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

Zhetysu in the foreign policy of khans of Ak-Orda (White Horde)

Zhetysu in the foreign policy of khans of Ak-Orda (White Horde) - e-history.kz
The thousand-year history of the city of Almaty still contains a lot of “white spots” that should be studied

However, as it was already ascertained by the historical science, thanks to many years of archaeological research and the introduction of a wide range of written sources into circulation, the emergence and growth of the city of Almaty, as well as all the urban culture of the South-Eastern and Southern Kazakhstan, connected with the period of the early and developed Middle Ages (according to the terminology of the “Soviet” historiography) in the 6th — 12th centuries.

Medieval political history of Almaty, the city and its neighborhood is inextricably linked to the whole South-Eastern Kazakhstan, with its numerous cities and territories. This huge and separate historical and geographical region was known as Zhetysu (another medieval version — Yedisu, which means the Seven Rivers) in medieval historical literature.

The prosperity of transit trade, increase in the number of trade routes resulted in apppropriate growth of the number of different localities. Large towns, midpoints of trade and handicraft production, became political centers of nomadic states (such as West Turkic Khanate, Turgesh Khanate, Karluk, Oguz and Kimek state). Envoys of neighboring and distant countries, the first religious preachers arrived to the cities together with the merchants. Cities became the centers of the major religions of the Middle Ages.

However, gradually the religious diversity of cities of the South-Eastern and Southern Kazakhstan was replaced by one religion, Islam, in the era of Karakhanid states. Adoption of the Muslim religion, Islam, contributed to the further growth of the urban culture of medieval Kazakhstan, the spread of new forms of architecture. The spread of Islam in the steppe began from cities, but throughout the history of Islam in Kazakhstan’s steppes position of this religion was strong only within these cities, while nomads still remained supporters of their former religious beliefs associated with the worship of Tengri.

Kazakhstan’s archaeologists associate the appearance of the first major centers of urban culture on the site of modern Almaty with the Karluk-Karakhanid period in the history of the South-Eastern Kazakhstan (9th — 11th centuries). These centers existed till the era of the Mongol invasion. Despite the historiographical stereotypes, subsequent large-scale invasion of the Karakitais or Khitan people in the 12th and the Mongols in the 13th centuries did not made significant changes in the rhythm of the urban life of this land of many rivers and were not the cause of their decline [1].

The decline of these cities caused a storm of political and military events of the subsequent period — the second half of the 13th — 14th centuries.

Zhetysu became a place where the borders of three major parts of the Mongol Empire — Uluses of Jochi, Chagatai and Ogedei met. The centers of these domains were also close to each other: the capital of the eldest son of Genghis Khan, Jochi — on the Yertis River (before the Irtysh River), the capital of the second son Chagatai — on the Ile (Ili) and the capital of Ogedei — in the Tarbagatai Mountains.

At the beginning of the second half of the 13th century in the Mongol Empire faced the struggle for power that led to the disintegration of the state. Immediately after the death of the Supreme Khagan Munch (Mengu-Kaan), the grandson of Genghis Khan and the son of Tului, in 1359 a part of the Mongolian military nobility violated existed in the Empire rules and traditions and declared Munch’s brother Khubilai Khan. Khaidu, descendant of Ogedei, the third son of Genghis Khan and his successor, became his active adversary for many years. The center of Khaidu’s domains was the land of Zhetysu (according to some sources, his tomb is situated there).

Khaidu’s protracted war against Khubilai, intestine wars of Chagataids after the death of Khaidu led to the decline of urban and sedentary agricultural culture of Zhetysu. Ancient agricultural centers, midpoints of urban culture disappeared. At the same time, the gradual decline of the city of Almaty occurred. Since then, the medieval chroniclers did not call this city flourishing as before. Almaty was not mentioned among major cities of Mogulistan which were described by the author of the only special work on history of this state “Tarikh-i Rashidi” Mirza Mukhammad Khaidar. Although, the region of Almaty was the central area of the state [2].

However, the life did not stop. The population of Almaty did not disappear. Someone who stayed the site of the former city continued their farming, someone under the influence of a vast migration of nomads engaged in cattle-breeding. Despite all the conflicts of the military and political history of this period, the life went on. Cities of Southern Kazakhstan were rebuilt. The ruined city was gradually reconstructed at the site of the former Almaty, under the fertile natural conditions with the same name. However, in the second half of the 14th century Zhetysu and Northern Tien Shan region, that were the part of Mogulistan, as well as the Eastern Dasht-i Kipchak (Ak-Orda) experienced new shocks. The cities and steppes of Mogulistan and Ak-Orda were attacked by the hordes of a new conqueror Amir Timur. These tragic events united people of Zhetysu and the Eastern Dasht-i Kipchak, experienced the cruelty of the conquerors.

During almost twenty years governors and dwellers of Mogulistan resisted the troops of Timur. However, devastating campaigns of Timur forced Khans and Beks of Moghulistan to seek allies. Attempts to create a military coalition against Timur were discussed in details in the classical oriental work of K.A. Pishchulina [3] dedicated to the history of Mogulistan and the initial stage of the history of the Kazakh Khanate, as well as the ethnic processes in Kazakhstan in the 13th — 15th centuries.

Rulers of Ak-Orda were active supporter of the idea to create coalition against Timur. Khans of Ak-Orda strived for integration of Zhetysu and the Eastern Dasht-I Kipchak. Their integration policy was successful during the rule of the great-grandsons of Ak-Orda’s Khan Urus, Kerei and Zhanibek, who established the Kazakh Khanate in the Western Zhetysu.

Ethnic aspects of identity of the population of Zhetysu and the Eastern Dasht-I Kipchak were analyzed in mentioned above and other works of K.A. Pishchulina [4]. The population of Zhetysu was ethnically, politically and economically related to both Mogulistan and tribes and clans of the Eastern Dash-I Kipchak where Ak-Orda and the state of the Eastern Jochid-Ordaids (descendants of Orda-Khan, the eldest son of Jochi) flourished during this period. In the sources of that period along with the name “Ak-Orda” this state was called Uzbekistan or Uzbek Ulus because the nomadic tribes of the steppe area of Kazakhstan started to be called “Uzbeks” since the middle of the 14th century. Only when Zhanibek and Kerei, descendants of Ak-Orda’s Khan Urus, who headed Uzbek-Kazakhs dislodged Uzbeks-Shaibanids from Kazakhstan’s steppes, the term “Uzbek” went out the ethnic territory of the Kazakhs and gradually assigned to the territory of Maverannakhr. Since that time the domains of new Kazakh Khans began to be called “Kazakhstan” in medieval works created at the same period. This new state included not only the property of Ak-Orda’s Ordaids but also “Kazakh” part of Mogulistan, or Zhetysu.

Prerequisites to the formation of the Kazakh state in Zhetysu.

The first rulers of the Kazakh Khanate Kerey and Zhanybek perceived created state as a restoration of the authority of their family in this region. Being the descendants of Urus Khan, they restored Ak-Orda which obtained a new name — the Kazakh Khanate. However, during the formation of the Kazakh Khanate the lands of Ordaid dynasty shifted to the East and included the lands of Zhetysu.

Zhetysu’s joining to the Kazakh Khanate did not happen simultaneously, as it was considered before. The first Kazakh khans Zhanybek and Kerey went to the valley of the Shu River and the countryside of Kozybashi for a number of reasons.

Firstly, favorable political situation in the lands of the Eastern Chagataid dynasty who ruled Moghulistan favored the occupation of western areas of Mogulistan. Secondly, as it was rightly pointed by K.A. Pishchulina, this region was inhabited by the related Turkic tribes who made aware of their unity long ago. Thirdly, the desire to take Western Zhetysu was undertaken by predecessors of the first Kazakh Khans even before. This thesis can be seen in the activities of the greatest Ak-Orda’s Khan Urus (died in 1377). From reliable sources, which are close to the era of Urus Khan, it is known that Zhetysu was not a part of his possessions.

Urus Khan pursued active political activities. In domestic policy he sought to restore the territorial integrity of Ak-Orda (Eastern Dasht-i Kipchak) and centralization of power. In foreign policy he launched two major foreign policy actions — in the West against the Golden Horde and in the south against the aggression of Amir Timur. Obviously, in the years of his reign (1360-1370s) Ak-Orda’s ruling aristocracy became the exponent of a new political doctrine — joining of Zhetysu region to Ak-Orda. This was indirectly indicated by the information of Kadyrgali Zhalair, the author of “Jami al-tavarikh”. The author gives a vivid description of Urus Khan’s domain supposedly located in Zhetysu. “Urus Khan set up his camp in the vicinity of Alataga. This is the land of high mountains, plentiful meadows and numerous spring waters. Rivers in these mountains are countless. The city of Talashkary (Old Talash) is situated there and is not far from the cities of Otrar and Sairam. Wilayahs Chu, Talas, Istykkul (Issyk-Kul), Tekelik were [there]. The population [of it] was very huge, powerful, strong, famous and brave. Urus Khan ruled here for several years” [5].

The location of the main nomads’ lands of Urus Khan in Zhetysu, according to Kadyrgali Zhalair, was not the author’s mistake or the influence of the Kazakh Khanate’s creation in Zhetysu but the reflection of new foreign policy doctrine — expansion of Ak-Orda in the South-Easter direction. Urus Khan and his supporters tried to settle down in these lands under the conditions of real anarchy in Mogulistan at that time; and the story about Urus Khan in the work of Kadyrgali Zhalair became the echo of that events.

Zhetisu was presented in the foreign policy of Urus Khan’s successors as well. The son of Urus Khan and ruler of Ak-Orda Timur Malik Khan spent the winter on the Southern shore of Balkhash at Karatal region. According to Mirza Muhammad Khaidar, in winter “Uzbeks” (population of Ak-Orda) moved to Zhetysu by the ice of Balkhash Lake.

When in 1378 Toktamysh defeated the forces of Ak-Orda and executed Timur-Malik, some emirs and beks crossed to the side of a new Khan; others remained loyal to the descendants of Urus Khan. Some of them (for instance, Baltychak, Edige’s father) were captured and executed, and others managed to escape. Admittedly, Toktamysh’s enemies who went to the Eas were leaded by Kuiurchuk who after the death of Timur-Malik was declared Khan by his supporters. According to Kadyrgali Zhalair, he went to Kashgar. It is not known, how long Kuyurchuk stayed in Moghulistan and his southern possessions — Kashgar, but only in the middle of the 1390s he came to the governor of Mawarannahr Emir Timur with the hope to obtain his help to regain the throne of Ak-Orda. Around the same time, with the help of Timur he occupied the capital of the Jochids — Sarai, but immediately after the leaving of Timur, he was overthrown and killed by the combined forces of Timur-Qutluq and Edige. After the death of Kuiurchuk, his supporters led by the son of Barack retreated deep into the Eastern Dasht-i Kipchak.

In the 1430s Barak was able to consolidate his power in Ak-Orda and began military action in traditional for the Ak-Orda’s Khans directions — the West (Volga region) and the South (Mawarannahr). However, the South-Eastern direction also didn’t stand aside. K.A. Pishchulina believes that Barak in search of an ally on the territory of Mogulistan found his death during the battle with “certain Sultan Mahmud-oglan”. To occupy Zhetysu Barack had to fight not only with the local rulers but with Ulugbek and his proteges in Moghulistan.

After the death of Barak his subjects proceeded to his son Abu Said, more generally known as Zhanibek, who became one of the founders of the Kazakh Khanate.

“At that time, — wrote Mirza Khaidar talking about the time of appearance of the Kazakh Khanate in the middle of the 15th century, — Abu-l-Khair Khan reigned over Dash-i Kypchak. He caused a lot of concern to sultans of Jochi’s dynasty. Dzhanibek-Khan and Kirai-Khan went away from from him to Mogulistan. Isan-Buga-Khan readily welcomed and gave them the lands near Chu and Kozy-Bashi, which are the Western outskirts of Mogulistan. They prospered there while the Uzbek Ulus after the death of Abu-l-Khair-Khan came to the disorder; [it] faced big troubles. Most of his subjects migrated to Kirai-Khan and Dzhanibek-Khan, so that the number of [people] around them reached two hundred thousand people”.

This action of Kazakh Genghis Khan’s descendants conditionally can be considered as implementation of the foreign policy doctrine of the khans of Ak-Orda developed during the ruling of Urus Khan.

K.Z. Uskenbai

1. Bartold V.V. Sochineniya. Moscow, 1963, V. 2, part 1; Istoriya goroda Almaty. Almaty, 2006
2. Istoriya Kazakhstana (s drevneishikh vremen do nashikh dnei). V 2. Almaty 1997; Istoriya Kirghizskoi SSR. V. 1. Frunze 1984; Kadyrgali Zhalair Shezhireler zhinagy (Shagatai-kazak tilinen audaryp, algy sozin zhazghandar N. Mingulov, B. Komekov, S. Oteniyazov). Almaty, 1997; Mingulov N.N. K nekotorym voprosam izucheniya istorii Ak-Ordy. Almata, 1981
3. Pishchulina K.A. Yugo-Vostochnyi Kazakhstan v seredine 15 — nachale 16 vekov (voprosy politicheskoi i socialno-economicheskoi teorii). Almata, 1977
4. Materialy po istorii Kazakhskikh Khanstv. 15-18 vv. (izvlecheniya iz persidskikh i tyurkskikh sochinenii). Ibragimov S.K., Mingulov N.N., Pishchulina K.A., Yudin V.P. Almata, 1969
5. Syzdykova R.G. Yazyk “Zhami at-tavarikh” Zhalairi. Almata, 1989; Syzdykova R., Koigeldiyev M. Kadyrgali bi Kosymuly zhane onyn zhalnamalar zhinagy. Almaty, 1991