Exacerbations of the Kazakh-Dzungarian relations in the 17-18 centuries
In the first quarter of XVIII century, the greatest threat looming for the Kazakhs was the Junggar Khanate that reached its highest military capabilities and political influence in the Central Asian region in the 20-ies years. The existence of Junggar as a strong state in the immediate vicinity of the borders of Kazakhstan, represented a real threat not only for the Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, Uzbeks, people of Altai and others, but also for Russia, whose economic and political interests in the area of the Altai mining and metallurgical enterprises encouraged the government, and Siberian administration to adopt vigorous measures against a far-reaching ambitions of huntayshy Tsewang-Rabdan. The strategic goal of Dzungarian rulers was clear: subordination of vast Kazakh steppe to its power. The devastating invasion of the Kalmyk troops that become more frequent in 40s of XVII century took violent direct confrontation at the end of the seventeenth century because of the accession of Tsewang-Rabdan to the Dzhungarian throne whose first major foreign policy act was the resumption of the bloody war with the Kazakh Khanate.
Hiking of Dzungarian troops in 1710, 1715, 1717, 1718, 1719 years showed perniciousness of tribal and inner feudal strife in front of the face of the growing year by year aggressive threat. In addition, militarily Dzhungar Khanate represented a major threat for Russia, and especially for Kazakh tribes. Unlike some Asian nations that had "archery battle," Dzhungarian army had a fire weapon with a wick at the end of the XVII century. The presence of guns in dzhungars put them in a more favorable position. Besides, dzhungars had a huge army at that time. Armament of Kazakhs significantly inferiored dzhungar’s: it consisted mainly of bows, swords, spears, and only a small number of sarbazs was armed with the wick guns, which had a small killing power.
Political instability in three Kazakh jüzs encouraged aggressive actions of foreign enemies. The invasion of dzungarian troops in 1711-1717 years undermined forces of Kazakhs. Using their military superiority, dzhungar troops temporarily occupied the part of Zhetisu, their advance units reached the river Sarisu in central Kazakhstan. Consequences of dzungarian invasions prompted the famous elders, beys, folk batyrs, descents from Genghis Khan to make efforts in order to unite the military and the human potential of the three jüzs. The first kurultay (people's Assembly of the nomads) was held in the summer of 1710 in the Karakum Desert. There was decided to create joint kazakh militia led by a prominent national Bogenbay Batyr. The awareness of the real threat looming over Kazakhstan yielded its first fruits - in 1711, the military forces of the three jüzs repulsed the enemy. Dzhungars retreated to the east. Kazakh troops invaded the Dzhungar Khanate next year. The return hike of Dzhungar huntayshy in 1713 ended in failure. However, the first victories of the joint struggle were not fixed. Taking advantage of a disagreement among lords of three jüzs (only the Middle jüz had three Khans: Bolat, Semene, Abulmambet) dzhungars repeated the sudden invasion in Kazakhstan in 1714. The country found itself in a difficult situation. Even the decisive action of the Kazakh militia in the spring of 1718 in the area of the river Ayaguz led by renowned warriors Kara Kerey Kabanbai and Shakantay (Zhaugashar) failed to improve the difficult situation in which Middle Jüz was.
The situation was aggravated not only by dzhungarian aggression. Bashkirs attacked in the northwest, the Siberian Cossacks attacked from the north, fellow believers Uzbek Khanate who wanted to tear away a part of the Great Jüz often troubled from the south. However, the biggest danger was still Dzungaria whose frequent incursions in the Kazakh lands in the early 20-ies of the XVIII century became very menacing.
Empire of the Great Qing, east dzhungarian formidable neighbor, waited for a favorable situation to achieve its long-cherished goal - the elimination of Dzhungaria as an independent state.
The Years of the Great Disaster. The outcome of the centuries-old struggle of the Kazakh people with Dzhungar gains.
In 1722, after the death of the Qing emperor Kangxi (Yun-Zheng) who for a long time fought with Oirats, on the border of Dzhungaria and China was established a lull, which allowed Tsewang-Rabdan bring down his strength on Kazakhs. Aggression of Dzhungar Khanate was named in the history of the Kazakh people as "The Years of the Great Disaster" (Aktaban shubyryndy). These years brought misery, hunger, destruction of wealth; caused irreparable damage to the development of productive forces, thousands of men, women and children were driven into captivity. Kazakh clans, paid dearly for the carelessness of their sultans and khans. Under the pressure of dzhungarian troops they were forced to leave their homes where they lived for centuries; this led to the carting of the Kazakhs of the Middle Jüz to the borderss of the Central Asian khanates. Many clans of Great Jüz also retreated to the Syr Darya, crossed it and headed towards the Khujand. The Kazakhs of the Junior Jüz migrated along rivers Jayıq, Or, Yrgyz to the borders of Russia. Waging incessant battles, part of the Kazakhs of the Middle Jüz came closer to the province of Tobolsk.
"The Years of the Great Disaster" (1723-1727) are comparable only with the Mongol invasion of the beginning of the XIII century in their devastating consequences.
Dzhungar aggression greatly influenced the international situation in Central Asia. Approximation of thousands of families to the borders of Central Asia and to the possessions of the Volga Kalmyks exacerbated relations in the region. The Cossacks, Karakalpaks, Uzbeks, by attacking the exhausted Kazakhs, have added more misery to their critical condition. During these years, Zhetisu have especially suffered.
The tragedy came into life not only because of the suddenness of hostilities of Oirat forces. It was also due to the lack of political unity of Kazakh society in its most difficult period in the history of Kazakhstan. Even in a time when the Kalmyks ravaged peaceful villages that did not migrated to the east, descents from Genghis Khan continued to quarrel among themselves. At this critical moment, the salvation of the country was taken over by the people who pulled from their midst the major leaders of the People's Militia: Kara Kerey Kabanbai, Shakshak Janibek, Nauryzbay, Bukenbay, Malaysary, Bayan, Eset, Raiymbek, Shakantay and etc. Wise masterminds of the liberation struggle Kazdauysty Kazybek bey, Aiteke bey, Tole bey played a prominent role in bringing Kazakh clans together during this critical period.
Developing its success, Dzhungars captured Tashkent and Turkestan in 1725. Traditional caravan trade in the region has suffered significant damage. Again, as in the beginning of the XVIII century, Bogenbay batyr of a Kanzhygaly clan and Kabanbay of a Karakerey clan, whose glorious deeds were widely known among the nomads, partly promoted by prairie improvisers, took out the main burden in organizing resistance to the enemy. Successful operations of combined forces of the three jüzs began to show results since 1726. If earlier the Kazakh militia acted separately, gathered in clans, starting from the middle of the 20s of the XVIII century, Kazakh warriors worked together, coordinated their military plans for the vast steppe zone.
In 1726, the Kazakh joint forces launched a sizeable defeat of dzhungarian forces at the intersection of Sarysu and Bulanty rivers. It was the first major victory of the Kazakh people in a long, exhausting struggle with the Dzhungar Khanate. The battlefield for a long time preserved in folk memory and became known as "The place of death of the Kalmyks' (“Kalmak Kyrylgan”), reflecting the significance of the defeat of dzungarian forces. In autumn of that year, the Kazakh ruler Abulkhair, Semeke and other prominent sultans with a 10 thousand army, attacked the Volga Kalmyks that so often bothered the western border of the Kazakh Khanate, and forced them to retreat. However, it was not unfavorable for Kazakhs, to being drawn into protracted struggle with the Volga Kalmyks who were under the Russian Empire. Therefore, Kazakhs went to a truce with Kalmyks, to secure their western borders in the ongoing fight against the most dangerous enemy in the east - Dzhungar Khanat. The victory in 1726 had a great significance just like the subsequent successful military actions of Kazakh troops that strengthen the morale of the people. People start to understand that cohesion forces of the three Kazakh jüzs is a major factor in ensuring the territorial integrity of the Kazakh state.
With the consent of the prominent sultans and famous generals, the overall command of the combined forces of the Khanate was placed on Khan Abulhair, which generalship earned him the recognition of most of the nomads. In addition, Abulkhair Khan, as the organizer of the people's struggle against foreign invaders and as a visionary politician, enjoyed a well-deserved reputation among the most influential descents from Genghis Khan and batyrs. An important role was played by the fact that it was Abulkhair Khan who was trusted the most by neighboring Russia, which crushed such a strong country like Sweden, exerted a growing influence on the course of international relations and whose burgeoning credibility caused anxiety of dzungarian rulers.
However, the political situation of the 20s of XVIII century was not good enought to the adoption of Russian citizenship. Dzhungar-Kazakh confrontation continued with a significant impact on international relations in Central Asia. Under these circumstances, forward task was to release temporarily occupied territory of Kazakhstan by Dzungaria, in particular Zhetysu. The concentration of the main forces of the Kazakhs in the Ordabasy mountains was not accidental. Hence, it was easier to come to the border areas with Dzhungaria and begin the liberation of Zhetysu. The peculiarity of terrain allowed Kazakh warriors unnoticed by dzhungarian scouts to focus in this area a lot of armed men and arrange villages to supply the army with all necessary things. The main places where the Kazakh troops stayed remained in place names along the Borolday and Koshkar-ata rivers: the settlement of the Great Jüz and the Little Jüz, gorge of Abulkhair Khan. Judging by the extant of folklore data, the Kazakh army was organized and spread out in the area on the basis of belonging to jüzs.
The bloodiest battle with Dzhungars was in the spring of 1729 in the Anrakay area, south of Lake Balkhash, where the Kazakh militia defeated the army of the Dzhungar. In folk tales this place is called "the place of groans and sobs of enemy." The battle was attended by a political opponent of Abulkhair Khan, Barack Sultan, Abulmambet Khan of the Middle Jüz, tribal divisions of the Great Jüz led by Bolat Khan. For the first time the rulers of the three Jüzs presented a united front. The win was impressive. The defeated army of invaders began to recede on the river Ili to the east. But at this time the leaders of the Kazakh militia units becausethe sudden death of Bolat Khan quarreled over who of them will be the senior Khan of three Kazakh Jüz. Chief of the allied forces Abulkhair and owner of the Middle Jüz Semeke left the area of the battle. These disagreements, between the responsible for the fate of the country's batyrs, sultans and other powerful nobles, eased Dzhungar’s actions and nullified the results achieved and many sacrifices made by the people against the invaders, compromising the independence of the Kazakh Jüzs.
Abulkhair Khan with his subordinate units of the Little Jüz retreated to the borders of Russia. Big part of the Middle Jüz migrated to the North, part of the Great Jüz, the most affected by Dzungarian pressure forces, was pressed to the Syr Darya and was forced to temporarily surrender by dzhungars. National struggle, reaching significant success became weaker due to disagreements, although the force of the people had remained the territorial integrity of the state. However, the threat of enslavement by Dzhungaria remained. In this situation, the only proper political solution to the problem was to give the Russian government the legal basis for an open intervention in Dzhungar-Kazakh conflict.