Great Women in the History of Kazakhstan

Women have played an important role in the history of Kazakhstan, making a significant contribution to the development of the country. They have shown courage, determination and talent in various walks of life, from politics and education to culture. Today, their role is being recognized, and women in Kazakhstan are becoming more aware of their actions than ever before.

“I have always been inspired by our women, the women of the great steppe,” Karina from Taraz told TCA, “especially in the field of culture, because at that time, such professions were considered solely for men. Thanks to them, we now have the opportunity not only to work in such professions, but also to become respected individuals.”

“Because of them, I have the opportunity to become whatever I want to be,” Alina from Astana told TCA. “Their talent and drive has given freedom to the next generation.”

Today, on International Women’s Day, we take a look at some of the outstanding women whose lives have had a fundamental impact on the course of the nation’s history.


A still from the movie, “Tomyris”

The name of Tomyris, the Queen of the Massagetes, is well-known in the culture of Kazakhstan, and is a source of pride and inspiration for Kazakhstani women. Queen Tomyris fought the mighty Persian king, Cyrus the Great, demonstrating her military prowess and intransigence. Tomyris won the battle, in which most of the Persian Army was destroyed.

According to a legend, she placed Cyrus’ head in a wine fur filled with blood, saying: “You thirsted for blood, king of the Persians, so drink it now to your heart’s content.” Thus, Tomyris brought peace to her people.

Nazipa Kul zhanova


Nazipa Kul zhanova was the first accredited female teacher in Kazakhstan and the first female journalist on the editorial staff of Yenbekshi Kazakh (Working Kazakh). An educator, ethnographer and translator, she became the preeminent specialist in the preparation of the Kazakh alphabet. Among other things, her philosophical articles addressed the role of a woman’s place in public life and in the family.

A proponent of the importance of education and the active participation of women in the progress and development society, Kulzhanova stated that “A woman is the mother of the people. Only an educated, skillful, free woman is able to raise her people to the level of advanced nations.”

Nagima Arykova


Nagima Arykova was an outstanding woman stateswoman and one of the leading lights of the women’s movement in Kazakhstan. She was the author of “The Role of a Woman Commissioner” and “The Struggle for the Rights of Working Women in Kazakhstan.” Arykova was the editor of the newspaper Kazakh capital, and was the first woman to become a leading member of the government of Kazakhstan.

Manshuk Mametova


Manshuk Mametova was a machine-gunner during the Second World War and was the first Kazakh woman to be awarded the title of Hero of the Soviet Union. On October 15th 1943, during the battle for the liberation of Nevel, Manshuk felled as many as seventy enemy soldiers, an incredible achievement memorialized in the military history of Kazakhstan.

Aliya Moldagulova

During the Second World War, at the age of seventeen, Moldogulova volunteered and was sent to the front-line. In Kazakhstan, women who were sent to the front-line accounted for 40% of the total volunteers. Despite the doubts of her commanders, Moldogulova proved her determination and skill.

A letter written by a Lieutenant Colonel and kept in the Heroine’s Museum in Aktobe reads that Aliya “worked tirelessly to destroy the Germans. She killed 32 Nazis in a short period. In January, our unit was tasked with breaking through the enemy’s defenses… Leah fired a rifle and threw grenades, killing ten enemy soldiers and one officers [then] took a sub-machine gun and opened fire, killing 28 German soldiers and officers. But they managed to get to our trench. A hand-to-hand battle began. The heroine shot eight enemy soldiers. But Leah did not notice the German officer [and] she could not escape. Gathering her last strength, Leah pointed her machine gun at the officer, and pulled the trigger. This was the last German killed by her.” Moldogulova was awarded the title of Hero of the Soviet Union and posthumously awarded the Order of Lenin.

Aisha Galimbayeva

Photo: National Academic Library of the Republic of Kazakhstan

Aisha Galimbayeva made a significant contribution to the art of Kazakhstan with her vivid depictions of women’s changing position in the Soviet Union. She is fondly remembered for her sketches for the famous black-and-white movie, “Songs of Abay.” Today, she still stands as a role model for many artists, and is memorialized for demonstrating that a woman is capable of opening new horizons and realizing her creative potential, particularly in a period when the profession of an artist was considered predominantly “male.” Galimbayeva became a member of the Union of Artists of Kazakhstan and continued to actively create and contribute to the development of art in Kazakhstan until her passing at the age of eighty in 2008.

“I am especially inspired by Aisha Galimbayeva, not only with her paintings and costumes, but by her actions and love for art no matter what,” Alua from Taraz told TCA.

Kulyash Baiseitova


Despite coming from a background where her parents were so poor, they could not afford to feed her and gave her up to an orphanage, Kulyash Baiseitova became an outstanding opera singer and actress, who became the first Kazakh to receive the title of People’s Artist of the USSR at the age of just 24. Her talent led to her emergence on the world opera scene. In 1938, Baisetova became a deputy of the Supreme Soviet of the Kazakh SSR.

Almagul Menlibayeva


Almagul Menlibayeva is an outstanding contemporary artist and curator creative work has had a telling influence on the global art scene. Her pieces have made a unique and valuable contribution to art, revealing important social and environmental issues in the context of Central Asia.


Times of Central Asia