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Abay Kunanbayev

Abay Kunanbayev

Ibrahim (Abai) Qunanbaiuly (10 August 1845 – 6 July 1904) was a Kazakh poet, composer and Hanafi Maturidi theologian philosopher.[2] He was also a cultural reformer toward European and Russian cultures on the basis of enlightened Islam.

Early life and education

Abai was born in Karauyl village in Chingiz volost of Semipalatinsk uyezd of the Russian Empire (this is now in Abay District of East Kazakhstan). He was the son of Qunanbai and Uljan, his father's second wife. They named him Ibrahim, as the family was Muslim, and he stuck with the name for the first few years of his life.

Ibrahim first studied at a local madrasah under Mullah Ahmed Ryza. During his early childhood years in Ryza’s tutelage, he received the nickname “Abai” (which means “careful”), a nickname that stayed with him for the rest of his life. His father was wealthy enough to send Abai to a Russian secondary school in Semipalatinsk. There he read the writings of Mikhail Lermontov and Alexander Pushkin, which were influential to his own development as a writer. Moreover, he was fond of reading eastern poetry, including the Shahnameh and 1000 and 1 night.[citation needed]


Abai's main contribution to Kazakh culture and folklore lies in his poetry, which expresses great nationalism and grew out of Kazakh folk culture. Before him, most Kazakh poetry was oral, echoing the nomadic habits of the people of the Kazakh steppes. During Abai's lifetime, however, a number of important socio-political and socio-economic changes occurred. Russian influence continued to grow in Kazakhstan, resulting in greater educational possibilities as well as exposure to a number of different philosophies, whether Russian, Western or Asian. Abai Qunanbaiuly steeped himself in the cultural and philosophical history of these newly opened geographies. In this sense, Abai's creative poetry affected the philosophical theological thinking of educated Kazakhs.


August 18, 1845
Abay Kunanbayev was born in East Kazakhstan.


Further reading


Documentaries, videos and podcasts


Абай Кунанбаев. Краткая биография великого казахского поэта

October 21, 2020

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