Posts tagged Caspian Sea

“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:

“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?


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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Gaukhar’s Grandpa and family were repressed as kulaks

    I want to tell you about my grandpa. His name is Zait. My grandpa was born in 1921 in Mangistay, the west of Kazakhstan near Caspian sea. His father was a respectable, rich man and had 3 children. In 1930-1932 in Kazakhstan and other Soviet republics started the process called dispossession of the kulaks. Kulaks were people who were not poor and who had any property. Everything was confiscated from land to cattle, everything that was earned by hard work. Moreover all kulaks and their families became the subjects of repressions. The family of my grandpa could be repressed too, so my great grandfather decided to leave all and to put to flight from the country with his family: wife and three sons. They ran to Russia and this road was very difficult.

During their escape my great grandfather died because of infarction. So great grandma and children were left without the head of the family, but they had to continue their flight. Fortunately grandpa, his brothers and mom still achieved the point of destination- Russia. They settled in Orenburg city. At this period my grandpa was only 12 years old, his younger brother was 10 years old and elder brother was 17. My grandpa at the age of 12 decided himself to stay in Orenburg’s orphan’s home with his younger brother. He made this decision in order to help his family to survive, because it would be very hard for his mother to keep three children. Great grandma was opposed to his 12 years old son’s decision, she didn’t want to leave her children in the orphan’s home, however she had to agree because it was the only way to survive. My great grand mother lived with the elder son in Orenburg and always visited her younger sons. She soon realized that the orphan’s home was very good; there her children received good education. My grandpa was taught how to play on a great variety of musical instruments and developed his musical talent. In 1941 my grandpa at the age of 20 and his brothers were called for army because the Great Patriotic War started.

    During the War grandpa received a lot of different medals, orders, ribbons and other awards of honor and bravery. In 1943 he and his battalion were encircled by enemies and taken to captivity. The whole battalion was sent to Italy. There grandpa was held in concentration camp till the end of the War. In 1945 my grandpa was released and sent back to Russia.

After all he finally returned to his mother, his elder brother returned from the war too. But the younger brother of my grandpa was missing in action during the Great Patriotic War. Grandpa was trying to find his brother all his life. In 1947 grandpa married to my grandma, whose name was Zia. They lived near grandpa’s mother in their own house. In 1950 my grandma gave a birth to my aunt and three years later my mom was born. My mother has three sisters. My grandpa lived in this house near the Ural River in Orenburg region whole his life. My mother and her sisters moved to Kazakhstan when they became grown up. My grandpa died in 2001 when I was 9 years old. When I was a child me, my family, all my aunts and their families used to visit him very often.

I decided to write about my grandpa- Zait because despite severe periods in his life he always smiled a lot, he was always very cheerful and kind. My grandpa for me is the evidence of human’s strength, will, bravery and kindness. He underwent many ordeals and never gave up. Every time when I think about my grandpa a great feeling of pride and admiration arouse in me!!!

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Timur is very proud of his Grandparents


My family consists of my mother, father and a little brother. My mother’s parents are still alive. My grandfather was born in West Kazakhstan province seventy six years ago. His father was a fisherman on the Caspian Sea. My grandfather graduated from Medical Institute and started his work as a chief doctor of Rayon hospital in the village. He married my grandmother and they have grown four children, one of them is my mother.

Currently, there are thirteen grandchildren including me. The Soviet government awarded him with different prizes and remuneration. He devoted 40 years of his life to the strengthening of the West Kazakhstan province health system. He is an author of more than 100 scientific articles including three textbooks for students. He is a well organized person and works as a teacher in University of Aturau.

My grandmother was born in Central Kazakhstan’ province. Her father was a famous journalist in Karaganda city. My grandmother had worked as a specialist of sanitary epidemiological service in Atyrau city.

My father’s parents have already died. My father’s father was born in Semipalatinsk where he worked in a bank. He had participated in the Second World War as a soldier of Soviet Army.

He was awarded by the Soviet government several times. He died in 1974 because of multiple wounds. My father’s mother worked on a farm. She had a very strong personality and she was elected as a chairman of a collective farm. She, with her husband, had raise 8 children. During her whole life she had worked hard and tried to give her own and adopted children all she could – education, food and clothes. She often told us different stories about her life back in 1944 when the War started. It was difficult times when people had been working for even 20 hours a day and night for the Front. Only hope of Victory was helping them. She remembered how she met my grandfather from the Front when the war ended. They decided to never separate again.

I’m very proud of my grandparents. They showed me how strong we can be.


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