A Girl with Dombra

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.

Image credit: http://e-history.kz/ru/publications/view/906
Image credit: http://e-history.kz/ru/publications/view/906

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


5 thoughts on “A Girl with Dombra

  1. Dear Gulnur, thanks for writing this informative and interesting post, covering really important topic – role model for girls.
    First of all, I really enjoyed reading an interesting story of Dina Nurpeisova, I knew she was a talented musician, though I didn’t have a clue about her life and the hardships she underwent, which make me respect this person even more.
    Secondly, talking about role-model for girls nowadays, you are absolutely right. Strange that small girls nowadays are oriented at ephemeral “idols”, imposed by mass-media rather than looking up to at our historical legendary figures, like Dina, like Aliya, or Manshuk, who really had charachters and stories behind them.
    In your opinion, how can we improve the situation with role models for girls nowadays? Should we post more articles about such legendary Kazakh women in “Cosmopolitan” or it’s a matter of upbringing in the family?
    And I’m really curious, do you look up to any great woman? Are you insipired by someone? If it’s not secret, who she is?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for the warmest comment on my first post. I really appreciate your being interested in this issue. As for the ways of transmitting the values, there are a lot of TV programs on Madeniyet and other nationals channels and journals, Anyz Adam being one of them, dedicated to the heroes in our history. But who watches them anyway? This and my own experience have proven me that it should be done by adults. We, as a mother, brother, aunt, teacher or principal for someone are responsible for teaching and being the role model.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. The role models for me are my father and all the women out there who care for the fate of their country, family and children. But I guess Bopay Hansha stands out among others. Not that Bopay the first wife of Abulkhayir, who actually reminds me of Hurrem Sultan, but Bopay who turned against her husband to support her brother Kenesary Khan. She stood by her brother till the end of her life and led the warriors against the colonialists. She inspired her children and thousands of people to fight for the independence of our homeland.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow! wow! and wwwoow! 😉
    Dear Gulnur, thank you so much for this wonderful post! Frankly speaking, I almost forgot that Kazakh history is full of outstanding, extraordinary peoples and Ladies as Dina Nurpeisova, Manshuk Mametova and Aliya Moldagulova. Shame on me!
    I think it is essential to upbring a child with the notion and khowlegde about own history and heroes, moreover we need to remind that though the mass media how we “fighted” for our land, language and independence. Currently, people are in rush, they pursuit the “success” (“good” education, smart and posh face,last Iphone, trendy outfits and etc.) and of course there is no space to think about role model, duty, ethics and history. U know, sometimes I imagine the time, when we can meet well educated generation who knows own history, respects local traditions, speaks kazakh and dressed with the elements of national fable, but at the sea time open to the new knowledge and culture. I really enjoyed!


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