How much do you know about Kazakhstan? Many people may be unfamiliar with this country, so The Post interviewed a DU exchange student from Kazakhstan. Her name is Nadezhda Bogoslovskaya, and she is a graduate student majoring in English literature. Nadezhda told us in detail about Kazakhstan: its culture, life, education, food, and national holiday.
Where are you from in Kazakhstan?
I was born in western Kazakhstan, in a city called Shevchenko, which is now called Aktau. It’s about 2,900 km from the former capital, Almaty.
My major is translation studies, and I’m interested in East Asian schools of translation. I also study Korean.
Can you tell us about Kazakhstan’s nomadic culture and life?
Many cultures are nomadic, but their traditions vary in different countries. The nomadic people of Kazakhstan live in traditional houses called yurt. These are portable houses used by Turkic nomads in Central Asia. The structure is composed of a crown wheel supported by roof ribs. Roof ribs are bent at their ends where they go into the wall. The walls are usually covered by sheep wool – it protects people from the cold and rain. Yurt has been used since the 13th century, and it has been modified many times since then. Nowadays, you can see it during special events at the square.
What are the official languages?
There are two languages: Russian and Kazakh. Kazakh is the primary language, but almost everyone speaks Russian. Our schools and universities offer classes in both Kazakh and Russian. At some private schools and in some special majors, classes are taught in English.
What is the education system like?
Kazakh schools follow the European standard: elementary school, middle school, high school, college, and university. High school students are required to take a special final exam called the Unified National Exam in order to attend university. The exam is available in Kazakh, Russian, and English. The exam includes five subjects, four of which are required subjects: Russian, Kazakh, mathematics, and history. The fifth subject varies depending on the student’s expected major at university. For example, if you want to major in English, you must take English as the fifth subject. If students earn a high score on the exam, they are more likely to be admitted to university and receive a scholarship. I am a postgraduate student of Al-Farabi Kazakh National University (KazNU). It was established in 1937, and the campus is very big. It is called “students’ city” as you can find everything you need there: dormitories (each faculty has its own dormitory), a cinema, shops, a sports stadium, a park, a hair salon, a fitness center, a Laundromat, and a drycleaners, among many other services and facilities.
What kinds of social activities do you have?
Students are very active, and there are many student clubs: music, art, sports, and even chess. The university has its own volleyball, basketball, football, and badminton teams. Interaction between professors and students, between students and students, and between professors and professors are based on trust, respect, and patience. The people of Kazakhstan are very kind and always ready to help.
What types of traditional foods do you eat?
Food in Kazakhstan includes many dishes from different countries, even Korea. There are a lot of Koreans who were born in Kazakhstan. But we also have traditional foods. The most popular among them is beshbarmak, which means “five fingers.” It consists of boiled meet (it can be horse, sheep, or beef) and boiled noodles (usually square-shaped). Traditionally, a sheep head was used for the meat and base for soup. It was served to special guests: first for older guests, then for younger guests. Also, in Kazakhstan, kazy is very popular. This is a common traditional food in Central Asia. It looks like sausage and consists of intestines filled with the flesh of horse ribs, tied on both ends.
Tell us about your national holiday, Nauriz
Nauriz is a special celebration when families gather together. It begins on March 22, the day of the vernal equinox, and is celebrated for four days. It’s the New Year holiday, but we also celebrate New Year’s Eve on December 31. Nauriz originated from the Zoroastrian festival, and it is celebrated in many counties that were formerly part of the Persian Empire or were influenced by it. This is a very special celebration, so people start to prepare early: they clean their houses and neighborhoods, they buy new clothes and lots of food, and they cook beshbarmak. During this holiday, families gather together, people do kind things to each other, people make donations, and they forgive each other. Essentially, it is a time to clean not only your house but also your soul. It is believed that your good deeds during the new New Year will carry on throughout the whole year, so people do their best. You can find yurt in the square and you can see different old rituals. People gather to have some competitions. There are a lot of games like hide and seek, horse riding, and wrestling.
Which places do you recommend to visit in Kazakhstan?
There are a lot of places you can visit in Kazakhstan. As it is a big country (in fact, it is the ninth largest country in the world by land area), the sightseeing varies in each region: in the South East, you can visit the mountains; in the West – the Caspian Sea (the biggest lake in the World); in the North – forests; and in the South – rivers. Visitors are always welcome anytime. Please come and enjoy the beautiful scenery of Kazakhstan, and good luck to everyone!
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