Kazakh Aul of the United States

Background

The Republic of Kazakhstan is a large country that encompasses three time zones and has a population of fifteen million people. It borders Russia to the north and west, China to the east, and Kyrgystan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan to the south.

The Kazakh people have a long and rich history of nomadic traditions over many centuries. Unfortunately, the Kazakh culture and nomadic lifestyle was decimated by the Soviet Union, which governed Kazakhstan until independence in 1991. Despite the hardships engendered by Soviet domination, the strong Kazakh spirit persevered, and the young country actively supports the wonderful cultural traditions that are an inherent part of the Kazakh identity.

What is an Aul?

Before the Sovietization of their culture, the Kazakhs were a nomadic people who moved with the seasons as they searched for pastures to support their herds of livestock that included sheep, camels, goats and horses. It was a rough life that despite hardships, was tempered by the strength of family and community, for people depended on each other to help deal with the unpredictability and challenges presented by Mother Nature. Out of necessity, families relied on one another, and the result was a complex social structure that included the formation of traveling nomadic villages called Auls.

Families depended on each other in the Aul (pronounced ah-OOL), often for their very survival. The Aul provided vital community support that kept families alive during harsh times, and the Aul was also there to celebrate happy ones.Because the Aul was the backbone of life for the Kazakh nomads, the word Aul continues to have important symbolic cultural significance today for native Kazakhs and Kazakh culture.

The Aul symbolizes traditional Kazakh culture on many emotional and intellectual levels. When a native Kazakh today thinks of the Aul, s/he has an almost visceral feeling of strength in family, in extended family, and the supportive community of the Kazakh village. Even though many Kazakhs live in cities today, the strength of family and community ties engendered by centuries of Aul living continues on in modern Kazakh life. The Aul sensibility is an integral part of the Kazakh identity, and provides people with a sense of community strength and support that is often not a part of contemporary American culture.

Americans Adopting Children in Kazakhstan

Since 1998, American families have adopted more than 5,000 children from Kazakhstan. Despite this huge increase in the population of Kazakh-American children, very few accessible resources on Kazakh culture exist in the U.S. for these new families.

Literature on parenting children who are adopted stresses the need for cultural education for children who are adopted trans-culturally. While cultural awareness is an important part of anyone’s identity, perhaps it is even more so for children who are being raised in a culture very different from that of their birth, and who may look physically different from their adoptive families. These children may be cherished in their adoptive families; however, questions they may have about who they are and about their birth culture tend to become inevitable as they grow up. These children need to learn about their cultural background and to be instructed in developmentally appropriate and loving ways.

Cultural Education for Children and Families

The Kazakh Aul of the United States,Association for American & Kazakh Families, was created to meet the cultural needs of families with children from Kazakhstan, by providing Kazakh cultural education through heritage camps, cultural exchange, and holiday celebrations. We aim to help all members of the families, including parents, to learn about Kazakh culture so that entire families may share in Kazakh traditions. The Kazakh Aul of the United States is also dedicated to providing education in American culture to children and their families who currently live in Kazakhstan. By bringing together American and Kazakh families and their children, we aim to establish a bridge between the American and Kazakh cultures, to make the world a little smaller, and to bring people from both cultures together in our village, our Aul.

Our American Aul

A primary aim of our organization is to provide a sense of community for American families with children from Kazakhstan. Using the traditional Kazakh Aul as our model, our goal is create an ongoing, supportive "village" where people will get to know one another over the years, an Aul that will be there for our children in the years to come.