leningrad siege). Doctors advised him to move to the South, so he came back to his native Kulan, where he spent the rest of his life. The after war period was rather difficult. Although it was not publicly announced, the criminal rate was high. When striving against the thieves of communal property, he was shot from the rifle. He was killed when my mom, the youngest of the children, was only two months.

Every year my parents and relatives give Kudaitamaks (Kazakh ‘Dish to God’) in memory of each of my grandparents even though it passed a long time since they passed away. Without considering that they are my ancestors and being unbiased, I could proudly say that my grandparents were truly honest and honorable people. I wish I could resemble them.

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