Celebrating Chinghiz Aitmatov at 90

Wednesday, November 28, 2018 to Friday, November 30, 2018
Columbia University

Please join the Harriman Institute at Columbia University, the Kyrgyz American Foundation (KAF), and the American University of Central Asia (AUCA) of Bishkek for an international conference and event series, including a photography exhibit, concert, and film screenings, to celebrate the 90th anniversary of the birth of renowned Soviet and Kyrgyz writer, Chinghiz Aitmatov.

Chinghiz Aitmatov (1928-2008) was one of the leading writers of the post-Stalin thaw and probably the best-known “ethnic” (non-Russian) writer in the USSR. He wrote in both Kyrgyz and Russian but was much more widely read in the latter. Aitmatov was a major figure in Soviet literary and cultural life; his fiction was published in leading Soviet journals and translated into many languages. Along with Andrei Voznesensky, Aitmatov was one of the very few Soviet authors who managed to hold onto an independent yet public position over almost the entire post-Stalinist period, straddling the uncomfortable line between what was controversial and what was officially acceptable. Many of Aitmatov’s novellas were turned into successful films, and his influence on music and the other arts in the USSR was also considerable. After Kyrgyz independence, Aitmatov became a diplomat and a symbol of the Kyrgyz nation.

The conference “Aitmatov at Ninety” provides the opportunity for a retrospective look at Aitmatov’s literary, diplomatic, and cultural legacy. Leading international scholars will discuss complex topics relating to Aitmatov and issues of feminism, colonialism, and national identity. The importance of Aitmatov of Soviet film and music will be considered by a number of prominent figures who knew or collaborated with Aitmatov, including award-winning Director Bolot Shamshiev, Composer and President of the Kyrgyz National Conservatory, Muratbek Begaliev, and KAF’s President, Aza Sydykov. Former Kyrgyz President Roza Otunbayeva will discuss Aitmatov’s diplomatic and political legacy.

Also on the program will be screenings of films based on Aitmatov’s works by Bolot Shamshiev, a photo exhibition by Askarbek Abdygulov and a musical performance by the Eurasia Festival Ensemble.

PROGRAM

WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 28, 2018

Exhibit Opening & Concert. Chinghiz Aitmatov at 90: Photography by Askarbek Abdygulov

6:00pm
Harriman Institute Atrium (420 W 118th St, 12th Floor)

Please join us for the opening reception of an exhibit featuring photography by Askarbek Abdygulov. Abdygulov presents unique moments from the life and work of Aitmatov starting in 1971 and continuing almost to the end of Aimatov’s life. The Eurasia Festival Ensemble will present music by several composers inspired by Aitmatov’s works.

 

THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 29, 2018

International Conference: Aitmatov at 90

9:00am - 5:00pm
World Room, 3rd Floor Pulitzer Hall (2950 Broadway at 116th St, enter through campus on south side of building)

This conference provides the opportunity for a retrospective look at Aitmatov’s literary, diplomatic, and cultural legacy. Leading international scholars will discuss complex topics relating to Aitmatov and issues of feminism, colonialism, and national identity. The importance of Aitmatov of Soviet film and music will be considered by a number of prominent figures who knew or collaborated with Aitmatov, including award-winning film Director Bolot Shamshiev, Composer and President of the Kyrgyz National Conservatory, Muratbek Begaliev, and KAF’s President, Aza Sydykov. Former Kyrgyz President Roza Otunbayeva will discuss Aitmatov’s diplomatic and political legacy.

 

FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 30, 2018

Book Talk. Have the Mountains Fallen? Two Journeys of Loss and Redemption in the Cold War by Jeffrey B. Lilley

12:00pm
Marshall D. Shulman Seminar Room, 1219 International Affairs Building (420 W 118th St, 12th Floor)

After surviving the blitzkrieg of World War II and escaping from three Nazi prison camps, Soviet soldier Azamat Altay fled to the West and was charged as a traitor in his homeland of Kyrgyzstan in Soviet Central Asia. Chingiz Aitmatov became a hero of Kyrgyzstan, propelled by family loss to write novels about the everyday lives of his fellow citizens. While both came from small villages in the beautiful mountainous countryside, they found themselves caught on opposite sides of the Cold War struggle between world superpowers. Have the Mountains Fallen? traces the lives of these two men as they confronted the full threat and legacy of the Soviet empire. Through narratives of loss, love, and longing for a homeland forever changed, a clearer picture emerges of the struggle for freedom inside the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

Film Screening & Discussion. Early Cranes and White Ship with Director Bolot Shamshiev

2:00pm - 6:00pm
Davis Auditorium (Schapiro Center/CEPSR 4th floor, 530 West 120th Street)

Please join the Harriman Institute for a screening of the films Early Cranes (1979) and White Ship (1975) by prominent Kyrgyz and Soviet film director Bolot Shamshiev, followed by a discussion between Shamshiev and Dr. Peter Rollberg, Professor of Slavic Languages, Film Studies, and International Affairs and Director of the Institute for European, Russian, and Eurasian Studies at the Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University.