Development of cattle breeding of the Kazakh steppe in the XVIII-XIX centuries in the works of Russian travelers: historiographic analysis (on the example of Semirechye)

The article deals with the actual problem of the development of traditional livestock breeding of the Kazakh people in the works of Russian travelers of the XVIII century. The materials were obtained from primary sources on the basis of the works of Russian travelers, researchers, and from the results of academic expeditions; the study provides a historiographic and a source study analysis of the process of the formation of nomadic and semi-nomadic cattle breeding. The author of the article found out that the development of nomadic cattle breeding of the Kazakh people is influenced by local natural and climatic factors. Also analyzes regional features of the Kazakh steppe economy, which is based on the works of Russian travelers. As a result of the materials of the I and II academic conferences, works were analyzed and conclusions were drawn about the development of traditional animal husbandry of the Kazakh people. Information about cattle breeding in the journals of officials of the Russian Empire is also analyzed. This study presented the works of Russian travelers and researchers of the XVIII century.


It is known, that the natural and climatic factors of Kazakhstan have a special place in the formation of the development of animal husbandry of the Kazakh people. Because, the main feature of land use and livelihood was animal husbandry almost for three centuries. Our people were mainly engaged in seasonal migration.

The traditional system of seasonally migration of pastures, such as “kuzdik, kystau, kokteu, zhailay” has been established due to the peculiarities of living conditions. Mountain gorges and snow-covered areas were used as winter pastures (“kystau”), and autumn and spring pastures (“kuzdik and kokteu”) were mostly located in areas with rapid snowmelt. Features of the geographical environment of the Kazakh land also determined the food composition of livestock. The proportion of sheep, horses, cows and camels was not uniform.

There are two types of traditional animal husbandry in the Kazakh region. There are: nomadic and semi-nomadic livestock. The first type of nomadic animal husbandry is concentrated in areas with low natural fertility of plants in the local natural and climatic conditions, without reservoirs, mostly in desert areas.

Due to the regional peculiarities of the Kazakh steppe, nomadic animal husbandry was formed on the island of Mangyshlak, in Ustyurt, in the Aral Sea region. Semi-nomadic animal husbandry developed mainly in the East and North-East Kazakhstan regions of Kazakhstan, in the Kosozen region.

The writings and works of Russian travelers and researchers of the XVIII century are among the most important data on the economic history of Kazakhstan, as they reflect the various aspects of the socioeconomic situation in the Kazakh steppe.

Methodology and research methods

Comparative, systematic historical methods of analysis were used to demonstrate the methodological basis of the study. Analytical analysis was used in the analysis of the works of Russian travelers. At the same time, the method of comparative data analysis was not left out. In addition, the methods of logical analysis, analysis and synthesis, historical-systematic methods were used, and the modern significance of the works of Russian travelers and researchers of the XVIII-XIX centuries was revealed. The researches of the XVIII-XIX centuries are analyzed in the description of their works. Their significance was assessed through data analysis.

Results and discussion

There are historical and ethnographic scientific works on the Kazakh people in Russia, published in the pre-revolutionary period. The first information about the life and culture of the Kazakh people appeared in the XVIII century. This is the work of S. Remyozov [1], I. Sievers [2], G.F. Miller [3], I.P. Falk [4], G. Georgyi [5], P.S. Pallas [6], I.G. Andreev [7], P.I. Rychkov [8], N.P. Rychkov [9] and other works of scientists.

These authors-scientists, researchers, travelers have collected extensive ethnographic material on the tribal composition, economy, material and spiritual culture of the Kazakh people, and the area of settlement. These data mainly form a database of Kazakh ethnography of the XVIII century [10].

One of the earliest researches of the XVIII century is S. Remezov's “Drawing book of Siberia”. It contains valuable information about the ethnic territory of the Kazakhs of the Middle Zhuz, nomadic livestock [1].

In addition, the work “History of Siberia”, published in 1750 by historian G.F. Miller, requires a research. Although the second volume of this research mainly identifies the social and political history of the Kazakh region, it reflects the nomadic life of the Kazakh people. He used Siberian chronicles about the origin of the Kazakh people [2].

Russian Academic Expeditions to study the Kazakh land began to be organized in the XVIII century. Prominent representatives of the II Academic Expedition, as I.P. Falk, P.S. Pallas collected valuable information about Kazakh ethnography. For the first time they described the culture, life, economy and social status of the Kazakh people.

I.P. Falk, a Swedish healer by origin, collected information about the ethnography of the Kazakh people in Russia. In the middle of the XVIII century he conducted expeditions to the Astrakhan and Orenburg regions, Western Siberia and the Southern Urals. His works are valuable in that they provide a detailed description of animal husbandry in the information about the material culture of the nomadic population [4].

He left the following information about the development of animal husbandry of the Kazakh people: “The main type of Kyrgyz household is animal husbandry. They have a large number of livestock. Horses play a key role in animal husbandry. Along with horses, sheep also have a special place. Their meat is used in everyday life and it is the main food” [12].

In his fundamental work: “The main type of Kyrgyz household is animal husbandry. They have a very large herd. They have a large number of livestock species. The following information was left regarding the four types of livestock:

1. Horses are their main species. They calculated their wealth with horses. The Kyrgyz people, like the Bashkir people, are fully committed to horse breeding. A family with only 50 horses can live well. The “laborer” themselves have 2,000 horses out of 1,000. It is sold to Bukhara residents at a high price. In rich and powerful people, from 5 to 10 thousand herds of horses graze.

  1. Camels are owned by almost all Kyrgyz, mostly with two-humped camels. They use the one-humped camel because it can withstand heavy roads and travel long distances without food. That is why they are often used by Bukhara and Khiva caravans. Two-humped camels are large, fleshy and resistant to severe frosts. They feed on large amounts of grass. Camels are used by Kyrgyz for movement. All yurts are loaded on camels. Horse milk is called “koumiss (kymyz)”. An adult camel carries a load of 40 pounds. One camel gives the skin of 4 sheep. Their meat is the most delicious and nutritious.
  2. Kyrgyz do not own large amounts of cattle. They are constantly in the pasture and mow special grass for them. They learned to keep them on pastures from Kalmyks and Bashkirs.
  3. Their sheep are the big ones. They graze all year round. Sheep are used in everyday life like horses. Their meat is used in everyday use. The skin is short, mainly used for making felt. Sheep are sheared twice a year. It basically sews a winter coat from sheepskin and brings it to Orenburg.
  4. Goats are kept in the same herd with sheep. Do not use their skin. They are brought to Orenburg in large quantities [2;124-126].

The researcher also related the additional profession of the Kazakhs in his work: “Kyrgyz people are engaged not only in cattle breeding, but also in hunting. Their most interesting activity is eagle hunting. They buy an eagle from Orenburg for 6-7 soms” [2; 128].

Participant of the II Academic Expedition in the works of German physician, chemist, naturalist, traveler Georgyi: “The life of all Kyrgyz is connected with nomadic life. They live in mobile yurts and move around for livestock. In nomadic life, they move with their herds to the northern regions in summer and to the southern regions in winter. Hunting and fishing are complementary occupations, while agriculture is often practiced on fertile land” [5; 111 ].

The work of this researcher provides the following information about four types of livestock: «Herds consist mostly of horses, cattle, sheep and lambs. They are used for food and clothing. Ordinary people can have about 50 or 30 horses, half cattle, 100 sheep and a few camels. The Middle (Orta) Zhuz has 10,000 horses, up to 300 camels, and 3,000 to 4,000 head of cattle. There are also 20,000 sheep and more than 1,000 goats. There are rich people with more than 5,000 horses in the Lesser (Kishi) Zhuz” [5; 115].

One of the participants of the II Academic Expedition, an outstanding representative, Doctor of Medicine, Academician of the Imperial Academy of Sciences of Russia, Peter Simon Pallas, in 1769 traveled the Kazakh land from Orenburg, Urals, Western Siberia, Irtysh to Semipalatinsk. As this is the first expedition to comprehensively study Kazakhstan, it has a special value in reporting on the culture, economy and life of nomads [6].

As a result of the expedition, P.S. Pallas's study “Journeys to different provinces of the Russian Empire” was published. He noted that the Kazakh people's livestock depends on natural and climatic factors, and gave the following information about animal husbandry: “The main wealth of the Kyrgyz is animal husbandry, a large number of horses and sheep. Due to the small number of camels and cows, it is difficult to provide enough food for the winter” [6; 581].

Regarding the four types of livestock, P.S. Pallas said: «Kyrgyz horses are similar to the horses of the Kalmyk people, but they are larger. They are wild, fast, and search for food all winter long. They divide the horses into herds and leaves one horse from each herd” [6; 582-583].

According to Russian Academic Expeditions, the main household activity of the Kazakh people is nomadic animal husbandry. Pallas's work considers that the type of household of the Kazakh people depends on natural and climatic factors. Falk's work identifies four food animals.

Valuable information about the development of animal husbandry of the Kazakhs of the Middle Zhuz, which was part of the Russian Empire, is reflected in the work of engineer, officer of the Central Staff I.G. Andreev “Description of the Middle Horde of Kyrgyz-Kaisaks”. Not only the household of the Kazakhs was written in his work, but also about the culture and life of the nomads have seen at the Siberian archival documents. In the section of his work on handicrafts and trade: “Recognized as the first and main craft, they build their houses from thin fibers. Blacksmiths make knives, we, spears, bows. Coppersmiths make whips. Marzhan makes various beads, as well as women's hats. In summer, they ferment koumiss and make wine, dig a hole on the shore and put a big cast-iron pot. In a cast iron pot, soap is boiled and food is made. The soap is black and hard like a stone” [7; 38].

In the works of travelers of academic expeditions of the XVIII century there is a conclusion that the main type of economy of the Kazakh people - animal husbandry. In addition, the four products determine the specifics of livestock. Horses, camels and cattle, and Kyrgyz sheep determine the features and importance of life.

Kazakhs also talk about the benefits of hunting and other industries, in addition to livestock.

The difference between the female and male occupations in Falk's labor was that the various food were derived from cattle; butter, cheese, and the types of koumiss. It also determines the technique of processing animal skins.

Valuable information on the development of animal husbandry in the Kazakh steppes can also be found in the works of officials who worked in the administrative service in the Orenburg region. Valuable information about the development of the Kazakh people, which was part of the Russian Empire, is directly related to the activities of the official of the Orenburg administration, a prominent diplomat A.I. Tevkelev. His activity was carried out in the Orenburg province, on the north-western border of the Kazakh steppe. He was recognized in the region not only as a diplomat and official, but also as a scientist who studied the history, culture and social situation of the Kazakh people. His study “Journal on Kirghis-Kaysak affairs of 1748” contains valuable ethnographic data from 1731-1759 years. This work often provides information about the Kazakhs of the Lesser (Kishi) Zhuz. Therefore, his work is as valuable as P.I. Rychkov's research. A.I. Tevkelev gives the following information about the traditional livestock of the Kazakhs of the Orenburg region: “All their wealth is in the possession of horses and sheep. In order to keep livestock in everyday life, they make the necessary knives, iron pots, horse equipment” [12; 388].

In the study of the history and ethnography of the Orenburg region, a member of the Russian Academy of Sciences, a participant in the Orenburg expedition, a well-known scientist P.I. Rychkov has a special place. One of his main works is “Topography of Orenburg”. It contains the first geographical, historical and ethnographic data about the Kazakh steppe. In his work, P.I. Rychkov showed the integration of the people of the Lesser (Kishi) and Middle (Orta) Zhuz into the Russian Empire, the development of trade, economy, migration and tribal structure. He provided detailed information about the migration system, showing the peculiarities of the development of animal husbandry of the Lesser (Kishi) and Middle (Orta) Zhuz [13].

Rychkov's research contains valuable information about the level of livestock development of the Kazakhs of the Lesser (Kishi) and Middle (Orta) Zhuz. Between 1769-1770 years, he traveled to the Ural region of the Russian Empire. Nikolai Rychkov, P.I. Rychkov's son, wrote a book on the history and ethnography of the Kazakh people, “Diary of the voyage of Captain Nikolai Rychkov's across the Kyrgyz-Kaisaks' steppe, 1771”. This work contains valuable information about the geography of the Kazakh land, the life of the Kazakh people, customs, traditions, marriage, martial arts, animal husbandry, agricultural development, religion. Information on the livestock of the Kazakh people is based on the work of Pallas: “Among the Kyrgyz there are many rich people with large livestock. One family has up to 20,000 horses and a large number of sheep. Large herds do not require their hard work, as horses and sheep feed on fertile grass in summer and winter” [9; 30].

It is known that in the XVIII century the administration of the Russian Empire considered the territory of Kazakhstan as a transit zone for trade and close ties with the Central Asian Khanates. Therefore, special envoys were sent to the Kazakh region and the Central Asian Khanates. The main task of this diplomatic relations was to create favorable conditions for the Russian people at the expense of the trade market of the Central Asian Khanates (Tashkent, Bukhara, Kokand and Khiva Emirates). The ambassadors also collected ethnographic information about the Kazakh people and the geographical location of the Kazakh steppe. The information gathered through the Russian ambassadors to Central Asia is valuable because it provides information about the life, customs, culture, economy and way of life of the Kazakh people. Yakov Petrovich Gaverdovsky, who went to Bukhara as a Russian ambassador in 1803, left a manuscript with two parts on the geography, history and culture of the Kazakh people, entitled “Review of the Kyrgyz-Kaisak steppe”. This manuscript was published only during the years of independence through the program “Cultural Heritage” [14].

Demonstrating the development of animal husbandry in each region of Kazakhstan Y.P. Gaverdovsky said: “Kazakhs along the Syr-Darya and the Aral Sea are not fully engaged in animal husbandry. Most of the population traded with the people of Khiva near the Aral Sea. They do not sell their property to Russia. The Kyrgyz here live in luxury, allowing poverty, looting, trade caravans, and hostage-taking” [14; 36].

In addition, the following information is given in connection with the types of livestock in Gaverdovsky's work: “For the Kyrgyz, camels are one of the most important food animals. They feed on salty grass. They can live without water for up to 5 days or more. They are also needed for heavy transportation. Felt is used to cover houses from their skins. These types of livestock are very dangerous as other livestock species. The land for the types of livestock is loamy, black soil, suitable for agriculture” [14; 50].

Now we consider that the development of animal husbandry in the Semirechye region, which is part of the Governor-General of Turkestan, is associated with everyday life. The following information is given in the works of Russian researchers: “If the Kazakhs could, they would turn the whole world into a pasture” [15].

The traditional animal husbandry of the Kazakh people is based on nomadism, and in their centuries-old practice, a “migration zone” has been formed depending on the season. The whole field area is divided into seasonal “kuzdik, kystau, kokteu, zhailay” pastures. Livestock grazed on natural pastures in all four seasons of the year. Each tribe or rural area annually moved along the paths formed by their ancestors, stopping at a certain well, along a river, and they followed the tradition of migration within a certain geographical area.

Geyer, who served as a royal official, wrote in his book “Turkestan” that there was a famine in the Semirechye region, which severely affected the development of animal husbandry, and that the local population was forced to switch to agriculture. We can learn about it in the following: “And then comes the terrible scourge of cattle breeding – “Zhut”, i.e. death from lack of food. After such years, the rich Kyrgyz turn to niches, take up the plow” [16].

At the same time, we can show that the population was forced to settle down. In addition to the works of military officials who served in tsarist Russia, it is worth mentioning Fedorov, one of the scientists who conducted a military-statistical study of the Turkestan military district in the early twentieth century. Fedorov's study “Military-statistical description of the Turkestan military district” identified the features of horses in the livestock of Zhetysu region: “At present, the Semirechye Kyrgyz horse is a small outbred horse completely unsuitable for artillery (except for mountain) and cavalry. However, it is distinguished by its strong constitution and endurance, freely remaining without food for a day, and horses raised in the mountains are indispensable for moving along mountain paths, where steppe or stable horses turn out to be completely useless and even dangerous” [17].

Apart from the Russian Geographical Society, manuscript diaries left by military officials are kept in special collections of Central Staff officers. Mikhail Vasilyevich Krasovsky in his works has sufficiently analyzed the geographical and statistical data collected by Russian officials, in particular, the officers of the General Staff, which showed the level of development of animal husbandry in Zhetysu region. According to the author, the peculiarities of the types of livestock in the livestock of the Kazakh people were identified by M. Krasovsky's work “Materials for the Geography and Statistics of Russia, Collected by Officers of the General Staff. The region of the Siberian Kyrgyz” and it is described as follows: “These include mammals: sheep, horses, large and small ruminants, camel, cat, and birds: goose, duck, chicken, turkey, pigeon, crane, eagle, falcon and kite”.

  1. The Kyrgyz sheep belongs to a simple breed; it differs from the Russian sheep by its large growth, strong constitution, coarse, hanging hair, mostly reddish in color, fleshy and a significant amount of fat, which accumulates mainly towards the back by a large growth, which is called a fat tail.
  2. Kyrgyz horse of small stature, the highest 2 arch., 1 vert., short neck, head down, prevailing nest suit and red.
  3. The camel found in the area belongs exclusively to the Bactrian species; if in the south of the steppe, among some rich Kirghiz, one-humped camels are found, then no more than one, two per hundred, which is why these individuals are valued almost twice as compared to ordinary camels.
  4. Kyrgyz bulls and cows differ from Russians in smaller size, but greater strength of constitution and the same tolerance as the rest of the steppe cattle [18].

One of the peculiarities of Krasovsky's work is the distinctive features of the type of animals in the Semirechye region. This is especially valuable as evidence in determining the specifics of animal husbandry.


In conclusion, the works of Russian travelers, officials, diplomats, scientists of the XVIII-XIX centuries are considered as one of the most important facts in the study of traditional culture of the Kazakh people. The main value of ethnographic data lies in its independent coverage of the policy of the Russian Empire. The data of the academic expedition provide detailed information about the development of traditional animal husbandry of the Kazakh people, as travelers who came to the Kazakh steppes on a special route were aimed at studying the geography, ethnography and history of the Russian Empire. Officials in the Russian Empire, on the other hand, wrote only brief information about traditional animal husbandry. The ambassadors, who came to Kazakhstan from the imperial side, considered the Kazakh steppe as the main transit zone for trade with the Russian Empire and the Central Asian Khanates, and stressed the importance of the types of livestock in trade. The work of Russian travelers and researchers on the level of livestock development in Zhetysu region provides a lot of information about the development of nomadic livestock, the formation of the migration system, the forced migration of the local population from nomadic to sedentary farming.



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Year: 2020
City: Karaganda
Category: History