Posts tagged Pushkin

Are Good Writers Born…?

That’s why I came to do the job I do, to train and develop potential writers in a “westernized university” in Almaty, Kazakhstan.  Are any of my Kazakh or Kazakhstani students born to write?  I need to discover who they are and encourage them.  I think I have some very good candidates already. I asked my writing students yesterday to grapple with the nature vs. nurture question: “Are good writers born or can he/she develop her skills to become a good writer?”

In one of my groups, they took this question seriously and Abzal was the eloquent note-taker.  Of the five in his group, only one person believed that writing is inborn, the rest believed this is a skill that can be developed through a lifetime.  Sasha believed that writing talent is given by God, his examples were Pushkin, Shakespeare.  He claimed that these kinds of authors and writers are not born every day, and there is not any substitutes for them.

 Then Karlygash argued saying that it always depends on the social environment.  For example, Pushkin’s nanny raised him and developed his writing skills and there are a lot more examples. 

This group continued to discuss about modern authors such as Dan Brown, J.K. Rowling, Stepnegae Myer [?] and others.  They probably developed their skills and writing talent came to them through their lifetime and their environment…Then Zhandos and Azamat added that it could be talent can come from you when born, like the famous philosophers Socrates, Aristotle and Al-Farabi, there were no educating environment, but still they are the best and most knowledgeable authors.

 So, finally we agreed that, it’s so true, there is no answer to this question.


In another group, they had this to write:

Nariman:  I believe that a good writer of words has to have some kind of talent and it has to be developed further.

Aigerim:  I think writers develop his work into a writer with his talent which was given him by God.  He uses his own experience and inspiration.

Nargiz: I think its important to be interested in this writing activity because then he or she can develop his talent and become the best writer.

Igor:  In my opinion, I think that every person who is interested in writing can develop his/her writing skills and become a good writer without any talent.

 Another group was split 50/50, this is what their notes read:  We think that everyone has good skills to write, some develop them, others not.  Golden rule:  The more you read, the better you write!”

 One group wrote unanimously: “Good writers are born.”  E.G. M. Sholohov who wrote “Silent Don” he graduated only from two classes in school but he became a good writer without any development.

 Viktoriya wrote for her group the following:  “Aina thinks that the good writers are born because usually there is a talent and passion to writing.  Ilyas doesn’t agree and states that good writers are not born but are developed.  You can always improve and gain new skills.  Madi agrees with Ilyas.  He says that talent needs to be developed, cause it can fade away easily if it existed before.  Pavel is also for writer development.  There are two types of writers:  the one who is born with talent, the other who develops it.  I, Viktoriya, can agree with the guys. I’ve met a lot of journalists who did not have any skills in writing at school but after gaining some interest and skills became excellent authors.  But I also have some friends who are born talented writers.

 Rustam believes a good writer is born (Pushkin)

Daniyar says they can be developed (Churchill)

Youngsu: good writer is born (Shakespeare)

Ainura: can be developed by reading

Aigerim:  can be developed but writer should have some talent

Conclusion:  good writing can be achieved by working hard, but excellent work is usually done by very talented people.


Our opinions are different.  We have two opposite sides:  One thinks that a person is born a good writer while the others think that a person can become a good writer.  Those who think that a person is born a good writer considers that one person cannot be good at two fields.  Meaning that if he is good a mathematics, he cannot be good at writing.  However, the other group thinks that a person can become a writer developing his skills.

We came to the conclusion that everything depends on the person, we cannot judge everybody in one way.  There are some exceptions as one person could be a good mathematician and a good writer.  Some are born good writers and some become a writer through hard work and time.


Finally, this group had the MOST to write from their discussion group about writing:

Jeon:  I think a good writer is born.  If someone wants to be good at something, t least they have an interest.  

Niyaz: I believe that a good writer is born to be a good writer…actually good writers just do not know about their skills, so in order to be a good writer, they just must develop it.

Galina: I think that a good writer is neither born nor develops his/her skills.  I believe that in order to be a good writer, one has to first be born with a certain talent and then has to work really hard to develop this talent.  There are a lot of “writers” out there but their writing is nothing but some words combined together.  In order to create something really outstanding, one has to involve his/her soul in the process. [YES!!!]

Azamat: I think that everyone can develop into a writer.  Moreover, it should be improved from earlier age, using some games which can improve verbal ability and skills.

Zhuldyz: I absolutely disagree that writers have to be born, because, in our life everything is possible.  If you really want to reach something or to become a better writer, you can do this. You have to think about this, and try to reach this every day.  As Napolean Hill said: “If you will do what you do, you will get what you get.”  You don’t stay in one position.  You are not a tree, if you dislike your position in this life or society, just change and everything will be perfect!!!

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Request from My Former Ukrainian Student

The following e-mail was sent to me by a former Ukrainian student in Kyiv.  I would LOVE to help her out but I’m flummoxed as to what my response should be to her.  I don’t have any connections in the American film industry but I want to help her pursue her dream. 

Tonight I just had my Kazakh students,  who are pursuing their MBA degree,  give their first informative speeches.  They talked on what they are passionate about for their own personal reasons such as, photography, Pushkin, solar energy, distance education, corruption, multinationals, oil industry, raising children, etc.  HOW great for both my classes to have three expat visitors come to observe, evaluate and witness my students in action.  My students were a bit nervous but thrilled too.  Tomorrow I’ll show photos of our group and also some falcon photos (courtesy of my friend Kathy’s camera and her visit last weekend where falcons do the hunting). 

Here is what Renata wrote:

Good afternoon!

At least it’s afternoon in Ukraine now. Thank you for a birthday greeting, it was nice and surprising to hear from you. Sorry for answering so late, studying was really harsh and I didn’t have internet connection for some time. But it’s better late then never.

I’d like to thank you for all the writing skills that you taught us, and all the knowledge that I got from your classes, far as I still apply them in all other classes and in life.

I am writing to you also with a request for an advice. I know that you have a great experience in editing and writing, and you might have enough knowledge and experience, to be able to answer my question.

I have this little dream for quite a long time, and a decided to take attempts to implement it, no matter how childish and unreal it might look. I have an idea of a movie screenplay in my mind, a gorgeous screenplay. i don’t have enough experience in screenplay writing, to be able to put it down the way it has to be written in order to be presented to somebody who might get interested in it. I also wouldn’t like it to be released in Ukraine, I would like to have it presented in U.S.

Could you please advise me, or give me some ideas on how from your point of view this can be done, or maybe you know someone in U.S that I might contact with and get an advice.

Thanks in advance.

Best regards,


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Irina’s Korean Grandmother

I’d like to tell a story about a woman I’ve never seen. She was a usual person, one of millions in the world, but she is unusual for me. She is my grandma. All I know about her is from my father’s memoirs.  

She was born in the Far East and was deported to Kazakhstan in 1937 like thousands of her age. I know almost nothing about her childhood, just general and several unrelated facts. I think her young years were not so happy, because of starvation, a new, unfriendly place and the World War II. Her father had been executed before the deportation. Her mother was very overbearing and had three daughters (one of them is my grandma) from two husbands. My great grandma’s second husband was a teacher, a Principal of a local secondary school in Kazakhstan and had magnetic eyes of yellow color that was strange for Asians, so lots of people still remember him. And those are the scarce facts I’ve heard.            

During student life grandma met my grandpa, they studied in Kryzylorda Training College together. That time she was a future Russian Language and Literature teacher and my grandpa was a future teacher of Mathematics and Physics. After graduation they got an order to go to Kalpe village in Almaty District, near to my grandma’s parents.

Here their married life started. All the time after College my grandparents worked for a secondary school in the village teaching Russian language, Literature, Mathematics and Physics accordingly. They had three sons; my father is the middle son. Every summer they took a field and grew onions for additional profit. It was a traditional business for many Korean families (for plenty of families the onion growing was a main business and it brought much more money than teaching or other work). As my grandma was the only woman in the family she had to do or at least to manage all the related routines at home from cooking to farming and combine all these with her professional activity. An interesting fact that takes place in this story is that my grandpa had chronic stomach and intestinal tract aches, so he never took part in home activities. Besides, he went to Caucasus and other Soviet health resorts every summer, while his wife and sons repaired the house.

I wonder how my grandma dealt with so many things, but still there are lots of her students who remember her as a brilliant teacher. And their words affirm books, greeting cards, photos with thankful notes. One surprising fact which my father told me is that grandma while being in a hospital learned by heart a poem “Yevgeniy Onegin” by Pushkin! It is unbelievable! She collected a big home library including rare books and editions and made many-many other things we still use at home.

Unfortunately, she died at the age of 48 because of cancer. It is pity, but my father even doesn’t remember her date of birthday because they never celebrated it or may be because a birthday was changed every solar year (grandparents used to celebrate birthdays according to lunar calendar). Two years later after the death my grandpa got married again. But last summer he said: “I’ve never met and I will never meet a woman similar to her. She was a real wife and woman”. And I think he was right.        

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Aida’s Grandmother: Life in ALZHIR

I. Introduction

70 years ago Kazakhstan was the place of exile and deportation for millions of Soviet people. There were 953 camps and colonies of the punishment system functioned throughout the country in the years of Stalin repressions. One of them is sadly known as Akmolinskiy camp for wives of traitors betrayed (ALZHIR from the Russian initials) the Fatherland was based in the village of Malinovka. That was the sole camp in the USSR, where about 20 thousand women – mothers, wives, daughters of the repressed were imprisoned (Elmann 2007, p. 668). My grandmother who spent more than ten years in ALZHIR, the elite of the Kazakhs, and many others like her survived because of the extremely strong desire to live, to hope, to love and make the Kazakh steppe independent, free, and to keep it for the next generation.

II. Background of labor camps

The command–administrative system leaded by Bolshevik communist party required to totally subordinate to the aims and system of Soviet time, no one had the permission to think, and talk differently (Rosefielde 1994, p1). Individuals, especially well educated people were proactive to establish their own views to be independent, free to think and protect the values they believed in, that means they were against for Politburo’s system. Such people were prosecuted and finally were killed and their relatives became the victims of repressions and deportations. 1932 – 33 years were marked by savage and extra-judicial repression period of time (Elmann 2007, p. 668). It led in 1932 – 33 to a quarter of a million people being charged by the OGPU and more than 200,000 sentences (normally of 5 – 10 years in the Gulag) of which more than 11,000 seem to have been death sentences.

“I was 21 year old new married, young woman and have just started my life with lovely person, we didn’t even had the honeymoon yet, when, suddenly, all my plans and dreams crashed, my husband was killed (after 10 years I knew) and I was repressed for 10 year sentence to ALZHIR, just because I was the wife of the enemy of the country,”

said Mrs. Balken Sultanova (interview 2005) the prisoner of ALZHIR. On July 3, 1937, Head of NKVD (Peoples’ Committee for Internal Affairs) of the Western Siberia Mr. Mironov and Peoples’ Commissar of Internal Affairs of Kazakhstan Mr. Zalin simultaneously received an encoded telegram, which prescribed them to organize two concentration camps fenced with razor-wire and having advanced security and increased guards to exclude escapees. These facilities were not meant for assassins and thefts – they were meant for fragile women: wives, mothers, sisters… Of the two camps Kazakhstan ALZHIR was the biggest women’s colony where instead of three thousand prisoners twenty thousand were kept. The telegram was signed by the Head of GULAG Mr. Berman, but was initiated by Mr. Yezhov. Neither sickness, nor pregnancy or babies could prevent women from being kept here. Absurd, but even the former wives of the parricides were arrested. The authority thought that women shared points of view of their husbands, meaning they were potentially dangerous.

III. Extent of problems – living conditions in the labor camps

“Arrests were quite fast – there was no investigation held: a woman would not even have time to pack her belongings and say goodbye to her relatives, who in their turn were arrested later as well,” shared Mrs. Sultanova.  “Women in home slippers or light shoes on their feet stepped into the thick Akmola snowdrifts”. Prisoners worked in the gardens, took care of cattle. Also, they cut the reeds, worked in the forests and felled the trees to earn daily rate for food. Moreover, they worked in extremely difficult natural conditions because the temperature could fall to -50 º C (Zaitseva & Homburg 2005, p.57).

IV. Solution for problems – hope, love and help

“The daily rate of food was given according to how much you worked, 200 grams of bread and may be sometimes porridge. I was young and worked very hard and over made my daily standard that is why I survived. But, unfortunately many people were dying because of starvation and hard work,” said Mrs. Sultanova.

Also, another Gulag prisoner Hava Volovich in the article of Ruthchild (2000) said very horrific facts about the living conditions in labor camps:

You were allowed into the bathhouse once a month and given half a bowl of water: as for a laundry – forget it. Every puddle of rainwater was precious, and when they wanted to wash their clothes, women would carry their bowls around the camp and get their friends to piss in them, and then use the urine to wash a sweater or a skirt. (p.8)

Children of the parricides were sent to orphanages all over the huge country. Relatives or friends were purposefully divided. But even in the darkest time a human being is led by hope. Only the hope to see their children again helped those women not to break-down in ALZHIR. The hope to see and live again with their family made them survive in that difficult and savage time. “One day when we came after very difficult working day to our barracks, I started to recite the poem of the Alexander Pushkin about brave and hope,” said Mrs. Sultanova. “The jailer of our barrack stayed silently and than added: even we separated you from your family, high elite community and forced to hard work you are still morally unbreakable. I wonder at your power!”

V. Conclusion

To sum up, I would like to add Mrs. Sulatanova’s words: “Extremely strong desires to live made us alive and survive, because we were responsible for the future of the Kazakhs.” Nowadays when Kazakhstan is independent and a sovereign country and have the legal constitution about human rights, we lay our heads to our brave and really patriot hero ancestors. That is why every year on the 31st of May we remind the victims of political repressions and is called as the Memorial Day. The horrific memories of this time period lives not only in books, but also in the memories of the people who survived the Stalin’s terror up till nowadays. The cultural heritage of Kazakhs can be enriched not only with the help of books and Internet but also by accessing the primary sources-the survivors’ stories. History-is our future, for those who don’t know their past will never be successful in future. There is the old Kazakh proverb tells “Who don’t know his history, he is like the tree without roots”. Therefore, history should be treated as a treasure, for it is the only thing that will remain living through ages and will made the new generation of Kazakhstan be proud of their ancestors and be inspired to work and live for the well being of their country.

Works Cited

Ellman, M. (2007). Discussion article Stalin and the Soviet famine of 1932 – 33 revisited. Europe-Asia Studies. 4 (59), 663 – 693.

Rosefielde, S. (1994), Retreat from utopia: the reconfiguration of Russia Socialism. Atlantic Economic Journal. 2 (22), 1-12.

Ruthchild G. R, (2000) Heroes of our time. The women’s review of books. 6(17), 7-8.

Sultanova, B. (personal interview). 25 May. 2005.

Zaitseva E & Hamburg E, (2005). Catalytic chemistry under Stalin: science and scientists in times of repression. Ambix, 1(52), 45-65.

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