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Hadzhimukan Munaitpasov

The famous Kazakh wrestler and circus artist.  The repeated world champion in Greco-Roman wrestling among professionals.  The first Kazakh who won a title of the world champion in French wrestling.  The owner of about fifty awards and medals.


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Hadzhimukan was born on 7th April, 1871 (according to his passport) in the village Karaotkel of Akmola region of modern Kazakhstan. His father Munaitpas Ernakov was a poor man, but had so much physical power and often won in wrestling duels and got the name “thick legged baluan”.  Hadzhimukan’s grandfather Ernak also distinguished with his great physical power and wrestling skills, he was the one who had predicted the bright future of his grandson and started training him the national type of wrestling “Kazakhsha kures” (which means “Kazakh wrestling”)

Hadzhimukan comes from Altybas from the tribe Qypchaq which is famous for its heroes and batyrs. His ancestry looks like this: Qypchaq Toktarbai, then Koblandy Toktarbaiuly, Terlikbai, Oibas, Uzun, Altybas, Karys, Zholaman, Sanbai, Shadi – batyr (lived during the reign of Abylai Khan), his grandfather Ernak, father Munaitpas and then Hadzhimukan.

There were some legends that his grandfather from the line of his mother – Lek – baluan had such a power even could pull up the tress with the roots.

He was orphaned at the age of 9 and in his childhood had to herd sheep of rich people. Hadzhimukan started working for rich people when he was a teenager and performed hard physical work. In searching jobs he went to Kyzylzhar where he worked for a local rich man. His mother told that he could bet and as a fun had to eat the whole meat of a sheep or drink a full ramp of oil. The legend says that Hadzhimukan once pulled up the bull stuck in the mud. There is also a story which tells that in 1889 the master of Hadzhimukan ordered him to bring dry hay in the dead of winter. On the way one of the horses fell down and could not get up, after which Hadzhimukan had to put him on the cart, tied the second horse behind and pulled them to the village.

Hadzhimukan even didn’t reach his 17, when he was talked as a strong wrestler who had plenty of wins over famous wrestlers of Akmola region and his fame started spreading all over the Kazakh steppe. He had been invited to the circus when he was 18. He worked in the stables and also learned the tricks of circus wrestling. When he was 20, he appears on the arena for the first time.

Rise of legend

In 1901 the championship of  French wrestling was opened in Omsk and rumors about the performances of professional wrestlers and their wins over local wrestler reached Hazhimukan. A Russian fighter Andrei Zlobin who tested colossal physical abilities of a young Kazakh wrestler, advises him to choose wrestling as his profession and enter the school of wrestlers named after Ivan Vladimirovich Lebedev.

The first success comes to Hadzhimukan in 1905 in Harbin. He succeeded in wrestling “Jiu-Jitsu” without any defeats and won a golden medal. After coming back from Harbin Hadzhimukan acquired fame “The champion of Manchuria”. He had several nicknames: “Cherniy Ivan” (“Black Ivan”)( because he performed in the stuff of “four Ivans” together with Ivan Poddybniy, Ivan Zaikin and Ivan Shemyakin); “Red Mask”;  but the nickname “Mukhanura” remained with him till the October Revolution;“Yamagata Mukhanura” (was given to Hadzhimukan by Ivan Lebedev, who wanted to attract the public to the performances of the Kazakh wrestler. They said that Mukhanura was “menacing samurai” and “the guard of Japanese Emperor”); the nickname “Kara-Mustafa” (“Black Mustafa”) Hadzhimukan was given before his performance in Turkey, and after going to hajj in 1912, he got the prefix “Hadzh” (pilgrim) which he became popular with all over the world.

In 1909 in the World Championship of French wrestling in Gothenburg (Sweden) Hadzhimukan won the golden medal and became the first Kazakh who won the title of the world champion of wrestling.

Hadzhimukan wins a great success at the end of 1913 in Troitsk, where he performed 18 times and didn’t lose at all.

In pre-revolutionary period Hadzhimukan successfully performed in international arenas together with such legendary fighters as Ivan Poddubny, Georg Lurih and Ivan Zaikin.

Force. Spirit. Patriotism.

After a civil war he started his favorite job – he organized different championships throughout Kazakhstan. In 1926 in Kyzylorda he opened a professional theater in the history of the Kazakh people for the first time. Many talents started their career in this theatre among them: one of the winners of world contest of national artists in Paris (1927) Amre Kashaubayev, People’s artist of Kazakhstan Kalibek Kuanyshpayev and a well-known poet-improvisator Isa Baizakov.

In 1940 being rather old Hadzhimukan decided to perform in front of the public for the last time and complete his career. However, when the Great Patriotic War started, many circus artists gave their fund to support the front and Hadzhimukan not wanting to leave friends, organized circus tent and performed in front of the public to raise funds to help the Soviet soldiers. Using simple props like hammer, chains and weights he toured all over the villages. 70 year old man again made power moves. Sometimes, not finding a truck, instead of it, he had to lie under a barn gate and the whole village paced on through it.

Hadzhimukan held his last performance in 1944 in the regions of South Kazakhstan region and the collected money in the amount of 100 thousand rubles he gave to the Defense Fund of USSR. For collected money he bought a place to present it on behalf of his name to the Soviet Army (model У-2) which he wanted to be named after the legendary Kazakh Amangeldy Imanov.

 As a response to the request Hadzhimukan got a telegram of gratitude from Stalin, in which he satisfied his request:

Comrade Hadzhi Mukan, please accept my greetings and gratitude of Red Army, for your care of Air Forces of Red Army. Your wish will be realized. — Stalin

This plane was officially given by Hadzhimukan, under the management of a young Kazakh pilot Kazhytai Shalabayev, he fought in Baltic and Leningrad fronts, made 217 combat missions (120 of them were night ones) and were 430 hours in the air.

In the last years of his life Hadzhimukan remained without attention from the side of the government and had to sell his medals to feed his big family. He was refused to visit his old friend Ivan Poddubnyi whose fate was tragic too. Many fighters including Hadzhimukan were persecuted by NKVD (People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs) for allegedly serving to establish “tsarism” and other crimes. Despite it, Hadzhimukan with his authority helped his relatives who during the repression came under “ dispossession ”  in the 30`s.

Hadzhimukan dies on 12th August, 1948 at the age of 77, presumably because of pneumonia living in a stable, in the Kolkhoz (farm) “Leninskoe znamya” (Lenin’s flag) of South Kazakhstan region.

His family and generation

His first wife was a circus artist Nadezhda Chepkovskaya who after marriage converted to Islam and got a Muslim name Batima (Fatima). They met in 1909 in Riga, and their wedding took place in Omsk.

They had a son – Haliolla. When Hadzhimukan got married for the second time, Batima went to Gabdolla to live with, whom they had adopted from the orphanage with Hadzhimukan. She died in the hands of his granddaughter Raziya (Halliolla’s daughter) in 1966 in the village Redkoe of Nazyvaevskii region of Omsk district where still the descendants of Hadzhimukan have been living.

In 1925 he married Yrysty Tynybayevna with whom he had three daughters (Sofiya, Aziya and Rashida), in 1938 he married Munaiym and in 1946 Aishagul. Munaiym bore him a son – Aidarkhan, and the last wife, bore him a son Zhanadil when he was 78.

Hadzhimukan’s foster – son Gabdolla, by his nationality Russian, was an educated person and executed the position of a prosecutor at first in Omsk and then in Ukraine who participated in the fight against Bandera and was killed by them.

Hadzhimukan’s grandson – Shattyk Kazhymukanov is a master of sport of an international class, and in 2002  became a silver medalist of the Asian Games.

His another grandson Bakytzhan Hadzhimukanov – a famous composer, winner of “Asiya Dausy” and “Zhas Kanat”

Hadzhimukan, an orphan and a simple shepherd in the past, became a national hero. The huge letters in the posters were majestically claimed: “Hadzhimukan Munaitpasov – the world champion”.

Kazakh people will always remember the glorious path of the great athlete, a man who fought to the end of his life and was gone undefeated!

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