Info Shymkent- Bust of Abai Qunanbaiuly

Abai Qunanbaiuly – a Pierian spring

Abai Qunanbaiuly is a Kazakh poet and philosopher who reborn the Kazakh literature. Why we called him “source of inspiration”? Info Shymkent will tell you:

Abai Qunanbaiuly – a great poet, composer and philosopher of Kazakh people. He was born in Semei/Semey Oblast (Semipalatinsk Oblast), at the mountain Shingiztau, East Kazakhstan in 10th of August in 1845. As child, Abai grew up as clever and smart boy. He interested into the history and literature of the Kazakh people and foreign countries. He knew all legends and fairy tales from his Grandmother Zere. His real name is Ibrahim, the name “Abai” was given by his grandmother Zere (but in some infos written that it was given by his mother Uljan/Ulzhan). “Abai” it means “carefull”, “cautions” and “attentive”. We can tell that he was a reformer who sought to modernize Kazakh culture by bringing his liberal views of Islam to European and Russian culture and a founder who build the fundament of the recording Kazakh literature and the Kazakh literary language.

Abai was a composer who gave a new wave to Kazakh music. For example, his songs “Zhelsiz Tunde Zharyq Ai” (direct English translation: A Moon on the Waveless Night”) and “Kozimnyn Qarasy” (directly translated into English: You The Pupil of My Eyes) are so melodic and romantic. We’ve never listened to such nice and beautiful song like Abai’s till this day in Kazakhstan.

Abai Qunanbaiuly also to Islam expressed his philosophical views on religious beliefs in his poems. We can see his philosophical views in his book “Abaidyn Qara Sozderi”/”Book of Words” (in some infos it’s called Abaidyn 45 Qara Sozderi” (direct English translation: Abai’s 45 words/thoughts). In this book Abai wrote about his view about life, knowledge, culture and religion.

And the interesting thing is Abai never tried to be famous or popular. He made his own work. He wrote his poems by inspiration, even he gave his poem to his students and he allowed to his friends/students to use his poems as their. Looks like Abai’s friends were a good people, they told every time the poems are belong to Abai. And 1904 after Abai’s death they tried to collect his works and published in 1909 in Saint Petersburg. In this book was around 140 poems of Abai.

Info Shymkent - Abay Sculpture in Abay Park, Shymkent
Statue of Abai Quanbaiuly in the Abay Park in Shymkent

Abai was a good translator. As child he learnt Arabic, Persian, Chagatai and other oriental languages. And of course he learnt Russian language. As child he started to read the works of the Oriental Classics like: Ferdowsi, Khozha Khafiz, Nizami Gandjavi, Ali-Shir Nava’i, Fuzuli, Sagdi and then he started to read the works of the Russian Classics like: A.S.Pushkin, N.A.Nekrasov, A.I.Gerzen, I.A.Krilov, L.N.Tolstoy, F.M. Dostoevskyi, I.S.Turgenev, N.G.Cherneshevskyi. What about European Classics he read the works of Goethe, Byron and many others. He also interested to the works of the famous scientists like Benedictus de Spinoza/Baruch de Spinoza, Herbert Spencer, Charles Robert Darwin, John William Draper, Lewis, Ibn Sina/Aviscenna and many others. So, he was very good on language. He translated foreign poets’ poems into Kazakh language. For example: “Wanderers Nachtlied” by Goethe, he translated Lermontov’s version of this poem into Kazakh language, “Evgeniy Onegin” by Pushkin, and some poems of Lermontov, some poems of Krilov and many others. Abai translated foreign poets’ poems very well into Kazakh language. Even now we can tell that he is one of the best poet-translator in Kazakhstan.

Abai Museum in Shymkent
Museum “Khakim Abai” in Shymkent

We can tell that Abai Qunanbaiuly played a main role in Kazakh women life, he protected female rights. According to Soviet literary critics, Abai, he didn’t like some of the customs of the tribal of village/Aul. And spoke out against the “slave position of women” and as repeated in his ceremonial Soviet biographies, “against social evil and ignorance”. And you can see it from his poems and words too. If we saying with “modern” language, he was feminist, but as a person who protected the women rights.

Abai Museum in Shymkent
How looked Abai’s working place

Abai was a man of varied attainments. Maybe because of his versatility, thirst to discover something new for himself, love for knowledge made him favorite of the Kazakh people. Yes, there were many people who were jealous to Abai, that he is trying his best to improve Kazakh culture, literature, knowledge, and of course to make the Kazakh life better. If you read Abai’s biography you will be surprised what he has done and what he lost on the way of the modernization of Kazakhs life, knowledge.

Maybe this story of Abai inspired many Kazakh people. That’s why he became spiritual mentor/Guru of the “Alash Party”. The head of the “Alash Party” Alikhan Bokeikhanov was the first biographer of Abai Qunanbaiuly. And other members of the “Alash Party” Ahmet Baitursynuly and Mirzhakup Dulatuly wrote many articles about Abai Qunanbaiuly. Ahmet Baitursynuly wrote article about Abai ,”Kazakh’s main Poet”, in the newspaper “Qazaq” in 1913. Kazakh author and writer Mukhtar Auezov wrote four volume novel “Abai Zholy”/ “Abai” (direct English translation: Way of Abai/ Abai’s Way) and he wrote a libretto of the opera “Abai” in 1945, then he wrote a script for the feature film “Songs of Abai”. So, we can say that the study of Abai’s life and creative heritage began with the articles of the Kazakh intelligentsia like: A.Bokeikhanov, A.Baitursynuly, M.Dulatuly, and M.Auezov.

Abai was good in speaking and learning foreign languages. He had very much foreign friends. He communicated with Evgeny Petrovich Michaelis ( we can tell that he was one of the best friends of Abai), Nifont Ivanovich Dolgopolov, Pavel Dmitrievich Lobanovsky, Severin Severenovich Gross, A.A.Leontev and with many other people.

Many people wanted to talk with Abai. For example, Kazakh poet Mashhur Zhusup Kopeiuly very often visited Abai. Abai tried to teach his students and share with them with his knowledge as well. His students were his relative and famous Kazakh philosopher and poet Shahkarim Kudaiberdiuly, Kokbai, Akylbai (Abai’s son), Kakitai and Magawiya (Abai’s son).

At the end of the word, what we want to tell you dear readers, let’s inspire by these people who achieved something in this life, who tried to help, tried to improve the life to better side. We have so many people who achieved so much things in this life. Writers, Poets, Musicians, Composers, Philosophers, Scientists, Actors, Businessmen and many others. One of them was Abai. Do you see how was his life, this is what we know, maybe there were other interesting things what we don’t know… But even this can’t stop us to be impressed. Abai was so interested about knowledge, culture, psychology of the Kazakh people and he wanted to improve it to better side. Sometimes he could do it, sometimes couldn’t. But in the moment when he couldn’t do that, he wrote his poems, thoughts on the paper with the hope that people will open their eyes. We are proud to have such talented person like Abai in this life. We have so many people like Abai in the world. We have to appreciate it!