Posts tagged independence

If only David McCullough could write about Kazakhstan

I have read several of David McCullough’s historical books. He seems to be fair and honest in his appraisals of past presidents and other relevant U.S. historical events.  An author of his stature has won many prizes for his thoroughness to detail. He culls through diaries, letters, newspaper clippings, anything that can shed light on his main character whom he writes about. Seems some of his books know no boundaries. The book on “Truman” is 992 pages long.  Since I’ve seen the movie titled “Truman” portrayed by Gary Sinise and have been to President Harry Truman’s library in Independence, Missouri, “Truman” would be a laudable read for me this summer. (what’s left of it)

I know when I read “John Adams” and later listened again to the book on tape, the many letters that were saved from his wife Abigail and Adam’s response to her were strongly edited I’m sure.  What I do recall while reading McCullough’s book is that our founding father, John Adams, had a deep and purposeful faith in God. That is very clear in his letters to Abigail when he was in England on important, diplomatic business. Meanwhile, she managed to struggle to maintain the house and farm back in Massachusetts in his absence.  Abigail no doubt had servants while raising a family. It came through while reading McCullough’s book that the Adams were both opposed to slavery.  It would be 100 years later that that issue, which could have been nipped in the bud earlier with the founding of our nation, was “settled” with the Civil War.

If a McCullough-type author would rise up in Kazakhstan, what would he have to do to write an accurate report about the last 100 years? Or, let’s go back 200 years when the tsars of Russia had dominance over the steppes of Central Asia?  Would the author find honest reports?  How would they test the accuracy of the information from the sources that would no doubt be in Russian?  Would there be deliberate distortion of facts once the Soviets took over in writing the history books of the great and powerful Soviet Union, thus obliterating Kazakhstan’s past?

Would there have been adventure seekers from Europe or specifically U.S. or England who would have written letters or accounts in English of what they saw while going along the old Silk Road to the south?  Those accounts would hardly cover the diversity of the land from the Tian Shan mountains to the Caspian Sea and the Aral Sea in between with the vast steppes.

Was there a Max Penson type photographer who would have taken photos of the more recent past of Kazakhstan?  [Max Penson, at the bidding of the Soviets, went to Uzbekistan in the 1930s to take photos of the happy Uzbeks during forced industrialization.]  Penson got into trouble later by his authorities for exposing what was really happening to the land of Uzbekistan.

With oral history making a qualitative research comeback in ethnographic circles, are there stories that were courageously documented about what the Kazakh nomad went through when forced industrialization and collective farms replaced their livelihood of sheep and cattle herding?  My husband, back in the 1980s did what was called “The Soviet Interview Project” where he gathered info from former Soviets who had come to the U.S.  He was trying to find out more about Soviet agriculture.  All files have been lost from that project, were there any Kazakhs he interviewed in Russian during that time?

What can we learn about the Kazakh cultural values while we try to avoid imposing our western values on this group of people?  Sorry for all these questions that I bring up. What I try to do with my blog is to write in English the little bit that I learn about this fabulous country.  I am trying to give voice to the voiceless. Westerners are intrigued and some want to know more but others don’t even know what questions to ask to find out about this culture that has been tucked away and is perhaps the world’s best kept secret.

Let me put it another way.  What if I lived in a world that was reversed where everyone spoke Kazakh? It would be required that all people globally were to know how to speak in Kazakh, but our problem is that many of us only know English.  Perhaps we would not need a David McCullough type author after all because we would have stories handed down to us orally.  We would not need to go through the messiness of getting things written properly with good vocabulary and precise grammar.

As it is, westerners need something in writing about Kazakhstan that is true and accurate.  It would have to be written by a Kazakh who knows his/her own language and culture. McCullough writes superbly about U.S. history for his American audiences because he IS American.

Perhaps this is similar to when some people are gifted in doing music without reading the notes, it is just in them internally.  While others have been trained to read music so they can replicate what the composer intended.  If a musician has BOTH gifts of playing or singing by ear AND also reading the notes, now THAT is talent!!! Will the real Kazakh McCullough please stand up!!!

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Uighur Grandmother – “Be Ready to Serve Your People”

Right now I am just 19 and I already don’t have either a grandfather or a grandmother.   However the situation was different just a few years ago, at that time my mom’s mother lived with us.  Her name was Aimkhan.  She was a very beautiful and kind woman.  She had 11 children, the youngest of which is my mother.  As long as I remember myself, grandmother had always lived with us. She lived a long life, so she always had something to tell.  My grandmother and her family were born in Eastern Turkistan (Xingjiang Uygur Autonomous Region) Kashgar city, but due to political reasons she had to migrate to Kyrgyzstan.  However she always told us stories and reminisced time in Kashgar.  One of my favorite stories is the one about heroes of Uighur nation.

 

         My grandmother got married when she was very young and my grandfather’s family was in politics. At that time after already failing one attempt to declare an independence Uighurs were preparing for a next try.  My grandfather’s cousin, whose name was Abdukerim Abbas was the head of the government of the unrecognized country.  According to the international rights in order for a country to be sovereign its independence has to be recognised by at least 3 countries.  Joseph Stalin, general secretary of the communist party of the USSR made the Clayton’s promise to be the first to extend recognition to a state.  Feeling very excited and glad about the possible future declaration of independence Abdukerim Abbas and all his delegates got aboard of a helicopter heading to Moscow.

 

The flight went all right but when they landed at the Moscow the situation went out of control.  As soon as they step on the ground they were taken to the KGB’s head office on the Lubyanka and tortured by the Russian agents until the death.  As for the Uighur people in China who were looking forward to coming their liberators back home both Moscow and Beijing prepared another version of what has happened that days.  For a long time people in XingZang couldn’t get in touch with anybody who went to Moscow on that  fatal plane.  Just as time passed it was announced that the plane was wrecked and no one survived.  It was clear for everybody that what happened to Abdukerim Abbas and his people wasn’t just an incident but people were too afraid to do anything.  Since this news flew across, my grandmother and her family had 24 hours to pack all their belongings and leave their homeland forever.  And this is the starting point when a great number of Uighur people emigrated to all Central Asian countries.

 

         At the end of this story grandmother liked to repeat “Always be ready to serve your people”. Unfortunately she had never come back to the Kashgar and never knew what happened to her house, neighbors and people she knew.  One of the things brought from Kashgar in 1960 was an album with pictures of Abdukerim Abbas and other members of the family.  I always feel proud to be a part of our family.  

by Makhfirat

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“Ja Vi Elsker Dette Landet”…Happy Syttende Mai!!!

irisespetunias

Happy Norwegian Independence day on May 17th this very day!  At the turn of the 20th century the Norwegians were MORE than happy to be unshackled from an overpowering country such as Sweden.  Before Sweden’s domination, Norway had been under the authority of Denmark. I believe it was 1905 when Norway finally became a sovereign nation with their own rules, constitution and king. No wonder the early Norwegian pioneers who settled in the Midwest were very Republican (think Lincoln’s party) and so anti-slavery.  Many of the Norwegian soldiers from Minnesota died fighting the South in the Civil War.  Many of my relatives back in Telemark, Norway also put up a huge fight against the Nazi occupiers during WWII.

Maybe there is a streak in my Norwegian blood (I’m Swedish and Danish also) that revels in independence, my own as well as other countries’ independence.  That is why I continue to celebrate Kazakhstan’s new independence as of 16 years ago.  Noone likes to be under an oppressive government but unfortunately they still exist all over the world.  (I’m thinking of the countries of Myanmar and China with their recent tragedies) I’ve taught in a few of those countries where fear and suspicion dominates and lack of truth seems to prevail.  Apparently Myanmar’s government cares nothing for the suffering of those who survived their cyclone disaster.  Fortunately China cares enough about its world image for the sake of the Olympics this summer and are trying to get aid to those survivors in the Chengdu area and beyond where the earthquake continues to send shockwaves. 

Perennials and annual flowers always remind me of our brevity of life on this planet.  I took photos of the above irises several days ago and now they are withered away to just stalks.  However, the petunias like any good annual, will last throughout the summer yet they need to be planted anew every spring.  Countries come and go too, some become hybrids of another form of government, others become extinct.  Some countries seem to be perennial-like that bounce back every year, while other nations are like annuals that wither away under drought like conditions.  These last thoughts concerning countries and flowers are for future blog ponderings.

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