Abai Zholy as Socialist Realism and as National Romance

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


The plot of Mukhtar Auezov’s Abai Zholy (The Path of Abai) often stands in problematic contrast with the post-Soviet memorialization of the novel as a work of Kazakh nationalism. Abai Zholy, first published in 1942 and then revised and republished in 1950, is a novelization of the life of the great 19th century Kazakh essayist and poet Abai Qunanbaiuli. In his scholarly writings, Auezov had alreadydescribed Abai as a transformational figure in the development of Kazakh literature, and his novel similarly presented Abai as not only a literary innovator but also a political reformist. Abai is shown as both inspired by Russian literature and also as horrified by the harsh and feudalistic behaviour of his father Qunanbai, a wealthy local leader. This conflict reflects both the influence of Socialist Realist literary models, which similarly staged generation conflicts as allegories of political change, and of contemporaneous shifts in Soviet Nationalities policies. While in the 1920s Auezov had openly described literary figures from the 19th century as anti-Colonial, in the 1940s he presented the Russians as progressive figures, implicitly praised Abai for his friendships with Russians, and faulted the indigenous elite as feudalistic exploiters of poor Kazakhs. Despite this, in post-Soviet Kazakhstan the novel is now feted as a canonical work of Kazakh prose fiction.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2015
EventOrientalism, Colonial Thinking, and the Former Soviet Periphery: Exploring Bias and Stereotype Representations of Eastern and Central Europe, the Caucasus, and Central Asia - Vilnius University, Vilnius, Lithuania
Duration: Aug 27 2015Aug 29 2015


ConferenceOrientalism, Colonial Thinking, and the Former Soviet Periphery

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