Baurzhan Momyshuly (24 December [11 December] 1910 - 10 June 1982) was a Kazakh-Soviet military officer and author, posthumously awarded with the titles Hero of the Soviet Union and National Hero of Kazakhstan.
Momyshuly was born in Orak Balga, a now abandoned Aul in the modern Zhualy District in southern Kazakhstan, to a family of nomadic herders from the Dulat tribe. He lived with his relatives until the age of thirteen, but spent his teenage years in Soviet boarding schools. After completing his secondary education in 1929, he worked as a teacher, a secretary of a district committee and as an assistant-prosecutor. He was later employed as a department chief in the Kazakh ASSR's Central Agency for Economic Planning.
In November 1932, Momyshuly was conscripted for a two-year service in the Red Army, and posted as a cadet in the 14th Mountain Infantry Regiment. After his discharge, he studied a course in economics in the Leningrad Institute of Finance and worked in the Kazakh branch of the Commercial-Industrial Soviet State Bank.
On 25 March 1936, Momyshuly was again called for military service, becoming a platoon commander in the Central Asian Military District's 315th Regiment. He remained in the military for the next two decades. In March 1937, the regiment was transferred to the Far Eastern Front in Siberia. While not subject to repression during the Great Purge, the remark "unreliable, with extreme nationalist views" was inscribed in his personal dossier in 1937. His biographer, Mekemtas Myrzakhmetov, believed this happened because Momyshuly was known to read the poetry of Mağjan Jumabayev and works of other authors associated with the Alash Orda.
In 1939, Momyshuly was assigned to command the 105th Infantry Division's artillery. From February 1940, he headed the 202nd Independent Anti-Tank Battalion, based in Zhytomyr.
In January the following year, Lieutenant Momyshuly returned to Kazakhstan, serving in Alma Ata's military commissariat. When Germany invaded the Soviet Union on 22 June, he was appointed a battalion commander - Kombat - in the 1073th Regiment of the newly formed 316th Rifle Division, headed by the military commissar of the Kyrgyz SSR, Major General Ivan Panfilov.
In September 1941, the division was sent to the front in Malaya Vishera, at the vicinity of Leningrad. During October, as the Wehrmacht advanced on Moscow, the 316th - now part of General Konstantin Rokossovsky's 16th Army - was transferred to the theater and tasked with defending the highway passing through the city of Volokolamsk and the surrounding area. Momyshuly's battalion was assigned an eight-kilometer-long sector along the Ruza River; Senior Lieutenant Momyshuly took part in 27 engagements during the defense of the Soviet capital. From the 16th to the 18th of November, he and his unit were cut off from the rest of the division in the village of Matryonino, yet managed to hold off the German forces and eventually broke out back to their lines. For its performances, the 316th was awarded the status of a Guards formation on 23 November, and named the Panfilov 8th Guards Rifle Division in honor of its fallen commander, who was killed in action on 18 November. In late November, Momyshuly was promoted to the rank of captain.
Momyshuly participated in the Soviet counter-offensive and was severely wounded on 5 December, though he declined to be evacuated to receive treatment.
In March 1942, war correspondent Alexander Bek arrived in the 8th Guards Division. During the spring of that year, Bek convinced Momyshuly, who was reluctant at first, to cooperate with him in writing a novel about the fighting in Volokolamsk, which would eventually be published in 1944 under the title Volokolamsk Highway. Momyshuly strongly disapproved of Bek's book, which he claimed to be an unrealistic depiction of events, and criticized the author relentlessly for the remainder of his life.
In April 1942, his commanding officer approved his promotion to the rank of major. In August 1942, his superiors had submitted a highly positive report on his conduct, and he was recommended to be awarded the title Hero of the Soviet Union. The proposal was rejected. The poet Mikhail Isinaliev, a friend of Momyshuly, wrote that a former political officer from the 8th Guards told him that this was due to his Kazakh patriotism, which was regarded as dangerous nationalism by the unit's commissars. Momyshuly joined the Communist Party during the same year. In October, he was promoted to the rank of lieutenant colonel. After eight months, he became a colonel.
During 1943, due to the effects of his old injury, he was forced to rest in a hospital for a prolonged period. After being released from the hospital in March 1944, he underwent an advanced officers' course in the Voroshilov Academy. On 21 January 1945, Colonel Baurzhan Momyshuly was appointed as the commander of the 9th Guards Rifle Division, a unit of the 2nd Rifle Corps in the 1st Baltic Front's 6th Army. The 9th participated in the East Prussian Offensive, taking fifteen towns near the city of Priekule. After the war ended, Momyshuly was awarded the Order of Lenin.
In 1946, Momyshuly entered the Voroshilov Academy again. On 16 June 1948, the Kazakh SSR's Council of Ministers appointed him as chief of the republic's Voluntary Society for Cooperation with the Armed Forces, while he still served in the military. In late 1948, he became deputy commander of the 49th Independent Infantry Brigade in the East Siberian Military District. From 1950, he served as a senior lecturer in the Red Army's Military Academy of Logistics and Transport. According to Myrzakhmetov, he was the only one of the 500 officers who graduated with him to never receive the rank of a General; the author claimed this was due to a political decision to deny Turkic people a high status in the Soviet Armed Forces.
In 1955, Colonel Momyshuly retired from the army due an illness. He turned to a literary career, writing several novels as well as books about his wartime experiences. He was also a lecturer in the Kazakhstan Academy of Sciences.
Momyshuly was mainly known due his appearance in Bek's Volokolamsk Highway. The author wrote two sequels, Several Days and General Panfilov's Reserve. The series gained international, as well as Soviet, recognition: Published in Hebrew in 1946, Volokolamsk Highway "held an almost cult status in the Palmach and later in the Israeli Army" according to media researcher Yuval Shachal, and became a standard tactical handbook in the Israeli Defense Forces. Inspired by the novel, future Israeli Chief of the General Staff Motta Gur once held a "Panfilov Roll Call" for two soldiers who deserted from his company when he was a young officer, shaming them in front of the other troops; he wrote that it was a common practice in the IDF at the time. During 2005, Ehud Barak told "we, as young officers, were raised on Momyshuly." Volokolamsk Highway was popular in Cuba, as well. Fidel Castro told Norberto Fuentes that "the idea to use the love of the Motherland for convincing people to support me, came to me after reading the novel." The novel was well known among members of the Cuban Revolutionary Armed Forces;[ In 1961, Raul Castro told a journalist that every regimental commander was "compelled to have a copy". In Jesús Díaz's acclaimed 1987 novel Las iniciales de la tierra, the protagonist cites Bek's book as a major influence on his life. The novel was also included in the list of "compulsory reading" for members of the Chinese Communist Party and People's Liberation Army personnel. On 27 June 1963, the East German Ministry of National Defense issued its Order no. 50/63 - drafted on the initiative of Walter Ulbricht - which introduced Volokolamsk Highway as part of the political education program for the soldiers of the National People's Army. In the official history of the NVA, historian Major General Reinhard Brühl had cited it as having a major influence of the soldiers.
A Kazakh stamp with Momyshuly's picture, issued in 2010.
Momyshuly's book about the 1941 battles in Volokolamsk, Moscow is Behind Us, was adapted to cinema during 1967. In 1976, he won the Kazakh SSR's Abay Qunanbayuli State Prize for his autobiography, Our Family.
Momyshuly opposed the Brezhnevite establishment's exaltation of the battle of Malaya Zemlya; according to his son and biographer, Bahytzhan, his position made him powerful enemies in the state apparatus, and nullified his chances to receive the title Hero of the Soviet Union while alive. When Isinaliev approached Dinmukhamed Konayev and requested him to arrange for Momyshuly to become one such, the First Secretary replied that as long as General Alexei Yepishev was the head of the Red Army's Main Political Directorate, the decoration would never be bestowed. Bahytzhan also recalled that in his later years, his father - who was a "loosely practicing Muslim" all his life - turned to Sufism. Momyshuly died in 1982 and was buried in Alma Ata.
Shortly before the collapse of the USSR, the chief of the Kazakh Supreme Soviet, Nursultan Nazarbayev, had managed to convince the authorities in Moscow to posthumously grant Momyshuly the country's highest military honor, and he was declared a Hero of the Soviet Union on 11 December 1990. After the republic became independent, he was also made a People's Hero of Kazakhstan. The capital of his native Zhualy District is named after him.