Belarusian Alexander Khodzko acquaints Europe with Magtymguly

Dozens of Belarusian poets, prose writers and publicists have visited Turkmenistan over the years, some living and working in this sunny country

Dozens of Belarusian poets, prose writers and publicists have visited Turkmenistan over the years, some living and working in this sunny country.

Let`s look back at the mid-19th century, when Alexander Khodzko, from Myadel District, was travelling through Turkmenistan, writing the poetic texts of Magtymguly and publishing them in England. It launched European appreciation of this Turkmen literary legend.

Russian diplomat Khodzko, who grew up in Myadel Krivichi, also translated into English, and published, legendary Turkmen’s Epic of Koroghlu and Kemine’s verses. It hailed a new page in European apprecia-tion of Turkmen folklore, unveiling unknown writers, and acquainting us with the rich history of these people. Based on Khodzko’s translation, editions of Koroghlu exist in German, Russian and French. George Sand translated it into French, creating a fascinating ‘chain’ from Turkmen Magtymguly to Bela-rusian Alexander Khodzko to Frenchwoman Sand.

In the 20th century, such well-known Belarusian writers as National Poet of Belarus Maxim Tank, Ales Zvonak, and Vladimir Korotkevich translated Magtymguly into Belarusian. Magtymguly’s Nightingale Searches for Rose book of poetry was printed in Minsk, while ‘Türkmeniň’ (Destiny of Turkmen), translated by V. Korotkevich into Belarusian, was published in Ashgabat, for an anthology featuring poetry from around the world.

In the early 1990s, the author of these lines gave this remarkable small book to the National Scientific-Educational Centre (honouring F. Skorina) and, in 2000, Minsk acquired a new edition in Belarusian, translated by Kazimir Kameisha.

Turkmenistan readers gained exposure to Belarusian writers with the publication of a story by Yakub Kolas in Russian, in the Trans-Caspian Region Ashabad newspaper. Meanwhile, books by Kupala and Kolas were first issued in Turkmen language in 1941, translated by Ata Niyazov.

The centenaries of Yakub Kolas and Yanka Kupala were widely celebrated in Turkmenistan in 1982, ac-companied by a whole variety of new translations, and articles in such newspapers and magazines as ‘Sovet Edebiyaty’, ‘Sovet Turkmenistany’, and ‘Edebiyat we Sungat’. Famous Turkmen publicist and literary critic Kakaly Berdyev (in the 1980s) headed ‘Edebiyat we Sungat’ (Literature and Art) newspa-per, helping to promote Yanka Kupala’s works.

One volume of the Belarusian encyclopaedia has an article within its section on ‘Yanka Kupala’ devoted to K. Berdyev. I remember how I saw Kakali Berdyev holding a copy of that thick green encyclopaedic volume, with some reverence and excitement.

During the Great Patriotic War, Belarus prose writer and poet Arkady Martinovich served near Ash-gabat, writing his novel ‘Do Not Forget Your Roots’. Years later, his son, poet Pavel Martinovich visited Turkmenistan; later, he wrote a cycle of poems about Turkmenia and included it in the poetic collec-tion ‘Time of Amber’.

In the second half of the 1940s, in Ashgabat, the brother of Belarusian opera singer Olga Mikulich-Saburova (who died during the Ashgabat earthquake) was living and working. Boris Mikulich wrote ‘A Tale About Myself’ (published in the magazine Neman) detailing this Ashgabat period. A recent pris-oner of a Stalin camp, he shared his impressions of Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, Magtymguly and Shengeli (one of his first translators into Russian).

After the war, more translations of Turkmen literature appeared in Belarusian language, while Belarus-ian literature began to appear more in Turkmenistan. Works by Berdy Kerbabayev, Kayum Tan-grykuliev, Agageldy Allanazarov and Kurban Choliev came to light in Belarus.

National poets of Turkmenistan include Kerim Kurbannepesov (who translated the poems of Maxim Tank, Pimen Panchenko and Nil Gilevich for his anthology ‘Bouquet of Friendship’) and Kayum Tan-grykuliev (who published ‘Poems of Eudokia Los’, ‘Ivan Muraveyko’, ‘Edi Ognetsvet’, and ‘Vasil Vitka’ for his anthology ‘Cheerful Rainbow’). Meanwhile, Kasym Nurbadov translated many children’s poets of Belarus.



The publication of a ‘Belarusian’ issue of children’s magazine ‘Korpe’ (‘Kid’) in 1987, in Belarusian and Russian, was an important event for young readers in Turkmenistan. The publication of an anthology of Belarusian children`s literature, entitled ‘Achyk Asman’ (Bright Sun) in Ashgabat, by Magaryf Pub-lishing House (in 1989) also promoted Belarusian-Turkmen literary brotherhood.

Turkmenistan began to see works by Belarusian poets and writers Maxim Tank and Ivan Chigrinov translated into Turkmen language, alongside the lyrical miniatures of Yanka Bryl, stories by Ales Zhuk and Vasil Tkachev, and poetry by Pimen Panchenko, Mikola Chernyavsky, Raisa Borovikova and Artur Volsky.

Meanwhile, writers and journalists from Belarus spent much time in Turkmenistan: writer-documentary film maker Nikolay Kalinkovich; poet, and editor-in-chief of the newspaper Tashauzskaya Pravda, Mikhas Karpenko; prose writer Vasil Tkachev; and publicist, and editor-in-chief of Turkmen-skaya Iskra, Vasily Slushnik.

Nikolay Kalinkovich wrote a book about Hero of the Soviet Union Ivan Vasilievich Bogdanov, from Turkmenistan, who helped liberate Belarus from fascist aggressors and received his high rank for hero-ism for his contribution to the Battle of Bobruisk. ‘Returning of Dawn’s Early Hour’ (Ashgabat, 1987) is among a number of other books about Turkmenistan, such as ‘Earthly Connection Unbroken’, and ‘My Name is Freedom’. All were published in Ashgabat.

Nikolay Kalinkovich and Mikhail Karpenko were members of the USSR Union of Writers. Sadly, Kalinko-vich, a true plenipotentiary of Belarusian culture in Turkmenistan, died young.

In our modern times, Belarusian-Turkmen literary relations centre around ‘Litaratura i Mastatstva’, ‘Golas Radzimy’ and ‘Krayaznauchaya Gazeta’ newspapers, and such magazines as ‘Polymya’ and ‘Maladosts’. There have also been translations of Turkmen poetry in ‘Polymya’ magazine.

National Poet of Turkmenistan Kayum Tangrykuliev wrote a remarkable poem entitled ‘The Most Well-Known Aul in the World’, devoted to the tragedy of Khatyn, which national poet of Belarus Rygor Bo-rodulin translated into Belarusian.

In the 1980s and 1990s, a whole series of literary and art literary miscellanies were issued in Belarus in Belarusian language, including ‘Vetraz’ (Sail), ‘Braterstva’ (Brotherhood), and ‘Dalyaglyady’ (Horizons). Turkmen writers Amandurdy Dzhanmuradov, Allaberdy Khaidov, Kasym Nurbadov, Azat Rakhmanov and others received publication in these editions. Turkmen magazine ‘Sovet Edebiyaty’ published an article on the `Turkmen pages’ featured in ‘Braterstva’, while Belarusian poet and translator Lyubov Fillimonova worked to promote Turkmen literature in Belarus.

We could continue on and on, as so many more examples exist and, no doubt, new examples will con-tinue to arise.

By Ales Karlyukevich 



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