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Number of Kazakh nomads in Ural-Caspian region in the 1770-1820s

29 January 2014
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In the last quarter of the 18th — beginning of the 19th centuries the territory of Ural and North-Eastern Caspian region was inhabited by the clans of Kazakh nomads who were a part of genealogical and territorial association — Junior Zhuz (Kishi Zhuz), called in sources "Minor", "Smaller" and "Ural Horde". Beginning from the 18th century a part of clans of Junior Zhuz started active moving to the right bank of the Ural River, to the "inner side", where, as it is known, in the beginning of the 19th century Bukey Khanate, defined in some sources as "Inner" or "Bukey Horde", was established.

In the second half of the 18th century one Khans of Junior Zhuz — Nuraly (1748-1790) made an attempt to count dependent nomads. However, "from the very beginning he faced some obstacles, did not reach his goal and just provoked suspicion and murmurings (Levshin, 1996, p. 287).

Some difficulties of another character are arising for modern researchers. According to experts, the complexity of identification of actual data on Kazakh society during that period was the result of "extremely limited number of written sources that restricts the area of historian’s research activity" (Sdykov, 2004, p. 70).

Almost the only group of sources on the number of Kazakh population for the period under consideration in official Russian documentation which are reports, register sheets, messages, and so on, made by officials of the Board of Foreign Affairs and foreign administration, including heads of administration, in this case Orenburg (Ufa) Administration: O. A. Igelstrom, G. S. Volkonskiy, and to name but a few.

This data was composed on the basis of "talks" and interviews of representatives of Kazakh clans of the Zhuz. However, the information "presented in these reports was not verified properly and can be used in demographic calculations only with a high risk" (Sdykov, 2004, p. 37).

There are several features which characterized the position of informers. For example, in Siberia the population of men was intentionally understated because of high yasak (tribute in Imperial Russia) (Tomilov, 1993, p. 154).

Traditionally the used method of calculation of nomadic population was based on "correlation between total number of steppe dwellers and number of given members of militia" (Trepavlov, 2000, p. 96). At the same time, according to V. V. Trepavlov, during wartime militiamen constituted approximately a quarter of population" (Trepavlov, 2000, p. 96). However, other scientists in their researches accept the ratio between military units and total population which is 1:5 (20%). For instance, L. N. Gumilyov used this proportion to count population of one of the Turkic tribes; he wrote that "all battle-ready men, i. e. 20% of population [six thousand] participated in the war with Uighurs. That means that the total population was thirty thousand people" (Fumilyov, 1999, p. 32). It is interesting that one Chinese source giving data on other nomads — Tyurkuts in the middle of the 7th century wrote that their governor Symo had "100000 people and 40000 soldiers" (Bichurin, 1998, p. 267). If we take into account that he had 100000 men, and accordingly, the same number of women, then the total population of these Turkic tribes was around 200000. Thus, 40000 soldiers defined in the source were a fifth of the total population.

This method has significant limitations because of fragmental and very often unavailabale data on number of armed forces of Kazakh clans in the Junior Zhuz in the end of the 18th — 19th centuries.

Information on number of Kazakh families (kibitkas) is also extremely limited. Normally, the ratio of 1:5 of 1:6 is used for counting population of nomads, including Kazakhs (Sdykov, 2004, p. 139; Tomilov, 1993, p. 153).

The very first document containing data on number of Kazakh nomads in Ural-Caspian region in the beginning of the 1770s was "Register on province population composed by Orenburg Province Chancellery" in 1770-1771. This document affirmed that two provinces (Junior and Middle Hordes) had no more than eighty or hundred thousand men (Register, 1956, p.14). Thus, based on this data we can suppose that the total number of Kazakh nomads in Junior and Middle Zhuzs was approximately 400000 people.

Since the 1780s the situation with identification of number of Kazakh nomads in Ural-Caspian region slightly improved. It was connected with the fact that during the rule of Ufa Governor O. A. Igelstrom (1784-1792) seasonal admission of nomads to the inner part of the Russian Empire and the area between the Volga and Ural Rivers became more ordered; the number of population recorded during this movement. At that time major part of Kazakhs lived in bordering regions migrated.

In his reports Igelstrom wrote that Junior Zhuz disposed up to 60000 battle-ready men. So, based on data given by O. A. Igelstrom, the total population of Junior Zhuz was 240000 — 300000 people.

The most popular among modern researchers of that period document containing more detailed description of clans of Junior Zhuz, their places of migration, occupation and population is the "Report of Orenburg Military Governor G. S. Volkonskiy about Kazakhs). According to this document, around 165700 families lived in Junior Zhuz (Report, 1805, p. 14).

Thus, Kazakh population in Ural-Caspian region by the beginning of the 1770s was approximately 400000, by the mid-1780s was around 600 — 700 thousand people, while in the first decade of the 19th century — more than 900000, and in the 1820s — more than million people.

Lapin Nikolay Sergeevich

Candidate of Historical Sciences, Senior Researcher, Institute of History of State, Committee of Science, Ministry of Education and Science.

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