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Kyrgyzstan travel » Ancient Kyrgyzstan

Ancient Kyrgyzstan

Kyrgyzstan has a deep history. There were many different tribes and nations in ancient time. And Kyrgyz themselves appeared only in the 10 century. There is a short history of the people who lived in Kyrgyzstan before nomads.


EARLY TIMES: 5.000 BC-AD 300

The city of Bishkek as it appears today is quite new-but human beings have left numerous signs of life in the neighborhood for thou­sands of years. Late Stone Age implements 6,000-7,000 years old were unearthed on the site of the nearby Alamedin hydroelectric station, and ground inside the city has yielded Bronze Age artifacts about 3,000 years old.

The earliest Iron Age people to inhabit Kyrgyzstan were the Saks who nomadized here from the seventh to the third centuries BC. They were succeeded by the Usuns, who practiced both nomadic stock-raising and agriculture in the region until the third century AD. The Saks and Usuns buried their noble dead in kurgans circular mound-tombs, some of which may still be seen dotting the landscape near, the city.



In the seventh century AD a process of mutual cultural assimilation began in Kyrgyzstan between two groups of people who were totally different in race, language, and habits. The first group was the Turks. Arriving from southern Siberia in the sixth century, the Turkic nomads defeated the Han superpower at Talas, drove them away into anonym­ity, and quickly caught on to the art of ruling. The Western Turkic Khanate then held sway over a widely spread nomadic confederation based upon the efficient "military democracy" of the knights of the steppe - a primitive but highly effective form of statehood. The second state was Sogd, with its rich centers at Samarkand and Bukhara. In the seventh century the Sogdians, who were traders and farmers of Indo-European (Iranian) stock, began to colonize in the Talas and Chu valleys in present-day Kyrgyzstan.  Beginning with trading posts, the Sogdians established   many   important cities.  Over the years, these helped give rise to and took sustenance from the full flower of the Great Silk Road network. In these cities, vigorous creole populations formed when sedentarized Turks blended with the Sogdians. One of the earliest, largest, and longest-lived of these Silk Road cities in the Chui Valley was Navekat, now known as the Krasnaya Rechka ruins. Another large city lies today under the streets of Bishkek.

Bishkek's medieval forerunner flourished from the 8th to the 13 centuries. It was a walled quadrangle occupying the space bounded on the east by the Alamedin River, on the west by Ulitsa Orozbekova, on the north by Ulitsa Leningradskaya, and on the south by Ulitsa Kirova. Mentions by medieval Arab and Persian authors suggest that the city was called Jul   ("steppe-land» in Old Turkic).  As was typical of pre-Islamic Silk Road centers, Jul was home to several peacefully coexisting religions: Zoroastrianism of the founding Sogdians, Buddhism arriving from the eastern points of (he route, and Nestorian Christianity and Manichacism coming from points west.

Muslim caliphs had had fitful control over Turkic and Sogdian lands in the wake of conquering armies as early as the mid-7th century. But the control of the Muslim rulers of Baghdad and, later, Bukhara over the Chu Valley was nominal. Then in the mid-7th century came the Karakhnnids ("Rich Khans"), converted Muslims of the Karluk Turkic line. The Karakhanids actively promoted the sedentary Muslim civili­zation of the Samanids whom they usurped. Near modern Bishkek they had a thriving capital named Balasagun, now known as Burana. Under the Karakhanids, Islam became established in the Kyrgyzstan. But the Karakhanids themselves did not last very long.

The Mongols and Tatars under Genghis Khan overran Kyrgyzstan in the early 13th century. Jul and count­less other cities were utterly destroyed. Rem­nants of a settled pop­ulation lived on at the site by the Alamedin River until the 15th century, but the human tide in the whole Tian-Shan and Semirech'e region had shifted once again to nomadism.

      The Kyrgyz, an ancient Turkic people who had  first arrived in the territory of modern Kyrgyzstan from the upper Yenisei in the tenth century, became fully established on the scene by the 15th century. We can assume that whoever lived by trade or farming amid the ruins at Jul-for the site probably remained inhabited as a market and caravan stop-kept a very low profile. The Kyrgyz epic poems, full of boasting aimed at their nomadic competitors, reserve the most scorn­ful abuse for sedentary people, who were considered vermin.


         PISHPEK  FORTRESS: 1825-1862

From the early 16th century, the states closest to the Chu Valley were the Uzbek khanates of Bukhara, Khiva, and Kokand They were involved in incessant rivalries with one another and exerted no control over the distant Kyrgyz. Then in the early 1820's Kokand began a ma­jor military initiative to secure its exploitation of the Chu, Ferghana, and Talas valleys, the Issyk-Kul region, and the mountain areas of the Tien-Shan, Alai, and Pamir (in effect, all of modern Kyrgyzstan - and more). Over 35 fortresses were built within 20 years, including-on the age-old site by the Alamedin River-Pishpek. This was the pivotal point in a string of outposts, including Tokmak and Kara-Balta, which guard­ed the caravan routes extending from Tashkent through the Chu Valley to Issyk-Kul and Kashgar.

Pishpek Fortress is the oldest site that one can visit in Bishkek. It was built in 1825 at the order of Madali Khan by generalissimo Kush-begi Lyashker. In its day it was a cookie-cutter design-"a typical late-medieval Central Asian fortification", according to historians. It had a compact, quadrangular plan roughly 250 meters square. The thick, high walls of stamped clay, in concentric inner and outer perimeters, had loopholes, crenellations, and towers at the corners. The deep, broad moat around the whole fortress was watered by a conduit from the ad­jacent Alamedin River. The inner citadel, with walls over 10 meters high, contained the quarters of the commandant and other officers, a guardhouse,  the powder magazine, armorers' workshops, the mosque, and the treasury. Also within the secure inner wall lived the first "native inhabitants" of the settlement: hostages rendered by noble Kyrgyz clans as peace-pledges to Kokand. 

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