Thousands of years ago an original culture which revered nature was born in the nomadic society in the very centre of Eurasia, within the limitless steppe among high mountains and lakes. It appeared as a result of the merging of the cultures of Mongolian and Turkic people and later it was enriched by elements of Islamic and Persian world-views.
During that period Kazakhstan did not exist as a state. However, a centuries-old cultural community had already been formed. The term "Kazakh" which means "free" appeared later in the 14th-15th centuries. As a result of a passionate yearning for defining the position of this culture among other cultures with which they had something in common and at the same time were different, it became necessary to unite many tribes of the steppe into something integral and united on the basis of the similarity of behavior, language (the Turkic language) and places of residence. So before the state appeared, a free nomadic culture existed which was based on the practical knowledge of reality and spiritual concepts in quite difficult conditions of permanent movement in expanse and time.
Later this highly developed culture with a multilayered structure was enriched with new knowledge and principles which were typical of a settled lifestyle. The representatives of the nomadic ethnic groups of the steppe were not the exclusive members of this culture since the representatives of other cultures also entered it. Since that moment the culture has been developing as an original Kazakh one which maintains the traditions, customs, language, etc. and as a culture of Kazakhstan which includes the features of numerous nations (more than 130) residing today in the country.
Today the culture of Kazakhstan represents a complex of aesthetic values of the Kazakh people, conveyed in original and different spiritual and material forms.
As a result of its nature the culture provides us with the development and enrichment of creative potential and with an individual place in the family of national cultures.
Folk arts and crafts
In traditional creative works of craftsmen the "space" of people’s nomadic culture, the vision of the world and its beauty, methods and forms of adaption to natural climatic conditions of the Great steppe are embodied.
The vertex form is the yurt is a perfect example of portable and moveable on horses and camels houses. Its exterior and interior design is decorated with carpets and work pieces of felt with embroidery. Household items made of felt, wood, leather, metal.
National men clothes are velvet shapan, belt with embroidering, skullcap, and cones. National ladies clothes are tunic dress and jacket made of cotton, silk and velvet.
Masters (zergerler) in making the jewelries of gold, antique white silver the molding, engraving, punch work, filigree, niello, granulation, enamel practices were applied. National ornament which is widely used in manufacture is a unique, full of rich meaning of the soul language of the Kazakh people.
Music is the voice of people’s soul. Ancient Kazakh instruments are dombra and kobyz (plucked), clay reedpipe - saz-syrnay, seraphine - sabyzgy. The creator of kobyz and instrumental genre kuis is a legendary Turkic philosopher and musician Korkyt.
Great Kazakh dombra players – kuishi – are Asan Kaigy (XVc.), Tattimbet, Dauletkerei, Kurmangazy, kobyz players Ykylas (XIX c.), Nurgisa Tlendiev (XXc.). Great singers are Zhayau Musa, Akan Sere, Amre, Madi, Kenen (XIX-XX c.), Shamshi Kaldayakov (XXc.).
The composers of professional school gained international fame, among them are E. Brusilovsky (author of the first national opera "Kyz Zhibek"), E. Rakhmadiyev (the creator of the "Symphony kui" genre); virtuosos-pianist J. Aubakirova, violinists A. Musakhodjaeva, M. Bisengaliyev; opera singers E. Serkebaev, B. Tulegenova, A. Dnishev, E. Kurmangaliyev; pop star R. Rymbayeva. There are 3 opera and ballet theaters, a number of symphony and many folk orchestras and ensembles in Kazakhstan.
For centuries the Great steppe has been the scene of foreign invasions which led to the destruction of many medieval towns and architectural objects. The mausoleum of H. A.Yassaui (XIV-XV c.) is one of the survived objects (Turkestan). It is included in the UNESCO World Heritage List. The minister of Holy Ascension Cathedral in Almaty (1907) is included in the Register of World Monuments UNESCO. The world-famous Palace of the Republic (Almaty, 1970, architects N. Ripinsky and others), "Medeu" complex (1972, architect V. Katsev, A. Kaynarbaev). "Architectural renaissance" began in the years of independence in Kazakhstan. Astana (general construction plan of architect K. Kurokov (1934-2007), Japan) witnessed the building of the "Ak Orda" residence of the president of the country (architect K. Montakhayev (1950-2009), Kazakhstan), water-green parkway (K. Kurokawa), the Palace of peace and Reconciliation (2006) and "Khan Shatyr" center (2010, architect N. Foster, England); "Kazakhstan" the Central concert Hall (2009, architect M. Nicoletti, Italy); the "Nur Astana" mosque (2005, architect C. Hafiz, Lebanon); and a number of sports facilities for the Asian Games2011.
Kazakhs have been keeping in their heart the heroic epos -"Koblandy batyr", "Er Targyn", "Kambar batyr" and lyric-epic tales: "Kyz Zhibek", "Kozy Korpesh - Bayan Sulu", "Yenlik-Kebek". Aityses caused a constant people’s delight-poetry contest of akyns: Suyunbay (XIX c.), Zhambyl (ХХ c.).
The founder of written literature is a thinker, poet, educator Abai (1845-1904), his poems "Gakliya" ("Words of edification"). The mission of Abai was inherited by democrats in the early ХХ c., among whom are poet, reformer of Kazakh graphics A. Baitursynov(1873-1938), who said: "The consider the word to be the first of the arts"; M. Dulatov(1885-1935), "Oyan, kazakh" set of works ("Wake up, kazakh!"); M. Zhumabayev (1893-1938) one of the greatest lyricist. The world famous writers are M. Auezov (1897-1961) and his epic novel "The Way of Abai"(1954), I. Yesenberlin (1915-1983), a "Nomads "trilogy (1973); poet M. Shakhanov and his poem "Mistake of civilization"(2001); poet, turcologist, permanent representative of Kazakhstan to UNESCO O. Suleimenov, his poem "The Land, unbonnet to man!" (1961), the study of "Az i Ya"(1975).
There are survived ancient rocks paintings in some regions of Kazakhstan (I-II century BC – VIII-IX century AD.). Tamgaly Tas petroglyphs (Almaty region) were included in the World Heritage List of UNESCO.
The first national professional artist is watercolor A. Kasteyev (1904-1973). His teacher N. Khludov (1850-1935) is an author of ethnographically accurate and romantic paintings about the life of nomads. Masterly landscapes of J. Shardenov (1927-1992); pieces of E. Tolepbai who is the creator of the "magic impressionism"; works of fantasts S. Kalmykov (1891-1967), known as the "Iconic of Almaty" of world significance; graphic lists of M. Kisamedinova who glorified the image Kazakh knight and Makhambet poet in XIX are widely known people. The country has about 70 state museums, containing expositions dedicated to the culture, art and literature of Kazakhstan.
The monuments of Almaty are the national heritage, among which are the work of the first national sculptor H. Nauryzbayev (1925-2009) - Abai (1960); the memorial of Ch. Valikhanov (1971) in Kokshetau, the author of which is T. Dosmagambetov, a Kenesary Khan memorial (2001), the author N. Dalbai; "Baiterek" monument (2002), the author N. Foster, "Kazakh Eli" (2008) is the country's first architect and sculptural complex demonstrating fate of the Kazakh people (group of sculptors led by N. Dalban, architect S. Zhunusov and others).
Theater art of Kazakhstan
The theatre art in Kazakhstan began in 1926 with the presentation of the "Yenlik - Kebek" performance, according to the M. Auezov’s play (Kyzylorda). The theater was relocated to Almaty in 1928. In the 1930's Kazakh theaters were opened in a number of regional centers. Russian Drama Theater in Semipalatinsk was formed in 1933, soon moved to Almaty. Uighur Theater was opened in 1934 there, and Korean Theater (Kyzylorda) was opened in 1937, Almaty witnessed the opening of the Puppet Theatre in 1935 and the Theatre for Young People in 1944. The period between 1960 and 1990 is the time of the most brilliant performances in the Kazakh Drama Theater named after M. Auezov (theater director - People's Artist of the USSR, A. Mambetov): «The Taming of the Shrew» by William Shakespeare with Bukeeva H. and Aimanov Sh. (Katharina and Petruchio), "Mother's Field" of Ch. Aitmatov with S. Maikanova (Tolganay), «The Cabal of Hypocrites» by M. Bulgakov with N. Zhanturin (Moliere).
Kazakh State Academic Opera and Ballet Theatre named after Abai opened in Almaty in 1934. The first opera in Kazakhstan was staged in 1936. About 50 operas and ballets were written since then. In 2000 the opera of M. Tulebayev «Birzhan and Sara» started the biography of the National Opera and Ballet Theatre named after K. Baiseitova in Astana which is the youngest music theater in the country. 50 theaters welcome people in Kazakhstan.
Cinematography in Kazakhstan
«Kazakhfilm» is the only film company in Kazakhstan. It was created in 1960 as part of the Almaty Studio of Newsreels (1934). Now Kazakhstan makes 30-40 feature films, documentaries and cartoons annually.
In 2006 «Kazakhfilm» started the «People’s Choice: Golden Collection of Kazakh Cinema» campaign. 20 films out of 50 that were chosen by the audience have been restored. The leaders of the rating were «Abai» (A. Amirkulov, 1995), «Enemy, be Afraid of the Ninth Son» (V. Pusurmanov, V. Chugunov, 1984), «Blood and Sweat» (A. Mambetov, Y. Mastyugin, 1978), «Zhambyl» (E. Dzigan, 1955) and «The Legendary Chokan» (A. Ashimov, Tsoy Guk In, 1984).
«Kazakhfilm» held «A New Documentary of Kazakhstan» festival dedicated to the 20th anniversary of the independence of Kazakhstan in Almaty in March 2011. The «I’m 20 Years Old» film about the life of young people who are the same age as the independence of Kazakhstan made by students of the T. Zhurgenov Kazakh National Academy of Art in Almaty, will be of great importance.
There are about 70 states museums in Kazakhstan with exhibitions dedicated to culture, art and literature of Kazakhstan.