POLITICS OF EDUCATION ASSOCIATION YEARBOOK, 1996, 71-78
Alan J. DeYoung
University of Kentucky
Kazakh State Academy of Management
Children, you must study. And you must study for deep understanding. For those who do, your lives will be enlightened and all your dreams come true. (Ibyrai Altynsarin, mid-nineteenth century Kazak intellectual).
The great rush to rediscover and redefine national secular heroes following the 1991 collapse of the USSR is one part of the story of school reform in Kazakstan today. A new expertise is unfolding in this country as educators are freed from constraints of the Soviet system. Parents have a new opportunity to make national educational policy more responsive to their needs. Unfortunately the economic, political, and social conditions surrounding Kazakstan's schools devastate these potentialities.
Tokash Bokin was a Kazak military leader of the Bolshevik forces during Russia's Civil War. Afterwards, when heroes and place names were chosen by USSR government officials, many schools were named for him in his native Kazakstan. One place named for Tokash Bokin is a rural school in the Zhambul district of Almaty, about 60 miles from the nation's capital. Soviets dubbed the village school 'New Life'. Like most villages in Soviet Central Asia, Akkanar was literally created overnight by Russian, German, Caucasian, and Kazak farming families assigned to work on a collective farm. At that time, the village was named 'Prudky' or 'ponds' by district administrators. By 1994, most of the Russian and German families had left the region for homes either in the city or in the distant lands of their ancestors-leaving primarily rural Kazaks to reclaim the village.
'Prudky' has been changed into 'Akkanar', Kazak for 'source of white water'. Other Kazak heroes from the nineteenth century have likewise been officially resurrected, including Poet Abai Kunabaev, for whom the former national pedagogical university was renamed in 1995, and Zhambul Dzhabaev, namesake of the Akkanar Raion (district) whose 150th birthday was in August 1996.
Tokash Bokin remains the name of the school in Akkanar today because even though he was a Red Army hero, and thus a Soviet figure, he was an ethnic Kazak who gave his live to the Bolshevik cause during the country's civil war (1918-21). And during this era, many Kazaks believed that a Bolshevik government-publicly dedicated to democracy and the rights of workers-had to be an improvement over those of the colonialist Russian Czar. Stalin, of course, proved them wrong.
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