Abai is the founder of Kazakh written literature


Kazakh poet, philosopher, composer, educator, thinker, public figure, founder of Kazakh written literature and its first classic-Abai Kunanbaev.

Abay learnt Eastern and Western culture comprehensively in order to contribute to the enlightenment of the people, and managed to show the basics of this culture to his people.

The words of the great Abay’s edification are pedagogical (educational) conclusions, which entered the Kazakh national pedagogy as a noble channel. Abai’s poems educate labour, science, art, morality. Abai occupies an outstanding place in the national culture and literature



  1. The life path of the classic of Kazakh literature
  2. The treasure of the past-into the future

3.The heritage of Abai and the cultural identity of the Kazakh people

  1. 4. Conclusion



  1. The life path of the classic of Kazakh literature

                    Abai (Ibrahim) Kunanbaev (29.07.1845 — 23.06.1904) — poet, educator and philosopher, founder of the new Kazakh national written literature and Kazakh literary language.

                    He was born in the Chinggis Mountains of Semipalatinsk region in the family of the elder of the Tobykta family of Kunanbay. He received initial home education from the mullah, then was sent to the madrasa of Semipalatinsk Imam Akhmet-Riza. Studying in madrasah in parallel attended Russian school. He knew Arabic, Persian and other oriental languages. He read in the original works of the classics of the East — Navoi, Ferdousi, Nizami, Saadi, Jami, Hafiz, Saikhali.

                     After failing to finish his studies in the city, at his father’s insistence he returned to the aul, where he began to delve into the judicial service and the future administrative activity of the head of the family. He learnt the techniques of verbal contests, where the weapon was honed eloquence, wit and ingenuity. Often goes against the interests and aspirations of Kunanbai, making fair and impartial judgements.

                    All the other twenty years of his life were spent in meaningful creative, poetic activity. In the middle of the 70s of the Х1Х century resumes the study of the Russian language and classics of Russian literature A. S. Pushkin, M. Y. Lermontov, I. A. Krylov, L. N. Tolstoy, M. E. Saltykov-Shchedrin, I. S. Turgenev, F. M. Dostoevsky. Acquaintance with Russian political exiles E. P. Michaelis, I. S. Turgenev, F. M. Dostoevsky. P. Michaelis, I. I. Dolgopolov and S. С. Gross would form his progressive views.

                  Abai was a bearer of everything new, standing head and shoulders above the environment that gave birth to him. In his poetic works created in 1882 — 1886 he addressed to social and moral problems of the Kazakh people, urged Kazakhs to take the «right path» of civilised development («Eight Verses»). The aspiration to progressive development of society, where a man is elevated by «reason, science, will», is one of the main directions of Abay’s creative work. He regarded labour as the only way to wealth and abundance of society. He revealed antagonistic contradictions between the people and the ruling upper class. He protested against tribal strife, criticised vanity and feudal social mores.

                 For the first time in Kazakh literature he created poetic works about the purpose of the poet and poetry («Poetry is the ruler of language»). He combined elements of landscape and love lyrics with philosophical generalisations and enlightenment-humanist ideas. Abay’s artistic innovation manifested itself in the renewal of the poetry’s subject matter. Many poems are written in the form of lyrical monologues («Ayttym sәlem, Kalamkas» — «I send my greetings to you, Kalamkas»).

                 He praised the woman — mother as a pillar of the family, denied kalym, polygamy, fought for equality of women in Kazakh society. In the poem «Kozimnіn qarasy» («You are the pupil of my eyes»), «Kyzaryp, surlanyp» («And blush, and pale»), «Gashyqtyq tіlі — tіlsіz tіl» («The language of love is a language without words») the power of love, the beauty of women are shown.

  1. The treasure of the past-into the future

                     Each person discovers Abay independently. His poems and «Words of Edification» («Qara sozder») remain relevant at all times.

                     When starting to work on «Words of Edification», Abay thought: «I will take paper and ink as companions and write down all my thoughts. Maybe someone will like some of my words and he will copy them for himself or simply remember them. And if not, my words, as they say, will remain with me». The great Abai, in fact, enters into a dialogue with future readers and researchers of his creative heritage, building a cultural link between generations.

                    Therefore, Abay’s works are considered classics, which everyone should know in order to have the right perspective on things.

                    Abay created more than 170 poems, several poems and «Words of edification» («Kara sөzderi»). In addition, Abai Kunanbayev is the author and composer of more than 30 songs. His musical works are also widely known among the people and in other countries. In his works Abai glorified the people of labour, calling for development, harmony and friendship, striving for good and creation.

                   Abay’s works have been translated into 116 languages of the world. The first translations of Abay’s poems into Russian were published in the early XX century. In the following years, the poetry and «Words of edification» were repeatedly translated and republished. Most of the books with Abay’s works in different languages of the world were published in 1995, when the 150th anniversary of the poet was celebrated at the world level under the auspices of UNESCO. At that time the book «Works and Thoughts of Abay» was published in Iran, and in Pakistan — «Selected Poems of Abay Kunanbayev». The appearance of the book «Works and Thoughts of Abay» in Farsi was a significant event in the cultural life of Iran and Kazakhstan, as Abay’s works had not been published in Iran before.

                  In 2020, the year of Abay’s 175th anniversary, his works were translated and received an updated translation into 10 languages: Arabic, Chinese, English, French, German, German, Italian, Japanese, Russian, Spanish, Turkish and Spanish

                   August 2020 marks the 175th anniversary of the birth of Abai Kunanbayev, the great Kazakh poet, thinker, composer, public figure, the first classic of Kazakh written literature.

                   In this regard, on 30 May 2019, the President of Kazakhstan Kassym Zhomart Tokayev signed a decree on the large-scale celebration of the 175th anniversary of Abai Kunanbayev’s birth in 2020.

                   Embassy of Kazakhstan in Switzerland in the framework of celebrating the 175th anniversary of the great Kazakh poet and thinker Abai Kunanbayuly on 27 June 2020 held an open-air event «Abai Okulary» with the participation of representatives of the academic environment of the University of Zurich, the Swiss who appreciate the work of Abai, students of Kazakhstan studying in Switzerland, the Kazakh diaspora and friends of the Embassy. In 2023, the poet is 178 years old

                    The contribution to the recognition of the great poet in the world has also been made by means of monumental art. In total, more than 30 monuments to Abai Kunanbayev have been erected in the world. Of these, 14 are located in Kazakhstan, the rest in other countries.

3.The heritage of Abai and the cultural identity of the Kazakh people

                     The more multifaceted the personality, the more diverse and significant is the palette of its heritage in the universal dimension. This historical postulate undoubtedly applies to the legacy of the great poet and thinker Abai Kunanbayev.   

                     What was the spiritual influence of the great poet’s heritage on the cultural identity of the Kazakh people? It is possible to dwell on some of its aspects.

                     Firstly, the peculiarities of his poetic and literary heritage, socio-philosophical views, ethno-cultural and lexical expressions are so large-scale and original that such personified notions as «Abai’s language», «Abai’s lyrics», «Abai’s philosophy», «Abai’s poetry», «Abai’s ethics», «Abai’s words of edification» and others are now institutionally recognised. Probably, the quintessence of assessments of Abai Kunanbayev’s work will be the definition of «philosopher of poetry».    

                      Secondly, apart from integrating the written form of works into Kazakh life, Abay’s heritage enriched it with features characteristic of world literature.

Thus, it was through the work of the great poet that great literary forms, and first of all poems and verse translations characteristic of world classical poetry, entered the spiritual world of Kazakhs.

                      Thirdly, nowadays it is difficult to imagine Kazakh cultural space without Abai Kunanbayev’s «Words of Edification». Yes, it is through this work that the great poet reanimates the literary genre of essayism, which was a very significant phenomenon in Eastern literature. Continuing these common traditions, he actually laid down a new format of presentation of ethical and philosophical thoughts in prose form. From the height of the present day we can assert with the understanding of their importance that Abai Kunanbaev’s heritage is a «socio-ethical code of Kazakhs», actually a moral complex of the people’s way of life. It is very remarkable that researchers of Abai Kunanbayev’s work, including foreign ones, most often emphasise this very role of the poet for modern society.

  1. 4. Conclusion

                     Abai Kunanbayev had a great influence on the nascent Kazakh national intelligentsia of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Thus, the leaders of the Alash-Orda movement perceived Abai as their spiritual forerunner and even spiritual leader of the revival of the Kazakh nation. Alikhan Bukeikhanov became the first biographer of Abai. His article «Abai (Ibrahim) Kunanbaev» — obituary of the Kazakh national poet was printed in the newspaper «Semipalatinsk leaflet» in 1905. Then with Abai’s portrait it was printed in the magazine «Notes of Semipalatinsk subdivision of the West Siberian department of the Imperial Russian Geographical Society» in 1907.

                      The world literary space continues to be enriched by the deepest philosophical ideas of the outstanding poet-intellectual Abai Kunanbayev, the aesthetics of his classic literary text, which remains relevant and modern at all times.

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