My father was a slave of the Soviet State
in the gold mines of Kolyma
and my destiny, too, is repeating this pattern
and the brutality of Kolyma.

My father was tried in court as an Enemy of the People,
so it turns out I am a “Son of the Enemy”.
I break rocks with a pickaxe alongside him,
no different to him.

Russia is my Mother; my Father is Kazakhstan. 
A childhood on the Volga, I grew up in Almaty
to kick open the doors to the Throne Room of those in power,
with a strong belief in my rights and in righteousness.

Ah, Borchzhigan-Berish, the Kagan tribe
endowed me with mystical power and strength.
The people followed me in rapture 
and our might was invincible
as we fought for and won our Shanyrak
and, with it, the whole country of Kazakhstan,
inspired by the spirit of Makhambet
to be free of fear.

The truth is discernible even in a drop of reality.
We fought against Nazarbayev – a Dzhungar, 
his rule is venal and base.
He is a traitor to the Land of Kazakhstan.

Shanyrak lives on and will stand forever.
But we – and so be it – we will endure our term of imprisonment in the camps.
Trust us, the day shall come when we will see
The Dzhungar’s head at our feet!

The nightmares of the labor camps will pass.
To suffer for our nation is our duty, and a great cause.
I am writing this poem in the Zone,
And the world responds: RE-ZONA-NCE.
Aron Atabek
 Translated from the original Russian by Alfia Nakipbekova with minor adjustments by Niall McDevitt
(N.B. ‘Zona’ or ‘zone’ is used by the poet as a word for prison.)

Aron Atabek is a prize-winning poet and political writer in Kazakhstan. On his behalf, his wife and son have flown to London to participate in a Campaign Kazakhstan protest at the Kazakhstan Embassy Thurloe Square, South Kensington on Fri 5 Oct at 1pm.

Aron Atabek is currently in jail in Kazakhstan, having served 5 years of an 18 year sentence for supposedly orchestrating “mass disorder” – protesting against the demolition of the shanty-town Shanrak and social-cleansing of its people. He vehemently denies his guilt, and has rejected an offer by the government of a pardon on condition that he confessed.

‘Nazarbayev’s Regime and Revolution’ is one of the collections of Atabek’s prose and poetry published online since his imprisonment. His works are highly critical of Nursultan Nazarbayev, the President of Kazakhstan, and his policies, lamenting the lack of democracy in this former Soviet nation.

Ben Robinson, from Campaign Kazakhstan, said “Aron Atabek’s imprisonment is yet another clear example of what happens to those who stand up for human rights, workers’ rights and the rights of people whose homes are under attack in Kazakhstan. This despotic regime – advised by ‘Tony Blair Associates’ – fears all independent voices, including poets and writers like Aron Atabek, and other cultural figures”.


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