FootsTeps of Valikhanov

Self-Portrait, Ink on Paper, 1854.
Enrollment Diploma for Valikhanov’s active membership to the Russian Geographical Society, April 1, 1857, St. Petersburg.

The Czarist Cadet

Aiganym advocated strongly that Chokan get a Russian military education. In 1847, the young Valikhanov, then age 11, left Kazakhstan for Omsk, Siberia to enroll in the Kadet Korpus. His departure for Omsk marked both the beginning of a new life for Valikhanov and the beginning of his Russian military education and involvement.

Omsk of 1847 was the capital of Western Siberia and headquarters to the Siberian Cossack Army, in which Chingis had risen to the rank of senior Sultan and eventually Colonel. The Omsk Cadet Corps had been founded in 1845, based on the lesser school his father attended. The Cadet Corps was regarded as the preeminent educational facility in Siberia and afforded Chokan the finest education available. Upon his arrival, Chokan was the only Kazakh in the academy and drew attention from the faculty for his exceptional intelligence.

Much of the information on Chokan’s Cadet years (1847-1853) came from his colleague G.N. Potanin, who became a prominent explorer. Throughout his life, Potanin largely championed the achievements and efforts of his friend Chokan. During the Cadet years in Omsk, Chokan benefited from the local intelligentsia, who included the Gutkovskii and Kapustin families and the chemist Mendeleev. Potanin suggested that Chokan’s relationships with these families and individuals influenced his sentiment towards Russian life and that during his time in Omsk he came to admire both Russian and European culture.

Chokan graduated from the Omsk Cadet Corps in 1853, one year early due to the restriction of military science being taught to Cadets from Asiatic Russia. He received the rank of Kornet and was assigned to the Sixth Cavalry Regiment of the Siberian Cossack Army. Valikhanov served his initial appointment in Omsk during the 1850s, enjoying the social culture while developing a taste for cigars and champagne. It was in his post-graduation years in Omsk that Chokan sketched his famous self–portrait, depicting himself as young man in military attire lounging while enjoying a cigar.