Posts tagged Leon Aron

Abai’s Words of Wisdom and Russian Spies

A central literary character in Kazakhstan’s recent past is Abai Kunanbaev. In today’s blog I will document some Kazakh proverbs I found in his “Book of Words.”  To me it seems reminiscent of the melancholy words found in Ecclesiastes combined with proverbs. Thankfully Abay’s words of wisdom is on the Internet translated into English. I appreciate Richard McKane and David Aikyn’s work as translators found on the link of the prior underlined words.

The following are Kazakh proverbs that Abai wrote about, some he took issue with, others he agreed with.  Abai is an interesting person to know and understand if you want to understand the Kazakh culture.  He speaks of his own people being lazy and too crafty.  He admonished his own to study Russian and highly recommended to learn from the foreigner (the Russians at that time).  Below the Kazakh proverbs, see what our own Thomas L. Friedman had to write about the Russian spy swap that just happened recently.  He has a good quote from Leon Aron.

Word Six

“The source of success is unity, and of well-being- life.”

Word Twenty-Nine

“If you live in need, forget your shame.”

“A clever fellow can set even the snow on fire.”

“If your name is unknown, set the field on fire.”

“Even an angel will stray from the path at the sight of gold.”

“He who has shame also has iman.”

Word Thirty-nine

“He who cannot forgive the fault of his neighbor will be offended by a stranger.”

“He who seeks the right path will find treasure, but he who seeks greatness will find woe.”

Word Forty-three

“In what we seek too persistently we find evil.”

This New York Times article written by Thomas L. Friedman titled “The Spies Who Loved Us” had an interesting quote from Leon Aron:

“Importing ideas and technology from the West has been a key element in Russia’s ‘modernizations’ since at least Peter the Great in the early 18th century. … But Russia has tightly controlled what it imported: Machines and engineers, yes. A spirit of free inquiry, a commitment to innovation free from bureaucratic ‘guidance’ and, most important, encouragement of brave, even brash, entrepreneurs who can be confident they will own the results of their work — most certainly no. Peter and his successors sought to produce fruit without cultivating the roots. … Only a man or woman free from fear and overseers can build a Silicon Valley. And such men and women are harder and harder to come by in Russia today. … Disgusted and scared by the lawlessness and rampant corruption. … Russian entrepreneurs are investing very little in their country beyond their immediate production needs.”

How does this relate to Kazakhstan?  Well, those westerners who live in Kazakhstan and have worked with the university system might sit up and take notice.

Tomorrow I will include the vocabulary of Kazakh from the writings of Abai

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