Abai and the library

The library, founded in 1883, was the first cultural-educational institution in Semipalatinsk province.
One of the first visitors to the public library was a great educator Abai Kunanbayev. Abai often visited the library and had been an active reader for many years. He enjoyed encyclopaedias, dictionaries, reference books, but mostly Russian literature. Abai read and translated Krylov’s fables, fairy tales by Saltykov-Shchedrin, Pushkin and Tolstoy’s works. By translating Lermontov, he was acquainted with foreign literature, Byron’s, Shakespeare’s, Schiller’s, Goethe’s works. Away from here, passing the Chingiz mountains, Abai took with him his favorite authors’ books: Lermontov’s “Dagger”, “Sail”, a chapter from “Evgenie Onegin”. “Tatiana’s Letter” in Abai’s translation Abai resounded across the steppe, striking Kazakhs with the beauty and power of Pushkin’s words. A wonderful song of love Russian girl Tatiana thanks to Abai’s talent had become close and clear to the Kazakh people. The excerpts from the Pushkin’s novel, came in the form of songs entered into the national treasury of the Kazakh people.


Abai in the library

Close friendship between Abai Kunanbaev and Evgenie P. Michaelis was closely linked to the history of the library. Their acquaintance took place in Semipalatinsk Public Library. Abai asked the librarian for a new issue of the journal “Russian Gazette”, where one of the works of Leo Tolstoy had been printed. Michaelis was interested in the Kazakh who read the works of Russian authors, they met, and the friendship of two extraordinary people lasted for many years. E.P. Michaelis introduced Abai not only to the world of new books, but also expanded his circle of friends. It should be emphasized that Aba’ friends in their turn were discovering the rich world of the Kazakh people. Having helped Abai in search of knowledge, they themselves learned a lot from him, using his deep and extensive knowledge of history, general law, poetry, art, economy and social life of the many kindred Kazakh nations.


In 1885, an American journalist and writer J. Kennan arrived in Semipalatinsk. He had been traveling through Siberia and the Altai region, collecting material for his book “Siberia and the exile”. A.V. Leontiev became acquainted with John Kennan, who told him about the Kirghiz Abai, who not only visited the library and read authors such as John Stuart Mill, Buckle and Draper. He described  Abai as a man with a bright and powerful mind, who knew Russian literature, persistently and successfully studying the works of English philosophers. The American was very surprised at this discovery, he could not imagine the steppe nomad who studied Darwin and Buckle in-depth, and he wanted to meet this Kazakh scientist, but he did not have an opportunity to meet Abai. J. Kennan wrote about this wonderful Kirghiz in his book “Siberia and the exile.
In 1878 there was an important event: the opening of the Regional Statistical Committee took place in Semipalatinsk and E.P. Michaelis became its first secretary.

Abai was elected a member of the Statistics Committee in 1886, and he took an active part in all operations of the society. An anthropological museum and library were organized under the Statistical Committee. Abai passed national decorations and some other items of decorative and applied art to the museum’s collection.

Since 1893 Abai Kunanbaev and his sons and Akylbay Magavya became full members of the society. The evidence of this fact is preserved in the “Report of the Council of the Society on primary education in Semipalatinsk, 1893 – 1894”. – This Edition is available in Abai Library’s collections, Semey.

There had been an inextricable link between Abai and the library, and his amazing life which is a continuous dialogue with the book, which had become a natural need for him, like food, but only spiritual. From his own experience of self-educating reading, the great thinker became convinced of the possibility of receiving life-saving skills and the ability to join the reader with a universal human intercultural communication
The Library is one of the few threads that stretches from the past and connects one generation to another, the story continues today but the beginning of this thread for our area is Abai, through the centuries remain interesting for his descendants.