Humanistic views of Abai

Look deep into your soul, be yourself …

Philosophical Parallels of the search for Truth.

The thinker Abai has been fascinating various generations of people for almost two centuries with the depth of his thought and the brightness of his language. His fame crossed the borders of the Kazakh land, and his talent became the property of the whole world. But Abai played a special role in the spiritual unity of two peoples – Kazakh and Russian. He thinks a lot about the essence of life and the interpenetration of cultures. His thoughts are the foundation bricks on which the modern philosophy of free Kazakhstan is laid. Today, national philosophy is becoming a necessary part of the public consciousness of Eurasian societies.

Kazakh philosophy is determined by the concrete historical fate of the Kazakh people, their mentality, and the nature of worldview problems in different periods of their historical development. The beginning of Kazakh philosophy can be identified as the philosophy of Kazakh enlightenment of the 19th century. This philosophy was formed under the influence of the East and Russian educational thought, because after the accession of Kazakhstan to Russia, the thinking of the Kazakhs, their way of life, and ethnic traditions changed. Social contradictions in the life of the Kazakh people were critically interpreted by Shokan Valikhanov (1835-1865), Abai Kunanbaev (1845-1904), Shakarim Kudaiberdiev (1858-1931), etc.

To understand the process of formation of Kazakh philosophical thought, you need to turn to such a bright figure in the Kazakh culture as Abai. As the son of his people, Abai took the best from the centuries-old culture of the Kazakh people and enriched these treasures with the beneficial influence of Russian culture. The philosophical orientation of the poet, first of all, is manifested in his poetic creativity. He is a satirical poet, a convict. His poems are educational in nature: there are verses, parables, verses, edifications. But in all the works the main idea sounds: love for man and nature is the key to the philosophy of Abai. Based on his philosophical attitude, he is close to such Russian poets and writers as A.S. Pushkin, M.Yu. Lermontov, I.A. Krylov, I. Bunin, L. Tolstoy, Saltykov-Shchedrin. That is why he translates their works into the Kazakh language. Especially with great love Abai translated M. Lermontov’s poems. This can be judged by the number of verses translated, there are 29 of them. It can be said that he has a civic attitude towards Lermontov in relation to his people. No less original are his translations of Krylov’s fables. In his translations, he uses popular Kazakh proverbs. With the work of Saltykov-Shchedrin, he is united by satirical accuracy ridiculing bays, rulers, and officials. If all this is formulated with a brief thought, then we can say that all of them are united by the philosophical quest for the meaning of “people-poet.”

With the philosophy of Leo Tolstoy, he is related by the direction of their pedagogical views – thoughts about the people, the idea of his enlightenment and education. But Abai and Tolstoy frame their ethical thoughts in artistic forms: whether it be poetry or prose. The basic philosophical thought of both geniuses is that man is not naturally moral or immoral; he becomes one or the other in the process of education. Abai said: “If there was power in my hands, I would cut off the language to anyone who says that a person is incorrigible.” But a person can be corrected only through knowledge, and “the purpose of knowledge is to achieve truth.” (Abai’s “Book of words”. – Almaty, 1991. – p.345). The main goal of Abai knowledge is to humanize a person. “Without revealing for him the visible and invisible secrets of the universe, without explaining everything to himself, man cannot become a man.” Abai was the first Kazakh poet to choose the path of self-awareness and self-knowledge, the main features of which were humanism and enlightenment.

A man must in this cosmic “grain of sand – on the earth” find his place, find himself and be himself. He is writing:

«Look deep into your soul and ponder on my words:

To you I am a puzzle, my person and my verse!

My life has been a struggle, a thousand foes I braved,

Don’t judge me too severely – for you the way I paved.»

“Know yourself” is one of the oldest philosophical trends of all peoples. Know yourself – and you will find the Truth! This postulate comes primarily from religious philosophy. And here you can draw parallels between Abai and two religious thinkers of Russia – P.A. Florensky and N. Berdyaev.

Since science does not reveal the whole truth, Abai tries to find its focus and completeness. In the “Word” verse 38, he not only raises the question of the way of knowing the Truth, but outlining cognitive horizons, introduces “peace”, “ourselves”, and “Allah” into its context. He unequivocally speaks of the existence of two levels of truth: truth from the “earth» and man goes to it through the mind, the sources of “pure truth” lie in another – they are in the Almighty.

The problem of truth is pivotal also for all creation of P.A. Florensky, for the religious philosopher of Allness. The search for Truth was the beginning and the ultimate goal of his intellectual and spiritual aspirations “You cannot live without Truth … I am suffocating for lack of Truth.” His thought is consonant with Abai that the wholeness of the universe is not available to science, absolute truth is not comprehended through it, it only gives relative knowledge.

For N. Berdyaev, as well as for Abai, the internal is the basis of man, and it is precisely this that must determine the behavior of the “external man.” N. Berdyaev puts a person not only above anything in the world, but also above the world itself. Man for him is not as an individual, but as a person. “The whole world is nothing compared to the human person.” Abai, like N. Berdyaev, along with a man identifies Allah (God), which is the “alpha and omega” of this world, is Truth. He writes: “True is also called truth, and truth is Allah.” For N. Berdyaev, the truth and ultimate destination of man is his return to God (Allah).

Thus, both philosophers have the ultimate purpose of man and the meaning of life – Allah (God).

It can be stated: the great ones look at the essence of spirituality, and not at the dogmas of a particular religion. And spirituality is a single, indivisible property expressing the essence of a person, regardless of nation and religion. Therefore, in its spiritual fulfillment, Abai cannot belong to any particular religion. His spirituality is an expression of the Universal creation of the Soul … And in order to comprehend it, we still have a lot to work on ourselves.

There are many possible parallels between Kazakh and Russian philosophy. And this is understandable, since both Russia and Kazakhstan are representatives of Eurasian thought. Here the borders of East and West are erased, giving rise to a kind of culture and philosophical thought.

Abai for the Kazakhs is as great a phenomenon that has no equal, like Pushkin for the Russians, Shakespeare for the British, Rustaveli for the Georgians… The legacy of the great poets is the property of not only their own, but also of all peoples. Abai is one of these poets.

Turning to the philosophical doctrine of Abai Kunanbayev, one can notice its pronounced national and at the same time non-national character. The poet’s focus is on the fate of the Kazakh people, the Kazakh question. But, assessing the situation of the Kazakh people, Abai actually sets the global, universal, world-historical context of analysis. In his poetic and prose works, Abai constantly reflects on the purpose of man, on the purpose and meaning of life, on good and evil, on just and unjust, beautiful and ugly, on ideal and good. He is trying to comprehend a person’s attitude to the past, present and future.

Abai, being a man of his time, in his prose and lyrical works raised philosophical problems of a truly universal scale; he answered many questions that determined the essence of his edifications.

Abai’s creativity is so multifaceted that everything was reflected in it: pain, longing, hopelessness, hope, and struggle – all life. It can be said that all existential philosophy, which – is of particular interest – opposed every form and system.

Although Abai did not write special philosophical and pedagogical works, almost all the works of the fiery youth mentor, without exception, are permeated with moral and ethical edifications based on the interests, moral ideals and wisdom of the working people, on the work of the Kazakh national intelligentsia – akyns and composers, on the achievements of public thought peoples of the East and West.

In the center of Abai’s understanding of the world, like many thinkers, there is a person. Man, his ethical and aesthetic appearance, his education and upbringing, the world of his feelings and intellect, his ideals and the purpose of life have always fascinated Abai. He portrayed the inner world of man not only in an artistic-figurative form, as is characteristic of poets; he expressed his thoughts about man and in a scientific and conceptual form.

M.O. Auezov writes: “When we approach Abai, it is indisputable that he has diverse, diverse, high-quality, profound judgments about the problems of the social life of his era, about the issues of poetics, craftsmanship, aesthetics, about the problems of education, training, pedagogy and especially about the problems having a direct relation to the philosophy of man and humanity, to the philosophy of morality and conscience.”

Abai’s thoughts on the formation of moral principles and moral values ​​in the process of life itself, as opposed to the religious doctrine of the “divine predestination” of morality, are relevant today. According to Abai, a person is not born with some ready-made personality traits. All concepts of virtue, all rules of behavior are acquired in the process of his life and work.

Despite the different social status, says Abai, people are naturally equal. Abai writes about this innate biological equality of people in 34 edifications: “Man should be a friend to man. For everything in this life – birth, upbringing, satisfaction, hunger, sorrow and grief, the form of his body, the way in which he comes into this world and departs it – are common to all.”

Abai expressed his highest ethical ideal in the formula “Adam Bol!” (“Be a Man!”). Whatever Abai writes about, he follows this formula everywhere, striving to impress people that an empty and inactive life in youth will leave a heavy residue in old age, that a person’s wealth and joy are life, that living means working, learning, so to be a man with a capital letter.

All his judgments about man and his actions were determined by the internal logic of enlightened humanism. The human problem was perceived by him multifaceted as biological, psychological, aesthetic, ethical and philosophical.


  1. Abai’s life and creation. – Almaty: Publishing House of the Academy of Sciences of the Kazakh SSR, 1954. – 271.
  2. Gabdullin B. Abai’s ethical views. – Almaty: Publishing house «Kazakhstan», 1970. – 104.
  3. Zhirenchin A. Abai and his Russian friends. – Almaty: Publishing House of the Academy of Sciences of the Kazakh SSR, 1949. – 127.
  4. Kunanbayev A. Кунанбаев А. Selected. Series «Wisdom of the ages». – М.: Russian rarity, 2006. – p.426.
  5. Kunanbayev A. Book of words / Trans. from Kazakh by R.Seisenbayev. – Semipalatinsk, 2001. – p.218.
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  7. Mamyrbekova A.S. Abai’s moral optimism. // Think. – 2007. – № 8. – p.116.