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The historical concept of the Kazakh Civilization

Еренгаип Омаров, ректор, ph.d. физико-математических наук, профессор

Университет Кайнар, Казахстан

Участник конференции

The civilizations formed in the course of the historical evolution never remain unchanged. They are subject to internal controversies and powerful external influence, especially due to globalization process. Therefore, the attempts to promote a unified cycle, unified principles of internal dynamics would fail, as they used to. In accordance with E. Rashkovsky and V. Horos, the majority of contemporary researchers do not agree with constructions offered in earlier times by Nikolay Danilevsky, Oswald Spengler, Arnold Toynbee, and others. According to them, F. Brodel’s and his followers’ opinion was more realistic, where they suggested that all civilization systems existing nowadays have at least an archaic, axis level and a modern level. These levels reflect a stage-historical way of civilization development.

Nonetheless, the historiographical analysis of the issue and the new approaches should include also other opinions on the issue.

Samuel Huntington considered geographic, climatic, biological, demographic, physiological and other factors as the main reasons that determine civilizational and cultural development of the society (Huntington 1945). The first peoples were nomads: in search for food and places suitable for living they came on foot from Africa to Central Asia, then to Europe and this process began some 80000 years ago.

During a century and a half in the western society the idea of civilizational monism was considered as dominant and given ideological priority. This opinion was based on the fact of multi-century colonial dominion of the leading western countries and on ideological reasoning of colonialism as a means of introducing general human values to other civilizations. It is natural that attempts to do it with fire and sword brought a lot of sufferings to people in the world.

Thus, “The civilization methodology” in science worked out detailed reasoning of European hegemony of the world, ignoring all the other ideas and conceptions, opinions of advanced scientists free of egocentrism.

 Nonetheless, in the academic science the notion “civilization” began to be widely used in order to establish general natural historical laws and principles of accelerating and developing varied human society. The civilization as a category and a method has several theories. I suggest analyzing one of them – the theory of environment, which seems to me to be more rational when studying the Kazakh Civilization.

S. Huntington’sbook “the Clash of Civilizations and the remaking of World Order”, published by Yale University with the help of several American professors contains the typical definition of the civilization and what its rhythms and historical dynamics consist of (Huntington 1945).

It is difficult to elaborate the precise definition of the term “civilization”, as well as to establish the exact time of the early human society’s transition from barbarity to civilized way of living. In general, it is possible to state that the civilization begins with deepening of labor division, for instance, when groups of people learn to farm, begin settled and sedentary way of life, establish a defined form of governing, learn to write, and other factors.

The most important factor that contributes to development of civilization is the historical region that people live - the defining element of the theory of environment. Using it as a base, let us compare the main types of civilization and the Kazakh civilization by concrete facts and historical dynamics.

1.     River Civilization

There are suppositions about the existence of a cause and effect connection between Eurasian steppe landscape and the Valley of the lower Nile, the territory between the Amu Darya River and peculiarities of nomadic and ancient Egyptian societies. Life of nomads that Greek travelers could observe in the VIII-VII BC in northern lands, on the Black Sea and Azov Sea coasts, was distinguished by its monotony: the characteristic of life in surviving societies nowadays. Kenesbay Musaev writes: “The word “Scythian”, which entered Russian language by means of other European languages in this form, in Greek sounds like “skit”, (skithoi). It ascends to the word saka + it (affix of ancient Turkic plural), i.e. “Scythian” and “Sakas” are the same (Musaev 2004).But they could not see some Scythians and Sakas who populated Central Asia and used to live between the Amu Darya and the Syr Darya rivers. Life of Eurasian steppe nomads presented a continuum: they had already been building cities, irrigation canals, possessed a good knowledge of astronomy and mathematics. That is why one should compare between different systems and integral societies existing independently from each other, but not just separate parts of the whole. Only formation of similar societies, established under equal conditions can serve as a proof that the theory of environment does explain the genesis of civilizations as does the river zone as people’s habitat.

 Considering the Eurasian steppe, including Central Asia and its periphery as a whole, it can firstly be put next to it the territory, which is similar to it by its living conditions. This territory stretches from the western coast of the Persian Gulf to the eastern coast of the Atlantic Ocean, from southern foot of Iranian mountains, Anatolia, Syria, North and West Africa to the northern foot of Yemen heights, Abbysinia, the northern forest zone of tropical Africa (Toynbee 2001). It is suggested to call this steppe Afro-Asian steppe in order to consider it in the future as the independent whole. The crucial problem now is to consider: does likeness of geographic conditions in the Eurasian and Afro-Asian steppe predetermine analogous likeness of human societies formed on these territories? You will get an affirmative answer.

Nomadism is typical for both regions as theory of environment presupposed. It becomes quite evident if we compare Eurasian and African domestic animals, tamed by our ancestors. In both societies the camel (an animal that could not remain wild) was tamed. The fact that the tamed Bactrian camels of the Eurasian steppe and those of Afro-Asian steppe are of different species indicates that the two victories of domestication were won separately. Before becoming nomadic both societies were descendants of hunters and as the first examples of the proto-river civilization, they both were consuming sea and river products and wild animals and birds. Certainly there are also differences. The Eurasian steppe nomadism was used as a powerful military force with elements of military democracy. On the other hand, herds of Eurasian nomads consisted mainly of horses and cattle whereas herds of Afro-Asian nomads were sheep. As a means of transport Eurasian nomads used horses and camels, while in Africa nomads used mainly camels as there are no vast and abundant pastures in Africa.

 Analysis of lives of the tribes in great river valleysshows that the river civilization generates mainly nomadic societies and farming. Indeed, domestication of animals and cultivation of plants are likely to be more difficult to mankind do manage than ruling over inanimate nature. Domestication of animals is an art much more elevated, which requires insistence and intelligence.

The lower Nile valley is, to a limited extent, a part of the general system of Afro-Asian steppe and the climate in Egypt is just the same as in neighboring lands, except the fact that the great river abundantly provides the valley with water and the soil - with silt (Sykes 2001). Founders of the Egyptian civilization realized potential possibilities of these factors rather early and made purposeful use of them. Their society presented a rather striking contrast in comparison with the nomadic Afro-Asian steppe. So, the question is whether the natural environment created by the Nile in Egypt was the factor the Egyptian civilization owes its coming into existence? In order to prove or disprove this statement, it is necessary to substantiate that the “river” civilization could come into existence on other independent territories with the analogous environment. Let us consider the neighboring territory – the lower valleyof Tiger and Ephrata. The conditions are mainly just the same: Afro-Asian steppe, dry climate, enough water supplies and favorable siltlayer. Having compared all this, we would conclude quite definitely that here we are dealing again with a “river” civilization, this times the one of the Sumer, which is in many aspects similar to the Egyptian one (Toynbee 2001).

The same example is life of tribes in the valley of the Amu Darya and Syr Darya rivers that became the homeland of the third river civilization - that of Aryans and Sakas.

Here there are not less than half a dozen examples of the Nile type environment, but only four of them present civilizations of a “river” kind. Genesis of the Egyptian and Sumer civilizations in such an environment is more like an exception not a rule. Therefore the factor of environment cannot be considered a positive factor that determined these two civilizations’ means A. Toynbee, and it is difficult to agree with this opinion.

Apart Middle Asia (the territory between the Amu Darya and the Syr Darya), a striking example of the fourth river civilization is the Volga and the Ural delta. In ancient times and till the X century AD the Caspian Sea level was 14-15 meters lower than its level today (Gumilev 1996). In those times Cimmerians, Scythians, Sarmats lived in the Volga and Ural deltas. Sakas-Sarmats were forced out in the III-d century by Huns. Since the IV-th century there came Khazars – a quite different people: fishermen and farmers. But they were just as bellicose and had a high civilization level. They were either the constituents of Huns’ confederation or, vice versa, after the collapse of Attila’s Empire, Huns formed the Khazar state themselves (Kozhanuly 1999). The problem has to be solved. Khazar is the name of the state, people called themselves Kasa, Kasaks, Kazaks. Probably these people formed a river civilization in the region of the Caspian lowland. But there had already existed, prior to them a river civilization in Central Asia! From times immemorial people over there were involved in ship-building, fishing and artificial rearing of fish (Gumilev 1996).

Kang is one of the Syr Darya, Amu Darya deltas as well as delta of other rivers and reservoirs. Kangyui can be admitted to be one of the big ancient states of Kazakhstan with distinctly expressed river civilization. In Shauelder, near the Shymkent (city in the south of Kazakhstan) there was a ship found that is 2000 years old.

The second big ethnic group of proto-Kazakhs who formed a river civilization was that of Oguz. “Oguz” – in old Turkic – “uguz” means river, darya or big water. Oguz – Guz and Kangly who founded powerful Empires in Central Asia, and Khazars in Eurasia primarily were based on river civilization. The hypothesis about river civilization of proto-Kazakhs was first put forward by the author (Omarov 2002).

2. Farming Civilization

Farming civilization of the Kazakhs and ancient Turkic peoples was well developed. Irrigation system established by Kangui, mentioned in Avesta (Tolstov 1948), had been of a great importance to all mankind and global civilization. Moreover the aryk - bigger streams – were called after them canals. The term kangui - kanghoi in Avesta - was derived from an Iranian stem kan, and the Uzbek and Kazakh “kan” - canal – root in the same stem, as well. Therefore, it seems possible to translate the word “canal” as “the land of big aryks (aryk - stream, brook), or “kan el” (el – land, people) in ancient Kazakh language (Baipakov 2003).

 3. Nomads

Study of mitochondrial DNA and archeological data showed that ancient people originally were involved in gathering plants, fishing, and hunting and only after that they became farmers. Especially in Trans Caspian steppe agriculture complemented hunting and these two forms of economic life had been parallel for a long time (Toynbee 2001). But still people lived near reservoirs and rivers, combining river civilization.

 A. Toynbee writes that the first droughts forced the Eurasian man-hunter to become a farmer and a shepherd for whom hunting was of secondary importance (Toynbee 2001). Eurasians made a leap - they switched to mobile cattle-raising. Life showed that this change to nomadic way of life was caused by worsening of the climate and contributed to preserving ancient peoples’ population of the region.

 Moreover, I consider it possible to add that apparition of a nomad style of life is caused not only by natural cataclysms, but also by development of people’s self-consciousness, their understanding that the master the natural world. Perhaps consciously, perhaps due to occasional coincidence of circumstances, a human understood that many wild animals could be tamed and turned into domestic in order to become a peculiar food supply in case of emergency.

 Comparing the nomadic and agricultural civilizations, it can be noted that nomadism has had great advantages. A. Toynbee writes: “First of all, domestication of animals is an art much more elevated that cultivation of plants, because it is a victory of human intelligence over less obedient material (Toynbee 2001). In other words, a shepherd is a great virtuoso than a farmer, and this idea was expressed in a famous extract from Syrian mythology: “Adam got to know Eve, wife of his, she conceived and gave birth to Kain and said:I got a man from God. Besides I gave birth to his brother, Avel. Avel was a shepherd, and Kain was a farmer. Some time later Kain brought a present to God from the land of fruit, and Avel also brought the first of his herd – and accepted God Avel and his gift, and did not he accept Kain and his gift” (Omarov 2002). The highest achievement in animals’ domestication was horse-riding, it is proved by legends about Centaurs – men-horses (Eldesov 2003). Since that time nomads were people who learned to ride. The idea of horse-nomadic civilization is also put forward by our scientist M. Auezov.

The Russian scientist L. Gumilev thought that: “Culture of nomads for 3000 years of its existence, in comparison with peoples of the Mediterranean Sea and Eastern region, underwent creative evolution. Nomads of Eurasian Sahara preserved their civilization from the VI century BC till the XVIII century AD”. In his opinion, nomads made a significant contribution to the world civilization. Sources of the Kazakh civilization were initiated, probably, in the time of Aryans who partially moved to Mesopotamia and founded the state of Shumer (Sykes 2001).

4. Steppe civilization

The notion “nomadic civilization” is often used by Kazakhstani scholars and archeologists: A. Margulan, K. Akishev, K. Baipakov. The term “Nomadic society” is mainly used by S. Tolybekov and D. Kshibekov. Recently K. Baipakov and M. Kozybaev have decided that it would be more correct to use in Eurasian Sahara the notion “Steppe civilization” instead of “nomadic civilization”.

On the basis of Kazakhstani archeological study of monuments the processes of interrelation between various cultural traditions are distinctly reconstructed. The territory of Central Asia and Eurasia was one of historic and cultural synthesis centers. Restructuring the essence and meaning of interrelation between nomadic and settled population shows that mutual penetration and enriching of different tribes' and peoples’ cultures were the axis of the world process.

 Civilizations and many cultural accomplishments of peoples of Kazakhstan are at the base of such a synthesis. And there are a lot of examples of synthesis.

 K. Baipakov thinks that the terms “nomadic culture”, “nomadic civilization” seem to be inappropriate. It would be more correct to speak of “steppe culture and civilization”, which implies not only nomadism, but also a settled way of life, not only cattle–raising but farming and town life (Baipakov 2003). It has been proved that Sakas, Usuns, Turks, Kazakhs have not just been nomads. It is especially due to so-called “exceptional nomadism” the discussions about empty lands of Kazakhstan and ephemeral nomadic culture came into existence. Nomadism is only a part of steppe economy life, a part of a peculiar steppe civilization of Kazakhstan. This point of view was also supported by M. Kozybaev (Kozybaev 2001).

5. Town civilization

In Latin “civilis” means “citizen, an inhabitant of town or town civilization”. In this connection it is necessary to quote the ancient Greek historians Strabon: one town is enough to speak of civilization. If we begin the historical report with the city of Arkaim, then there were about 300-400 towns on the territory which were populated by the ancient Kazakhs. On the territory of Sumer state there were cities of Uruk (the second name is Orchon), Or, Om, Lagash, Samara, Suza, Isin, Mary, Babylon, etc. Each city was like a separate state, together with adjoining territory. Recently Turkestan celebrated its 1500 years and Taraz its 2000 years anniversary – both towns are situated in the South of Kazakhstan.

 Civilizational theory considers a town as a precondition and basis of the civilization. For Oswald Spengler, cities, which he considered only via “soul” and only indirectly via population number and ties between cities, are the substantial trait of civilization (Erasov 2001). However, A. Toynbee avoided establishing systematic connection between town and civilization, he insisted on existence of “nomadic civilization”. A. Toynbee’s efforts cause sincere respect for him as for the brave scientist, though “nomadic civilization” was included in the list of “delayed in development” civilizations. Now it is known that there were no “pure” nomads, moreover, Kazakhs were not only nomads.

6. Military-democratic nomadic civilization

There were craftsmen in Kasaks’, Sakas’ troops who made military equipment, sabres, hauberks, bows etc., there were also blacksmiths, craftsmen who made saddles and other things, but they lived separately, near headquarters, in separate settlements. These settlements were well-guarded, especially well-kept were secrets of handicraft technology. There were experienced people – experts in fossilized ores, soil properties. There were among them, speaking in modern terms, agronomists, agromechanics, selectioners, geologists and builders of wells, dams and other hydraulic engineering constructions.

 Many European generals studied Attila’s military tactics with a big interest. By the way, he did not keep it secret, and he himself taught this art to European princes. It speaks about high level of military development, about doubtless achievements of Huns, both cultural and civilizational. They did go to the West being weakened and small in number, did not fight anyone except Alans and many tribes joined them on their own will. Their accomplishments are highly evaluated in military art. They entered on the elite military series of books “Attila and nomadic hordes” (Nicolle 1997). In this book he writes: “Greek records praised Attila’s strategic military tactics and his methods of waging wars. He was not a thief, but a great general and clever leader. Huns were not blood-thirsty as Roman legionaries. Huns were better disciplined than Romans. Their guilt towards the European civilization was in their different appearance, mentality and customs. Europeans learned the art of war and chivalry from Huns, simultaneously borrowed the art of horse-riding, garments and arms. Arab blacksmiths in the III – IV-th centuries were not ashamed to learn how “to make military arms from Sakas, Huns, Khazars, Bulgarians and Kypchaks. The Arab historian al-Dzhakhiz emphasized in the IV-th century, the role and meaning of Turks in the war can be compared to the role of Chinese in art and the role of Greek in science”.

 For Huns, Sakas and Kasaks the sword was of great significance as a symbol and God of war. Alans, Scythians, Huns and even the English king Arthur from Scythian-Sarmate tribe considered the sword, driven into the ground or into stone cleft, to be the symbol of war.

 Thus, at present the notions “steppe and nomadic civilizations” organically entered the system of widely – used scientific terms.

 I have introduced the new notion military-democratic civilization (Omarov 2001), which gives a more complete description of the way of life of the ancient Kazakhs. Military democracy was ancient Khazars’ form of governing, this people could sentence their Kagan to death for a gross military defeat. Such was the matter of things with Khans of Khiva. There were many cities with typical urban culture or town civilization and agricultural and river civilizations accompanying it in the region the Kazakhs inhabited.

The most important element of any civilization is economy which provides stability, adaptability, attractiveness and vitality of the given civilization. The role of this self-organizing factor is doubtless in the central place at formation and preservation of any kind of civilization. From this point of view it is correct and necessary to speak of the Kazakh civilization, which generates a peculiar economic, social and political structure of the society and other important elements of life. Even the basis of any nomadic civilization – horse-riding or the armed warrior-rider is caused by social and economic expediency, as they constituted military layer of the society and were symbol and basis of the state, a means to provide its national safety. It was prestigious to be a warrior – rider; only a privileged member of the society, sometimes simply a great warrior who possessed authority could earn the honor. It is remarkable that this social and cultural community preserved its identity and capability of many centuries evolution only because all its constituent elements were in a definite system of balance.

Conclusion

The Kazakh Civilization is just being formed although in its historical age it is equal to many other civilizations, if we take into consideration Aryans and Sumers. It should be noted that according to A. Toynbee the Sumer and the Kazakh civilizations are genetically related, and the Kazakh Civilization, in its turn, meets all the requirements put to the category of civilization, to be more exact - to local civilizations (Toynbee 2001).

The combination of the above-mentioned six civilizations emerged on the Kazakhstan territory.  The ancestors of the Kazakhs successfully combine the six civilization types and therefore created the peculiarKazakh Civilization. Economic expediency, i.e. favorable geographic position, rich and various natural resources, developed system of communications, profits from trade and guarding the Great Silk Way partially contributed to the formation of the Kazakh civilization. With all this, analyzing peculiarities of the Kazakh civilization, in my opinion, it is also quite necessary to take into account history of the Kazakh steppe and territories adjoining it (which were named Eurasian space).

It is difficult to give a monosemantic definition of the notion of civilization. In fact, civilization is a cultural community of people who possess a certain social genotype and social stereotype. Moreover, this community occupies an autonomous and delimited geographical land area and thanks to this retains a steady place in the world history.

Following this definition, the Kazakh civilization is quite adequate to it. The notion of the Kazakh civilization was first mentioned at the International congress on Global Civilizations in Sydney, Australia in July 2001 and in the journal “The Kazakh Civilization” (Omarov 2001).

The Kazakh civilization corresponds to the following requirements to the category of civilization:

    a)  it possesses its own closed space – the territory which is autonomous;

     b)  it possesses from times immemorial literary texts (Runic, Sogdian, Sakas);

     c)  town urban culture on the territory of Kazakhstan has a 3000-4000 year-old history with developed science, crafts etc.;

     d) the Kazakh nation managed to preserve its cultural community of people – constituents of nation, its language and it possesses a definite social genotype, social stereotype that was influenced by the neighborhood of the three big nations – Russian, Chinese and Islamic world;

      e)  the Kazakhs has had a steady place in the world historical process in ancient times, in the Middle Ages and now;

f) Initiation of the Kazakh nation, therefore - of civilization, can be counted as minimum from the VI century till our era, when the tsar Darius I left an inscription on the Bekhistun stelle, where he mentions the ethnonym “hasak”.

 

References:

  1. Baipakov, K. M. (2003),The steppe civilization of Kazakhstan: interaction of cattle – raising and settled cultures, Almaty: The Kazakh civilization journal, №2-3.
  2.  Eldesov, (2003).Centaur’s silhouette, Almaty : Prostor.journal2003, №4. –с.145-154.
  3. Erasov, (2001). Comparative study of civilizations, Moscow
  4. Gumilev L. N. (1996) Discovery of Khazars, Moscow.
  5. Huntington, S. (1945). The Clash of Civilizations and the remaking of World Order, New York.
  6. Kozhanuly, M. (1999). On the word “Kas”, Almaty: Vestnik universiteta Kainar, №2.
  7. Kozybaev, M. K. (2001). On civilization, Almaty: The Kazakh civilization journal, №1.
  8. Musaev, K. (2004). Turkic-Iranian cultural and linguistic contacts, Study of Turkic language, Kazakh-Turkish Yassavy University,№5(13).
  9. Nicolle, D. (1997). Attila and nomadic hordes, London
  10. Nysanbayev A. (2002). Globalization and stable development of Kazakhstan, Almaty
  11. Omarov, Y. (2001).On the problem of the notion “history and phenomenon of the Kazakh civilization”, Almaty, materials of the scientific conference “The 10th anniversary of Kazakhstan independence: conclusions and prospects of development”
  12. Omarov, Y. (2002). Foundations of the Kazakh Civilization, Almaty:The Kazakh civilization journal, № 2-3.
  13. Sykes, B. (2001).The seven daughters of Eve, London: Bantam press.
  14. Tolstov S.P. (1948). Tracing the old Khorezmian civilization.
  15. Toynbee, A. (2001).  A Study of History, Moscow.
Комментарии: 4

Гришина Анастасия Андреевна

Благодарю за исторический экскурс в историю цивилизаций. Хотелось бы ознакомиться с ключевыми характеристиками современной цивилизации. Есть ли у Вас структурированная схема по этому вопросу? С уважением, Анастасия Гришина!

Bayriyeva Almagul

RAHMET!

Galina Makotrova

Спасибо за интересный нестандартный подход к описанию типов цивилизаций! Интересно, какой классификационный признак положил автор при их выделении? С уважением, Макотрова Г.В.

Omarov Yerengaip

В настоящей статье, рассматривается становление и генезис казахской цивилизации. Казахскую цивилизацию можно воспринимать и как новую методику исследования и как новое научное направление. Вопросы формирования казахского народа историческая наука изучает давно, тогда, как проблемы казахской цивилизации были поставлены совсем недавно Омаровым Е.С. и находиться в начальном этапе своего развития.
Комментарии: 4

Гришина Анастасия Андреевна

Благодарю за исторический экскурс в историю цивилизаций. Хотелось бы ознакомиться с ключевыми характеристиками современной цивилизации. Есть ли у Вас структурированная схема по этому вопросу? С уважением, Анастасия Гришина!

Bayriyeva Almagul

RAHMET!

Galina Makotrova

Спасибо за интересный нестандартный подход к описанию типов цивилизаций! Интересно, какой классификационный признак положил автор при их выделении? С уважением, Макотрова Г.В.

Omarov Yerengaip

В настоящей статье, рассматривается становление и генезис казахской цивилизации. Казахскую цивилизацию можно воспринимать и как новую методику исследования и как новое научное направление. Вопросы формирования казахского народа историческая наука изучает давно, тогда, как проблемы казахской цивилизации были поставлены совсем недавно Омаровым Е.С. и находиться в начальном этапе своего развития.
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