The Beauty of the Steppe

Chokan Valikhanov was a native son of the Kazakh Steppe, and in the 1850’s went on several expeditions to . Upon reading his writing in a 1950’s Soviet collected works I picked up awhile back I came across a beautiful passage describing the splendor of his corner of the world. I’ve tried an amateur translation, hope you enjoy:

“…the steppe: where the white birch grows alongside the native pine; where the breathing is easier, and thoughts flow more freely; where life becomes limitless. Everything is unburdened – like the steppe itself – both one’s desires and one’s responsibilities. The wild, forbidding mountains, while majestic, bring obstacles and distress. Even coming upon a waterfall somehow taxes your thoughts. Everything is angry with everyone. Nothing is enough for you anymore. There really is no way to live in the mountains and be content and carefree. Only the stepnyak can know the golden value of idleness. Оnly he may live without sorrow and sadness; without worrying about the future. In short, only the stepnyak can be untroubled and happy. He knows the value of relaxation and tranquility. The mountains have raised the Circassian. He who, upon birth, fights with nature; every step he takes carrying great risk. Around him sit harsh cliffs; below him the torrent of the river roars. These are his teachers. What examples for him to learn from!

Steppe
The eastern edge of the Kazakh steppe, near Sarkand.

An entirely different landscape and nature surround the stepnyak. There is freedom and happiness found between God’s animals and birds.* The wide river or immense lake’s smooth surfaces are rippled by ducks, geese and swans proudly swimming; lifting their friendly, singing chatter above the waters. Nobody bothers one another. The graceful seagull bathes richly in the azure skies above. The steppe lark sings its songs from upon high, gently flapping its wings. No one has a care in the world. Boundless like the sea, the steppe shelters thousands of different herbs, grasses and flowers, scattered like a soft green tablecloth over the earth. The wind rolls across the open land, the grass softly rippling in its wake.** There is life everywhere: bees and butterflies float from flower to flower.  I am a stepnyak myself, so pardon me for getting a little carried away. Let’s return to the matter at hand…”

*там свобода, счастие и между зверями и птицами божьими

**ветер ли пробежит – ровно зарябят и тихо зашумят травы

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