A novel of Smagul Yelubay "The Lonely Yurt" became an important event in the Qazaq literature of the late Twentieth - early Twenty-First centuries. A well-known public firgure in Qazaqstan and a philosopher Murat Auezov said about this book and its author such sorrowful words as: "Smagul Yelubay's novel saved Qazaq literature from shame in the face of history." In the era of the total ban on a topic about the Holodomor – the Famine in Qazaqstan, Smagul Yelubay perhaps only dared to say the whole truth about this tragedy, because it burned his conscience, his heart.
As the Author says in one of his interviews he was interested in history of the thirties of the last century since he was the first-year student at a Faculty of Journalism. Being a first-year student of the University young Smagul developed a draft of the future trilogy. As he says, there was nothing accidental in his life. His parents and his encampment were one of those Qazaqs, who survived the terrible years of collectivization with following after it a Great Famine. They fled from dearth from Western Qazaqstan, from the Emba River, to Karakalpakia, and then even further to the south, up to Afghanistan border.
Qazaq people used to have a nomadic life up to 1928. It means that their lives totally depended on their cattle. A standard family was supposed to have a flock of 50 sheep and a herd of horses at least in order to stay alive. But in accordance with standards of collectivization approved by the Soviet authoroties if a family had some sheep, two or three cows and a horse, members of the family considered to be a kulak, a rich man (“bay” in Kazakh language). Based on this inhuman principle Qazaq people were dekulakized, tortured, executed and as a result of this policy a Great Famine came to a Great Steppe. Due to this big tragedy 2.5 million of wealthy peasants and their families died from a famine in 1932. It should be mentioned that it was the Second famine in Qazaqstan, the First one was in 1921. Victims of the First wave of the Famine became one million seven hundred thousand ethnic Qazaqs. About a million of Qazaqs had to leave thier homeland and fled to China, Iran, Afganistan and Russia. In such a nomad's encampment on the border of Turkmenistan and Karakalpakia Smagul Yelubay was born in 1947. The return of refugees to their home country began with the death of Stalin in 1953.
As it was mentioned by the author, the novel "The Lonely Yurt" is based on true events. It is about the Stalin regime, the Stalin's "falcon" Nikolai Yezhov and his people's degrading treatment and abuse of Qazaq peasants, how they tried to bend over their backwards to reveal the enemies of the regime, making lists of people to be shot.
Smagul Yelubay wrote the novel not far from Almaty, in the Aksay gorge, near the mountain stream. He installed a Qazaq traditional yurt and lived there alone for three summers. The first part of the trilogy was ready in the winter of 1984. He carried the manuscript to his publishers. Their first reaction was fear. The second was a deep fright. All these happened in light of December events of 1986 took place in Almaty. There were riots in response to General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev's dismissal of Dinmukhamed Kunaev, the First Secretary of the Communist Party of Qazaqstan and an ethnic Qazaq, and his appointment to this post of Gennady Kolbin, an outsider from the Russian SFSR. At that time everybody in Qazaqstan was afraid of being accused of nationalism. It took five years the author to have an opportunity to publish his book without fear for his life. In December, 1991 Qazaqstan declared about its Independence.
Here is some feedback of the readers of the book.
"I have read this book more than once and constantly tears flowed down my cheeks. Every time when I read it, I discover for myself more and more understanding of the actions of the characters, their sufferings, tensions and desperate attempts, despite of the storms and thunderstorms, to preserve love. From the once rich and clever biy (in Kazakh language means „an arbitration judge”) Pakhraddin, Soviet power requires a complete obedience. Even after a humble transfer of his property to the Soviet authorities, the biy becomes an enemy of the state. How painful it is to read the entire process of the disgraceful dispossession of Pakhraddin, whom the poor themselves love and respect! It is difficult to read that a big family of the biy had vanished. At the same time, through the whole story there are other parallels: the thread of tender and blushful love of Pakhraddin's daughter to the poor fellow (in Kazakh language - jigit); crazy, all-absorbing love of the younger wife of another biy to poor jigit; the humble love of Pakhraddin's wife for respected by her husband.
I can only say one thing, I did not regret for a moment that I picked up the book of Smagul Yelubay "The Lonely Yurt", and I will read it again".
The other reader comment is as follows:
„I read „The Lonely Yurt” before 4 a.m., because I could not tear myself away. I needed to know what would happen at the end of the trilogy. I even cried at some points. It is a saga, a good family saga about people whose life was not easy at a very difficult moment of history - a formation of the Soviet regime in the Great Steppe of Qazaqstan. Here you can find broken fates, strong characters and a very interesting plotline. I will not tell you about it, it is better that you read it, because it is worth it.”
The book was published by the order of the Qazaq PEN club at a Publishing House the Metropolitan Classics, located in New York in 2016. Anglophone readers may find this book to purchase on such internet sites as Amazon, Barners & Noble, E-bay.com.
Some words about the author.
Smagul Yelubay was born on the 9th of March in 1947 in Chardzhou region of Turkmenistan. In 1961 his family moved to Almaty, Qazaqstan, so he graduated from secondary school on his motherland.
In 1971 he completed the Qazaq State University majoring in journalism. After graduation from the University he worked as a correspondent in a local newspaper in the East Kazakhstan region and starting from 1972 his major field of work was a movie industry. In 1975 he graduated from the Higher Scenario Courses in Moscow.
He was a Deputy Editor-in-Chief of a Qazaq film studio “Qazaqfilm”. Between 1992-1995 he acted as a Chief editor of the magazine "Parasat". In a period between 1995 and 2004 he was a part of the staff of Radio Liberty. Later on he executed functions of the Chief editor of the National company "Qazaqfilm" named after Shaken Aimanov and of a Vice-president of the Qazaq PEN club.
He is a prominent writer, scriptwriter and a well-known in Qazaqstan journalist. The author’s most famous works are: a book “The Lonely Yurt”, movie scripts for the feature-length films “House Under the Moon” (1983), “Surzhekey: Angel of Death” (1991), “Batyr Bayan” (1992), “Revenge” (2004), “The Hunter Boy” (2012), “Diamond sword” (2016), “Land of Qazaqs” (2016), “Oasis” (2016).
Smagul Yelubay’s feature-length film “The Hunter Boy” got the Best Foreign Drama Award in International Family Film Festival in Hollywood.
At present moment Smagul Yelubay lives in the Czech Republic.
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