An Inept Researcher of Kazakh History

Martha Brill Olcott is a US scholar, whose book The Kazakhs (the second edition, 1995) is a widely known English-language publication about Kazakhstan. Professor Olcott exerted certain research efforts in order to complete the book. But, doing so, the scholar made numerous errors, because she is an outsider, who doesn’t speak Kazakh. Therefore, her opinions on the subject were influenced primarily by Russian-language sources, which prevented the Professor to form a balanced view. Below, I review some of the errors, regarding mainly history of Kazakhstan in XXth century.

A monument to the Kazakh national hero Zhumabek Tashenev in Aqmola - the capital of Kazakhstan, 2021.
A monument to the Kazakh national hero Zhumabek Tashenev in Aqmola — the capital of Kazakhstan, 2021.

On page 203, the scholar tells about «Russian workers in the Dzhetuis (the Kazakh translation and new name for Semirech’e, meaning seven rivers) and Syr Darya regions«. This short excerpt contains two mistakes of hers. First of all, the Kazakh placename of Zhetysu was incorrectly transliterated. Moreover, its Kazakh roots were wrongly attributed to the Russians. As a travel guide explains, «The word «Semirechye» is an exact translation of the Kazakh word «Zhetysu«. I suppose that one of the gorges in the Dzungarian Alatau mountains was called thus, which in those times had as its name the Semirechynsky Alatau. Most likely the word «Semirechye» was not used in its literal sense as «seven rivers» but meant «abounding in water«, in contrast to the dry steppes of the eastern Balkhash area… A prominent expert in toponymics, E. Kojchubaev, believes that the word «seven» in the given toponymics designates «abundance«, and Zhetysu is defined as a «fluvial area«.

On page 212, she argues: «This policy was the personal choice of F.I. Goloshchekin, the new first secretary in Kazakhstan, a Russian who had earlier served on the Turkkomissiia and had been affirmed in the face of stiff expert opposition«. But, as a matter of fact, Filipp Isayevich (Shaya Itskovich) Goloshchyokin (1876-1941) was a Jew — aka Khazar. For example, the Russian Jewish Encyclopedia has an entry, dedicated to him.  Some English-language sources also point to the Jewish ethnic origin of Mr. Goloshchyokin. Yes, it is quite an embarassing revelation for politically correct folks that the mastermind of the Kazakh Holocaust, which took place in the early 1930s,  was a Jew. Besides,  he supervised the execution of a Russian citizen Nikolai Romanov — the former Czar Nicholas II — and his family.  Mr. Goloshchyokin was also a sodomite, according to a document from a KGB archive (ЦА ФСБ. Ф.3-ос. Оп.6. Д.3. Л.420-423).  A midget Nikolai Yezhov — the future head of the Soviet NKVD (the KGB) — was among his homosexual lovers.

On page 246, Professor Olcott mentions «the president of the Kazakh Academy of Sciences, who was Kunaev’s half-brother«. But, the scientist in question, Askar Kunaev, was the full brother of Dinmukhamed Kunaev — leader of the Soviet Kazakhstan. Both of them were children of Minliakhmed and Zukhra Kunaev, according to a genealogical site. By the way, contrary to the outsiders’ view, the Kunaevs regarded by many in Kazakhstan as ethnic Tatars, not Kazakhs. For instance, you can read about their Tatar background in a Russian-language post by the Radio Liberty. Also, the same point of view was elaborated in a Russian-language publication by a Kazakh nationalist. I have deliberately quoted the Russian ones, since they are easier to understand for foreigners, than Kazakh-language sources.

The scholar generally omits private lives of local politicians. Although, one should know personal attitudes of a public figure in order to properly study his biography. For example, we know that JFK was a womanizer. But, what about promiscuous Kazakh politicians? On page 230, she says that «M.S. Solomentsev was replaced as second secretary by V.N. Titov, followed by further changes in personnel at the January 1965 plenum«. However, Professor Olcott doesn’t explain the main reason for Mikhail Solomentsev’s replacement. According to a historian Karishal Asan Ata (1933-2015), Mr. Solomentsev (1913-2008) was fired due to a love affair with a married physician Tatyana Grigorenko (1926-2011). See page 77 of Dr. Asan Ata’s book «Призрак независимости«, (Phantom of Independence), 1997. Well, adultery is not a crime. But, his passion for her was so great that Mr. Solomentsev literally climbed in through Dr. Grigorenko’s window. Doing so, he received a bruise. Perhaps, her enraged husband settled a score with the Communist functionary. Incidentally, this infamous story was confirmed by an Ukrainian civil engineer and historian Vladimir Belinsky (1936-2022), who worked in Kazakhstan for about 40 years, from the end of 1950s to the end of 1990s, in his extensive interview given to me in 2017.

Professor Olcott also overlooks some crucial figures in Kazakh history. For instance, the scholar doesn’t mention legendary Communist soldier and writer Dmitry Furmanov (1891-1926), who bravely fought Cossacks in West Kazakhstan and the South-East part of our country. His Kazakhstan-related novels — Chapaev and The Uprising — are important sources on the Russian Civil War. She passes over in silence Zhumabek Tashenev (1915-1986) — the Prime Minister of Soviet Kazakhstan, who heroically prevented the transfer of five Kazakh regions to Soviet Russia in 1960. Thus, both Commissar Furmanov and Prime Minister Tashenev were instrumental in establishing the Kazakh nationhood.

Finally, she is not alone in her profitable cooperation with the totalitarian government of Kazakhstan. There are other so-called experts, who have glorified local dictators in sophisticated ways. A Russian engineer-turned-journalist Arkady Dubnov, who also doesn’t speak Kazakh, in his interview for Radio Liberty praises president Nazarbayev for his reforms of pension system and public utilities. But, the Russian journalist modestly forgets that the aforementioned dictator has actually ruined fabulous oil, gas, and agricultural prospects for one of the richest countries in the world, where nowadays $200 (two hundred) a month is a decent wage. By the way, Mr. Dubnov, like Professor Olcott, is an expert at the Carnegie Moscow Center. Ariel Cohen is an Israeli political scientist, who doesn’t speak Kazakh too. However, he is also an internationally recognized expert on Kazakhstan. Moreover, the Carnegie Moscow Center has invited Dr. Cohen as a guest expert on a couple of occasions. He sung hosanna to president Nazarbayev for his contribution to the «successful» development of the country.

Oh, my goodness! What a rat pack of stand-up comedians they are! The gifted PR-specialists, of course. However, their publicity stunts have had little to do with thorough research activities.

Incidentally, Professor Olcott of USA, Mr. Dubnov of Russia, and Dr. Cohen of Israel share the same ethnic origin. I deeply respect such Jewish (aka Khazar) luminaries, as Karl Marx and Heinrich Heine. But, in my humble opinion, the rat pack of the Carnegie Moscow Center routinely discredit this ethnic group.

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