Over the last hour, approximately 21 girls have been born in Kazakhstan (Committee on Statistics, 2014) and they will soon be looking for a role model to follow. As history is mostly silent about women, it is our duty to teach our young girls the examples and legacies our grandmothers left. Having a real, strong and positive female role model in the history is important if we are to transmit the moral and spiritual values of the Kazakh to our young ladies of the new generation. One such story, told by her granddaughter, is about a strong woman who saw all the cruelties of colonization and wars, but never ever gave up the hope of a bright future for her children.
During Stalin’s forced famine of 1932- 1933, the Kazakh had their food taken away and were left to die from starvation. At the same time a witch hunt on thousands of Kazakh leaders, writers and intellectuals began and they were falsely accused of plotting an armed revolt. The population of the Kazakh dropped from 7 million to less than 2 million (Khan, 2014) and those who left were mostly women. Dead silence… but far in the depths you would hear the dombra. It was her, Dina, disciple of the Great Kurmangazy himself.
She was a tall, strong and indefatigable woman. Very straightforward, she would never fall in line. When her husband Nurpeyis died, she was pregnant with her third child and called him Jurinbay (from Kazakh word жұрын – what is left) – remainder. According to the old Kazakh tradition, she married her husband’s brother, Nurali, after his death. They had many children but some of them died in infancy.
In 1916, in the time of World War I, when the tsarist government decided to mobilize men of the minority ethnicities to the front, the oppressed people of Middle Asia rose in rebellion against the colonial policies. Dina’s kuy (folk instrumental piece played on the dombra) “1916”, unlike other composers’ works, was optimistic, even though her son Jurinbay was taken away too. There was no crying, nor complaint, nor gloom. All you could hear was the tramp of horses and the joy of people who had heard the great news about the white tsar being overthrown.
As difficult times began again in 1921 and partly because she was the second wife, Dina and Nurali decided to divorce. As the famine started she and her ten children migrated to Astrakhan, Russian SFSR. In order to save her children from starvation she gathered millet in the mountains, grinded it into flour and other cereal products and made porridge.
She managed to save all her children through these hard times. But in 1941 the World War II had began and all her four sons were called to the front. She never complained. Dina wrote another moving kuy “Order of Mother”. Even when only two of her sons returned, she celebrated the victory of her people and composed the kuy of the same name.
Dina Nurpeisova was one of the amazing women by virtue of whom the Kazakh nation could regenerate later. The lives of those women can teach our children how strong Kazakh women can be. The story of the greatest woman dombra player should be written in golden letters in the pages of history, because history is “herstory” too.
Erkebay, A. (2012, January 1). Interview with Balzhan Nurpeisova, the granddaughter of Dina Nurpeisova. Retrieved February 18, 2015, from http://anyzadam.kz/jo/info/1272/
Hamit, A. (2014, November 14). Asemkonyr – Mother’s Benediction/ Retrieved February 18, 2015, from http://aizhanhamit.kz/%D0%B0%D1%81%D0%B5%D0%BC%D0%BA%D0%BE%D0%BD%D1%8B%D1%80-%D0%BC%D0%B0%D1%82%D0%B5%D1%80%D0%B8%D0%BD%D1%81%D0%BA%D0%BE%D0%B5-%D0%B1%D0%BB%D0%B0%D0%B3%D0%BE%D1%81%D0%BB%D0%BE%D0%B2%D0%B5%D0%BD%D0%B8%D0%B5/
Khan, S. (2014, February 3). The losses of the Kazakh after the famine of 1932-1933. Retrieved February 18, 2015, from http://www.megapolis.kz/art/Poteri_kazahov_ot_goloda
Ministry of National Economy of the Republic Kazakhstan. Committee on Statistics (2014). “Birth rate in Republic of Kazakhstan in 2013”. 21 May 2014