to remember me

Kazakh secret  author: Radik Temirgaliev

History perception by different nations is characterized by common and certain stereotypes which even historians sometimes are unable to disprove. Moreover majority of historians as well as writers  and film directors keeps on developing the same cliché despite contradictory sources and common sense.

Historiography has always been contradictory as it has been used by states for the ideological propaganda purpose. As Mr. Jerome K Jerome claimed “during the war soldiers of the own country are the bravest in the world. While soldiers of hostile country are insidious  and unconsientious. That is why they sometimes win”.

Besides each nation has own specific themes relating to its exclusivity concerning either some achievements or troubles which took place in the past.

As for Kazakhs they consider their history as the greatest large scale tragedy.. « Мен – қазақпын мың өліп, мың тірілген "(" I am, who died but revived  thousand times ") and" Тозақтың өзінен аман-сау қалыппыз "(" We managed to survive in the heart of  the hell ") – these words are the key concepts of Kazakh historiography.

But the problem is that this sorrowful concept  does not correspond to well-known historic data. For example, Dzungar and Kalmyk tribes which are shown in Kazakh historiography as eternal blood-thirsty and merciless enemies have never made such slaughters, indeed whereas ancestors of once menacing Oyrats tribes squeezed out to different countries are scanty now. What is more they lost statehood mostly because of Kazakh tribes.  

So it is necessary to compare only parameters of equal worth, and it should be noted that, for example, in the beginning of  18th century the Kazakh tribes were almost equal to quantity of some  neighboring nomadic tribes  like  Dzungar Mongols, Bashkirs, Kalmyks, Karakalpaks, kyrgyzs. The quantity of all these people ranged from 50 to 500 thousand people. So, according to Russian archives  (of course, very approximately), the number of Kyrgyz people ranged from 80 to 120 thousand, Bashkir – 80-100 thousand, Kara – 60-80 thousand, Kalmykov – 120-160 thousand people, the Kazakhs – 300-400 thousand, Dzungar – 400-500 thousand. By modern standards, these ethnic groups have contributed to a group of extinct, but at that period these quantities looked significant that enable the nations to hope for their history to continue.

However, by the end of the 19th century  the situation changed dramatically. The number of Kyrgyz people in Russian Empire made up  200 000 people, Kalmyks, Karakalpaks-190 000 – 100 000. A few tens thousands of descendants of the Dzungars, who mixed up  with the Khalkha Mongols and descendants of Kalmyk refugees, 1771 lived in the territory of the Tsin Empire. But the Kazakhs in this time only within Russian Empire made up about 4 million. It means quantity increased 10 times as much for the period of approximately 2 centures!

In this respect, it can only be compared to Bashkirs, whose numbers grew at the same pace and in 1897 it was about 1 million 300 thousand people. Unfortunately, Bashkirs failed to keep the pace  in the future. At present their number in Russia is only about one and a half million people and trends to decrease.

In addition it is crucial to take into account the enormous territorial gains made by Kazakhs in the 18th century! Territory controlled by Kazakh tribes at the beginning of the same century from West to East was limited by the area  from the Emba to Sarysu (in addition part of the Syr Darya was occupied by Karakalpak). In the Zhetysu and Sary-Arch area roamed the Dzungar tribes wandered whereas on the territory of modern Western regions Bashkir and Kalmyk tribes considered themselves as owners of the land . But Kazaks, managing to turn the tide in their favor during the same 18th century managed to recapture the land and occupied a huge territory. What is more  even Russian Empire that afterwards occupied part of the northern Nomad territory gave another area on the right banks of the Ural and the Irtysh rivers in return.. One more fact is that Tsin Empire just was unable to occupy North-Eastern Dzungar land that Kazakh tribes had occupied without prior arrangement that afterwards made the grounds for Russian Emoire to claim rights for this territory.

In general contact with absolutely dominated the planet at that time European civilization affected negatively on  people who were, as they say, at the stage of Division not because of the military superiority of regular European troops but also because diverse communities of  natives and Aborigens  often collapsed first of all because of internal collisions caused by cultural influence "of whites". That is why the old institutes collapsed and disappeared for their inefficiency but nothing new was created instead of them. As a result degradation and extinction processes of the whole ethnos were launched.

Some researchers predicted that future and for  Kazakhs. So, for example, a. Haruzin wrote: "although it is sad to admit but I have to state that Kazakh people will join the way of extinction of all non-Russians  in the Empire as well they will extinct not because of some indistinct “law of non-Russians extinction” but because of life conditions which at first broke their old system and joined them to the alien but after made them compete with other nations which had the more ancient cultural traditions. It means that all non-Russians will extinct if they do not assimilate with Russians or Tatar”.

However, as is known, the Kazakhs not only died, but have managed to adapt to the new circumstances. In this regard, the authors of the ethnographic works almost unanimously noted the sharp contrast of Kazakhs from other nomadic ethnic groups. For example, v. v. Radlov pointed out: "in sharp contrast to the Kirghiz-Turkic nomads of the Altai, and way of life and thinking they are at the  higher level." In turn, l. Meyer, telling about Kazakhs, noted that "their intellect differs from other Asians as sciences are accessible  for them, especially analytical way of exposition besides quite often they have quite extensive intellectual capabilities to understand synthetic conclusions that is inaccessible for undeveloped people”.

Undoubtedly , such comments were not politically correct in respect of present days so corresponding conclusions were made . So, k. k. Kraft, noting that in former times the Kazakhs during  their raids captured a lot of  Russians girls asked such questions: "maybe mixtures of superior race and blood of natives are one of the reasons that Kazakh nation does not share other non-Russians who stay in better conditions fate namely extinction. Instead they show tenacity of life, viability and striving for superior culture? Maybe this blood freshening is one of the causes that Kazakh people pass to agricultural system quite freely and skillfully this way holding the same level, and sometimes leaving behind primordial farmes, namely Russian colonizers?

Of course, it is not necessary to strictly judge researcher who has left us with many important and valuable information about the history and culture of  Kazakh people. As at least he put a question about Kazakh advances nature, while our historians and writers do not even start thinking about it. Instead they just keep on mourning over our ancestors suffering.

Meanwhile, historical sources  still conceal a great deal of  uninterpreted information about  Kazakh past. These facts explain the causes due to which Kazakhs managed to reach hegemony over the territory of modern Kazakhstan. The first and the main secret of the Kazakh military victories (unlike ordinary concepts passed from one auther to another) is the fact that Kazakhs have mastered armguns first among other  nomads of the region. It is due to armguns use that the famous victory over Dzhungar took place in 1643, when the 600 soldiers of the Kazakhs managed to stop 30 000 Dzhungar troops in the mountain passage.

Afterwards, Dzhungar mastered armguns, as well and even succeeded on the account of artillery manufacture technology mastering. But the rest of nomadic nations who were Kazakh enemies were unable to cope in this respect. For instance, in the course of Kazakh and Kalmyk collisions which took place a lot in 1720`s. Astrakhan town  Governor A.p. Volynsky said, that “the Kalmyk people, may extinct because Kazakh tribes defeat them as Kalmyk people are weaker and timid. For example, 5000 or 6000 Kalmyk are unable to resist 500 or 600 Kazakh because Kazakh have more armguns than bows”. Also as I. Tevkelev noted that “ Kazakh apply bows rarely instead warring they use mainly armguns while Bashkir apply just bows and do not have any armguns”.

However nation victory is formed not only on the battlefields. Another extremely important factor in sharply continental climate, as well as  regular, like present financial crisis, Jutes (which as usual took place in compliance with folk superstitionin the year of  Rabbit) is a unique system of Kazakh mutual support. As Ch. Ch. Valihanov wrote “not only innate sensitivity makes Kazakhs compassionate but also understandable fear to grow poor themselves anytime because of cattle plague that takes place in the steppes  quite often. Mutual support of Kazaks may set a good example for enlightened Europeans.

In general Nomads have always been characterized by mutual support dating back to Chingiz-khan laws when this issue played a great role. However only Kazakh tribes kept on these principles more strictly before transition to settled or semisettled way of life. By the way, one of the badly bloated myths are beliefs about the extraordinary fragmentation of Kazakhs. Of course, Chingiz-khan clans regularly contended power while tribes competed for Nomad encampment but in most cases problems were settled with the help of reimbursement whereas individual murders caused a great resonance. But the mutual extermination like it was among Dzhungar or Nogay tribes never took place. The same opinion was shared by A. I. Tevkelev who commenting the possibility of involvement of military forces of Junior Kazakh Clan against Central Clan pointed out that “ Kazakh will never fight against each other so Kazakh Ord is useless  for the Russian Empire”.

Another very important fact that have an impact on the course of history, was the system of social order, where freedom was considered to be the main value.Usually historians mention this in a negative context, suggesting that the absence of a strong centralized State and the endless infighting tribal nobility and a generation of Chingiz-khan offspring blocked the development of the single policy for the nation. P. S. Pallas confirmed “numerous Kazakh people have unlimited freedom in comparison with Kalmyk who have so many sovereigns. Each Kazakh lives like a free master that is why they are not so dangerous compared to the rest enemies”. 

However, strict discipline and rigorous subordination which often led to success for Oyrats on the battlefield, eventually led to a national catastrophe after all in 1771, when  Kalmyks unanimously supported  the adventurous offer of  their rulers to migrate to China. In this respect Y. Kostenko, who started the study of this migration, said about these fundamental differences, as follows: "Kalmyk`s ignorance, poverty and the lack of any freedom in  life made them absolutely subordinate and completely depend on their masters. Such passive obedience is not attributed to other nomads, such as Kyrgyz people, who in turn, are characterized by their love of freedom . While Kalmyk are characterized by this subordination, that is why we pay attention to it”.

In general among Kazakh rulers such adventurous ideas occurred quite often, as well . For example, the chiefs of Junior Clan in the same 18th century were thinking a lot of migrating to Kuban, and merging with  Nogais. But such projects could not be realized because of people resistance.

Very specific relations between Kazakh people and Russian authorities were formed. Unlike other nations who found themselves on the way of continuously expanding Russian Empire usually chose either the way of struggle as a result like Cherkes people they endured huge losses or completely subordinated and accepted new rules of the game, that also led to ethnos extinction. Kazakhs declared themselves Russian Empire citizens voluntarily and due to this fact almost for 100 more years retained actual independence. Even after Khan power was liquidated a very high level of self-government still remained in the steppe until the end of 1860`s.

It became possible first because of economic conditions as since the middle of 18 century Kazaks became the biggest cattle suppliers to Russian markets and this trade was extremely beneficial for Russian merchants.The Kazakhs have become consumers of vast quantities of Russian goods, not representing the same interest of Europe`s. Therefore, some representatives of the Russian Government by all means prevent the transition of Kazakhs to a settled way of life, believing that they are valuable for Russian Empire only as cattle-breeders . A. i. Levshin  exclaimed: "there is no doubt of the benefit that Russia gains from links with Kazakh ords. No other nation would support so much products which we exchange. Who would purchase the goods which we trade?

Second, containing little water Kazakh steppes, deserts and semideserts hinder Russian military troops to act even when an important order came from St. Petersburg like “punish adequately Kazakh for their impertinence”. Because as soon as troop crossed the Line the steppe telegraph started informing and Nomad auls (villages)  left the place moving into the heart of the steppes where the troops did not take a risk to move to because the result could be very bad, as it had already happened in the past to the march of General-Major  M. M. Traubenberg in 1771 and the march of Count V. A. Perovskyi in 1839.

Thirdly, this territory itself was not good for farming. So it was not  humanity of Slavs in comparison to Anglo-Saxon, but significant difference of the earth fertility between Sary-Arch region  and  Great Plains that made fate of Kazakhs and the North American Indians. However, after the abolition of serfdom in Russian Empire large-scale Russian peasants migration to Kazakhstan took place although these migrants settled mainly in some particular regions while Kazakh still could be Nomads in the most part of the rest territory.

A huge role in Kazakh advances played Islam as the nations who professed “heathen” religions as a rule gave in Christian missionary sermons very fast consigning to oblivion the old cults after which assimilation took place. Muslim ideology in spite of general crisis in Islamic countries turned out to be quite capable to resist cultural Orthodox pressure.

It is necessary to mention also the purely practical use of Islam for Kazakhs. In this respect,hygienic requirements of Islam played the greatest role. Of course, the nomadic cattle-breeding itself is not conducive to the maintenance of special purity, but in comparison with other nomads living in horrendously unsanitary conditions, Kazakhs were in adventurous position life . So, describing the Kazakh way of life, p. s. Pallas noted: Kirgizcy, as other steppe  Asian people  lived in felt nomad tents which differ from  Kalmyk only because as usual they are much bigger and cleaner so that more than 20 people can stay there. In general Kazakh observe tidiness much more than Kalmyk".

Perhaps more significant role played Koran prohibition to take alcoholic drinks. As it  is well known, "fire water" caused  degradation of many Nations and tribes of Siberin and North American nations and tribes who are close genetically to Kazakh.

At the same time, the flexibility and responsiveness of the Kazakhs (which  by many is considered to be crestless and indicator of  lack of national pride) enabled them to quickly pass to trade, handicraft, farming, fishing and  work professions. So far in the end of  19th century a small but absolutely brilliant layer of national intelligence was formed.

These achievements of Kazakh who  recently made  no different  from other “ nomad Tatar” in the eyes of Europeans, caused a great interest of many researchers, who gave sometimes exaggerated positive assessment of this process. Especially such great scientists as V. V. Radlov and V. Grigoriev,  who described the Kazakh society in many aspects with idealistic position. But it was impression impact of actual degeneration of Kazakh nation that took place in their presence .

However, there is no point to draw the history of Kazakh people only in iridescent colours. The first half of the 20th century really became the terror epoch. Rising in 1916, Civil War, famine, 1919-1920, dispossession of the kulaks, collectivization, punitive measures,The Great Patriotic War all together inflicted casualties to Kazakh nation. Also, Russification that was conducted naturally as well as politically as a result  of which part of the Kazakhs was assimilated by the "elder brother" inflicted casualities.

But  after all Kazakhs managed to overcome this sequence of  tess  and not just survive and stay alive, but also become one of the largest ethnic groups in the former Soviet period and obtain statehood.

So not only tragic aspects should be picked out but also realize that for that period Kazakh nation as a system went through firmness test successfully that is a victory that can be proud of, too. This way Kazakh nation proved the right to occupy their niche in this cruel world.

So, in order to understand own way it is not necessarily to go abroad to study History of nations which developed absolutely in different periods and places, because own experience of own ancestors is not appreciated and studied yet. In addition, nowadays Kazakh nation faces very serious challenges as well so it is necessary to settle them so that not to let down our ancestors.