Towns of the Great Silk Road – Suyab and Balasagun
Historians know rather much about the towns of Suyab, Balasagun that stood on the Silk Road.
Suyab was the first capital of the West Turkic Kaganat that was formed in 581 and a busy trade centre. Every year merchants from different countries came to a big fair where they sold and bought goods and talked about their commercial matters.
There were about ten towns west of Suyab independent from one another but under the Turkic rule. The people living in those towns were farmers, cattle- breeders, handicraftsmen and tradesmen.
In 677 the Chinese undertook a campaign against the western Turks, prisoned kagan Dzucki and sent him to Suyab. It is known that in 740 the Tyurgesh duke Mohe-dagan entered into alliance with Tashkent and Fergana rulers and defeated Kagan Suli at Suyab. In 748 the vice-gerent of East Turkestan Van Chzhen-sun untertook a campaign to the west, occupied Suyab and razed it to the ground.
But Suyab revived very soon. The new rulers of Semirechye — the Karluks — took Suyab in 766 and made it their capital.
After the battle at Atlah (now the village of Grodekovo near Dzhambul) in 751, when the Chinese were defected, the Arabs got very much interested in the Silk Road. In the X-XII-th century chronicles the town of Suyab was recorded many times but it was rather difficult to determine its exact geographical position. It was also difficult to find in the map the exact place of the town of Balasagun which was first mentioned by a Seljuk visier pointing out that Karahanide Turks captured it and made it the capital of one of their districts and in 943 they adopted Islam there.
So Suyabis was the ancient capital of the Semirechye Turks, the forefathers of the Kazakh ethnos and Balasagun was the first town where the Turks touched the Koran.
The history of Balasagun, just as other medieval towns, was dramatic and sorrowful, Endless wars, changes of rulers, fires, plunder and violence prevented the town from strengthening its power. Besides the Turks, the town was governed by Karahanides, Seljuks, Kara Chinese. In 1218 the town was taken by the Mongols. It was not plundered but its fame declined, it was not recorded in chronicles any more.
There were many versions of the exact geographical places of Suyab and Balasagun. As a result of thorough study of historical chronicles and materials as well as the data of excavations scholars have come to the conclusion that the ancient towns of Suyab and Balasagun were situated on the places of the present- day towns of Ak-Beshim and Buran, five kilometres one from the other near present-day Tokmak in Kirghisia.
Rakip Nasyrov, “Along the Great Silk Road”, published by “Kramds—reklama”, 1991.
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