Abai’s poetry and the problem of literary connections

Early data about Abai’s poetic workshop was published in the articles «Semipalatinsky listoktagy»(№250-252), «Abai Kunanbaev» written by Alikhan Bokeykhan in 1904. Consequently Abai read Spencer’s «Experiment», Lewis’s «Positive Psychology», Draper’s «History of the intellectual development of Europe», Chernyshevsky’s articles in «Sovremennik» (Contemporary) and was well aware of their fate [1].

Alikhan Bokeikhan shouted about Abai’s greatness as a poet, added the poet’s poems extolling nature’s beauty of each season in line with the work of the greatest poems of Europe. «Akhmet Baitursynuly focused his attention on the samples gained from the Russian culture: made friends with the Russians, began to appreciate and look at poetry differently after realizing the importance of poems» [2].

A. Baitursynuly knew and considered that it was genius of Abai to realize the importance of taking the Russian’s samples of poems into Kazakh poetry was the key to his success in the poetry. He was the first to find out that there are an extensive number of samples of speech.

The works of Bokeikhan about Abai’s nature of thinking were of a great importance to А. Baitursynuly. »He tried to find the truth, talk from the heart, nevertheless Abai read the books of European writers, According to the writer, investigator of the state of translation Galikhan Bokeikhan, Abai was an avid reader of the works of European thinkers as Spenser, Lewis, Draper. Lermontov was his favorite Russian poet whose poems he read with great pleasure» [2].

As far as speech clarity is concerned A. Baitursynuly likes the way the Russian writers deal with the problem of speech clarity.

Rymgali Nurgali pointed out that Abai’s connection to the Russian literature was one of the main directions of A. Baiturynuly’s heritage.

In1916 in his article «Look through Literature» Nazir Torekylov wrote: «I think it is not scary to imitate Europe because one of the strong assets of Europe’s culture is the spirit of criticism – the criticism for us means something we cannot manage, cope with like not seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. If imitation goes beyond the limit, the spirit of criticism will open our eyes and indicate our mistakes. Abai is the father of our literature, he devoted himself to poetry realizing the significance of the way he chose» [1].

One of Abai’s novelties is the fact that he found a form through translation.

Kazhym Zhumaliev investigated poetry of Abai from the scientific viewpoint and made everything clear about his works: «But in our opinion the samples which were taken from Russian literature are connected with other sides of his works. Abai is the only author who made everything to borrow new words, new sentence constructions compared with other authors. Despite the fact that single words, names were frequently taken from the Arabic and Persian languages, if we panetrate deep into the origin of the words and sentences used in Abai’s speech, we realize that the words come from not the Arabic and Persian languages, but originate from the Russian language and literature» [4].

Abai managed to learn how to create characters and borrow ideas from Russian literature. He did not hesitate to master these methods. He used many poetical methods and let an extensive amount of new words come into the Kazakh language.

«The new words of Abai were formed by various methods and ways. Some words are not the words of Kazakh and were borrowed from other languages. The others, despite the fact that the stem of the words come from our own language, are used by adding suffixes to the stem of the word. Today there are words used with epithet and simile in order to create characters and achieve artistry. However, the words were used in his every day speech, he tried to change the order of the words in the sentences, made new expressions, in other words he tried to create new words and new sentences» [4].

Kazhym Zhumaliev points out that genius of Abai was not the fact that he borrowed new words, sentence constructions as a sample from the Russian language and literature, but his own words and word combinations he created such as: «men synyk zhan» (I am a broken soul), «auru zhurek akyryn sogady zhai»( diseased heart beats slowly), «zhaltandagan zhas zhurek» (young heart), «konady bir kun zhas bult, zhartastyn torin kushaktap» (a cloud spreads over one day, giving a hug to the top of the hills), «zhas zhurek zhaiyp saysagin (A young heart opens its wings)».

Abai’s many words and samples have come from nourishing roots of Russian literature. Translation was the factor that nourished Abai’s speech.

Taken Alimkulov looked deep into the mysterious sides of Abai’s works and states that Abai had translated Lermontov’s poem by two versions and showed his mastery.

«Skilled realistic» translational custom takes its root from Abai, as well as translation culture does take its root from Abai and this fact was investigated by T. Alimkulov. He also investigated Abai’s mystery and power of his translation of works and states him as a genius poet of all time. It was him who laid foundation to the art of the theory of translation.

Abai’s translated works are sufficiently tightened so that the sentences do not wonder; poetic translation – battle of two languages, the combination of ideas, feelings, characters and all these factors should be boiled with the blood of the interpreter. The translator is a rival to the original, the prosperity of the translation is – an inexhaustible treasure. Abai translates clearly. When the poetry is translated equally and similar to the original, one is filled with a wonderful feeling» [5].

T. Alimkulov observes the purity, sincerity, meaningfulness, novelty,enormous concern in Abai’s translations.

Т. Alimkulov makes some founded, unexpected and clear comments on Abai’s mysterious works. This is not just the speculation that arose from the wonder and useless admiration – it’s a thoughtful word which was said feeling the beats of the author’s heart, the taste of his words. This is an analysis that was carried out forty years ago to investigate actual problems of Abailearning thoroughly.

The researcher who stated the influence of Russian literature on Abai’s works, introduces a term concept. «He accepted the custom of critic realism from Russian literature». Have you noticed criticheskii realism– is not critical realism, but critic realism. Critical – should be critical.

Taken Alimkulov points out the power of Abai’s poetry when investigating the problems of translation.

«…Russian poem is written in harmony with rhythm and stress patterns, and is not necessarily formed on the equal syllable length. …Abai introduced Kazakh syllabic poetry which composed of equal syllable length. Here we can see that he learned this from Russian poetry. He did not just take this method and use it but made it suitable for his nation’s spirit. Knowing the two methods he used initial rhythm of Russian poetry, syllable stacking writing Kazakh zhyr and made a whole by uniting them with Kazakh folklore of early times. As a result there are pioneering, appropriate rhythm, rhyme, in other words a new form has appeared…» [5].

Т. Alimkulov says that Pushkin and Lermontov tried to use not so many verbs, Abai who had «learned a lot» from these two personalities, did not use verbs as well. His rhyme is observed as a name or sometimes as an imperative mood in his poetry. Т. Alimkulov’s saying about rhyme scheme concerns Abai’s poetical world. There are feminine rhyme and masculine rhyme in Russian poetry. They usually come on cross the line, rhythm waves are heared positively to our ears. There is no rhythm like this in Kazakh poetry. However, there is an equivalent to this cross line. It was mastery of Abai to compose this kind of rhythm. He managed to unite the weak points of Russian rhythm with Kazakh ones.

Taking into account the fact that the researchers who investigated Abai’s heritage, said he had made seventeen new forms, T Alimkulov stresses that «the best thing about it is its external form. If we add the sonority, simplicity, efficiency of Abai’s poety to this form, the values of the form is likely to prosper» [5].

Abai tried to make use of methods and techniques of Russian poem construction to some extent. He also contributed to the word-building. Abai could see the nature, directions of realistic literature of certain period from Russian literature. The Russian literature affected on his aesthetic choice, aim and position.

Т. Alimkulov considered Abai’s poems were the translation of Russian romances and compared the translations with the original. «Аittim salem, kalamkas» (trans: My greetings, kalamkas) – «Karie glazki (trans: Brown eyes)», «Surgult tuman dym burkip» (trans: Thick fog dizzles wetness ) – by Glinka, «not the Autumnal Fine Rain», «Men kordim uzyn kaiyn kulaganin (trans: I saw a tall birch falling)» – by А.Rubinshtein, «broken heart» («I saw a birch»).

M. Auezov was the first among Abailearners to state that this method was greatly used when Abai translated the works of Lermontov.

«When investigating the translated works of Abai from Lermontov, we should admit that Abai had contributed to the formation of Kazakh culture of contemporary poetry through translation. It should be appreciated by our generation. Abai translated Lermontov with extreme precision, that his own translations were no worse than the original not on terms of literary but harmony. With the intention of revealing the mysterious beauty, passion of Lermontov’s poetry, he made a pioneering discovery that had never made before. Despite of the fact that his poems were composed of Kazakh words, it was his mastery to make profitable use of some words, change of words was effectively used» [5].

These changes were shown with exact examples in works of Kazhim Zhumaliev, Zaki Akhmetov.

Т. Alimkulov was the researcher who studied and connected Abai’s works with Russian and

Western literature. Up to this time types of genres of Abai’s book of words were explained differently, his book of words was considered as a «diary» (Most of European great writers had a «diary»). Abai’s «diary» – his book of words.

It can not be stated that this custom came from the West. However, T. Alimkulov connects the individuality of Abai’s works with the West claiming that this custom was not from the East. It was individuality of Abai’s lyrics in which he depicts nature scenery.

«Each chapter of Abai’s heritage is worth considering it separately as an independent work. The deepest, the most valuable, fruitful of his heritage is the lyrics. It refers to the spirit of a man, melody of the soul, nature chanting, song of love. Apart from Abai’s awareness of life secrets, criticism of various intentions, behavior, his joys and sorrows, an impeccable skill can be seen in his ability to see, feel the nature. Here there is Abai’s:

The lyrics is worth of being joined the list of world’s famous poems. Abai depicts joys and sorrows of the nature, and adds his mood to it. The expressions, starting to get dark, the sun is warmed by the time, growing grey at a time, are in harmony with his inner world. He is the great writer who admits with sadness that the life is too short like this evening. His thoughts and feelings are smoothed in magical scenery. Sceneries like these are often given by a simile in the eastern poetry. Abai does not use a simile, but penetrates deep into bottom of feeling, thoughts and aims to show the culture of mastery» [5].

Taken strengthens Abai’s poems of love saying «cold word that comes from hot heart, «modest secret, words of wisdom» in his speech. He assesses by «Sample of cultural literature», «the words of realistic literature».

Т. Alimkulov’s outlook on Abailearning which deserves attention is related to Abai’s works «МАsgut», «Еskendir», «Asim angimesi». These works don’t originate from genre of the poem, they are in traditional eastern epic. Abai’s not dealing with the poem, he tries to explain that these works were lower than the authors opportunities.

«He wrote three epics (not poem). …There is a loss of inspiration for ending the poem «Asim angimesi» which was rewritten from Arabian nights» [5].

The author’s thought of «Мasgut» is plausible. This epic is stated to be taken from Turgenev in Murseit’s manuscript of 1907. There is no doubt that the plot of I.S. Turgenev’s story «An eastern legend» is similar to the story «МАsgut». However, they are said to be different. It is said that Abai did not copy the style of others. «Еskindir» was similar to Draper’s work «History of the intellectual development of Europe». They are both about not reward but historical truth. «Why didn’t Abai write a poem that would be equal to ancient rich lyrics? ». There are four reasons for this.

  1. There was nearly no realistic poem that could introduce the people with the peculiarities of the epoch and inner world of society on the Kazakh land at the time Abai lived.
  2. Abai needed a sample of the ancient chronicle.
  3. There was no sample in the east.
  4. Writing of edifications. He begins to write Book of words.

Т. Alimkulov is the writer who follows the way of Abailearners, Auezov. «At ancient times when there was no writing symbols, Abai raised Kazakh written literature on the level of professional literature, left an enormous works for future generation behind him. This is a prose written in free style. This is a literary translation equal to the original. These are sane epics. These are various kinds of poems», – T.Alimkulov said showing the role of Abai’s works in national spiritual history, he comprehended historical, social state of people’s life, the differences of literary trends of ХІХ century. He dealt with the stages of Russian colonialism. Abai described bitter sides of life and absolute truth… Shortanbai, Bukar zhiraular yelled at the phrase «bad times», he also analyses the early stages of colonialism process, different state of Abai’s times, aspiration for the new.

There is a reflection of the East and West in the nature of Abai’s writing style.

Touching upon the problem of style, individual style, author A, Ismakova says: «According to experts, style is developed, nurtured, improved, in its own way «learned» from reality, from culture, from its predecessors, from the material to which it is addressed. The style, of course, based on talent, personality of the artist, his life, the spiritual and artistic experience, the processes of its development, which, of course, are not the only natural phenomenon» [6].

А. Ismakova’s contribution to literature can be seen from her words about literature. She points out the role of individual style in national classic style which conquered the Kazakh people’s thinking and our culture.

At the times of Soviet Union, especially in eighties of last century Abai became one of the theme that was totally investigated.

A lot was said about Abai’s paying attention to the Russian literature, the historical reasons of his inspiration. However, despite the fact that social backgrounds had been talked about a lot for a long time, remains untouched. Abai’s connection with the Russian literature were considered in the works of Akhmet Baitursynov, but is «forgotten» today.

«Literature introducer » Akhmet Baitursynov wrote the following about the influence of religious policy of nineteenth century and its causes on the folk literature: «Kazakh people are not totally Muslims, it is not difficult to turn them from Muslims into Christians» with this opinion Russia wanted to separate two nations, Kazakh and Nogai. The rich began to lead the policy of learning in Russian, not in Nogai.

The new words, which did not exist before, appeared in the Kazakh Language. They were words, which were powerful not due to the religion, but owing to the language authority. The key aim of the basic written literature is spreading and strengthening of the religion, whereas the main purpose of the latter literature is language expansion, maintenance and brightening of the literature. Thus, written literature is divided into 2 parts: religious epoch, eloquent epoch [2].

We will not be mistaken, if we compare Abai Kunanbayev’s poetic skill with the endless, deep ocean. Wonderful artist of the word, gentle lyrist, word master, and first of all, he is a wise poet. This opinion is related to his songs about life aspects, connects with his philosophic worldview and his wisdom words, especially his thoughts and ideas religion, Allah, religiousness. The whole description of the historic age, in which Abai lived himself, can be found in Abai’s creativity. Z.Akhmetov’s view

, that «Abai’s poetry skillfully showed people’s fate, their national-characteristic features, their past way» (7,p.101),is still true and honest towards Abai’s poetry. Abai’s creativity is a great treasure, which will be more precious as the time passes by, in this term, it will be priceless heritage in young generations’ minds.



  1. Learn, know Abai... / compose. Мyrzakhmetov М. – Аlmaty: Аna tili, 1995. – 160 p.
  2. Baitursynulu А. White path. – Аlmaty: Zhalyn, 1991. – 406 p.
  3. Auezov М. Аbai Kunanbaev. – Аlmaty: Gylym, 1967. – 391 p.
  4. Zhumaliev K. The historical problems of Kazakh literature and the language of poety. – Аlmaty: Kazmemkorkemadebiet, 1960. – 297 p.
  5. Alimkulov T. Mysterious man. – Аlmaty: Gylym, 1972. – 307 p.
  6. Ismakova А. Kazakh literary prose. – Аlmaty: Kazakh university, 2014. – 297 p.
  7. Аkhmetov Z. The stages of poetry of Abai.. – Almaty: Gylym, 2010. – 450 p.
  8. Dadebaev Z. Abai’s anthropologism. – Аlmaty: Kazakh University, 2014. – 297 p.
  9. Memories of Abai. 1 book. – Semei. – Аbai’s state fund – museum, 2013. – 260 p.
  10. Мadibaeva K.K. Аbailearning: workbook. – Аlmaty: Kazakh University, 2013. – 204 p.
Magazine: KazNU BULLETIN
Year: 2016
City: Almaty
Category: Philology