The Kazakhs (Qazaq, Quazaq), (in Kazakh: Қазақ; in Russian: Казах; English term is the transliteration from Russian) are a Turkic people of the northern parts of Central Asia famous in the past for the fierce love of freedom, skillful horse riding, hunting with semi-domesticated eagles, and currently (as of 2003), for the rapid economic growth of the independent state of Kazakhstan. Ethnically, they are a mix of early Turkic and Mongol tribes.
The word Kazakh was included in a Turkish-Arabian dictionary of the 13th century AD. The meaning of this word was/is "independent" or "free".
Persian, Russian and in smaller degree Arab cultures influenced the current Kazakh traditions. Modern Kazakhstan is the location of Sarmatians described in a segment of the PBS "Secrets of the Dead" series, "Warrior Amazon Women"
The Kazakh language is close to other Turkic languages. Native speakers of Kazakh, Uzbek, Kyrgyz, Tatar, Uighur can easily communicate without the need for a translator; Turkish, Azeri, Turkmen can easily be picked up - due to the close similarity - for example: "al" means "take" in Kazakh, but it means the same thing in almost any Turkic language. The same goes for "at" - "horse", "otār" - "sit" etc.
Traditionally, Kazakhs tracked their tribal roots. Every Kazakh was supposed to know his/her tribe and all grandparents of at least 7 generations. Kazakhs were not allowed to marry if they had a common predecessor within 7 generations. When a man and a woman marry, their children usually become members of the husband's tribe. Inter-tribe marriages were encouraged.
In modern Kazakhstan, tribalism is officially prohibited, practically almost negligible, and definitely fading away in business and government life. However, it still exists and sometimes plays a subtle role here and there. It is a very important component of Kazakh culture. It's very common for Kazakhs to ask which tribe they belong to when they meet each other. There is no hostility between tribes, and Kazakhs, regardless of their tribal origin, consider themselves one nation.
Tribalism played a much greater role during Soviet times, especially when the head of Kazakhstan's Communist Party was D.A. Kunaev . Unfortunately, tribal origin was a hidden factor in work and social life.
Kazakhs in China
The Kazakhs also form one of the 56 ethnic groups officially recognized by the People's Republic of China.
There is one Kazakh autonomous prefecture in the People's Republic of China: the Illi Kazakh Autonomous Prefecture, in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region.
Kazakhs in Russia
Pockets of Kazakhs can be found in the Oblasts bordering Kazakhstan.
Last updated: 06-02-2005 13:17:16
Last updated: 09-12-2005 02:39:13