Posts tagged kolkhoz

KarLAG Buildings in “Stalin’s Neoclassicism” Style


According to the Museum brochure this structure was built in 1933-35 by forcing 1,000s of prisoners to construct it.  It’s purpose was to house the NKVD (People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs), it was an imposing structure of Greek Roman style columns surrounded by little houses in a simple farming village.  This two story building was meant to look threatening to the prisoners but inspire grand feelings in those who did the repressing of “Enemies of the People.”  By 1961 the agricultural training college was placed there and then it was turned into a sanatorium for children called “Brigantina” from 1971 to the early 1990s.  It was planned to be changed into a rest house for miners but after the bankruptcy of that enterprise, the windows were bricked up and it sits waiting to be rehabilitated. As of 2005, the building will hopefully have a new life once the Museum of Memory of Political Repression find enough funds to restore it. 


This was the mess hall or dining room for all the officers and higher ups.  Now a shopping place for those who dwell in Dolinka and was painted purple a year ago.  An unusual color in a place so bleak.


Either called the “House of Technics” or “Technology House” was built in 1943.  The leadership of GULAG (Main Administration for Corrective Labor Camps) tried to show that prisoners could work very well.  Therefore, the kolkhoz was called Gigant took part in All-Union exhibition every year.  In 1938 the experimental agricultural station was set up here.  This building now houses the Abay district electric nets since 1974.

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Unedited Versions of Three Babushkis Stories

Yesterday we had three babushki ladies come to our classroom to tell their whole long life story in a short 15 minutes each.  A tall order for all three because eachof them has led such a rich life.  They are grateful to still be alive and were very happy to visit our university and meet the younger generation representative of Kazakhstan.  These ladies are lonely and living with their memories. It was as refreshing for them to tell their stories as it was for my students who eagerly soaked it in with their notetaking.  The following is Rahkhat’s account from what she wrote in English from her copious notes in Russian. 

#1 – Valentina Romanovna was born in 1930 in village. Her family consisted of 9 people: 3 died, 4 were living, but it couldn’t be called as living. During Great Patriotic War, the living conditions were very beggarly and often there was absolutely nothing to eat. She remembered when they had to eat seeds of flowers or even skin of some animals. They were all poisoned and subsequently it affected their health, because nowadays they are all having problems with stomach. It was really hard times!

Valentina was only 10 years old, when the war broke out. She actually finished the first class and that’s it. When it was very cold, nobody visited school, since there were no conditions to study at all. However the main reason of it is that she had to work together with adults. Her first job was working as a nurse in hospital, and then she worked as a teacher in kindergarten. There were times when she even had to look after calves, those of whom usually children are afraid of! Once one of her calves got sick, Valentina was to be judged or sent to an exile. She was stubborn girl and she decided to be sent to banishment, while her mother tried to convince her to go to chairman and to apologize to him. Eventually she stayed in kolkhoz.

For 13 years she had been working as a miner. At the age of 45 she was on a pension. She had 2 children: Anatoly, who was born in 1953 and Nicolay, two years older. Anatoly went to army in Vladivostok, unfortunately he died there. The second brother Nicolay was striving to revenge for his brother and also went to army, but unlike his sibling he returned home alive. 

Valentina and her son moved to Almaty. At that time, he had a daughter – Ira, who then gave birth to Lisa, his granddaughter. Lisa had huge physical and mental disabilities, she was invalid.  Once Nicolay went for hunting and there his boat was crushed by the river. She took her sister and they started to look for him, but in vain, this trip was fatal for him. Valentina’s husband drank a lot and he finally got cirrhosis of liver, which lead him to death. So, Valentina lost her husband and children, but she still had her mother, who lived for 100 years and 3 months. Valentina’s mother came to Almaty in order to be with her daughter. Today, Valentina has a brother and two sisters still living, one in Almaty and another in Moscow.

That’s just a brief story of Valentina Romanovna’s life. She has to be a really strong woman to endure all the difficulties of that time! She stood in front of us as a living example of a person who had a lot of grieves, who was able to overcome them and who wishes us, young generation peace, happiness and never see a war time!

#2 – Natalya Nikiforovna is about the same age as Valentina, or one year younger. She was born in Semipalatinsk region. She had one brother, who was 5 years younger. She said that her family didn’t suffer much from famine during the war, because they had their own vegetable garden and that was enough to feed the whole family. At the age of 10, Natalya had to mow hay in order to sustain a cow. She completed 7 years of study in school. Her father went to the front and there he was killed. Government didn’t give them any pension payments for him. They just received 20 rubles each – for her and her brother. Corn and cattle was taken from every family in order to sustain soldiers and those who directly was in the front and fought in battles against enemies. There was very popular slogan: “Everything for the front!”    

            At the age of 22, she worked as an accountant. Actually, she continued her education, having already two children. Overall, she spent 38 years of her life on working at two jobs. However, she earned a pension, which wasn’t fairly distributed, because government didn’t consider the length of her working experience, measured in years. She should have had received more in comparison to others, but she earned even less – 110 rubles, instead of 120!                

            Her daughter graduated two universities successfully in Moscow and Almaty. The year of 1946 is characterized as the year of the horrible event – start up of nuclear tests in Semipalatinsk proving ground. Natalya’s son gave birth to a boy with uncountable disabilities. Her daughter couldn’t give birth to a child for the same reason. This mistake of particular group of people led to terrible consequences for thousands of innocent people, which we can observe even today. Natalya said that there was one big family, where they had 4 girls born bandy-legged. It’s awful!  That’s the craziest thing that a human being could do with another human being! The creation of war is the biggest fault of humanity!

            During the speech, she had her tears coming again and again…


#3 – Raisa was born in 1932 in Kirov city, in the family of four members. In 1942 her father joined the Soviet Army, but was killed. He worked on a plant, which produced writing pens with feather. When fascists were coming to Kursk, they were evacuated and sent to Zabaikalie region. There they were given “kolkhoz house” and they immediately started to work. She was the eldest among her siblings. She was 10 years old when she began to look after calves. At the age of 13 she worked as a milkmaid. She finished only seven classes of school. In the mornings she helped her mother, in the afternoon – she did her job. Together with her little brother and sister they used to wear boots by turn. Other people, including their neighbors were always trying to support them, giving some clothes or something that they needed to have. She told us that sometimes parachutes landed from time to time in the place where they lived. So, her mother took pieces of material and sewed clothes for children. In summer, Raisa worked as a combine operator.

 Later, she got married and left her family, moving to Tashkent. There she finished medical college to be a nurse. Being educated, she was enabled to send money to her family. Afterwards, she got a second education in Ulan-Ude in agricultural college to become a zoo-technician. Then she was sent to the north of Magadan region, which is in Chukotka. Later on, she was chosen as deputy or national assessor.

Until now she had been bringing up her grandchild.

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“A Long Way to Go” Natalya’s Grandmother

“A human without past is like a tree without root”- It may be not a Russian proverb, but Russian-speakers often mention it. When I was a kid, I could not understand why.


It is hard for me to imagine what happened to people during the Soviet period. It is much harder that it could happen to my parents and their parents. In our historical classes at school we learned a lot about Soviet Union. We have learned how much provision was sent to different countries during the times I want to speak about. I can not think of those numbers, it was hard thing to remember. Did I realize back then, that this was about the lives of my own family? It was the last thing I could think of.


Recently my mom told my some old story of my Grandmother. My Granny and her family lived in a Verh-Uba, village in the east Kazakhstan. Parents were working in the kolkhoz (something like farm). It was around 1935 in the culmination of Famine. Family included Grandmothers parents and little brother. Whole villages were starving and there was no wage for work. Though nobody could leave legally, because bureaucrats of kolkhoz kept all documents with them and it was not allowed to borrow them. Situation was very critical and my Grand Grandfather decided to escape the village. Follow the darkest night they held up everything they could borrow and ran away without knowing where to go. Though, they had to leave Granny’s brother, because he was very little, he would not survive the escape. But in the village relatives kept eyes on him. So they kept running from the places they could be found. If they are found nothing else matters, they were dead. Then they were just walking.  My mom does not know how long they were walking, and I can not ask my Granny, because she has not been with us for a long time.


 Finally they came to the small north city Barnaul. For information it will take about 20 hours to get from Verh-Uba to Barnaul by train. Or even more. It was a long way to go. But they had done that. Near that city Grand Grandmother had luck to get a job as a pig-tender. Where else can you go with no documents…? My Grand Grandfather, Grand Grandmother and Granny made up an earth-house with their own hands. A wage for a pig-tendering was skim milk which was initially to feed pig-babies. After that kind of stabilization Grand Grandfather returned to a village for his son. They turned back to a new home and lived there till mid 1940’s. They had returned to their village because the situation had changed. By returning, they found out that main kolkhoz building was burned to the ground.  That is why they get their documents restored, and the fact they run-away had gone.


After, the Second World War started. I wish I could ask my Grandma what was happening then. But I can’t. I think now I understand the true meaning of that proverb. My Grand Grandparents, what they have been through. Moreover, not just “been,” what they have survived through. If they made it that far, I can not give up either. I wish I could talk to my Grandma. I wish I could tell her that I won’t give up either, I have my long way to go. I would say that I have found their power of spirit in myself. That is the greatest thing you ever got, which keeps you going on. What would she answer me, then?

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“A Taste of Warmth” by Irina

The following is another narrative story written by one of my students named Irina. Nothing has been editted and she gave a short vocabulary list at the end if you don’t know some of the words.

A Taste of Warmth

This story happened to a little Korean boy at the end of 1930s. His family like many others just arrived and began the fight with harsh Kazakhstan conditions. The boy helped a kolkhoz shepherd but unfortunately had lost a calf.

He was going through the desert for a long time; cold winter played everything around.  All his clothes were a big jacket with a lasher as a belt. He was barefooted, but the boy didn’t feel either rocks or barbs, just hunger. As much as he remembered himself he wanted to eat, but those day the feeling was stronger than usual.

He had eaten a handful of rice two days ago! He was plodding along without the purpose, but was going forward stubbornly, not knowing what would wait for him. He was alone in this world. One kept silent about his father, he didn’t know anything about his mother, too. There was an elder sister, but she lived in another family in a distant village. He lived in the relative’s family, who had a lot of own children. The boy was treated well, but without particular warmth. He didn’t already remember his mom’s affection or father’s warm hand, their images had erased.

The wind fell. Smog smelled. The boy felt how much he was frozen. He began to look for a warm place. His eyes saw a yurta in a distance with a fire nearby. The boy was so hungry! He thought of the breakfast and a taste of unfamiliar Russian bread brought by the uncle from the rayoncenter. The little boy hadn’t liked its unusual taste and color, but now he was ready to eat anything. Dogs began to bark feeling a stranger but the poor boy was going forward. He had never seen such big dogs. The boy was frightened; he dropped on the earth and began to cry. He cried for a long time not seeing the dogs were driven away, he didn’t remember one had lifted him. The kid was crying without sound. His soul seemed to cry, his childish soul, met so much troubles.

Finally the boy stopped to cry. The man touched his face; the little boy raised his head and saw ten pairs of eyes, as black and slanting as his own, gazed at him. He was calm down. Suddenly the man went out and said something loudly in a foreign language to a woman.

The woman entered the yurta with a samovar. The children began to make noise, trying to take a convenient pose around a small table. They pushed each other and giggled, glancing at the boy. On entering the man shouted slightly at the children and they were calm down. The man went to the little boy but he didn’t understand the host obviously. The man said something to the wife. The kid, heard incorrectly pronounced “karis”, raised his eyes at the man. The host called the child by gesture. The little hungry boy was eating unfamiliar food. Its taste was extraordinary. It was not like either the aunt’s food or the taste of Russian bread. There were no meat and sweets, but it was the richest meal he could imagine. There was no heavy silent like at the uncle’s home, here the children could push each other, give a pinch, sip hot slightly sweet water that smelled smog. The man just smiled at him. He didn’t notice him to asleep, holding a piece of bread in the hand.

Next morning the woman put something into the pocket of the child’s jacket, smiled at him and touched his hand. The man, taking the boy behind himself on the hoarse, went to the Korean village. 

The boy smiled in his dream. He awaked near to the village. The man stopped the hoarse, came up to an old Korean and pointed out the boy. The old man nodded.

Seating inside the mud hut, the boy tool out two round pieces: one, white and with an acid taste, was rocky like cracker, the other one was brown, oil, looked like bread but had another taste.

Time has erased names, faces, but he still can’t remember the taste of that baursak, made of dark flower. The taste of warmth, home-fire and large kindness.

I used some Russian and Kazakh word in the essay, such as
– yurta (traditional nomad’s house that is easy to put together)
– samovar (a russian invention to boil water for tea)
– baursak (kazakh fried piece of dough)

– kolkhoz – collective farm
– “karis” (an incorrect word “korean” in Russian and Kazakh)


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