Brief Point About Nomads in Kazakhstan

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Kazakh nomads
Kazakh nomads in Xinjiang, China

Before going to cycle Kazakhstan, we asked ourselves: are there still Kazakh nomad out there? Or Soviet Union wiped them all out?

Under Stalin’s regime, between 1928 and ’31, kazaks nomads, being the major part of the population, were forced to settle down as farmers.
Hundreds of breeder’s family were deported in the internal regions and the nomad’s herds were brutally seized.

The results of those sedentarization attempts were starvation of the livestock and nomad’s unorganized diaspora. By the autumn of 1931, the famine was generalized, causing population’s mass exodus to Siberia and China.

Within two years, the Kazakhstan population was diminished by more than two millions people (on a total of 6,5 million).
The majority of them had moved in search of food, mostly dying before reaching the closest cities, or trying to cross mountains or rivers.

According to late ‘30s census, 1,5 millions of nomads, more than one-third of the entire population, were dead, while hundreds of thousands remained in China, Siberia and other regions they had fled. Often, those region’s administrations did everything to get rid of those refugees, coming to organize re-deportations to their homelands, in fact condemning them to death by starvation.

However, even today, about 1% of the population of Kazakhstan still leads a nomad lifestyle. Investigate the remainings of the ancient nomadic traditions and their evolution will be the goal of our exploration of central Kazakhstan.

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Kazakh nomads in China
Kazakh nomads in Xinjiang, China

2017 update

After being twice in Kazakhstan, we couldn’t manage to find any nomads still living on nowadays’ Kazakh territory. Except for a few fake yurts for tourist, seems that the Nomad culture has totally disappeared. But Kazakhstan is so big, and some areas so remote, that it still may be some family living a nomad or seminomad life.

We found instead many ethnic Kazakh nomad, most of them still fully nomad, in the mountains of Western China, around Sayram lake in Xinjiang and in the high plateau of Qinghai.

Kazakh nomads in Xinjiang
Kazakh nomads in Xinjiang, China
nomads kazakhstan central asia

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