Kokbai Zhanataev

Zhanataev Kokbai is a poet, educator, student of Abai, supporter of the Alash movement.

He was born in 1864 in the Takyr district of the Mukur volost of the Semipalatinsk district (now the East Kazakhstan region, Abaisky district). He is from the Kokshe clan. Kokbai Zhanatayev is a student and close friend of Abai, a successor of his tradition in Kazakh literature.

Kokbai’s childhood years passed in the aul, where he taught by a rural mullah. Then he entered the Russian parish school of the city of Semipalatinsk (1878, now the city of Semey). After graduating from three classes here, Kokbai entered a madrasah and returned to his village. Here he began to teach to Arabic reading and writing. Used his savings he built a madrasah (1901). In this madrasah he worked for more than 20 years until 1922, where he taught rural children to read and write. In this school more than 300 people received education. Some talented students Tair Zhomartbaev, Yesentai Berdin ( famous poets) continued the traditions of the teacher Kokbai Zhanatayev.

After the October Revolution, K. Zhanatayev transformed the madrasah into a new type of school on his own initiative.   For children, he wrote the “Grammar of the Arabic language” in  a poetic form .

Since 1880, the friendship of the young poet with Abai began. This friendship lasted 25 years. Abai spreaded some of his poems on behalf of a young friend. Abai’s poem “Summer” was published under the name of Kokbai Zhanatayev in the newspaper “Dala ulayaty” ( Steppe land) No. 7 in 1889.

As a scholarly literary critic, Kokbai Zhanatayev left a great contribution to Abai’s science. M.O. Auezov noted the unique contribution of Kokbai to the history of Kazakh literature, because  he was able to keep some  Abai’s poems in his memory. Kokbai recorded and restored original texts of Abai’s poems. The notes of K. Zhanatayev about the social environment and life of Abai have a great value, because they contain a rich factual material. This information was later used by M.O. Auezov for creating the epic novel “The Way of Abai” and for the collection of the study “Abai Kunanbayev”. They was included in the collected works of Abai (1939, 1939-1940, etc.).

The works of Kokbai Zhanatayev  include  aitys, epigrams,  poetry, poems “Sabalak”, “Ablai”, “Kulyndy”, “Nauryzbai-Fatima”, “Garun Rashid” and others. He has many verses  devoded to “Ospan” , “Arip”, “Dutbai”, “Zhaksylyk”, “Musazhan”, “Alikhan Bukeikhanov” and others. In his works  “Dutbay”, “Musazhan”, “Semey saudagerlerіn” (“Semipalatinsk Merchants”), he appeared as a witty satirist and denounced hypocrisy and bribery. The extraordinary ability of Kokbai Zhanatayev to improvise showed itself in aityses with the poet and friend Arip Tanibergenov, Kempirbay, Musagaliy, Zhunishkhan, M. Dulatov, and the Abai’s grandson Aubakir. One of the most significant works of Kokbai Zhanatayev is the poem “Sabalak” (“Abylai”) devoted to the struggle Ablai Khan’s forces against the Dzungars  in the 18th century.

Kokbai’s songs “Lenin”, “Abai”, “Nine grey horses”, “To Uyezd rulers”, “Old age” are widely known. A great part of the works of Kokbai Zhanatayev is preserved in handwritten form. His aitys with Zhuniskhan, memories of Abai was published.

Abai is devoted some poems “Poor Kokbai is crying …”, “Restless” to Kokbai.

After a long illness Kokbai died in 1927

Used literature

  1. Zhirenchin A. Abai and his Russian friends. – Alma-Ata: Science of the KSSR, 1949.- p. 114-116.
  2. Zhunusova, M. Favorite student of the poet and thinker: a conversation about Kokbai Zhanatayev with a researcher of the Abai Museum-Reserve // Rudny Altai. – 2011. – Sep 9. – p. 7.
  3. Ibraeva, W. A. Poetic environment of Abai // News of Semey. – 2016. – Feb. 9. – p. 4. – About the students of Abai, including Kokbai Zhanatayev.