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

Aksakal: yesterday, today, tomorrow

Aksakal: yesterday, today, tomorrow - e-history.kz
On the opinion of many representatives of the senior age, a man of 37 years with grandchildren can pass into the status of aksakal and grow beard. Is that so?

The status of the aksakal in history

The most esteemed and respected age is “aksakal”. The expression of courtesy and politeness is in the history of Kazakh people. In traditional Kazakh society people who reached the advanced age, it was regarded that the bearers of people’s wisdom having suffered a lot in their lifetime.

Aksakals were continuously consulted, ruled by farewell speeches. If anyone started their new business, then, first of all, he got primarily the farewell speech of the aksakal, and those who came from far, deemed it duty to visit such person.

Such tradition comes from the deep ancientry. In ancient Kazakh society the notion of aksakal meant rather experienced, elder, authoritative and influential forebear, even bi. But being held in esteem aksakals, not having official position (bi and forebear), took not less meaningful place than representatives of power. To aksakals, executing functions of the forebear, addressed representatives of the tribe and along with the subordination to his power fulfilled his decisions. The sage was not only the specific category of the human age, but also was the indicator of the institutes of the organization and regulation of public relations. That was the status of the aksakal in the history of Kazakh people. 

The names of the ages of the person

 In Kazakh society to each age of the man is their name. New-born was called shakalak (kyzyl shaka – red-skinned baby), baby till one year – sabi, from 2 to 3 years – buldirshin, teenager of 13-15 years – eresek bala, 16-19 years – bozbala (youth), boizhetken (girl).

About a man of 30-40 years they say that erkek, orda buzar (man in full vigor), married woman – kelinshek, and unmarried – kari kyz (old maid). By 45 years the middle aged man reaches the age when they are listened - comes the age of karasakal. Karasakal (black bearded) – the man of mature age. At this age with experience comes wisdom. By 70 years karasakal reaches the status of aksakal.

Bauyrzhan Momyshuly about advanced age

Bauyrzhan Momyshuly divided the aging old men into four groups: shal (old man), karia (old man), aksakal (senior, respected old man), abyz (sage). Shal is the person who can not solve any questions besides tiny household acts who guards at home and spreads gossip. Karia is the person who is the head of his tribe, keeps everything in order. Aksakal was called the person who cared for the whole aul. And the old man, who solved the arguments, fought for honor, spoke on behalf of his people and presented the speech shared his knowledge he called abyz (sage).

Aksakal is the honesty and responsibility

The chief business aksakals decided the preservation of family hearth, calmness of the tribe, solution of the problems of the whole aul, prevention of unworthy deeds by their compatriots.

The seniors could be those who earlier dealt or had the experience of dealing with public affairs, who had the unchallenged reputation. Aksakals were not elected, they reached the national recognition, respectability, openness, were known with their noble acts. 

To such people trusted the population of this or that location. From time to time there were moments, when in the aul were no aksakals. At that time their role was executed by people, who reached forty or more yaers, being the recognized leaders among the aul residents. For the wise aksakals were adherent high citizenry, adherence to principles, deep feeling of responsibility, careful attitude to people.

Herewith, they keep the extreme modesty and consider the best human quality the decency. In everyday life of Kazakhs the travelers, visiting this or that aul, first visited aksakals, consulted with them, reporting about the aim of the trip and got pieces of advice.

In the life there were not few cases when it was necessary to consult with the aksakal because of the distressful situation of home folks or because of the disputes, confusions, arguments, appeared among aul people.

Aksakals in the mirror of people’s wisdom

Esik aldynda tobe bolsa,

Erttep koigan atpen ten.

 Auylynda karia bolsa,

Zhazyl koigan khatpen ten.

(If there is a high hill near the house,

Consider that you have the saddled up horse,

And of in the house there is no man of respectable age,

Consider that you have a sage).


Sakalga ak tusti – Konilge dak tusti.

(As the beard whitened, and in soul the insult firms) 


Karty bar elsdin Kazynasy bar,

Kyzy bar eldin Bazynasy bar.

(Nation having the elders, there is wealth,

Nation having a daughter, there is a wish)


Altyga deiin bala erke,

Alpystan keiin shal erke.

(Till the age of six a child is spoiled

After the age of 60 the old man is spoiled)

The Institute of aksakals today

As in the past, in our time on aksakals are put on the great deal of trust and responsibility. Not wasting time on everyday, tiny affairs the aksakals have to turn int the bodies which would solve the topical issues of the city residents, district, aul. They could bravely set the topical and essential questions to the administration and make solve the problems till the end. Today, under the conditions of the development of civil society of Kazakhstan the Institute of aksakals could take its worthy place. 

Aksakals are the elders who unite different social groups among themselves: representatives of culture, science, religious activists, even state servants. Because there is not such sphere of human activity which was not connected with traditions and customs of Kazakh people. The Kazakh state developed also owing to aksakals. Thanks to the benevolent intentions, good intentions, active efforts of such aksakals Kazakhstan became independent state.

In the past aksakals were given high evaluation. And now they properly bear this rank.

The farewell speech to the young

Growing youth had always imitated the elder generation. That’s why it is needy at the young age think of one’s future advanced years.

Each word, act of the person influences the formation of social image of the person, formation of his main qualities, dignities and shortages. It is known that in the age it is very difficult to change character. All that, eventually, influences the future of a man, and in the future this person will have to give right direction for the following young generation. Certain people say that “it is necessary to age“, but it does not mean as young people think, to become “shal”. Aksakals only owing to their wisdom, experience, knowledge deserve that rank, are held in respect and esteem and act as the sample for imitation. They are the pride of the nation. 



Translated by Malika MURSALIM

Use of materials for publication, commercial use, or distribution requires written or oral permission from the Board of Editors or the author. Hyperlink to National Digital History portal is necessary. All rights reserved by the Law RK “On author’s rights and related rights”. To request authorization email to kaz.ehistory@gmail.com or call to (7172) 79 82 06 (ext.111).