Posts tagged Olzhas Suleimenov

Leadership and Education…after a month long hiatus

I didn’t expect I would write on this blog again once home in the U.S. However, I have great quotes that Kazakh students have written saved up on my computer that I just could not ignore.  As an educator for over 30 years, I think it is absolutely important to keep writing on these issues about education that concern Kazakhstan deeply.  Education, according to Sir William Halley, British newspaper editor and broadcasting administrator should reflect this: “Education would be so much more effective if its purpose were to ensure that by the time they leave school, every boy and girl should know how much they do not know, and be imbued with a lifelong desire to know it.”

While I taught in Kazakhstan in the last three and a half years, both in Almaty and Astana, I not only filled my students minds with facts but also hopefully moved their hearts.  I hope that the leaders of the westernized universities in Kazakhstan would understand the following quote attributed to an unknown author: “Outstanding leaders appeal to the hearts of their followers, not their minds.”  However, those administrators in universities throughout Kazakhstan are driven by Soviet practices which they learned in pedagogical institutes many years ago.  Sadly, they are teacher-centered in their approach as administrators and many are sorely outdated to keep up with the speed of the 21st century. I would like to remind them and my former students what Socrates knew:  “In every person there is a sun.  Just let them shine.”  Today’s Kazakh and Kazakhstani students are told over and over again they are the future of Kazakhstan but their own educators are not about letting them shine as individuals with their God-given strengths and talents.

The following is what one Kazakh student wrote, which encouraged me:  “I like reading.  One of my favorite books is “Abai” by Muhtar Auezov.  Abai was a great Kazakh poet, he lived in 1845-1904.  He exposed human vices, such as greediness, covetousness, duplicity, laziness, etc. in his works.  He did a lot for the enlightenment of Kazakh people. In his book Auezov describes Abai’s life, his experiences and difficulties he faced.” I need to find and read this book by Auezov in the U.S. if it has been translated into English, I doubt it though.

Finally, a British parliamentarian, Benjamin Disraeli is quoted as saying the following:  “I must follow the people. Am I not their leader?”  I think the following piece written by an informed Kazakh student about leadership is on the same, right track when she wrote about Olzhas Suleimenov.  If only there would be some champions to push to the public awareness about human trafficking.  That is today’s “nuclear sites” in rural Kazakhstan and other poorer countries in Central Asia:

“I would like to refer to one of the bright examples of leadership from Kazakh history, Olzhas Suleimenov.  He is known in Kazakhstan and other countries for his political activity, poetic works and anti-nuclear activity.  His name became known worldwide in 1989, when he led the movement called Nevada-Semipalatinsk.  It was aimed on closing nuclear sites in the Semipalatinsk area of Kazakhstan. He showed outstanding leadership skills during this movement.  It is really difficult and dangerous to rise against governmental machine of power and defend rights of people, who became victims because of nuclear testings in the region.  People were talking about closing nuclear test sites, but only to each other. 

And only Olzhas Suleimenov called people to fight for their rights.  Olzhas Suleimenov is a person who ideally suits the word “effective leader.”  First of all, he knew what he was going for.  He knew the risks, aims and he know that people would follow him.  At the same time, he worried for the future of his nation, he believed that people should fight for their rights.  He showed responsibility towards people and was brave enough to fight for their rights.  These qualities deserve admiring of this person and striving to follow suit.”

 

 

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Kazakhstan’s Shame in the Tour de France Victory

Apparently there seems, for some Kazakhs, to be shamed embarrassment over Kazakhstan’s involvement in Tour de France. I had to use Google translator to get the gist of this article that showed up this past week. The writer of the article is Olzhas Suleimenov, a well known public figure in Kazakhstan. He explained that the “Spaniard” he didn’t even use his name, Alberto Contador, won this major cycling event by a mere 6 seconds.

Yes, Contador’s biking apparel “Astana” was emblazoned in Kazahstan’s two colors of yellow and blue. Perhaps it should be thought of as wearing “Radio Shack” or some other sponsor. The sad humiliation that is suffered by this Kazakh author is that the Tour de France hosts did not play the Kazakh national anthem in Paris where the celebration honored the “Spaniard” instead.

Also, the mayor of Astana supposedly should have been in attendance, but he was not. I am curious why Kazakhstan has pursued this sporting event by paying the top cyclist to wear their colors and Astana shirt. I might add that Astana is merely the capital of Kazakhstan so technically it doesn’t have its own anthem either. However, a LOT of money has been sunk into the northern capital and much money was spent on the Tour de France team.

To show what kind of translation happens from Russian to English, I’ll quote what was written by Suleimenov:

“The band played the national anthem in honor of the winning team. We expected the anthem of Kazakhstan, our country still has a team, formally a team of Kazakhstan. However, sang a hymn of Spain. Last year, the Spaniard also won a t-shirt “Astana”, and then also Spanish national anthem sounded on the Champs Elysees. Next year is a good chance Luxembourger, and perhaps it will be in our shirt “Astana”. And then clap anthem of Luxembourg.

To hear our national anthem, to feel pride for their country, we will have to wait for win kazahstanets. Long wait. We still invest in the development of cycling in Europe…
Everybody congratulates the Spaniards, and we are again as in a strange feast. Humiliated by his own generosity? “

I don’t quite understand what the last sentence means: “Humiliated by his own generosity.”  But could it mean that the Kazakhs were generous to allow the Spaniard to wear their colors and name but then when he won, the rest of the celebration recognized him as a cyclist from Spain leaving Kazakhstan out?

There’s another article that popped up in English about Alberto Contador from a Madrid AP newspaper. Apparently Contador rejected the Astana team’s offer to extend his contract. Contador was exploring other options or perhaps it was too close for his comfort to win only 6 seconds ahead of his competitor. Maybe his teammates had let him down somewhere along the way?

From what I understand, Contador had been with Team Astana for three years but the first year his team was denied a place in the Tour de France because of doping violations. Also, more bad news for Team Astana, according to this article, Team Astana had trouble paying those cyclists from Kazakhstan who were on the team, maybe Contador was not paid in a timely manner as well. Who knows the true story and from which side is it coming from?

Why didn’t Contador ride for Spain is my question?

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Dr. Olcott’s “turn of phrase” about the Kazakhs

Dr. Martha Brill Olcott wrote a much more scholarly book about Kazakhstan, titled “The Kazakhs” than did Colin Thubron in his short chapters of “The Lost Heart of Asia.”  That is, if you can manage to navigate past the minute detail she got from her plethora of other “scholarly” sources.  My husband bought this book in 1992 which was published by Hoover Institution Press at Stanford in 1987.  Judging by Olcott’s sources, 100 western (in English, not counting her own) and around 350 Russian, obviously she knows Russian and adeptly translated all her sources. But my question is, are they accurate even though this volume on the Kazakhs was in a Hoover Institution series about the Crimean Tartars and Volga Tartars, Estonians and Georgians as well.

 

What is also obvious to me is that she shows a dearth of writings in the Kazakh language, only 17 that she documented in her bibliography.  My husband wrote in the margins of this book which he read over 17 years ago that he suspected Soviet or communist propaganda was bleeding through her Russian sources about the Kazakhs.  I would posit that someone else needs to write about the Kazakhs in English for curious western readers and have a more thorough going approach to the history of this great country.

 

What I found of interest in Olcott’s seminal work was in her Conclusion about Olzhas Suleimenov.  Remember as you read her words that it was before the Soviet Union dissolved and there was an internalized tug-of-war going on over the nationalities question.

 

“A group of Kazakh writers and historians has provided particular trouble for the regime because of their preoccupation with the Kazakh past and with the historical figures who helped shape it.  These individuals seek the right to present a Kazakh-centered view of history, one which implicitly rejects Moscow’s contention that all history must be told from the Russian point of view.  However, these people are often treated as though they have taken the first step toward ideological heresy.  A case in point is the book Az I Ia (Alma Ata, 1975), by the poet Olzhas Suleimenov, which seeks to retell the “Igor’s tale” from a Turkic perspective….

 

…Kazakh scholars may study individuals who opposed Russian conquest, but the conquest itself must still be depicted as voluntary submission by the Kazakhs, since Russian contact with the Kazakhs must always be construed as positive.  Because Suleimenov’s book reversed this relationship and denied the Russians a central role in the history of the medieval period, Moscow reacted furiously. (p. 253)

 

Still, Kazakh intellectuals remain preoccupied with preserving the historical legacy of their past, particularly since the economic policies of the 1960s and 1970s obliterated the nomadic way of life in all but the desert regions of the republic.  These intellectuals, like many of their Third World counterparts, are glorifying a past that poses them no direct risk.  They no longer have to suffer the wrath of traditional leadership, and so the past may be romanticized.  Many prominent contemporary Kazakh poets – such as O. Suleimenov and K. Murzaliev – and novelists – such as S. Sanbaev, A. Alimzhanov, and I. Esenberlin – have made their reputations from works that rely heavily on historical themes in a tradition as old as Kazakh oral literature itself.  Some of these writers, such as Suleimenov and Sanbaev, talk about the old values and tell tales about nomadic life before the revolution; others write historical novels about important personages in Kazakh history, such as Esenberlin’s Khan Kene (1971, about Kenisary Kasimov) and Kochevniki (1979, a three-volume portrait of Khan Abu’l Khayr).

 

These books, romantic treatments of times long past, reflect the influence of socialist realism as much as of traditional Kazakh themes; they are in no way meant to incite Kazakhs to resist Russians.  The books were published and many were widely distributed and translated as well; they are meant to portray the distinctive heritage of which all Kazakhs should be proud.  However, Moscow tends to view any increase in Kazakh national self-awareness as dangerous and so watches the Kazakh authors closely…” (p. 254)

 

“The philosophy of the Kazakh intellectuals is far more difficult to categorize and may ultimately be more dangerous.  Apparently harmless demands for greater Kazakh cultural self-determination potentially threaten the status quo, although the search for a modern Kazakhstan has thus far been restricted to cultural autonomy (witness Suleimenov’s reinstatement) – appear to have been met, and Moscow’s attack on erring Kazakhs has been relatively low-key.  Were the Kazakhs to demand greater control of their economic and political lives, they would be unlikely to receive a mild response.” (p. 255)

 

“The impact of the tradition of Kazakh secular nationalism on present political developments in Kazakhstan is difficult to assess, but some points are clear.  A minority in their own republic, the Kazakhs have managed to exert strong control not only in their political life but in cultural, social and religious affairs as well; they have politicized cultural issues in a way that other Central Asian nationalities have not.  As a result they have managed to preserve at least part of their history from complete reinterpretation by the Soviets.  Their literature is strongly linked to that of the prerevolutionary period, and although heavily ideological hack writers exist whose works receive wide distribution, they do not overshadow the large group of serious Kazakh writers.” (p. 256)

 

Yes, I would like to meet these serious writers, or at least read their works if translated into English.  I want to be able to read about this buried treasury of Kazakh history from what has been handed down orally for centuries.  I would hope that some of my own Kazakh students would take up this challenge and let the western world know what an amazing culture and country this really is!

 

 

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