Traditionally, the Kazakh people was made up of three sub-groups, called Hordes (from Turkic "ordu" = army): Ulu Zhuz, Orta Zhuz and Kichi Zhuz (the Great Hundred, the Middle Hundred and the Small Hundred). Their populations were known as the eastern, middle and western Kazakhs.
Language: Kazakh (related to Nogay and Karakalpak)
They live in Astrakhan, Orenburg, Omsk, Saratov, Kurgan, Volgograd oblasts, Altay kray, Moscow, Saint Petersburg, Altay Republic, Kalmykia Republic.
Diaspora: Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, China, Mongolia, Afghanistan.
The modern Kazakhs may be heirs to an extremely ancient culture. The earliest unearthed artifacts can be dated to the early Stone Age, around 300,000 years ago. But the Kazakhs' ancestry is very obscure, due to lack of source material. However, many directly traceable artifacts found in Kazakhstan go back as far as the Bronze age, and belonged to different identifiable tribes. Later infusions of other groups, for example the Kypchaks in the 8th to 11th c., have contributed to the ethnic Turkic base that make up the Kazakhs. The Mongol conquest of Central Asia in the early 13th c. played a tremendous role in the intermingling and interbreeding of these groups to produce the Kazakh people.
After the break-up of the Golden and White Hordes, and of the other Mongol successor states in the late 14th c., the most important group to emerge from their ruins was the Uzbek tribal confederation. During a succession conflict in the 15th c., the princes Janibek and Girey broke away from their own tribe and became the first khans of the Kazakh nomads. At the beginning of the 16th c., the Kazakhs had taken control over a readily definable and economically viable territory.
In the 16th c., under Kasim Khan, a true "Kazakh" people emerged, united by language, culture and social organisation. After the death of Kasim Khan towards the end of the 16th c., the Kazakh state began to disintegrate. At the same time the Kazakhs organised themselves into three Hordes (from Turkic "ordu" = army): Ulu Zhuz, Orta Zhuz and Kichi Zhuz (the Great Hundred, the Middle Hundred and the Small Hundred). Their populations were known as the eastern, middle and western Kazakhs. The third of these Hordes generated a fourth Horde, the Inner Horde. The Hordes consisted of clans and family units, and together they comprised the Kazakh Khanate. Various tribes and competing khans were always a source of conflict and war between the Kazakhs. In reality, the great khan was seldom able to command all the tribes of his horde, and was forced instead to rule through coalitions.
As a result of some urban influence, the tribes of the southern part of Kazakhstan began to adopt Sunni Islam in the 8th c., and in the following centuries the religion gradually penetrated northwards. The Kazakhs converted at a relatively late date and were never very strong practitioners of their faith, that also came to preserve elements of their traditional religion.
In the 17th and 18th c., the Kazakhs found themselves increasingly unable to defend their homeland against nomadic incursions by Dzungarians, Kalmyks and others. Therefore, they turned to the expanding Russian empire for help. The following period in Kazakh history is called "the Great Retreat". The Kazakhs had been obliged to accept Russian apportionment of their hunting grounds, and were soon prohibited from using the fertile land, known as the "Inner Side", between the Ural and Volga rivers. When they continued to do so because of the tremendous pressure on their shrinking pasturage, they suffered Russian reprisals that further strained their economy.
The leaders of the Middle Horde were also under strong russian influence, but were able to balance between the Russians and the Chinese.
The history of the Greater Horde was different from that of the other two Hordes. Instead of gradual assimiliation and loss of power to the growing Russian empire, the Greater Horde experienced a progressive break-up and diaspora away from its traditional base around the southern end of lake Balkash.
The Kazakhs put up almost continuous resistance to the Russian government, which increasingly motivated the Russians to rule directly. Together with the conflict over the Inner Side, this only enhanced Kazakh discontent. Armed clashes between Kazakhs and Cossacks and between different Kazakh groups towards the end of the 18th c., led the Russians to create a new "Inner Horde", called the Bukei Horde, under Nur Ali's son. This Horde was allowed to live on the Inner Side. By 1830, however, the Horde had prospered and grown so large that the problems were worse than ever. At the same time the Russians tried to domesticate the Kazakhs. Russian schools were introduced to teach the Russian language and spread a Western lifestyle, and the Russians encouraged the practice of Islam, hoping that the Kazakhs would come closer to the social, political and cultural development of other Muslims under Russian rule, like the Volga Tatars.
These measures failed to bring order, however, and from the 1820s, the Russians gave the Kazakhs land, tools and seeds to induce them to become sedentary and to involve in farming. They also tried to introduce a whole new administrative structure, dividing the Kazakh land into okrugs, volosts (part of an okrug) and auls (part of a volost). They hoped to see a new Kazakh civil service class emerge, running a modern bureaucracy. Instead, the new structures never functioned as well as the traditional structures had, and this sometimes exacerbated crisis situations.
After a series of uprisings in the late 1820s, a in 1837, a serious revolt broke out in the Middle Horde, led by Kenisary Qasimov, viewed by many as the first Kazakh nationalist. The revolt lasted until 1846, and alarmed the Russians because it threatened to involve the other Hordes as well and become a full-scale Kazakh war. For the rest of the century, the Russians tried to pacify the Kazakhs through land reforms and other measures.
This was not a lasting success, and a second and more violent revolt broke out in 1916. In order to cope with the demands of World War II, the Russians had increased the tax burden and for the first time obliged the Kazakhs for military service through the draft. The Kazakhs in response attacked Russian and Cossack villages, killing indiscriminately. The Russians' revenge was merciless. Inspired by the Russian revolution in 1917, Kazakh intellectuals had created Alash Orda, a Kazakh nationalist party. The Bolshevik take-over in Moscow in November divided the Kazakhs and radicalized the Alash Orda, which joined the White Forces. When the Bolsheviks created the Kyrgyz (Kazakh) ASSR in 1920, many hoped for better relations with the Russians, while Alash Orda became a powerful nationalist movement.
The Stalinist policy of collectivisation starting in the late 1920s, was seen by nationalist Kazakhs as an attempt to russify the Kazakhs and confiscate their cattle. Between 1926 and 1939, the Kazakh population declined by 22%, due to starvation, violence and out-migration to Afghanistan and Chinese Sinkiang and to Uzbekistan.
In 1936, Kazakhstan became a union republic of the socialist soviet federation. The Kazakh economy remained stagnant, and in 1953 Nikita Khrushchov introduced his "Virgin Lands"-policy to reform agriculture in Kazakhstan. In December 1991 Kazakhstan was declared an independent republic. The question of citizenship has been no matter of dispute in Kazakhstan. Everyone with a permanent residence March 1992 could become citizens of the republic.