The Silent Steppe is an enthralling story of a family living through one of the most traumatic periods of Soviet history, as seen through the eyes of a young boy growing up in a family of Kazakh nomads. It encompasses the horrors of political persecution and famine in the 1930s, and culminates in the author’s first-hand account of the Battle of Stalingrad and his long trek home through freezing winter conditions after being wounded and discharged from the Red Army.
This vivid personal story tells of the devastating consequences of totalitarianism and dictatorship for ordinary people. Shayakhmetov describes scouring the fields with his mother for a few ears of corn, and journeying alone across frozen rivers in the wolf-haunted steppe. It is a tale which chronicles the extremes of human behaviour in adversity – from the government officials feasting on delicacies while those around them starve, to the peasants who share their last scraps of food with a young visitor, as collectivisation is ruthlessly imposed.
It is a story such as has never been unfolded in print before: a vital and tragic contribution to the history of the Soviet dictatorship, told with simplicity and the heroic resignation of one who endured it and has survived to tell the tale.
The Silent Steppe was launched in June 2006 at the Royal Over-Seas League with a talk from Jan Butler and a Q&A session with author Mukhamet Shayakhmetov.