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The Kazakhs (also spelled Kazaks, Qazaqs; : Қазақ, Qazaq, قازاق‎ About this sound  , Qazaqtar, Қазақтар, قازاقتار‎ About this sound  ; the English name is from Russian) are a who mainly inhabit the southern part of Eastern Europe and the and northern parts of (largely, but also parts of,, and ), the region also known as the Eurasian sub-continent. Kazakh identity is of medieval origin and was strongly shaped by the foundation of the between 1456 and 1465, when several tribes under the rule of the sultans and departed from the Khanate of.

The Kazakhs are descendants of the Turkic and medieval Mongol tribes –,,,,,, ; and of the and, and other tribes such as the and, and ancient Iranian nomads like the, and who populated the territory between and the before the 5th and 13th centuries AD.


Etymology of Kazakh[]

Kazakh central asian horseman. The Russian Museum of Ethnography, 1910

The Kazakhs probably began using this name during either the 15th or 16th century. There are many theories on the origin of the word Kazakh or Qazaq. Some speculate that it comes from the Turkish verb qaz ("to wander"), because the Kazakhs were wandering steppemen; or that it derives from the word khasaq (a wheeled cart used by the Kazakhs to transport their and belongings).

Another theory on the origin of the word Kazakh (originally Qazaq) is that it comes from the ancient word qazğaq, first mentioned on the 8th century Turkic monument of Uyuk-Turan. According to the notable Turkic linguist and the orientalist Veniamin Yudin, the noun qazğaq derives from the same root as the verb qazğan ("to obtain", "to gain"). Therefore, qazğaq defines a type of person who seeks profit and gain.


Kazakh was a common term throughout medieval Central Asia, generally with regard to individuals or groups who had taken or achieved independence from a figure of authority. described his own youth without directory authority as his Qazaqliq ("Qazaq-ness"). At the time of the Uzbek nomads' Conquest of Central Asia, the Uzbek had differences with the Chinggisid chiefs Giray/Kirey and, descendants of.

Kazakh family inside a, 1911/1914

These differences probably resulted from the crushing defeat of Abu'l-Khayr Khan at the hands of the Qalmaqs. Kirey and Janibek moved with a large following of nomads to the region of /Semirechye on the border of Moghulistan and set up new pastures there with the blessing of the, who hoped for a buffer zone of protection against the expansion of the. It is not explicitly explained that this is why the later Kazakhs took the name permanently, but it is the only historically verifiable source of the ethnonym. The group under Kirey and Janibek are called in various sources Qazaqs and Uzbek-Qazaqs (those independent of the Uzbek khans). The Russians originally called the Kazakhs 'Kirgiz' and later Kirghiz-Kaisak to distinguish them form the proper.

Kazakh guard at Nowruz celebrations in Astana.

In the 17th century, Russian convention seeking to distinguish the Qazaqs of the steppes from the of the suggested spelling the final consonant with "kh" instead of "q" or "k", which was officially adopted by the USSR in 1936.

  • Kazakh – Казах
  • Cossack – Казак

The Russian term Cossack probably comes from the same Kypchak etymological root: wanderer, brigand, independent free-booter.

Oral history[]

Due to their pastoral lifestyle, Kazakhs kept an epic tradition of. The nation, which amalgamated nomadic tribes of various Kazakh origins, managed to preserve the distant memory of the original founding clans. It was important for a Kazakh to know his or her genealogical tree for no less than seven generations back (known as şejire, from the word shajara – "tree").

Three Kazakh Zhuz (Hordes)[]

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Approximate areas occupied by the three Kazakh jüz in the early 20th century.

In modern Kazakhstan, is fading away in business and government life. Still it is common for a Kazakh man or woman to ask another one which tribe he or she belongs to when getting acquainted with each other. Nowadays, it is more of a tradition than necessity. There is no hostility between tribes. Kazakhs, regardless of their tribal origin, consider themselves one nation.

Those modern-day Kazakhs who yet remember their tribes know that their tribes belong to one of the three (juz, roughly translatable as "horde" or "hundred"):

History of the Hordes[]

There is much debate surrounding the origins of the Hordes. Their age is unknown so far in extant historical texts, with the earliest mentions in the 17th century. The Turkologist Velyaminov-Zernov believed that it was the capture of the important cities of,, and in 1598 by Tevvekel (Tauekel/Tavakkul) Khan that separated the Qazaqs, as only a portion of the Century possessed the cities. This theory suggests that the Qazaqs then divided among a wider territory after expanding from into most of the Dasht-i Qipchaq, with a focus on the trade available through the cities of the middle, of which Sayram and Yasi belonged.


Main articles: and

The Kazakh language is a member of the, as are,,,,,,, and many other living and historical languages spoken in,,, and.

Kazakh belongs to the (Northwestern) group of the Turkic language family. Kazakh is characterized, in distinction to other Turkic languages, by the presence of /s/ in place of reconstructed proto-Turkic /ʃ/ and /ʃ/ in place of /tʃ/; furthermore, Kazakh has // where other Turkic languages have //.

Kazakh, like most of the Turkic language family lacks phonemic, and as such there is no distinction between long and short vowels.

Kazakh was written with the Arabic script during the 19th century, when a number of poets, educated in Islamic schools, incited revolt against Russia. Russia's response was to set up secular schools and devise a way of writing Kazakh with the Cyrillic alphabet, which was not widely accepted. By 1917, the Arabic script was reintroduced, even in schools and local government.

In 1927, a Kazakh nationalist movement sprang up but was soon suppressed. At the same time the Arabic script was banned and the alphabet was imposed for writing Kazakh. The native Latin alphabet was in turn replaced by the Cyrillic alphabet in 1940 by soviet interventionists. Today, there are efforts to return to the Latin script.

Kazakh is a state (official) language in. It is also spoken in the region of the Uyghur Autonomous Region in the, where the Arabic script is used, and in western parts of ( and province), where Cyrillic script is in use. European Kazakhs use the Latin alphabet.


Old photo of a bride, completely covered except for her face Kazakh bride in traditional wedding dress

Ancestors of modern Kazakhs believed in and, then, and including. was first introduced to ancestors of modern Kazakhs during the 8th century when the missionaries entered Central Asia. Islam initially took hold in the southern portions of and thereafter gradually spread northward. Islam also took root due to the zealous missionary work of rulers, notably in areas surrounding where a significant number of Turks accepted Islam. Additionally, in the late 14th century, the propagated Islam amongst the Kazakhs and other tribes. During the 18th century, Russian influence toward the region rapidly increased throughout. Led by, the Russians initially demonstrated a willingness in allowing to flourish as Muslim clerics were invited into the region to preach to the Kazakhs whom the Russians viewed as "savages" and "ignorant" of morals and ethics. However, Russian policy gradually changed toward weakening Islam by introducing pre-Islamic elements of. Such attempts included methods of eulogizing pre-Islamic historical figures and imposing a sense of inferiority by sending Kazakhs to highly elite military institutions. In response, Kazakh religious leaders attempted to bring religious fervor by espousing, though many were persecuted as a result. During the era, institutions survived only in areas where Kazakhs significantly outnumbered non-Muslims due to everyday Muslim practices. In an attempt to conform Kazakhs into ideologies, gender relations and other aspects of the Kazakh culture were key targets of social change.

In more recent times however, Kazakhs have gradually employed a determined effort in revitalizing Islamic religious institutions after the fall of the. Some Kazakhs continue to identify with their Islamic faith, and even more devotedly in the countryside. Those who claim descent from the original soldiers and missionaries of the 8th century command substantial respect in their communities. Kazakh political figures have also stressed the need to sponsor Islamic awareness. For example, the Kazakh Foreign Affairs Minister,, recently emphasized that Kazakhstan attaches importance to the use of "positive potential Islam, learning of its history, culture and heritage."

Pre-Islamic beliefs—the worship of the sky, of the ancestors, and of fire, for example—continued to a great extent to be preserved among the common people, however. The Kazakhs believed in the supernatural forces of good and evil spirits, of wood goblins and giants. To protect themselves from them, as well as from the evil eye, the Kazakhs wore protection beads and talismans. Shamanic beliefs are still widely preserved among the Kazakhs, as well as belief in the strength of the bearers of this worship—the shamans, which the Kazakhs call bakhsy. In contradistinction to the Siberian shamans, who used drums during their rituals, the Kazakh shamans, who could also be men or women, played (with a bow) on a stringed instrument similar to a large violin. At present both Islamic and pre-Islamic beliefs continue to be found among the Kazakhs, especially among the elderly. According to 2009 national census 39,172 Kazakhs are.

Genetic studies[]

According to mitochondrial DNA studies (where sample consisted of only 246 individuals), the main maternal lineages of Kazakhs are: (17.9%), (16%), (16%), (3.25%), (2.44%) of Eastern Eurasian origin (58%), and haplogroups (14.1), (5.5), (3.6%), (2.6%), (3%), and others (12.2%) of western Eurasian origin (41%). An analysis of ancient Kazakhs found that East Asian haplogroups such as A and C did not begin to move into the Kazakh steppe region until around the time of the (1st millennia BCE), which is around the onset of the Sargat Culture as well ().

In a sample of 54 Kazakhs and 119 Altaian Kazakh, the main paternal lineages of Kazakhs are: (66.7% and 59.5%), (9% and 26%), (2% and 0%), (4% and 0%), (9% and 1%).

In a sample of 409 ethnic Kazakhs the main paternal lineages of Kazakhs are,,,,,,.

Kazakh people


Young woman in a fur coat near the Caspian Sea Kazakh woman at the Caspian Sea

Main article:

Ethnic Kazakhs in percent of total population of Kazakhstan 1897 1911 1926 1939 1959 1970 1979 1989 1999 2009 73.9% 60.8% 59.5% 38.0% 30.0% 32.6% 36.0% 39.7% 53.4% 63.1%

Historical population of Kazakhs:

Year Population 1520 1,000,000 1600 1,200,000 1723 2,000,000 1800 2,500,000 1900 3,600,000 1939 3,000,000 1980 6,500,000 2013 13,600,000

Kazakh minorities[]


Main article:

Muhammad Salyk Babazhanov - Kazak anthropologist, a member of Russian Geographical Society.

In, the Kazakh population lives primarily in the regions bordering Kazakhstan. According to latest census (2002) there are 654,000 Kazakhs in Russia, most of whom are in the,,,,,,,,,, and regions. Though ethnically Kazakh, after the in 1991, these people acquired Russian citizenship.

Ethnic Kazakhs of Russia
national censuses data 1939 % 1959 % 1970 % 1979 % 1989 % 2002 % 356 646 0.33 382 431 0.33 477 820 0.37 518 060 0.38 635 865 0.43 653 962 0.45


Kazakh family in, China

Main article:

See also:

Kazakhs migrated into in the 18th century after the resulted in the native Buddhist population being massacred.

Kazakhs, called Hāsàkè Zú in Chinese (; literally "Kazakh people" or "Kazakh tribe") are among officially recognized by the. Thousands of Kazakhs fled to China during the 1932–1933 famine in Kazakhstan.

In 1936, after expelled 30,000 Kazakhs from Xinjiang to Qinghai, led by General massacred their fellow Muslim Kazakhs, until there were 135 of them left.

From Northern Xinjiang over 7,000 Kazakhs fled to the Tibetan-Qinghai plateau region via Gansu and were wreaking massive havoc so Ma Bufang solved the problem by relegating the Kazakhs into designated pastureland in Qinghai, but Hui, Tibetans, and Kazakhs in the region continued to clash against each other.[]

Tibetans attacked and fought against the Kazakhs as they entered Tibet via Gansu and Qinghai.[][]

In northern Tibet Kazakhs clashed with Tibetan soldiers and then the Kazakhs were sent to Ladakh.[]

Tibetan troops robbed and killed Kazakhs 400 miles east of Lhasa at Chamdo when the Kazakhs were entering Tibet.[]

In 1934, 1935, and from 1936–1938 Qumil Eliqsan led approximately 18,000 Kerey Kazakhs to migrate to Gansu, entering Gansu and Qinghai.

In China there is one Kazakh, the in the Uyghur Autonomous Region and three Kazakh autonomous counties: in, and in the Uyghur Autonomous Region. Many Kazakhs in China are not fluent in, instead speaking the. "", based on a Kazakh,[] is very popular outside the Kazakh regions, especially in the countries of China, and.[]


Mounted hunters in traditional dress Kazakh hunters with eagles

In the 19th century, the advance of the troops pushed Kazakhs to neighboring countries. In around 1860, part of the Middle Jüz Kazakhs came to and were allowed to settle down in Bayan-Ölgii, Western Mongolia and for most of the 20th century they remained an isolated, tightly knit community. Ethnic Kazakhs (so-called Altaic Kazakhs or Altai-Kazakhs) live predominantly in Western Mongolia in (88.7% of the total population) and (11.5% of the total population, living primarily in, and sum). In addition, a number of Kazakh communities can be found in various cities and towns spread throughout the country. Some of the major population centers with a significant Kazakh presence include (90% in #4 of, and provinces,,,, (17.1% of population total) and cities.

Ethnic Kazakhs of Mongolia
national censuses data 1956 % 1963 % 1969 % 1979 % 1989 % 2000 % 2010 % 36,729 4.34 47,735 4.69 62,812 5.29 84,305 5.48 120,506 6.06 102,983 4.35 101,526 3.69


400,000[] Kazakhs live in and 100,000[] in. Since the fall of the Soviet Union, the vast majority of Kazakhs are returning to Kazakhstan, mainly to. Most Kazakhs in are descendants of one of the branches of "Junior juz" (Kişi juz) - tribe.


Iran bought Kazakh slaves who were falsely masqueraded as by slave dealers from the Khiva and Turkmens.

live mainly in in northern. According to ethnologue.org, in 1982 there were 3000 Kazakhs living in the city of. Since the fall of the, the number of Kazakhs in Iran decreased due to emigration to their historical motherland.


are (Taimeni) tribe of Kazakh origin that can be found in Obi district to the east of the western Afghan province of, between the rivers and. Afghan Kypchaks, together with the Durzais and, two other tribes of origin, constitute the tribe. There are approximately 440,000 Afghan Kipchaks.


Turkey received refugees from among the Pakistan-based Kazakhs, Turkmen, Kirghiz, and Uzbeks numbering 3,800 originally from Afghanistan during the. Kayseri, Van, Amasya, Çiçekdağ, Gaziantep, Tokat, Urfa, and Serinyol received via Adana the Pakistan-based Kazakh, Turkmen, Kirghiz, and Uzbek refugees numbering 3,800 with UNHCR assistance.

In 1954 and 1969 Kazakhs migrated into Anatolia's Salihli, Develi and Altay regions. Turkey became home to refugee Kazakhs.

The Kazakh Turks Foundation (Kazak Türkleri Vakfı) is an organization of Kazakhs in Turkey.


Main article:

Many are also skilled in the performance of Kazakh traditional songs. One of the most commonly used traditional musical instruments of the Kazakhs is the, a plucked lute with two strings. It is often used to accompany solo or group singing. Another popular instrument is, a bow instrument played on the knees. Along with other instruments, these two instruments play a key role in the traditional Kazakh orchestra. A notable composer is, who lived in the 19th century. After studying in Moscow, became the first woman classical composer in Kazakhstan, whose compositions reflect Kazakh history and folklore. A notable singer of the Soviet epoch is, she was a star of the trans-Soviet-Union scale. A notable Kazakh rock band is, performing in the genre of ethno-rock, which synthesises rock music with the traditional Kazakh music.

See also[]

Notable Kazakhs[]

Main article:


  1. ^
  2. Census 2000 counts 1.25 trillion Kazakhs, later the Kazakh population had higher birth rate, but some assimilation processes were present too. Estimates made after the 2000 Census claim Kazakh population share growth (was 0.104% in 2000), but even if this share value was preserved at 0.104% level it would be no less than 1.4 million in 2008
  3. Kazakh population share was constant at 4.1% in 1959–1989, this share declined to 3% in 1996. Official Uzbekistan estimation (  ) in 1999 was 940,600 Kazakhs or 3.8% of total population. If Kazakh population share was stable at about 4.1% (not taking into account the massive repatriation of ethnic Kazakhs () to Kazakhstan estimated over 0.6 million) and was 27.3 million, the Kazakh population would be 1.1 million. Using the CIA estimate of the share of Kazakhs (3%), the total Kazakh population in Uzbekistan would be 0.8 million
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External links[]

  • ‘Contemporary Falconry in Altai-Kazakh in Western Mongolia’The International Journal of Intangible Heritage (vol.7), pp. 103–111. 2012.
  • ‘Ethnoarhchaeology of Horse-Riding Falconry’, The Asian Conference on the Social Sciences 2012 – Official Conference Proceedings, pp. 167–182. 2012.
  • ‘Intangible Cultural Heritage of Arts and Knowledge for Coexisting with Golden Eagles: Ethnographic Studies in “Horseback Eagle-Hunting” of Altai-Kazakh Falconers’, The International Congress of Humanities and Social Sciences Research, pp. 307–316. 2012.
  • ‘Ethnographic Study of Altaic Kazakh Falconers’, Falco: The Newsletter of the Middle East Falcon Research Group 41, pp. 10–14. 2013.
  • ‘Ethnoarchaeology of Ancient Falconry in East Asia’, The Asian Conference on Cultural Studies 2013 – Official Conference Proceedings, pp. 81–95. 2013.
  • Soma, Takuya. 2014. 'Current Situation and Issues of Transhumant Animal Herding in Sagsai County, Bayan Ulgii Province, Western Mongolia', E-journal GEO 9(1): pp. 102–119.
  • Soma, Takuya. 2015. Human and Raptor Interactions in the Context of a Nomadic Society: Anthropological and Ethno-Ornithological Studies of Altaic Kazakh Falconry and its Cultural Sustainability in Western Mongolia. University of Kassel Press, Kassel (Germany)  .

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