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The Kazakhs (also spelled Kazaks, Qazaqs; ; the English name is transliterated from Russian) are a Turkic people of the northern parts of Central Asia (largely Kazakhstanmarker, but also found in parts of Uzbekistanmarker, Chinamarker, Russiamarker, and Mongoliamarker).

Kazakhs are descendants of Turkic tribes (Kipchaks and Naimans, Cumans, Nogais, Qarluqs, Kankalis), Mongol groups (Kiyat, Kerait, Onggirat, Argyns, Manghud, Jalayir, Dughlat, etc.) , Indo-Iranian tribes (Wusun, Sarmatians, Sacae, Scythians, etc.) and Huns which populated the territory between Siberiamarker and the Black Seamarker and remained in Central Asia when the Turkic and Mongolic groups started to invade and conquer the area between the fifth and thirteenth centuries AD [30156].

Etymology of Qazaq

The Kazakhs began using this name during either the 15th or 16th century. There are many theories on the origin of the word Kazakh or Qazaq. Qazaq was included in a 13th century Turkic-Arabic dictionary, where its meaning was given as "independent" or "freeman". . Some speculate that it comes from the Turkish verb qaz (to wander), because the Kazakhs were wandering steppemen; or that it derives from the Mongol word khasaq (a wheeled cart used by the Kazakhs to transport their yurts and belongings).

In the 19th century, one etymological explanation was that the name came from the popular Kazakh legend of the white goose (qaz means "goose", aq means "white"). In this creation myth, a white steppe goose turned into a princess, who in turn gave birth to the first Kazakh. This etymological derivation is regarded as flawed because, in Turkic languages, the adjective is put before the noun, and therefore "white goose" would be Aqqaz, not Qazaq.

Another theory on the origin of the word Kazakh (originally Qazaq) is that it comes from the ancient Turkic word qazğaq, first mentioned on the 8th century Turkic monument of Uyuk-Turan. According to the notable Turkic linguist Vasily Radlov 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 stamps featuring a traditional bride's dress, groom's clothing and the interior of a kiyiz uy, a traditional Kazakh yurt.

Due to their complex history, Kazakhs display phenotypical diversity, though they tend to exhibit predominantly Mongoloid features.Fair to light-brown skin tends to be the norm. Among physical traits are aquiline noses, epicanthic fold and high cheekbones. Hair colour among Kazakhs varies from prevalent jet black to red and sandy brown. Hazel, green and blue eyes are not uncommon. These nomads roamed in the Altai Mountains (and thus are known as Altaic peoples) in northern Mongolia and on the steppes of Central Asia.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 dombra, a plucked lute with two strings. It is often used to accompany solo or group singing. Another popular instrument is kobyz, a bow instrument played on the knees. Along with other instruments, these two instruments play a key role in the traditional Kazakh orchestra. A famous composer is Kurmangazy, who lived in the 19th century. A famous singer of the Soviet epoch is Roza Rymbaeva, she was a star of the trans-Soviet-Union scale. A famous Kazakh rock band is Urker, performing in the genre of ethno-rock, which synthesises rock music with the traditional Kazakh music.


The Kazakh language is a member of the Turkic language family, as are Uzbek, Kyrgyz, Tatar, Uyghur, Turkish, Azeri, Turkmen, and many other living and historical languages spoken in Eastern Europe, Central Asia, Xinjiang, and Siberiamarker.

Kazakh belongs to the Kipchak (Northwestern) group of the Turkic language family. Kazakh is characterized, in distinction to other Turkic languages, by the presence of in place of reconstructed proto-Turkic * and in place of * ; furthermore, Kazakh has (alveodental affricate) where other Turkic languages have (glide).

Kazakh, like most of the Turkic language family lacks phonemic vowel length, 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 Latin alphabet was imposed for writing Kazakh. The Latin alphabet was in turn replaced by the Cyrillic alphabet in 1940.

Kazakh is one of the principal languages spoken in Kazakhstanmarker, along with Russian. It is also spoken in the Ilimarker region of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in the People's Republic of Chinamarker, where the Arabic script is used, and in parts of Mongolia.

Kazakh tribalism

[[Image:Жуз.svg|thumb|250 px|left|Approximate areas occupied by the three Kazakh jüz in the early 20th century.
]]Due to their nomadicpastoral lifestyle, Kazakhs kept an epic tradition of oral history. They had to develop phenomenal memories in order to keep an account of their history. 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 Arabicword shajara - "tree").

The Kazakh marriage system was exogamous, with marriage between individuals with a common ancestor within seven generations considered taboo. In intertribal marriage, paternal descent is decisive.

In modern Kazakhstan, tribalismis fading away in business and government life. Still it is common for Kazakhs to ask which tribe they belong to when they meet 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.

The majority of Kazakhs belongs to one of the three juz(juz, roughly translatable as "horde"): the "Great juz" (Ulı juz), "Middle juz" (Orta juz), and "Junior juz" (Kişi juz). Every juz consists of tribes (taypa) and clans (ruw). Also Kazakhs, but outside of the juz system are: tore(direct descendants of Genghis Khan), qoja/Khoja(descendants of Arabianmissionaries and colonists), tolengit(descendants of Oiratcaptives), "sunak" (like "qoja" Khoja- descendants of Arabianmissionaries and colonists) and "kolegen" (descendants of Ancient Sairaminhabitants).


Islamwas brought to ancestors of modern Kazakhs during the 8th century when the Arabsentered Central Asia. Islam initially took hold in the southern portions of Turkestan and thereafter gradually spread northward. Islam also took root due to the zealous missionary work of Samanid rulers, notably in areas surrounding Tarazmarker where a significant number of Turks accepted Islam.Additionally, in the late 1300s, the Golden Hordepropagated Islam amongst the Kazakhs and other Central Asian tribes. During the 1700s, Russian influence toward the region rapidly increased throughout Central Asia. Led by Catherine, the Russians initially demonstrated a willingness in allowing Islamto 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 collective consciousness. Such attempts included methods of eulogizing pre-Islamic historical figures and imposing a sense of inferiority by sending Kazakhs to highly elite Russianmarker military institutions.In response, Kazakh religious leaders attempted to bring religious fervor by espousing pan-Turkism, though many were persecuted as a result. During the Sovietmarker era, Muslim institutions survived only in areas where Kazakhs significantly outnumbered non-Muslims due to everyday Muslim practices.In an attempt to conform Kazakhs into Communistideologies, gender relations and other aspects of the Kazakh culture were key targets of social change.

In more recent times however, Kazakhs have gradually employed determined effort in revitalizing Islamic religious institutions after the fall of the Soviet Unionmarker.Kazakhs continue to identify with their Islamic faith, and even more devotedly in the countryside. Those who claim descent from the original Muslimsoldiers 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, Marat Tazhin, recently emphasized that Kazakhstan attaches importance to the use of "positive potential Islam, learning of its history, culture and heritage."

Kazakh population in Kazakhstan

Ethnic Kazakhs in percent of total population of Kazakhstan according to various censuses
1897 % 1911 % 1926 % 1939 % 1959 % 1970 % 1979 % 1989 % 1999 % 2008 % 2009 % 73.9 60.8 59.5 38.0 30.0 32.6 36.0 39.7 53.4 59.8 65

Kazakh minorities

In Russia

In Russiamarker, the Kazakh population lives primarily in the regions bordering Kazakhstan. According to Kazakhstan's Ministry of Culture and Information, there are currently 1,310,000 Kazakhs in Russia, most of whom are in the Astrakhan, Volgograd, Samara, Orenburg, Chelyabinsk, Kurgan, Tyumen, Omskmarker, Novosibirsk and Altai Kraimarker regions. Though ethnically Kazakh, after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, these people acquired Russian citizenship.

In China

Kazakhs, called Hāsàkè Zú in Chinese (; literally "Kazakh people" or "Kazakh tribe") are among 56 minority groups officially recognized by the People's Republic of Chinamarker. In China there is one Kazakh autonomous prefecture, the Ili Kazakh Autonomous Prefecturemarker in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, three Kazakh autonomous counties, Aksai Kazakh Autonomous Countymarker in Gansumarker, Barkol Kazakh Autonomous County and Mori Kazakh Autonomous County in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. Many Kazakhs in China are not fluent in Standard Mandarin, instead speaking the Kazakh language. Since the early 21st century, Mamuer Rayeskan, a young Kazakh musician from Qitai, Xinjiang now living in Beijing, has achieved some renown for his reworking of Kazakh folk songs with his group IZ, with which he sings and plays acoustic guitar, dombra, and jaw harp.

Other countries

  • Mongoliamarker: Majority of Kazakhs live in Bayan-Ölgiy Provincemarker. The Kazakh folk music is well known and loved in Mongolia. Most of Mongolian Kazakhs belong to "Middle juz" (Orta juz), the largest among three juzes.
  • Uzbekistanmarker: Significant Kazakh population lives in Karakalpakstanmarker and Tashkent oblast. Since the fall of Soviet Union, vast majority of Kazakh people are returning to Kazakhstan, mainly to Manghistau Oblastmarker'. Most Kazakhs in Karakalpakstanmarker are descendants of one of the branches of "Junior juz" (Kişi juz)-Adai tribe.
  • Iranmarker: Iranian Kazakhs live mainly in the Golestanmarker province in northern Iranmarker. According to, in 1982 there were 3000 Kazakhs living in the city of Gorganmarker. Since fall of the Soviet Unionmarker number of Kazakhs in Iran decreased due to emigration to their historical Motherland."

Famous Kazakhs

See also

Notes and references

  1. Z. V. Togan: The Origins of the Kazaks and the Ozbeks, Central Asian Survey Vol. 11, No. 3. 1992
  2. Barthol'd, Vasiliĭ Vladimirovich. Four Studies on the History of Central Asia, vol. 3, trans. V. and T. Minorsky. Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1962, p. 129
  3. Olcott, Martha Brill, The Kazakhs, Hoover Press, 1995, p. 4, ISBN 0817993517, ISBN 9780817993511. Retrieved on 7 April 2009
  4. Grodekov, Nikolaĭ Ivanovich. Kirgizy i Karakirgizy Syr'-darinskoi oblasti, vol. 1, Tashkent: Iuridicheskii byt, 1889, p. 1
  5. Yudin, Veniamin P. Tsentralnaya Aziya v 14-18 vekah glazami vostokoveda, Almaty: Dajk-Press, 2001, ISBN 9965-441-39-1
  6. Atabaki, Touraj. Central Asia and the Caucasus: transnationalism and diaspora, pg. 24
  7. Ibn Athir, volume 8, pg. 396
  8. Khodarkovsky, Michael. Russia's Steppe Frontier: The Making of a Colonial Empire, 1500-1800, pg. 39.
  9. Ember, Carol R. and Melvin Ember. Encyclopedia of Sex and Gender: Men and Women in the World's Cultures, pg. 572
  10. Hunter, Shireen. "Islam in Russia: The Politics of Identity and Security", pg. 14
  11. Farah, Caesar E. Islam: Beliefs and Observances, pg. 304
  12. Farah, Caesar E. Islam: Beliefs and Observances, pg. 340
  13. Page, Kogan. Asia and Pacific Review 2003/04, pg. 99
  14. Atabaki, Touraj. Central Asia and the Caucasus: transnationalism and diaspora.
  15. | 154837
  16. گلستان
  17. Ethnologue report for Iran
  19. قزاق

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