The author of the Explanatory Dictionary of the Living Great Russian Language, a friend of Pushkin and Zhukovsky, a gifted writer, maker of textbooks on Botany and Zoology, natural scientist and ethnographer, one of the founding members of the Russian Geographical Society, the Academy of Science honorary member, doctor and the great patriot of Russia - Vladimir Ivanovich Dahl, was an insider in the land of steppes.
Back then he was not a bearded old man, but an ardent youth as depicted on the survived portrait of that period. The thing is that in 1833-1840 Dahl served as official of special commissions for Perovskiy, the governor of Orenburg. And back then, the large part of modern West Kazakhstan belonged to Orenburg region, which was constantly expanding due to military and political campaigns.
Knocking about the whole region with his “special commissions”, the inquisitive Dahl absorbed impressions he was getting from nature and people. And although he sent (as a joke) a blank piece of paper with a single horizontal line and two words: sky above and earth below to some news-writer who had asked him to describe the steppe, it is the evidence rather of his sense of humour than lack of power of observation.
It is enough to recall that just Dahl wrote Beekay and Maulyan – “the first authentic story about the life of Kazakhs”, which was translated even into French, and many sketches on everyday life and traditions of people living in the steppe. Actually, today we have extremely valuable information on history of west areas of Kazakhstan from Dahl’s records he was making all the time while he was there. These contain the unique collection of his observations, legends, descriptions… Alas, not all of them survived, because “they were ruined in the fireplace of Dahl, who burnt them down together with his other notes in 1848”. Why? That’s another story.