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Kazakh eagle hunters

The Kazakhs ( Kazakh Қазақ Qazaq , Pl. Қазақтар Qazaqtar ) are a Turkic-speaking ethnic group with around 20 million members, mainly in Kazakhstan , but also in Mongolia (the largest Turkic-speaking and largest Muslim minority there ), Russia (1,300,000) and in the People's Republic of China (2,200,000), Uzbekistan (800,000), Iran (15,000), Afghanistan (45,000) and Turkey (30,000). There is also a notable Kazakh minority in Germany (17,000).

Originally the Kazakhs were pastoral nomads in the Central Asian steppe. At the time of the Soviet rule, most nomads were forcibly made sedentary under state coercion and the herds were nationalized as collective farms . Especially in Mongolia and China, however, there are still local groups that make a living from mobile animal husbandry .

The vast majority of all Kazakhs speak Kazakh .

Approximate settlement area of ​​the Kazakhs

Name meaning

The name "Qazaq" (also written Kazak ) is of old Turkish origin . In the 19th century it was translated by Kazakh scholars as “independent” or “steppe rider”. See also Cossacks .

Origin and the three shots (hordes)

The Kazakh khanate and territory
  • of the Little Horde
  • of the Middle Horde
  • of the Great Horde
  • Approximate distribution of the individual tribal groups

    The ancestors of today's Kazakhs are mainly Turkic , but also partly Turkic Mongolian or Siberian tribes. Today's Kazakhs, like the Tuwinians , show a close relationship with both the Mongols and other Turkic peoples.

    The Kazakhs are still today divided into three “Schüs” ( Kazakh Jüz “Department”) or “ Horde ”: the Small Horde (Kişi Jüz) , the Middle Horde (Orta Jüz) and the Great Horde (Ulı Jüz) .

    There are a number of legends about the origin of these shots:

    1. In some Kazakh chronicles, the origin of the shots is placed in the 13th century of Genghis Khan .
    2. According to other sources, the shus originated in the 15th century when Timur-i Leng subjugated the Kyptschak horde .
    3. Other records deliberately trace the formation of the shots back to the pre-Mongolian period, so that these would then be mainly of Koek-Turkish origin and much older than the actual Kazakh people. The Kazakh historian Manash Kossibayev now takes the position that the formation of the shots - or the hordes - represented the formation of Kazakh society over several centuries. According to Kossibayev, the shots are based on natural geographic factors. So they still correspond to the nomadic way of life and traditions, including the clan and tribal relationships among themselves. Thus, the Schüs are to be regarded as tribal unions, as were the Mongolian hordes, and the equation of "Schüs" and "Horde" is to be regarded as justified.

    But unlike the Mongolian hordes, the shots were not formed according to the kinship principle, but according to the territorial principle: The three shots do not differ in their structure, but according to their dialect and area of ​​validity. What is remarkable is the fact that the shots can be traced back to two other subdivisions beyond their limits: the "Koscha" (Kazakh: Koja , Turkish Hoca [German Hodscha]) and the "Tore" (Kazakh: Töre ), which is the Mongolian Form hereditary nobility among the Kazakhs. The Kosha were regarded as the representatives of the clergy and the gates as the direct descendants of Genghis Khan - only members of the gates (“keepers”; from the old Turkish word Törü [the ancient, unwritten law of the Central Asian peoples]) were allowed to be elected Khan .

    Every Kazakhs must be able to trace the history of his tribe and his clan back to the seventh generation before him - this ensures that the old tribal and clan traditions survive in the long run.



    Kazakh culture on postage stamps

    Alasch Khan is considered the mythical progenitor of the Kazakh nation . Originally, today's Kazakhs belonged to the territories of Ordas ( Orda-Horde ) and Shibans ( White Horde ) and were called Alasch . Orda and Shibani were grandsons of the Mongol prince Genghis Khan and placed the first princes over the Kazakh steppe nomads.

    The Kazakhs emerged as a federal tribal association

    The Kazakhs emerged as an independent ethnic group between the 13th and 15th centuries . The Mongolian upper class began to merge with the pre-population of Turkic origin. Clans of Turkic origin were also incorporated into the emerging Kazakh tribal association . Clan names such as Kimek and Naiman bear witness to this , where some parts of the people of the old Türgiş, Tschigil and the Yenisei Kirghiz were added.

    A Qazaq Orda ("Kazakh Horde") is mentioned for the first time around 1400 . These were part of an emerging tribal federation that would later be called " Uzbek ".

    Today's Kazakhs only formed around 1456 as a split from the Uzbek Khanate, which had just been founded : The princes Janibek and Kerei, sons of Boraq Khan († 1428, Orda or White Horde ) broke away from the Abu'l Chairs of the Uzbek Empire, because they wanted to remain unbound as steppe nomads and founded the Kazak khanate .

    Kazakh family in a traditional yurt (around 1910)

    "Kirghiz" as the general name for the Kazakhs

    The Russian Empire dubbed the Central Asian steppe nomads as "Kyrgyz" from the 16th century . Previously, they were generally assigned to the Tatars . The generic term "Kyrgyz" was deliberately chosen by the Tsarist Empire, as the Kazakhs had a lot in common with the Kyrgyz . The latter were considered to be mountain residents and were generally referred to as "Kara-Kyrgyz". The tsarist empire avoided using the name Kazakhs to avoid confusion with the Slavic Cossacks .

    Kazakh Autonomy and Soviet Era

    After the collapse of the tsarist empire, the Kazakhs were united in the Alasch Orda , and after its defeat they belonged to the Turkestan SSR . There they were grouped together in the " Kazak-Kyrgyz Autonomous Region ".

    Compare the history of Kazakhstan

    Distribution of Kazakhs in different countries

    Kazakhs in the states of the former Soviet Union

    country Number of people of Kazakh origin Share of the total population [%]
    ArmeniaArmenia Armenia 1,000 0.03
    AzerbaijanAzerbaijan Azerbaijan 3,000 0.04
    EstoniaEstonia Estonia 1,000 0.07
    GeorgiaGeorgia Georgia 3,000 0.06
    KazakhstanKazakhstan Kazakhstan 15,550,000 81.4
    KyrgyzstanKyrgyzstan Kyrgyzstan 45,000 0.9
    LithuaniaLithuania Lithuania 3,000 0.09
    Moldova RepublicRepublic of Moldova Moldova 3,000 0.07
    RussiaRussia Russia 1,310,000 0.9
    TajikistanTajikistan Tajikistan 15,000 0.2
    TurkmenistanTurkmenistan Turkmenistan 120,000 2.4
    UkraineUkraine Ukraine 15,000 0.03
    UzbekistanUzbekistan Uzbekistan 800,000 2.9

    Kazakhs in other countries in the world

    country Number of people of Kazakh origin comment
    AfghanistanAfghanistan Afghanistan 45,000 have immigrated recently
    China People's RepublicPeople's Republic of China People's Republic of China 1,462,588 recognized minority (2010 census)
    GermanyGermany Germany 17,000 mostly relatives of Kazakh Germans
    FranceFrance France 15,000
    IranIran Iran 15,000 predominantly located in northern Iran
    CanadaCanada Canada 5,000
    MongoliaMongolia Mongolia 100,000 largest Turkic minority
    PakistanPakistan Pakistan 3,000
    SwedenSweden Sweden 1,000
    TurkeyTurkey Turkey 30,000 immigrated from 1950
    United KingdomUnited Kingdom United Kingdom 2,000
    United StatesUnited States United States 10,000 Immigrated from 1930

    Population development in Kazakhstan

    The percentages below indicate what percentage of the population of Kazakhstan consists of ethnic Kazakhs.

    1897 1911 1926 1939 1959 1970 1979 1989 1999 2006 2009 2018
    73.9% 60.8% 59.5% 38.0% 30.0% 32.6% 36.0% 39.7% 53.4% 59.2% 63.5% 81.4%

    Kazak religion

    Minaret of the Central Mosque in Almaty

    The Kazakhs are predominantly Sunni Muslims . The influence of the Islamic religion reached the Kazakhs in the 8th century after the Arabs came to Central Asia, with Islam spreading north from Turkmenistan and finally reaching present-day Kazakhstan. The missionary work of the Samanids also induced numerous Kazakhs to convert.

    In the 14th century, the Golden Horde spread Islam on a large scale, reaching the majority of the Kazakhs and other Central Asian peoples.

    Islam was finally accepted only in the 19th century, when Kazan Tatars appeared among them, who worked as traders and interpreters for the Russian tsars . It should also be noted that Sufism and the numerous shamanic practices remained anchored in Kazakh culture. From this old religion (the ethnologist Klaus E. Müller speaks of "complex shamanism" and means those forms that have developed a complex ritual culture through contact with other religions and neighboring agricultural societies) comes the worship of fire, which still plays an important role today plays. Kazakh necromancers were healers and fortune tellers and were said to be able to influence female fertility.

    During the time of the Soviet Union , the Kazakh Islamic associations - like other religious institutions - had a rather difficult time and only survived in the areas where the Kazakhs dominated in numbers. This has caused numerous Kazakhs to turn away from Islam.

    The Kazakhs' interest in Islam only increased after the collapse of the Soviet Union in the 1990s. The governments of Islamic countries (including Turkey , Egypt and Saudi Arabia ) financed the construction of mosques and cultural centers in Kazakhstan. The most famous cultural center is called Nur-Mubarak and was built in 2001 in Almaty .

    Furthermore, shamanism or animism , the original religion of the Kazakhs, is widespread in the population and is enjoying greater popularity again among intellectual and especially younger people. As in other Turkic-speaking countries in Central Asia, Altaic animism (as well as Tengrism ) is experiencing a revival , among other things with the support of a growing nationalism as in Kyrgyzstan .


    The vast majority of Kazakhs speak to the Turkic belonging Kazakh , the order with the Turkish , Kyrgyz and Chuvash language used is.

    Kazakh used the Arabic script since the 19th century . The Russian minority in the country founded secular schools with the Cyrillic alphabet and the Kazakhs founded religious schools with the Arabic alphabet.

    In 1927 the first writing reform of the Kazakh language took place in the Soviet Union . The Arabic script was initially replaced by a Latin alphabet and then by a modified Cyrillic in 1940 when compulsory Russian lessons were introduced in Kazakhstan .

    In 1990 the Kazakh government decided to change the language of the country again to a Latin alphabet and a corresponding model alphabet was drafted by 1995. However, the final changeover to the Latin alphabet has not yet been carried out. However, a Latin version was also created for the government website and the website of the Kazakh news agency. In addition, the Cyrillic script will prevail until further notice.

    In the Kazakh settlement areas of Mongolia, the Arabic alphabet was adopted by the Kazakhs there in the 1940s. In the Chinese settlement areas, too, the current Kazakh cyrillic alphabet was adopted for a short time from 1950 to 1970. However, in the 1970s, it was decided to latinize the minorities of China and a Latin alphabet was therefore introduced. Since the Chinese government reversed the Latinization, a modified Arabic alphabet has been reintroduced for the Kazakhs in China.

    Chinese has been the second most widely spoken language (L2) since 2016, displacing English as a second language.

    "Non-destructive-aggressive society"

    The social psychologist Erich Fromm used ethnographic records to analyze 30 pre-state peoples, including the Kazak ethnic group , as part of his work on the anatomy of human destructiveness . He finally assigned them to the “non-destructive-aggressive societies”, whose cultures are characterized by a sense of community with pronounced individuality (status, success, rivalry), targeted child-rearing, regulated manners, privileges for men and, above all, male tendencies to aggression - but without destructive ones Tendencies (destructive rage, cruelty, greed for murder, etc.) - are marked. (see also: "War and Peace" in pre-state societies )

    Famous Kazakhs

    Web links

    Commons : Kazakhs  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files
    Wiktionary: Kazakhs  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations


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