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Literary searches of Kazakh dramaturgy in totalitarian system

This article is devoted to the literary traces of Kazakh drama in the 30s and 40s of the XX century, the consequences of ideological pressure in post-revolutionary literature and the transition of the nation's spirituality from collapse to collapse. The resolutions in literature and art, adopted in the 1930s, guided by the creation of socialism in Kazakhstan, marked the playwrights as “nationalist”, “alashist”, “enemy of the people”, repressed poets and writers, and aimed to ensure that the literary process did not deviate from the path of Marxist-Leninist teaching. Although the the plays of originators of Kazakh drama such as M. Auezov, Sh. Kussainov, A. Abishev were actively discussed in literary criticism, achievements and gaps in the development of drama were studied. The articles of researchers in poetry, prose, and drama of M. Auezov, S. Mukanov, M. Gabdullin, A. Tokmagambetov, G. Musrepov, E. Ismailov, etc. have been re-differentiated and interpreted from the point of view of the present day in determining the direction of artistic development of the literary process of that period. This article considers the directions of development of Kazakh drama in the totalitarian system under the Soviet government from this point of view.


The independence of the Kazakh people led to radical changes in the spirituality of the nation. It gave a special impetus to the liberation of national knowledge and consciousness from the imperial shackles and towards spiritual modernization deeply rooted in the historical background.

The art of speech has its own nature of development, but it sometimes goes through a stage of decline, and now it goes through a stage of progress. According to this progress, significant works were written in the genre of poetry and drama. However, the works later considered the success of our literature were not appreciated in a timely manner. This was not without consequences for the creative search of poets and writers, which led to an artistic failure of literature.

Research material

Kazakh drama in the 30s and 40s of the XX century was used as the material of our research. The ideological pressure that arose after the October Revolution in particular hindered the natural course of development of Social Sciences and greatly damaged the scientific character. As a result, in the 30s the national literary science was destroyed, and its prominent representatives were repressed. In that confusion Kazakh people lost their true intelligentsia. For example, demographer M. Tatimov writes that during the Stalinistic policy, that is, in the period from 1937 to 1938, 22 thousand citizens of the Kazakh people, the most open and true intellectuals, were shot, 44 thousand students and employees were imprisoned and sentenced to long terms [1]. The history and national identity of any people are reflected in the literary and classical heritage. There were whole stages in the development and study of the spiritual and cultural heritage of the Kazakh people on a scientific basis accompanied by gross errors and distortions, which were carried out through party resolutions. Stalin's letter “On some issues of the history of Bolshevism” played a dangerous role in this, paving the way for subsequent ideological expansion. For example, according to this letter, an instruction document prepared in 1932 by the Department of culture and propaganda of the Kazakh Regional Committee of the All-Russian Communist Party (Bolsheviks) and the Institute of MarxismLeninism of Kazakhstan “On the tasks of struggle on the theoretical front in Kazakhstan in connection with the letter of Comrade Stalin” was published in the form of an explanatory letter.

This document, which should be guided by ideological workers, clearly shows the direction in which literary criticism should work: “Pay special attention to the tasks of the period of building socialism in Kazakhstan and the problems of literary criticism” [2: 242]. Thus, the campaign to fight the “nationalist” and “alashshist” poets and writers was opened, which eventually led to the disclosure, repression, and shooting of “enemies of the people”. This is, firstly, a strict policy aimed at perpetuating of subjugation of the entire nation by destroying the national intelligentsia, and secondly, it clearly showed the course of ideological oppression.

The abolition of party resolutions on literature and art adopted in the late 1930s-40s-50s led literary studies under the pressure of the totalitarian system out of the normal course of the narrow framework of the principles of the Marxist-Leninist methodology of class, people, and party.

Research methods

In the work the following methods were used: comparison, text analysis, systematization, as well as historical-typological, historical-genetic methods.

Results and discussion

The qualitative and artistic degree of literature is also a crucial problem in determining the aesthetic field and genre appearance of criticism. This, in turn, should have contributed to the activity of literary criticism. However, despite the fact that party resolutions did not allow this to happen, criticism has become an integral part of ideology, as evidenced by the articles that follow another policy direction. The real proof of this is not only the unfair assessment of works of high artistic level, but also the separation of criticism from the nature of its ability to influence the process of literary development.

In the middle of 1930s, i.e., during the repressions, the nature of polemical articles developed in the context of exposing “enemies of the people”, defining the “nationalist” and “bourgeois” character of the work, and in the late 30s there was a clear desire to get rid of such a major flaw. For example, in the article “The high literature needs high criticism” G. Musrepov wrote: “I am not a critic, I am a writer, I am not a critic, I'm the one who gets the criticism. But I want to know who the critic is”, he says, emphisizing the types of criticism, scientific criticism, popular criticism. The “empty” criticism has its consequences for the development of literature, as poited by S. Mukanov, E. Ismailov, allowing superficial views on the problems of literature to fall into a scientifically justifiable and aesthetic polemic.

The warning “let a person strive for scientific criticism of culture in order to be a cultural literature” also indicates that literary critics are highly responsible for the need to express demands and tastes [3: 139]. Another manifestation of the turning of polemical criticism into an aesthetic channel was M. Auezov's article “Good criticism is not a pity”.

M. Auezov expressed his opinion on some controversial issues in S. Mukanov's critical article “About prose and criticism”. The writer, showing an excellent example of polemical criticism, proves his disagreement with the opinion of S. Mukanov regarding the play “Ayman-Sholpan”. The writer focuses on the plot of the poem “Ayman-Sholpan” and the plot of his play, the nature of the struggle and the specifics of the character of the characters in folk oral literature. Academic opinions are particularly relevant to the image of Kotibar. S. Mukanov puts the scientific gap in the understanding of reason and science in revealing the relationship between the existence of the lyre-epic, libretto, play and real life. Here we also see a call for academic accuracy “No one will break your pen with the slogan: “Don't criticize”. But is it not possible to prove what he said, to disseminate and objectively come to a conclusion?” [4]. M. Auezov, who called for a reasonable judgment, not a wise one, also notes that the need to correct the resulting quotation should be realized through scientific analysis based on the lyric-epic, libretto and play.

Despite the fact that the opinion “Let there be no falsehood in the name of criticism alone, and let there be no empty deceit instead of proof” is strongly expressed, the superficial toponymy of S. Mukanov's opinion once again proves the seriousness of M. Auezov's approach to criticism [4: 156].

G. Musrepov noted that the polemical articles of M. Auezov, first of all, represent the interests of critical literature, emphasize the need to adhere to academic research, literary-theoretical reality, and secondly, the objectivity, aesthetic and scientific foundations of criticism and give a clear direction to it. The definitions of G. Musrepov's “sharp criticism” and M. Auezov's “good criticism” in relation to the nature of criticism are also individualized by the fact that they put a sharp burden on the agenda, which is necessary only for scientific and aesthetic criticism.

During the war a number of new works were published in Kazakh literature, which gave a lot of responsibility to literary criticism, and a lot of critical articles were written that analyzed the state and tasks of literature, its successes and shortcomings. If literary criticism of the late 30s and early 40s was focused on the implementation of the history of literature in accordance with the new school curriculum, then now literary criticism has begun to pay special attention to the problematic, i.e., theoretical, genre problems of the art of speech. At the same time we can list these works: M. Gabdullin, A. Tokmagambetov’s “About the problem of criticism in literature”, M. Gabdullin’s “About the positive image in literature”, N. Sauranbayev’s “About the language of Kazakh literature and its terminology”, S. Seitov’s “Good books”, “A writer should be a figure of his era”, A. Tazhibayev’s “Modern tasks of Kazakh literature”, E. Ismailov’s “About the state and tasks of Kazakh poetry during the war”, “About the poetry of modern life”, “About modern life the theme of the defense of the Fatherland in poetry”.

Academician R. Nurgali said: “If the world's dramaturgy has passed a long way, which is counted in centuries, the history of Kazakh drama has not yet reached a century. Despite this, the socio-economic, historical and cultural rapid development of our society, folklore, art, rich literature with thousands of years of traditions of the people combined with the traditions of the global culture brought to life a new high-quality Kazakh art — drama and theater. Thus, a holistic, systematic, comprehensive literary and cultural process emerged. Now Kazakh drama has all the qualities, genre structures and forms that are characteristic of drama in general. The genre system, which has developed in a short time, has grown and matured together with the new culture and literature of our nation” [5; 5–6].

In the first half of the XX century, along with Kazakh drama, the theater and art criticism were developing. Achievements and gaps in the development of Kazakh drama were considered in such critical articles. For example, M. Akynzhanov's “A weak play with good dreams” (about the play “Marabay” by Sh. Kusainov), M. Auezov's “Marabay and Mardan”, K. Badyrov's “The beginning of a new task” (about the play “Comrades” by A. Abishev), B. Kenzhebayev's “Comrades”, E. Ismailov's “Image of Abay” (about the play “Abay”), A. Lekerov's “Calls to victory” (about the play “Guard of honor”).

In these peer-reviewed articles more attention was paid to the ideological themes of the aforementioned plays than to their artistic nature. This is due to the fact that the historical period required the glorification of amateur figures in art and the ambition of the defender of the fatherland.

It should be noted that the literary criticism of the depictious of the realities of life in the conditions of war in Kazakh drama was not so deep. In this regard, the opinion of B. Momyshuly about M. Auezov's “Guard of honor” is valuable due to an objective consideration of the problem, which literary criticism could not go into. “Where did you send a brave, simple, obedient, very fair, valiant soldier? Your Tolegen has become a stage clown, not a soldier on the battlefield”, which is explained by the fact that in Kazakh drama written during the Great Patriotic War, it is difficult to write about it without seeing or knowing the battlefield [6: 229]. In addition, Kazakh playwrights had their own reasons for leaving out the realities of life when writing plays with a high artistic and ideological character. After all, time did not allow to deeply master the knowledge of the battlefield and the psychology of soldiers.

“For young poets who began to be recognized in the 30s, it is clear that these years were a new period of ascent. At the same time, the poetic talents of the famous Kazakh poets Zh. Zhabayev, S. Mukanov, A. Tazhibayev, A. Tokmagambetov, T. Zharokov, K. Amanzholov, G. Ormanov, A. Sarsenbayev, Zh. Sain, D. Abilov, K. Bekhozhin were recognized with their originality. During the war the ranks of Kazakh poets grew and joined poetry. A new generation of poets such as H. Yergaliyev, S. Maulenov, Zh. Moldagaliyev, S. Seitov, K. Zharmagambetov, K. Skangytbayev, Z. Kalauova and others came to literature” [7: 17]. The works of these poets and writers were evaluated from the point of view of their artistic originality without ignoring literary criticism and its impact on artistic development.

The desire of literary criticism to identify topical issues, directly related to the development of Kazakh literature was not only a requirement of the period. In poetry, prose and drama prominent representatives who actively worked in the literary process of that period appeared in new works, and after the collapse of the 30s, when the artistic level and ideological channel narrowed, they made efforts to revive Kazakh literature, develop each genre in a short period of time.

“It is known that in the era of socialist realism, the theme and necessity, rather than the artistry and skill of the work were put at the forefront, and when analyzing works of art the emphasis was placed on its thematic state. There is also truth in the opinion that this tradition was continued in literature during the war” [7: 53]. Of course, it is well known that the artistic method of Soviet literature, socialist realism, did not allow describing the reality of life fully, and writers did not have freedom of thought. And we should not forget that poets and writers who ventured into forbidden topics were politically distrusted and repressed. “During the Great Patriotic War the weight of Kazakh literature was heavy. The lack of experience in presenting the theme of war, in itself, has already lost many masters, the best talents of our literature. It was difficult and difficult to fill the place of heavy death, to heal the wound without the time requirement”, wrote R. Nurgali in his opinion [8: 68]. Literary critic Sh. Yeleukenov also wrote on this, and we cannot ignore his opinion that “It is impossible to hide the fact that the coolness of socialist realism affects the high-rise works of Kazakh literature to varying degrees. However, the name of art is art. His talent, which was deeply aware of his inner laws, did not succumb to many exaggerations” [9: 233].

In the second half of the 1940s there were also advances in theater and drama criticism. Of course, if A. Tazhibayev's play “We are also Kazakhs” was severely criticized and hung in the Union resolution, it would be illogical to demand articles from the drama criticism on the academic and aesthetic principle. Literary criticism could not break away from the development of vulgar sociology, giving room for mistakes, and from the form of erroneous principles, such as criticism and quoting, in the analysis of the work of a writer, a literary work. Criticism began to lose its authority and influence on the ideological strengthening of literature, its poetic maturity, on creativity in assessing the expansion of the artistic level and aesthetic orientation. In 1947, on the 14th of March, S. Bayeshev said in the article “Professor M. Auezov in the abyss of mistakes of the past” published in the newspaper “Socialist Kazakhstan”: “Everything he has written over the past 15 years, from the plays “Ayman-Sholpan”, “Khan Kene”, to the latest novel “Abay” is devoted to the old theme”, he denies the writer's academic and research works related to the history of Kazakh literature, Abay studies, as well as artistic works, including dramatic ones.

However, T. Alimkulov's “Picture of the truth of life”, M. Gabdullin's “Epic of the young” (about S. Abishev's play “Friendship and love”), K. Yerzhanov's “Theater work should be improved”, Zh. Zhumakhanov's “In Semipalatinsk theaters”, Sh. Aimanov's “About theater and drama”, S. Bakbergenov's “Shanshars” (play by Sh. Kusainov and Kuanyshbayev), I. Duysenbayev and Zh. Kusainov’s “Theatrical and dramatic elements in Kazakh oral literature and folk games”, G. Mustafin’s “The name is one, a matter is laugh” articles (about the work of the Republican House of people's creativity) were of no less importance in touching on the state of drama, theater, and expressing reviews of plays.

G. Mustafin's critical article “About Kazakh art” attracts attention with its consistent views on artistic art, performances in opera houses. “There is no need to look directly at the difficult times in the opera house. As a result, the same “Kyz Zhibek” and the same “Ayman-Sholpan” were no better. The manager, who is really tormented by the authors of music, librettos, attracting and multiplying new forces from the inside, from the outside, is not yet visible”.

“...In the use of epic materials, it has become a habit of opera to challenge the concept of the people, historical facts. Akzhunis, who has been revered by the people for centuries, is called evil. If it is necessary to show an evil woman, it was possible to show an evil woman without Akzhunis”, the writer correctly pointed out the main shortcomings of the art [10: 53]. And “...in the artistic management there were always some kind of helpless people, people who did not know art, did not like it. It is not true that Kazakh art, culture, history, literature have suffered for many years because of the management, evaluation of random people who do not know or love National Art” [10: 54]. During this period Kazakh literary criticism sought to prove that it was not completely separated from its main purpose and nature. From this point of view, although there were few articles in the late 40s that seemed to have a growing aesthetic character in its true meaning, there were also qualitative achievements. “It would be one-sided to seek the success of criticism only in the quantity and quality of critics and critical works. Therefore, it should be sought both from his authority and influence and from the result of his influence on the literary process, and from the result of his influence on the individual writer”, M. Karatayev writes. Of course, it should be emphasized that in this period, that is, by the end of the 1940s, literary criticism did not have an authoritative and influential force in critical analysis of the course of literary development, but there were attempts to make a consistent, serious analysis of the main works.

In accordance with this breakthrough of the criticism of poetry, prose, and drama, and getting rid of bias, it began to focus on a serious opinion about outstanding works, thereby carefully observing the trends of literary development. Criticism has made a decisive turn in literary criticism, in determining its place in artistic development.

In drama and theater criticism, B. Amanshin’s, M. Duzenov “Shokan Ualikhanov” (about the play of the same name by S. Mukanov), R. Berdibayev “Theater and theater criticism”, B. Dauletbayev “Enlik- Kebek” (about the play by M. Auezov), K. Kanafiev’s “Enlik-Kebek”, A. Nurkatov’s “Plays by M. Auezov”, S. Ordaliyev’s “Enlik-Kebek” on the stage”, A. Tokpanov appeared in the articles “Theater has become a real word” were shown.

This turning point does not contribute to the broad promotion and strengthening of problematic issues of criticism but to the rise to a new qualitative level.

In general, we can see that this era was a time when searches and failures were falling in parallel, trying to manifest themselves in a purely principled and academic degree of criticism, but the requirements of the time did not allow it. During the period under consideration Kazakh literary criticism turned to getting rid of the main mistakes and shortcomings that occurred, despite the ideological barrier and the harsh requirements of the Marxist-Leninist methodology. Literary criticism contributed to an increase in the quality of genre branches of fiction in accordance with requirements and tastes, and a creative approach to a serious solution of artistic and ideological problems of literary development. Most importantly, the national literary science has made efforts to get rid of the harmful influence of the theory of “vulgar sociology”.

Criticism, having a broad impact on the process of literary development, has made a decisive turn to enter the leading field of literary criticism, moving from aesthetic, literary-theoretical and scientific-research to a qualitative level. Along with the older generation, a new wave of literary criticism has made a special contribution to it. Literary criticism has overcome such a disadvantage as an analysis of new works, a purely ideological assessment of the main achievements and shortcomings, guided by the nature of criticism, scientific and aesthetic foundations.

In the second half of the 1950s, large-scale work was carried out to eliminate the shortcomings caused by critical articles written in accordance with the prevailing sociological background and the requirements of “vulgar sociology”.

In the evaluation of the works, which were recognized as a success of Kazakh literature during the Great Patriotic War, criticism turned to its high taste and requirements. Literary criticism not only continued the academically-based tradition of literary criticism and science of the 1920s and 30s, despite ideological obstacles, but also developed the direction in the process of checking and studying the history, theory of literature from the point of view of historical continuity. It is necessary to emphasize that this was a great achievement, the main success of national literary studies, which quickly lost outstanding critics, literary scientists, and qualified specialists under Stalinism. Of course, literary criticism has passed the stage of formation from a genre point of view, but there are shortcomings and gaps inherent in the course of development. This, in turn, did not affect the aesthetic nature of criticism, the lack of scientific consistency in the course of research and analysis. And it is clear that we cannot consider literary criticism outside of the political and social situation in society. National literary criticism has also taken a decisive step towards the qualitative level of literature, the creative development of the writer, determining the scope and direction of research, improving the aesthetic taste of readers in the art of speech, and determining its place in literary criticism.

The second half of the 40s was difficult not only for Kazakh literary studies and literary criticism, but also for the culture and literature, as well as for the spirituality of the republics of former Soviet Union as a whole. The main reason for this was the adoption of another party resolution which was accompanied by the peak of totalitarian power. Researchers consider totalitarianism a phenomenon of the XX century... (“Totus” from lat. generalize, include everything), which means to take control of the private life of every citizen. According to the American sociologist S. Andersky, a totalitarian regime is observed in the USSR reached 100 % in the late 1940s and early 1950s; in Hitler's Germany — 85 %, on the eve and during the war — 95 %; in Fascist Italy — 55 %. Of course, this was only a comparative analysis, not a real measure of totalitarian power.

In the end, the establishment of control of one Communist Party over public life and the popularization of a cult of the individual is probably the main meaning of totalitarianism. The field of humanitarian science has served as an ideological tool for shaping and justifying it. Thus, it is a serious crime of the holders of totalitarian power to deliberately formally interfere with science, to expose its progressive development, and to resort to a narrow ideological Marxist-Leninist dogma. The concealment of crime was based on the Marxist-Leninist theory [11: 151]. This view, which reflects the realities of the period, reveals the inherent nature of Soviet ideology.

During the Great Patriotic War the ideology, which allowed each nation to revive its historical memory and plunge into the past in order to raise national feelings, patriotic spirit and courage, quickly returned from its course and launched another political campaign against “nationalism”. The ideology, which did not want to revive the historical memory and consciousness of each nation, opened the way to another political oppression, terror of repression. This was skillfully combined not only with the cult of Stalin's personality, but also with the idea of bowing to the West in the course of another campaign against “nationalism”.

The resolutions of the Central Committee of the All-Russian Communist Party (Bolsheviks) on ideological issues adopted in 1946 in the magazines “Zvezda” and “Leningrad” and “On the repertoire of drama theaters and measures to improve it” in the course of its implementation in the Union fueled ideological campaigns such as the implementation of a policy of personal worship, opening the way for distortions and left-wingism. The adoption of numerous resolutions of Central Committee of Kazakhstan Communist Party’s (Bolsheviks) “On gross political errors in the work of the Institute of language and literature of the Academy of Sciences of the Kazakh SSR” (1947. 21.01), “On the implementation of the resolution of the Central Committee of the CPSU(B)”, “Оn the repertoire of drama theaters and measures to improve it” (1947, 29.04), etc. had serious consequences for Kazakh literary criticism and seriously damaged its research, literary-theoretical and critical-aesthetic character. The consequences of this were also experienced by Kazakh drama. It weakened the leading role of analysis in literary criticism, turning it into a tool for implementing resolutions. These years were a period in the history of national literary criticism, when there were more shortcomings than achievements in genre searches. From a historical point of view, national literary criticism has experienced an irreconcilable struggle on the way to its formation due to the consequences of a separate cult. In a socialismt society it has clearly proved that freedom of thought and freedom of expression are limited, and that the research and critical approach depend on the requirements of politics and ideology. Taking into account that any branch of science proceeds only in the process of correcting its shortcomings in the past, national literary criticism has also experienced the emergence of erroneous theories that should be treated with extreme caution, which should not be ignored in the future.


In conclusion, it should be noted that this era was a period in which searches and failures were parallel, which, although purely principled and sought to manifest themselves in the degree of scientific criticism, did not allow the requirements of the time.

In the formation of aesthetic and artistic knowledge of readers about literature, in the analysis of the achievements and shortcomings of the creative search of each writer, in a serious analysis of the work, Kazakh literary criticism did not go beyond its height, the demands and tastes inherent in the nature of criticism. The field of creative search in national research, critical and aesthetic thought has narrowed.

By the second half of the 50s Kazakh literary criticism, despite the ideological barrier and the strict requirements of the Marxist-Leninist methodology, turned to get rid of the main mistakes and shortcomings that had occurred. Literary criticism contributed to an increase in the quality of genre branches of fiction in accordance with requirements and tastes, and a creative approach to a serious solution of artistic and ideological problems of literary development. Most importantly, the national literary science has made efforts to get rid of the harmful influence of the theory of “vulgar sociology".



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