British Writer Presents Book about 19th Century Travellers’ Journey to Kazakhstan


Nick Fielding, renowned British writer, journalist and author of “South to the Great Steppe: The Travels of Thomas and Lucy Atkinson in Eastern Kazakhstan, 1847-1852,” presented his book July 25 at Kazakhstan’s National Academic Library.

“This book is about the journey that took place in 1848… That was a very hard winter,” said Fielding.

The Atkinsons explored the spacious Kazakh land, travelling hundreds of thousands of miles south from Siberia in the Great Steppe, according to the library press release. In September 1848 they reached the town of Kapal at the base of the Jungar Alatau Mountains, where their son was born two months later. They named him Alatau Tamshybulak Atkinson in honour of the well-known local spring.

“When they arrived in Kapal, that little village was the outpost of the Russian empire… Almaty did not exist and it was a very isolated place. It was amazing that they reached this town. Lucy nearly died on the way and it was only because of the hospitality of the local people that they were able to survive,” noted the author.

During their trips the couple met ordinary Kazakhs, famous sultans and bis (rulers/leaders). They stayed in villages, socialised with Kazakh families, recorded their conversations and described the way the people lived, said the press release.No writer depicted the life of the steppe nomads and created their portraits in such detail as Thomas Atkinson, it added.

“This is the only record we have from this period,” said Fielding.

The book contains notes, diaries and letters kept in the private archive of one of Thomas’ descendants, as well as high-quality copies of lithographs and engravings. It also has a map of East Kazakhstan showing the route the family travelled, reproductions of paintings and his correspondence with Russian authorities. Atkinson’s portraits of Kazakh leaders are presently quite valuable.

Fielding wrote the book in the hope of demonstrating the Atkinson’s abilities as great explorers.

Read full story at Astana Times