«We need to look into the past in order to understand the present and foresee the future»

Recorded history of Kazakhstan. Part 1

Recorded history of Kazakhstan. Part 1

The history of the people primarily depends on written traditions. Writing is the basis of the culture of any nation, including the Kazakh people, whose culture is also based on a rich written tradition. The identification, collection, and replenishment of written sources (copies) (manuscripts and rare books) of the National Archive Fund of the Republic of Kazakhstan, stored in the Republic of Kazakhstan and abroad, related to the history and culture of Kazakhstan, is carried out by the Republican state institution “National Center of Manuscripts and Rare Books” of the Ministry of Culture and Sports of the Republic of Kazakhstan. The chief expert of the National Center for Manuscripts and Rare Books, Almat Absalikov, introduced the Qazaqstan Tarihy portal with a unique collection of ancient manuscripts.

The exhibition hall of the Manuscript Center presents unique manuscripts in 5 sections. The first section was dedicated to the period of the Turkic Khaganate, the second section was devoted to the era of the Karakhanids, the third section was dedicated to the period of the Golden Horde, the fourth one was for the period of the Kazakh Khanate, and the fifth section was presented by the manuscripts of the center's fund.

The main monuments of recording during the Turkic Khaganate were the stone steles found in Mongolia, but there were no steles themselves in the center of the manuscripts, and the copies were quite expensive.There were two Turkic Khaganates in the VI–VIII centuries. The First Turkic Khaganate existed in the VI–VII centuries, and the Second Turkic Khaganate existed in the VII–VIII centuries.

At the end of the 19th century, the famous Russian orientalist Nikolay Yadrintsev made an expedition to Central Mongolia, as a result of which he found 3 stone steles that were written in the Orkhon-Yenisey script, but since the signs were similar to Scandinavian Viking runes, it was called a runic script. Two years after N. Yadrintsev, the well-known Danish orientalist-Turkologist Wilhelm Thomsen was able to decipher and interpret it. This was done due to the fact that there was a Chinese letter in parallel. Then, the famous Soviet orientalist, Vasiliy Radlov, translated it from German into Russian. The monuments contain very interesting text. “Tonyukok” was the warload, that means, a military leader and assistant. Kul-tegin was a close relative of Bilge-kagan. The text describes the victory of the Turks. At first, the Turks were subordinate to the Chinese Empire, and the Turkic leaders turned out to be traitors. Then, the people raised an uprising and defended their freedom. The main idea of the message was to serve our people honestly and to love our homeland...

“I am the Unborn Turkic Hagan, sitting on the kingdom. Listen fully to my speech. Follow me, my younger kinsmen, my tribes and people, standing on the right strike fighter division, standing on the left tarkhans and orders, people of "Nine Oguz". Listen attentively to my speech and listen firmly!” he said in the text.

The document is very interesting from the point of view of folklore, it contains a lot of interesting information about the Turkic tribes, such as Toguz-Oguz and Segiz-Oguz, and it has a lot of other historically interesting information.


Therefore, Nikolay Yadrintsev discovered the steles, and V.L. Thomsen translated the text. Later, it was interpreted into Russian by the well-known Russian orientalist researcher and turkologist, V.V. Radlov. Radlov was German by nationality, and in general, the Germans made a great contribution to Turkology, source science, and historical science in the late XIX and early XX centuries. For example, the famous historian Leopold von Ranke cultivated the methodology of modern historiography.

The next section was dedicated to the Karakhanid era, with the exception of one book from the 9th century that was found in Dunhuang Cave in Central China, and the original book was kept in the British Museum. This book, “YRYG BITIG” (The Book of Divination), is an ancient Turkic monument, presumably from the 9th century. Many different manuscripts in Chinese and Turkic were found in the Dunhuang cave. In 1907, the Book of Fortune-telling was acquired by archaeologist A. Stein from an attendant of the Cave of 1000 Buddhas temple, among other manuscripts. The first studies and publications belong to the Danish Turkologist, Wilhelm Thomsen. Nowadays, the manuscript is kept in the British Museum (London). In her work, I.V. Stebleva reconstructed a poetic form in the text of the book. In 2005, a poetic translation of the Book of Divination was published in Russian by A.V.Prelovskyi. Divination has always been interesting to humans. The book was written in the Turkic language in runic writing, which indicates that Islamic culture has not yet reached there.

In the 10th and 11th centuries, the state of the Karakhanids had already been established. It was the first Turkic state to adopt Islam as a religion. Two types of writing were used in the state of the Karakhanids: the Arabic script and the Old Turkic, also known as the Old Uighur script, which is written from top to bottom and from left to the right side. It came from the Sogdian script, and in turn, the Sogdian was derived from the Aramaic caption. Although Orientalists considered this letter to be “Old Uighur”, Mahmud Kashgari referred to it as “Turkic”. In the state of the Karakhanids, the Old Uighur script and Arabic graphics were used as well.

One of the earliest known books was the book “Kutadgu bilik” from the 11th century. The work was written in 1069 in the Khakan-Karakhanid Turki. This is an ethical-didactic political treatise, in which the views are expressed in an artistic form on issues of politics, morality, the moral foundations of society, and the military organization of the country. The Central Asian poet, scientist, and thinker Yusuf Khas Khadzhib Balasaguni (1020–1070) wrote the work in the Turkic language. Three copies of Yusuf Balasaguni's book, copied in the 14th century, have been preserved; in the center of the manuscripts is a Cairo copy, copied in the 14th century (an Egyptian manuscript), which is stored in Egypt. Shahnameh in the Turkic language is called “Balasaguni's Work”. This book was about politics, how to govern a country, what kind of ruler one should be, and how the government should treat its citizens. It was one of three books in the series. Egypt has many known manuscripts. There is also a Viennese copy written in the Old Turkic script, which is kept in Austria. The third one is the Herat copy, but since it has been kept in Austria, it is called the Austrian copy. A facsimile of a copy is saved in the center of the manuscripts, but it has not been published yet. The orientalists who explored these monuments understood the value of these manuscripts. In the Middle Ages, scientists frequently wrote books on behalf of or on orders from the ruler, and Yusuf Balasaguni was awarded the title “Khas Khadzhib” for this magnificent work. Once upon a time, the professor M.U. Shalekenov proved that Yusuf was a Turk and was born on the territory of modern Kazakhstan. In the course of archaeological research, he was able to determine the exact position of the city of Balasagun in the place of Aktobe near Chu, not far from the village of Birlik, and not in the Tokmak area, as Kyrgyz scientists believed. The scientist found a cover in this place, on which was written, “The City of Balasagun”. The book “Kutadgu Bilik” is from a religious nature, and from its beginning, the book praises the Almighty, the Prophet Muhammad, and his companions.


The next manuscript is Khodja Ahmed Yassawi's book “Diwani Hikmet”. This book is acknowledged by Sufi mystic poet, theologian and preacher of Sufism in Central Asia, Ahmed Yassawi who wrote it in the Turkic Khaqani (Karakhanid) literary language, that developed during the reign of the Karakhanid dynasty (X-XIII centuries). This is a collection of moral and ethical instructions related to the knowledge of the Almighty. They do not cover the politics, history, but praise God, direct them to the inner knowledge. This book is a collection of Ahmed Yasawi in Persian and Chagatai languages. The first 28 pages of poems are written in Persian, then in Chagatai. The National Manuscript Center holds a copy of Diwani Hikmet in Chagatai and Persian, and a facsimile version in Chagatai. Unfortunately, the original of the book itself has not been preserved, but there are later copies of the 18th-19th centuries. The Kazan edition of the 19th century is presented at the exposition. Although in the 16th century Ruzbikhon wrote in the book “Mikhman-name I-Bukhara” that he had seen the original of the book, signed by the hand of Ahmad Yassawi. This means that the manuscript existed in the 16th century. It is worth saying that Ahmed Yasawi had a great influence on various Sufi movements, in particular, the Naqshbadi order, the famous figure of the 14th century Naqshband was also influenced by the teachings of Ahmed Yasawi. In Sunni Islam, Sufism is not considered separate from Islam. Undoubtedly, Sufism had a huge impact on the Golden Horde, on the mentality and worldview of the people.

The next book is Hibat Al-Haqaik by Ahmad Ibn Mahmud Yugnaki. He was born in Central Asia, they say he was blind from the birth. This book was published in Istanbul in 1334 A.H. (1916). This work of the 12th century is a poetic story, it has various philosophical, ethical reflections and an educational nature, filled with ideas of morality and ethics. This collection has been preserved in the form of two manuscripts, written in the Khaqan (Karakhanid) language, Arabic script and Uighur script. This copy was copied in 1480 by Sheikh Zadeh Abdur Razzak Bakhshi. The manuscript has been saved at the Hagia Sophia Library in Istanbul. A facsimile version of this work was made at the National Center for Manuscripts and Rare Books.

Another book called “Oguz Nama” is a collection of legends and myths about the life and work of Oguz Khan. The first mention of the book “Oguz Nama” we can find in Rashidaddin Hamdani's “Jamiu at-Tawarikh” (beginning of the 15th century). Further, we find mention of the book by Davadari in the works of Ulugbek and Abulgazi Bahadurkhan. The Turkic Khagans considered the book as sacred and placed it among the most sacred relics. Rashidaddin used this book (i.e., Oguz-nama) when writing a large section on Oguzhan in his history. The exact time of writing this manuscript is unknown. The Parisian manuscript (a copy from the 13th century) is kept in the National Library of Paris. Oguz Khan is considered the progenitor of the Turks. There are different opinions among historians about this person, up to the fact that he is associated with Mode Shanuy. The book tells the story of Oguz Khan's life, his birth, and the biography dedicated to him. There is a brief introduction taken from Rashidaddin, because he translated this book, and there is a whole chapter dedicated to Oguz Khan. It is said that this particular manuscript does not quite coincide with that text. This is the only copy in the Old Turkic language, while Rashidaddin has written it in the Arabic language.

The next book by Mahmud Kashgari, also from the Karakhanid era, is the book “Diwan al-lugat at-turk (Dictionary of Turkic dialects)”. The author of the book is a well-known Turkish turkologist, philologist, and lexicographer, Mahmud Kashgari (Mahmud Ibn Hussein Ibn Muhammad al-Kashgari) (520/1126). Born in the city of Barskhan on the territory of modern Kyrgyzstan, he died in Kashgar city. This work, written at the end of the 11th century, is considered the first Turkic encyclopedic dictionary of dialects. In addition to the terms and words of the Turkic language, the dictionary contains Turkic sayings, historical notes, and legends. In 1928, Karl Brockelmann created a "Dictionary of the Middle Turkic Language" based on this dictionary. The book consists of two volumes. This book is related to Volume 2.

The next book is the work of Ali Khorezmi, “Kissa Yusuf” (XIII century). The book is of great interest not only as a literary monument, but also as a rare monument in one of the Turkic languages ​​of Central Asia, dating back to the late Karakhanid period of the early 13th century. One of the copies of the manuscript is kept at the Institute of Oriental Manuscripts in St. Petersburg. The uniqueness of this manuscript is that it is related to the last stage of the Karakhanid era. There is also "Kissa Yusuf" that tells us about the prophet Yusuf and his Koranic history.

Another book is named “The Book of Korkyt Ata” (Kitab-i Give Korkut gali lizan tayfa oguzan) – a work of the 15th century. An example of a heroic epic is the written heritage of the Oguz-Kipchak era. Two versions of it are known in science: in Dresden (Chapter 12) and in the Vatican (Chapter 6). The book of Korkyt Ata has a literary and historical-ethnic heritage. Along with artistic tables typical of the Kazakh epic, it contains a lot of information that contributes to the history and culture of the Kazakh people. The record also contains information about the ethnic origin, ethnography, place of residence, social status, and other numerous data points about the Oguz tribes. The manuscript is written in black and dark brown ink. Important parts are highlighted in red ink. The original manuscript is kept in the library of Dresden State University. The Vatican also has a manuscript of this book. The book “Kitabi dede Korkut” was also placed in the era of the Karakhanids, because Korkyt Ata lived at about the same time. And the book itself was compiled later, somewhere in the 15th century. The book is especially revered in Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Turkey, and other Turkic states. Recently, a copy of “Kitab-i Dadem Korkut” was found in Turkestan. It has not been investigated yet, but it is in the process of scientific description. We can say that this work conceptually shows the unity of the Turks. Interestingly, the grave of Korkyt Ata is located in the Kyzylorda region. The historical era was quite challenging. The Oguzes left, and the arriving Kipchaks adopted the tradition, creating and preserving its history. Korkyt Ata became a saint for both the Kypchak and Oguz peoples.