Rollan Seisenbayev: Мертвые бродят в песках (The Dead Wander in the Desert)

The latest addition to my website is Rollan Seisenbayev‘s Мертвые бродят в песках (The Dead Wander in the Desert). The Aral Sea used to be the fourth largest lake in the world. As a result of Soviet activities, it virtually disappeared. This novel tells the story from the perspective of the Kazakhs who lived on its shores, which have long since disappeared. In particular, we follow Nasyr, a fisherman who became local mullah and his son, Kakharman, a scientist. Both try in their own way try to oppose the various activities, involving using the two rivers that feed the Aral Sea to irrigate the desert, in order to grow cotton, as well as the construction of a dam, for irrigation and electricity. Their fight is in vain as the Soviets are determined to grow cotton and even consider diverting rivers from Siberia to assist. We also see the horrors the Soviets have inflicted on Kazakhstan, including a famine in the 1930s, oppression and forced migration, as well as various environmental disasters. It is a well-told but very sad tale, ending with the death of Nasyr and the fall of the Soviet Union, though things have not improved too much with the successor states.

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