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Resources for the Study of Kazakh Literature and Culture

As general sources for the study of various aspects of Kazakh literature and culture, many of the works highlighted on the Slavic Reference Service’s Kazakh National Bibliography page are of great value, particularly the library catalogs, bibliography of bibliographies, Baspasȯz shezhīresī, and A. E. Alektorov’s Ukazatel’ knig, zhurnal’nykh i gazetnykh statei i zamietok o kirgizakh.  But perhaps the first bibliographies devoted specifically to some aspect of Kazakh literature and culture were those compiled by the archeologist I. A. Chekaninskii in volume 1 of Zapiski Semipalatinskogo otdela Obshchestva izuchenii︠a︡ Kazakhstana = Qazaqystan tanuv qoghamynyn︠g︡ semeĭdegi b liminin︠g︡ chazbalary (U of I Library call number History, Philosophy & Newspaper FILM 915.8 Z17), including (for example) 85 entries on the great medieval Kazakh poem ‘Qozy Kȯrpesh-Baian sūlu’ (pp. 55-63), 62 entries on shamanism/”baksylyk” (pp. 85-87), and 18 entries on the ruins of Qyzylkenshi (pp. 96-98), many of them annotated.  (Chekaninskii also contributed a bibliographical note on the famous 1916 anti-tsarist uprisings in Central Asia on pp. 105-109, which was surely one of the first to cite Kazakh-language sources.)

The ambitious bibliographies of V. M. Sidel’nikov (see below) and G. Zhamansarina and B. Qanarbaeva ( Qazaq auyz adebietining bibliografiialyq k rsetkishi, 1900-1991 = Bibliograficheskii ukazatel’ ustnogo narodnogo tvorchestva, 1900-1991 — Almaty, 1998) continued this trend with an emphasis on folklore, which has been brought more or less up to date with S. S. Akasheva’s Qazaqstan folʹklory men folʹkloristikasy (Almaty, 2002).  A number of other reference works covering non-folkloric subjects exist, however, and a sampling of these has been annotated below as well.

In general, researchers interested in the cultural life of Kazakhstan should familiarize themselves with the great Mădeni Mūra (“Cultural Heritage”) series published by the Kazakh Ministry of Culture.  Over 500 volumes in this unnumbered series have appeared since its inception in 2004, several of which are described below.  As of September 2012, the full text of most of these volumes is freely available at http://www.madenimura.kz/kk/culture-legacy/books/.

Menu of works available in full text at www.madenimura.kz

Pending the inclusion of additional materials (such as the 1996-1997 Russian/Kazakh bibliographic pair Literatura i iskusstvo Kazakhstana:
bibliograficheskii ukazatel’, 1932-1992
and Qazaqstan adebiettanuy zhane syn: bibliografiialyq korsetkish, 1932-1992 ), this page is divided into the following sections: Bibliographies, Biobibliographies and Encyclopedias and Dictionaries.



Ustnoe poeticheskoe tvorchestvo kazakhskogo naroda: bibliograficheskii ukazatel’, 1771-1966 gg.

Sidel’nikov, V. M.  Alma-Ata: “Nauka,” 1969.

U of I Library Call Number: International & Area Studies–Central Asian Reference 016.8943 Si1u; also available at Oak Street Facility.

Published under the auspices of the Kazakh Academy of Sciences’ M. O. Auezov Institute of Literature and Art, this slim volume provides an excellent overview of nearly two centuries of scholarship on (and transcription of) Kazakh folklore and the Kazakh oral/musical poetic tradition.  The categories “folklore” and “oral tradition” are broadly conceived, as can be seen by the inclusion of entries for a 19-page pamphlet on Chokan Valikhanov due to its coverage of his ethnographic work, and of a 1957 volume of Makhambet Otemīsov’s poetry due to the popularity and subsequent “folkorization” of his songs.  Reviews of items cited in the bibliography (if any) are themselves cited at the end of the entry for that item.

Perhaps the most outstanding feature of the bibliography is that the vast majority of the nearly 2,000 entries are accompanied by brief yet useful annotations.  The entries are organized chronologically, beginning with Peter Pallas’ Reise durch verschiedene Provinzen des Russischen Reichs (St. Petersburg, 1771), which included a handful of Kazakh legends along with its descriptions of Kazakh religion and customs.  The index includes names of those who collected, transmitted, translated or commented on folkoric sources. Since a number of journals and newspapers are cited in the entries in a somewhat cryptic abbreviated form, a list of these periodicals and their abbreviations is also provided.

The entries in this bibliography were mainly derived from other, more general bibliographic sources such as A. E. Alektorov’s Ukazatel’ knig, zhurnal’nykh i gazetnykh statei i zamietok o kirgizakh and the indexes to prerevolutionary journals such as Russkii filologicheskii viestnik, Izvestiia Otdeleniia russkago iazyka i slovesnosti, Etnograficheskoe obozrienie, and Zhivaia starina.  In an attempt to include materials never before indexed, this corpus of entries was supplemented based on items found in the collections of what are now the Russian State Library, the (Russian) State Historical Library, the national libraries of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, the library of the Kazakh Academy of Sciences, and others.  Books, brochures, edited volumes, individual articles within edited volumes, journal articles, newspaper articles, and avtoreferaty of dissertations broadly relevant to the study of Kazakh folklore are all included.  Sidel’nikov, a prolific scholar of folklore and folk songs, also compiled a predecessor volume (Bibliograficheskii ukazatel’ po kazakhskomu ustnomu tvorchestvu, Alma-Ata, 1951).


Qazaqstan folʹklory men folʹkloristikasy (1990-2000 zhzh.): bibliografii︠a︡lyq qȯrsetkīsh = Folʹklor i folʹkloristika Kazakhstana (1990-2000 gg.): bibliograficheskiĭ ukazatel.

Akasheva, S.S.  Almaty: Tsentral’naia nauchnaia biblioteka, 2002.

U of I Library Call Number: International & Area Studies–Central Asian Reference 016.398095845 Ab93k

Published by the Library of the Kazakh Academy of Sciences, this bibliography of folkloric prose, poetry and folklore studies published in Kazakhstan in the 1990s contains over 1,700 entries for books, journal articles, newspaper articles, dissertations and other types of publications.  Publications and re-publications of actual folkloric texts are indexed in the first section of the bibliography, followed by scholarly studies of folklore-related subjects in the second section.  Additional sections are devoted to the 1,000th anniversary of the Kyrgyz epic Manas and to the 150th anniversary of the birth of the great Kazakh aqyn (“folksinger”) Zhambyl Zhabaĭūly.  “Folklore” is broadly conceived and not limited to ethnic Kazakh traditions, as can be seen by the inclusion of citations to studies on the folklore of Kazakhstan’s Russian and other non-Kazakh populations, as well as materials relating to folk traditions elsewhere in the world.  Items with ambiguous titles are accompanied by brief annotations explaining their subject focus.  Author and title indexes are provided, and a brief introduction (in Russian) provides an overview of the discipline of folklore studies and the activities of prominent folklorists in Kazakhstan in the 1990s.


Qazaqstannyn︠g︡ kȯrkem ădebietī, 1946-1957: bibliografii︠a︡lyq kȯrsetkīsh = Khudozhestvennai︠a︡ literatura Kazakhstana, 1946-1957: bibliograficheskiĭ ukazatelʹ.

Almaty: Qazaq SSR-nīn︠g︡ A.S. Pushkin atyndaghy memlekettīk respublikalyq kītapkhanasy, 1958.

U of I Library Call Number: International & Area Studies–Central Asian Reference 016.8943 Al6k

Although the time period referred to in the title might seem to limit the usefulness of this nearly-700-page biobibliography to those interested in immediate post-war Kazakh literature, this impression is misleading.  All materials cited were indeed published between 1946 and 1957, but new editions of (or commentaries on) the works of authors active in earlier periods (such as the great Kazakh literary luminaries Abai and Otemīsov) are also included.  Thus the bibliography provides a window into the entirety of Kazakh literary publishing and criticism in the immediate post-war years, including new versions of (and literary criticism of) works which were originally published before the war (or before 1917, for that matter).  Additional significance derives from its publication at the height of the Khrushchev thaw, enabling the inclusion of information on authors who fell victim to Stalinist purges, such as Saken Seifullin (pp. 217-220 and 542-545), for the first time in over two decades.  The bibliography was compiled based on the holdings of what were then the All-Union Book Chamber and All-Union Rudomino State Library of Foreign Literature in Moscow, and of what are now the Kazakh National Library, Library of the Kazakh Academy of Sciences, and National Book Chamber of Kazakhstan.

The biobibliography follows an organizational scheme strongly reminiscent of that of the great ongoing biobibliographical series for Russian literature, Russkie (sovetskie) pisateli: prozaiki and Russkie (sovetskie) pisateli: poeti (U of I Library call number International & Area Studies–Russian Reference 016.8917 L54r and Main Stacks 016.8917 R921s).  Standalone entries are provided for each individual author and his* works.  Entries generally begin with biographical information about the author (which varies in length and level of detail based on the perceived importance of the author) and end with an extremely detailed list of their publications (and publications about them) between 1946 and 1957, including translations into other languages, newspaper articles, reviews, works appearing in anthologies, etc.  A fair number of the items in these lists are given added value by lengthy and useful annotations.

While the index of personal names covers the entire work, the biobibliography is nevertheless divided into two main parts, one in Kazakh, and one in Russian.  All authors listed in the former, however, are also listed in the latter, with their works divided into “Qazaq tilinde/Na kazakhskom iazyke” and “Orys tilinde/Na russkom iazyke” sections as appropriate.  Researchers should note that the Kazakh- and Russian-language biographical entries for individual authors are not direct translations of one another, nor are the lists of their works identical in both sections, suggesting that the first and second halves of the work were compiled independently of one another.  The biographical information is usually slightly different, the annotations for Kazakh-language publications can be significantly longer in the Kazakh section than in the Russian section (and vice versa), and some individual works (and reviews thereof) may appear in one section but not the other (the entries for D. E. Riabukha — pp. 309-311 and 616-618 — are a good example of this).  In general, the Russian section gives a more comprehensive overview of an author’s works, regardless of language, while the Kazakh section goes into more detail about each author’s Kazakh-language publications (and criticism thereof).  Linguistic skills permitting, users should consult both sections to acquaint themselves with the full biography and the full range of materials by and about a particular author.

In addition to the two main sections, a number of additional sections are also included, featuring (for example) bibliographies of various aspects of post-war Kazakh literary criticism (including lit crit on pre-revolutionary Kazakh literature), information on the contents of several dozen Kazakh- and Russian-language literary anthologies, and entries for Soviet Uighur authors (pp. 641-646).  Together with N. Sabitov’s Qazaq adebietining bibliografiialyq korsetkishi, 1862-1917 (Almaty, 1948), Abdilkhamit Narymbetov’s three-volume Qazaq sovet adebieti: adebiet tanu men synnyng bibliografiialyq korsetkishi (1970- ), its multivolume successor Qazaq adebieti: adebiettanu, syn zhane onerding bibliografiialyq korsetkishi (1986- ), and the Kazakh National Library’s new Russian/Kazakh pair of bibliographies for the decade following the years covered in this volume ( Khudozhestvennaia literatura Kazakhstana, 1958-19 67 and the two-volume Qazaqstannyng korkem adebieti, 1958-1967, both published in 2008), this impressive volume will provide researchers with excellent bibliographic access to the entirety of Kazakh literary publishing and literary criticism.

*The authors selected for inclusion are almost exclusively male.


Abaevedenie: bibliograficheskii ukazatel’ = Abaĭtanu: bibliografii︠a︡lyq kȯrsetkīsh.

Mirzakhmetov, M. Alma-Ata: “Nauka,” 1988.

OCLC Accession Number: 20934746

Like Khoja Akhmed Iassaui, the importance of Abai Qūnanbaĭūly (a.k.a. Kunanbaev) to contemporary Kazakh identity and culture is difficult to overestimate. Partly due to his own role as an interpreter and reformer of Kazakh traditional culture, this comprehensive bibliography of works by and about Abai (as he is commonly known) therefore functions not merely as a reference work focused on a single individual, but provides a window into Kazakh culture as a whole.  Endeavoring to index all materials relating to Abai published between 1898 and 1985, the bibliography is divided into Kazakh- and Russian-language sections, with separate indexes of personal names for each.  Separate lists of the Kazakh- and Russian-language periodicals used in the compilation of the bibliography are also included.  The entries are organized thematically, under rubrics such as “Abai shygharmalarynyng tekstologiiasy zhaiylda,” “Mukhtar Auezov — abaitanudyng negizin salushy,” “Abai murasy okulyqtarda,” “Ideino-kul’turnye istoki Abaia,” “Ob istorii Abaevedeniia,” and “Dissertatsii o literaturnom nasledii Abaia Kunanbaeva.”  Within each of these sections, entries are listed alphabetically by main entry (i.e., by author or first word of the title for collectively-authored works).  The bibliography was published by the M. O. Auezov Institute of Literature and Art of the Kazakh Academy of Sciences, and begins with a brief Kazakh-language introduction.


Bibliograficheskiĭ ukazatelʹ po tvorchestvu M.O. Auėzova = M. O. Ăuezov tvorchestvosy boĭynsha bibliografii︠a︡lyq kȯrsetkīsh.

Ăuezova, L. M. et al. Alma-Ata: “Nauka,” 1972.

U of I Library Call Number: International & Area Studies– Central Asian Reference 016.894337 B471 v. 1

Published by the Kazakh Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Literature and Art that bears his name, this was the first attempt at a comprehensive bibliography of works by and about the great Kazakh playwright, author, literary scholar, and president of the Kazakh Writer’s Union, Mūkhtar Ăuezov (1897-1961).  Ăuezov’s daughter Lăĭla played a leading role in compiling the bibliography.  The entries are separated into two main sections:  works by Auezov, and works about him.  Within each section, the entries are organized by language (works in Kazakh, works in Russian, works in other languages of the Soviet Union, works in foreign languages) and then chronologically by date of publication. Auezov’s own works are further subdivided by genre (short stories, novels, plays, librettos, collected works, etc.).  Books, journal articles, newspaper articles, individual articles from edited volumes, forewords and commentaries from editions of Auezov’s works, reminiscences of Auezov in the memoirs of his contemporaries, and official documents relating to Auezov’s literary, cultural and leadership activities published since 1917 are all indexed.  Some of the entries are enhanced by brief annotations and/or detailed lists of contents.  Two title indexes — one Kazakh, one Russian — of Auezov’s works are provided, along with separate Kazakh and Russian indexes of personal names.  A number of previously-published bibliographies of Auezov and Kazakh literature in general were consulted in the compilation of this work, as were the collections of most of the major libraries of Kazakhstan and the USSR.  Special emphasis was placed on tracking down and indexing Auezov’s early, often pseudonymous works in Soviet Kazakh literary journals of the 1920s.  The thorough bibliographic examination of these rare periodical publications was complemented by a review of later Kazakh periodical publications (including regional newspapers) through the 1960s.

While the work is labelled “volume 1,” no library in the United States appears to hold any subsequent volumes. Auezov’s eponymous institute at the Academy of Sciences appears to have published an expanded version or successor edition in 2005 (M. O. Auezov shygharmashylyghy boiynsha bibliografynsha bibliograiialyq korketkish), but no U.S. library appears to hold this volume either.

Both before and after the end of the Soviet era, bibliographies on other important Kazakh cultural figures (e.g., the Kazakh National Library’s 1994 Qozha Akhmed Iassaui: bibliografiialyq k ȯr setkish = Khodzha Akhmed Iassavi: bibliograficheskii ukazatel’ and its 1965 Saken Seifullin: tughanyna 70 zhyl toluyna arnalghan ădebietterdīn︠g︡ qȯrsetqīshī — U of I Library call number: Oak Street Facility 016.894337 Sa29) have also been compiled.  Taken together, they can provide a broad sense of the cultural preoccupations and concerns of the Kazakh people through history as well as at the present time.  The above bibliographies on Abai and Auezov are meant to be representative of the genre and indicative of the type of research that such resources make possible.


Encyclopedias and Dictionaries

Qazaq ădebietī: ėnt︠s︡iklopedii︠a︡lyq anyqtamalyq.

Baltabai Abdighaziev, ed.  Almaty: “Aruna,” 2005.

U of I Library Call Number: International & Area Studies–Central Asian Reference 894.33703 Q12

Part of the “Mădeni Mūra” series, the entries in this encyclopedia effectively trace the history of the narrative form in Kazakhstan from ancient times to the present.  Most of the entries are biobibliographical in nature, focusing on individual authors, poets, critics, storytellers, reciters of epics, literary scholars, etc. who were or are active in Kazakhstan.  About 5,000 entries (mostly brief) and over 1,500 small illustrations (mostly black & white portraits) are included.  The main bibliographic effort has been expended on the biographical entries, while entries on genres (“Zhurnalistika,” “Zhyraulyq poeziia,” “Psikhologiialyq roman”), abstract concepts (“Kontekst,” “Burkenshik at,” “Tartys”), and some types of publications (e.g., prerevolutionary newspapers such as Alash and Qazaq ) are largely without accompanying bibliographies.  The large majority of cited sources are in Kazakh, the remainder in Russian.  The volume ends with a list of abbreviations, a list of contributors, and a brief list of sources used in compiling the encyclopedia (all published since 1993).  A major emphasis is placed on Kazakhstan’s rich oral tradition.

As of September 2012, a complete digital version of this encyclopedia is available at http://www.madenimura.kz/kk/culture-legacy/books/book/kazak-edebieti-enciklopedialyk-anyktamalyk.


Qazaq mădenietī: ėnt︠s︡iklopedii︠a︡lyq anyqtamalyq.

Ashirbek Syghai, ed.  Almaty: “Aruna,” 2005.

U of I Library Call Number: Central Asian Reference 958.4503 Q12

Effectively a companion volume to the previous encyclopedia, this work attempts to cover aspects of Kazakhstan’s culture other than oral and written literature, including architecture, archaeology, visual arts, art history, music, drama, film, and handicrafts.  All time periods from antiquity to the present are included.  Entries range from substantial reviews of Kazakh aesthetics, ethics, theater, painting, etc., to biographies of individual artists, actors, musicians, and others, to discussions of individual circus and dance troupes, state-sponsored performance companies, archaeological sites, traditional Kazakh decorative techniques, musical instruments, and other subjects.  Somewhat incongruously, entries for a number of non-Kazakh cultural phenomena (“Akkordeon,” “Dzhaz,” “Zikkurat,” “Qaita orkendeu dauiri” [the Renaissance], “Sonata,” “Stanislavskii zhuiesi,” “Ekspressionizm”) are also included.  Most of the more substantial entries conclude with brief bibliographies of related Kazakh- and Russian-language sources, while biographical entries for actors, composers and the like include acting credits, works composed, etc. in the main body of the entry.  A few entries are devoted to cultural figures and institutions from Kazakhstan’s Korean, Uighur, and other ethnic minorities, while Russian and Ukrainian contributions to the culture of Kazakhstan are well represented.  The volume ends with a list of abbreviations, a list of contributors, and a brief list of sources used in compiling the encyclopedia (ranging in date of publication from 1987-2004).  While the juxtapositions between entries on the architecture of ancient ruins and on modern rock groups (among others) can be jarring, the more than 6,000 entries and approximately 2,500 small but effective illustrations (frequently in color) included here do provide a comprehensive snapshot of the cultural life of Kazakhstan.

As of September 2012, a complete digital version of this encyclopedia is available at http://www.madenimura.kz/kk/culture-legacy/books/book/kazak_madeniet.


Qazaq ădebi tīlīnīn︠g︡ sȯzdīgī: on bes tomdyk.

Ysqaqov, Akhmedi and Nurgeldi Uali, eds.  Almaty: “Arys,” 2006 –2011. 15 vols.

U of I Library Call Number: International & Area Studies–Central Asian Reference 494.33703 Q125 v. 1-15

This massive dictionary of the Kazakh literary language includes terminology from all disciplines, time periods, and sociolinguistic registers — over 150,000 entries in all.  Like the Oxford English Dictionary , on which this dictionary is either intentionally or unintentionally modeled , these entries are supported by nearly 600,000 quotations drawn from thousands of individual sources, representing a significant increase (rich in new, post-independence borrowings and neologisms) over its celebrated predecessor, Akhmedi Ysqaqov’s ten-volume Qazaq tīlīnīn︠g︡ tu̇sīndīrme sȯzdīgī (1974 –1986).  Major sources include the Kazakh oral poetic tradition (including transcriptions of Kazakh epics from the eighteenth century forward), influential Kazakh-language periodicals such as Aiqap (Troitsk, 1911–1915), the works of seminal figures such as Abai, Auezov, and Mustafa Shoqai, and the works of Kazakhstan’s current president.  Material is also drawn from a wide range of other sources (dictionaries of sports, obstetrics/gynecology, and banking, for example). The list of sources occupies more than 40 densely printed pages, and itself constitutes a bibliography of virtually every significant work in the Kazakh language. Words of Arabic, French, Latin, and Greek origin are given in the original, usually without acknowledgement of the role of Russian (if any) in transmitting them to Kazakh. The entries can be quite elaborate, as can be seen in the 15 pages devoted to saiasat (politics) and its derivatives (aleumettik saiasat [social policy], saiasatshyldyq [political intrigue], and so on).

A lengthy Kazakh-language introduction and afterword explain the compilers’ methodology and standards in detail, as well as situating the dictionary among earlier efforts to record the Kazakh language.  The dictionary was compiled by the Academy of Sciences of Kazakhstan’s A. Baitursynuly Institute of Linguistics, which (according to press releases) is already planning an expanded 20-volume edition.  Part of the Mădeni Mūra series like the previous two items, this is already one of its most substantial publications.