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 labour 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 by Alfia Nakipbekova and Niall McDevitt)

The emblem of Kazakhstan features the shanyrak, the circular opening at the top of the yurt. The shanyrak is surrounded by the Sun’s rays and cradled by the wings of flying horses. The shanyrak symbolizes “a common home and a common homeland.”

Aron Atabek was sentenced to 18 years in prison for protesting the demolition of the shantytown Shanyrak by Kazakh authorities.