If a nation does not know its history, if the country loses its history, then its citizens have nowhere to go.
Mirzhakyp Dulatuly

Southern Kazakhstan during the Age of the Silk Road

From time immemorial this area was known by its unique culture, which had been created for ages by nomadic and settled tribes.

What did southern Kazakhstan and Semirechie regions represent at the time of their involvement into the Silk Route activity? From time immemorial this area was known by its unique culture, which had been created for ages by nomadic and settled tribes. It should be mentioned that ethnically, the nomads and settled people were either homogeneous, or they united in terms of similar ethnopolitical formations. Interaction and mutual enrichment of nomadic and settled cultures have shown an amazing effect, based on achievements of civilizations, created by the peoples of Central Asia and Kazakhstan, as well as on the sources of their ethnical origin. In the fourth — third centuries в. с. this was the land of nomadic and semi-nomadic tribes of the Saks, whose highly developed culture is known from the archaeological excavations of numerous burial mounds, such as Besshatir, Issyk, Teghisken, Uigarak. In the second century B.C.- the beginning of the first millennium A.D. There were ancient states of Kangyui and Usun on the territory of Kazakhstan. By that time the Silk Route became a busy highway, promoting penetration of Roman glass and coins, Chinese silk, mirrors and varnished dishes, European fibulas and various stone-signets from the Sassanian empire.

In the second half of the sixth century A.D. Semirechie and southern Kazakhstan joined the powerful Turkic Kaganat — great nomadic empire, extending from Korea to the Black Sea. By the end of the sixth century it broke up into two parts — eastern Turkic and western Turkic Kaganats. The latter’s center was declared Semirechie with the capital in Suyab.

It was at that time, that this section of the Silk Route had exerted a great influence on the development of urban and feudal cultures of Semirechie and southern Kazakhstan. In the Semirechie region there emerged a number of towns, while in southern Kazakhstan it gave growth to those towns, which lay on the Silk Route or maintained commercial relations with it. This is proved by ancient historical chronicles.

If the sources, dated by the second half of the first millennium A.D., mention only two towns — Chigu, Usun rulers’ residence in Semirechie, and Bityano, the capital of Kangyui in southern Kazakhstan, those, dated by the early seventh century, report already about several tens of new towns. Among them the largest were Suyab, Taraz and “the town on the White river bank”, which was later called Ispidjab.

The Great Silk Route, passing through Central Asia, southern Kazakhstan and Semirechie, prospered up to the fourteenth century. Intestine wars and dissensions resulted in gradual decline and destruction of urban culture. Moreover, intensive search for water ways in south-eastern Asia and China led to considerable decrease of caravan traffic on land.

Karl Baipakov, “Along the Great Silk Road”, published by “Kramds—reklama”, 1991.