Posts tagged starvation

Iliyas’ Grandfather was a Gold Miner in East Kazakhstan

Every Kazakh family has a rich history, that begins from the far past this is because everyone in Kazakh traditional society must know about his ancestors seven generations back. Using this knowledge Kazakhs may find a lot of relatives (this fact is very important and can be helpful to prevent incest when people get married). So our family is no exception. But now I want to tell about my grandparents, my grandfather Adilgazin Kadyr and my grandmother Sadykova Kulash.

My grandpa was born in Boke village, where people mined gold, in 1940. This settlement is situated in East Kazakhstan, in the mountains. His father was gold miner, but the Second World War had taken him to the front as many other Soviet men. Many people like my grandpa starved. People who didn’t withstand difficulties became food for worms. But little Kadyr-ata survived. He was very smart and wanted to read, to study, to be happy. But his childhood is unhappier than ours. When my grandfather was 18 he went studying in the Pedagogical University in Uskemen. I’m proud of my grandpa, because he is hard worker. He ended studying in the university with good marks and had bearing arms in Turkmen for three years (he often tells me long stories about his military service).

Then he became teacher of history in Boke School. History is his favorite science, because he wants to know what events happened be in the past. In Boke he met my granny, teacher of biology and they got married. My grandma is great mother and a wonderful housewife. She brought my grandpa three boys. One of them is my father.

My grandpa’s hobbies are body-building and reading. Every day he and granny do some exercises, that help for their health, although Kadyr-ata went for boxing and took part in many different championships. My grandfather has a rich library, where you can find books with various topics and tastes.

The years went. By after teaching for ten years Kadyr-ata became headmaster of his school. He is very a good leader. His school won a lot of regional competitions, the graduates showed good results on exams and everybody didn’t forget my grandfather’s merits. But now he and my granny are retired and live with us in Astana. They are happy to see their grandsons everyday.

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Daniyar’s Grandfather “Saved” by a Cannibal

I am going to narrate you shortly some interesting facts about my grandfather from father’s side. His name is Ospanov Alisher. It’s my view that he had a very difficult life, especially during childhood. He was born in 1926. During the period of Great Starvation, agriculture collectivization he was about 6-7 years old. These times his parents left their native town and went to live better with relatives who lived in Tashkent. On their way my grandfather missed their train. Regretfully, now we don’t have any details why it happened. But it happened and Alisher had to survive somehow.

From that moment, the destiny made him live in a children’s home and on the streets. Once he was caught trying to steal a piece of bread in the market. The crowd wanted to beat him up but one man interceded for my grandfather and offered to let him stay with him. Later Alisher by accident saw the bodies of dead children in the garden of that man. My grandfather ran away from him. Most likely that man was a cannibal.

Alisher decided there might be a chance to meet parents at the market. So, every day he asked for food at the market and he finally met his grandmother. Once Alisher matured, he helped all his nephews to get a high education. He was first who went to Almaty city and helped others to move here. A lot of people are still grateful to him for their present circumstance. Also he made my grandmother, his wife to get a higher education. Alisher used to say that education is the road to a cloudless future.

Also my grandfather made a huge work making «Shejere» – our family tree. He has been collecting data for his whole life and finally made an impressive list of our ancestors. I am sure it is good idea in Kazakh world to name your father and grandfather presenting your self between relatives. Of course I am proud of my grandfather. How can I not to be, when I always see people who still remember and truly respect Alisher when I pronounce his name, despite the fact he died 13 years ago.

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Almas T’s Other Grandparent story – TRIPLETS!

It was March 19, 1956 and it was warm evening remembered by Nurtai Sadykov, my grandfather. He came home after work at usual time and saw that his wife Zubaira Sadykova (my grandmother) was staying on step-ladder and liming the ceiling. Their nine-year-old daughter Gulya was keeping a bucket with lime next to her. My grandmother had already been in her ninth month of pregnancy and that day she was too active. She did all possible house work with their four children. Four of them were really tired after hard working day. My grandfather asked her to calm down and think about the child inside of her and after that they begun to prepare dinner table for having the supper.

 Later on she asked her husband to see her off to the local hospital by joking to their children that it was high time to go and bring a baby. She also made fun of them by telling that they need another helper and then they would make progress in doing house work. My grandfather took his wife and accompanied her to the maternity hospital. On his way back home he popped in to his brothers’ house to tell them happy news. As it usually happened, all of them came to my grandparents’ home to wait for the birth of the child. The delivery was at eight o’clock and all of them started celebrating that. For all of them it was happy news to know that a girl was born. That baby was my mother. After approximately two hours all of guests were informed about the birth of another girlie.

 In post-war time for every family it was great news to have two new born children at once. They started to try to name them and it was a hot discussion. It was difficult to choose because the huge amount of names was suggested. During that hot debate the relatives and other guests were informed about third child’s birth. Of course all of them said that it was joke and it was decided to call to the maternity hospital to be sure. The nurse answered that it was true and they should rejoice and my grandfather said that he was really afraid for his love.

In the next morning all newspapers wrote about it and some of them my mother still keeps. Of course it was a sensation which intrigued all people. It was uncommon and still it is – to have triple birth. After that birth my granny got monthly donation and there was a woman, appointed by the government as a helper for bringing up the children until they were 7 years old. There were four children born after my mother; my aunt and my uncle birth. Also five-year-old German girl was adopted by my grandparents and in total they had thirteen children.

Now my both grandparents died and when I think about their life I realize how difficult it was because they saw starvation in the Thirties, the Second World War and collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. I suppose mostly because of their strong personalities they could look after the family and help the children to graduate universities and get married. That is a big deal.

I think it was a great time, even in spite of the fact that life was much harder. People cared more about their families and really appreciated it. Now, you would barely meet a family with thirteen children, even three of four is a rarity. Unfortunately we are too concerned about our work and too busy making money. I am happy that my mother had such a wonderful chance to live in a big family and have twelve brothers and sisters. I would like to experience the same, but we are only three in my family.

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Central Asia and “Soul” by Andrey Platonov

 

I just finished reading a powerful short story that became a classic in the former Soviet Union. Perhaps because it touched a nerve with the “souls” of those who were struggling in a supposedly “classless society.”  It certainly irked Stalin enough to put Platonov on the black list of Soviet writers.  However, Platonov’s stories continue to surface, even today. 

 

 

I appreciate the cover on the front of this “Soul” book which uses the artist Kazimir Malevich opaque painting “Torso in a Yellow Shirt.”  I have run across Malevich’s works before in relation to Ukraine’s Holodomor [Terror Famine] and the devastation of millions of destroyed souls in the early 1930s. 

 

Platonov masterfully and craftily writes about famine which manifested itself in Central Asia as well without ever once using the words “starvation” or “famine.” [of course those words were verbotten in the 1930s]  I think the translators skillfully brought out Platonov’s Russian nuances into English which will hopefully make this a classic MUST read among westerners.  Please read the following quotes I found intriguing, I’m sure the original Russian is just as gripping.

 

p. 31 “Chagataev told the old man that he had come from far away for the sake of his mother and his nation.  But did his nation still exist on earth, or had it come to an end long ago?

The old man said nothing.

“Did you see your father anywhere?” he asked.

“No. And you – do you know Stalin?”

“No, I don’t,” Sufyan answered.  “I once heard that word from a passer-by.  He said it was a good word.  But I don’t think it can be.  If it is something good, let it come here to Sary-Kamysh.  This was the hell of the entire world, and no human being lives a worse life than I do.”

“It’s me that’s come,” said Chagataev. “Here I am.”

 

p. 105 “Then Chagataev gathered everyone together and asked whether they intended to live of their own accord or were they still living merely thanks to such outside forces as food, air, water and habit acquired at birth.  Nobody answered him anything.

Many pale eyes were straining to look at Chagataev, trying not to close from weakness and indifference.  Chagataev felt the pain of his sorrow: his nation did not need communism.  His nation needed oblivion – until the wind had chilled its body and slowly squandered it in space.  Chagataev turned away from everyone: all his actions, all his hopes had proved senseless…”

 

“…Did there remain in his nation even a small soul, something he could work with in order to bring about general happiness? Or had everything there been so worn away by suffering that even imagination, the intelligence of the poor, had entirely died?  Chagataev knew from childhood memory, and from his education in Moscow, that any exploitation of a human being begins with the distortion of their soul, with getting a soul so used to death that it can be subjugated; without this subjugation, a slave is not a slave.  And this forced mutilation of the soul continues, growing more and more violent, until reason in the slave turns to mad and empty mindlessness.  The class struggle begins with the victory of the oppressors over the ‘holy spirit’ confined within the slave: blasphemy against the master’s beliefs – against the master’s soul, the master’s god – goes unpardoned, while the slave’s own soul is ground down in falsehood and destructive labour.”

p. 109 “Half an hour later he was close enough to see that the entire Dzhan nation was sitting around this fire of quietly burning saksaul.  The nation was singing a song and did not notice Chagataev.  Chagataev listened to this song, enthralled…The song said: 

“We won’t cy when tears come to us,

we won’t smile from joy,

and nobody will be able to reach our deep heart,

which will make its own way towards people

and the whole life and stretch out its hands to them

when its bright time comes,

and this time is now near;

deep in our hearts we can hear our soul,

hurrying to come out and help us.”

 

p. 149 “Chagataev took Ksenya’s hand in his own hand and felt the far-away, rapid beating of her heart; it was as if her soul wanted to reach him and come to his rescue.  Chagataev now knew for sure that help could come to him only from another human being.

 

So it would seem that the communist idealist who believed in Stalin because he was essentially orphaned to the communist State, went on a mission to be the “savior” to his meager “pedestrian nation” in Central Asia, extracting it from near extinction.  However, in the end he needed saving from himself and those ideals that had possessed and tormented his life almost to physical death.  Ultimately, he was freed in the end of this short story by love from another desperate soul.

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USSR’s Past Problems, My Students’ Grandparents Solutions

The following excerpts are just some brainstorming my students are doing about their final essay and portfolio project for our academic reading and writing course. Problems aplenty, their grandparents had creative solutions in order to get out from under the burdens of the Soviet regime.  I am looking forward to reading their FINAL PRODUCT!

 

Russian empire’s system of education – The nature of this problem led to repression and political organization in the early Soviet Union.  The nature of problem is distribution of state money in Russian empire, less of it was spent on education and thus not developed educational system.  Consequently, enormous amount of uneducated “marginal” people and this problem concerned every person and effected every sphere of their living.  Main effect is revolution [1917] and after that fatal because no competition of any competent personnel.  The effect was an absolute fall of science and culture. Natalya

 

Education – Problems with education with no teachers, not enough schools.  Also, I think it is a problem for Kazakh people because in Soviet period all things were put into Russian language. Many Kazakh people didn’t get hired on jobs.  Many Kazakhs learn Russian language and forgot their own language.  I think some of parents don’t know their mother language because their parents spoke Russian language.  Their solution to survive was to learn Russian. Madina

 

Education – Some problems in education was overteaching, too much to read in some classes which children don’t need.  In the Soviet time, education was censored.  All pupils learned by only one book and nowadays we can choose our books and the way of learning ourselves.  It was in the whole Soviet Union because the Soviet government made that for “brain cleaning.”  For showing their way of history and showing dictators from good side.  It started from kindergarten and ended in the university, after this education they are believe that only their dictator is the best, only the Soviet Union is the best, etc.

Solution: – Now people only smiling when reminded of these times.  People learn how to think for themselves and how to learn themselves.  Askar

 

Famine – The topic of my problem/solution essay is starvation and WWI.  I think that is one of the great problems of that period of time because a lot of people died and their families stayed alone without help.  The nature of the problem is unemployment because it was difficult to have a good education in that period and people did not work and died from famine.  It had a great impact on the people and many small children began to work very early.  I think that this problem needed to be solved by the older generation because small children struggled from these problems.  Also, a lot of people died during Great Patriotic War, many people lost their relatives and it was really difficult to stabilize the situation that existed in that period of time.  Nowadays we haven’t so difficult situation, like starvation and I think our great grandfathers did everything for that. Zhanna

 

Famine after WWII – Nature of the problem is famine after and during WWII.  The main cause is war and approximately all men were taken to war.  Everything was put on women, most products (food) was sent to war places.  This problem was not in the whole country, but mostly in auls (villages) and nearest places to front.  This probably was needed to be solved because many, many people would die.  Finally, if this problem wasn’t solved, then people simply would die, because people first of all needed to eat to survive. Diana

 

Soviet Living Conditions – All these problems of bad lifestyle, lack of food and clothes, no place to live and long lines to stand in, led to illnesses and depopulation.  Older generations tried to solve that problem by using their own experience, and in my problem solution essay I will use quotes from my grandmother in how she solved these problems.

If no solution had been found, people would have died, so the conclusion is “the strong people will survive.”

All these problems are very important for former USSR, because our older generation suffered from these problems and I want to show it in my paper. Kristina

 

Broken up families/poor families – Many Soviet women had to bring up their children alone because their husbands had died during the war, famine, etc.  The effects of this is that many children, especially oldest sons didn’t have “proper” childhoods, women had to work harder, also start to do some “man work.”  The fact that there is no man in the family didn’t effect well psychologically on little children as well; women started to emancipate in many fields of life.  Maiya

 

Soviet repression – I’ll choose the problems which were social problems about gulags and prisons.  During the Stalin’s repression, a lot of people became an enemies of the state because of different causes.  In Soviet period, there are a lot of educated people, “intelligence” they were against an ideology, Stalin’s regime and that’s why the government decided to imprison them.  This problem was extended in the whole USSR.  Many people were imprisoned in gulags and died there.  Then the population was fallen dramatically.  That time was a scary time when people were in fear and always worried about themselves and their relatives. Akbota

 

Evacuation – People who were relocated during WWII faced new living conditions they weren’t used to.  This problem was caused by evacuation during WWII.  These problems needed to be solved because it was the only way to survive.  If no solution had been found, all the people who suffered a lot, both local people and those who were evacuated would have died.  This problem was very widespread during that time because families were destroyed, relatives were placed in different regions of the country.  But still, they had to be strong to start a new life in a new location. Yelena

 

Enemies of the PeopleSoviet Union claimed that my grandparents were enemies of the USSR.  They were the elites and came from well-educated and well known families and the communist party wanted to make all the people as equal as possible and started to destroy the elites of Kazakh, to not let them mobilize all the poor and not to educate people to protect their rights and do not proclaim themselves as independent, a sovereign republic from USSR.

The elites of Kazakhs at that time wanted to be free as their ancestors, to establish as Kazakh autonomy country and they could mobilize people to fight for their sovereignty.  But most of the elites were killed by communist party’s representatives and their wives were sent to working camps such as gulag ALZHIR.  But the wives could stay straight even under a lot of problems came and they survived.  They worked hard and helped other people and finally they achieved their goals.  Kazakhstan is independent and a sovereign republic. Aida

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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“Kazakh Grandmother” Kanat’s narrative

She used to tell her stories in low voice and mentioning names like she was retelling incident took place yesterday. My grandmother. As every old man she liked to repeat her stories several times with new interesting details. Listening to her stories you will understand her jokes every time more and you understand why she laughs and why her face comes sad.

 

She was born in a family of rich and noble mullah (imam). With the new regime in the country, her father came under pressure was accused of being religious and outstanding rich. He was sent to camp in Siberian Russia, constructing bridges in distant areas and who was sent back to Kazakhstan before his actual death time. He survived after traditional medical treatment and lived till his old age. My grandmother started learning writing and reading after sixteen, during Soviet regime. She could write and read Kazakh in Arabic and Latin alphabet and finally she learned Russian alphabet-based Kazakh writing.

 

One story that interested me in 1930s is dispossessions of kulaks, my grand-grandfather was one of them. Cattle, possessions and valuable items were taken from my grand-grandfather. In one of the spot checks of those groups only women were in the house. My grandmother at those times had very expensive belt made of gold of about 5 kilos. Being afraid to lose that golden belt she threw it into fire in the furnace. At that time nobody could find or nobody tried to collect remains of golden belt.

 

Another moment in her life was time of starvation of 30s where population was fleeing to neighboring states and peoples’ bodies were lying in the streets like shot dogs. She remembers: “One day we went to central market for products and we witnessed that one boy grabbed one loaf of bread and was going to run, but tradesmen caught him and started to beat him and kick him. Next moment he was all in blood but chewing bloody bread.” Due to that starvation problem in the family, my grand-grandfather sold his daughter, my grandmother for a sack of grain in the age of 16. At that age she married my grandfather. She experienced problems with having children, but at the end at the age of 50 she had 5 live children.

 

Along with exciting times and fact my grandmother could tell about people who played important role in local and country’s life. One of them, Zhangeldin, was one of the Kazakh Bolsheviks and Pioneer Revolutionaries. He along with his army passed through aul (village) of my grandfather and needed provisions for his army. So, my grandfather provided them with the best horses and food. 

 

Like that golden belt, everything that was old by my grandmother looks like never-happened story. Revolutionaries, kulaks and starvation turned into modern history where my grandmother lived up to. I do not like to face the same difficulties as she met in her life, but to be able to respond to challenges of life like her.

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Eradicate the West’s Ignorance of Kazakhs’ Suffering

 Here’s a “questionable topic” for those “elite intellectuals” educated from western universities who have no idea what the Kazakh people suffered in the early 1930s when the communists forced the nomadic people into collectivization.  Starvation resulted, killing off at least one million people in a two-three year period.  This tragedy happened to Mukhamet Shayakhmetov’s family and many other Kazakhs like him.

I had planned to write a blog entry today about our dear Kazakh students not knowing how to cite sources properly using in-text citations according to APA style. Seems so trivial after reading The Silent Steppe: The Story of a Kazakh Nomad under Stalin, I thought better of it.  Insidious elements continue to lurk about wanting to keep these truths covered up about Kazakhstan’s past.

 This should not mean revenge to all people from the West about their “ignorance” which reigns supreme about what socialism and communism did to destroy millions of lives throughout the former Soviet Union.  While we, as westerners, don’t read about the Soviet atrocities instigated by Lenin and Stalin’s dogma written in our history textbooks about Kazakhstan’s suffering, students at our university do not understand why it is important to give credit to an author and what he wrote. 

I give HUGE credit to Shayakhmetov for bravely writing these words about his past and having it translated into English.  Shayakhmetov valued education and I think he would want all young Kazakh students to learn as much as possible [in English] and not waste their educational opportunities to help the rest of the world know what REALLY happened on this great land.

p. 26 “These were people who sincerely believed all the slogans about the Soviet authorities ‘empowering the poor, freeing them all from bondage’ and ‘granting them the same rights and privileges as everyone else.’  Most of the activists were illiterate.  If a very small percentage of them could read and write, it was because some time in the past they had been taught by the poorly educated aul mullah.  Some of these young men had learnt to recognize the letters of the alphabet and read words by the syllable at the short-lived schools which were set up to eradicate illiteracy.

 

p. 45 Father’s anxiety to get me used to work on the soil did not mean that he was unconcerned about my schooling.  He deeply regretted being illiterate himself, and wanted me to go on studying until I was properly educated; he used to say, “If I have it my way, you’ll be an old man by the time you’ve finished.” Being educated, as far as he was concerned, meant learning to read and write letters, composing petitions and requests to official bodies and dealing with other business matters.”

 

p. 48 “in late 1930, and early 1931, the campaign to eradicate individual farms and collectivise agriculture becme more vicious.  Lenin (who died in 1924) had said that ‘Every minute of every hour, millions of individual peasant farms are engendering exploiter elements and must be destroyed.” And the Government was taking him at his word.

 

p. 49 Those [Russian] officials put in charge of running the country [Kazakhstan], were mainly strangers to it and neither knew nor particularly wanted to find out about the customs and mind-set of the nomadic population.  Some of them who originated from Russia, had no understanding of the differences between stock-breeding in nomadic Kazakhstan and the agricultural districts of their own homeland.

 

p. 72 The founder of our clan, Nauei, the progenitor of 25 male descendants in the course of one century (1820-1920).  If each of them had emulated him, one would have expected the total increase in the number of males over the next 100 years to be 625.  Instead, by 1990, it was seven.  Such was the tragic fate of our entire nation in the twentieth century.

 

p. 103 “People’s perception of living standards varies strangely, depending on their own circumstances at the time.  Only a year ago, Uncle Zhantursyn had been looked upon as an impoverished peasant with only one horse to his name; now his neighbors, who were all collective farmers, reckoned he was ‘wealthy.’  What it was really about, however, was the extreme poverty of the collective farmers.

 

p. 119 “It seems to me that, compared to later on, the farmers in those early years of collectivization had a more responsible approach to their work; they still had the natural instincts of honest workers and landowners, and had not yet learnt ways of shirking their duties.

 

p. 132 “The Kazakh deportees also used to get together in the evenings after work, but they did not play music.  They spent most of the time talking to each other, retelling epic tales and legends about warriors and good and evil rulers, and lyrical epic poems about people in love.  The men used to recite them from memory.  Whenever the conversation turned to everyday topics, the women would improvise songs and sing sorrowfully about the deportees’ misfortunes, nostalgically recalling their idyllic past life.  Touching upon the reasons that brought them to Ridder, they would mostly blame the aul activists who were responsible for carrying out Soviet policies.

What I still remember of these evenings when Kazakhs got together are the various fairy-tales and epic poems that were recited, not people singing at the top of their voices, laughing raucously or dancing wildly like the Russians.  In those days Kazakh people did not feel like having fun: life under Socialism was just too grim.

 

p. 140 “ On 1 September [1932], the children of Pozdnopalovka (near Ridder) and the children of the Russian special migrants started school.  Teaching was, of course, conducted in Russian.  None of the Kazakh children went to school; just as before, it was something I could only dream about.  Anyway, I had no time to attend lessons, as every day – from morning until nightfall – Mother and I were out looking for food.  I used to watch other children of my age enviously as they made their way to school, and sometimes when I spotted them playing noisily during break, I could not stop tears welling into my eyes.  I longed to study with them – but it was not to be.

 

 

 

 

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