Sheker village, Kyrgyzstan
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This village, close to the Uzbek border, is famous as the birthplace of Chinghiz Aitmatov. Aimatov was a famous Kyrgyz author, probably the only native Central Asian author to obtain international renown. His works have been translated into English and other European languages. (It is actually claimed that he has been translated into more than one hundred languages, with a total circulation of 90 million copies). He was very popular in Soviet times, although not without controversy, and Mikhail Gorbachev sometimes quoted from him in speeches. Recurring themes throughout his work are the cultural heritage of the Turkic peoples, and the way modernity is depriving man of his individuality.
His father was a prominent member of the Supreme Soviet of the Kirghiz Autonomous Republic and it is believed he was killed at Chon Tash (just outside Bishkek) along with the entire membership of the Central Committee in one of Stalin's purges - although this did not stop him joining the party himself.
Born in 1928 in the village of Sheker in the Talas valley, near the Uzbek border, he completed only six years of schooling and at the age of 14 (during World War II) he became Secretary of the local village soviet (council) and a tax collector. He later trained in Djambul (in Kazakhstan - now called Taraz) as a veterinarian, graduating in 1953, and worked on an experimental farm. His first publication appeared in January, 1952 - an article in the journal "Soviet Kirghizia", "On the Terminology of the Kirghiz Language" in which he commented how much the Kirghiz language had been enriched by borrowings from the Russian language. This was followed by a number of short stories.
As a result of his publications, he entered the Literary Institute in Moscow, graduating in 1958. He published a few minor works at this time, but rose to popularity with his book Dzhamilia. He emerged as a major Soviet writer and literary figure, on the governing board of many intellectual and cultural institutions such as the Literary Gazette and Writers' Union and was the head of the Kirghiz Filmmakers' Union for over twenty years. For a time, he contributed to the newspaper Pravda. He wrote in both Russian and Kyrgyz. As well as writing his own novels, he also wrote plays and he translated other people's stories and poetry.
Elected a member of the Supreme Soviet, he was a delegate to the last four Party Congresses, and was awarded many national honors, including a Lenin Prize, a State Prize (both for Literature) and a Hero of Socialist Labor medal (awarded on his fiftieth birthday). He was instrumental in the founding of the national "Movement for Democracy" in 1989. He was also the Kyrgyz ambassador to the European Union based in Belgium for a number of years. He died on June 10, 2008 in Nuremburg, Germany.
In his hometown of Sheker, there is now a Museum dedicated to him, his life and work. It was opened in 1978, to mark his 50th birthday and has over 1,000 exhibits, such as manuscripts, articles, books and pictures. There is also a special section on his parents and family history.