By Deldan Namgial *
The Era of Darkness in the history of Kazakhstan brings us to a realization of the deprivation of liberty and the totalitarian political system which has resulted in a form of marginalization and incapacitation of one section of the society. In the early 1930s, in the town of Akmola near the capital city of Nursultan, Joseph Stalin had established a special camp known as 'Akmola Labor Camp '. It catered specifically for the wives and daughters of the so-called 'Betrayers of the Homeland'. The Soviet authorities are notoriously known to target the wives of the men who are allegedly involved in the revolt against the Soviet Union. They included prominent Kazakh poets, diplomates and other influential figures.
This camp had some of the highest proportion of women in the entire Soviet Union. It operated between 1938 and 1953. During this period, it is estimated that around 18,000 women, who were the wives of the alleged traitors, spanning from almost 62 nationalities were arrested in the Soviet Union and detained until 1953.
When one talks about Nationalism, it is the cultural identity which plays a quintessential role in shaping the nation. Since the inception of the theory of nation-hood, it has been commonly accepted that similar cultural identities make it easier for people to connect to one another. Kazakhstan also followed suit in the 1930s when leaders from different background united with each other and opposed the Soviet cruelty taking place on their soil. There are various arguments in favor of the existence of the ALZHIR Era of Darkness which examines some of the important prospects in the New Kazakhstan. Firstly, is the idea of restoring of ALZHIR documents by the government of Kazakhstan as a gesture to commemorate the victims of the repressive and totalitarian regime of that time. The release of these documents also symbolizes the importance of cultural identity in the minds of the Kazakh citizens. In other words, the ALZHIR documents manifest as a part of the shared Kazakh identity itself. The very fact that these documents have been preserved and are capable of being retrieved conveys the knowledge of prevalence of a discontent and that the people were united against the Soviet regime from the very start. Secondly, there is a consolidation of several foreign nationalities under one umbrella. These include countries like Armenia, Belarus, Georgia, Ukraine and the other Central Asian nations. The latter were the most affected countries and most of the women prisoners belonged to these states. The construction of museums and statues in the memory of these women give a clear message to other states that the Kazakh state holds respect for everyone and expects the same reciprocity from them. Thirdly, it is the hard work and determination of the women in the activities pertaining to working as a forced laborer in sewing army uniform, agricultural works, livestock-related activities. The harsh weather conditions, especially the cold winters, creates a lot of problems for women who are pregnant, carrying a new-born baby or otherwise.
Despite of all these challenges, the Kazakh civil population is embellished with a never-give-up attitude and keep their spirit up. Eventually, it shows that only hard work and a fixed orientation towards a goal always pay off.
*Deldan Namgial is a Post Graduate Student in International Studies and History, Christ University, Banglore India. He is visited "ALZHIR" during his internship at G-Global Centre, Eurasian National University.