History, Russian Conquest
Ural River, Kazakh people, frontier settlers, Khiva, local affairs
Meanwhile, Cossacks (frontier settlers) from Russia had begun to settle along the Ural River in the 16th century. By the end of the 17th century a formal relationship had developed between the Cossacks and the Russian imperial government, in which the Cossacks protected the Russian frontier in exchange for title to land and local autonomy. In the early 18th century the Cossacks established a line of settlements and fortifications across the Kazakhs’ northern boundary in order to defend the Russian frontier, which had expanded eastward into Siberia. During the Dzungar invasions, the Kazakhs appealed to Russia for protection and military supplies. Although Russia was, at the time, unwilling to become involved, the Kazakh hordes subsequently declared allegiance to Russia in return for Russian protection. In 1731 the Little Horde signed an oath of allegiance, followed by the Middle Horde in 1740 and the Great Horde in 1742, although part of this horde was subject to the Qing dynasty of China between 1757 and 1781. The khans of each horde promised to protect Russian borders adjacent to Kazakh lands, to defend Russian trade caravans in the steppes, to provide troops when needed, and to pay tribute to Russia. Russia gradually came to dominate local affairs, limiting the powers of the Kazakh khans and imposing the Russian administrative system. As Russian domination increased, the power of the khans eroded. In the 1790s the Kazakhs revolted against Russian rule, but their uprisings were ultimately ineffectual and were followed by Russia’s decision to abolish Kazakh autonomy. The Kazakh hordes lost their independence in succession—the Middle Horde in 1822, the Little Horde in 1824, and the Great Horde in 1848—and Kazakh lands were absorbed into the Russian Empire.
In the 1860s Russian forces mounted a large-scale military offensive southward in an attempt to secure free access to Khiva and other trade centers of southern Central Asia. By the 1880s Russian forces had conquered all of Central Asia. In present-day Kazakhstan, Cossack outposts developed into peasant settlements as Russians and other Slavs migrated to the steppes in increasingly large numbers. In the period between 1906 and 1914, the influx of settlers averaged more than 140,000 people per year.
The settlements severely restricted the Kazakhs’ traditional nomadic routes, and friction developed between the Kazakhs and the new settlers. Tensions were exacerbated by a June 1916 governmental decree recruiting Kazakhs and other Central Asians into workers’ battalions. The Central Asian peoples revolted against the decree in what, by August, became a widespread and bloody rebellion. The Kazakhs directed their wrath against Russian settlers, killing thousands, while settlers in some areas formed armed groups that massacred the local population. During the revolt, which continued until the end of the year in some areas, about 300,000 Kazakhs fled to the Xinjiang Province of China.
Russian imperial rule ended with the Russian Revolution of 1917, and Bolsheviks (militant socialists) seized control of the Russian government. A Kazakh nationalist party, Alash Orda, proclaimed the autonomy of the Kazakh people in December 1917. Alash Orda leaders then established a Kazakh government, which was divided into eastern and western administrative zones due to the immensity of the Kazakh lands.
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