WAY & STATION
(Kazakh and Uzbek National Consciousness)
There is an Uzbek anecdote about the Kazakhs. An Uzbek came as a guest to the house of his fellow Turk, a Kazakh. Before his departure, as a memento of his visit, he planted a tree in front of his friend’s nomad tent. The next day, when the Kazakh came out of his tent he felt uneasy. “Oh!” he thought. “This tree obscures the view of the steppe,” and he immediately cut down the tree.
This anecdote is more than a symbol; it is a reality. If you travel by train to Tashkent, passing through the Kazakh steppes, you will see that the real frontier between Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan is marked by the transition from burnt steppe to flowering oasis. But I do not intend to imply that Uzbek culture is a higher of better culture than Kazakh culture, or vice versa. They are simply different.
Let me tell you another story. One day I proposed to the well-known kazakh singer (“jirau”) Almas Almatov that he sing one of the ghazals of Akhmad Yasavi (an ancient poet of the 12th century considered a Kazakh poet by the Kazakhs), with the Radif (repeated word) “Utaro”. We tried to make a Kazakh version of this poem (written in ancient Uzbek) and Almas tried to put it to music, but without success. “Why can’t you do it?” I asked him. “You’ve told me that you sing the “Shahname” of Firdausi in Kazakh.” “I don’t know,” he replied. However, we than counted the number of syllables in his lines; there were 11, the same number as the Mutaqorib metre of the “Shahname”, while the number of syllables in the lines of Yasavi’s ghazal was 15. This was the cause of his failure. It was also the basis for my following thoughts and ideas.
Kazakhs and Uzbeks are peoples of the same Turkic ethnic group, but as you have seen above, their cultures, traditions, modes of life and world outlooks are rather different. In order to understand more fully the grounds of this difference, let us begin by comparing two poems on the same subject: a snow fall.