RE-ZONA-NCE: by Kazakh poet Aron Atabek

by    /  October 12, 2012  / 1 Comment


Poet Aron Atabek. Photo: Courtesy of International Times

Aron Atabek is a prize-winning poet and political writer currently in jail in Kazakhstan, having served five years of an 18 year sentence for supposedly orchestrating “mass disorder”–or, protesting against the demolition of the shanty-town Shanrak and the social-cleansing of its people. He vehemently denies his guilt, and has rejected an offer by the government of a pardon on condition that he confess.

Nazarbayev’s Regime and Revolution is one of the collections of Atabek’s prose and poetry published online since his imprisonment. His works are highly critical of Nursultan Nazarbayev, the President of Kazakhstan, and his policies, and lament the lack of democracy in the former Soviet nation.

Ben Robinson, from Campaign Kazakhstan, said “Aron Atabek’s imprisonment is yet another clear example of what happens to those who stand up for human rights, workers’ rights and the rights of people whose homes are under attack in Kazakhstan. This despotic regime fears all independent voices, including poets and writers like Aron Atabek, and other cultural figures.”


My father was a slave of the Soviet State
in the gold mines of Kolyma
and my destiny, too, is repeating this pattern
and the brutality of Kolyma.

My father was tried in court as an Enemy of the People,
so it turns out I am a “Son of the Enemy”.
I break rocks with a pickaxe alongside him,
no different to him.

Russia is my Mother; my Father is Kazakhstan.
A childhood on the Volga, I grew up in Almaty
to kick open the doors to the Throne Room of those in power,
with a strong belief in my rights and in righteousness.

Ah, Borchzhigan-Berish, the Kagan tribe
endowed me with mystical power and strength.
The people followed me in rapture
and our might was invincible
as we fought for and won our Shanyrak
and, with it, the whole country of Kazakhstan,
inspired by the spirit of Makhambet
to be free of fear.

The truth is discernible even in a drop of reality.
We fought against Nazarbayev – a Dzhungar,
his rule is venal and base.
He is a traitor to the Land of Kazakhstan.

Shanyrak lives on and will stand forever.
But we – and so be it – we will endure our term of imprisonment in the camps.
Trust us, the day shall come when we will see
The Dzhungar’s head at our feet!

The nightmares of the labor camps will pass.
To suffer for our nation is our duty, and a great cause.
I am writing this poem in the Zone,
And the world responds: RE-ZONA-NCE.

[Note: ‘Zona’ or ‘Zone’ is used by the poet as a word for prison.]

Translated from the original Russian by Alfia Nakipbekova with minor
adjustments by Niall McDevitt

This post originally appeared on October 4, 2012 by International Times. It is reprinted with their permission.

One Comment on "RE-ZONA-NCE: by Kazakh poet Aron Atabek"

  1. A. Hassan Panahandeh M.D. December 15, 2013 at 3:20 pm ·

    One day glorious spring will come to Kazakhstan and the oppressed people of that beautiful country will be free like the millions of oppressed people of the world today. The oppressors will be swept to the pile of nothingness . Time and history have no mercy for oppressors. The span of our lives is zero when it comes to the life of history. The present generation , like this great imprisoned poet or even his children may not see that , but look at the history of Europe ;and how long it took them to achieve their present status. If it took Europe centuries to be free, the people of the Middle East and Central Asia and almost all of Africa will have a quicker time to achieve freedom. With the social media and the explosion of technology , these oppressors will hang themselves before they get crushed by the uprising of their people. No weapon, however strong and powerful would be as strong as the pens of great and brave writers, poets and journalists.

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