Good Time (2017) and Uncut Gems (2019) are ciphers for the Safdie Brothers’ exploration of capitalist ideology’s acidic hold on the individual. On its breaking down of character, reducing one to rubble. On its decay of the soul.
On our travels abroad we have often been asked:
“Were there any Communists in Kazakh villages before the October revolution?” And we have replied, “Yes, there were Communists among the Kazakhs before the revolution as well.” And usually we told the story of one of them – Alibi Djangildin. Why did we choose his particular story and not someone else’s? Perhaps because it embraces all the main features of the rise and triumph of the revolutionary moment in Kazakstan.
We had the pleasure of meeting him once, although he was already then an old man. His story can leave no one indifferent.
Alibi was born in the tent of the keeper of a horse herd. His parents wanted him to become a judge. But the boy ran away from home. At that time he believed in god and believed god would help destroy evil on earth. So he went to study seminary in Kazan. He also studied in Moscow. His search for justice in the world led him to join one of the illegal students groups that existed in those days.
For his activities among them he was forced by the authorities to leave the country. In 1910 he went to Poland and from there travelled to Austria-Hungary, Switzerland, Bulgaria and Turkey.
In Egypt he hired an Arab guide and travels across the desert to Khartoum. For a short time he lived in Palestine. The ship on which he sailed to Basra was caught in a storm and took him to Madagascar instead. From there Djangildin travelled to Bagdad, and then on to Karachi, Calcutta and Bombay.
He spent some time in Ceylon, then sold postcards in Bangkok, and admired the beauties of Annam. Alibi carried a camera with him everywhere, taking pictures of what most pleased his fancy.
At the end of 1912 Alibi returned to his native steppes via the far east. He travels the length and breadth of Kazakstan showing his photographs to people. For them a glimpse of another world, of other landscapes. He was branded as a witch doctor by Muslim authorities and the police confiscated all his photographs. He was arrested and the photographs were destroyed. That marked the beginning of his revolutionary activities. As soon as he was released from prison in 1915, Alibi travels to Petrograd, where he joined the Communist Party.
He returned to his native Turgay in 1917 as a representative of the Petrograd Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies. But he was not there for long. In the late autumn of 1917, shortly after the October Revolution, he was recalled to Petrograd by a telegram from the Soviet republic’s first president, Yakov Sverdlov. On his arrival Djangildin went together with Sverdlov to see Lenin. It was not their first meeting. This time Lenin wanted to know about the situation in Kazakhstan.
Djangildin was appointed Acting commissar of the Turgay region, and a little later Commissar Extraordinary for the entire steppe area – what is today Kazakhstan. But before he could return home, the enemy had to be defeated because Russia was then in the grip of civil war. Djangildin became commander of a Red Guards unit and took part in smashing counter-revolutionary bands near Orenburg. On march 21, 1918, Alibi Djangildin formally opened the Congress of Soviets of the Turgay region.
By mid-1918 Central Asia was once more cut off from the Russia proper and the Kazakh steppe was captured by White Guards. Once again the enemy had fought, but where were the arms and money to come from? The need was all the greater since the White Guards had been equipped by the British and French imperialists. Djangildin decided to make his way to Moscow, to see Lenin.
Lenin provided the aid. Djangildin received money, arms and medicaments for the Red Guard units of Central Asia and Kazakhstan. He organised a caravan to deliver them. It took the caravan three months to reach the positions of the Turkestan Front. This feat was commemorated by the formation of a cavalry regiment named after the Kazakhstan revolutionary. Djangildin lost no time joining battle with units of the Tsarist Admiral Kolchak. Practically the whole year of 1919 he spent in battle, but towards the end of the year the enemy was routed.
In 1920 the Constituent Congress of the Soviets of Kazakhstan elected Djangildin to its Central Executive Committee – at that time the equivalent of the Kazakhstan Parliament. Later he became Vice-President of Kazakhstan and held the post until his death in 1953.
Many of the pages in his life reflect the political advances made in Kazakhstan. Here are just some of the highlights:
The autonomous Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic was formed on august 26, 1920. A decree to that effect was signed by the President of Soviet Russia, Mikhail Kalinin, and the Chairman of the Council of the People’s Commissars, Vladimir Lenin. August 26 became the birthday of Soviet Kazakhstan. The Constituent Congress of the Soviets of the new republic was held from October 4 to October 12. It adopted a Declaration of Rights of the Working People, which established that the Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic had become an autonomous member of a free federal union of Soviet republics – the Russian Soviet Federation.
In December, 1936 Kazakhstan received the status of a union republic, and in march of the following year its tenth Extraordinary Congress of the Soviet Socialist Republic – a sovereign union republic that had voluntarily become part of the USSR.
A short while ago Kazakhstan adopted a new Constitution which reflected the advancements made over the decades. In it the main principles and features set out in 1977 USSR Constitution are harmoniously combined with the principles which reflect the specific features of the peoples inhabiting Kazakhstan.
The Kazakh constitution spells out the structure of the power in the republic. The supreme body is its Supreme Soviet, which elects a Presidium and forms the government. The supreme Soviet also approves the plans for economic and cultural advancement.
The constitution reaffirms the sovereignty of Kazakhstan, which is ensured by the full economic, political and military might of the USSR and reinforced by the broad powers and rights of the peoples of Kazakhstan. These are enhanced by the USSR Constitution which, for instance, gives the Union republics the right to initiate legislation.
(Text reproduced from the book Socialist Republics of the Soviet Union: Kazakhstan, published by the Novosti publishing house, Moscow, 1980.)