Alexei Gatapov was born in 1965 in Buryatia. He spent his childhood in the Buryat countryside being actively involved in agricultural labor – he looked after the cattle, hunted and fished, sheared sheep, mowed hay, moved haycocks on bull-driven carts, raked hay on horse-driven rakes, and much else.
After school he enrolled in the History Department of the Buryat Teacher-training Institute in Ulan Ude, but was drafted into the army already after his first year. He served in Mongolia, in the Gobi Desert. After his national service he completed his higher education and upon graduation he worked as a history teacher and later lectured at his alma mater.
His first publications: short and long stories about ancient Mongols, appeared in 1995 in the literary magazine Baikal. The life of ancient Mongolian nomadic cattle-breeders has been the main theme of his work ever since.
In 1998, the first book of his prose Birth of a Leader, came out, which enabled him to join the Writers Union of Russia and enter the Literary Courses at the Gorki Literary Institute in Moscow.
In 2002, Gatapov won the prize of the World Poetry Forum in Magnitogorsk for his authorized translation into Russian of the Mongolian epic “Shono Bator”.
In 2004, he received the Isai Kalashnikov Prize in Ulan-Ude for his story “The First Nuker of Genghis-khan” which was later screened as a like-named feature film.
In 2005-07 Gatapov was the editor-in-chief of the Baikal magazine but left this position in order to devote his entire time to writing.
2010 saw the first publication of the novel Temudzhin in two books, devoted to the early years of Genghis khan, which won him the Isai Kalashnikov Prize for the second time.
Gatapov has also authored the Mongolian Historical Encyclopedia embracing events and facts related to Central Asia from ancient times through the 20th century.
Gatapov lives in Ulan-Ude, Buryatia.
Temudzhin, a historical novel.
AST Publishers, 2017. 400 pp.
Says the author: It was precisely the early years of his life that tempered Temudzhin’s character and determined his future life and thus the subsequent history of the world. He was orphaned at the age of nine and abandoned by his relatives. He had to survive on his own amidst deadly dangers, he could have perished any day - his fate was hanging in the balance. It was interesting to trace the formation of his character as a future leader, warrior and builder of a huge empire. It is not for nothing that today Genghis-khan was proclaimed as the man of the millennium. Without him the world would have taken a different path.
The novel is devoted to the formative years of Genghis-khan when he was still called Temudzhin and lived far away from any centers of medieval civilization. Gatapov, a Mongol by birth and a specialist on ancient Mongolian culture, traces Temudzhin’s path to world leadership from an inexperienced youngster with outstanding physical and intellectual abilities. After his father’s death, the young Temudzhin becomes the head of his clan and experiences all the hardships of nomadic life, the raids of the neighboring tribes, betrayal, captivity, cruelty, and much else. These ordeals tempered his body and spirit which enabled him to become the Great Khan at the age of 14.
The book contains a wealth of ethnographic and historical materials on ancient Mongol tribes, their way of life and customs, their food habits and martial arts. Gatapov immerses the reader into the everyday life of ancient Mongols creating a vivid “presence’ effect. Apart from numerous battle scenes, religious ritual, and inter-clan intrigues the theme of love is also present in all its aspects: love for your child, your parents, a woman, a friend, etc, and each time it is different, deep, and unsentimental as befits a great warrior. As Sholokhov immortalized the Cossacks in his Nobel-prize winning works, Gatapov did the same for medieval Mongols.
Gatapov continues to work on the theme of medieval Mongols under Genghis Khan: he is currently writing a sequel to his epic.
Praise for Alexei Gatapov’s novel Temudzhin
“I’m greatly impressed with your extensive knowledge of the history and everyday life of ancient Mongols. The characters’ portraits and motivations are psychologically precise and convincing. You introduce into international cultural context a very important part of human history. This novel is not only about Temudzhin and his time but also about people’s animal essence which they vainly try to rectify with the help of culture and religion. We observe the same betrayal, cunning, and violence in our modern world in which under a thin cover of civilization the same ancient passions rage.” – Yevgeny Popov, author, Russian PEN’s President.
“This is a truly great book. The language is colorful and precise, conveying the very spirit of the ancient Mongols. As Sholokhov immortalized the Cossacks in his epic novel, so did Gatapov for ancient Mongols. One can see how profoundly he knows his subject.” – Yevgeny Zhirkov, bibliographer
From readers’ reviews:
“The book is evidently based on extensive ethnographic and historical material, but it reads as a living story immersing the reader into the very thick of medieval Mongols’ life. The liberal use of Mongolian names for everyday objects makes it a real feast for the linguist. Of special interest are detailed descriptions of shamanic rituals and fortune telling cessions.”
“Today we badly need authors such as Lion Feuchtwanger and Henryk Sienkiewicz who manage to tell us so vivdly about the deep past. Gatapov is the author of the same order. Having finished his book you want to read more.”
“We learnt about ancient Egypt from Boleslaw Prus’s novel Faraon. Similarly, Gatapov’s novel Temudzhin introduces us to medieval Mongolia. It is no less rich in historical, cultural, religious, and ethnographic information on Mongolian world than Hugo’s Notre-Dame de Paris is on the French world of those times.”
“Gatapov so masterfully blends the real facts about Genghis-khan’s childhood and youth with legends and myths about him that you may have the impression the author personally witnessed it all and participated in those military campaigns. The scenes of battles, hunting, nomadic camps, have been written with such artistic veracity that the reader almost feels the steppe wind on his face, the bonfire smoke and the smell of grass under the melting snow.”