Posts tagged Uighurs

Buddy Bear is “Bear”back

What is with this Buddy Bear exhibit? What does this have to do with Kazakhstan?  Well, I believe it has a LOT to do with this culturally rich country.  As many bears that are out on display, 125 close to the Baiterek tower, that’s how many different nationalities co-exist in this lightly populated country of 16 million people. This land is the size of 3 or 4 state of Texas and has an eastern border with China, a country that has over 1 billion Chinese.  There used to be many more Germans and Russians in Kazakhstan and there are also Uighurs, Tatars, Korean, Turks, Kyrgyz, Mongols, Turkmen, Uzbek, etc.  Where China has many more people and a great variety of different Chinese, Kazakhstan has fewer people but many nationalities.  With different cultures, you will have diverse languages and religions.

I believe Kazakhstan prides itself in being able to handle the steady mix of people groups.  I know when I lived in Almaty for two years I was surrounded by different nationalities and enjoyed it. But then again, I’m an ESL/EFL teacher, my job is to teach English to those people who want to learn it.  I’ve studied or tried to learn eight different languages and am a master of none.  The Kazakh people by law have a mandate to know three languages: Kazakh, Russian and English.  Will that work, can they do it?  As I’ve written before, it is a do or die proposition because another alternative could be Chinese.  If I were Kazakh or Kazakhstani, I would try to learn all three languages simultaneously too.  I’ve studied Chinese, I’ve written its calligraphy, I know just how difficult it is to speak in the four tones.  What is so very interesting to me is that among all the nationalities represented in Kazakhstan, China has a very low profile.  Enjoy my photos of more Buddy Bears, especially Vietnam’s quote: “Who doesn’t love, doesn’t live.”

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Talk with Anara about Kazakhstan (Part I)

We had a Kazakh family visit us for several days and the following is what I found out about Kazakhstan culture. I learned there is a fourth grouping of Kazakh in the traditional sense of the Kazakh tribes. There are the first zhus who were the farmers, the hard working types. They are known to be deliberate and rational thinkers. Nazarbayev comes from this category.

Second, are the intellectual Kazakhs from which Abay and Valihanov came from. They are known to be wise and good advisors. They are the dreamers and philosophers, that is the second zhus.

Third are the warriors who were in the western part of Kazakhstan. They are not afraid of taking risks and are the best in business. Of course, it helps that most of the oil being drilled out of Kazakhstan comes from the territory where they once fought hard battles to protect their borders.

The fourth group of Kazakhs don’t mix with the other three groups, they are known as Kozha Kazakhs. They are considered the royalty or “white bones.” They believe their original stock is from an Arab tribe and they are the “blue bloods” among Kazakhs. This, of course, was more true before Soviet times, but if someone even now says, “I’m a Kozha Kazakh,” this is meant to impress the listener.

To sum up, there is a Kazakh proverb that goes with these groupings: The older zhus, give them a staff and put them in charge of the livestock. Give the second group of zhus a quill from a feather and they can prove everything with their writing. Then the third zhus, give them a long javelin and put them in front of the enemy to fight.”

Something else Anara told me was about her family’s background on her dad’s side. Her grandfather, who was from the Semipalatinsk area, escaped to China from the Soviet communists in the 1930s because he was considered a rich man. He had big pieces of gold that he broke off and used as bribes so he could escape with his family. There was other gold and treasures he had buried and is still underground somewhere to this day. Anara’s father was born in China, some of Anara’s aunts are living in China still. In 1963, when the borders opened up between the Soviet Union and China, he went back to the Taras area. Anara’s grandfather, a former prominent Kazakh shepherd, worked with 200 government turkeys in a collective farm under the Soviet regime.

Anara also said that the Uighurs, who live in western China, have a very rich background. They have a deep history with their own alphabet, own capital and they had their own land in China. There was also a famous tribe called, the Nimans, who were the original Christians. When Mohammed came along later in Kazakh history, many Kazakhs converted from paganism over to the Muslim faith. (to be continued)

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