The Silent Steppe and the Silent Bureaucracy

A retired school teacher sits down to write a book about his childhood. It is a humor filled, bittersweet memoir of poverty, freedom, family and tragedy. The book becomes a minor hit across borders. Angela’s Ashes? No, the book I’m talking about is Silent Steppe, by Mukhamet Shayakhmetov. In this book he wrote about his…

Dombrovsky’s Alma-Ata Part III

  The beginning of The Keeper of Antiquities brings the narrator, a fairly autobiographical Dombrovsky, to Alma Ata for the first time. On his first walk into the city he finds himself face to face with a remarkable building. Almaty’s main cathedral, ‘huge, many domed…multi-colored with cunningly molded architraves’, was and is to this day…

Dombrovsky’s Alma-Ata Part II

The Keeper of Antiquities is almost two books in one. One is the tale of the darkening shroud of Stalinism in 1937. The other is a love letter to Yuri Dombrovsky’s second home – Almaty. The two parts work together, however, in producing a coherent whole. Almaty’s portrayal as a wild, green, and bountiful city…

Stalin and the City: Dombrovsky’s Alma-Ata Part I

“It was in 1933 that I first saw that curious city, so unlike any other city in the world, and I still remember how it amazed me.” Almaty is a beautiful city, but one whose charms can be hard to convey to someone who hasn’t been there. These charms are different from other cities’. There…