Infobox Ethnic group
group = Kazakhs Қазақтар

pop = approx. 16,000,000
region1 = flag|Kazakhstan
pop1 = 9,550,000
ref1 =
region2 = flag|Uzbekistan
pop2 = 2,500,000
ref2 = [http://www.inform.kz/showarticle.php?lang=rus&id=136498]
region3 = flag|China
pop3 = 2,200,000
ref3 = [http://www.irinnews.org/webspecials/RR/501132Kzh.asp]
region4 = flag|Russia
pop4 = 1,310,000
ref4 = [http://sana.gov.kz/showarticle.php?lang=eng&id=152]
ref5 =
region6 = flag|Turkmenistan
pop6 = 120,000
region5 = flag|Mongolia
pop5 = 100,000
ref6 =
region7 = flag|Afghanistan
pop7 = 45,000
ref7 =
region8 = flag|Kyrgyzstan
pop8 = 45,000
ref8 =
region9 = flag|Turkey
pop9 = 30,000
ref9 =
region10 = flag|Germany
pop10 = 17,000
ref10 =
region11 = flag|Tajikistan
pop11 = 15,000
ref11 =
region12 = flag|Iran
pop12 = 15,000
ref12 =
region13 = flag|Ukraine
pop13 = 15,000
ref13 =
region14 = flag|France
pop14 = 15,000
ref14 =
region15 = flag|United States
pop15 = 10,000
ref15 =
region16 = flag|Belarus
pop16 = 5,000
ref16 =
region17 = flag|Canada
pop17 = 5,000
ref17 =
region18 = flag|Azerbaijan
pop18 = 3,000
ref18 =
region19 = flag|Georgia
pop19 = 3,000
ref19 =
region20 = flag|Moldova
pop20 = 3,000
ref20 =
region21 = flag|Pakistan
pop21 = 3,000
ref21 =
region22 = flag|United Kingdom
pop22 = 2,000
ref22 =
region23 = flag|Lithuania
pop23 = 2,000
ref23 =
region24 = flag|Armenia
pop24 = 1,000
ref24 =
region25 = flag|Estonia
pop25 = 1,000
ref25 =
region26 = flag|Sweden
pop26 = 1,000
ref26 =
languages = Kazakh, Russian (and/or languages in country of residence)
religions =Sunni Islam
related = other Turkic peoples

The Kazakhs (also spelled Kazaks, Qazaqs; Kazakh: Қазақтар IPA2|qɑzɑqtɑr; Russian: Казахи; the English name is transliterated from Russian) are a Turkic people of the northern parts of Central Asia (largely Kazakhstan, but also found in parts of Uzbekistan, China, Russia, and Mongolia).

Etymology of "Qazaq"

There are many theories on the origin of the word "Qazaq". "Qazaq" was included in a 13th century Turkic-Arabic dictionary, where its meaning was given as "independent" or "free".Fact|date=January 2007. Both Kazaks and later Cossacks adopted Turkic social term "qazaq" as their name. The Kazakhs began using this name during either the 15th or 16th century. [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]

In the 19th century, one etymological theory presented was that the name came from the Kazakh legend of the white goose ("Qaz" means goose, "Aq" means white). [Grodekov, Nikolaĭ Ivanovich. "Kirgizy i Karakirgizy Syr'-darinskoi oblasti", vol. 1, "Iuridicheskii byt' " Tashkent, 1889, p. 1] In this creation myth, a white goose flying over the great steppes was impregnated by the rays of the Sun, giving birth to the first Kazak. [Humphreys, An. "Central Asia (Lonely Planet Guide)" Sydney:Lonely Planet Publications, 2004, ISBN 978-0864426734] This version was rejected by linguists, because in Turkic languages, an adjective is put before a noun, therefore, "white goose" would be "Aqqaz", not "Qazaq". fact|date=December 2007

Another of the theories 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 [http://www.orientalistica.ru/resour/runica/collection/e3a.htm 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 that seeks profit and gain. [Yudin, Veniamin P. "Tsentralnaya Aziya v 14-18 vekah glazami vostokoveda." Almaty: Dajk-Press, 2001, ISBN 9965-441-39-1]


Kazakhs are descendants of Turkic tribes (Kipchaks or Cumans), Mongol groups (Kereis, Naimans, etc.) and Indo-Iranian tribes (Wusun, Sarmatians, Scythians, etc.) which populated the territory between Siberia and the Black Sea 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 [http://hgm2002.hgu.mrc.ac.uk/Abstracts/Publish/WorkshopPosters/WorkshopPoster04/hgm0179.htm] .

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.

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 Siberia.

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 IPA|/s/ in place of reconstructed proto-Turkic *IPA|/ʃ/ and IPA|/ʃ/ in place of *IPA|/tʃ/; furthermore, Kazakh has IPA|/dʒ/ (alveodental affricate) where other Turkic languages have IPA|/j/ (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 Kazakhstan, along with Russian. It is also spoken in the Ili region of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in the People's Republic of China, where the Arabic script is used, and in parts of Mongolia.

Kazakh tribalism

thumb|250 px|left|Approximate areas occupied by the three Kazakh jüz in the early 20th century.Due to their nomadic pastoral 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 Arabic word 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, tribalism is 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 "juzes" (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 Arabian missionaries and colonists), "tolengit" (descendants of Oirat captives), "sunak" (like "qoja" Khoja - descendants of Arabian missionaries and colonists) and "kolegen" (descendants of Ancient Sairam inhabitants).


Islam was brought to the Kazakhs during the 8th century when the Arabs arrived into Central Asia. Islam initially took hold in the southern portions of Turkestan and thereafter gradually spread northward. [Atabaki, Touraj. "Central Asia and the Caucasus: transnationalism and diaspora", pg. 24] Islam also took root due to the zealous missionary work of Samanid rulers, notably in areas surrounding Taraz [Ibn Athir, volume 8, pg. 396] where a significant number of Kazakhs accepted Islam. Additionally, in the late 1300s, the Golden Horde propagated 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 Islam to 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. [Khodarkovsky, Michael. "Russia's Steppe Frontier: The Making of a Colonial Empire, 1500-1800", pg. 39.] Ember, Carol R. and Melvin Ember. "Encyclopedia of Sex and Gender: Men and Women in the World's Cultures", pg. 572] However, Russian policy gradually changed toward weakening Islam by introducing pre-Islamic elements of collective consciousness.Hunter, Shireen. "Islam in Russia: The Politics of Identity and Security", pg. 14] Such attempts included methods of eulogizing pre-Islamic historical figures and imposing a sense of inferiority by sending Kazakhs to highly elite Russian military institutions. In response, Kazakh religious leaders attempted to bring religious fervor by espousing pan-Turkism, though many were persecuted as a result. [Farah, Caesar E. "Islam: Beliefs and Observances", pg. 304] During the Soviet era, Muslim institutions survived only in areas where Kazakhs significantly outnumbered non-Muslims due to everyday Muslim practices. [Farah, Caesar E. "Islam: Beliefs and Observances", pg. 340] In an attempt to conform Kazakhs into Communist ideologies, 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 Union. While not strongly fundamentalist, Kazakhs continue to identify with their Islamic faith, [Page, Kogan. "Asia and Pacific Review 2003/04", pg. 99] and even more devotedly in the countryside. Those who claim descent from the original Muslim soldiers and missionaries of the 8th century, command substantial respect in their communities. [Atabaki, Touraj. "Central Asia and the Caucasus: transnationalism and diaspora".] 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." [ [http://www.inform.kz/showarticle.php?lang=eng&id=154837 inform.kz | 154837 ] ]

Kazakh population in Kazakhstan

Kazakh minorities

In China

Kazakhs, called Hāsàkè Zú in Chinese (; literally "Kazakh people" or "Kazakh nationality") are among 56 minority groups officially recognized by the People's Republic of China. In China there is one Kazakh autonomous prefecture, the Ili Kazakh Autonomous Prefecture in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, three Kazakh autonomous counties, Aksai Kazakh Autonomous County in Gansu, 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, China's official language, 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 Jew's harp.

In Russia

In Russia, the Kazakh population lives in the regions bordering Kazakhstan. The 2002 Russian census recorded 655,000 Kazakhs living in the Astrakhan, Volgograd, Samara, Orenburg, Chelyabinsk, Kurgan, Tyumen, Omsk, Novosibirsk and Altai Krai regions. Since they, their ancestors, and other Turkic peoples populated these areas long before Russian colonisation, Russian Kazakhs are irredenta. During the 1920s, however, significant numbers of Kazakh families were left outside the designated Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic; after the end of the Soviet Union in 1991, they acquired Russian citizenship.

Other countries

*Mongolia: Majority of Kazakhs live in Bayan-Ölgiy Province. 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.
*Uzbekistan: Significant Kazakh population lives in Karakalpakstan and Tashkent oblast. Since the fall of Soviet Union, vast majority of Kazakh people are returning to Kazakhstan, mainly to Manghistau Oblast'. Most Kazakhs in Karakalpakstan are descendants of one of the branches of "Junior juz" ("Kişi juz")-Adai tribe.
*Iran: Iranian Kazakhs live mainly in the Golestan province in northern Iran. [ [http://www.anobanini.ir/travel/fa/golestan/cat-227 گلستان ] ] According to ethnologue.org, in 1982 there were 3000 Kazakhs living in the city of Gorgan. [ [http://www.ethnologue.com/show_country.asp?name=iran Ethnologue report for Iran ] ] [http://www.golestanstate.ir/layers.aspx?quiz=page&PageID=23] Since fall of Soviet Union number of Kazakhs in Iran decreased due to emigration to their historical Motherland." [ [http://jolay.blogfa.com/85093.aspx قزاق ] ]

ee also

* List of Kazakh historical figures
* Demographics of Kazakhstan

Notes and references

External links

* [http://clp.arizona.edu/cls/kaz.htm Kazakh Language Courseware from University of Arizona Critical Languages Series]
* [http://www.hunmagyar.org/turan/turk.html Ethnographic map of Kazakhstan]
* [http://www.akft.org Kazakhs in France - AKFT]
* [http://www.kazaktar.kz/ World Association of the Kazakhs]
* http://sana.gov.kz/showarticle.php?lang=eng&id=342
* [http://www.massagan.com Massagan.com (The largest web site in kazakh language)]
* [http://www.suhbat.com Suhbat (Atameken Toby)]
* [http://www.pbs.org/wnet/secrets/case_amazon/index.html Secrets of the Dead: Amazon Warrior Women (PBS)]
* [http://www.orientalistica.ru/resour/runica/collection/e3a.htm Turk monument of Uyuk-Turan mentioning the word "qazğaq"]

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