Historical Memory of the Kazakhs in the “Materials on Kyrgyz Land Use”

The statistical survey of the territories of Kazakhstan in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the results of which were reflected in the “Materials on Kyrgyz (Kazakh) Land Use”, reflected not only the economic condition of Kazakh society but also the traditional historical memory. Historical legends reflect the time of their settlement in certain territories. These legends record the earlier settlements of the Kazakhs in the territories of Northern Kazakhstan — in the 14th–16th centuries. However, a number of written sources contradict the historical memory of the Kazakhs and point out the appearance of the Kazakhs in this territory only in the 17th–18th centuries. The reason for this is that Kazakh communities which declared their autochthonous origin were not part of the political system of the Kazakh Khanate until the 17th century and were known under the collective names “Nogai” and “Siberian Tatars”. “Materials” are an important source on the ethnic and political history of the Kazakh steppes in the 14th–18th centuries.


The traditional historical memory of the Kazakhs, reflected in historical legends, is of particular interest to researchers of Central Asian history. In the conditions of the shortage of written sources, the role of oral narratives has increased. This has even led to an attempt to introduce the concept of “oral historiology” in relation to Central Asian realities [1; 176–177]. As one of the important types of sources on the history of the Kazakhs, the oral legends are considered by the Kazakh researchers [2]. At the same time, oral narratives, while certainly possessing a certain specificity, are not an independent type of sources, as they acquire the properties of a historical source only in the process of their written or any other (video, audio) fixation.

Nevertheless, the historical legends of the Kazakhs is virtually the only source by which we can reconstruct the traditional historical memory, traditional representations of their own history, its key moments, reflected in the mass consciousness. The specificity of the Kazakh historical memory is the domination of two types of historical legends — genealogical and toponymic, and often they are closely intertwined. This is caused by the peculiarities of the social structure of Kazakh society, in which the hierarchy of economic communities and post-state groups is aligned with genealogical kinship, real or fictitious. Accordingly, the place of each individual and group in this hierarchy depended on the place in the system of genealogical kinship, which was legitimized through genealogical traditions. An increase or decrease of the real status of a group in the hierarchy led to a revision of the genealogies and the emergence of a new legend. Thus, the legends recorded at different times and in different geographical points of the Kazakh steppes may differ from each other.

*Corresponding author e-mail: yerkinabil@gmail.com

Most of the historical legends of the Kazakhs were recorded by historians and orientalists in the second half of the 19th–early 20th centuries, but there is a whole layer of documents, in which the special purpose of written fixation of the oral heritage of the Kazakhs was not set, so they have been outside the attention of scientists studying the traditional historical consciousness of the Kazakhs. They include “Materials on the Kyrgyz Land Use” (hereinafter in the text — “Materials”) — the results of statistical and economic expeditions to survey the Kazakh farms of the Steppe Region and Turkestan in the late 19th–early 20th century.

The fact that during the survey the expedition participants studied the history of settlement of the surveyed area from the words of the Kazakhs themselves, “according to the oral traditions of the inhabitants of the region” adds special value to this information [3; 87]. In this way, this statistical work contains reminiscences of the historical memory of the Kazakhs, a reflection of their ideas about their past, which allows us to use “Materials” as a source for the reconstruction of historical memory.


The empirical basis for this study was the information contained in the “Materials on Kyrgyz Land Use” published in 1898–1915. This multi-volume publication was the result of a systematic statistical survey of the territory of Kazakhstan conducted by several specialized expeditions on behalf of the government of the Russian Empire.

The systematic study of Kazakh land use is associated with the activities of the expedition for the statistical survey of the counties of the Steppe Governorate General under the leadership of F. Scherbina. The main purpose of this expedition, organized by the Ministry of Agriculture and State Property, was to establish norms of the Kazakh land use, regulate the flow of settlers, and create a land fund for their accommodation [4; 48]. The expedition surveyed five counties (Akmola, Petropavlovsk, Atbasar, Kokchetav, Omsk) of Akmola region, five counties (Semipalatinsk, Pavlodar, Zaisan, Ayaguz, Ust-Kamenogorsk) of Semipalatinsk region, and two (Kustanai and Aktyubinsk) of Turgai region [5; 235]. The first solid statistical survey of a large part of modern Kazakhstan, territorially covering in the five-year period of 1896–1903, was carried out [5; 235].

These studies were continued in 1903–1912 by the statistical expedition of P.A. Khvorostansky on the study of the Urals and Turgai regions. In 1906–1913, an expedition led by P.A. Skryplev studied the Syr- Darya region and P.P. Rumyantsev — the Semirechensk region.

“Materials” were repeatedly attracted as a source, but mainly when analyzing the socio-economic processes taking place in the territory of Kazakhstan and in connection with the study of the history of colonization of the Steppe Krai. However, the specificity of this source is that when compiling a survey questionnaire, special attention was paid to the history of formation of each economic aul or seniority [6]. In characterizing the economic auls, the authors note the natural process of their emergence due to the disintegration of clan groups under the influence of demographic factors [7; 4–5].

The “Program for the Description of the General Conditions of the Kyrgyz Economy”, a questionnaire for the study, included questions designed to “find out what significance did clan origin have on the formation and distribution of winterings (kistau), whether there are any legends about it”, owing to which the final publications included a large amount of information from oral historical memory, historical legends of Kazakhs [3; 18].

The published “Materials” on Kokchetav, Petropavlovsk, Akmola, Atbasar, and Omsk districts of Akmola region and Kustanai district of Turgai region, whose territories belong to the historical and cultural area of Northern Kazakhstan, were used for the analysis.

“Materials” as a historical source are considered, first of all, as a carrier of social information. This means that their creators set for themselves certain pragmatic goals — fixation of collective perceptions of the Kazakhs about the time of their settlement in certain territories, having in mind a more general goal — to identify “surplus” lands in the use of the Kazakh communities. The very methodology of compiling the “Materials”, when the primary data collected by researchers during the population survey were significantly revised and edited for publication, allows us to acknowledge the repeated subjectivity of the information contained in them. Historical events were subjectively reflected in the narratives of informants. This information was inevitably distorted during translation/recording, and the records were subjectively selected and edited in preparation for publication. We see not two links in the transmission of information — informer/fixer, but at least three — informer/fixer/interpreter, and often four — informer/translator/fixer/interpreter.

Nevertheless, this information reflected an objective reality — the historical memory of the people, which we can reconstruct by means of a structural analysis of the text. First, we must separate the text of the actual historical legends from the interpretations of the authors of the “Materials”. Second, we separate the legendary historical legends from memorats — legends based on the personal memories of informants. Each element of the structure of the text reflects the information corresponding to a particular historical period and features characteristic of the perception of reality by the informant, fixer and interpreter of the texts of legends.

Reconstruction of the historical memory of the Kazakhs dictates the use of historical-comparative method when comparing the legends recorded in the “Materials” with the legends recorded in other sources: In the works of A. Levshin, G. Spassky, A. Krasovsky, G. Potanin, Ch. Valikhanov, Sh. Kudaiberdyuly, K. Khalid.

Results and Discussion

The materials were repeatedly attracted as a historical source, but they were mainly used in the study of social and economic development of Kazakhstan in the late 19th–early 20th century [8–10]. Virtually all authors of this period spoke of the poor reliability of these materials, especially in terms of statistical descriptions of Kazakh farms.

The “Materials” became the object of study in T. Volkova’s dissertation research in 1982 [5]. She obtained a number of interesting results. Conducting a source analysis of “Materials” for the first time including the use of quantitative methods, she concludes about the high degree of reliability of “Materials” as a source. T. Volkova notes that “in quantitative terms, reliable indicators noticeably prevail over unreliable ones. This allows us to conclude that the majority of the data in the Materials is reliable” [5; 236].

At present, the same problem has been raised by the Kazakh researcher N. Tasilova, who undertook a comprehensive study of the “Materials” as a historical source. She analyzed the general problems of source study, including the important problem of the reliability of the “Materials” in terms of the reflection of the tribal structure of the Kazakhs [6; 12]. The main goal of this source was to provide the Kazakhs with the information about the tribal structure of the Kazakhs and their tribes [6; 12].

The historical legends and reminiscences of the historical memory of the Kazakhs, recorded by the compilers of “Materials” as an independent object of study have not yet been considered in historical science.

All information, given by Kazakhs about their historical past to the authors of the “Materials” can be divided into the following groups: 1. Information about the time of settlement of the territory, in years or generations; 2. Information about eponymic ancestors of individual groups of Kazakhs; 3. Information about historical events associated with the process of development by individual groups of Kazakhs of certain territories. Third group is included in the “Materials” as an illustration of the overall historical process in the territory under study, an explanation of the ethno-confessional situation established by the time of the study.

According to the genre, the historical legends recorded in the “Materials” can be classified as prose epic works. It should be noted that the historical legends are recorded in a concise form. This is explained by the fact that the interest was not the legends as such, but only the information contained in them. From all legends and stories of Kazakhs only information about when this or that territory was occupied was allocated and recorded. The fact of occupation of the territory the compilers of the “Materials” considered the fact of the establishment of a permanent winter residence. Thus, describing the process of settlement in the Atbasar Uyezd based on the oral traditions of the Kazakhs, the authors of the “Materials” point out that “according to the Kyrgyz legends, settlement of the county occurred relatively recently, not earlier than the early 19th century or the last years of the 18th century”, noting further that previously these lands served as “summer pasture for Kyrgyz coming from the south from across the Chu River and for Kyrgyz from the more northern areas, mainly from the southern part of the current Kokchetav uyezd” [11; 2].

However, when compiling the aul (communal) tables for which the informants reported to the expedition members the time of existence of winterings, different information are revealed. So, the Kazakhs of three auls of the 5th administrative aul of the Atbasar volost of the Atbasar uyezd (Khaksal clan) considered that their ancestors occupied the winterings where they are located 300 years ago, i.e. at the end of the 16th century [11; 21].

A significant place in the “Materials” takes the retelling of the legends, which recorded the popular perception of the time of settlement of certain territories. Here is a legend recorded by F.Scherbina with the Kazakhs of the Kokchetavskaya volost on June 21–23, 1896 at the summer camps at Balga and Saumal-kum fields [3; 3–4]:

“The name Kyrghyz is connected with the reference to a person who was captured or joined the Kyrgyz — “Kazak”, as they call themselves, from a hostile ethnic group. A special clan, named after him, descended from the Kyrgyz. <...> Sultan Ablai was allegedly a contemporary of Kyrgyz. According to legend, this sultan did not belong to the Kirghiz ethnicity (Kazakh), but to some other, then he became a Kirghiz sultan because of his personal valor, and when Kyrgyz learned about it, he came to Ablai and joined him, probably as a subject. It is also probable that Kyrgyz was dissatisfied with the authorities under which he was ruled by his tribesmen.

The Kyrgyz of Kokchetav volost say that they have a legend that their ancestors once roamed in Central Asia, somewhere near Bukhara. The area they occupied was very crowded, there was little grazing land for the existing population, and there were incessant strife and clashes over land between the fragmented parts of the entire Kyrgyz nation, which did not have one strong ruler. The ancestors of the present-day Kirghiz at this time heard that there was a very powerful Russian tsar and that there was much free land belonging to him in Western Siberia. Dissatisfied with their situation, the Kirghiz decided, therefore, to go to the Russian tsar to seek peace, land and tranquility. At that time the Kokchetav district was uninhabited and the Kokchetav Kyrgyz proper were based here under the administration of Ablai, and the first place where the Kyrgyz who had been displaced from Central Asia settled was the present Kokchetav stanitsa with the lands belonging to it.

There is a legend about Ablai himself that he was the son of some king who lived in Central Asia and who allegedly ruled over the Sarts. The king had two wives: the elder, who had two sons, and the younger, who had only one son, Ablai. In spite of the seniority of the first two sons, the people wished to have Ablai as king. The older brothers did not like it, and they decided to kill him. Ablai, however, fled to the Kirghiz and became their khan. Ablai was a powerful ruler and all Kyrgyz, i.e., the Big, Small and Middle Horde, were subordinate to him. The ancestors of the current Kirghiz population, located in the Kokchetavskaya Volost, were the only ones who settled near the present Kokchetav volost”.

This legend combines two relatively independent stories — about the coming to power of Ablai Khan and about the eponymic ancestor of the tribal groups Baikyrgyz and Zhanakyrgyz. The legend of Ablai, recorded by the authors of the “Materials”, has little in common with real historical events known from a number of written sources and oral Kazakh folklore [12]. The legend of the Kazakhs’ ancestor Alasha Khan is similar to the legend of a Central Asian (Sartian) ruler, persecution by his relatives, escape to the steppe and subsequent rise to prominence. Different variants of this legend were written down by A.Levshin [13], G.Spasskiy [14], A.Bronevskiy [15], G.Potanin [16], and C.Valikhanov [17]. The informant of the authors of the “Materials” mixed up the plots of various legends about the rulers of the Kazakhs and attributed the traditional plots attributed to the biography of Alasha Khan to the later Ablai Khan.

The legend of the Kyrgyz as a part of the Kokchetav Kazakhs indicates the voluntary resettlement of their ancestor to the borders of Russia due to dissatisfaction with their rulers. However, historical facts demonstrate the forced nature of these migrations. According to Ch. Valikhanov, Ablai at the next confrontation with the Altai Kyrgyz “took out to his horde several hundred dzheyrs (prisoners); these buruts (Kyrgyz — auth). These buruys (baikyz — auth.), coaching with the Atygaev clan of the Middle Horde of the Argyn tribe, gradually merged and now form a division of this clan under the name Yan-Kirgizes and Bay-Kirgizes, and, to obtain the genealogical rights of the clan brotherhood, derive themselves from one of the 12 sons of Daut (ancestor of the Atygaevs) [17; 153–154]. The descendants of the Kazakhs of the Baikyrgyz family still live in this area, in the territory of the modern Zerenda district of Akmola Oblast of the Republic of Kazakhstan and retain the memory of their Kyrgyz ancestry [18].

In addition, some details of the legend, particularly toponyms uncharacteristic of the traditional historical views of the Kazakhs (Western Siberia, Kokchetav stanitsa, Central Asia), suggests that the recorded legend is not authentic, and largely recycled by the fixer or editor of the “Materials”.

It should be noted that these legends go beyond the traditional legends, known from the records of researchers who studied the folklore and oral historical tradition of the Kazakhs. It remains an open question whether this is a reflection of the fact of presence of some independent legendary tradition among the Kokchetav Kazakhs or it is a flaw of the fixation procedure, noted by the researchers themselves. In particular, the authors noted that “... a serious inconvenience, which severely hindered the research, was the need to interview the Kyrgyz population through interpreters. The lack of knowledge of the language and interviewing through a third intermediary required twice as much time as interviewing directly. The so-called Kyrgyz «postmen», i.e. messengers-policemen serving as interpreters when moving from place to place, are unreliable people who can give completely distorted information” [3; 4].

The researchers of the Kokchetav uyezd recorded an interesting legend reflecting not much genealogical as ethnogenetic and ethnocultural views of the Kazakhs. The Kazakhs of Mizgil volost reported the following: “In the 5th administrative aul, they told that the settlement of the steppes by Kyrgyz began soon after the death of Mohammed, i.e., the moment of settlement refers, therefore, to the 7th century. The most distant ancestors are told that all Kyrgyz descended from Uzbek, who had four sons: Kozak, Kalmyk, Yestek and Nogai. Nogai gave rise to the Tatars, Kozak gave rise to the Kirghiz” [3; 27].

The Kazakhs, according to this legend, are descendants of the Kazak, the Tatars are descendants of the Nogai. The descendants of Kalmak and Yestek are not mentioned in the study, but it is obvious from the context that they are Kalmyks and Bashkirs. This legend, or rather a concise retelling of the historical legend, has parallels in the written historiographical tradition of the Kazakhs. In the works published in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, starting from K. Khalid and Sh. Kudaiberdiuly, the authors link the origin of Kazakhs with the population of the Golden Horde. For example, the author of “Five Histories”, K. Khalid considers medieval Uzbeks of Ulug Ulus (Golden Horde) as Kazakhs proper, indicating that “we were made Muslims by Uzbek khan, our ancestors are Ozbeks, we are from the descendants of Ozbek” [19; 223]. Shakarim also notes in his “Genealogy” that “all who were in his (Uzbek-khan’s — auth.) ulus and our ancestors were called Ozbeks” [20; 41].

Thus, we can assume that the Kazakhs had an idea of the unity of the steppe horse breeders of Eurasia, their connection with the population of the Golden Horde (Uzbek), which is reflected in the legends about the origin of the Kazakhs and other peoples of the steppe Eurasia from the mythical Uzbek, which existed in the northern regions of Kazakhstan.

Information about the time of settlement of certain areas by the Kazakh communities in the “Materials” is contained both in the text itself and in the so-called “aul tables”, which are an appendix to the “Materials”. Along with the official number of aul, they contained information about the name of aksakal, i.e. the leader of the community, the last recorded eponymic ancestor, time of foundation/settlement of wintering. The information about eponymic ancestors of each Kazakh aul was also recorded in the aul tables. For the convenience of orientation in a rather complex clan hierarchy of the Kazakhs, each volume contains genealogical schemes of Kazakh clans with the inclusion of the main informants.

According to these data, 9 auls of the 4th administrative aul of Kokchetav volost settled on their wintering grounds 250 years ago, i.e. in the middle of the 17th century. They are descendants of Boranbay, Mailybay, and Baydykol [3; 14–15]. The population of one aul of Koturkulsky volost (Yeltok’s descendants) and one aul of Airtau volost informed the expedition members that their ancestors occupied their winterings for 10 generations, i.e. over 250 years [3; 80–81, 159]. Four auls of the 5th administrative aul of Jilandi parish (descendants of Musakul and Taragai) also believed that their ancestors occupied their present pastures 10 generations ago, i.e. approximately in the middle of the 17th century. The 29 auls (descendants of Dzhanmyrza) of Mizgil volost counted the emergence of winterings, which they occupied approximately from 1620 (280 years before the time of the informant’s life) [3; 237].

The compilers of the “Materials” paid close attention to drawing up genealogical schemes and fixing various legends and historical legends telling the circumstances of the appearance of various groups of nomads in the places of their settlement at the time of the study. When compiling a volume devoted to the analysis of the households of Omsk uyezd, from the words of a resident of Omsk volost Bulhair Turlybek-abyz, a legend about the origin of the Atygay family was recorded. The legend tells about a complex composition of the clan, as Atygay is named as an orphan to whom khan Yesim (late 16–early 17 centuries) gave control over 12 clans: Baba, Bagys, Maily, Balta, Babasan, Kudayberdi-Baimbet, Suyundik-Kara, Akyik, Koylyatygay, Kulansu, Kadyr, and Atygay [21; 45].

The legend of the Kazakhs of the Kerey tribe that their ancestors went to Turkestan and asked Khan Tauke for a ruler is also given there. The latter sent them a 10-year-old Zhanibek Sultan. Considering that Tauke ruled in 1690–1715, this event could take place at the beginning of the 18th century [21; 26].

The informants cited legends about the origin of the Kereys of the Omsk district from the brothers Esemberdy and Esembakty, grandsons of Aksara. The conflict between the brothers led to the fact that the older brother migrated from his former places of residence to the Irtysh, to the tract Kentubek, and then to the area of Lake Ulken Karoi. Having established winter camps here, the Kazakhs of this clan flew north, in the territory of Tyukalinsky uyezd [21; 24].

According to the historical legends of the Kazakhs of Omsk uyezd, the ancestor of the Argyns Meiram lived in the middle of the 16th century, as about 350 years or 13–14 generations passed from the time of the informants. His pastures occupied the steppes between Irtysh, Ishim, and Nura [21; 87]. The Kazakhs of Cherlakovskaya Volost told the expedition members that their ancestors were brought to the Irtysh by Koshkarbai Batyr, who served Ablai Khan, in the early 18th century. According to the legend, Koshkarbai occupied the southern regions of the Omsk district and expelled the Dzungars and Ostyaks living there [21; 25].

The study of the “Materials” allows us to trace the ideas of the Kazakhs about the process of settling a certain territory. For example, the Kazakhs of Akmola region believed that their winter camps were founded during the 17th–18th centuries, and were founded by both local inhabitants and natives of the more southern and more northern regions. The communities of the Karpyk and Karakyrgyz tribes reported to the statisticians that their ancestors settled near the Nura River around the first third of the 17th century, 260 years before the time of the survey [22; 87]. At the end of the 17th century, the communities of the Kuandyk clans were located along the upper and lower reaches of the Nura River, and in the Yerementau mountains — the Kanzhygaly [22; 87–88]. In the 18th century, with the occupation of the Irtysh valley by Russia, the Kerey communities living there partially moved to the southwest, to Akmola uyezd, occupying there “all forested mountains and forests in general, and rocky banks of the Selety river” [22; 89]. The Kazaks of the Kanzhigaly tribe migrated to the territory of Akmola uyezd from the territory of Omsk uyezd in the beginning of the 18th century [22; 88].

The Kazakhs of Kustanai Uyezd also told informants about the early foundation of the winter camps they occupied. 1 aul of Mendygarinskaya volost, 2 auls of Dzhilkuarskaya volost, 7 auls of Kinaralskaya volost and 12 auls of Saroyskaya volost were founded in 10 generations from informants, i.e. 250 years ago — in the middle of the 17th century, 5 auls of Saroi volost — 11 generations, i.e. 275 years ago, in the first third of the 17th century, 2 auls of Kinaral volost — 12 generations, i. e. 300 years ago, in the beginning of the 17th century [7; 18, 22, 170, 178]. The winter residence Bapansai of Kinaral volost, according to its inhabitants, was founded 13 generations ago, i.e. 325 years ago, about 1575 years [7; 26]. The Kazakhs of Mendygarinskaya volost told the informants that they had inhabited these lands no more than 100 years ago but “once coached near Verkhneuralsk in the area of Kumsoigan karasu” from where they were displaced by the Kalmyks [7; 48]. Considering that the migration of Kalmyks from Priitryshye to the Trans-Ural steppes and Western Kazakhstan took place at the beginning of the 17th century, one can assume that the Kazakhs of Mendygarinskaya volost believed that they migrated from Trans-Ural to Northern Kazakhstan around that time.

Most of the winter camps, according to the Kazakhs themselves, were founded at a later time, mainly during the 19th century, but this was largely the result not of migrations, but of the segmentation of earlier auls.

We see that in the historical memory of the Kazakhs, they are autochthons of the lands of Northern Kazakhstan, occupying the steppes of Northern Kazakhstan inhabited by them. At the same time, we note that these representations of the Kazakhs somewhat diverge from the data of written sources. Most of the currently available sources indicate the appearance of groups with the name “Cossack” (Cossack Horde) in the territory of Northern Kazakhstan not earlier than the late 17th century. This point was noted in his time by G. Katanaev, who wrote: “It is now clear by the historical data which are not subject to any doubt that the land currently occupied by the Siberian Cossacks on the Irtysh, Gorki and Presnogorki lines at the time of the arrival of the Russians here in the early 17th and even the first half of the 18th century were not yet occupied by the Kirghiz. The entire northern part of the present Turgai and Akmola provinces and the entire Semipalatinsk province without exception represented at that time either a perfect desert or only partially occu- pied...by Dzungar Kalmyks” [23].

At the same time, the historical legends of the Kazakhs, recorded by other researchers, allow to resolve this contradiction and correlate with the legends recorded in the “Materials”. First, note G. Spassky who published “The Siberian messenger” from 1818 to 1824. He published an essay “Kirghiz-Kaisaks of the Great, Middle, and Small Horde” in 1820. Here G. Spassky, the first in the Russian historiography, pays attention to the Kazakh historical legends deducing Kazakhs from the Siberian Tatars. “For a long time they formed with Alats (Siberian Tatars, possibly “Alash” — auth.) one people, finally by internal disagreements separated from them and were ruled by sultans, one of whom, named Alasha, received the supreme power over them...” [14; 74–75].

M. Krasovsky, based on the historical legends of the Kazakhs, considered the population of the northern districts of the Siberian Kazakhs as descendants of the Siberian Tatars. He notes that in the Kokchetav district and “in general in the northern areas of the Siberian Kirghiz region, which included a considerable number of Siberian Tatars,... the tale of the origin of the Kirghiz-Kaisaks... changes: here Alasha–Khan is called one of the Sultans of the Siberian Tatars” [24; 332].

Let us assume that, in the written sources recording the later (not earlier than the end of the 17th century) appearance of Kazakhs in the territory of Northern Kazakhstan, we discuss about the polytonim “Cossack”, nomads who were part of the Kazakh Khanate system, whose borders extended to the Siberian limits of the Moscow state really in the last quarter of the 17th century. However, the local Turkic-speaking population, which was part of other political associations and labeled by sources as “Nogai” and “Tatars”, mostly remained in the same places and became part of the Kazakhs, preserving the historical memory, formalized in historical legends and recorded in the 19th–early 20th centuries by Russian researchers, including the compilers of “Materials on the Kyrgyz Land Use”.


A number of features of the historical legends records of the Kazakhs recorded in the “Materials” do not allow us to fully analyze them as an independent work of folklore. Firstly, records of texts of historical legends are not authentic. They were recorded with the help of translators, reduced and edited information contained in them. Second, when recording historical legends, researchers who are not philologists or historians tried to interpret the information by relating it to the historical knowledge known at the time.

The historical legends of the Kazakhs, recorded by the authors of the “Materials”, correlate with the legends recorded in the works of A. Levshin, G. Spassky, A. Krasovsky, G. Potanin, Ch. Valikhanov, Sh. Kudaiberdyuly, K. Khalid and indicate the early settlements of some Kazakh communities of the territory of Northern Kazakhstan — from 14 to 16 centuries. However, these historical legends contradict some written sources, noting that the appearance of the Kazakhs on the borders of the Russian possessions in Western Siberia not earlier than the end of the 17th century. This contradiction is resolvable if one considers that the Northern Kazakh communities, which declared their autochthonous origin in the 15–16 centuries, were not part of the Kazakh Khanate, and consequently did not appear in the sources under the polytonym “Cossack”. They appeared under other collective names — “Nogai”, “Siberian Tatars”, etc. and became part of the “Kazakhs” during the 17th century.

In general, “Materials on the Kyrgyz Land Use”, is an important and informative source not only on the socio-economic history of Kazakh society at the turn of the 19th–20th centuries but also contains interesting data on the traditional historical memory of the Kazakhs, allowing us to create models of ethnic and political history of steppe Eurasia in the 15th–19th centuries.


This research was carried out within the project funded by the Committee of Science of the Ministry of Education and Science of the Republic of Kazakhstan (Grant No. AP08856598).



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  22. Materialy po kirgizskomu zemlepolzovaniiu, sobrannye i razrabotannye ekspeditsiei po issledovaniiu stepnykh oblastei (1907). — T. III. — Akmolinskaia oblast. Akmolinskii uezd [Materials on the Kyrgyz land use, collected and developed by the expedition for the study of the steppe regions. Akmola oblast. Akmola uyezd]. 3, 1. Saint Petersburg [in Russian].
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Year: 2022
City: Karaganda
Category: History