OriginalThethird chapter “Traumatic Coloniality: The Missing Genus” from the book Postcommunism/Postcolonialism:Sibling of Subalternity by Bogdan?tef?nescu begins with thestatement that coloniality was present for the first time in ancient times:”Examples as ancient Athens, the RomanEmpire, the Han Dynasty of the second and first centuries B.C., the Muslimemirate/caliphate Umayyad in the eight to eleventh centuries, the Incas of thefourteenth century, the East India Company between the seventeenth and thenineteenth centuries” (67) Theauthor also mentions the USSR and the USA in the twentieth century as well astheir colonizing behaviors.
Thedefinition clearly states the effect of colonialism as a rapid change of the whole life of the colonizers.?tef?nescu states, “Colonialism is the result of a combination ofelements. One of the first things that ought to be said about colonialism isthat it brings about a relatively sudden and consistently pursued change in thelife and culture of people”. (69) Also, theimpact of colonialism on colonizers was imposed by force, aggression andviolence.
The author emphasizes the fact that the connection between thecolonizer and the colonized ones produces traumatic consequences because of theappropriation, eradication and exploitation of the colonized people. Continuingwith the term colonialism ?tef?nescudescribes the overlap between (post)communism and (post)colonialism. There areseveral similarities between (post)colonialism and (post)communism and both ofthose terms are related to the concept of cultural trauma. ?tef?nescuargues, “Theconcept of colonial trauma which canbe derived from the conjoining theoretical efforts of those two scholars isquite apt to analyze communist colonialism and the posttraumatic effects onsocieties which, though formally liberated, are still affected in theirattempts at self-reconstruction by distressing representations of theirsubalternity.” (76) Inthis sense, the author gives examples of the colonial behavior of the SovietUnion.
He describes also that the peoplewho were colonized or lived in the communist regime experienced painful trauma,damage and destruction of their cultures, and exploitation by the oppressiveforce. I have chosen the book named “Rewriting the Nation in Modern KazakhLiterature: Elites and Narratives” by the Kazakh author Diana Kudaibergenova.She was born in Almaty city in Kazakhstan. In her research, Diana considers thepatterns of national development in the post-Soviet period in the countries ofcentral Asia but also Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Estonia and Latvia. In particular,she is interested in the development of national self-identity and the symbolsof those countries, as well as the elites that influence that process. In this essay I want to presenther view on the postcolonial dimension of postcommunism in Kazakhstan. In herown words:”Culturalcolonization complements material domination and it causes an alteration of thesymbolic fiber of the colonized.
It may take extreme forms like assimilation orreplacing the domestic language and culture with those of the colonizer. (69) As stated by ?tef?nescu,colonizers exploit not only the economic, political and human resources for a”better life” but are also damaging and destroying that nations’ culture aswell. The most interesting part is that colonizers represent the new culturewithout colonized people realizing that. UsingKazakhstan as an example of postcolonial country it can be seen that thecountry got free ‘officially’ from Soviet Union after 1991 when it becameindependent. However, Kazakhstan still has problems from economic, political aswell as cultural points of view. And that nowadays Kazakhs try to solve andcreate a new entity- the Republic of Kazakhstan – with a distinct culture. However they are notsuccessful yet. People still speak in Russian instead of their native languagebecause in Soviet times in all cities in Kazakhstan there were very few Kazakh schools, in opposition with themultitude of Russian ones.
The Kazakh author Diana Kudaibergenovadescribes: “Accordingto political discourse the 1991 independence brought the “long-awaited”statehood and opportunity to claim back Kazakh rich heritage and history.However, Kazakhstan did not start writing its history in 1991 nor did it startfrom the blank page” (Kudaibergenova, xii)Coming backto mother tongue, a person to some extent assimilates to a new “theory ofthe universe,” the national mentality. “The transition to a differentreality of a new language occurs simultaneously with the appearance of acertain new “I”.” (Kudaibergrnova,87) Transition is common to postcolonial as well as postcommunist periods. Firstthere is transition from native language to outside language, although it isstill possible to come back to your native language again and open for yourselfnew horizons of the language itself.
When the transition from outside language tothe mother tongue is the new reality, it appears, perhaps, that there is somethingnew inside, quite different from the old “I”. In this case Ganev explained:”Morethan ten years after the spectacular collapse of state socialism, a consensushas coalesced around thefollowing view: all countries that formerly belonged to the Soviet block havebeen afflicted by an acute crisis of state capacity. That the state is ‘weaker’than before, that it is ‘weaker’ than it should be.
(Ganev 05)”Ganev describes the situation in apost-communist country, where there was great pressure on people and on theirculture and way of life. After the communist period, people did not know whatto start and how to get back to their past as well as to their roots. In this extremeexample Kazakhs forgot their mother tongue and their culture. But the familytraditions remained very strong. So, the resistance was at the family level. Forexample, marriage traditions, family parties, games belonging to culturalmemory. That was and still ispostcolonial and postcommunist resistance. As an example we can take “Kyzuzaty” (traditional bride’s wedding party) and a big and fun groom’s weddingday.
Before the first ceremony five or more old relatives of the groom come topick up the bride from her house. In North and Central Kazakhstan only men arevisiting the bride’s house in the evening. Before the dawn, the bride has toleave her house, and enter the new family of the groom. Before the bride leavesher house, her relatives will sing farewell songs, the songs like “ZharZhar”, “Auy Zhar” and “Aushadiar”. Even though Kazakh people speakRussian and know Russian history better than their own, they are strongly keepingthose traditions. Indeed, the Kazakh traditions and culture are very differentfrom Russian ones, which is why it is very important to keep these traditionsin families.
The resistance was in the family only, not a national resistance. Thepreservation of customs made people remember their national past and even incommunist times it made them feel different from the colonial power. Inpost-communism, the state of Kazakhstan was formed by the will of the Kazakh people. Ifit were not the political self-determination of the Kazakh people, there wouldbe no national state. However, the people felt nostalgia for their past which includedthe trauma of communism and also a sense of strong collective memory withnational traditions.
As Vi?an argues:”Collective memory is marked in both postcolonialism and postcommunismnot only by the traumas of the past, but also by nostalgia, as areaction to the violent changes of the present.” (Vi?an, 194)As Vi?an argues,collective memory is very important to create a new image of the free and newstate. Especially, the post-Soviet period was a very hard and difficult transition. ForKazakh people collective memory helped to reshape Kazakh identity. Kazakhstan, being part of theUSSR, experienced in the twentieth century the most severe “culturalrevolution” as a mutation of the national spirit. Before the fall into the”communist hell”, the Kazakhs were the most promising largest ethnicgroup in Central Asia.
Thousands of Kazakh men died during the Second WorldWar; the people’s morale was low and it was easy for the communists tomanipulate them and make them think communism will improve life. Kazakhsmanipulated by different kind of magazine and newspaper articles, televisionand little brochures were it was written that leaders doing ‘everything to dopeoples life better’ (Yilamu,53) Instead, Kazakhs were forced by communists todo what they wanted. For example, they forced them to go to the war, forcedwoman to do physical work almost for nothing, forced people to learn the Russianlanguage and forced to believe and trust to communist followers. The result was the death of “1.5 million (possibly as many as 2.0–2.3million) people, a quarter of the Kazakh population” (Cameron 117) during the Soviettime because of famine – “the Goloshchekin genocide”(Cameron 121). Communists forced people togive everything to them, took all kinds of food and cattle (same like inUkraine).
In the end with the small number of people who were exhausted and terrorizedit was easy for communists to manipulate the people. “If it were not forthe Soviet government, you would be still tending to raise sheep!” and”If it were not for the Soviet government, you would live in yurts!”… – are verbal attacks that were common in the past and can still be heardnowadays. The Russians said that. But it’s not just about demographiccatastrophe. So far, people think deeply about the hardest moral,psychological, genetic, cultural consequences of this tragedy.
The rapiddevelopment of mass publishing and translation of books multiplied by thegrowing literacy levels made Soviet Kazakhstan not only into the nation of massreadership but also into that nation that was able to “imagine” itself in amass scale of literary disseminations. Kudaibergenova showed how, in the absence ofintellectual-critical reflection, postcolonial rhetoric becomes a strategy ofpolitical struggle and legitimization of power. Benedict Anderson argues that “fromthe start the nation was conceived in language, not in blood, and that onecould be ‘invented into’ the imagined community” (Benedict, 145).
Thereconstruction of national identity is, in great part, something created,invented. In present,the true history of the Kazakhs is forgotten and needs a revival. It wasinterpreted and presented on the basis of only “generally accepted”methodologies inherent in the study of the history of Europe. TraditionalEuropean historical science is based on the principle of soil, that is, thereplacement of the inhabitants of a certain limited territory. However, such anapproach is unacceptable for studying the history of nomads, for the knowledgeof nomadism as a way of life, other methodological approaches are required. Thehybridization of the cultures, and how they can no longer separate one from theother. Now, in Kazahstan there is a strong influence of Chinese, Russian and American cultures. Thus, theessence of the “national question” in prerevolutionary Kazakhstan wasthe legal and political inequality of the “alien” population, clearlymanifested in the practice of mass seizures of patrimonial lands from nomadiccommunities.
The aggravation of the national issue in Kazakhstan was connectedwith the desire of the Kazakhs to preserve the resources necessary for thesurvival of the land, resources and, of course, the Kazakh language and cultureafter the communist regime. The most acute problem of the survival of theirpeople was perceived by the figures of the Kazakh ethno-national movement, forwhich the main thing was the preservation of the ethnic identity of theKazakhs, based on the nomadic way of life and traditional culture, and the consolidationof the territory. The Kazakh national movement was a “product” of thebeginning of Europeanization and modernization of part of the Kazakh society,which was in close connection with the Russian population of the region. TheKazakh elite tried to find a way out of the crisis by offering new options forsolidarity in return for tribal ties. Thus, the aftermath of communism orSoviet regime and what being ‘post-communist’ entails can be directly appliedto post-colonial countries. Thus, from the arguments andtexts belonging to Eastern European author who describe the aftermath ofcommunism and what being ‘post-communist’ entails can be directly applied topost-colonial countries and the effects of a sovereign power reigning over them.
The oppression, the exploitation, the lack of freedom, imposed rules,eradication of culture, language and people, all are factors that occurred inboth post-communist and post-colonialist countries. Exhausted and terrorized, as well as thelack of freedom, physiological pressure and eradication of culture, languageand people, all are factors that occurred in both post-communist andpost-colonialist countries. Communismand colonialism brought to people very hard and rapid changes in their history.
But people tried to escape, rebuilt,reborn and be open for a new modern life. Kazakh people focused more in familyresistance than in national resistance. Indeed which helped Kazakh people tokeep their language, culture, customs and their individuality.