A Glimpse of Life and Hardship in the USSR


With "Maryam: Survival Instruction," Daniyar Kuantkanov gives readers a sobering glimpse of life in the USSR in the first part of the XX century, and the hardships people faced existing under the regime. With this, he hopes to raise awareness of what happened to people in early years of the USSR because too few people outside of the fallen empire comprehend the realities the locals faced during those years. "Maryam: Survival Instruction" has been awarded the Russian National Literary Award "Debut of 2019."


Kuantkanov's book is meant to have an educational purpose. He wishes to pass the torch of understanding, love, and respect for the achievements of their ancestors to the younger generations because Kuantkanov has observed that they can hardly imagine the tumultuous years of the past century. With his book, he draws from the historical background of his family and his origins, which serve as his inspiration. His mother recounted their heritage in detail, shocking him with the resilience displayed by their ancestors as they underwent miseries and even deaths when they lived during early stages of the Soviet Union evolvement. He also depicts the oppression experienced by the Chechen people who were relocated to Kazakhstan in a harsh process. This was a fate similar to people from other nations, from Germans to Crimeans, Tartars, Karachays, Circussians, and Ingush who were sent to Central Asia, an ordeal that caused the suffering and deaths of many people.


With this book, Kuantkanov aims to leave something behind for his children so they can reconnect with their history no matter where they are. Likewise, with this, other residents of the former USSR, as well as interested audiences from around the world, can get a glimpse of how life was back when the Iron Curtain cast its shadow across many nations. This is Kuantkanov's lesson to his readers, to take pride in one's predecessors and learn from their example, particularly how they acted in critical situations, even when they were on the verge of death. These can inform people of not only the harsh realities of the past but also equip them with the knowledge and the strength needed to prevail over the present and future challenges.

"I hope that it will spark the interest of the young people in the lives of their own families, their nation, and then history will stop being an abstract school subject and will acquire the human face." Kuantkanov says. "Today, we so easily become dispirited because of common daily life situations so incomparable with the ordeals of the people from the past that sometimes I feel ashamed. They are the real heroes, as not only have they survived themselves, but they gave life to us, showing how we must fight for our families, to keep the hearths and homes safe, to carry on the existence during totalitarian rule."

About the Author

Daniyar Kuantkanov hails from Kazakhstan and has a degree in economics. He has lived in Vietnam from 2014 to 2021, engaging in volunteer work in the field of human rights protection. He played a leading role in a 2014 film titled "Entrapped" that raised awareness of domestic violence towards women, a film made with the support of UN Women Kazakhstan. He is currently an entrepreneur, but his literary works have gained acclaim.

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