Central Asian Literature, and How It Is Treated


Many literary figures in the Central Asian Community acted upon roles of poets, as well as storytellers, historians and even philosophers. They were considered as individuals blessed with knowledge and held in highest of regards in the region. Despite that, Central Asian literature is ruthlessly mistreated by the World Institutions. In addition to that, female authors specifically, are atrociously underrepresented in the community of scholars.

Central Asian countries, commonly known as “the stans” in the eyes of the World, have a rich history in literary culture that dates hundreds and hundreds of years back. Literature, especially poetry, traditionally has been the highest cultural form in the Islamic World. Partly because of its connection to Quran and its base for many recitation endeavors. At school, we were taught that Central Asian authors and poets are incredibly skillful in their use of language and those literary figures have left an immense amount of cultural art for the next generations. Unfortunately, in my studies in an International School, as well as an American college, I have never heard of a single discussion of central Asian literature. Accomplished within their own community, authors like Abay Qunanbayev, Ibray Altinsarin, Ahmed Yesevi are unknown to the World Institutions and Scholars. Interest in these figures and their art is not generated enough globally, which makes their works to be unrecorded outside of the language it was written in. Shouldn’t the culturally rich works of art be appraised?

Just a hundred years back, when Soviet Union took over most of the central Asia, huge shifts in culture have occurred. In order to avoid nationalist’s rebellion, important pieces of literatures were banned, plenty of artists were labeled as terrorists and executed. “The Great Purge” affected ethnic minorities the most, making us lose some of the culturally valuable pieces of literature. Saving this substantial piece of heritage is something I believe we should strive for. Not only Central Asian literature, but any form of art that is lost in history.

Apart from that, an issue of a larger scale that can’t be undone is the underrepresentation of female authors in the region of the whole Central Asia. Historically, women were never equivalent to males according to the these nation’s values. Sexism is an issue that these countries are still facing today. It is not only issues of wage gap, but the basic forms of social justice. Bride kidnapping, practically slavery of young wives, discrimination on appearance, those are just a drop of water in the pool of issues countries in this region have as of this moment. As a result, female written literature was almost non-existent until the 21st century. I would like to mention “Colloquial Kazakh” by Zaure Batayeva and “The Tower” by Aigul Kemelbayeva. These novels of the recent years perfectly represent Kazakh women’s life and gives an insight to what preoccupies Kazakh women in writing today. Zira Naurzbayeva’s “Baskempir” is noteworthy as well.

I wish friends of mine would get to read astonishing novels by Central Asian authors and explore the world of Eastern Culture themselves. The fact that those books and poems are not accessible in different languages makes it that much harder to find and get to know. If Central Asian literature was not underrepresented so inadequately in the World Arena, more individuals would have gotten the chance to inquire the knowledge of various unique cultures. It is our responsibility as a young generation to help preserve these treasures that help us get to know the history of our nations that assist in defining who we are.

Overachiever Magazine was started by Rehana Paul in October of 2018 to give a platform to all Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities.

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