Posts tagged Turkestan

Dec. 15 post, making it 1,501 blogs

I never know who I might meet over this blog either by e-mail or in person. I just encountered photos done by a very talented professional photographer who recently visited Kazakhstan. He captured some amazing outdoor photos of the beautiful panorama of Kazakhstan, in many ways it is still untouched.  It has been said that Kazakhstan was the original area of the Biblical Garden of Eden.  Yes, there used to be huge apples that were in the valleys and orchards in Kazakhstan before the Soviets took over.  Unfortunately, those kinds of apples are not as big or resplendent as they used to be.

Sadly some of the amazing places that the Kazakhs like to go to enjoy their own country’s beauty has been trashed with plastic bottles and other refuse that people just throw out when they are done with their picnics.  The Kazakhs need a campaign where everyone is responsible for picking up their own trash.  It hasn’t caught on yet.  If they hope to encourage tourism, the Kazakhs need to take better care of their country’s beauty.

Check out http://www.davidkoester.de/destination-bilder/kasachstan/ to see about 50 photos from presumably the southern part of Kazakhstan.  I recognized some shots from traveling there myself.  There was the singing sands which goes past Kazakhstan’s version of the Grand Canyon. There were pictures of areas where there had been a landslide south and east of Almaty where pine trees presumably now grew in a lake.  Many other lakes, perhaps also a photo in ancient Turkestan.  I could not read all the German in the notations but the pictures which shows off Kazakhstan are phenomenal.

I will assume that my blog readers will go directly to the above URL of David Koester. They will see the spectacular scenes he captured. So I don’t have to write much this 15th day of December, my 1,501 blog.  Besides I have final grades for my 85 composition students to work on.

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Highlights from Kazakh Readers Comments (Part II)

These are comments over the past year that I cherish because they are written out by Kazakhs who read this blog.  I originally thought that it would be for westerners to gain insights into this difficult culture.  Apparently I have erudite, Kazakh readers who are very competent in English. How I wish there were more true, historical stories written for more westerners to know and understand Central Asia.

‘They DO have stories, just not in the written form!!!’

Wrong. A nasty stereotype that even many a Kazakh were led to believe… The problem is, and I mean a major problem, that the modern-day historians are either half-professional or not interested in researching the real history that IS available for those willing to dig deep enough.”

Another Kazakh woman who lives in Arizona wrote the following and I blogged about it earlier.  I value what she wrote and wish more Kazakhs who live in the U.S. Canada or U.K. would write more about their beloved country so we, as westerners, can understand what happened in the past.

“I’m pleased to find at least 1 article in whole web net from Kazakh person about Kazakh art and history through Kazakh rugs. I can’t believe how much Soviet law and specially dominating Russians forced Kazakhs to forget their own history, lifestyle, art. Yes, Soviet law& KGB prohibited any kind of private business in USSR. Kazakhstan was tiered apart between Russia and China. East Turkestan became colony of China and now has new colonial Han’ name SinZsyan. Best Antique Kazakh rugs were stolen by communists in USSR and China. Kazakhs couldn’t make money by weaving rugs anymore. Since all Turkic countries became a colonies of USSR or CPR(Chinese People Republic), and no westerns were allowed at our Silk Road markets; Turkey became a major market of all Turkic rugs, Kazaks, Yughurs, Uzbeks, Altaics, Turkmen, Azeri, Kirgiz, Gagauzs, and etc. Kazakhs were still weaving some of kilims, but no rugs anymore. Pakistan became major producer of Kazakh design rugs now. My grandfather weaved flat rug; Klem or Kilim. After taking part of World War 2 he tried to feed his big family in Kazakh village on Russian territory near Zhyaik (Ural) river. He had ships, horses, goats. He was hunting and selling fur skin. KGB put him to jail in 1982 where he starngely died in 2 days. He was 50 y.o., his youngest kid was 14 y.o. his widow had no job, raising 2 kids and still doesn’t speak Russian. We still keep kilim by my grandfather. We used it once: on his funeral.

Correction to my previous post: at the time my grandfather died, my grandmother was raising 4 underage kids and had 3 more students. She never worked, she was helping my granddad to wash shipskin, fox, rabbit furskin, weaving wool for kilims, sawing, knitting, making felted wool for “valenki”. In one word she made Kazakh hand crafts and tried to sell it sometimes. She stayed true Kazakh, spoke Kazakh, prayed to Allah, had big Koran at home, even though it was strictly prohibited by Russian Federation law. Unfortunately new generations, her kids never were encouraged to learn her skills, since they wouldn’t be able to live on this. I do remember a little, but can’t do even 100th part of what my grandparents did.”

Various and Sundry Comments

The other day I was volunteering with players from a major league football team at a construction site of an affordable housing project. Apparently they were sent by the club owners or something to do this ‘humane work’ as they didn’t show any desire to do real work. Those young footballers were as strong as one can be but they were unwilling to do any heavy physical labour. The site manager had a hard time convincing them to do roofing and framing instead of painting, which was assigned to volunteer ladies. The IQ of the players seemed to be, well, below average. I was also reading that the untreated brain injuries are pretty common as the team owners don’t like the players to be on hospital beds but out in the field playing and earning them $$$.

Bottomline: I will think twice before sending my sons to play (American) football.

Final comment from a Kazakh reader makes me wonder what books he has been reading.  There certainly are a lot of anti-American type books written by non-patriotic Americans themselves.  But then that is what “freedom of expression” was so hard fought for by our early founders of this nation of the U.S.:

“With all due respect, I only disagree with your statement “all the challenges that the U.S. has overcome to be where it is today”. I wouldn’t like at all for Kazakhstan to be where the U.S. is today. The economy is very close to total collapse. Moral degradation. Crime rate has gone through the roof. Censorships of all media. Military aggression for natural resources and political dominance. And the list goes on and on.”

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Unwritten Places in a Book Index…and a poem…

I’m speed reading the actual copy of the book “Till My Tale is Told” put together by Simeon Vilensky. I automatically went to the index to find Kazakhstan.  Nothing about this far flung republic of the former Soviet Union in a book that was published in Russian in 1989 and then translated into English and published by Indiana University Press in 1999.  So, what I see as I pored over the pages were many references to Djezkazkan, Turkestan, Karaganda, Kazakhstan, Aral Sea written by those female survivors who were exiled to Central Asia. However, no listing of these remote places in the book index.  To me, it shows a kind of Russo-centric approach to this faraway place from “Purge-Central” in Moscow.  In fact, the following is a quote that might be taken wrong by Kazakh readers who read this blog but it is actually what was thought and written:

p. 272 – Hava Volovich’s story: “In the UN, questions had been raised about Soviet violations of human rights, and there had been talk of sending a special commission to investigate.  Our representatives at the UN had stalled for all they were worth, but the home authorities had become alarmed and began to collect the “rubbish” and dump it as far away as they could, in places like Djezkazgan.

There had been mines there for a long time, but the exceptionally harsh living conditions (especially the lack of water) had meant that it was next to impossible to find workers, and the mines were limping along feebly.  But now there was a supply of prisoners, to whom ordinary human rights did not apply.  All you needed was rolls and rolls of barbed wire, handcuffs, machine guns for the guards, Alsatians…”

Where was Djezkazgan?  I only know about it because of a Kazakh friend of mine who was from there.  Several years ago she was in the U.S. for a summer on Work and Travel. Then she came to Astana to teach after she finished her pedagogical training in Karaganda.  This is what the book said about this far off place:

p. 83 – Djezkazgan – camp at Kengir – 50 miles from Karaganda – Copper mines there (on the waterless Solochak steppe – p. 271)

I need to find out more about Kengir and see if my Kazakh students who wrote narratives about their grandparents and great grandparents lives ever referred to this place.   Seems there is lots of history in Kengir, especially being a prison camp.  I’d like to find out more about this uprising:

p. 341 – 1954 – mass acts of disobedience by prisoners in Kengir (Central Asia) where tanks were used to suppress protests

Also, I want to find out more about this, I know my students have written about Basmachi in Turkestan

p. 89 – 1919 – anti-Soviet Basmachi groups in Turkestan (Central Asia) – Yelena Vladimirova helped organize famine relief in Volga region

I’ll end this blog post with a poem by Yelena Vladimirova, it shows just how very bleak things were for these women who were considered dangerous elements against Soviet society, similar to what was going on at ALZHIR.

p. 91 Poem “We’re Alive” by Yelena Vladimirova

“We grow fewer and weaker, my friends,

There are more farewells with each day…

We cannot tell what tomorrow may hold –

We don’t know what will happen today.

We live in hard, in frightening times,

Uncertainty followed by lies;

How we long to believe we are not alone,

To hear a cry from the dark, “We’re alive!”

As before, we hold true to the banners we love;

The skies may be clouded, but still

We measure our joy, now a thing of the past,

By what suits the commonweal;

Though my path be hopeless, though it be soaked in blood –

Yet I shall not cease my cries;

Summoning my last drops of strength, I’ll shout,

“Comrade! We’re alive, we’re alive!”

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More things learned about KZ outside of a textbook

Since going to Borovoye last Saturday, I have plenty of things to talk about with my Friday noon, Advanced speaking group among the university employees.  The following are more things I learned from them about this marvelous place.  I also learned about other places I should travel to in Kazakhstan before I leave this amazing country.

First, Okshepis is the Kazakh word for “mountain so high that an arrow can’t reach it.”  However, there is a legend about a beautiful girl who was the daughter to a rich bai. This rich Kazakh man met many worthy suitors who wanted his daughter’s hand.  They had just come back from war and wanted to marry her.  However, she was in love with another fellow whom her father did not approve of.  So a competition was arranged that whoever succeeded in shooting his arrow to the top of this mountain would marry the beautiful girl.  If they did NOT succeed, they would be beheaded.  (Yikes, the stakes were high).

Apparently in order for her lover to win, the young girl climbed to the top of this Oktopis and placed a scarf so that her lover could see where to aim.  She also sang a song for him to hear her voice.  I guess if he did not win, she was ready to commit suicide because he too would be beheaded with the rest of the suitors.  I’m not sure how this legend ended because there were so many variations that started sounding the same.  But clearly this country is a land of romance. Oh dear, I DO hope the young girl got the man of her dreams.

We also went to a deer farm, they are called maral.  Their antlers are used in a panta cream that is a kind of Chinese medicine.   Apparently when the antlers are cut from the deer, they feel no pain. Also the hooves of the deer are used for medicinal purposes. One more thing I learned is that the blood from these deer is useful to drink for good health.  So, these 170 deer at this farm we went to visit will have everything used from head to toe! (antler to hoof)

Next, I asked my adult students if there is any other place close to Astana that is similar to Borovoye in beauty.  Apparently there is and it is south of Pavlodar and directly east of Astana, something like Baianor or Bainayl (I can’t read my scribbled notes.)  There could be so much more tourism that Kazakhstan might profit from but supposedly the infrastructure is missing and successful tourism needs good management.  A part of Kazakhstan’s strategic plan is to invest more in tourism by 2020.

Other places I would like to go to would be Turkestan which I learned a LOT about from another adult student I had who used to live in the Chymkent area.  Actually, she lived in Turkestan for three years and helped to bring the big artifact that had been stored at the Hermitage back to Turkestan by way of a big Soviet truck.  I hope I still have my notes after talking with her about Turkestan.  From what I understand Turkestan is a very ancient city, over 1,500 years old and is considered a holy place.  Many Kazakh warriors were buried in Turkestan.

Also, the oldest capital is in western Kazakhstan which is known as Sarashik.  I learned about the ritual according to Tengri, a very ancient religion where they used to pray to nature, like sky and moon, etc.  Apparently there are still elements of Tengri in Kazakh traditions that are observed today.

Looking at the map of Kazakhstan with my students, I didn’t realize that Semipalatinsk was so close to the Russian border and is a very beautiful city with the mountains and Irtsk river going through it from China.  Apparently the damage done at the Polygon with nuclear testing for about four decades is 500 kilometers away.  But still…not so good to encourage tourism where there still might be radioactivity.

Another thing I learned was that in the area close to Semipalatinsk there used to be Christian believers there. That would be many, many years ago in the northeastern part of Kazakhstan bordering to Russia and China where missionaries from the very early days were there.  That claim will have to be investigated.  I’ve heard  also that there are blue eyed Kazakhs, which seems even more interesting in this Central Asian land.

So, that is what I learned about Kazakhstan the other day, all this needs to be explored further.  Enjoy one last photo of our group who went to Borovoye last Saturday at the deer farm.  What a memorable trip, hopefully more to come.

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Academic Classes during Soviet times up to Today’s SurveyMonkey.com

I only know about the titles of these classes because of the apps and transcripts I have looked at.  (see earlier blogs to see what I’ve been up to.) As I’ve done this for the past five or six years, there’s getting to be fewer and fewer older applicants who studied during the late 1980s and early 1990s but here is a sampling of what showed up in some applications:

History of the Communist Party of the USSR

Theory and History of Religion and Atheism

Traditions and Culture of English Speaking Countries

I would have loved to have seen what the Kazakh students had learned in 1989-1990 with “Economic Theory.” What I’m gathering from all the apps I have looked over is that there was a LOT of theory going on but little application.  In economics where everything was under a “planned economy” what was there even remotely close to theories from “market economy?”  I only know this from my husband who is an economist minted from University of Wisconsin, Madison.

Anyway, things changed after the collapse of the Soviet Union and by the mid-1990s students were taking classes like “Life History of Khoja Ahmed Yasawi.”  I can’t get much info about his life or poetry from a simple google search because it all ends up going to Wikipedia.  What I do gather is that Yasawi lived around the Middle Ages and was a mystic Sufi poet and helped form the Turkish expressions. There’s a mausoleum in his honor in Turkestan, one of the oldest cities in Kazakhstan.  I need to read up more about this mystic but it shows what has changed since communist times.

These days, looking at the three different syllabi that I am using with my Professional Development students, we are doing surveys online with SurveyMonkey.com. What fun to see my earnest students in the computer lab today working so hard uploading their 10 questions and then sending to their classmates and work colleagues.  The results formed in pie charts or column graphs will be interesting for their final project. I am excited to see what patterns will show up that will correlate with the journal articles they are finding. Today I also had my students work on the Thesis Statement Builder to create a 500 word discursive essay.  Finally, they had to do a forum sort of discussion with their classmates in Moodle.  If they had any time left they were to upload their thoughts and reflections on their blog.  I think they didn’t have much time, the two and half hours flew and so the due dates are next Monday. Whew!

We’ve come a long way from what was in the standard state sanctioned curriculum from Moscow, Russia to what we are trying to accomplish in Astana, Kazakhstan in the Information Age that is also all about social networking.  Facebook everyone? I wonder what university students will be doing 20 years from now?  They will probably look back at what we are studying as antiquated and out of touch with reality.  Fine, in the meantime, we are having fun learning what we can to try to stay updated with the rest of the IT world.

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