Kazakhstan Arts and Literature


Hero songs, fairy tales and legends are the origin of Kazakh literature. The motif of the song-cat was developed by the acynes, the bards, who seemed to speak orally in the villages and with the big men. In the poetry of Abaj Kunanbaev, the Akyn tradition was renewed in the 19th century. through his encounter with Russian literature and classical Western philosophy. Abaj also made many records of the kazak’s songs.

Kazakhstan Population Pyramid

  • Countryaah: Population and demographics of Kazakhstan, including population pyramid, density map, projection, data, and distribution.

Around the turn of the 1900’s, written literature began to take up the competition with the orally trained. The first novel in Kazakh, “The Bride Purchase” by Spandijar Kubejev, came in 1908. The still-alive Akyn poetry was used for political purposes by the Soviet power in Kazakhstan; for example, singer Djambul Djabayev to become a loyal worshiper of Stalin. Muchtar Auezov, on the other hand, left the Akyn tradition and became an all-round writer, mostly in the spirit of socialist realism as a prosaist, playwright, historian and translator. Most famous was Auezov for the great poem “Abaj” (1942-56; not in Swedish translation), a tribute to the Kazakh national bald.

In recent years, Olzja’s Sulejmenov has written mainly in Russian. He combines a strong sense of Kazakh history, including in his Soviet criticism, the 1968 interpretation of “Igorskvedenet” strongly criticized, with paradoxical lyrical images, inspired by Russian modernism.


Kazakh music is akin to other Central Asian peoples’ music (Uzbek, Kyrgyz, Turkmen) and has been influenced by Russian and later other Western music from the early 1900’s. The older song and instrumental music (kjui) is rich and varied. The folk songs are diatonic (in western Kazakhstan also pentatonic), metric and are based on a seven-verse verse measure. They sing unanimously and often begin with an extended shout in high register.

The most important instrument is dombra, a two-strand long neck end. In western Kazakhstan, the umbrella game is multi-voiced, in the east more often unanimous and more melismatic (several notes to the same text syllable). Other instruments are the lyric kobyz, the flute sybyzgy and from the late 19th century accordion. Long partially improvised epic songs are performed to dumb or kobyz by professional bards, acynes, of whom Machambet Otemisuly (1804-46), Suinbaj Aronuly (1815-98) and Djambul Dzhabayev (1846-1945) achieved great fame. In the second half of the 19th century, more urban folk popular music (kjuisji) reached) a highlight, with artists and composers such as Birjan Kozjagulov and Kurmangazy Sagyrbajev.

During the Soviet era, the foundation of a Western colored Kazakh art music was laid by Alexander Zatajevich. In Alma-Ata, higher music education (1932), Philharmonic Orchestra (1935), opera, ballet and chamber orchestra (1937) were opened. A state professional folk orchestra was formed in 1934 (from 1944 with the name Kurmangazyen ensemble) under the direction of composer Achmet Zjubanov (1906-68).

Since the 1940’s, Western art and popular music have gained some influence with the conservatory in Alma-Ata as the center (founded in 1944). Composers include Eugen Brusilovsky (1905-81) and Mukan Tulebajev, and in younger generations Almaz Serkebajev, Shamshi Kaldajakov and Tles Kazhgalyev. In recent decades, a modern popular music industry has emerged, with artists such as Madina Sadvakasova and the folk pop group Urker.

Kazakhstan Arts and Literature