Arts and Crafts and Traditions and Antiquity

Traditions, in my experience, are crafted. Which is to say that they do not arise spontaneously out of the thin air, though the specifics of the tradition probably are generated spontaneously from the creativity of those acting out the tradition. In the case of a family, there is little like a tradition to give a sense of history and enduring continuity to a collective experience that so rarely feels permanent or stable.

Continue reading Arts and Crafts and Traditions and Antiquity

Famines and Zhuts: Connections in Kazakh History between the 18th and 20th centuries

On a handful of occasions, I have encountered an interesting phenomenon in conversation with some citizens of the Republic of Kazakhstan. This anomaly occurs when the discussion turns to my subject of research for the first time: the Kazakh/Jüün Ghar wars of the 1720s, part of the long-term struggle of the 17th and 18th centuries, commemorated under the phrase Ak-taban-shubryndy. This phrase, however, doesn’t always point the listener to the Kazakh – Jüün Ghar wars. Rather, when I have explained that I study the Aktaban Shubyryndy, my conversation partner may nod knowingly and respond with something about the importance of studying the great famine (sometimes the term “genocide” arises) of collectivization that occurred in the early 1930s. Continue reading Famines and Zhuts: Connections in Kazakh History between the 18th and 20th centuries

Translation: Tynyshpaev, "Ak-taban-shubryndy"

This translation requires an admission of guilt.

I am ashamed that I have left this translation only half-completed on other occasions. It is a piece that has deserved far better treatment from me. Aside from its direct impact on my dissertation research, it is especially shameful considering how often I write about my respect for Tynyshpaev. Continue reading Translation: Tynyshpaev, "Ak-taban-shubryndy"

Translation: Qudaiberdiev, "The Origins of the Qazaqs" (excerpts)

This is a translation of a longer work by Qudaiberdiev called “Genealogy of the Turks, Qazaqs, Khans.” In one section, Qudaiberdiev discusses the origins of the Qazaqs (Kazakhs) and gives a brief history. In this history he includes a discussion of the Bare Footed Flight. This is significant as being the oldest mention that I can find of the phrase “Bare Footed Flight.” I assume the phrase was unfamiliar to some of the people in Qudaiberdiev’s Kazakh-speaking audience because he explains the significance of the phrase after its introduction. Continue reading Translation: Qudaiberdiev, "The Origins of the Qazaqs" (excerpts)

Histories and Stories

I’m hoping to share more translations, but in the meantime I wanted to put together some words to articulate an idea. It’s an idea I’ve had as long as I’ve studied the history of Kazakhstan. I haven’t questioned or reconsidered this idea critically, though. Continue reading Histories and Stories

Translation: Qudaiberdiev, "About Nationalism"

About Nationalism

April 1918 Issue No. 3 of “Abai” journal, pages 15-16.

I have a few things I wish to say about our esteemed brother Mannan [Turghanbaev]’s article entitled “Nationalism” in the second issue of “Abai.”

It seems to me that his point was thus: “Culture is born of nationalism, and humanity is born of culture.” One needs proof for this! Looking at this, we see that nationalism and culture are the highest developed in Europe. Are they showing their humanity? In my opinion, they [Europeans] still have not escaped from nationalism, let alone from self-centeredness. And the reason? If nationalism gives birth to culture, it cannot also create a clean heart. We mean a conscience when we say a clean heart in Qazaq (and love of the soul, mercy, and justice). All the children of men must love each other, open their souls, and be just. If clean hearts do not increase, neither can humanity. Making a more complete, intact nation, finding a harmless way to exist with others is the work of the clean heart (conscience). Who is working for that? And our brother Mannan says, “All of the parties’ aimed-for goals are correct.” If a mistake is made and their intentions not correct, is that not a truth?

In my opinion, the skills of this 20th century – works done with knowledge – we have become like slaves to this unholy lust for knowledge.

In short, how can we reclaim our clean hearts? Where can we find men with clean hearts? Of course we must have a goal, we must have an intention. As Isa, peace be upon him, said: “If you don’t do such things, if you don’t stop such things, the Lord will not welcome you into Heaven.” Everyone needs such a clean heart!

Ұлтшылдық туралы

“Aбай”. 1918. No. 3, Сәуiр. 15-16 беттер.

Picture source:

“Aбай” журналының екiншi нөмiрiнде ардақты Мәнен бауырымыздың “Ұлтшылдық” деген мақаласына бiр ауыз сөз айтқымыз келедi.

Менiң ұғымымша, ол кiсi: “Ұлтшылдықтан мәдениет, мәдениеттен адамшылық туады”, – дейдi. Бұған дәлел керек қой! Көрiп отырмыз, ұлтшылдық бен мәдениеттiң ең жоғарғы басқышындағы – Европа, олар адамшылық қылып отыр ма? Менiң ойымша, әлi күнге шейiн асса ұлт, қалса өзiмшiлдiктен оза алған жоқ. Себеп не? Ұлтшылдық мәдениеттi туғызса да, ақ жүрек туғыза алмайда; ақ жүрек дегенiмiз – ұждан (һәмме жанға махаббат, шапағат, ғадiлет), қазақша – тамам адам баласын бауырындай көрiп, жаны ашып, өдiлет қылу. Осы айтылғандай ақ жүрек көбеймей тұрып, адамшылық және алмайды. Ұлтының кемшiлiгiн толтыру, артықты өзгелерге зиянсыз жолмен табу – ақ жүрек (ұждан) iсi. Оны iстеп отырған кiм бар? Және Мәнен бауырымыз: “Партиялардың бәрiнiң көздеген мақсаты дұрыс”, – дейдi. Қате қылса да ындыны дұрыс демесе, хақиқат бiреу-ақ емес пе?

Менiң ойымша, осы XX ғасырдың өнерлiлерiнiң – бiлiмi қылған iсiнен – бiле тұра нәпсiсiне құлдығы зор сықылды.

Қорытқанда, ақ жүрек қайтсең табылады? Қайткенде соны көбейте аламыз? Бар мақсат, бар ындын сонда болу керек қой. Ғайса ғалайһисәлемнiң “Пәлендей iстi қылмасаң, пәлендей iстен тыйылмасаң, аспан патшалығына жете алмайсың” дегенi – һәммеге бiрдей ақ жүрек қой!

Notes on the translation

  • I chose to render Aқ жүрек as Clean Heart instead of White Heart to make it closer to the meaning of conscience in English. My rationale is that Aқ is one of the most versatile and idiomatic words in Turkic languages and means more than only the color “white.”
  • Mannan Turghunbaev (1886-1937) was another member of Alash Orda from Semipalatinsk who came of age in the same circle as Abay, Shahkarim Qudaiberdiev, and Akhmet Baitursynov. However, he has not yet received as much research as the other members of his famous cohort. What has been written appeared starting in 1999 and largely in connection with studies on Alash Orda and Alash Orda’s de facto capital city of Semipalatinsk. Another piece of evidence of the paucity of research would be his rather short Wikipedia article available only in Kazakh, where most other figures have at least a Kazakh and a Russian language article.
  • “All of the parties’ aimed-for goals are correct.” // “Партиялардың бәрiнiң көздеген мақсаты дұрыс”  Qudaiberdiev used the plural form of the word party, so I’m not sure to which party (Alash Orda, Bolshevik, etc.) he is referring.
  • After studying my Quran, I don’t believe this is an actual quotation of Isa (Jesus), but perhaps from a hadith collection.
  • With thanks to Damesh Satova, Alfrid Bustanov, and Akram Khabibullaev for their feedback on the translation.