The Great Women of the Steppe

The Great Steppe is a treasure throve of stories and legends about women who have left their mark on history. This underlines the importance of women’s contribution to various aspects of public life, including politics, war and culture. Women have created history for centuries, inspiring subsequent generations to look to the future with confidence and strength worthy of the nation’s legacy.

Women as great rulers and Steppe defenders.

It is not only the boundlessness that the Great Steppe, stretching from Eastern Europe to Central Asia, is famous for, but also the great women whose stories have formed an integral part of our rich heritage. Tomyris, the legendary Saka queen, was one of the most remarkable personalities.

Tomyris left her mark not only as a great commander, but also as a symbol of the strength and determination of women confronted with harsh trials. Her exploits fill our hearts with pride for the potential and power of the female spirit, capable of overcoming any challenges in its path.

However, the great women of Steppe were capable of more than just military exploits. Many of them became rulers and reigned over their peoples with exceptional wisdom and justice.

Razia Sultana, an Indian female ruler with Kipchak roots, was one of them. Her leadership brought prosperity and social development, wise decisions became laws, while foresight in internal and external relations earned her respect not only in her homeland but among neighboring peoples as well.

Rabiya Sultan Begim, Kurmanjan Datka, and Saray Mulk Khanum had joined the ranks of such women, since their paths were full of courage, determination, and wisdom, too.

Women as keepers of the hearth.For example, the rocker of the universe Genghis Khan occupies a special place in world history; none could match his heroic path after him.He had to struggle hard to attain power and conquer half the world, as known from surviving written sources. Genghis Khan, the first son of Yesugei and his wife Hoelun of the Olkhonud clan, was given the name Temujin (Temuchin) at birth.After his father was killed in a plot, Yesugei’s relatives turned their backs on Hoelun and her children. Cherishingher husband’s memory, the woman put a lot of effort in making her son a real hero

Genghis Khan’s wife Borte had also possessed great wisdom and insight and thus could act as a fair judge in numerous cases. As an advisor to her husband, she saved Genghis Khan from harm more than once. Borte had also proved to be a determined and wise person and contributed to the political stability of Mongolian society. She held a special place in the upbringing of Jochi Khan, who enjoyed great respect as the forefather of Kazakh khans and sultans.

Sorkhokhtani, another important figure in the Mongol Empirehistory, was the wife of Tolui, the fourth son of Genghis Khan and Borte. Thanks to her wisdom, she had continued the path of her great-mother-in-law Hoelunand mother-in-law Borte in raising future leaders. Thus the courageous batyrs and rulers, who knew and honored their ancestors, replenished the Genghisid family. The children of Sorkhokhtani—Mongke, Kublai and Hulagu— left a significant footprint in world history. She ruled as de facto regent in the Mongol Empire for 20 years after the death of her husband Tolui.

The history of the Kazakh Khanate includes many legendary women:female batyrs and rulers, keepers of the hearth and mothers, whose names have been remembered for centuries. Rabiya Sultan Begim, wife of Abu'l-Khayr Khan; Zhagan (Jahan)Begum, wife of Janibek Khan and mother of Qasim Khan;  Zhaksimbike, mother of Esim Khan and Tauke Khan;BanuKhanum, wife of Salqam-Jangir Khan; BopaiKhanym, wife of Abul-Khair Khan and mother of Nuraly Khan; AiganymKhanym, wife of Wali Khan and grandmother of ChokanValikhanov; Aikumiskhanym, wife of Kasym Sultan and mother of Kenesary Khan— all these women serve as examples of great mothers of the Steppe. Fully supportive to their children, they, if necessary,could get on the horse and fight back any enemy. Well aware that they were raising future rulers, the women urged them to be just and love their peoplefrom childhood.

Education and nobility.Rocking the cradle, they created heroes with one hand. Many mothers of the Great Steppe have earned special respect among the people for their foresight and wisdom. Besides keeping the hearth, they have worked for the good of the whole nation. Many of them became muses for nomads and inspired them to new feats. The youngest wife of  Baidibek bi, Nurila, is one of the great mothers who have remained in history: people valued and respected her as the mother of the nation. Domalak Ana is the embodiment of wisdom and nobility.

Domalak Ana remained in the national memory as a mother, who radiated love to all people. Thanks to her wisdom, she used to successfully reconcile rival tribes.Today, she embodies wisdom and nobility.

Such mothers as Zere and Ulzhan continued her path, upbringing the great akyn of our people.Zere, the grandmother of the Kazakh poet AbaiKunanbayev, played an important role in his formation. From an early age, she took care of her grandson and her son Kunanbay. Ulzhan, Abai’s mother, took a special place in her husband’s life, as well as Zere. This proves that Kazakh women have always enjoyed high esteem, they have been asked for advice, respected and honored. Today Abai is the most famous poet of the Kazakh people and the founder of written literature.

Begim Dulatovna is also an example for many. As themother of leader of the nation AlikhanBokeikhanov, she contributed to the prosperity of her people through her son, thanks to her intelligence and wisdom. The Alash movement has had a special place in the history of Kazakhstan.Each of the participantswas a worthy son of the nation and contributed to the development of Kazakh society, education and prosperity of the country.

Art and creativity. The role of women in art has a rich and diverse history. “Oriental Pearl” of the House of Dior, she was the first to break all stereotypes about models and introduced the fashion of arrows makeup. In the middle of the last century, AllaIlchun, the first star of Kazakh-Russian origin, shone on the Parisian catwalks. The favorite model and the muse of Christian Dior and later of Yves Saint Laurent,she was one of the first steppe beauties to receive worldwide recognition.

Dina Nurpeisova is the true gem of folk art, the famous Kazakh composer, kuishi, pupil of Kurmangazy.She has embodied the best features of the folk genius. Dina’s compositions became an integral part of the classical Kazakh dombra art, reflecting her unique style and contribution to the cultural heritage of her people. Her creativity not only demonstrated the highest level of the dombra playing technique, but also left an indelible mark in the history of Kazakh music.

Shara Zhienkulova, Gulfairus Ismailova, Kulyash Baiseitova... They became pioneers: the first artist, the first dancer and actress, the first professional singer. It was they who had the honor to represent the culture of our country far beyond its borders. Their names are inscribedin the history of the republic in gold letters.

Heroines of our time. Courage and patriotism

World War II was the period when the Great Steppe was bombed and its civilians killed. The spirit of the great nomads, courage and love for the native land have awakened the desire to stand up and protect our homeland by taking up arms at all costs. The stories of the two Kazakh girls,ManshukMametova and Aliya Moldagulova, seem to descend from the pages of a heroic epic, as if Tomyris herself has come to life in them. Songs were composed, books were written, movies were created to praise the feats of these girls. Streets and schools, museums, parks and squares were named after them. ManshukMametova was born in 1922, her childhood years passed in Almaty. As a student of Almaty Medical Institute, she combined her studies with work in the secretariat of the KazSSR Council of People’s Commissars. On 13 August 1942, she volunteered for the front.

Manshuk participated in the battles as part of the 100th Rifle Brigade and the 21st Rifle Division in the rank of Senior Sergeant, commander of the machine gun squadron. She was posthumously awarded the title of Hero of the Soviet Union for her participation in the Battle of Nevel in October 1943. Manshuk’s name was given to the glacier and summit in the Trans-IliAlatau.A year later, in 1943, Aliya Moldagulovajoinedthe front line as a volunteer. In 1942, Alia was trained at the sniper school, then fought in the 3rd company and 4th battalion of the 54th Rifle Brigade of the 2nd Baltic Front, where shegained recognition as a sharpshooter. Their names carry the greatness of all people and the infinite power of the female soul. Both girls became the Heroes of the Soviet Union, and both posthumously. Both went to eternity at the age of 18 and 20...

Years have passed. Times havebeen changing. But the Kazakh women have always had the spirit of nomadism. Later, the brave spirit of Aliya and Manshuk seems to have revived in Lyazzat Assanova and Sabira Mukhamedzhanova, heroines of the December events.

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