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  • Writer's picturePeripheral Histories ISSN 2755-368X

The Life and Works of Harold Karlovich Belger

G. S. Zhugenbaeva

The creative legacy of Harold Karlovich Belger (1934-2015), social and political actor and literary translator, provides vivid material for the study of the social and political history of Kazakhstan in the 20th and 21st centuries…

Belger’s family migrated to Kazakhstan during the second wave of ethnic deportations. For the German population, including those who already lived in Kazakhstan at the time, life was dramatically changed by the Declaration of the Sovnarkom and Central Executive Committee of 26th August 1941 regarding the resettlement of Germans from the Saratov and Stalingrad provinces and the Volga German Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic.

Historical sources describe the mechanism by which Germans were transferred to Kazakhstan and redistributed there. Under the early conditions of the Great Patriotic War, measures were taken in the republic to prepare the economy for a large number of resettled forced labourers. In accordance with the initial plan, all of these labourers were moved to rural locations. All the work was carried out by Soviet and Party organs, sub-divisions of the NKVD.[i] The creation of new collective and state farms was envisaged, the deportees were also accommodated in locations which had previously received migrating Germans.

Belger’s works describe the collective fate of the German and Kazakh peoples. His poetry demonstrates his humanism, his devotion to universal values, and his respect for the culture and religion of the Kazakh people. As such, Belger was the first to receive a prestigious state decoration of Kazakhstan (Orden Parasat).

An argument for achieving unity between two peoples, with different languages and cultures, was demonstrated in the life of this author, who spoke Kazakh artfully and busied himself in literary translations from Kazakh into Russian and German (translating authors such as B. Mailin, Kh. Esenzhanov, A. Nurpeisov, A. Kekil’baev, D. Doszhanov and others). Various translated manuscripts of well-known Kazakh authors and poets can be found in Belger’s personal archival collection (lichnyi fond), including A. Kekil’baev’s ‘Warm Snow’, A. Nurpeisov’s ‘Dying Sea’, and works by the great poet Abai such as ‘Autumn’ etc.  Works by the repressed Kazakh authors B. Mailin and Kh. Esenzhanov have also been published in Russian using Belger’s translations…[ii]

Alongside all this, the documentation left behind by Belger includes materials connected with his socio-political opinions. These include rough copies of undelivered speeches, numerous interviews about the fate of the deported peoples, letters to his compatriots and so on. In his interview with the newspaper Ana tili, the author stated that ‘two thirds of Germans have already abandoned Kazakhstan. It’s a shame that they’re losing the departed. I’m talking about Germans. In the homeland of their ancestors they are not, for the most part, demanded, and the soul of the Kazakh Germans remains here.’[iii]

When Kazakhstan gained independence it opened up new horizons for Belger. In 1987-1997 he joined the staff of the Presidential National Council for State Policy, in 1989-1995 he served as the head of the German national-cultural centre and so on.

The creative works of Harold Belger are an entire page in the history of the Kazakh people. Epistolary study of this writer and statesman is valuable from a methodological point of view and is varied in terms of the historical material to which scholars will return again and again.

G. S. Zhugenbaeva is Head of the Department of Historiography, Source Studies and Modern Methodology at the Valikhanov Institute in Almaty, Kazakhstan.

Translation by Alun Thomas.


[i] Of the 289 documents included in the collection, prepared by the archivists of Kazakhstan, The Declassified War: ‘Special Folders’ of the Kazakh Communist Party, 1941-1945 only 7 were previously known to the public. All the rest were concealed as a matter of the highest secrecy. These are materials on life at the home front: the reception of evacuated enterprises and citizens, their redeployment, the instigation and operation of defensive efforts, the deportation of peoples on ethnic grounds and the formation of a labour army.

[ii] Presidential Archive of Kazakhstan F. 152-NL, Op. 1, D. 27, 31, 33, 34, 49.

[iii] Presidential Archive of Kazakhstan F. 152-NL, Op. 2, D. 103, l. 9.

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