Posts tagged Enemy of the People

Debunking Myths about me (Part II)

Myth#5 – The most painful lie used against me was when I was betrayed by someone I thought of and trusted as a friend.  She twisted a sentence that I wrote in a handout for an international TESOL conference paper that I delivered last March in Denver, Colorado.  She immediately flew into a rage that she did not agree with the term “dumping ground.” Here’s the errant sentence I wrote: “The Soviet Union from the North made Kazakhstan a “dumping ground” of other nationalities, making Kazakhs a minority in their own land.”  Why had I put “dumping ground” in quotations? Because there are plenty of journal articles, while doing a literature review, that use this phrase when referring to the number of nationalities (Korean, Ukrainian, Russian, etc.) who were thrown off the train in the middle of the steppes of Kazakhstan.  Thankfully, many Kazakh sympathized and helped those people who were dumped onto Kazakh soil to find food and shelter.  I believe the spirit of generosity and hospitality extended to strangers thrown off of trains during the perilous times of Stalin’s purges says something noble about the Kazakh people, doesn’t it?

In fact, when I went to ALZHIR, the memorial built by the president of this fine country, he was quoted as saying, “It is not Kazakhstan’s fault that it’s land was used as a “dumping ground” of many nationalities.”  Why can the president use this disputable phrase but I can’t? (ALZHIR is just outside of Astana, the new capital for Kazakhstan.  This place was where the wives whose husbands were considered “Enemies of the people” from all over the Soviet Union were sent as punishment. They were separated from their children and forced to do labor, some for 10 years if they lasted that long.) 

Logic went out the window in our heated discussion when my “friend” said that I thought her mother was garbage if I wrote that Kazakhstan was the Soviet Union’s “dumping ground” much the same as Siberia was used with its penal system. I never mentioned her mother, I was puzzled how that came up in our conversation when I thought we had been talking about Kazakhstan. But my supposed “friend” loves her mother and didn’t want her to be thought of as an imperialist Russian who came down from Moscow to Kazakhstan to tame the wild Kazakhs into submission.

I have much sympathy and compassion for this former teaching colleague woman who only has an older mother and one daughter.  We shared some very good times together but this is a very complex country to live in. Unfortunately she was born in Kazakhstan but she is not Kazakh herself, she is what is known as Kazakhstani.  Perhaps her main fear is that the nationalistic Kazakhs will rise up against the Kazakhstani who are of Russian ethnicity and kick them out as has been done in more nationalistic countries such as Estonia, Lithuania and other former Soviet countries. In actual truth, her mother was a history teacher and that is where the political rub comes in.  Even the president of this country found that the Moscow elites were changing Kazakhstan’s history in the history textbooks to fit the Soviet ideology and would obliterate any truth to what the Kazakhs had handed down orally for generations.

So from that little incident last spring, it was noised around with a change of wording that I thought Kazakhstan was a “garbage dump.”  Nothing could be further from the truth!!!  I see Kazakhstan as a very beautiful country with very beautiful people.  What saddens me is that there are Kazakh and Kazakhstani alike who are still so twisted up in their old communist dogma. They are NOT beautiful people but are soulless and still very much misled by untruths. In some cases, the older teachers and administrators have been communist party members longer than they have known the liberating air of democracy.  I have learned from this experience that the old habits of intimidation, fear and bullying die hard. 

What I found so perplexing was why would I, as an American citizen, prefer to stay and teach longer in Kazakhstan if I thought this country was a “garbage dump?” I certainly was not teaching at this institution of higher learning for the pay as many other foreigners are who draw large professor salaries.  Compared to other universities in Almaty, our institution is also the best paying job for any Kazakh or Kazakhstani teacher. There’s the irony because it would be much easier for me to go home and live in a culture that I know as my own and be paid twice as much as I was paid in Almaty.

8) to be continued 8)

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Diary of a Soviet Schoolgirl (Part II)

Thanks to my Kazakhstani friend Yulia for fooling me with an April Fools joke yesterday. I was at my desk at work minding my own business at my computer when she peeked her head in at the door of my office and sternly asked, “Why aren’t you at the meeting?” Naturally, in my jetlagged state I started to panic and tried to think which committee meeting I was missing at that very moment. When she winked, I knew that I had been April Fooled. Yuliya admitted she had been pulling this same line all morning with her other teacher friends and getting a rise out of them. Obviously the climate at our university has made us all on high-level alert to not want to miss anything, especially important meetings, people are getting pink slipped left and right.

Yesterday I quoted some writing from Diary of a Soviet Schoolgirl, 1932-1937 by Nina Lugovskaya. I will just share some of the books that this young girl read. Turns out she was arrested in March 16, 1937 as an 19 year old and in the 1940s she was married to an artist in Magadan where she and her husband had been sent as punishment. She became an artist instead of a writer and had her first one-woman show in 1977, how I would LOVE to see her paintings. She died in 1993 at 75 years of age and her husband died the following year. I suppose she was cured of doing any more writing when the NKVD confiscated her diary and claimed that she was an “Enemy of the People” at age 19!!! What a waste, because she had a great mind and was a very good writer in her teens.

Nina’s diary was her confidant and was perhaps therapy for her while her economist father had been exiled early in her life. I always maintain that my best writing students are the ones who enjoy reading. The following is what Nina read which helped her descriptive writing:

Feb. 15, 1933 Lermontov’s biography

May 5, 1933 Turgenev’s “Smoke”

Dec. 14, 1934 Teleshov’s “Without a Face”

Feb. 10, 1935 “I could read Chekhov forever” Ivanov, Treplev “The Seagull”

April 27, 1935 Gorky’s “Makar Chudra”

Sept. 3, 1935 Goncharov’s 1859 novel Oblomov is hero in this book

Sept. 23, 1935 Mikhail Pokrovsky – five volume history of Russia

June 27, 1936 Lermontov’s “A Hero of Our Time”

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Guilt by Association – ALZHIR camp for Wives in 1937

We visited ALZHIR today which is about 20 kilometers southwest of the capital of Astana, Kazakhstan. The acronym of ALZHIR really meant “Akmolinskiy Camp for Wives of Parricides.” I’m not sure if that is a poor translation from Russian of “parasites” or “traitors of the people.” In any case, fear was invoked in the late 1930s with the idea that anyone potentially could be an “Enemy of the People,” even some of the Soviet Union’s most prized intelligentsia. As it turns out, famous ballerinas, singers, writers, poets, doctors, teachers and other notable women were sent to Akmola, Kazakhstan from all over the U.S.S.R. Many of these women were plunged into this punishment simply because they were married to those men who were considered suspect. What I especially appreciated was the symbolism of the ALZHIR artwork I observed in many different memorials, even though we had an English guide help us to understand the other artifacts behind the glassed in cases of memorabilia.

Imagine being a woman not knowing where your husband is simultaneous to being a mother separated from your children, stuck on a train in the middle of winter. These saddened figures of humanity were put in confinement which was desperately cold and ill suited for women used to the finer things in life. A third of the female population didn’t survive the harsh conditions at ALZHIR while others did by building their own barracks, brick by mud and straw-mulched brick. They planted gardens after a Ukrainian woman helped to irrigate water to the camp from the nearby lake. Others used their creative abilities to do simple artwork using bread dough or doing needlepoint and embroidery later sold in Moscow or Leningrad.

These women also sewed clothes for what they hoped would reach their husbands during the Great Patriotic War years, those whom they thought were fighting on the Front. Usually these women’s penalty at ALZHIR lasted 8-10 years. Our excursion through the newly built museum, which looked like a sawed off cylinder of a nuclear reactor, was really another symbol of something secret, ominous and mysterious. It looked like a round box but once inside this sepulcher, every hidden truth in unbearable grief was exposed. Before entering this newly built museum was a very symbolic “Arc of Grief” monument which captured the black, war-like helmet of hate covered over by a beautiful headpiece worn by brides in white steel that represented love. So feminine love, which is meant to nurture, trumped hate that was intended to annihilate families as God created them.

Symbolism continued once inside the museum where the “Memory Flower,” a black rose, burst through the four cracks that slanted up from hard rock. To me, the obvious meaning was that beauty can bloom and prevail even in the darkest, most difficult places to exist. ALZHIR was once one of those places of punishment for at least 20,000 women in the span from 1937 to 1946 and beyond. According to the wall that surrounds the museum, it has the names of 7,620 women who perished at this camp. It reminded me of the Vietnam War memorial in Washington, D.C. In a way, these women were engaged in a brutal war against good and evil and seemingly there was no way for them to win. However, their names are engraved and immortalized for future generations to know that they did NOT die in vain against the evils of totalitarianism.

On May 31, 2007, President Nazarbayev was at the dedication to this building called “Memorial-Museum Complex to the memory of Victims of Political Repressions and Totalitarianism.” He had very strong words to say against the oppressors of these women from other countries and what they endured, besides those Kazakh women who also died at ALZHIR. He repeated that it was NOT Kazakhstan’s fault that so many were sent to their deaths on this soil of his country. Nazarbayev said, “Victims of political repressions must not be forgotten. One can not impose humanity either prosperity or progress by force of violence and atrocity.”

In many cases, it was Kazakhs who helped those repressed such as in the case of Ivan Ivanovich Sharf as a young boy whose German father had been shot, his mother died during tree cutting at ALZHIR and consequently Ivan was deported to an orphanage. After he became a successful poultry businessman, he resurrected in the middle of the night in the small village close to the museum, a broken star about a meter in size and torn in half, called the “Akmola-Phoenix.” Symbolism again shows that the red, Soviet shining star was torn asunder and broken into two parts when it hit the ground at Akmola’s ALZHIR camp. To me, it means the soul of communism was destroyed when it tampered with the hearts of women by tearing them away from their loved ones.

For me, the most interesting art piece hung in the center of the museum from above as if a chandelier but instead a cage in the shape of a figure 8. It had 15 doves mostly inside but a few were out of the cage. The doves represented the 15 different republics of the U.S.S.R. that all were harmed by the rigid, over-control of people’s family lives. Some of the doves were in different stages of escape from the cage.

Finally, there were two notable lifesize figures outside the museum in statues depicting “Despair and Forcelessness,” the man’s posture dramatized his utter feeling of hopelessness of spirit and soul against evil incarnate. His hands were fallen useless to his sides, an abject creature of failure and misery. The other statue is a woman looking pensive and pondering up to the sky titled “Struggle and Hope.” The first floor showed the men and their positions and what was taken from them, the second floor of the museum portrayed what their wives’ lives were like without them and their families.

I believe it is Nazarbayev’s sincere hope that nothing of this magnitude ever happens again to his own people or people from other nations. This Kazakh president is a man of peace because he has witnessed too much heartache, as his fellow countrymen have. This is why I believe he is so highly respected, revered and beloved in this fledgling democracy and as a noble leader to a developing nation. Many have too many secrets in their own family of the repressions they suffered and finally with this memorial so close to the nation’s capital, the lies and deceit will be exposed to the rest of the world. Totalitarianism was a cancerous evil that maligned far too many talented and good women who just wanted to raise their families in the security of their own homes. Another way to conclude, the enemy should know by now, never mess with maternal love!!!

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Expelled: Enemy of the People

In his book, The Silent Steppe, Mukhamet Shayakhmetov explains how he was able to embrace his communist-indoctrinated education in the late 1930s despite having been a victim of its ideology.  He will be forever thankful to his primary school teacher who gave him a chance at education despite the fact that his family had been labeled “Enemy of the People.”  Several more quotes from Shayakhmetov’s book and I will put it to rest.  Now in movie theaters near those in the U.S. is a new movie Ben Stein produced titled “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed.”  Someone I know from Ukraine sent me his take on it and he can hardly wait to get back to the U.S. to see this “blockbuster” movie.


p. 251 Like so many others, I saw no contradiction in working within the system which had persecuted my family, choosing to believe that our sufferings were attributable to unscrupulous individuals, beginning with Stalin’s Soviet Party chief in Kazakhstan, Feodor Goloshchekin, and then the underlings down the scale, rather than Stalin himself and the ruthlessness of the ideology he worked to or the true nature of this personal tyranny…However evil the practice of the system, which led to mass destruction for the Kazakhs, I neither fostered nor harbored hostility for the system itself.  Indeed, I clung to its merits.  Education in a Marxist-Leninist frame was in significant measure education, and for that I was thankful.


I know that but for the perceptive and kindhearted mentor, I would never have got it or been able to complete my secondary education; and I have recalled Semion Akimovich’s kindness and generosity of spirit every day of my life since.


p. 255 Soviet historians used to contend that all the campaigns the Russian armed forces ever engaged in were conducted out of necessity, to defend the country against aggressors who were continuously attempting to capture its riches and threatening its independence: according to them, Russia was always a peaceloving power and had not once started a war.  The Soviet Government used the same cliché to justify its actions in Ukraine and Belorussia, claiming that it had extended a brotherly hand to save them from being enslaved by the German capitalist forces.  Most of us fell for all of this.



Expelled” Being expelled?  Well, you can be certain that the latest documentary, “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed”, has no more hit the theaters, some 1,000 of them nationwide, than the attacks against it have ratcheted up…This documentary which exposes the extreme liberal and atheistic bias of American education against academic openness and freedom in the scientific field, developed and produced by a very famous man who is not even a professing Christian but rather a Jew, has received strong endorsement by some of America’s most well known educators, scientists, and Christian leaders.  It is a glaring expose’ of how American academia has systematically stifled even the slightest discussion of the possibility that man came into existence through some form of intelligent design instead of a “big bang” that developed over millions of years from a tiny glob of something in a swamp into a technical marvel called man with an intelligence so advanced that one single brain cell can process three trillion bits of information per second. The main website for “Expelled” is this link



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