«Uncover the truth». Sarah Cameron’s book about Famine published in Kazakh

Sarah Cameron’s book about the Famine was published in Kazakh, reports Azattyq.org.

The private cultural and educational Foundation of political scientist Dosym Satpayev has released a work by Sarah Cameron in Kazakh about the Famine in the Kazakh steppe, timed to coincide with the publication’s release on may 31, the day of memory of the victims of Stalinist repression. Azattyk’s reporter spoke with the publisher, translator, and author of the book.

“When the Famine came, I was still a child. It is impossible to forget what we saw — all the kinks that were in our village. I shudder all over, remembering the events of those years…»

Memories of Alzhappar-aksakal, before whose eyes there are still pictures of Famine — is what begins the book-study of the American historian Sarah Cameron “the Hungry Steppe: famine, violence and the creation of Soviet Kazakhstan” (the Hungry step. Famine violence, and the making of Soviet Kazakhstan).

The author is looking for answers to the questions that led to the Famine of the early 1930s, which, according to some estimates, claimed 2.2 million lives, who is responsible for what happened and how the events were preserved in the memory of the Kazakhs.

The original book in English was published in late 2018 and was presented in the United States in January 2019. After the presentation, Sarah Cameron told Azattyk that she had spent ten years studying the Famine, about which there are no fundamental works in the West.

Translated into Kazakh language of the book is Sarah Cameron. Almaty, may 30, 2020.
Translated into Kazakh language of the book is Sarah Cameron. Almaty, may 30, 2020.

Azattyk’s reporter spoke with author Sarah Cameron, political scientist and publisher Dosym Satpayev, and translator Zaure Batayeva (she worked on the translation with her sister Saule Batayeva) about the significance of this book.


Azattyk: Mr. Satpayev, what prompted you, as a publisher, to take up the issue of Sarah Cameron’s book?

Dosym Satpayev: In October 2018, the US Senate passed a resolution dedicated to the 85th anniversary of the Ukrainian Holodomor of 1932-1933. It did not say anything about the Famine in Kazakhstan in the 30s. The world knows nothing or knows very little about the Kazakh tragedy, often incorrectly assess its causes and consequences. Probably, Sarah Cameron is the only Western historian who has publicly stated that the Famine in Kazakhstan should be remembered in the halls of the American Congress, since this Famine was no less — and even more — terrible in its consequences.

The difference between her scientific work and other research is that she began to look for the causes of Famine in the events of the late 19th and early 20th century, associated with the mass migration of peasants from Russia and Ukraine to the Kazakh steppes, which influenced the change in the traditional nomadic lifestyle of Kazakhs. But it was Soviet industrialization and collectivization that triggered the Famine in the 1930s, when nomads and their nomadic way of life were sacrificed to an ideology where the main thing was to provide food for large industrial centers, as well as the top of the social pyramid of Stalin in the face of workers and civil servants.

In Sarah Cameron’s book, there is a very important emphasis on the consequences of Famine in terms of its impact on the national identity of Kazakhs. After all, the catastrophic demographic decline of the Kazakhs almost led to the death of culture, traditions and language. As Sarah Cameron writes in her book, collectivization, by depriving Kazakhs of their means of subsistence and destroying old social structures, significantly increased the Kazakhs ‘ dependence on the Soviet state. In her opinion, the” scars ” left by the Famine haunted Kazakhstan throughout the subsequent Soviet era and influenced the transformation of the Kazakhs into a modern nation in 1991.

Issued in Kazakhstan book Sarah Cameron: “Asti Gilan gave. Has, oberly and Keest Asistance Ornato” we consider as one attempts to uncover the truth that we are still hides the dust of the past the ideological and political situation of the present.

We are still a post-traumatic society. We restore our historical memory, our roots and traditions bit by bit. The main thing is that young people do not forget and remember the most tragic pages in the history of the Kazakh people. This is important against the background of dangerous and disturbing trends, when there is an active propaganda effort to glorify and popularize the personality of Stalin, who in the same Russia in various opinion polls ranks first in popularity. this is the result of a purposeful attempt to downplay the scale of political repression, to turn a blind eye to the disaster associated with the Famine in Kazakhstan, Ukraine and other parts of the Soviet Union. Ideologues from the government again want to rewrite history in favor of political conjuncture.

Azattyk: How do you assess the attitude of the Kazakh authorities to the topic of Hunger?

Dosym Satpayev: if Our authorities talk about history, they tend to go back to the depth of centuries. But the history of Kazakhstan in the first half of the 20th century is avoided, perhaps because there are still many people in power who once “cooked” in the Soviet ideology and started their career in the Soviet system. For a long time, the Kazakh government tried not to discuss this topic, recognizing its existence, but at the same time moving to the periphery of its interests, so as not to offend Moscow. And this is not just about Hunger. You can remember how quietly the Kazakh authorities passed by the 100th anniversary of Alashorda, actually ignoring this event. It is not surprising that many young people now know nothing about Stalin’s repressions. They don’t know about the Gulag, Karlag, or Algeria. The fact that the world knows more about the Ukrainian Holodomor and very little about the Kazakh Asharshylyk (Famine. – Ed.), due to the fact that the authorities in Kazakhstan did not dare to raise the issue of recognizing the famine In the Kazakh steppe in the 30s as a genocide. In this regard, through the film (last year, the Dosym Satpayev Foundation released the film “nomads of the dead steppe”. – Ed.) and now we would also like to appeal to President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev with a request to restore justice and do what his predecessor did not do in this post. First, to recognize Asharshylyk as a genocide. Secondly, to start working at the state level with the participation of historians to create a national database of victims of Famine.

I think that there are still many families in Kazakhstan where the memory of their dead ancestors is preserved. We must gather all these memories together while their keepers are still alive.

Another suggestion is that every year on the day of remembrance of the victims of political repression and Famine, a minute of silence should be declared throughout the country in memory of the millions of people who died as victims of one system, one regime. This minute of silence is only a small part of what we can do to make up for decades of neglect.

«…The survivors remember eating rodents and weeds, or walking through the fields in search of the remaining spikelets. < … > Chewing wool from blankets fried on the fire, eating leather things soaked in water…”

Excerpt from the book

Translators Saule and Zaure Batayev say that they worked on the book for eight months.


Azattyk: What difficulties did you encounter when translating the book?

Zaure Batayeva: the Barriers were mainly due to the lack of socio-political terminology. When translating some concepts from social science, their meaning in Kazakh may be broader than in English, and Vice versa. In such cases, we chose the most frequently used variants in the Kazakh language.

In the Preface, Sarah Cameron explains that the English title of the book (The Hungry step) was adapted from the Russian title of Betpakdala “Hungry steppe”. We refused to use the name “Ash Dala” adapted from Russian to Kazakh and used the idiomatic phrase “Ashtyk Zhaylagan Dala”in Kazakh.

When transmitting difficult events in the book, colleagues suggested that the translation be slightly softened. We didn’t agree. We left the events exactly as the author describes them based on the archives. Because our main goal was to convey the truth to the Kazakh reader. Sometimes we had to double-check the archives for names that had changed in the Russian transcription to find the original spelling. This concerned names, names of tribes and clans.

Azattyk: How does this book differ from other works that you have translated?

Zaure Batayeva: This book is very important for us, Kazakhs. This tragedy affected every second Kazakh family, and there were victims of this disaster in our family. My grandfather and grandmother died from the bullets of the OGPU (the Soviet secret police. – Ed. ) on the border with China. The maternal grandfather spent ten years in Stalin’s Gulag for libel as a “rich”item. But we grew up believing in completely different, false information about these events.

The Stalinist regime sought not only to destroy the socio-economic structure of a nomadic society with a four-thousand-year history, a system based on tribal brotherhood and all its mechanisms, but also to create political conditions for the self-destruction of the nation by dividing society into two classes, contrasting them with each other.

The negative consequences of this campaign are clearly reflected in our language — the most negative meaning of the word “Bai” (rich man), which is widely used in modern Kazakh society, appeared in 1928-1933 as a result of the struggle against the wealthy representatives of the nation, the Kazakh intelligentsia. Since then, the meaning of the word “buy” has not been revised.

Sarah Cameron does not consider Hunger a “phenomenon of the past” for the Kazakh people. It emphasizes the need to study the consequences of this social catastrophe for our people.

The indifference of our modern Kazakhs to the preservation of memory in relation to this tragedy, as well as their desire to speak in Russian, and not in their own language, show that this disaster affected the Kazakh identity. The quintessence of this research can be called the sentence on page 195: “Only then did the majority of Kazakhs, barely recovered from the terrible Famine, realize that their traditional way of life was lost forever.”

“… If we rely on the final version, which considers non — physical methods of destruction-political, social, cultural and social violence-as genocide,then the Kazakh Famine can be attributed to genocide. Using the policy of collectivization, Moscow sought to destroy the nomadic way of life — the main feature of Kazakh culture and its identity.”

Excerpt from the book

The author of the book, Sarah Cameron, says that she wrote it for an American audience and did not expect such a reaction in Kazakhstan. “I think there is a young generation in Kazakhstan that is interested in learning more about these events of the Soviet period in the history of their country,” the researcher says.

Azattyk: Do you think that the problem of Hunger in Kazakhstan is sufficiently studied?

Sarah Cameron: Famine became an object of scientific research in Kazakhstan in the early 1990s. Since some members of the older generation of scientists have passed away, the future of scientific study of Hunger in Kazakhstan remains uncertain.

There are many important gaps: for example, there is no information about the Famine of Kazakh scientists in English. Important works of Kazakh scientists on the topic of Hunger have not yet been translated into English. We also have no research on the number of people who died as a result of Famine in Kazakhstan. Without this, it is impossible to understand how the Famine affected Kazakhstan.

Azattyk: What distinguishes famine In the Kazakh steppe from similar situations in other regions?

Sarah Cameron: the famine in Kazakhstan is one of the largest In modern history, affecting the nomadic pastoral population. Most of the other major famines that scientists have studied have occurred in sedentary societies. This shows the danger of ignoring expert knowledge. Before the Famine, many agronomists warned Stalin and other high-ranking officials about the danger of transferring the Kazakhs to settlement. But when the Famine broke out, many of these experts were jailed or shot.

The famine was one of the worst crimes of the Stalinist regime and a tragic event in the history of the 20th century. More than 1.5 million people were killed. This changed the life of the Kazakh people.

“After the Famine, Kazakhstan began a long period of painful recovery. Many of those who survived the Famine took the blow hard, and for many years could not recover from the trauma. Ibragim Khisamutdinov, who was still a child during the Famine<…>, wrote: “I can still hear the screams of the dying for help”…”
Excerpt from the book

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