‘Les parisiennes’ in our steppe

Autor of text: 
One of the best-informed steppe inhabitants researcher of the 19th century, Vassiliy Radlov, once wrote that Kazakhs “with all the good reason could be called the French of the Western Asia”. His statement was justified with the extraordinary sociable manner of the nomads, their love for fun and ‘flowery conversations’.

And if we try and gather together all the written praises of Russian travelers about Kazakh women’s virtues, there will be a lot more of them than those of much-praised Parisian women. “Girls aged 16-20 are particularly pleasing, and young women under 25 are also not at all bad”. Sharp-eyed onlookers noted that young women and girls had “a light and swaying step”. And in order to look still more gorgeous, steppe belles extensively used such cosmetics as fard, rouge and… yellow paint for fingers.

We cannot but recall the short-lived steppe infatuation of Alexander Pushkin, who one day accidentally dropped by a roadside Kalmyk jurt. Pushkin even daydreamed how he would burn all his bridges behind him and roam about with nomads where his feet would take him (and nomad’s feet always take them out to the steppe). But he confined himself to just writing a verse.

 If the national genius of Russia had found himself not in a Kalmyk but Kazakh jurt, Russians well could say goodbye to him forever. The reason, in Radlov’s opinion, is that “a Kazakh woman feels freer with men than a Kalmyk and even Russian one”. And, according to Grigori Potanin, another expert on nomadic life, Kazakh women are head and shoulders above all the rest steppe women, both in their beauty and clean habits. Unlike Mongolian women who never washed themselves, and, moreover, wore their clothes until they got completely decomposed, daughters of our steppes loved to cut a dash in snow-white garment and found every possibility to keep up their ‘Parisian’ reputation just being neat and tidy. 

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