Image Of The Mother In A.M. Amur-Sanan’s Novel «Muudran Kövün» («Mudreshkin's Son»)


The paper considers the image of mother. The material of the research is a bilingual Russian-Kalmyk text of (Russian «Мудрешкин сын»,) written by A.M. Amur-Sanan, a founder of the modern Kalmyk literature. Principal methods of research were linguistic portrait and linguistic culturological analysis. During the study of the parallel texts, an image of traditional Kalmyk woman is modeled, that of a wife and a mother. Characteristic features of her personality are defined. These features are revealed through analysis of familial relations, circumstances motivating to certain conduct, as well as behavior of personages in various situations of life. Besides, in order to create an objective personal portrait of a Kalmyk woman, features of the traditional Kalmyk society are taken into account. Analysis of the literary text allows for a conclusion on dynamics of the image of the mother. In the beginning of the novel, a reader sees a timid, frightened, ignorant woman, while in the end of the novel it is a different person, socially active and understanding social needs. It is not a coincidence that the author of the novel provides the image of the mother with personality traits which are not typical of a Kalmyk woman. In these new features of the mother’s personality one may see the influence of the ideology of the author, who was a Bolshevik and helped bring the Soviet role to Kalmykia in 1920s. The image of the mother shows features of a morally elevated person, a Soviet Kalmyk woman.

Keywords: Kalmyks, family, Kalmyk woman, image of a woman


Anton Mudrenovich Amur-Sanan, a founder of the modern Kalmyk literature, made a significant contribution to establishment and formation of the autonomy of the Kalmyk people. A 100-years anniversary of the autonomy is celebrated this year. A. M. Amur-Sanan was acquainted with many significant persons of the 20th century, including V. I. Lenin, S. M. Kirov, N. I. Bukharin, D. Bedny and A. M. Gorky, the latter significantly influenced formation of his own social understanding and worldview (Esenova, 2007). Literary works of A. M. Amur-Sanan reflect both outgoing traditional and incipient new life of the Kalmyk people at the turn of the 20th century; they include a row of portraits showing typical representatives of various social strata of the Kalmyk society, making the test a unique research object for historians, ethnographists, literary researchers, linguists and sociologists alike.

Problem Statement

The person of A.M. Amur-Sanan became a subject of a rather extensive literature that evaluates his social and governmental activities (Komandzhaev, 1988; Neyachenko, 1988; Poliakov, 1988; Ubushaev, 1988), brings to light his contribution to establishment and development of the Kalmyk literature (Balakaev & Oglaev, 1988; Dzhambinova, 1988; Kabachenko, 1967; Lidzhieva, 1988; Romanenko, 1963; Saldusova, 1988). Memoirs of his wife (Gavrilova, 1988а) and close associates (Gavrilova, 1988b) were published. There wereseveral attempts at creative portrait (Dzhimgirov, 1973; Maiorov & Poliakov, 1970; Musova, 1988) and linguistic portrait (Esenova, 2007) of the writer. At the same time, the author holds that linguistic cultural studies of the heritage of the Kalmyk writer do not receive enough attention.

Research Questions

The chronicle novel of A.M. Amur Sanan, by opinion of historians (Komandzhaev, 1988) and literary scholars (Dzhambinova, 1988), is an encyclopedia of traditional life of Kalmyks. It portrays a panorama of life of Kalmyks from different social strata, showing images of typical representatives of the Kalmyk society: зайсанг (Kalmyk noblemen), ламa (Buddhist clergy), хар ястуд (poor people). This autobiographic novel shows a typical life of a poor Kalmyk in late 19th - early 20th century through the fate of a single representative of the Kalmyk society.

1. The central personage of the novel is Anton, who is also a narrator. General O.I. Gorodovikov wrote in his preface to the novel that the fate of the book’s hero – a former herdsman, a young and energetic Kalmyk – has a lot of common with the fate of Kalmyk working people as a whole (as cited in Amur-Sanan, 1966). This generalization and typification makes the literary work interesting.

2. The novel narrates actions of its personages: a father, a mother and a small child, which characterize each of them. The head of the family sells their family land for bargain and drink away the money from the sale. The family, no longer having a right to graze their cattle or sow crops is doomed to starvation death. In order to save an elderly grandmother and sisters, mother and father from starvation, an eight-years-old son hires himself out as a herdsman, while the mother starts working as a day laborer, felting for well-off families. However, the father boozes away all the money that the son earned by herding fifty cows through bitter cold and insufferable heat, beating the family members and driving them away from the wagon. Impenetrable misery, beatings, fear for his mother and sisters, hatred to father, helplessness in front of his reasonless cruelty – these are the only memories of childhood that the boy has got and carries through his life. The readers see images of an ignorant and angry brawler and drunkard taking no care of his family; a boy maturing ahead of his time, responsible for his family; a browbeaten victim of a tribal society that tries everything to save her family from hunger. The object of research in this paper is the image of one of the central personages in the novel, that of the mother.

Purpose of the Study

The purpose of the study is to model the image of Kalmyk mother by emphasizing the personal features of this type of personality. In order to attain this purpose, we analyze behavior, actions, interactions of the characters, their environment, as well as employ historical and culturological data on peculiarities of traditional Kalmyk society and family ethics.

Research Methods

As a main method, the study uses parallel text analysis. Research material is formed by the novel («Мудрешкин сын» in Russian,) by A.M. Amur-Sanan. The novel was written in Russian, in order to popularize the language among the Kalmyks, who in the early 20th century had very low level of command of Russian on average. It was first published in 1925 and saw 7 reprints in 10 years. Unfortunately, the author did not translate the novel into the Kalmyk language due to his arrest. A. M. Amur-Sanan was purged and executed in 1938. The Kalmyk translation was first made by L. Indzhiev, a famous Kalmyk writer, and first published only in 1986.

In addition, in order to model the image of the mother, we used linguistic portrait and linguo-cultural analysis of literary text.


Our analysis shows that in the image of the mother, on the one hand, one may find typical features of a traditional Kalmyk woman, and on the other hand, the author is showing the origins of the new personal features in the early 20th century. The author never gives the appearance of the mother and never speaks of her age. He is painting a socio-psychological portrait of the mother, which is more important than her physiological portrait. The mother was an orphan and married an, ‘lit. newcomer, i.e., alien’), a rootless pauper. According to Kalmyk perspective, «» ‘a person with relatives is like a ramous tree’, i.e., they are under protection. An orphan is the most helpless person, who everybody may offend and degrade. Anton’s mother was an orphan like that: «. ‘My mother became an orphan at a very young age. This feeling of orphanage linked her to Botokhe. They were very close. Both were standing at the very bottom of the social staircase: two orphans, two despised souls, two unfortunate persons (Amur-Sanan, 1966).

By her marriage with an, the mother doomed herself and her children to scorn from her ‘fellow villagers’. The thing is, according to traditional Kalmyk concepts, a person’s position in the Kalmyk society depends on one’s tribe and who is behind you. If a person is from a noble tribe, they are respected. The persons from a weak tribe or those having no relatives, orphans, are doomed to humiliation, as they have nobody to protect them. Amur-Sanan portrays the married Kalmyk woman as the most disenfranchised creature that experiences humiliation from her husband and outsiders alike. This is because the life of a Kalmyk woman after marriage was limited to a complete subjugation to her husband and his relatives. According to Kalmyk traditions, a married woman becomes an outsider for the family of her birth, as she becomes a part of her husband’s tribe, however, in her new family she is also considered an outsider. A young daughter-in-law was considered free workforce and provided with all the hard work. In the words of Amur-Sanan (1966), « ‘After marriage, the life of a Kalmyk woman in a new family is extremely hard. She gets all the work. She does everything: cooking, washing, sewing clothes, milking and watering cows’. Centuries-old traditional rules dictate that a married woman shall submit to everybody and she even has to take food only after everybody else. Lack of rights and protection, drudgery – this is the social situation of a married Kalmyk woman. This is how the writer shows his mother in the memoirs.

Low social status of women, disrespect to one’s wife and mother – those are the rules derived from the tribal traditions. A woman in the Kalmyk society did not have the same rights as a man. This may be seen in the following customs: wife does not sit near her husband, does not eat with him, does not call him by his name, calling him only You, sleeps on the floor at his feet, etc. The same rules were used in the family of Amur-Sanan. Besides, a woman shall not only submit, but also be patient ad infinitum – these qualities of her personality the authors specifically emphasize. Unfortunately, the husband of Amur-Sanan’s mother was not just any tribeless, but a parasite lounging away his life, a drunkard and a brawler. The father constantly and unmercifully beats the rightless mother who has nobody to protect her. The mother bore brutal beatings from her husband, who vented off his anger and bitterness for his own humiliations from rich villagers. Being raised in Kalmyk traditions of blind obedience to husband, she had no will stand up and oppose his brutal beatings.

The novel never describes any interactions or feelings typical for spouses with respect to each other. Probably, it may be explained by the fact that in Kalmyk families it is considered improper to show off one’s feelings and demonstrate attitudes. In order to reveal the features of family life and familial relations, the author recourses to a sequential narration of past events. With his slow-paced narration, a picture of a typical life of a poor family is drawn. The reader delves into psychological situation in which the family lives and may independently create images of all the family members through their actions, behavior, surroundings created by the narrator. The mother feels nothing but fear with respect to her husband. Agonizingly touching is the mother’s sparing caress from a tired and terribly frightened woman to her son, who keeps in his small but resolute heart a determination to grow up faster and become a protector of his beloved mother: «. ‘Mother will cry no more, I will let nobody hurt her, and if I see somebody hurts her, I will protect her, and I will say to the offender that doing so is not good, forbidden’ (Amur-Sanan, 1966). The feelings with which the writer remembers his mother are full of warmth and tenderness. The author uses observation device, describing events and related feelings as if from the outside. His remembrances of the past are devoid of dialogs, they are recreated through the feelings of a small boy, where only the brightest and thus most memorable pictures from the past are registered. For instance, in this memory, his mother’s sparing caress is not her words of consolation, but non-verbal signs – strokes, glances, embraces, kisses.

As according to traditional family ethics of Kalmyks the father (even if a drunkard and a brawler) is the head of the family, everybody in the house shall submit to him, the mother first of all. In addition to daily labor, she has to bear all the household chores. The mother and her underage children are involved in caring for the livestock, they graze and water them, while the head of the family is busy drinking. In multiple episodes from the childhood of small Anton there are descriptions of inhumanly hard work of a woman in saving the cows, the only source of food for the family. Picturing his mother in her daily hard work, the author creates a portrait of a worker, involved into infinite worries about feeding her family. Gradually, her image is supplemented with new features. Inside a silent, browbeaten woman there is a fearless, sacrificial mother. She does not think of herself and is ready to die for the lives of her children and her elderly mother-in-law, as she understands that she is the only one who can save them from starvation hunger and they have nobody else to rely on. The motherly feelings are the edge that helped her survive terrible misery, brutal beatings from her husband and make her capable of a sacrifice for her children. Despite tiredness, heat, frost, she keeps coming to help her underage son to tend to the cattle.

The son’s feelings towards his mother are expressed in addresses: ‘my mom’, ‘my mam’, ‘my dear’. The son’s attitude to his mother are full of tenderness and compassion. In the end of the novel, the memory of the writer, whose activities led to deep changes in traditional Kalmyk way of life, shows him terrifying pictures of his joyless childhood: « ‘Unwillingly, I remembered my miserable past, my woeful childhood: the same poor wagon, my poor crying mother, my father – always humiliated, always humiliating his family and always drunk. My little timid sisters, like frightened younglings. Our lame and always hungry rust-colored mare. Lean cows, that my mother rose by their tails. Always hungry, with burnt fur on sides, old and reliable dog, lying near the fire in melancholy and looking into my father’s mouth – he was the only one eating fully’ (Amur-Sanan, 1966). The image of humiliated, beaten, crying, hungry, sacrificial mother is created by the writer throughout the novel. It is a typical example of a life of Kalmyk woman, poor orphan who had married a drunkard and a brawler.

Amur-Sanan wrote the novel being influenced by by A.M. Gorky, who, in his own turn, gave high assessment of the Kalmyk writer. Amur-Sanan, coming from the very bottom of the traditional Kalmyk society and having personally experienced the humiliations of poor people, was a stalwart proponent of the Soviet rule, which he helped install in the Kalmyk steppe. From the writer’s biography, it is known that together with the chairman of the Kalmyk Central Committee of the Party, A. C. Chapchaev, and deputy People’s Commissar for ethnic affairs S.S. Pestovsky, he was a co-author of the, which on July 22, 2019 was signed by V. I. Lenin. The facts of the writer’s biography may explain the new individual properties that he emphasizes in the mother’s image: «!». ‘We reached my motherland, my mother told me that she was glad to be back home and that we are going to live together. I answered: «Mom, do you remember how bad was our life? Do you remember our suffering and torture? Now we are well, but so many people continue suffering! We need to fight for them, we need to help them». She understood me and said: «Go, my son!’» (Amur-Sanan, 1966). And to think that earlier, when her son was serving with a count, the mother begged him to come back home, being unable to live without him: «. ‘Having seen me, my mother started crying and trying to persuade me to come back home. She insisted that it is too hard for her without me’ (Amur-Sanan, 1966). Now, however, after the revolution in the Kalmyk steppe, the mother’s position changes: she is no longer thinking narrow, at the level of her family, but at the large scale, at the level of her society. In the name of a better tomorrow of thousands upon thousand of poor people, the mother is becoming separated with her son, letting him go away to fight misery and backwardness. In accordance with the ideological and political concepts of his time, the author shows changes in behavior and worldview of his mother. Her personal spiritual growth is emphasized: from a mother of her personal son to the Mother of all Sons. In this regard, it is possible to talk about certain idealization of the image of the mother. New properties in the character of the mother (social responsibility, moral exaltation over individual) may be explained by the personality of the writer (a Bolshevik, social and political activist, installing the Soviet rule in the Kalmyk steppes by his actions and works), as well as by historical features of the period when the novel was written and the social mandate that the novel covered.


Thus, as a result of studying the parallel texts of the A.M. Amur-Sanan’s novel «Муудран көвүн» (Mudreshka’s son) and analysis of historical and ethnographic literature dedicated to the Kalmyk people, one may conclude that this work creates an authentic image of a Kalmyk woman. Linguo-culturological analysis of the text allowed identifying such characteristic traits in the mother’s personality as patience, hard-working nature, submission, care of her family, love of children. These features are typical characteristics of a Kalmyk woman. In addition, in the structure of personality of the mother one may find new traits, non-traditional for Kalmyk women, they are social activity, care of other people, not only relatives. Dynamics of the image of the mother is related to the features of the historical time when the novel, that paints both old and new life of the Kalmyk people, was written. The mother comes from a beaten, humiliated woman to a free person taking care of hundreds of children. The image of the mother shows the features of a socially active and morally exalted person, a Soviet Kalmyk woman.


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Esenova, G. B., Jalsanov, T. S., & Esenova, T. S. (2021). Image Of The Mother In A.M. Amur-Sanan’s Novel «Muudran Kövün» («Mudreshkin's Son»). In D. K. Bataev, S. A. Gapurov, A. D. Osmaev, V. K. Akaev, L. M. Idigova, M. R. Ovhadov, A. R. Salgiriev, & M. M. Betilmerzaeva (Eds.), Knowledge, Man and Civilization, vol 107. European Proceedings of Social and Behavioural Sciences (pp. 481-487). European Publisher.