Musakhan is the name given to my ancestor in honor of the great prophet Moses (peace be upon him) and in the name of a free and wealthy family whose origins lie in the fertile lands of Tarbagatay. Musa is the Arabized name of Moses, which means «the one who floats» or «the one saved (taken) from the water.» Did the person who gave the name Musakhan know that it would become prophetic?


Egesin Musakhan was born in the 1870s in a noble family of the Naiman clan in the village of Zhana-Aul, located in the highlands of Tarbagatay. When he was born, the world around him was no longer an endless great steppe. Numerous fortresses, volosts, and governorates were like veins of marble meat enveloping the entire steppe. Egesin was not born in the boundless steppe, but, to be precise, in the West Siberian governorate.


Continuing the noble Musakhan lineage, Egesin increased his livestock and started a family — these were his two main indicators of prosperity and undoubtedly the meaning of life. His younger wife Zibilla gave birth to him nine strong and healthy sons — the future heirs of the clan. Already in his old and respected age, the heavens blessed him with a younger son — Bazolda. He was born in the difficult 1930s, when the whole world turned upside down. Soviet power burst into the lives of the Kazakhs and carried out the de-baathification (dekulakization) and collectivization, in pursuit of the highest «Soviet dream.»


Now Egesin’s wealth did not fit into the framework of the new world. As a wealthy Kazakh, he ended up on the lists of «kulak liquidation,» realizing the danger in time, he transported his family — his sister with her children and his younger wife Zabilla with their nine sons — to China. Even the turbulent currents of an unruly river did not stop his search for salvation for his family in the lands of China.


But trials always come one after another — Egesin and Zibilla almost lost their youngest son during the river crossing. Bazolda was only 2 years old when the cradle tied to a horse was carried away by the river to the other bank. Fortunately, he was saved and returned to his mother. And here the prophecy was fulfilled — the Musakhan lineage was saved.


Egesin Musakhan, understanding that their large family needed sources of sustenance, decided to return to his village and retrieve part of his property. But he was captured and imprisoned in Zaysan prison, the bars and shackles of which were symbols of hell on earth for any free-born Kazakh, whose name «Kazakh» speaks of «freedom.» After serving his «sentence» in prison, he was shot by Soviet officers and buried in an unknown mass grave.


Left on Chinese soil, his beloved wife Zibilla and sons suffered from hunger. Of the 9 children, only two survived — the youngest Bazolda and his older brother Kinayat. In the 1930s, they returned to their native village and decided to start a new life. Growing up, Kinayat left to live and continue the lineage far in the high mountain forests of Markakol, further away from people and closer to the Eternal Sky.


Bazolda, in turn, graduated from the Kenigsberg Military School in 1949 (now Kaliningrad, Russia) and partially participated in the struggle against the anti-communist partisan movement in Eastern European countries — the «forest brothers» in Estonia.


After a short military career, he was sent to study at the Semipalatinsk Zooveterinary Institute in 1952, where he became one of the first specialists in the region, along with the first graduating class of 300 students. He participated in the creation of collective farms and state farms. At the same time, he worked in the party sphere, being a member of the Communist Party, propagating the ideas of communism and socialism. During this time, he married Atipe Zuleikha, who graduated from the Semipalatinsk Pedagogical Institute and worked as a teacher of algebra and calculus. Together, they created a harmonious union and a large family.


Then, having found a home, Bazolda and his family moved to Sarghal, near the Semipalatinsk nuclear test site, where above-ground tests were conducted from 1949 to 1989.


«We were at the forefront of great technological progress. We were ahead of human evolution. That’s what I thought back then,» Bazolda recounted, recalling those terrifying events. «On the day of the nuclear test, we were told not to stay at home due to the danger of building collapse. Schoolchildren lined up in the yard, sometimes sheltered by a tarpaulin tent, sometimes not. In an instant, there was an explosion and the ground beneath our feet trembled, and at that moment we would lie down on the ground. Some curious children climbed onto the roofs of barns and watched the fiery cloud that painted everything around in a bloody red color. I remember in school, we studied medieval history, and back then it seemed like people’s only entertainment was to gather in the square to watch public executions. We thought it was savagery. But now I understand that we were no better than them, because we watched our own death with fascinated eyes. And that death was long and agonizing.»


Bazolda and Atipa Zuleikha had six children. Over time, some died from cancer, others were born without internal organs, and only a few were gifted with a normal life. Their blood, soaked with radiation from their mother’s milk, water, and air, continues to write its unfinished story.


Bazolda Musakhan, the «rescued from the water,» passed away at the age of 70 from lung cancer. He faded away before the eyes of his loved ones, making it the longest month for them. He forgot everyone he loved and knew, forgot all his «Soviet dreams,» all his achievements. He only remembered how the great waters of the eternal river carried his “bai” son (son of a rich man), named after the great prophet Moses (peace be upon him), who laid the foundation for a free and prosperous family lineage in the fertile lands of Tarbagatay.



Author: Aya Musakhan

Editor: Kymbat Kaliyeva

Translator: Diana Tsoy-Davis