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

Abylai the King: A Warrior, Diplomat and Patriot

1792
Abylai the King: A Warrior, Diplomat and Patriot
Abylai Khan was an outstanding statesman who restored the territorial integrity of Kazakhstan. During his rule, Abylai made significant changes within the state.

When the representatives of all the three tribes were brought together in the territory of Ordabasy, it was followed by the election of Abilkhair Khan as the chief leader of the troops. The new unification of the three Kazakh tribes, the formation of an army for protection against the Dzhungar and the Kalmyks, only laid the foundation for the liberation struggle, but did not solve the main task -  the elimination of the danger of further Dzhungarian invasions. But according to the steppe rules, only a man from tore tribe could become the head of state. Abilmambet and Abilkhair khans, who did much to organize the protection of Kazakh lands, did not fit this framework. As it turned out, Abylai, who came from the dynastic line, was a proper candidate. After his birth in 1711, he was given the name of Abilmansur. His grandfather, as it was claimed by a number of researchers, became well-known for his outsanding military valor that he received the formidable and honorable nickname Qanisher (bloodthirsty). As a teenager, Abilmansur spent his childhood in exile, having lost his father at thirteen, who was killed in the internecine struggle by his rivals.

According to Kazakh folk legends, accompanied by his faithful servant of his parents, he fled to Turkestan, but ended up being unwelcome by his noble relatives. Further, hiding his origin, Abilmansur enters the service to the rich nomads. From the outset, he worked as a shepherd at the noble Tole bi and then at Dauletkeldi-bai by the herdsman. As he was poorly dressed and deceived boy, people called the contemptible name "Sabalaq" ('beggar'). But Abilmansur, according to the memoirs of his contemporaries, always kept with dignity and loved solitude. According to the tradition of succession to the steppe aristocracy, the khan's throne was to be inherited by the eldest son of the deceased khan, a well-known participant in the struggle against the dzhungarian invasions - Abilfaiyz. The election of Abylai became a recognition of his outstanding achievements in the consolidation of Kazakh lands. This strengthened his authority among his fellow tribesmen, and he gained popularity both in Russia and in China. Representatives of three Kazakh zhuzes raised the sultan on a white koshma and declared him khan of the entire Kazakh land.

Dividing his possessions among the heirs, Abylai carried out a number of innovations in the management of the Kazakh Khanate. The form of government during his ten-year tenure on the throne was practically unchallenged. As supreme suzerain of the Kazakh land, he through his Tulengutes (soldiers of the khan's guard) controlled the use of the best grazing lands, especially in the northeastern regions. Abylai strengthened his personal power, relying on influential biys - Kazybek bi, Tole bi and Aiteke bi. He perfected the laws of the khans of Qasym and Yesim, which remained in force until the adoption of the "Zheti zhargy", and made many changes to existing legislation. First of all, this was manifested in the fact that Abylai did not accept the limitations of the khan's power that were in them. As it was said above, he lived in very difficult conditions, he had to learn all the sorrows of life from the very childhood.

Speaking of Abylai and Tole, they perfectly realized that the time had come when, throughout the world, the colonial policy took the dominant place and for the prosperity of the Kazakh Khanate it was necessary to conclude an alliance with a more powerful state. During the national disaster, it became clear with whom to conclude an alliance. Because in 1733, Tole bi wrote a letter to the Russian tsarina Anna Ioannovna with a request to accept under her protection. After a while, Abylai signed a document on the acceptance by the middle horde of Russia's citizenship. Of course, no one thought when the documents on citizenship were signed by such leaders, that for a long three centuries they lose their freedom. The most interesting thing in their life, when they determined the foreign and domestic policy of the Khanate, neither Russia nor China could dictate their colonial conditions to the Kazakhs.

They attached special importance to the development of the economy. The transition to agriculture, the use of the potential of cities, the development of trade was seen as a chance to strengthen the foundation of statehood. Tole bi urged not only cattle breeding, he encouraged farming, channel construction. This is also confirmed by Uzbek historians. It is claimed that at the same time, Tole bi, whose rate was located on the bank of the Chirchik river, at the beginning of Bozsu, providing water, Tashkent could at any time change the direction of the water and leave the city without it.

Abylai khan and Tole bi fought for strong state power. For example, when Barak Sultan killed Abulkhayir Khan in 1748, Tole bi and other famous figures managed to prevent conflicts for the sake of peace and unity of the people. A huge diplomatic gift of two personalities can be assessed on the conducted negotiations, sent to dispatches and diplomatic delegations to Russia, China, Dzhungaria, Kokand and Kyrgyzstan. For them always on the first place were the interests of the Kazakh Khanate, the whole people. During negotiations with the Chinese ambassadors, Abylai was informed of the illness of the wife - the baibishe, her condition was extremely difficult. Abylai then said that his family issues were not of a high importance. Besides, if he were at home,he would not be able to bring the dying person back to life.

Abylai and Tole bi's attitude in towards Dzhungaria were very complex and full of nuances. Once mighty state began to collapse internally, they managed to speed up the process of decomposition by skillful actions. Abylai Khan and Tole bi skillfully took advantage of the struggle and rivalry for the throne of the dzhungar Noyans. The consent and unification of Tolebi and Abylai Khan led to such a political victory over the exhausted and exhausted struggle of the Jungars. Abylai and Tole dreamed of preserving the sovereign state of the Kazakhs. Their dream came true in the conditions of independence of Kazakhstan. First, a strong presidential republic has been created. In accordance with the current Constitution, the head of state determines the main vector of domestic and foreign policy of the country, acts as a guarantor of Kazakhstan in domestic and international relations. Thus, it is a symbol of the unity of the people and power, the stability of the Constitution, the guarantee of freedom of human and citizen's rights.

The king took part in the nationwide struggle against the dzhungarian conquerors. Especially, he became famous at the age of 20, during a major battle near the Ulytau mountains. In the traditional combat of batyrs, before the beginning of the general battle, he killed the leader of the dzhungars, the successor of Galdan Tseren. In turn, Oirats in this battle suffered a crushing defeat. During the battle, Abilmansur rushes at the enemy with the cry "Abylai", asking for help the spirit of his grandfather, for which he was nicknamed Abylai batyr. Participating in many raids, first as an ordinary warrior, he showed the exploits of extraordinary courage and cunning. Its useful advice and strategic considerations strengthen the name of the wise for him. Since then, Abilmansur had become Abylai.

Thanks to his outstanding military abilities and organizational talents, Abylai, with the support of some influential batyrs, biys and second cousin of Abilmambet sultan, was elected by the Kazakh shertans as sultans in the strong and numerous genus atygai, whose rate was located near the Kokshetau mountains. From this moment, active not only military, but also political activity of Abylai, widely glorified his name among the Kazakh population of all three zhuzes. From the very beginning of his long political activity within the Steppe and beyond, Abylai proved himself to be an intelligent, cunning and flexible ruler. He realized in time that under conditions of dzhungar conquest of the most important shopping centers, caravan routes and agricultural oases in the south of the region, the Kazakhs should spread their nomadic movements to the north and north-east of Kazakhstan to the borders with Russia. Establish a stable trade exchange with Russian merchants, traded products and goods. Abylai decided to follow the example of Abilkhair khan.

His actions were carried out by amortization measures that softened the pressure of Russia and China. In addition to the fact that he had to conduct a filigree policy of maneuvering between a lion and a dragon in the face of the Russian and Chinese empires, Abylai Khan was forced to resolve extremely difficult problems in the relationship with the militant Dzhungar state, that was inherited from previous generations. He is a key figure in the Kazakh history of the 18th century. Abylai led the liberation struggle of the Kazakh people against the dzhungarian and then the Ching conquerors, one of the first to recognize Russian citizenship, tried to unite the fragmented Kazakh possessions into a single state formation, forced the rulers of the neighboring Central Asian powers to reckon with themselves. The original and bright personality of Abylai, the talent of an outstanding politician and commander, formed in one of the crucial and dramatic periods in the history of the Kazakh people, connected with the struggle for freedom and independence. There are myriad amount of works about his role in the history of the Kazakh people written by various researchers. The idea of national unity, state independence and territorial integrity of Kazakhstan is connected with his name. It was in the struggle for the realization of this idea that Abylai's versatile natural talents were revealed: the state mind, personal courage, the talent of a commander and politician, the quality of a skillful diplomat. Only thanks to these outstanding abilities, Abylai - the unknown shepherd nicknamed Sabalaq, rose to the status of the khan, and enjoyed the support of the majority of people and prominent figures of his era.

Along with his comrades - batyrs, such as Kabanbai batyr of the qarakerei clan, Nauryzbai batyr of the genus shapyrashty, Bogenbai batyr of kanzhygaly clan, Baigazy batyr, Zhanibek batyr of shaksak, Malysary batyr, Bai Batyr and many others, Abylai significantly weakened the military power of dzhungaria. As a wise politician, he managed to neutralize the hostile actions of the Central Asian khanates who sought to exploit the plight of Kazakhstan. He managed to rally the Kazakhs to fight against a real threat from the Dzhungar Khanate. Abylai as a smart politician of the Kazakh state, closely followed the events in the neighboring Khanate. He understood that due to a temporary military advantage, it was possible to return the originally Kazakh lands, torn away by the Oirats. After 1755, when China, destroying dzhungaria, went to the borders of Kazakhstan, Kazakh rulers led by Abylai tried to support the Dzhungars. They did not give Amursan, the last Khan of the Kalmyks, and even had to enter the war against the Chinese troops.

In the spring of 1756, Chinese troops invaded the Kazakh lands. As in the days of the Dzhungarian aggression, Sultan Abylai became one of the organizers of the rebuff to the enemy. The threat to the sovereignty of the state was so real that even from the distant Younger zhuz came a detachment led by Sultan Yerala. It was difficult for the Kazakh united militia to withstand the well-armed, artillery equipped and experienced in conducting major battles with the Ching troops. The tense situation prevailing in the border zone prompted Abylai to begin negotiations. He tried not to allow the first clashes to turn into bloody battles and to return the Kazakh lands, previously captured by the Dzhungar Khanate, by diplomatic means. The Ching court was also not interested in continuing military operations in the Kazakh lands, since military operations in Northern Mongolia and other adjacent regions were expanding. In addition, the unleashing of the war in the Middle zhuz did not promise a quick victory because of the uniqueness of the steppe zone. Separate detachments of Kazakh batyrs, knowing the peculiarities of their native land, avoided major clashes, using tactics of sudden attacks. 

Thus, not having achieved the final victory over the Kazakh militia, the Ching troops were forced to return to their possessions. Great is the credit of Abylai and the consolidation of various forces of the Kazakh society for the struggle against the Dzhungarian and Ching conquerors. Having broken the resistance of the separatist forces, Abylai managed to restore the territorial unity of the vast Kazakh region and carried out fundamental changes in the government of the state. The situation of Kazakhstan, which was in the grip of two empires - the Russian and the Ching - was very difficult. Abylai's main goal was to ensure the independence of the Kazakh Khanate. Cleverly using diplomatic means, Abylai made vigorous efforts to return the Kazakh lands temporarily occupied by Dzhungaria during its military and political might.

It should be noted that the fate of the dzhungar and the Kazakhs was in some strange karmic way interconnected. The expansion of the Oirats-Dzhungar into the territory corresponding to modern Kazakhstan began in the 15th century, when the prerequisites for the formation of the Kazakh Khanate were emerging. The troops of the Oirat ruler Uz-Temir Taishi in 1456-1457 in the area of Kok-Kenes near Syganak defeated the army of nomadic Uzbeks Abulkhair Khan, and then, without encountering resistance, began to plunder the entire valley of the Syrdarya. Many cities were captured, including Turkestan, Tashkent, Otrar. In the same year, after the weakening of Abulkhair Khan, the rebellious sultans Janibek and Kerey migrated from the state of nomadic Uzbeks in the interfluve of Shu and Talas, deserted after the Oirats left, and with the permission of the Khan of Mogulistan Yesen-buga formed the Kazakh Khanate. Having strengthened and expanded, the new state, thanks to the wise khans and unity of the people, has become an obstacle to the development of the success of the predatory policy of the Dzhungarian rulers.

But in 1718, after the death of Tauke khan, the Kazakh Khanate broke up, divided into three juzes - the Elder, the Middle and the Younger. Taking advantage of the disunity of the people, the Dzhungars began to invade the land of the Kazakh families. Sweeping away from their scattered small groups of Kazakh detachments, thousands of Dzhungar troops quickly moved deeper into Kazakhstan, leaving behind them piles of dead bodies, ashes of fires, stealing tens of thousands of prisoners, caravans of looted riches. Kazakhs were forced to flee, throwing cattle, property, old people and children. Quite a few people were killed by the Dzhungars, many of them died in the crossing of raging rivers. 

Throwing everything, the Kazakhs went to Central Asia, Saryarka and other places. By tradition, before the battle began, batyrs of the warring parties should have fought in the single combat. This time a close relative of the Dzhungarian khan Galdan Tseren came out on the dzhungar side. From the Kazakh side with the permission of batyr Bogenbai - young Abilmansur, who won a hard fight. Then, excited by the struggle, Abilmansur shouted "Abylai!" And rushed to the enemy, dragging the rest of the Kazakh soldiers behind him. The battle was won by Kazakhs. After a victorious duel he was invited to Abilmambet khan, who found out that Abilmansur was the son of Ualiy Sultan, the grandson of Abylai khan, and that therefore he rushed to the Dzhungars with the cry "Abylai!". Then he was elected Sultan of the Middle Horde. But he, although he was a sultan, actually had the power of the khan and behaved like a khan.

Even after the liquidation of Dzhungaria as an independent state, the Ching authorities did not stop declaring their claims to the lands in this strategically important region. The problem also affected the state interests of Russia, which constantly expressed its readiness to protect mines and mining enterprises that arose here in the 1920s. The desire of the Kazakhs to occupy their traditional nomad camp in the border area caused a negative reaction from the Peking court. The authorities demanded that the Kazakhs leave the Tarbagatai mountains. Ching authorities were unable to fully restrain the Kazakhs' advancement to their historical possessions. And, being powerless to secure these areas, they continued to advance their troops in them. There was a critical situation. Abylai was aware of the complexity of the situation and sought to resolve the disputed points peacefully, avoiding the emergence of tension, using his political talent, as evidenced by the written sources of that time.

In order to preserve the territorial integrity of the Kazakh Khanate, Abylai accepts the citizenship of China. Given the adoption of Russia's oath before this step, this step should be viewed as a diplomatic move by Abylai. In 1765, he concluded an agreement with Russia, but did not take it as a legitimate decision of the tsarist government by the end of 1778 to grant him the title of great khan and did not go to the solemn ceremony where he was to be given a corresponding act, a fur coat and a saber. Abylai believed that his people had elected him khan and therefore he did not have to swear allegiance to the Russian tsar. If China does not encroach on its khan's dignity, then the oath ceremony of Russia infringes the sovereignty of the Kazakh Khanate - such was the position of Abylai. But Abylai's problems were not only with Russia and China, in the south were the Bukhara, Khiva and Kokand khanates. They made devastating raids on the territory of the Middle and Senior zhuzes. Some of the Kazakhs of these Zhuzes were even considered subjects of the above-mentioned khanates. In general, the main danger was represented by Kokand, therefore all forces of Abylai concentrated on him.

At this time in Kokand, the ruler was Irdan bey, a man cruel and bloodthirsty. The Kazakhs under his hand could not stand the yoke, there were a lot of uprisings, but he suppressed them with characteristic brutal cruelty. This gave Abylai an excuse to declare war on Kokand. But I think, although this is my subjective opinion that Abylai was more interested in trade routes passing through Kokand. Abylai begins the war, for this he sends a letter to Orenburg, in which he asks for troops, but he is refused. Then he begins to wage war on his own. He suffers one defeat after another and, finally, seriously wounded, retreats back. He then decides to change tactics. Seeing that brute force does not help, decides to bet on the trick. Abylai conspired with the Kokand nobility, who very much does not like the strengthening of the central authority, that is, the Irdan bey. Abylai managed to win over influential dignitaries from Irdan bey's circle, first to tax them, and then to rob them.

By sending ambassadors to the bek with a proposal of peace, but he refused. Then Abylai recruited a new squad and went on a campaign against the unruly ruler. A lot of cities depended on the Kokand Khanate, mostly small villages with land-dwelling inhabitants who had no protection, except for low walls and a couple of hundred rural militia. Therefore, the elders of the "cities" did not even think about resistance, they tried their best to pay off the brutal Khan. And Abylai had no choice but to collect tribute from these "townspeople" frightened by the army without any efforts. But there were also big cities, for example Tashkent, where he collected a very large tribute. After taking this city, Abylai decides that this can stop, and sends ambassadors to the Irdan Khan with a proposal to conclude peace, remaining on the current borders, that, naturally, refused, and Abylai decided to end it.

It has been almost two centuries since Abylai's passing. But many milestones of his life have not been solved until now. The more you study his activities on the basis of multilingual documents, the more questions arise that you find it difficult to give a solid answer. Moreover, each year of research adds a new mystery. I made for myself a working list of questions fourty riddles of Abylai khan, unsolved for forty years. Today I will focus only on the mystery of the death of this bright and contradictory personality in the history of Kazakhstan. I present to the readers' court my own version. The circumstances of Abylai's death, like his birth, are covered in mystery and entangled in myths. The exact date and detailed circumstances of Abylai khan's death in the Kazakh historical science have not yet been clarified. Scientists in their conclusions, one way or another, rely on the official notification by his son and heir Ualisultan of the border authorities of the Russian and Ching empires about the illness and the death of his father. Moreover, historians have to calculate the date of death of the khan, based on the date of receipt and transfer by the authorities of the powers of the document with this news. Meanwhile, many many, at first glance, minor discrepancies and omissions are alarming, as well as an obvious lie on the part of informants.

The gaining of Kazakhstan's independence and the emergence of our state on the frontiers of international politics were the beginning of many events aimed at returning to the national history of the good name of historically undeservedly forgotten and deprecated by the old ideology of historical figures. In particular, this had a beneficial effect on the reconstruction of the objective image of public figures. Now the task is to promote the achieved results, the erection of monuments to these individuals in the countries of near and far abroad.

Abylai's ideas about stable development of the country, harmony and peaceful coexistence inside and outside the borders are the basis for asserting it as a progressive personality and a state figure on a planetary scale. This is why many of his edifications and plans were embodied during the years of Kazakhstan's independence. The legacy of Abylai is invaluable in the implementation of his legal and institutional aspects.

The Constitution of modern Kazakhstan as the main strategic law of the country is the embodiment of the hero's wisdom from the era of the former freedom and independence of our country. The fruits of reforms under the relentless leadership of President Nursultan Nazarbayev on social and economic, political and cultural modernization of Kazakhstan society have become real and tangible. Kazakhstan has become a full-fledged member of the world community and directly influences the solution of fateful problems for mankind.

A glance at the horizon of achieved accomplishments and victories shows that the spirit of Anyrakay became decisive not only in the fate of Abylai khan, whose star will always illuminate our path of independent development. It is not accidental that the Leader of the Nation in the Strategy Kazakhstan - 2050 turned to the cultural code of the Kazakh people, which over many centuries has developed a stable immunity of tolerance, unity, good-neighborliness. As our President said before, he believes that our worthy history, the memory of our glorious ancestors will help us overcome the difficulties of the coming time. History is a witness - in turbulent times our people have always united and turned adversity into their victories. So it was almost three hundred years ago at Anyrakay where Kazakhs were brought together and united. At that moment, devotion to their land and common sense prevailed. This feat was committed by the ancestor of each of us. The exploits and ideal of Abylai Khan also live in each of us and will continue in future generations.

The direction given by the President of the country is a high bar for those who investigate and will study the life, outlook and activities of Abylai khan. In this regard, it is necessary to make efforts of historians-scientists and the whole society to actively develop and develop ablaevstvo as a special and complex branch of historical knowledge. Everyone has something to say here. Ahead is the discovery of new artifacts, the search for unknown sources and documents, the analysis of the achieved knowledge about Abylai - the real pride of the national history of Kazakhstan, the wise and brave ruler of our country.

The Kazakhs, being more adapted to the new social and economic conditions that were taking place in the world and the geopolitical situation, turned their eyes to the future in the direction of the renewing Russia. For the dzhungar, who sought to preserve the unity of their state and its political independence in the hope of a revenge over the nomadic Kazakhs like them, the story turned into a decline. For the role of the real organizers and observers of the last corrida of nomads on the Eurasian continent, history chose their great neighbors, who were destined to become powerful empires. Anyrakay spirit formed the basis of Abylai's future aspirations in the struggle to preserve the territorial integrity, statehood and sovereignty of his country. Ahead were hard-to-overcome tasks, conjugated by the internal and external development of Kazakh society. The path from the shepherd sabalaq to khan Abylai made Abilmansura Ualiuli a symbol of the struggle for independence of Kazakhstan.

The motto and principles put forth and the heroism displayed by  Abylai,  tmade him a legendary figure. The collisions of the era, which were recognized by Umbetei zhyrau, Bukhar zhyrau, akyn Tatikara and other bright personalities of that time, paved the way for the name of Abylai for centuries. In the history of the Kazakh Khanate, there were only a few khans who were privileged to bear this honor, and among them was Abylai khan. Perhaps without his advisor Abylai already in the first years of the government would have been killed or overthrown, because only the colossal authority of Bukhar zhyrau sometimes restrained the forces of the steppe aristocracy, hostile to Abylai, ready to burst out. That is why he was allowed to say what others were forbidden, to hear what others were forbidden and, finally, to see what others were forbidden.

Abylai was able not only to preserve, but partly to even multiply what was before him. Whatever it was, with all its merits and demerits, everything was doing right, only ruthless cruelty and cunning could keep the free steppe sultans in check. Only the ability to sacrifice small in the name of preserving more could stop the furious onslaught of the jungar. Only the sophisticated art of diplomacy and even duplicity could save the Khanate from being taken over by the Russian or Chinese empires.