Posts tagged KGB

Why I Continue to Blog in Kazakhstan

Always nice to meet my blog readers as I did yesterday at Astana’s annual Charity bazaar.  I met an ambassador’s wife who was buying some books from our book table.  How she knew it was ME who wrote this blog, well it never came up. But she DID say she enjoyed reading my daily updates and asked where I got all my material.  I told her that I get much from my own Kazakh students or my classroom experiences. Some days I run a little dry, other days I have too much to write about and wonder which direction I should go.  Other things I experience as a western teacher in Kazakhstan remain unwritten and if it is important enough, it will pop up again.  She only owed us 1,000 tenge for the two books she bought, she ended up giving 5,000 tenge instead not wanting the change.  She knew this was for charity and she told me that my blog helped her to see Kazakhstan through western eyes which in turn helped her to like her new environment in flat Astana.

The other day I received an e-mail from a reader who is Kazakh but living in the U.S.  What a thrill for me to get her message about Kazakh rugs.  Tomorrow I will share with you about the reaction from my American friend who has been doing her own anthropological work on this very challenging topic.  This may help explain why I continue to blog in Kazakhstan, there is soooo much to write about and so few writers.

I did not edit anything from this message from the Kazakh woman, so that it will be convincing that this Kazakh woman is authentic in her earnestness to get the word out about the importance of Kazakhstan’s history being soon lost forever. She believes, as I do, that if more people don’t take up the cause of putting the fragments back together of this broken rug, the proud history of Kazakhstan will be lost forever. May that not be so…

“Dear Kazakhnomad, Thank you for your attention. Thank you for your blog. This is very important that you try to tell your story about new country.

I do feel like my country was forgotten at the edge of world history. And you open new corner of the history with your blog and the story of Kazakh rugs. I’m really grateful for this.

Soviet government didn’t allow any private business for any soviet citizen. This government plus KGB destroyed millions lives of rich farmers and businessmen in 20’s, then 30’s and made them a factory slaves of new Socialistic Industrial world.

Many of those farmers tried to live in villages and still be a hunters, farmers, to feel like a “free man on a free land”.

My granddad was one of them. He was a miner at first. He was working at Ural gold mining. ( Ural mountains or real name is Jayik, are north from Astana). And meanwhile my granddad was hunting and a small farm with 3 horses, 4 cows, 10 ships, 10 goats, and bunches geese, ducks and chickens. His wife and 10 kids were helping him to take care of their little farm.

So they all live in Russian part of our land. It was all Kazakhstan, lately teared apart by Soviet government.

My granddad would cut a ship’s hair, wash it, color different vegetable dies, and make Kilims, flatwoven carpets. He would probably make other carpets too, but he didn’t have a loom. It was almost impossible to find a loom at that times.

Once again, Soviet Government headed by KGB expropriated everything from farmers during “raskulachivanie”. This is a term Government created for their robbery of honest farmers.

So officially you won’t be able to find a law “no handwoven carpets”.  It was a law no profits, no Bazaars, no flea markets, no profits for private artisans. But people tried to survive after world war 2. They had baby boom and tried at least barter their art for food or clothing. So did my grandfather’s family. It cost him a life. He spent 6 years on WW2, but couldn’t survive “peaceful” Soviet time.

I do live now in USA. I love this land, Navaho arts reminds me a lot of my Kazakh arts.

Thank you for your kind view at my poor country. Poor, because many memorials of Kazakh history was stolen, destroyed, forgotten. Kazakh people do not remember their own REAL history now. Only old people, like my grandma, can tell a little.

I was lucky, I remember my greatgrandmom. She spoke Kazakh&Arabic, no Russian language. She couldn’t communicate with me.

I grew up with my grandmom and she thought me a little of her art.

I came to USA, and I was lucky to rediscover real Kazakh history.

SInce you live in Kazakhstan, you might be know that our culture is Turk’s. We are Turkic people. If you don’t know, you can google “Turkic people” at wiki. We look Mongolian, cause we mixed with Mongols. This is why our rugs look so similar to Turkish rugs, Uzbek rugs, Kurdish rugs. Armenian& Azeri people try to tell that geometrical Kazak rugs is their art. This is not true. But nobody even argue, because Kazakh people don’t remember their history anymore and not interested to protect their rights on Kazak rugs.

I know a little of this, because I was working with Turkish rug dealers. I like to google “Kazak rug” and see what is interesting in web. This is why I found your blog.

Thank you so much for your great job. I understood that you are American only after I posted my comment already, sorry.

I have another concern about Kazak rugs. I know some not very honest Western people who come to Kazakhstan get our antique rugs as a present from locals and collect them. This is not right to take an advantage of too kind and uneducated Kazakhs.

This is why I thank you so much for your great job. This is important to educate our people, to tell them how rich and great is their history. I wish they would make “Kazak rugs&Kilims” museum their and understand their real value.

I wonder what brought you to Astana and what state are you from? 🙂 I traveled a lot cross USA and learned a lot about this wonderful country and people. I actually think that USA and Kazakhstan are very alike and people are very similar too. Open, kind and smiley.

Pls keep in touch I’d be happy to talk to you more.”

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Gauche Tea Party and Debunking Myths about me

What fun to have six teachers over to my flat for a little tea party drinking tea and hot cider out of gauche looking tea cups.  I had to laugh, I now realize that punctuality is a universal value held high among all professional teachers around the world.  My teacher friends showed up precisely at 3:00 p.m. and left my place after we talked, ate and played a game right at 7:00 p.m.  The following are some of the sloppy lies that have been told against me at my place of former employment.  Some are so preposterous, they make me laugh!

Myth #1 – Supposedly I’m wanted by the KNB (new variety of KGB) from the city of Karaganda because of something I wrote in a little conference paper last summer. (more on that later)

Myth#2 – Some people suspect I am a CIA agent.  However, an American when hearing that falsehood offered it couldn’t be true because I would need to be polite to everyone.  Apparently it has gotten around that I have been rude to some of my fellow teachers.  On only two occasions have I gone toe to toe with some who claim that what and how I teach is incorrect, that I am wrong in my thinking.  Compared to my Kazakh and Kazakhstani teaching colleagues, I’m just different as an American teacher but I’m no CIA agent.

Myth #3 – A common alibi to get rid of a foreign faculty member at our university is to claim they are unhappy in Kazakhstan, that they can’t cope with the cultural differences.  Sorry, but I had to diffuse that myth by saying these same sad faced people don’t see me with my friends outside of our institution of higher learning. I have many friends and enjoy happy times away from the pressures of work.  But my happiest times are spent in the classroom with my students.  They give me supreme joy even when I am being beaten down by those over me who should not be antagonizing me but rather supporting me.  That is why I’m thankful for my association with AIWC (Almaty International Women’s Club) and also my friends who have become my surrogate family at church.  Many other foreigners who work outside of education in the business world of Almaty and who are from many different nations have suffered some of the same lies and experienced the “needed but not wanted” phenomenon as I have.

Myth#4 – Another lie used against me akin to the prior one is that I’m supposedly not sensitive to the culture I’m a guest in. Apparently I don’t understand the Kazakh and Kazakhstani culture and insist to have my own American way.  There are several problems with that myth, 1) I am teaching in a “western” institution that uses an American system of education, supposedly.  2) I’ve lived and taught in four different cultures (Philippines, China, Kyrgyzstan and Ukraine) with the total of 15 years outside of the U.S.  Therefore, I actually know the surface veneer of this former Sovietized culture because of my seven years of living in Ukraine.  Teaching in Kyiv was a good training ground to teach in Almaty, Kazakhstan because the Soviet mentality is every bit in place there as here.  Obviously I know too much which goes back to Myth #2 and why some think I’m a CIA agent. (smile)

8) To be continued in tomorrow’s blog 8)

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“My Granny’s Story” by Serik

Early twentieth century was a harsh time for everyone. I never thought about those years. How it was for our grandparents? What were they doing to survive? Other many questions which I ask myself never came to me before the story I heard from my grandmother. She told us stories from her childhood right before her peaceful soul left this world. Even that time I did not pay big attention. But now after discovering some further information on my grandmother’s family, I realized how interesting her life was, even if she had a hard time.

          My mother’s mother almost whole her life spent in Bayin Olgey. The city where mostly live only Kazakh people, but the city itself is in Mongolia. Do not miss this point: how amazing it is that several pure Kazakh people are still alive and live in the heart of Mongolia. The country, which always threatened Kazakhstan, and used to be their most dangerous enemy. Of course my granny died there. She left this significant historical account of her father and uncle.

 The story begins from rich graph of a big tribe Sukirbay, who had two children. Dorvodhan (my grand – grand father) and Dallelhan became graphs in their early ages, when on one occasion their father Sukirbay died. But time was against them. Just after a while getting those important posts, USSR expansions got to their territory. The USSR blamed them that they helped the “Reds” so called group which was against the “Whites”. Not thinking long my grandmother’s father and his brother left everything, including their family and all the gold they had. They ran towards China hoping to find help there. Nevertheless in short distance from the borders government army caught them. The only dungan agent tried to help them. But knowing that he could not let both of them leave alive, he offered a deal. So the deal was that he would shoot one of them while everyone would be looking at this action, so that the other could run away. Not letting the dungan officer wait long my grand – grand father told these words to his younger brother: “My brother you are too young to die. Let me die, because I lived half of my life and I am older. Just promise me to survive this war, take care of my family, especially my daughter, grow to be a man, whom everyone will respect and do not let down our family name. I believe in you, now run as fast you can.”


So after these words young Dallelhan left to China. As he promised after studying at Moscow University and finishing his KGB courses in Tashkent he finally became a general of specific area in China. He helped his family, relatives and his brother’s family to emigrate from Mongolia. Settling them in Eastern Turkistan (Xinjiang) he lived his life trying to separate this are from China. His dream was to break out from China with territory of Eastern Turkistan and for his goal he even became a spy for USSR. The region was strategically important and rich in minerals (oil, gold etc.), then if the territory was successful in independence admission and admitted by the world coalition, USSR was planning to make it as one of the Soviet Republics (as Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan etc.). That was the reason why the Russian government was helping him. But Chinese were cool hearted and more smart, so when the Soviets plan gone down China occupied and crashed the so called Autonomy of Eastern Turkistan. USSR had no choice, but did a secret deal with Chinese and those leaders (who were used by Soviets, as my grandmother’s uncle).


Though after some time, those leaders died on airplane crash including Sir Dallelhan. The reason of the crash is still not discovered, but there is some gossip that actually the Soviets planned this operation. So that they would not let leak the information, which the leaders obtained while working for Soviets.   

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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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“Encounters with Soviet People” (Part VI)

p. 151 “It says here in this newspaper report that six men were killed.  No one asked any questions.  No discussion.  No arguments.  The bell rang.  Valentina dismissed the class.  That was it.  If these had been my students at home, many would have shot their hands into the air to demand the source of my evidence.  A few might well have discovered evidence on their own to support their opinions.  I would not have been able to get away with what Valentina did – and if I had, I would have chastised my students for their passivity.  But in a Soviet classroom the rules are different.  Students learn form their first days in school that information comes from authority, from above.  Every day they learn what their teachers and textbooks tell them.  Not to learn what they are told can jeopardize their future.  Not to believe what they are taught—or to appear not to believe – could mean failure.


p. 235 “Lying begins in the schools,” she insisted.  “That was the main reason I hated my school.  The teachers tell you what you have to tell them.  They are not interested in what you think.  The teacher is interested only if the children use the right words.  A lot of children become accustomed to saying the right words, not the real words.  And that is how they are two different people.


p. 235 “…The Pioneer goal is not to develop yourself, your own opinion.  Its goal is to accept the system, to accept the opinion of all the rest of the people, and not to try to think deeply about what is going on.”  She illustrated her point with the story of Pavlic Morozov, who was a Young Pioneer and the son of a farmer during the times of the collectivization of agriculture under Stalin.


“When Pavlic Morosov learned that his father was against collectivization, he turned him into the Party authorities and the KGB.  His father was arrested and killed – shot.  When Pavlic’s uncles found out that he had betrayed his own father, they shot him.  And now he is considered a Pioneer hero.”


No one had said much to me about Pavlic Morozov…the issue was unresolved as I discovered when visiting a Pioneer camp on the outskirts of Alma-Ata, Kazakhstan.  Here I found a bust of Morozov on a pedestal in a line with other Young Pioneer heroes.  I asked a teacher who was visiting the camp with me about him?  “Pavlic Morozov?” she said.  “Oh yes, he is one of the Pioneer heroes for our children.”  Just like that.  No interpretation, simply a restatement of the official text of a Soviet history.  A few minutes later, I asked another.  “Marozov? He is no longer considered a Pioneer hero.  We don’t pay attention to him any more.”  Two teachers from the same city, two opinions.

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