Chinghiz Aitmatov Remembered in the Ybl Villa

On the occasion of the 95th birthday (December 12, 1928) of the world famous Kyrgyz writer, Chinghiz Aitmatov, the Representation Office of the Organization of Turkic States (OTS) held an event in the Ybl Villa in Budapest to remember his lifework. The evening was attended by the representatives of the Turkic embassies in Budapest, students studying in Hungary, the fans of Aitmatov, as well as the staff of the Representation Office and their guests.

On behalf of the organizers, the acting director of the Representation Office, Talaibek Kydyrov, welcomed the guests. He emphasized that the Office remembers the birthday of Chinghiz Aitmatov, whose works have been translated into hundreds of foreign languages, year after year. When the Representation Office was opened in the Ybl Villa, the very first event was the photo exhibition, presenting the life and work of the world famous Kyrgyz writer. Since that time the staff of the Office has contributed to presenting a publication on Aitmatov in Bishkek, as well as naming a park in Zugló, Budapest after him. Talaibek Kydyrov also recalled the activities of the late Executive Director of the Representation Office, Ambassador János Hóvári who did a lot to popularize the works of Aitmatov in Hungary.

In his remarks, the Ambassador of the Republic of Kyrgyzstan, His Excellency Talantbek Kuschchubekov pointed out that the works of Aitmatov have been published in 90 million copies. Thanks to his books, the Europeans, the Hungarians – among others – can have a glimpse at the everyday life of the Kyrgyz and Central Asian people. After Kyrgyzstan gained its independence, Aitmatov – in the last part of his life – was also active in diplomacy. He represented the interests of his country as Ambassador to Brussels, accredited to the EU, NATO and UNESCO, as well as to Holland and Luxembourg.

As the main speaker of the above event, Turkologist Dávid Somfai, the Professor of the University of Nazarbayev, who translated two works by Aitmatov directly from Kyrgyz into Hungarian, offered a short summary of the life and family background of the writer. He also shared his personal memories with the audience since in 2006, during the last visit by Aitmatov to Budapest, he acted as his interpreter. Dávid Somfai explained how the personality of Aitmatov was shaped after the tragic death of his father. How the young man found his way back to the village of Seker on the valley of Talas where started working in the local Soviet collective farm. It was with his first short stories– written both in Kyrgyz and Russian – and then with his world famous stories (Jamila, The First Teacher, Face to Face) that he made his childhood experiences, the unnamed heroes of his village life immortal. Dávid Somfai also talked about how in 2007 one of the late stories by Aitmatov (The White Cloud of Genghis Khan) was published which had been inspired by the death of his father. In 1938 Törökul Aitmatov became the victim of the terror by Stalin. He was lying in an unmarked mass grave till 1991 when he and his fellow victims were exhumed. Today he rests in Chong-Tash, the Ata Beyit Memorial Complex. This is where in 2008 his son also found his final resting place beside his father, Törökul.

Zoltán Jánosi underlined that Chinghiz Aitmatov was popular in Hungary already in the 1960s. The cultural and literary heritage that he has left behind is Kyrgyz, Asian, European and universal at the same time. The editor-in-chief of the monthly Magyar Napló pointed out that the Hungarians discovered the voice of the fate of small nations, that in his works Aitmatov took the stage for the identity of his people. He was an outstanding representative of poupar culture who became a real Ambassador of Kyrgyzstan already in Soviet times.

During the memorial evening the photos of his life, work and visit to Hungary were projected, as well as other pictures, recalling the great meetings during his lifetime.

Erzsébet Jancsikity from the Castle Museum in Buda delivered remarks on how Aitmatov presented the point of view of a child in his early short novels. The memorial evening was brought to a close by reading passages from his works in Kyrgyz, Azerbaijani, Turkmen and Hungarian languages.

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