Face Music - Field research in Eastern Kazakhstan
  • Field research in Eastern Kazakhstan - Russian and Cossacks songs




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P & C December 1998
- Face Music / Albi

- last update 03-2016


more information: Field Research in Eastern Kazakhstan in German

Expeditions into the Bukhtarma valley at the upper course of the Irtysh in Eastern Kazakhstan in the years 1985, 1995 and in October 1998
- Travel diaries composed by Olga Abramova (Director of the Folk-Centre Pesnokhorki in Baranaul)

- 1985

Finally my dream has come true: I get to know the region Belovodje and can talk with the people living there. After my return from the 12th Youth Festival in August 1985 I started a new expedition with my students into the Bukhtarma valley offering a rich source of information for my collection of songs; this provided me with the opportunity to enlarge my knowledge on folk tradition. We visited the villages in the region Syrjanovskoje: Krestovka, Snegirjovo, Turgusun, Sredigomoje. In this villages we were met by experts like Praskovja Fillipovna Okonetshnikova (1902 - 1995), Alexandra Andreevna Golovina (1913 - 1995), Varvarl Epifanovna Podoseewa (1918), Alexandra Epifanovna Kusnezova (1922), Anna Timofeevna Khishnjakova (1929), born in Krestovka, Praskovja Filipovna and Alexandra Andreevna, who supplied us with their knowledge about what they had learned from their parents and grandparents. At this time, embroidering was a very carefully cultivated handicraft, the knowledge of which had been handed over from one generation to the next. During the expedition we also met Karavaeva Feodosija Grigorjevna, born in 1929, from Kershakov. During this expedition into the Bukhtarma valley we were given many interesting pieces of art for our museum in Barnaul: pinafore dresses, aprons, sleeve covers, belts, etc. Many of these things are now presented in the ethnographical museum of the town Ust-Kamenogorsk (in today's East Kazakhstan). Another local heritage museum is the Shemonaikhenski Museum. I hope that these collections are well preserved for our descendants.

- 1995

In 1995 there was realised an expedition into the village Turgusun. During this expedition we were able to make a better photo documentation. We were able to record a number of songs, which had not been possible during my first expedition 10 years before. We recorded wedding songs and Cossack songs which were performed by the village ensemble on tape. F.G. Karavaeva was the leader of the folk group in the village of Turgusun. Member of the ensemble were: Wasiljeva Ekaterina Sidorovna (born in 1930), Saveljeva Anna Mikhjlovna (born in 1923), Karavaeva Feodosja Grigorjevna (1929), Tsheremnova Evdokija Ermolevna (1926), Vasiljeva Stepanida Ivanovna (1930), Droshshina Ljubov Markelovna (1941).
My daughter Elena and my son-in-law Igor further used the opportunity to record documents of their ancestors. In this way we clearly saved a complete documentation of the songs performed by the village community for the next generations. The ensemble themselves had recorded many of their songs on tape over the years. We were then given the chance to copy them and are not in the possession of such original recordings for our music school in Barnaul for our students. This definitely is an important collection, which has to be preserved for further generations.

We would really like to express our thank to these ancestors who had largely contributed to this mission of preserving a tradition.

- Oktober 1998

- In October 1998 we undertook another journey into the Bukhtarma valley with my daughter Elena and my son-in-law Igor – a journey into the Southern Altai, into Eastern Kazakhstan in the region Semipalatinski (Semey) at the upper course of the Irtysh.

We set off to the Altai in Kazakhstan. In the area of the village Lokot we encountered scenic landscapes with smooth hills and autumn woods turned yellow, red and green. The streets, however, had not improved. In the village Tretjakovo there was no chance of re-fuelling our vehicles. Also the asphalt concrete road had come to an end. We had to reduce our driving velocity to a mere 40-20 km/h due to the gravel path we encountered. Finally we reached the customs office of Kazakhstan: we were near Igor's home country. In Belusovka we were forced to tank 76 octane. We only had 7 kilometres to drive to Ust-Kamenogorsk. We quickly found the appartment where we were supposed to stay. The landlady Vera Mikhailovna who had just returned from Germany offered us her whisky.

On the next day we visited the local museum. After a short working day we recorded material about the Cossacks from a book dated 1895 and we copied texts of Cossack songs from a collection with the same date as well as photos and videos of traditional costums of the Kershakov. In the afternoon we rather soon set off into the direction of the mountains into the Bukhtarminskaja valley (Bukhtarma, a tributary at the upper course of the river Irtysh). The way to the village Pervomeiskoje was not hard. We admired the beautiful landscape and scenery. Finally we arrived in Igor's hometown. Here his ancestors had cultivated the land in Belovodje for three decades. The formerly so thriving village was deserted and declined. The inhabitants are alcoholics, and the cultural institution does not work anymore. The last of the inhabitants who had not moved to Germany still tried to survive. In the village there were only 5 - 10 pigs and 2 - 4 cows. Nothing has been left from the former sowkhos (kolkhozes). Only private farms and farming associations still work. A great amount of the land is only cultivated with sunflowers. Also fishing in the river and in the water reservoire has become sparse.

We travelled on to the village Krestovka. The morning sun brought new colours, and on the pass we were surprised by an incredible panorama and a clear view. In the village, however, we were met by an unpleasant surprise. The administration told us that Podoseeva Varvara Epifanovna, born in 1918, and Kusnizova Alexandra Epifanovna, born in 1922, were on holiday in Russia and that Okonetshnikova Praskovja Filippovna, born in 1909, and Golovina Alexandra Anufrievna, born in 1915, had died. Fortunately, we had recorded their songs in an earlier meeting. We were only met by Khishnikova Anna Timofeevna, born in 1929. Together with her sister-in-law Tshemjakowa Evdokija, born in 1937, she performed some songs for our records. We were also allowed to make some photos and videos of Okonetshnikova Praskovja Filippovna's costumes. Further discoveries we made at Fjodorova Maria Nikititshna's, born in 1920, who had only recently moved from the neighbour village Tshapaevo to Krestovka.

In the late morning we travelled on to the village Snegerjovo. Our arrival was a complete surprise for the older women. It was a real challenge to get together the village ensemble into the house of the leading solist Negatshjova Maria Evojlovna, born in 1923. Proletarskaja Maria Kirillovna, born in 1923, sang the high register. Natarova Maria Ivanovna, born in 1937 and thus the youngest of them all sang the medium register. Negatshjova Maria Ivojlovna, Lipushina Raisa Mikheilovna, born in 1930, and the former leader Jamshikova Anna Semjonovna, born in 1941, performed the low registers. Fortunately, we were allowed to record everything. In exchange the three of us performed some Snegerjovound Tsharyshskije songs, which we had been given by the sisters Wershinin in the village Tulata in Tsharyshskij Rayon.

Subsequently we moved on to the village. Shortly after the exit Snegerjovo we stopped to enjoy the river Bukhtarrna which has its source in China in the water reservoire behind Turgusun and which is called in its later course of the Irtysh. When we saw our old acquaintance Karavaeva Feodosija Grigorjevna, born in 1929, again, we finally were allowed to record her collection on video and photo. When we left, she presented us with the gift of a belt and the pinafore dress with the sleeve covers for our museum. This piece of art was more than 100 years old. It was not easy to leave Turgusun, as there hardly existed any driveable streets. We succeded, however, to reach Pervomajskoje in the evening where Ludmila Kakaulina waited with dinner for us.

On the way back to Ust-Kamenogorsk it was raining. We had arranged a meeting with Alexander Andreavitsh and his ensemble Bastenki for the evening. The meeting with Jakovlev A.A. and his ensemble was indeed very interesting. They performed a rather manifold repertoire, and upon our request, they only sang songs from the Rudni Altai. Here a huge treasure of songs had been amassed, which is in part due to the expeditions made by Sharabina Tatjana, whom we, unfortunately, were not able to meet. In the meantime, they told us everything about the traditional costumes they carefully preserved in their museum. We were allowed to record everything on video and tape. On the next day we drove home to Barnaul.

- more information on: Clothes, headscarves, embroideries, etc. of the settlers in the Southern Altai

© 2007 - Revised by Albi and Hermelinde Steiner

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