«We need to look into the past in order to understand the present and foresee the future»
N.A.Nazarbayev

Nurtas Ondasynov. Kunayev’s Chief

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Nurtas Ondasynov. Kunayev’s Chief
A few party leaders on a national scale managed to survive the years of Stalinist repression. Among them, the name of Nurtas Ondasynov stands out especially, in times difficult for "counter-revolutionaries".

The long-term chairman of the Council of People's Commissars (after 1946 - Council of Ministers) of the Kazakh SSR Nurtas Dandibaevich Ondasynov came from a sort Zhetimder of tribe Konyrat. He was born on October 26, 1904 near Turkestan, in Uzkayuk village, nowadays bearing his name.    

It is believed that his mother died in childbirth when little Nurtas was only three years old. When he became older, he was sent to learn Arabic literacy from a local mullah. But his studies had to be abandoned: soon his father died, and his older brother went to do his rear work in 1916. A little later, in 1917, a terrible famine broke out, which only four children from seventeen sons and daughters of Dundibai managed to survive.  

Nurtas and his brothers went to Tashkent, where they had to work at the bay. This period in Nurtas's life brought him together with people with whom he had made friends throughout his life. They are the future second secretary of the Chimkent regional committee Myrzhan Poshanov, the future secretary of the Central Committee of the Kazakh SSR on ideology Ilyas Kabylov and the future permanent head of the Tashkent polytechnic institute Mukhamedali Niyazov. Four of them were very close. M. Poshanov wrote in his memoirs that "all of them were huddling in a wagon at the railway station, living according to the principle of "one for all and all for one", standing mountain for one another in the total mass of homeless children". On one of these days, Nurtas was seriously ill. Friends were advised to turn to an Uzbek aksakal who had a cure. In return, the old man asked the children to help him dig up his garden. In the end, the children coped with the task, and Nurtas soon recovered.  

In August 1920, Nurtas and his friends, working at that time in one of the brick factories in Tashkent, heard about a boarding school for orphans, in the opening of which played a major role Gani Muratbaev. They went there. Nurtas himself later managed to join the Komsomol organization, was secretary of one of its cells, in this position he shared his views at district conferences and congresses, but did not forget to study. The boy's diligence and carefulness allowed him to enter the prestigious forest college in Tashkent, which he graduated from in 1927.  

After graduation Nurtas was sent to work in forestry of Kustanay region. Here he met with his future wife Valentina Astapova. They got married in 1928, and in 1929 they had their first child Iskander. He told me later:

     "She was an obstetrician in Orenburg then. Came home on vacation. A friendship was made, which grew into a more serious relationship. Since Mom studied, the relationship was maintained through lively correspondence. But the marriage was postponed. But in 1928, they joined their fates. There were many moves in their lives - from Tashkent to Jambyl, from Jambyl to Kyzyl-Orda".     

It is noteworthy that in this period of time Nurtas Ondasynov also put his hand to the history of one of the mosques in Suzak district. The imam of the Shah-Ahmad-ishan mosque, telling the history of the mosque, said:  

    "The Communists wanted to build a school from disassembled bricks. On the first day, one of the workers broke his leg, and then all the people ran away, no one else agreed to this job. Then the kolkhoz authorities found the visiting covenants, but at that moment the future chairman of the State Committee of the KazSSR Nurtas Ondasynov came to Suzak on business. He advised the district committee workers to demolish the mosque, and they made a granary out of it".    

After Iskander was born, Nurtas Ondasynov decided to continue his education. In 1930, he entered the Central Asian Irrigation Institute, but due to the catastrophic lack of quality staff in the country his studies were interrupted in the third year. It should be added here that although Ondasynov did not have higher education, he was actively engaged in self-education, read a lot and selflessly. In 1936, Nurtas even named his second son after the hero of one of the German novels - Henrich.

In 1934, Nurtas returned to Alma-Ata and continued his work in the field of forestry, first as deputy director of the trust "Kazleskhozstroy", and then as its direct supervisor. In 1936, Nurtas Dandibayevich worked as head of the Forestry Department of the People's Commissariat of Agriculture of the Kazakh ASSR. One of his main merits of that period was the initiation of mass planting of forest field protective plantations.  

In February 1938, Nurtas Ondasynov was entrusted with a party position. He became the chairman of the Semipalatinsk regional executive committee. However, as researchers say, Ondasynov resisted this decision in every way, arguing that he lacked the experience and knowledge for such a high position. However, a few months later, on July 17 of the same year, he was removed from the post of regional head and appointed Chairman of the Council of People's Commissars of the Kazakh SSR. It is considered that it happened not without the help of recommendations of the then first secretary of the Central Committee of Kazakhstan Levon Mirzoyan to which the Chairman of Council of national commissioners of the USSR Vyacheslav Molotov has listened. By that time itself Levon Mirzoyan and head of the government Oraz Isayev have already been arrested, and therefore the country needed new capable leaders, as thirty three years old Nurtas Ondasynov was.

Interestingly, a few years later, in 1942, Dinmukhamed Akhmetovich Kunayev became Deputy Ondasynov. He held this post for ten years. In his memoirs "About my time" Kunayev remembered his chief so much:   

   He often travelled to many regions of the republic to meet with labour collectives. He had especially close ties with agricultural workers. He gave everything to his work by his abilities and forces. When he gathered us, his deputies, he liked to repeat often: "All that I have good is taken, and all that is bad is not taken.

Among other things, Kunayev recalled the altercation between Ondasynov and K. Nefedov, editor of the newspaper Kazakhstanskaya Pravda, during which Nurtas Dandibayevich called him a sycophant. By the way, later, in June 1945, the editor of the newspaper will send a letter with denunciations to Malenkov, in which he will talk about "extremely difficult situation of Kazakhstan" in terms of national policy and some unhealthy anti-party phenomena.

It is believed that it was Ondasynov who gave his deputy Kunayev a shortened name, Dimash Akhmetuly. The newspaper "Ontustik Kazakhstan" wrote about this fact on behalf of Nurtas Dandibayevich in 2004:

"In plenums and sessions, and in everyday sessions it was not very easy to pronounce the long name Dinmukhamed, so I started to call him Dimash, it was soon supported by others, and then by the whole country. So a new Kazakh name appeared - Dimash".  

    One of the first key projects of Ondasynov is the construction of the railway line Moyynty - Chu. Nurtas Dandibayevich's childhood friend M. Poshanov told that the question about the necessity of this communication was raised by him, and N. Ondasynov did his best to make the project complete. In 1939, Nurtas Dandibaevich wrote a letter to Vyacheslav Molotov, in which he pointed out that "this road provides an exit of bread from the northern regions of Kazakhstan and Karaganda coal to the south of the Kazakh SSR and Central Asia, thus reducing irrational transportation by Orenburg, Tashkent, Tomsk and Novosibirsk railways". After sending the letter, Ondasynov went to Kovalev, the People's Commissar, and from there to Lavrenty Beria, deputy chairman of the Council of People's Commissars, who was in charge of the state plan. Before going to the reception to Beria, Ondasynov had to wait five days in the reception, which were not in vain. Very soon Ondasynov called Poshanov with the words: "Congratulations Myrzake, your idea has come true. If you have any more thoughts, don't hide them, say it".

In the article of the researcher Zhanar Kanafina "Party Soldier", it is said that Ondasynov also took part in the construction of the Arys-Turkestan Canal, which ironically bypassed his native village "Uch-Kayuk". But later this problem was solved by Ondasynov's pupil Sagidolla Kubashev, who not only held the canal, but also laid the asphalt, laid the foundation of a two-storey school, drilled three wells of drinking water, began reclamation of thousands of hectares of desert land.  

Ondasynov's special role is also in the evacuation of Lenfilm and Mosfilm studios to Almaty during the Great Patriotic War. There, the film studios were united in the so-called Central United Film Studio. In addition, Ondasynov achieved the construction of an opera and ballet theatre in the country, as well as a women's pedagogical institute, which at that time had no analogues throughout the USSR.  

Nurtas Ondasynov was well acquainted with the war hero Baurzhan Momyshuly. This is evidenced by the colonel's letters dated April 18, 1943, in which he wrote:

      "As a participant, leader and observer of more than 100 battles, I experienced the bitterness of failures and the joy of victories, the joy of heroism of my own and our soldiers'. Back in February 1942, I tried to summarize the results of personal experiences, observations of others, the actions of an individual soldier, weapons, types of battles and other psychological features in the general theme: "Thoughts on education of combat characteristics. I managed to put my thoughts a little on paper, but for lack of time it is still not possible to finish what I started, and these thoughts persistently haunt me as soon as I get a few minutes from direct work. I have seen from my own experience that a soldier's military past and national traditions are of great importance to the education of combat skills. One of the unwritten chapters of my manuscript in the plan I called "Noble traditions of the Kazakh people, bringing up fighting qualities in jigit", in this personal letter to you as an older brother, I want to share with you the outline of this chapter".    

Meanwhile, the relations between the famous hero Momyshuly and official Ondasynov were discussed by documentary filmmaker Kalilla Omarov:    

"I am preparing a documentary film about Baurzhan Momyshuly for the day of his centenary. And so I was lucky to come across a letter from Baurzhan Momyshuly to his cousin Abdilda, in which he outlined the essence of his conversation with the former Chairman of the Council of Ministers, Nurtas Ondasynov, who came to the house of Baurzhan to apologize to him personally. Few people know about this today, but when the centre came up with a proposal to award Baurzhan Momyshuly the title of Hero of the Soviet Union and the second time they wanted to award him the title of Major General, both times Nurtas Ondasynov, then Chairman of the Council of Ministers, signed a rejection, finding a convenient excuse for this. At the end of his life, Ondasynov comes to the hero and asks for his forgiveness: "We opposed you," he says to Baurzhan, "but you beat us anyway. Today the whole world knows you. And no one will even remember us".  

    However, the author added that the aksakal had the courage to confess his mistakes, which may already indicate the presence of courage and bravery.  

In 1951, Nurtas Ondasynov was sent to study in Moscow, the Higher Party School. Despite the fact that at that time it was perceived as a suspension from service, Nurtas Ondasynov gladly took this news. Two years later, on Brezhnev's recommendation, he was appointed Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the Kazakh SSR. This period of his life was remembered by composer Seilhan Kusayynov:   

   "As a man who knew Nurtas Dandybayevich, I cannot but give my voice to them, because with the anniversary year memory does not end.  

In 1954-1957, he headed the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the Kazakh SSR. At this time, I worked as head of the department of awards and by duty met with him almost daily.

Ondasynov's height was above average, slim and imposing, he seemed harsh at first sight. But in reality he was spiritually noble, sincere and kind to people. Always had a clear position, he was a direct and open person. He spoke very little. He formulated his thoughts competently, never raised his voice, gave no space for emotions. And how he organized the work! He wrote down every task in a thick common notebook. He wrote down the date, content, who he assigned, when the performer had to report. He was in charge of the control.  

Nurtas Dandybayevich led the meetings of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet, working meetings as a good conductor. He did not interrupt the speakers, asked questions competently and appropriately. At the end, he made short announcements. If he wanted to strengthen the machine, he did not expel workers, did not invent "reasons". As a human being, he took care to employ them in other institutions. The characteristic of Ondasynov was that he neither criticized nor rejected the opinions of his subordinates. He always said: "Your offer is good. We will study it. We'll put it into life." And he said to his deputies: "If you tell an employee that his proposal is bad, he will not offer anything else. We'll "kill" his initiative. We'll follow through on good suggestions. And they'll see for themselves what's right and what's wrong."      

In May 1955, he went to head the Guryev Regional Executive Committee, and a year and a half later - Guryev Regional Executive Committee. Interestingly, he was allowed to choose himself, and his choice fell on the most backward area. People who knew him explained this choice by the fact that he had never looked for easy ways and tried to devote himself to all work.

In Guryev region, Ondasynov paid special attention to youth. Ondasynov’s driver, Zakharov told how once Nurtas Dandibaevich, driving on the steppes of Mangistau, met a shepherd with whom the chairman of the regional committee talked all night in an incomprehensible language, and in the morning told the driver: "We are looking for educated people in the city, but a simple shepherd knows Arabic, Persian and Uzbek". Later, Ondasynov's efforts in the region included building a road from Shevchenko to Guryev, a bridge across the Ural River and, despite Khrushchev's resistance, a shell factory that will cover the entire Olympic village in Moscow. Its role in the discovery and development of oil fields on the Mangyshlak Peninsula is particularly worth noting.  

In 1962, Nurtas Ondasynov, aged 58, retired and moved to Moscow at his wife's insistence. On retirement he undertook serious scientific work, which resulted in a three-volume Kazakh-Persian (1974) and Kazakh-Arabic (1969) dictionaries, as well as thorough research of the etymology of Kazakh names.  

His son Iskander remembered:      

"In 1962, father retired. Immediately there was a problem - what to do? Father expressed his wish to take up the Arabic-Kazakh dictionary. It must be said that the basis for such work was laid in childhood, when the village mullah taught him Arabic. He started literally from scratch: he read books in Kazakh and wrote down words that came to us from Arabic language. At first, it seemed like a drop in the sea. But not for nothing they say - a drop sharpens a stone. He spent a lot of time in the Library... Lenin Library. Later, talking to someone he knows, he jokingly notices that in Leninka he took a course at four universities. The Kazakh-Arabic and Persian-Kazakh dictionaries were published in three volumes. Experts in Arabic and Persian believe that the dictionaries are of great scientific value".      

Nurtas Ondasynov died November 1, 1989 in Moscow. It is noteworthy that a year before his death he came to his native village to erect a monument at the local mazar to his three mothers: who gave birth, fed and raised. Next to them, Nurtas Ondasynov himself was buried.  

Researchers of his life write that despite the long life, which, as he himself said, he did not get tarnished neither by bribes, nor by denunciations, nor by signatures in firing lists, he had three moments left which he regrets: the fact that he, having married a Russian girl for love, did not teach his children the Kazakh language, the fact that he spent the rest of his days away from his native land, and the fact that he did not have time to bring up a student who would continue his research. Otherwise, he really did the best he could.


Author: Ayan Aden