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Kazakhstan, History

Batu Khan, Mongol tribes, Ural River, Turkic peoples, distinctive group

The region that is now Kazakhstan was settled by Turkic tribes beginning in about the 8th century ad. In the 13th century the area was incorporated into the Mongol empire of Genghis Khan. Upon Genghis Khan’s death in 1227, his empire was divided among his descendants. Most of present-day Kazakhstan became part of the territory ruled by his son Chagadai, but the western and most of the northern parts were included in the far-reaching empire of the Golden Horde established by Batu Khan, Genghis’ grandson.

By the end of the 15th century, the Kazakhs emerged as a distinctive group, created by the intermingling of Mongol and Turkic peoples. In the early 16th century the Kazakh tribes united to form a great nomadic empire under the warlord Kasim Khan. The Kazakhs soon became divided, however, with the tribes fighting among themselves. As a result of these internecine struggles, three major groupings emerged among the Kazakhs—the Great Horde (Ulu Zhuz) in the southeast portion of present-day Kazakhstan, the Middle Horde (Orta Zhuz) in the central steppe region, and the Little Horde (Kishi Zhuz) between the Aral Sea and the Ural River in the west. Each horde was composed of a number of tribes that were collectively ruled by a khan. The khan Haq Nazar succeeded in uniting the Kazakh hordes between 1538 and 1580, but by the 17th century the Kazakhs were again fragmented. In the 1680s the Kazakhs began to fight a series of wars against invaders from the east called Oirots, a group of four Mongol tribes, including Dzungars, that sought to conquer Kazakh lands. Although the Kazakh hordes united again for purposes of war, Dzungar invasions completely devastated the Kazakhs by 1720. This period is remembered in Kazakh history as the “Great Disaster.”

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Article key phrases:

Batu Khan, Mongol tribes, Ural River, Turkic peoples, distinctive group, Aral Sea, Golden Horde, series of wars, descendants, northern parts, invaders, grandson, territory, century, result, west, period, end, region, area


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