Back ] Up ] Next ]
 Turkestan - 1500 
| Kazakhstan and Central Asia in the XII-XIV centuries | History of the town of Yassy-Turkestan 
Turkestan - the capital of the Kazakh Khanship 
| History of Turkistan in the medieval manuscripts and written sources 


The Silk Road is a system of ancient caravan routes leading from China to the countries of the Near East and Europe. It is one of the most important achievements in the history of world civilization.

The Silk Road is a historical route without a juridical status, transcending many national borders. Hundreds of big and small towns fallen into oblivion or still in existence witness to grandeur of the Silk Road.

It began in 1380 when the ambassadorial caravan left the Khan capital accompanied by Prince Chzan-Tzyan sent the Emperor U-di to unknown countries of the West. Thirteen years latter the prince came back. He was able to reach the territory which is modern Afghanistan now, and was the first person to travel along the straight road from the inner parts of China to Central Asia. After him this route was used by caravans carrying silk from China to the West and bringing back goods from the Mediterranean the Near and the Middle East and Central Asia.

The Great Silk as a trade route was not unchangeable and stable route. As time went on, some parts gained primary importance, other the contrary, died away and formely prosperous market towns lost their fame giving ways to new ones. The choice of routes largely depended on political and economic circumstances the Eurasian continent.

Min_11_P5.jpg (49985 bytes)What was South Kazakhstan like when it joined the system of the Silk Road? An original culture had developed there, formed by both nomadic and settled tribes which were rather similar in ethnic respects or were united in similar ethnopolitical formations. The interrelations and the mutual cultural enrichment were the main elements of human progress. This synthesis has resulted in a number of achievements created by the people of Kazakhstan and Central Asia. Thus, in the 12th to the 3rd century B.C. there were nomadic and semi-nomadic tribes of the Saks living on the territory of Kazakhstan whose high culture has become known thanks to numerous excavated burial grounds among which figure Besshatyr, Issyk, Tegisken, Uygarack. By that time there were contacts with China, India, The Near and the Middle East. This is evidenced by objects found in the burial mounds of the Sak nobility, such as China looking-glasses and beautiful articles of art-dried bricks suggest that the artians must have been recruited from foreign countries. At the time of the state of the Usunys and the Kayus in the 2nd century B.C.. In the first half of the current millennium, when the Silk Road started operating, Roman glass and coins, Chinese silk, looking glasses and lacquered dishes , European fibulas. Clasps, different gems and sidnets from Sasanidi Iran were brought into the coutry.

This was the time when small towns and settlements were founded in the Chu, the Talas and the Syr Daria valleys. Many centers like that were located in the Tien Shan zone, in the Arys river valley and in the middle and the lower stretches of the Syr Daria. The towns in the dry desert zone of the Aral area and the Dzhetysar gorge are well preserved. One can still see their sun-dried yellow walls and necropolises.

min_5_p5.jpg (41717 bytes)In the second half of the 11th century, Semirechie and South Kazakhstan became members of the Tiurk Kaganat, a large nomadic empire embracing an area from Korea to the Black Sea.

At the end of the 11th century, Kaganat- the East Tiurk Kaganat and the West Tiurk Kaganat were divided. Semirechie became a central part of the latter with Suyab as its capital.

It was at that time that there was a busy life on the Silk Road in Semirchie and South Kazakhstan, which played an importnt role in the development of town culture. New town centers were founded in Semirechie and the South Kazakhstan began to develop quickly.

If in the first half of the current millenium there were records only of Chigu and Semey- the residence of the Usuns rulers and Bityan ( in South Kazakhstan)- the capital of Kanguis, then at begining of the XII century records existed of several dozen of towns. The largest of them were Cuyab, Taraz and 'the town on the White river", later colled Ispidzhab. In Chinice road guide books of the XII-XIII centuries and in the Arab route guide books one can find numerouse names of towns that were built along the Silk Road. The Silk Road passing through Central Asia, South Kazakhstan and Semirechie was used until the XIV century.

Min_10_P5.jpg (46856 bytes)Along the Silk Road, caravans carried silk to the counties of the West, which, alongside totzars and ambassadors, the hired military units were paid with silk and also the state debts were settled in 'silk currency'.

In their turn, Rome, Buzantia, India, Iran, Iraq, the Arab caliphate and later Europe and Russia sent goods to the East. The list of their exotic goods is innumerable. These were myrrh and frankincense, jasmine water and ambergris, cardamom and nutmeg, ginseng and gall of gython, carpets and cloths, dyes and minerals, diamonds and jasper, amber and corals, ivory, ingots of gold and silver, furs and coins, bows, swords and spears and many other things.

It was along the Silk Road where the famous Fergana, Arab and Niss fast horses, camels and elephants, rhinoceroses, lions, leopards and gazelles, eagles, falcons, peacocks and ostriches were transported as well as grapes, peaches, melons, spices and sugar, vegetables and fruits. As time went on, these cultural plants were distributed and cultivated along the road elsewhere.

silkrd4_p5.jpg (14621 bytes)
Aisha-Bibi Mausoleum.
XII century

The archeological excavations of ancient monuments give numerous examples proving the  development and mutual enrichment of different cultures in applied arts, architecture and painting, musical and theatrical activities. There are the Timurid style ceramics, objects and terracotta clay mask of an actor of the X-XI centuries was found in the excavations of the Syr Daria town of Keder.

The Silk Road was also a highway for religious ideas. Different missionaries carried their belief to distant countries. Thus Buddhism came from India, Christanity via Central Asia and East Turkestan and Islam from Syria, Iran and Arabia.

As a result of the interaction of European and Asian civilizations, the  settled townspeople and the nomadic tribes of South Kazakhstan were able to create wonderful works and objects of art.

Thus the grandeur of the Silk Road does not only lie in the tremendous barter between different countries, but also in the mutual  penetration and enrichment of different civilization and cultures. This was the factor which attracted the attention of the UNESCO which in 1987 approved a project 'The Silk Road is a Road of Dialogue".

Silk Road map (Kazakhstan part)

 Turkestan - 1500 | Kazakhstan and Central Asia in the XII-XIV centuries | History of the town of Yassy-Turkestan 
Turkestan - the capital of the Kazakh Khanship | History of Turkistan in the medieval manuscripts and written sources 
Back ] Up ] Next ]