A history of independence
text: Aliya Shineleva , exclusively for Gazeta.kz
On 16th of December, 1991, conveying the nation will, the Independence of the Republic of Kazakhstan was solemnly proclaimed. This day is annually celebrated as the Independence Day. This year we commemorate the 13th anniversary. However the most of the Kazakhstani people still in doubt before naming the same historical dates and mix up names of the Khans and all the more the street names. Who are Aiteke bi or Kabanbai batyr? I go down the Kalinin street!
Kazakhstan can be correctly called one of the richest countries in the Central Asian region. Here under the surface of Kazakhstani land there are priceless treasures, presenting the historical and cultural value for the whole republic. The nature's beauty: the blue sky, the dazzling sun, the wind caressing our skin - only this knows about what happened here thousands of years ago. Since we have become an independent state, it is time to begin a research and care for our history. Because as everybody knows without the past can't be the future.
Archaeologists discover countless quantities of things, burial places and mounds, which have been saved by time till now all the time. The nature tells us by oneself about the past, but not everyone can understand its language. About the expeditions, interesting godsends and history - Zeinolla Samashev, deputy director of Margulan Archaeology Institute.
- Often we don't know those places where we live. How was the life of ancient Kazakhs?
- In the first quarter of a Common Era millennium the events which have determined the historical destiny of Kazakhs were happening on huge spaces of steppe and forest-steppe. About 2.5 thousand years ago the country was populated with the "Sarmatians" and "Savromatians", the tribes that were close to Scythians and Saki. They were engaged in cattle breeding, trade and jeweler business. They learned how to wander with changes of climatic conditions. The transition to new forms of housekeeping provided a much bigger quantity of Savromatians with foods. But there were many problems because of food overabundance. The animal industries did not demand much labor expenses, therefore an increase in the birth rate quickly led to a relative overpopulation and an overabundance of hands. Generally groups of the "superfluous" population were formed of men. They were not involved in work, therefore in due course from cattlemen they "have reincarnated" in soldiers. They extracted means of subsistence by forays, robberies and wars. Then they received tributes for a victory. The most authoritative and prosperous soldiers - professionals became the heads of the wandering associations.
Another event happened in the life of ancient Kazakhs. They began to use iron in their daily life the. The bronze age period came to the end. At this particular time the presence of enormous horse herds and the free men population's volumes created the new military-political mechanism - horsemen. Everyone knew the art of riding - from children to adults. Thus rigid saddles, stirrups and horseshoes were not used yet. The horse harness was made of a bone, with horns and bronze. But later they began to use iron. Harnesses of notable soldiers horses, saddle pillows and body cloths were decorated with gold, silver and gilt bronze plaques, leather.
- And how did the life of ancient Kazakhs look like?
- In life they were undemanding. Household utensils were made of inexpensive and readily available materials like tree, clay, bronze, and also from a stone. Although the local metallurgists were able to make bronze boilers. The cauldron was an indispensable accessory of each family and was a symbol of patrimonial unity.
Quite often it was decorated with zoomorphistic and geometrical patterns, figured handles and legs. Clay modeled pots, leather flasks, wooden bowls, bone and wooden spoons, iron knifes with bone handles were used in all layers of the nomadic population. However in prosperous families more expensive utensils were usually applied also. The significant part of such utensils went to the cattle breeding aristocracy, as military extraction, gifts or a payment for the military help. Metal working as the branch of domestic craft, since olden days was known to Kazakhs. Fusing, molding, forging and other operations with copper, iron and precious metals were carried out by the special masters who had necessary tools and skills.
Masters could in conditions of a nomadic life make and repair the things which were extremely necessary for all layers of the population. Bronze and copper rings, rings, suspension brackets, bracelets, ear-rings, beads and also mirrors have been distributed among all layers of the population. They differed only with quality of manufacturing. The major task of smiths work was manufacturing the weapon, horse harnesses, but bronze arrow tips were made in huge quantities. Simplicity and speed of molding of tips in special forms caused the use of bronze alloys for that purpose. It was made of bone and iron, but such products were much rarer.
- What kind of a weapon was used by soldiers?
- Two-edged swords made of iron were very much widespread and prestigious weapon. They reached 60 centimeters in length. They also used 40 centimeter long iron daggers. Blade weapon looked like a direct or slightly bent bar. The handle was wound by a leather or fabric cord. Tips of copies were made of iron, plates for armors and fighting belts. Special manufactures were manufacturing bows, cases for them, and also sheaths for swords and daggers. From a leather to each soldier-horseman were produced fighting and sword-knotted belts, and from felt and a leather - helmets.
It is possible, that nomads used small boards made of wood, capable to protect from the impact of a sword and an arrow. Besides not only soldiers carried the weapons and protective clothes, horses were also dressed. The arms and equipment of a horse in many respects defined the tactics of operations. The absence of heavy armors on horses and horsemen sharply increased the speed and maneuverability of the cavalry that used ambushes and operated far from its home territories. Bombardments of the opponents from bows with the subsequent fight on swords and horses usually turned an outcome of battle for the benefit of nomads.
In a case of failures the cavalrymen had an opportunity to depart quickly and get away from the opponent. However since the IV century easy cavalry faced even more often with very serious opponent as a hard armed infantry, coming in dense lines. The given circumstance led to changes in the system of arms and cavalry tactics. First of all, the role of heavy copies increased considerably. The necessity to hold a spear with two hands during attack increased the vulnerability of a horseman, therefore a reliable armor became necessary for him.
- And where did the ancient people live, what did they build their houses from?
- The wood was widely applied by the population of that time to construct houses and vehicles. Covered bullock-cart, to which they put bulls and horses, served for transportation of cargo and people, being simultaneously and "as the house on wheels". Modular felt-wooden dwellings of yurt type which were put in places of winterings and long camping stays were also known. In a plenty of cases the stone was used for creation of funeral and cult constructions: altars, sculptures, things of economic purpose were cut down from it.
- How did our ancestors look like? What did they wear? What types of jewelry prefer?
- The outer clothing of ordinary nomads consisted of long trousers, dense leather or felt a double-breasted caftan. It was clasped in front. A big part of soldiers were supplemented with a leather belt and short shoes. The head was covered with a bashlyk or a helmet. Noble Sarmatians, using basic traditionally cut clothes, sewed it with application of expensive import fabrics. They also decorated it with stripped plaques and applications. The clothes and headdresses of leaders and their wives differed with especial pomp.
They wore very expensive, masterly made in performance techniques of an ornament from gold with jewels. An obligatory accessory of a soldier was two belts - fighting and sword-knot. The case with a bow and arrows was suspended on the left side of it. In front - a sword, on the right side - a fighting axe or a poleax. A sheath was usually adhered to the right hip of the soldier. The back of the horseman was covered with a board fixed by a special belt.
- What kind was the authority of nomads and who was at the head of them? And what position was occupied by women? What did the nomads believe in?
- Public relations corresponded partly to a level of nomadic communities. At the top of the social ladder breed there were elders and leaders: the role of the last grew especially during the war. At the moment of special danger there were elections of "tsars", but their power was limited. The position of women at that time was high enough. Girls before marriage owned weapons equally with men. Thus, almost the whole adult population could take part in war operations in case of need.
There was also slavery, but it was patriarchal. Slaves, more often prisoners of war, were the part of tribe collectives, but had no rights of its members. The huge role in life was played by attendants of religious cults - priests, divinators, shamen, healers. Sarmatians were adherents of heathenism. They believed in the underground world, the world of live people and the nature, the top world of gods and spirits of righteous persons. The Supreme deity of the sun and fire was associated with a horse, a deity of a wind and a storm - with the bull. Besides in the belief in main gods there were representations of animated mountains, springs, rivers, lakes.
- Our country is the true well of interesting antiquities, where the each region represents archeological value for historians. Tell us about research expeditions?
- Each region of our country is unique. However I shall dwell on the western Kazakhstan. Aktobe area is rich of historical and cultural values. In the ground of this area many epochs are hidden. From year to year researchers find new objects, assisting to open a history of different times. But archeologists sound alarm: many historical monuments in Aktobe area are ruthlessly destroyed by oil companies. Today in the Aktobe area only rescue excavations are carried out. In fact the chinks intended for pumping oil, are established near historical monuments and unexplored barrows, and frequently right above them. Before opening a new oil field archeologists need to study the district on the subject of a presence of cultural values.
The first archeological researches in territory of Aktyubinsk district were carried out in 1887-1888. In the report for these years one of the most famous historian archeologists Nefedov named some monuments within the borders of modern Aktyubinsk area. In the end of 19 century a fascinating picture appeared to the scientists. Ruins near Balgasani lake were lifeless at first sight, but after an excavation they told people about affairs of bygone days. In the city brought by thousand-year sand only a few buildings from burnt brick remained. The most valuable findings were discovered after digging of a hole for cattle. There was an ancient burial place of an epoch of worshipping pagan gods. Bones of a person and a horse, a saddle decorated with silver and gold. But the most beautiful was a gold idol, clamped in teeth of the dead man.
Since that time historians carried out always newer data about the fact that that area was rather densly populated. Necropolises, burial places of various layers of the ancient society. In 1926, 20 archeological monuments were found. A law about the barrows incscripted on a stone surface, some stone rings were dug out. Beads and ornaments found in the burials have allowed to make assumptions about an occurrence of Andron traditions in the western areas, and also about a connection of those subjects with Abash and Seimin cultures which had been arisen in Bashkiria, the Volga region and in Northern Caucasus.
Those cultures existed in XIV-XII centuries before Common Era. Barrows of round and cone-shaped forms with an embankment of ground and stone, probably concerning by the Middle Ages, trapezoid, surrounded with ditch, barrows with strongly swollen slopes, sometimes asymmetrical can be referred to an epoch of bronze. Due to the findings of archeologists, historians and anthropologists it is possible to tell a little about the life of ancient people.
So our ancient ancestors looked that way: courageous stately men on horses with bows, the beautiful women owning swords, dear elders. Around there were bottomless, boundless steppe, the high dark blue sky and only the horizon ahead. But the history does not come to an end on it. In future years archeologists will again please us with findings opening the veil of a history. If only the present does not destroy that it is possible to find out more things.
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