Posts tagged Kazakhs

Photos of Victory Day Celebration in Almaty

medals for saleThe president put out a proclamation about the annual Victory Day celebration on one of the billboards. (I wish I could read what it says in Kazakh) Many old men and their families were walking around Panfilov Park this morning. I caught several with their chest full of medals. However, you do the math, any surviving war veterans of the Great Patriotic War have all probably passed away or nearly so. That war was almost 70 years ago and if those still walking the streets started fighting at age 16 or even 20, they are at least 90 now. Some who did actually see real war during the campaign and are still living are perhaps bedridden. Others may have fought in the Afghanistan war, those ones I see usually have one leg or one arm. In any case, Victory Day is all about Soviet Union nostalgia or becoming more so with each passing year. The old music plays, the male choruses sing, the parades with all the military tanks and missiles come out. What a beautiful day to remember those who fought valiantly during the Great Patriotic War.

chest full of medalsBazaar mandeer in headlights lookflowers and medalsbillboard for May 9Presidents quote

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Aigerim’s Ancestor, the Warrior Hero – Raimbek

The story about my grandparents seems so sad, I have never seen them. They died, when I was a little baby. So, there isn’t any necessity to write about their sorrowful and tragical events.  Therefore, I am more attracted to write about my ancestor, my great-great-great-great grandfather from the clan of Alban, legendary historical hero of the 18 century.

In people’s legends was preserved a poetic Raimbek’s answer to Khan of Kazakhs, when he told about his ancestry: “Adamant Alban-my further ancestor, from him- brave Alzhan, from Alzhan-Sirimbet, Sirimbet’s son- Khankeldy. My grandfather Khankeldy gave life to seven sons: second was Tuke, from him I was born”.

The times of difficult trials for Kazakhs was in 18 century. In the first quarter of 18 century huge hordes of Zhungars invaded in the steppes of Kazakhs, and started cruelly destroying all in their way. The Kazakhs forced out of running from the enemy, leaving their yurts and cattle. But the time of Great Miseries didn’t break down the will of Kazakhs or their courage and striving to the liberty. Each Kazakh aul, clan and zhuz set their heroes (batyrs), whom headed people’s militia.

One of them was my ancestor Raimbek hero. In juvenile years Raimbek showed his military abilities and when he was a 17-years old, he distinguished himself by victories in struggle with Zhungars. Like his grandfather Khankeldy, who struck down a lot of Zhungar’s warriors, Raimbek struggled with the arch-enemies like a hero and honored to be warrior, hero( Kazakh version is a batyr).

Ablay Khan gathered together all Kazakh warriors and declared Raimbek his military leader.  Being a military leader, Raimbek managed with the tactic actions of Kazakh forces and took part in the battles personally.

In Semirechye between the ranges of Toraygyr and Soget there is a place, which people call “ Oyran tobe” (“oyran” means “ death of Zhungars”), Raimbek won a splendid victory in the cruelest battle.

About glorious hero people composed such a touching legend. One day after one of the cruelest battles, Raimbek peeped into the gorge in Toraygyr Mountains to satisfy a thirst. When he didn’t find water, Raimbek raised his hands to the sky and in desperation said: “Oh, my God! If you give me the truth of the life, you will give me water!” After that he plunged his sword in the earth, and water streamed forth. In public, this water source is called by the name of Raimbek, who is considered as a saint.

Before the death of Raimbek, he appealed with a request to bury him in the place where his camel will stop. The mausoleum of my great ancestor, whom made his huge contribution in development of Kazakh’s stability, situated in Almaty, in Raimbek avenue.

So, I’m proud of being a descendant of such a great ancestor like my great-great-great- grandfather Raimbek, the warrior.

 

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“Turn-of-phrases” – Part II

Here is a continuation of Colin Thubron’s book “The Lost Heart of Asia.”  He certainly knows how to turn a phrase.

 

“Slowly, as we laboured east, the land heaved itself out of its sleep, tossing shallow ridges at the horizon.  Sun and wind had stripped all life from it.  We went through old Silk Road towns, leveled by Mongol invasion.  They had revived into a polluted industrial life: the bungaloid cotton centre of Chimkent, the grimy chemical plants of Dzhamboul.  Then evening came down with its gentleness over enormous wheat-fields, more like feats of nature than of men, and the westernmost ranges of the Tienshan reared from the skyline in cloudy snows and downland green with woods.” (p. 320)

 

“Yet from my balcony in Almaty there was no sign that I was in a city at all. I looked across parklands where the spires of a cathedral hoisted gold crosses against the mountains.  Its people numbered over a million – more than half of them Russian – but its grid of streets, mounting southward to the Tienshan foothills, ran half-empty through hosts of oaks and poplars.  Sometimes, so dense were these trees, I imagined I was walking along tarmac tracks through a forest.  Behind them the chunky Russian offices and flat-blocks spread anonymous for mile after mile.  The air blew up sharp and pure from the mountains.  It was like a suburb to a heart that was missing.

 

It was the Russians, of course, who had raised and nourished it.  All its institutes and monuments were theirs, from the fountained boulevard of Gorky Street (now renamed Silk Road Street) to the soulless hotels and war memorials.  But now the city belonged to nobody.  Communism, Marx and Lenin streets might be renamed after spectral khans who had ruled the steppes a century or two ago, and ministry facades be veneered with pseudo-Turkic motifs; but the Kazakh culture had no true urban expression.  Less than three generations ago virtually the whole nation was split into a haze of migratory villages.  Its early rulers were lost, most of them, even to saga; and its modern heroes had been selected by Soviet propaganda – secular poets and thinkers, whose statues adorned the boulevards unloved.  For decades the Kazakhs had been a minority in their own country.  And now this alien city had floated into their hands.  They were curiously unencumbered, even by Islam: a tabula rasa for the future to write upon. (p. 232)

 

“The Kazakhs seemed doomed to mimic their conquerors.  For days you might hunt here in vain for native artifacts.  Even the city’s origins were Russian, founded in 1853 as the wood-built garrison-town of Verny.  Squashed among stucco and concrete, a few timber survivors, carved with gables and filigreed eaves, evoked a homely, unceremonious place, like a frontier village. Even the gingerbread cathedral, tossing up spires and domes scaled like fantastical fish, inhabited its parkland with a florid innocence, as if a child were celebrating God…” (p. 327)

 

“Bards were the keepers of Kazakh culture.  They sang heroic sagas yet gave voice to common feelings.  Their music pervaded all events – the leaving and return to war or pasture – and conveyed an ancient morality.  But their mantle had fallen on nobody.  Music and literature paled under Soviet censorship, and I wondered – now that independence had dawned – what had become of the Kazakh drama, once the purveyor of Socialist Realism?” (p. 328)

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“Strong Belief” Nurganym’s narrative

Family ties are very important for many, especially for Kazakhs because according to our tradition we should know seven ancestors by names. I often heard my father in law telling stories to my children (sometimes, I think, he makes up some of his stories…) about old days. That great man gave me many interesting life lessons and taught very important things. In order to understand how this person became who he is today – a very well known and greatly respected person among 1.5 million Chinese Kazakhs – I would carefully listen to all his stories about his childhood, youth and early life.

 

He grew up in western Turkistan – today’s Xinjiang – on the border of North Eastern China and Western Kazakhstan. He doesn’t remember his parents, he became an orphan when he was a baby, and his aunt rose him up. They were cattle breeders and as all nomads used to move from pasture to pasture,  they stayed winters in China and summers in Kazakhstan – back then no borders remain between countries (Last time he saw his motherland in 1947 since then this is his dream to visit those places again). He rode on horses and grew up naughty and prankish but never was punished which was uncommon in Kazakh families and was against child rearing principles at that old days.

 

At the age 17 he fell in love with a young pretty girl who soon became his wife, it was usual to start family life at that early age back then. His adolescence coincides with Chinese revolution and soon he went to Beijing to learn Mao’s communism doctrines. He left his pregnant wife and young daughter. Soon after when the second child was born, his wife and my mother in law traveled from Urumqi to Beijing to reunite with his husband after two years living apart. The trip took almost two weeks by train, and a young woman, who did not speak a word of Chinese was have to travel with two little children with all these strangers who would help her all way along sharing food with her and taking care of her children. My father in law says that he still can see a picture in front of him of his skinny wife holding nine months old baby and a little girl dragging large heavy bag on the ground.

 

Soon after my mother in law was have to attend ideological courses in Beijing, and she left her little child with Chinese nanny who leaved away from them and reared her son until he reached five. They could see their children on weekends, and she very upset when heard son calling nanny “mommy”.

 

After five years of life in capital they returned to their homeland where they went thru hard years of starvation, poverty and building communism. My mother in law says that is her merit that her husband could build his career; she did everything to help him, gave him suggestions and raised four children alone. 

 

I think the main reason is that they could fight with all the difficulties together without fear and believed in a great future.

    

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Eradicate the West’s Ignorance of Kazakhs’ Suffering

 Here’s a “questionable topic” for those “elite intellectuals” educated from western universities who have no idea what the Kazakh people suffered in the early 1930s when the communists forced the nomadic people into collectivization.  Starvation resulted, killing off at least one million people in a two-three year period.  This tragedy happened to Mukhamet Shayakhmetov’s family and many other Kazakhs like him.

I had planned to write a blog entry today about our dear Kazakh students not knowing how to cite sources properly using in-text citations according to APA style. Seems so trivial after reading The Silent Steppe: The Story of a Kazakh Nomad under Stalin, I thought better of it.  Insidious elements continue to lurk about wanting to keep these truths covered up about Kazakhstan’s past.

 This should not mean revenge to all people from the West about their “ignorance” which reigns supreme about what socialism and communism did to destroy millions of lives throughout the former Soviet Union.  While we, as westerners, don’t read about the Soviet atrocities instigated by Lenin and Stalin’s dogma written in our history textbooks about Kazakhstan’s suffering, students at our university do not understand why it is important to give credit to an author and what he wrote. 

I give HUGE credit to Shayakhmetov for bravely writing these words about his past and having it translated into English.  Shayakhmetov valued education and I think he would want all young Kazakh students to learn as much as possible [in English] and not waste their educational opportunities to help the rest of the world know what REALLY happened on this great land.

p. 26 “These were people who sincerely believed all the slogans about the Soviet authorities ‘empowering the poor, freeing them all from bondage’ and ‘granting them the same rights and privileges as everyone else.’  Most of the activists were illiterate.  If a very small percentage of them could read and write, it was because some time in the past they had been taught by the poorly educated aul mullah.  Some of these young men had learnt to recognize the letters of the alphabet and read words by the syllable at the short-lived schools which were set up to eradicate illiteracy.

 

p. 45 Father’s anxiety to get me used to work on the soil did not mean that he was unconcerned about my schooling.  He deeply regretted being illiterate himself, and wanted me to go on studying until I was properly educated; he used to say, “If I have it my way, you’ll be an old man by the time you’ve finished.” Being educated, as far as he was concerned, meant learning to read and write letters, composing petitions and requests to official bodies and dealing with other business matters.”

 

p. 48 “in late 1930, and early 1931, the campaign to eradicate individual farms and collectivise agriculture becme more vicious.  Lenin (who died in 1924) had said that ‘Every minute of every hour, millions of individual peasant farms are engendering exploiter elements and must be destroyed.” And the Government was taking him at his word.

 

p. 49 Those [Russian] officials put in charge of running the country [Kazakhstan], were mainly strangers to it and neither knew nor particularly wanted to find out about the customs and mind-set of the nomadic population.  Some of them who originated from Russia, had no understanding of the differences between stock-breeding in nomadic Kazakhstan and the agricultural districts of their own homeland.

 

p. 72 The founder of our clan, Nauei, the progenitor of 25 male descendants in the course of one century (1820-1920).  If each of them had emulated him, one would have expected the total increase in the number of males over the next 100 years to be 625.  Instead, by 1990, it was seven.  Such was the tragic fate of our entire nation in the twentieth century.

 

p. 103 “People’s perception of living standards varies strangely, depending on their own circumstances at the time.  Only a year ago, Uncle Zhantursyn had been looked upon as an impoverished peasant with only one horse to his name; now his neighbors, who were all collective farmers, reckoned he was ‘wealthy.’  What it was really about, however, was the extreme poverty of the collective farmers.

 

p. 119 “It seems to me that, compared to later on, the farmers in those early years of collectivization had a more responsible approach to their work; they still had the natural instincts of honest workers and landowners, and had not yet learnt ways of shirking their duties.

 

p. 132 “The Kazakh deportees also used to get together in the evenings after work, but they did not play music.  They spent most of the time talking to each other, retelling epic tales and legends about warriors and good and evil rulers, and lyrical epic poems about people in love.  The men used to recite them from memory.  Whenever the conversation turned to everyday topics, the women would improvise songs and sing sorrowfully about the deportees’ misfortunes, nostalgically recalling their idyllic past life.  Touching upon the reasons that brought them to Ridder, they would mostly blame the aul activists who were responsible for carrying out Soviet policies.

What I still remember of these evenings when Kazakhs got together are the various fairy-tales and epic poems that were recited, not people singing at the top of their voices, laughing raucously or dancing wildly like the Russians.  In those days Kazakh people did not feel like having fun: life under Socialism was just too grim.

 

p. 140 “ On 1 September [1932], the children of Pozdnopalovka (near Ridder) and the children of the Russian special migrants started school.  Teaching was, of course, conducted in Russian.  None of the Kazakh children went to school; just as before, it was something I could only dream about.  Anyway, I had no time to attend lessons, as every day – from morning until nightfall – Mother and I were out looking for food.  I used to watch other children of my age enviously as they made their way to school, and sometimes when I spotted them playing noisily during break, I could not stop tears welling into my eyes.  I longed to study with them – but it was not to be.

 

 

 

 

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