Abai Kunanbauyly

ABAI KUNANBAYuly (1845-1904)

Abai Kunanbay uulu was a well-known Kazakh poet, a great thinker, composer, philosopher, the founder of written Kazakh literature, and its first classic. The legacy he left his nation is rich in songs and poems, translations, and prose. His translations of the poetry written by Russian writers and poets such as Pushkin, Lermontov, and Krylov became the national inheritance of Kazakhstan. He translated the works of Schiller, Goethe, and Byron into the Kazakh language. He also participated in the governing of the country and played a certain role in attempting to solve complicated problems justly. The name of Abai is known worldwide just as Shakespeare, Goethe, and Pushkin are well-known in many countries, because his great words became a spiritual patrimony of not only one nation, but of the entire humankind.

Ibrahim Abai Qunanbaaev was a Kazakh poet, composer and philosopher. Abai was born in Karauyl village in Chingiz volost of Semipalatinsk uyezd of the Russian Empire, today it is Abai district in East Kazakhstan.He was the son of a rich and powerful Kazakh provincial prince, gave himself the pen-name Abai the Righteous. He was sent to a Russian secondary school in Semipalatinsk. There he read the writings of Mikhail Lermontov ad Alexander Pushkin, which were influential to his own development as a writer. Further, he was fond of reading eastern poetry, including Shahname and 1000 and 1 night.

He was married against his will and had to bow to all his father’s whims. Henceforth, he vowed to dedicate all his work to the effort to liberate his nomadic people from ignorance. He took topics from his immediate environment, transformed them into poetry and put them into literary shape.

By translating them into Kazakh, Abai made important works from Russian and European literature accessible to his compatriots. He concentrated on Kazakhs’ national self-consciousness. As the best prerequisites for this he recommended education and moral integrity. His literary and philosophical masterpiece, the Book of Words, is dedicated to this theme. His work provided a powerful impulse to the development of Kazakh writing; today, Abai is honoured as the founder of Kazakh literature.

Page updated 20.1.2021

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