Born into a Kazakh nomadic community in 1922, Mukhamet Shayakhmetov was raised in the steppe land stretching from the Caspian Sea to the Tian Shan Mountains. After Joseph Stalin implemented collectivization in the late 1920s, food and livestock were seized by the government, and 1.2 million Kazakhs died of starvation. Shayakhmetov’s family was deemed kulaks and his father deported to work in a coal mine, where he later died. At the age of nineteen, Shayakhmetov was conscripted into the Red Army, after which he returned to Kazakhstan and became a teacher. His memoir of his early years, The Silent Steppe: The Story of a Kazakh Nomad Under Stalin, was published in 2006.