A round table was held at the National Academic Library of the Republic of Kazakhstan on “The thorny path to freedom: a historical look at the consequences of Asharshylyk”. During the meeting, well-known national and foreign historians discussed the causes and consequences of famine in the Kazakh steppe, as well as the problems that scientists face in the process of researching the topic.
Speaking to the audience, Maulen Ashimbayev noted that when studying the Asharshylyk tragedy, it is important to use a scientific approach without politicizing this issue.
“Asharshylyk is a tragedy that not only the Kazakh people went through, it is a terrible humanitarian disaster for all countries of the former Soviet Union. For this reason, we should approach the problem of Asharshylyk, first of all, from a scientific point of view, without giving the issue a political complexion,” Maulen Ashimbayev said.
According to the Senate Chairman, an objective assessment of what happened requires taking into account the historical context and the entire range of events that took place at that time. This will allow to be more objective when comprehending the cause-and-effect relationships of what happened. It is important to know and understand the essence of the politics of those times, to study how the Bolsheviks’ plans were fulfilled, and then compare and systematize the mistakes that were made by the authorities back then.
“Besides Kazakhstan, famine struck the population of Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, several regions of Russia, including the Volga region and the North Caucasus. From this point of view, famine should not be considered a crime against a particular nation. It is, first of all, a devastating consequence of the policy pursued by the authorities of that time. Therefore, famine is a tragedy, which not only the Kazakh people went through, it is a terrible humanitarian disaster for all mankind,” Maulen Ashimbayev noted.
In addition, the Senate Speaker noted in his speech that the topic of Asharshylyk was always closed in Soviet times and only thanks to Independence and the initiative of Elbasy Nursultan Nazarbayev, they began to talk about the blank pages of history at a high state level. The President of the country, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, is now paying great attention to the study of this issue. There is a saying, “Without the past, there is no future”, which means that these lessons of history must be studied carefully and as objectively as possible. The Senate Chairman believes that only professional scientists can do it.
“These factors should become the basis for research on the subject of Asharshylyk. We should give priority to scientific research first of all. Because only scientists can reveal the bitter truth about Asharshylyk to our people. In general, public opinion on historical events should be based on scientific opinion,” Maulen Ashimbayev said.
The Chairman of the Senate added that in this regard, a great responsibility rests with national historians. Therefore, it is important to provide them with access to up-to-date archived data, including those of neighboring countries; establish close contacts with scientists living in the regions and studying this topic; to collect the memories of the eyewitnesses of the “tragedy of the century” who survived the harsh years of Asharshylyk. Moreover, according to Maulen Ashimbayev, it is very important to involve the younger generation of historians in this research.
The director of the Institute of History and Ethnology named after Sh. Ualikhanov Ziyabek Kabuldinov spoke about the causes and the struggle against the consequences of Asharshylyk. The director of the Institute of State History Yerkin Abil focused on theoretical and methodological issues of studying the tragedy.
“Formation of the historical consciousness of Kazakhstani society is one of the tasks of creating a consistent, systemic, defragmented and free from “plank pages” national history. An objective study of the history of the Soviet period, especially its first decades, will allow us to better understand the logic and mechanism of the formation of the modern Kazakh nation, its strategy of adaptation and modernization,” said Yerkin Abil.
Sarah Cameron, a professor at the University of Maryland (USA), expressed her opinion on the prospects for joint study of asharshylyk. Specializing in studying the famine of the early last century in the countries of the Soviet Union, she believes that the entire scientific community will benefit from joint work.
“Some materials exist but are not easy to find. These memoirs need to be catalogued so that they are available in a central database or research center for the study of the famine. Researchers will be very grateful if these materials, most of which are only in Kazakh, are translated into Russian and English,” the professor said.
Some prominent scientists and public figures also spoke at the meeting, such as Talas Omarbekov, Smagul Yelubay, Beibit Koishybayev, Berik Abdygaliuly and others. At the end of the event, the participants adopted special recommendations that will be submitted to the responsible government agencies.
Besides the scientists, the meeting was also attended by the Minister of Education and Science Askhat Aimagambetov, Minister of Culture and Sports Aktoty Raimkulova and Minister of Information and Social Development Aida Balayeva.
The event was organized by the Senate of the Parliament of the Republic of Kazakhstan, the Institute of the History of the State and the Institute of the History and Ethnology named after Sh. Ualikhanov.