1902 Encyclopedia > Kirghiz (Khirghiz)


KIRGHIZ, a large and wide-spread division of the Mongolo-Tatar family, of which there are two main branches, the Kara-Kirghiz of the uplands and the Kirghiz-Kazaks of the steppe. To the same group belong the Kipchaks, forming a connecting link between the nomad and settled Turki peoples of Ferghana and Bokhara, and the Kara-Kalpaks on the south-east side of the Aral Sea, who are intermediate between the Kazaks and Uzbegs. The Kirghiz jointly number about 3,000,000, and occupy an area of perhaps the same number of square miles, stretching from Kulja westwards to the lower Volga, and from the head streams of the Ob southwards to the Pamir and the Turkoman country. In the Mongolo-Tatar family their position is peculiar, they being closely allied ethnically to the Mongolians and in speech to the Tatars. To under-stand this phenomenon, it should be remembered that both Mongols and Tatars belonged themselves originally to one racial stock, of which the former still remain the typical representatives, but from which the latter have mostly departed and become largely assimilated to the regular " Caucasian " type. But the Kirghiz have either remained nearly altogether unmixed, as in the uplands, or else have intermingled in the steppe mainly with the Volga Calmucks in the west, and with the Zungarian nomads in the east, all alike of Mongol stock. Hence they have everywhere to a large extent preserved the common Mongolian features, while retaining their primitive Tatar speech. Physically they are a middle-sized, square-built race, inclined to stoutness, especially in the steppe, mostly with long black hair, scant beard or none, small, black, and oblique eyes, though blue or grey also occur in the south, broad Mongoloid features, high cheek bones, broad, flat nose, small mouth, brachycephalous head, very small hands and feet, dirty browu or swarthy complexion, often yellowish, but also occasionally fair. These characteristics, while affiliating them directly to the Mongol stock, also betray an admixture of foreign elements, probably due to Finnish or Chudic influences in the north, and Tajik or Iranian blood in the south. Their speech also, while purely Turkic in structure, possesses, not only many Mongolian and a few Persian and even Arabic words, but also some terms unknown to the other branches of the Mongolo-Tatar linguistic family, and which should perhaps be traced to the Kiang-Kuan, Wu-sun, Ting-ling, and other extinct Chudic peoples of South Siberia partly absorbed by them. These relations to the surrounding Asiatic races will be made clearer, in the subjoined detailed account of the Kara-Kirghiz and Kirghiz-Kazaks.

The Kara-Kirghiz.—The Kara or "Black" Kirghiz, so called from the colour of their tents, are known to the Russians either as Chernyie (" Black ") or Dikokammenyie ("Wild Stone" or "Rocky") Kirghiz, and are the Block Kirghiz of some English writers. They are on the whole the purest and best representatives of the race, and so true is this that, properly speaking, to them alone belongs the distinctive national name Kirghiz or Krghiz. This term is commonly traced to a legendary chief, Kirghiz, sprung of Oghuz-Khan, ninth in descent from Japhet. It occurs in its present form for the first time in the account of the embassy sent in 569 by Justin II. to the Uighur Khan, Dugla-Ditubulu, where it is stated that this prince presented a slave of the "Kerghiz" tribe to Zemark, head of the mission. In the Chinese chronicles the word assumes the form Ki-li-ki-tz', and the writers of the Yuan dynasty (1280 -1367) place the territory of these people 10,000 li north-west of Pekin, about the head streams of the Yenisei. In the records of the Thang dynasty (618-907) they are spoken of under the name of Kha-kia-tz' (pronounced Khaka, and sometimes transliterated Haka), and it is mentioned that these Khakas were of the same speech as the Khoei-khu. From this it follows that they were of Mongolo-Tatar stock, and are wrongly identified by some ethnologists with the Kiang-Kuan, Wu-sun, or Ting-ling, all of whom are described as tall, with red hair. " green " or grey eyes, and fair complexion, and must therefore have been of Finnish stock, akin to the present Soyotes of the upper Yenisei.

The Kara-Kirghiz are by the Chinese and Mongolians called Burut, where tit is the Mongolian plural ending, as in Tangut, Yakut, modified to yat in Buryat, the collective name of the Siberian Mongolians of the Baikal district. Thus the term Bur is the common Mongolian designation both of the Baikal Mongols and of the Kara-Kirghiz, who occupied this very region and the upper Yenisei valley generally till comparatively recent times. For the original home of their ancestors, the Khakas, lay in the south of the present governments of Yeniseisk and Tomsk, stretching thence southwards beyond the Sayan range to the Tannu-ola hills in Chinese territory. Here the Russians first met them in the 17th century, and by the aid of the Kazaks exterminated all those east of the Irtish, driving the rest further west and south-westwards. Most of them took refuge with their kinsmen, the Kara-Kirghiz nomad Highlanders, whose homes, at least since the 13th century, have been the Ala-tau range, the Issik-kul basin, the Tekes, Chu, and Talass river valleys, the Tian-shan range, the uplands draining both to the Tarim and to the Jaxartes and Oxus, including Khokand, Karategin, and Shignan southwards to the Pamir table-land, visited by them in summer. They thus occupy most of the uplands along the Russo-Chinese frontier, between 35° and 50° N. lat. and between 70° and 85° E. long., where they have been recently joined by some Chiliks, Kipchaks, Naimans, and Kitars from Andijan and the Kazak steppes.

The Kara-Kirghiz are all grouped in two main sections—the On or " Kight " in the east, with seven branches (Bogu, Sary-Bagishch, Son-Bagishch, Sultu or Solye, Cherik, Sayak, Bassinz), and the Sol or "Left" in the west, with four branches (Kokche or Kttchy, Soru, Mundus, Kitai or Kintal). The Sol section occupies the region between the Talass and Oxus head streams in Eerghana (Khokand) and Bokhara, wdiere they come in contact with the Galchas or Highland Tajiks. The On section lies on both sides of the Tian-shan, about Lake Issik-kul, and in the Chu, Tekes, and Narin (upper Jaxartes) valleys.
Each of the On tribes comprises a number of stocks or septs, which are further divided into auls or families, of which, however, the lists are complete for the Bogu and Sary-Ijagishch alone. Of the Bogu there are six stocks, with 11,000 tents, and numbering 55,000 to 60,000 souls. Of the Sary-Bagishch there are four stocks, with 16,500 tents, or 80,000 to 90,000 souls. The Sayak numbers 10,000 tents, or about 50,000 souls, making a total of 200,000 in Russian territory. The Sol section, with the independent On tribes, are roughly estimated at about 200,000, making 400,000 Kara-Kirghiz altogether.

All are essentially nomads, occupied mainly with stock breed-ing, chiefly horses of a small but hardy breed, sheep of the fat-tailed species, oxen used both for riding and as pack animals, some goats, and camels of both species. Agriculture is limited chiefly to the cultivation of wdieat, barley, and millet, from the last of which a coarse vodka or brandy is distilled. Trade is carried on chiefly by barter, cattle being taken by the dealers from China, Turkestan, and Russia in exchange for manufactured goods.

The Kara-Kirghiz are governed by the " manaps," or tribal rulers, who enjoy almost unlimited authority, and may even sell or kill their subjects. In religious matters they differ little from the Kazaks, whose practices are described below. Although generally recognizing Russian sovereignty since 1864, they pay no taxes, and merely furnish certain raw products to the Russian troops on their passage through the country.
The Kazaks.—Though not unknown to them, the term Kirghiz is never used by the steppe nomads, who always call themselves simply Kazaks, that is, " riders," as the word is commonly interpreted. The first authentic reference to this name is by Firdousi (1020), who speaks of the Kazak tribes as much dreaded steppe marauders, all mounted and armed with lances. From this circumstance the term Kazak came to be gradually applied to all free-booters similarly equipped, and it thus spread from the Aralo-Caspian basin to South Russia, where it still survives under the form of "Kossak." Hence though Kazak and Cossack are originally the same word, the former now designates a Mongolo-Tatar nomad race, the latter various members of the Great and Little Russian Slav family. No satisfactory explanation of its origin has been given. Since the 18th century the Russians have used the compound expression Kirghiz-Kazak, chiefly in order to distinguish them from their own Cossacks, at that time overrunning Siberia. Herbertstein (1520) is the first European who mentions them by name, and it is noteworthy that he speaks of them as " Tartars," that is, a people rather of Turki than Mongolian stock. In their present homes, the so-called " Kirghiz steppes," they are far more numerous and wide-spread than their Kara-Kirghiz kinsmen, stretching almost uninterruptedly from Lake Balkash round the Aral and Caspian Seas westwards to the lower Volga, and from the river Irtish southwards to the lower Oxus and Ust-Urt plateau. Their domain, which is nearly 2,000,000 square miles in extent, thus lies mainly between 45° and 55° N. lat. and from 45° to 80° E. long. Here they came under the sway of Jenghiz Khan, after whose death they fell to the share of his son Juchi, head of the Golden Horde, but continued to retain their own khans. When the Usbegs acquired the ascendency, many of the former subjects of the Juchi and Jagatai hordes fell off and joined the Kazaks. Thus were formed about 1500 two powerful states in the Kipchak and Cheteh steppes, the Moghul-Uluss and the Kazak, the latter of whom, under their khan Arslane, are said by Sultan Baber to have had as many as 400,000 fighting men. Their numbers continued to be swollen by voluntary or enforced accessions from the fragments of the Golden Horde, such as the Kipchaks, Naimans, Konrats, Jalairs, Kankly, whose names are still preserved in the tribal divisions of the Kazaks. And as some of these peoples were undoubtedly of true Mongolian stock, their names have given a colour to the statement that all the Kazaks were rather of Mongol than of Turki origin. But the universal prevalence of a nearly pure variety of the Turki speech throughout the Kazak steppes is almost alone sufficient to show that the Tatar element must at all times have been in the ascendant.

The Kirghiz-Kazaks have long been grouped in three large " hordes " or encampments, further subdivided into a number of so-called " races," which are again grouped in tribes, and these in sections, branches, and auls, or com-munities of from five to fifteen tents. The division into hordes has been traditionally referred to a powerful khan, who divided his states amongst his three sons, the eldest of whom became the founder of the Ulu-Yuz, or Great Horde, the second of the Urta-Yuz, or Middle Horde, and the third of the Kachi-Yuz, or Little Horde. The last two under their common khan Abulkhair voluntarily submitted >n 1730 to the czarina Anne. Most of the Great Horde .vere subdued by Yunus, khan of Ferghana, in 1798, and all the still independent tribes finally accepted Russian sovereignty in 1819. The races, range, and numerical strength of these hordes are shown in the following table:—

Races. Range. Tents. Souls.
GREAT HOKDE.— Uisiun, Tula-tai, Sargan, Konrat.
—Arghyne, Naiman, Kip-cliak, Uvatc-Ghireí.
—Alimuly, BoÁuly, Jctir-urug. • 'Chiefly south of Lake~) Balkash and near the | Tian-Shan; between ¡-Semipalatinsk and
^ Semiryechensk. J
Chiefly on the low^ hilly watershed be-tween the Ob and Aralo - Caspian basins, from Aral Sea to }-Lake Balkash ; gov-ernments of Semipa-latinsk and Akmo-linsk, "West Siberia. .

"From Kara-Kum de-"~ sert to lower Volga, north of Aral Sea, and in governments -of Orenburg, Uralsk, Turgay, and Astrak khan. 85,000 175,000
170,000 450,000 1,100,000

Since 1801 a fourth division, known as the Inner or Bukeyevskaya Horde, from the name of their first khan, Bukei, has been settled in the Orenburg steppe. It is estimated at 40,000 tents or 200,000 souls, giving for all the Kazaks 470,000 tents and 2,750,000 souls.
But these divisions affect the common people alone, all the higher orders and ruling families being broadly classed as White and Black Kost or Bones. The White Bones comprise only the khans and their descendants, besides the issue of the khojas or Moslem "saints." The Black Bones include all the rest, except the Telengut or servants of the khans, and the Kill or slaves.

The Kazaks are an honest and trustworthy people, but heavy, sluggish, sullen, and unfriendly. Even the hospitality enjoined by the Koran is displayed only towards the "faithful," that is, exclusively to the members of the orthodox Sunnite sect. So essentially nomadic are all the tribes that they cannot adopt a settled life without losing the very sentiment of their nationality, and becoming rapidly absorbed in the Slav population. They dwell exclusively in the kibitka or yurt, a semi-circular tent consisting of a light wooden framework, and red cloth or felt covering, with an opening above for light and ventilation. It is usually furnished with a large family clothes chest, felt carpet, wooden bedstead, leather bottles for kumis (fermented mare's milk), a tea service, and a few domestic utensils. Yet it may easily be pitched or struck in half an hour, and is rapidly transported on camels across the steppe. The camp life of the Kazaks seems almost unendurable to Europeans in winter, when they are confined altogether to the tent, and exposed to endless discomforts. In summer the day is spent mostly in sleep or drinking kumis, followed at night by feasting and the recital of tales, varied with songs accompanied by the music of the flute and balalaika. But horsemanship is the great amusement of all true Kazaks, who may almost be said to be born in the saddle. Hence, though excellent riders, they are bad walkers, and, though hardy and long-lived, uncleanly in their habits and often decimated by small-pox and Siberian plague. They have no fixed meals, and live mainly on mutton and goat and horse flesh, and instead of bread use the so-called balamyk, a mess of flour fried in dripping and diluted in water. The universal drink is kumis, which is wholesome, nourishing, and a specific against all chest diseases.

The dress consists of the chapan, a flowing robe of which one or two are worn in summer and several in winter, fastened with a silk or leather girdle, in which are stuck a knife, tobacco pouch, seal, and a few other trinkets. Broad silk or cloth pantaloons are often worn over the chapän, which is of velvet, silk, cotton, or felt, according to the rank of the wearer. Large black or red leather boots, with round white felt pointed caps, complete the costume, which is much the same for both sexes.

Like the Kara-Kirghiz, the Kazaks are nominally Sunnites, but Shamanists at heart, worshipping, besides the Kudai or good divinity, the Shaitan or bad spirit. Their faith is strong in the tidchi or soothsayer and other charlatans, who know everything, can do everything, and heal all disorders at pleasure. But they are not fanatics, though holding the abstract doctrine that the '' Kafir " may be lawfully oppressed, including in this category, not only Buddhists and Christians, but even Mohammedans of the Shiali sect. There are no fasts or ablutions, mosques or mollahs, or regular prayers. Although Mussulmans since the beginning of the 16th century, they have scarcely yet found their way to Mecca, their pilgrims visiting instead the more convenient shrines of the " saints scattered over eastern Turkestan. Unlike the Mongolians, the Kazaks treat their dead with great respect, and the low steppe hills are often entirely covered with monuments raised above their graves.
Letters are neglected to such an extent that whoever can merely write is regarded as a savant, while he becomes a prodigy of learn-ing if able to read the Koran in the original. Yet the Kazaks are naturally both musical and poetical, and possess a considerable number of national songs, which are usually repeated with variations from mouth to mouth.

The Kazaks still choose their own khans, who, though confirmed by the Russian Government, possess little authority beyond their respective tribes. The real rulers are the elders or umpires and sultans, all appointed by public election. Brigandage and the barantas or raids arising out of tribal feuds, which were formerly recognized institutions, are now severely punished, sometimes even with death. Capital punishment, usually by hanging or strangling, is inflicted for murder and adultery, while three, nine, or twenty-seven times the value of the stolen property is exacted for theft.

The domestic animals, daily pursuits, and industries of the Kazaks differ but slightly from those of the Kara-Kirghiz. Some of the wealthy steppe nomads own as many as 20,000 of the large fat-tailed sheep. Goats are kept chiefly as guides for these flocks; and the horses, though small, are hardy, swift, light-footed, and capable of covering from 50 to 60 miles at a stretch. The total live-stock was thus estimated in 1872 by Tillo .-—camels, 120,000 ; horses, 1,720,000 ; oxen, 600,000 ; sheep, 2,000,000 ; goats, 180,000. Amongst the Kazaks there are a few workers in silver, copper, and iron, the chief arts besides being skin dressing, wool spinning and dyeing, carpet and felt weaving. Trade is confined mainly to an exchange of live stock for woven and other goods from Bussia, China, and Turkestan.

Since their subjection to Russia, the Kazaks have become less lawless, but scarcely less nomadic. A change of habit in this respect is opposed alike to their tastes and to the climatic and other outward conditions. Hence the progress of culture can here lead only to the depopulation of the steppe wherever incapable of being irrigated, and to the gradual extinction or absorption of the Kirghiz-Kazaks by their Slav rulers.

Literature.—Alexis Levshin, Description des Hordes et des Steppes des Kirghiz. Kazaks, translated from the Russian by Ferry de Cigny, 1S10: Radioff, Proben der Volksliteratur der Türkischen Stämme Sudsiberiens; Cli. deUjfalvy, Le Kohistan, In Ferghanah, et Kouldja ; also Bid. de Ja Soc. de Geo., 1S78-79 ; Senienoff. paper in Petermanii's Mittheilungen, 1859, No. 3; Valikhanov's Travels in 1858—59; Madame de Ujfalvy, papers in Tour du Monde, 1871; Vamböry, Die primitive Cultur des Turko-Tatarisehen Volkes. (A. H. K.)

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