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

Reforms of Kenesary-khan towards the creation of an independent state

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Reforms of Kenesary-khan towards the creation of an independent state - e-history.kz
Kenesary put forward a political program in which ideas of power centralization, restoration of traditional structures of the legislative, executive and judicial authorities were reflected

In terms of gaining the status of a sovereign state by Kazakhstan, the transition to a market economy, democratization of society through interior economic, democratic and political reforms is carried out. The state can become self-reliant and independent, if during the period of its formation there will be a course for transformative reform. The Kazakh state has a large «test» period in its formation since the time of formation of the Kazakh Khanate. At any stage of development of the society, reforms relating to the historical conditions strengthened the inviolability of the state and gave impetus to further development. 

 If we address to historical experience of reforms in Kazakh society, reforms of the Kazakh khans Kasym, Esim, Tauke and Kenesary played important roles in the process of formation of national identity. The experience of Kenesary’s reforms was of particular importance, because it took place in the terms of colonization of Kazakh lands by the Russian Empire. The process of accession of Kazakhstan to Russia in XVIII-XIX centuries has entailed active intervention to the internal life of the Kazakh society. 

 From the early XIX century, state and political system of domination of Russian autocracy had been established in Kazakhstan. The forced demolition of traditional institutions happened, in the result of which they lost integrative role in the life of a nomadic society. Self-regulating mechanisms of the society, its social, political structure, economic and cultural ties were prone to destabilization. Departure from accepted standards of the traditional way of life, the natural functioning of society caused protests in the social environment of the Kazakhs. 

 The basis of nomadic communities always were ordinary community members, pastoralists, who were interested in preservation of traditional Kazakh society. The privileged strata of society was interested in the preservation of traditional norms and hence, the autonomy of the Kazakh society too. With the weakening of stability of the structure of nomadic society due to the social, economic, political interventions, economic life and social development of nomadic society disrupted giving displeasure, which resulted in the national liberation movement. The ideology of the national-liberation movement of Kenesary Kasymov focused on the return of traditional system of life-support of society, its social and political institutes as a guarantor of stability and autonomy of the Kazakhs. Relying on the middle classes and farmers, for whom social innovations introduced by Russia were alien and hostile, Kenesary managed to restore briefly the Kazakh Khanate based on political management of Kazakhstan, which existed during the regimen of Abylai khan in XVIII century and was characterized by the non-intervention of tsarism in the political life of the Kazakh Khanate. Kenesary being a descendant of Abylai Khan launched a political program, where the ideas of centralization of power, restoration of the traditional instituttions of the legislative, executive, judicial authorities and others were reflected, «...within the feudal economy, Kenesary held a series of major reforms, which had a deeply progressive nature, because those reforms have promoted to consolidation of the Kazakh people and strengthening of the Kazakh statehood». 

 This statement belongs to E.B.Bekmakhanov — researcher of the national-liberation movement under the leadership of Kenesary Kasymov. Up to date, his work «Kazakhstan in 20-40s of XIX century» is one of the few serious studies of that movement. Bekmakhanov had studied the history of the movement in 1837-1847 and the internal structure of Kenesary’s Khanate on the basis of a large range of sources. «Activities on strengthening of the Kazakh statehood were closely related to the tasks of the liberation struggle» — says the researcher. The new political institutions of the Russian Empire primarily undermined social relations in the Kazakh society, causing disunity among the Kazakhs. In this situation, there were numerous social categories, family-relative, communal and relative structural relations were broken down. It was necessary for new categories to clearly define their positions and places in the complex social relations within a society and therefore, many of them went to rapprochement with tsarism. Kenesary found social support in the organization of the uprising and in the organization of state administrative bodies represented by the members of the middle class: biys, bais and batyrs. This choice mostly corresponded to the actual conditions of that period as the large nomadic aristocracy was attached to the performance of the new functions provided to them by the Russian administration. 

 During the establishment of an independent state it is necessary to have an independent state and political systems, structures of authority. Khan was the personification of the Supreme Power in traditional Kazakh society with its strictly hierarchical social system of relations. Personal qualities of Khan were one of the decisive factors of the level of state development. Kenesary was a charismatic person and was elected the Khan of three zhuzes, he created his state in the relentless struggle against patriarchal aristocracy with its efferent tendencies with the treacherous policy of the sultans-rulers.

 Kenesary khan was at the head of the state in his formed khanate. Legislative and executive powers were represented by Khan, Khan Council as advisory body, and the management body represented by emissaries appointed by Kenesary endued with diplomatic, financial and military functions. The organization of power was an orderly formed system of political governance that took into account a traditional scheme of the social ties. A traditional judicial system — Court of bis was renewed. Bis were appointed by Kenesary and could resolve inter-ancestral disagreements. The Supreme judicial court was focused in Kenesary’s hands. Primarily, this legal reform was aimed at cancellation of «barymty» and struck a serious blow to the dissident tendencies of tribal bis, sultans who were not interested in strengthening of the centralized state. Such control system as illustrated by the history is often the most reasonable in the difficult conditions of the choosing the way to the development of an independent state. 

 Kenesary relied on the customary law of the Kazakhs, but made a number of changes in judicial reform. Customary law of the Kazakhs is given the value of the national transfer of judicial functions in the hands of government officials. Legislative power concentrated in the hands of the state provided order and stability in it, strengthened the centralization process of the state and contributed to the regulation of social relations in society. 

 The most important attribute of the statehood contributing to the consolidation of the economic situation of the state is an independent tax policy. In terms of traditional nomadic society, fees and taxes were often voluntary, insignificant and irregular. Fees and taxes took into account material and social positions of breeders, which was flexible, self-regulating system of lifestyle of nomadic society. Rigid fiscal system of taxation imposed by the Russian Empire was a heavy burden for Kazakh population and was the means of cruel exploitation of the Kazakhs. Tax policy of Kenesary was unified and systematized. The Kazakhs were exempt from paying taxes into Russian and Kokand treasury, all tax was received into the state treasury. 

 Now tax passed under the jurisdiction of state authorities, which allowed strengthening material base of the state. The new tax policy was a progressive step in the development of the Kazakh state. Economic activity of Kenesary contributed to the development of economy, progressive forms of social production. Kenesary encouraged the development of farming, trade, and barter among the Kazakhs. The process of transformation of economy forms of the Kazakhs was primarily aimed at providing food for the rebels. In virtue of traditional character of nomadic society, agricultural economy of the Kazakhs did not become a reliable base for the lifestyle of nomadic population and did not acquire an independent value, being secondary and auxiliary branch of nomadic economy as before. Military traditions based on traditions in Kazakh society were of great importance, military conscription was one of the most important and common duties in the degree. The Kazakhs had no regular army, but the tribal militias as required. The need to create forces occurs when people fight for their independence.

 In the period of the national liberation movement of Kazakh people under the leadership of Kenesary was created militia and he managed to build a disciplined army from it. Along with traditional methods of struggle, Kenesary introduced new ones: dismounted action, the establishment of agent network, intelligence, disorientation methods and others. The army of Kenesary included not only Kazakhs, but also other nationalities, who were attracted for the introduction of new tactics of military operations to ensure new types of weapons. Only the presence of well-organized and equipped powerful forces could ensure the security of the state and its people. 

 Kenesary understood it well, implementing reforms on the way to strengthen independence. It was difficult to resist to Russian autocracy with its huge military potential in those historical conditions. Kenesary took into consideration during the reconstitution of the Kazakh Khanate in the early 40s of XIX century; he tried to revive the Kazakh statehood with reforms in more developed form. The reforms concerned all aspects of life of Kazakh society and carried the seedlings of progress and development. Overall, the state built by Kenesary needed a more thorough and broad study, this subject is till poorly studied and controversial. The reforms carried out in the state were aimed at strengthening of independence of the Kazakhs, preservation of Kazakh community, and stability of Kazakh society, i.e. corresponded to the national interests. National, people’s interests at any stage of society’s development should be the priority of any reforms. 


Zh.Kussainova, Cand.Sc., professor

Kazakh Humanities and Law University

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