Uysyn (also spelled Uyshyn, Uyshun, Uysun, Uisyn, Usyn, Ushun, Ushin, Usun, etc.) is the name of one of the largest tribes of the Senior Juz in Kazakhstan. Uysyn history can be traced from the 3rd century BC. P.Pelliot and L.Ηambis determined a common origin of the ancient Wusun with the Sary-Uysuns, between the Kirgiz and Uzbek Ushuns and Uyshuns, and with the Uysuns of the Kazakh Senior Juz.
The modern Uysyn consist of two divisions, the Dulat (Dulu, Dogolat) and the Sary Uysyn ('"Yellow Uysyn").
The Dulat, numbering 250,000 people, is the larger subdivision, formally a tribe or a tribal confederation, in the Kazakh Senior Juz. It consists of the Botbai, Shymyr, Sikym, Yanys, Alban and Suan clans. The Suan clan is mentioned in Chinese dynastic chronicles under the name of the major Hunnish tribal subdivision, the Chuban (Chinese Yueban). The Dulat clan tamga is and .
Numerous Eurasian royal dynasties were known by the names Dulat and Dulu, the most prominent being the royal dynasty, the Dulo clan (Nominalia of the Bulgarian khans), of Late Antique Bulgaria, rivals of the Ashina dynasty of Khazaria.
The Sary Uysyn, numbering 10,000 people, also belong to the Kazakh Senior Juz. It consists of the Kuttymbet, Janai, Jolai, Talai, Jandosai, Kuleke and Kyryk clans. The Sary Uysyn clan tamga is . The Sary Uysyn occupy the upper course of the Ili River.
The ancient Usun or Wusun
Chinese records first mention the "Ushi" in Andin and Pinlian (modern Pinlian and Guüan in the Peoples Republic of China), between the Lu-hun and Kuyan tribes. The transcription of Ushi means "raven generation", and is semantically identical with U-sun - "raven descendants". The presence of a raven as clan totem among the ancient Usuns is beyond doubt. In Usun legend, the ancestors of the Usuns were a raven and a wolf. This is reflected in the Usun-Ashina (Oshin) tamga with an image of raven.
The first historical records concerning the Wusun name them as a separate and distinct tribe of the Xiongnu confederacy, living on the territory of the modern province of Gansu, in the valley of the Ushui-he (Chinese Raven river). It is not clear whether the river was named after the Usun tribe or vice versa.
To the west the Usuns bordered Kangju, located in modern Kazakhstan. It was twice as weak as the Usuns, and served as a buffer between the Xiongnu and the Yuezhi. To the south of the Usuns was Sogdiana, which then consisted of 70 sovereign mini-states. East of the Usuns towered the Xiongnu state.
Early in their history, the Usuns migrated in three stages, lasting near two hundred years. The first exodus from Shaanxi to Tsilyan-shan in around 410 BC was forced by the Yuezhi. Between 410 BC and 177 BC, the Usuns were vassals of the Tocharic Yuezhi coalition.
The third migration in c.160 BC was a deliberate displacement by the Usuns of the defeated Asii from their temporary residence in Zhetysu. In 160 BC, after the death of the Hun's supreme Chanyu Laoshan (173-161), the Usuns separated from the Xiongnu and migrated to the region of the Ili River and Issyk Kul (Lake Issyk), established their independence, and formed a powerful state in the Zhetysu area. Chinese historical annals offer a demographic description of the Usuns at that time, stating that they numbered 630,000 people and 120,000 families.
In 5 BC, during the reign of Uchjulü-Chanyu (8 BC – AD 13), the Usuns attempted to raid Chuban pastures, but Uchjulü-Chanyu repulsed them, and the Usun commander had to send his son to the Chuban court as a hostage. The forceful intervention of the Chinese usurper Wan Man and internal strife brought disorder, and in 2 BC one of the Usun chietains brought 80,000 Usuns to Kangju, asking for Kankalis help against Chinese. In a vain attempt to reconcile with China, he was duped and killed in AD 3.
The Usuns left multiple diaspora islands along their centuries-old trek. As a rule, part of a tribe remained in the old habitats and later on participated in new ethnic unions. Usun principalities are known in the Ordos Desert. Separate Usun princedoms existed for a long time in the Khangai Mountains and along the Bogdoshan ridge.
In the 2nd century AD, after disintegration of the Xiongnu confederacy, the hegemony over the nomads of Zhetysu and Xinjiang passed to the Xianbei people. Before 160 CE the Xianbei, linguistically Tungus or Mongolian with strong Turkic admixture, were politically amorphous, and for centuries were controlled by the Xiongnu. Between 155 and 165 CE, the Xyanbei chieftain Tanshihai took over the Xiongnu empire. Resisting Xiongnu were displaced to beyond Tarbagatai, the Dingling were displaced to beyond the Sayans, and the Usun and Chuban in Zhetysu were brought under Xianbei control. This lasted through the 2nd-4th century CE.
With the rise of the First Turkic Kaganate in 552 CE, the Usun fell into the newly formed state, ruled by the same royal Ashina clan on the male side, and by the Ediz Katun clan on the female side.
After the Turkic Kaganate split into the Western Turkic Khaganate and Eastern Turkic Khaganate in 603 CE, the Usun remained in the Western Turkic Khaganate, ruled by the Kagans from the Ashina clan. At the beginning of the 7th century CE the peoples of the Western Turkic Kaganate separated into two groups, divided by the river Chu: to the west lived the Dulu, and to the east lived the Nushibi. See Ili river treaty. The Dulu were the ancestors of the Dulat, nowadays the most numerous and strongest clan of the Uysyns. Next to the Dulu, the Chinese chronicles mention the Chuban, in which name another clan of the modern Uysyns, the Suan is recognized.
The kaganate was overrun by Chinese forces under Su Dingfang in 658-659, bringing the Usun under direct Chinese control for nearly half a century, amassing detailed information in the Chinese annals.
Centuries after the migration of the main masses of the Usun population west to Zhetysu, the name Usun appeared again in the east in the text of the monument to the Turkic prince Tonyukuk, in the description of the new pastoral routes of the eastern Turks: "I brought troops to the cities of Shantung ("Mountainous East") and to the sea river (Huang He). They destroyed twenty three cities and remained to live in the land of the Usyn union ("Usun bundatu yurt")". The text allows to locate the "Usun bundatu yurt" on the northern branch of the Huang He in the Sichen area, and another group in Ordos, noted by many medieval and modern authors. Remains of the ancient Usuns of northern and northwestern China continued their existence for a long time in separate Usun princedoms in Khangai and in Beitin-Bishbalyk.
After restoration of the Turkic Kaganate in the 682-745 period, usually referred to as the Second Turkic Kaganate, the Usuns again were incorporated into the kaganate. At its dismemberment the Usuns fell under the Uyghur Khaganate (745-840 CE). After the fall of the Uyghur Khaganate at the arms of the Kyrgyz in 840 CE, the Usun were squeezed out of Zhetysu by the victorious Kirgiz, and were incorporated into the Kyrgyz Kaganate. The Kyrgyz Kaganate maintained its dominance for about 200 years.
In their westward advance in the 1253-1254, the Hulagu army passed through Zhetysu, and the Persian historian Rashid-ad-din (1247–1318) wrote his "History of the Mongols" from the words of the Mongols who in 1255 came to Persia with the Hulagu-Khan, indicating that at that time the Uysyn lived in the mountains near the river Chu. Rashid-ad-din calls the Uysyn Uyshun, they were Chagataid subjects. Nowadays one kishlak in Tashkent province is called Uyshun, as Uzbeks and Karakirgizes pronounce Uysyn, its inhabitants claim they are Uysyns.
The author of the "Tarihi-Rashidi" historian Muhamed-Haydar came from the Dulat clan and was a kuregen (i.e. he was married to a Chingisid princess). Muhamed-Haydar's 6th ancestor Emir Bolatchi-Dulat in 1348 brought Tokluk-Temyr from the Kuldja region to the Issyk-Kul region, where lived Dulats or Dogolats, and proclaimed him a Khan of the Chagatai Ulus. After the death of Tokluk and Balatchi, Balatchi brother Kamareddin, a famous opponent of Timur, was a factual ruler of the Chagatai Ulus. Further, the history mentioned ethnically Dulat rulers Hudaydat, a nephew of Kamareddin, a son of Hudaydat Mir Muhamed, and his grandson Seid-Ali (1440). The historian Muhamed Haydar was a cousin of both Babur and Chagataid's Seidkhan, he took part in their wars against the Uzbeks and Kirgiz. After the death of Seidkhan, Muhamed Haydar led a part of Dulats to Babur in Laghor, then he seized Kashmir, annexed Tibet, and died there as an independent sovereign. After the expulsion of Seidkhan from Zhetysu (1527–1545), the remaining Dulats and other Uysyns joined the Kirghiz during the time of Tairkhan and his successors.
In Late Middle Age, the Central Asian steppes were divided between the Nogai Ulus (Ulus-Nogai), a splinter of the Kipchak Khanate-Juchi Ulus, and the Kazakh Khanate, a splinter of the Chagatai Ulus. In the 16th century, the Nogai Ulus extended from the Volga to the Irtysh, and from the Kama to Syr-darya, with its capital in Saraichik. Among the 120 tribes (called "Ils" = "lands"), and among its 8 largest tribes were Uyshuns. A drawn-out period of disintegration of the Nogai Ulus resulted in its population switching allegiance to the Kazakh Khanate, and by the 1730s most of the Nogai Ulus Uysyns were in the orbit of the Kazakh Khanate. In spite of centuries-old conflicts between Nogai Ulus and the Kazakh Khanate, the people felt that the fights were solely between the rulers, and continued to relate themselves as one contigious entity, not divided by political borders. All constituent tribes, including Uysyns, retained their tamgas, battle cries (uran), and exogamic traditions.
One of the most famous Biys of the Kirgiz people, Tolebiy Alibek, a Dulat of the Djanys branch, was factual ruler of the Senior Horde. Sabalak, a drifter boy at the time, and later a famous Ablay Khan, in 1725 was shepherding Tolebiy's camels.
|Desht-i-Kipchak Uzbek Horde 1400-1500||Ulus Nogai 1500-1630||Tribes and clans in genealogical and ethnographical sources of 19th – 20th centuries|
In 1723 the Kirgiz fled from the Dzungars, settling near lake Alka-Kol. The hungry crowd then headed to Samarkand and Bukhara, casting the settled population of Turkestan into a famine. In 1725-26 the Uysyn actively participated in a victorious attack on the Dzungars, managing to expel them to beyond the Ili River. But after half of the Kirgiz people left the campaign, the Uysyns had to submit to the Dzungars, until they freed themselves in 1757-1758. After that, the Dulat controlled Tashkent until they were expelled in the 1798 by a coalition of the townspeople and the Kirgiz clans Kanly, Chanshkly and Ramadan, whose descendants continue to live in Tashkent province. In Tashkent province still live remnants of the Uysyns, called Uyshuns by the Uzbeks and Karakirgizes.
The Usuns and Yuezhi formed one state with two ethnically different and opposing halves. It was a Matriarchal state of a lunar clan "As" (Uti, Ati, Asi, Yuezhi), with a Matrilinear principle of inheritance, including dynastic succession. This caused their separation from the Usuns (initially called in the Chinese annals As-mans) in the transition to a patriarchal form. The matrilinear form of community was a "brotherly family" with the inheritance principle "senior brother - younger brother (from the same mother) - nephew (from a female line, the son of the senior brother)", combining male and female lines.
After 160 BCE, the Usun state in Zhetysu incorporated the remains of the Saka and Yuezhi. Usun growth created conditions for a state independent from the Chuban. Political hierarchy was simple, the army of 188,800 men had only 16 officers. The Usun family was small, and unlike the Chuban, women did not have an equal status anymore. Social inequality became accepted, rich owners had herds with thousands of horses.
References to the Usuns in the Chinese annals allude to the tri-partite division of the state. This was typical for the Turkic nomadic states, based on a military principle of attacking with left (tolos) and right (tardush) wings or flanks, led by the center, as in multi-group encircling hunts. Members of the tribes belonging to each wing were positioned in exact hierarchical order, depending on their place in the traditional structure. The left (eastern) wing had a privileged status, with a successor to the throne, and the queen's residence. Two dominant (royal) tribes are known from the Chinese annals, Ashina (Oshin) and Ashide (Ashtak, tamga ).
In the 7th century a ten-arrow (Ten tribes, On-ok) Western Turkic Kaganate was located "on the lands of the former Usun state". The Kaganate backbone consisted of ten tribes, five in each wing. The first tribe in the list of the left (eastern) wing tribes is Ulug-ok, a conjugal tribe of the Kagans who belonged to the western branch of the "celestial-blue" Ashina tribe. The term ulug belongs to the Ashide tribe, of the co-ruler chancellor and katun queen, a spouse of the Kagan from the Ashina tribe. Only offspring of Ashina on the paternal side and Ashtak on the maternal side could inherit the Kagan throne. Succession to the throne followed the established "brotherly family" along the avuncular line "senior brother - younger brother - nephew (son of the senior brother)", with compulsory participation of the queen's Ashtaks at each succession.
The Queen and chancellor held a decisive vote in the election of the Kagan, performed in accordance with the norms of the "brotherly family". The Queen tribe Ashtak represented lands and people of the state. The bearers of the title Ulug had a position of "chancellor", "vizier", "state elder" in the later times too, like in the archaic text of the "Turkmen’s Family Tree" (17th century), the "ruler of the state" was Il Ulugy, or the Ulug Beg of the Timurids. In the old Usun state, the second man after the supreme ruler was called chancellor (Ch. syan), the combination Da lu "Great Lu" is a Chinese translation of the Turkic Ulug.
In the old Usun state a son could not inherit from his father. When Hunmo ostensibly "out of pity for the dying successor to the throne" agreed to transfer this post to his son, it caused a fury of the Great Ulug, his relatives, and people, who took to arms. The arbitrary decision of the supreme ruler to institute a new principle of inheriting the throne by the line "father - son", bypassing the queen (maternal) Ulug tribe did not gain support and was rejected at that time.
Zhetysu is one of the richest and most studied centers of the Kurgan tradition, spanning from 3,050 BC to recent times. This includes dozens of studied Usun and Chuban burials. Archeological finds include plenty of ceramics, gold, bronze mirrors, wooden boxes, silk, pots with charred grain, and millstones, evidencing affluent lifestile and complex pastoral-agricultural economy. Of especial note are numerous glazed flasks, an altar with 25 winged snow leopards, and the Kargala diadem, dated 2nd century BCE. Timber log burial chambers in the kurgans show that the Zhetysu people had winter log houses. Most kurgans are 6–20 m in diameter and 0.5-1.5 m height, dirt and stone filled. Typical burial chambers are earthen with a catacomb without wooden cover. Kurgan burials dated by the 1st century BCE to the 1st century CE include Utegen, Taigak, Karlak, Altyn-Emel, and 2nd-3rd century CE include Kapchagai, Chupak-Didj, Gur-Kara, etc.,. Numerous archeological artifacts are now in the Hermitage Museum.
For some time it was an accepted consensus that the Wusun spoke a Turkic language. In 1896, after examining a mass of historical-ethnographical material, the outstanding historian and Türkic ethnographer N.A. Aristov posited that the ancient Usun were Türkic-speakers, and erroneously identified them as a western branch of the Enisei Kirgizes. In 1902 Aristov's theory was confirmed by a Japanese Turkologist K.Shiratori, who deciphered a number of Usun titles and names recorded in the Chinese dynastic history, the Hanshu. Other Sinologists – F. Hirt, O. Franke, J. Marquart, Yu. Zuev and in part P. Pelliot – concurred with this conclusion. All Usun words that could be deciphered by now seemed to have obviously Turkic character. This threw in doubt theretofore popular theory on the Turkification of the Usuns at the end of the 1st century BC by the Chuban.
The Ancient Chinese transmitted the title of the leader of the Usun tribal union by means of the hieroglyphs kunmo, kunmi, and kunbyan. An equivalent of the term Kunmo (Kün-bag, "Kün Prince") was the title of Ushan-mu (Ushin-Bag, "Usun Prince") assumed in 53 BC by the separatist Usun prince, Utszutu (Ujutu). K.Siratori determined that the term kunmo was a Chinese transmission of the title Khan-beg (or Khan-biy). J.Marquart offered a form Kun-beg. This confirmed with P.Pelliot's study of dialectal specifics of the language of the ancient Usuns. With the help of B.Karlgren's works and L.Bazen research in the Tungusic Xianbei language the reading: Kun-mo = Kün-bag is decoded as Prince of Kün (people, tribe). Several scholars, including the Chinese student Han Rulin and also G. Vambery, A. Scherbak, P. Budberg, L. Bazin and V.P. Yudin, noted that the Usun king's name Fu-li, as reported in Chinese sources and translated as "wolf", resembles the Proto-Turkic böri = 'wolf'.
This theory is, however, contradicted by several leading Turkologists, including Peter B. Golden and Carter Vaughn Findley, who point out that none of the specified words are actually Turkic in origin. Findley notes that the term böri is more likely derived from one of the Indo-European Iranian languages of Central Asia, while the title beg is certainly derived from the Sogdian baga ("lord"), a cognate of Middle Persian baγ (as used by the rulers of the Sassanid Empire), as well as Sanskrit bhaga and Russian bog.
It is evident from Chinese sources that the Sai (Saka) and Yuezhi (Tokharians) were among the people of the Usun state Zhetysu, Most likely the Usun formed a multi-lingual confederation of nomadic steppe tribes, very similar to other steppe confederacies such as the Chuban and the Scythians.
The Usun-Wusun problem has attracted extensive attention from historians and Sinologists. Major contributions to linguistic, historical, and ethnological studies have been made by the historians and ethnographers Aristov and Bartold; the historians and linguists Altheim, Bacot, Bailey, Chavannes, Harmatta, Maenchen-Helfen; Sinologists Bazen, Franke, Haloun, Hamilton, Hirth, Marquart, Pelliot, Pulleyblank, Shiratori, Zuev; ethnologists Levi-Stros, Kosven.
G. Haloun, and later Η.W. Bailey, Otto Maenchen-Helfen, J. Harmatta, F. Altheim and others, objected to the theory identifying the Usun with the Asii. The present consensus is that such an identification is no longer tenable. The works of these researchers separated the question about the ancient Usuns from the Alano-Tocharian problems of Eastern Iranism.
- W.W. Bartold, Four studies in history of Central Asia, Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1962.
- S. Kudayberdy-Uly, Family tree of Türks, Kyrgyz, Kazakhs and their Khan dynasties, Alma-Ata, Dastan, 1990 (In Russian) 
- M. Tynyshbaev, 'The Uysyn', in Materials on the history of the Kazakh people, Tashkent 1925 (In Russian).
- Yu.A. Zuev, Ethnic History of the Usuns, Works of the Academy of Sciences of the Kazakh SSR, History, Archeology And Ethnography Institute, Alma-Ata, Vol. 8, 1960 (In Russian).
- Mukanov M.S., "Ethnic territory of Kazakhs in 18 - beginning of 20th century", Almaty, 1991, Муканов М. С. "Этническая территория казахов в 18 – нач. 20 вв. Алма-Ата, 1991 (In Russian)
- Zuev Yu.A. "Ethnic History Of Usuns", p. 14
- Bartold W.W., "Four studies in history of Central Asia", p.80
- P.Pelliot et L.Ηambis, "Histoire des compagnes de Gengizkhan", vol. 1, Leiden, 1951, p. 72
- Yu. A. Zuev "Ethnic History of Usuns", pp.13-14, note 54: "Shiji, ch. 110, p. 2 a; Tun dian, ch. 189, p. 3 a; Vensian tunkao, ch. 333, p. 3b-4a; A.N. Bernshtam, "Sketch of Huns history", p. 219".
- L.N. Gumilev, "History of the Hun People", Moscow, 'Science', Ch.12, http://gumilevica.kulichki.net/HPH/hph12.htm (In Russian)
- Tsilyan (Qilian/Kilian etc.) mountains is Richtgofen ridge in Nanshan mountains
- Zuev Yu.A. "Ethnic History Of Usuns", pp.7-19
- Gumilev L.N., "History of Hun People", Moscow, 'Science', Ch.12, http://gumilevica.kulichki.net/HPH/hph12.htm (In Russian)
- Zuev Yu.A. "Ethnic History Of Usuns", p. 18
- Tynyshbaev M., "Uysyns"
- Gumilev L.N., "History of Hun People", Moscow, 'Science', Ch.15, http://gumilevica.kulichki.net/HPH/hph15.htm (In Russian)
- Hans J. Van de Ven. "Warfare in Chinese History", Brill Academic Publishers, 2000, Page 118, ISBN 978-90-04-11774-7
- Ilkhamov Alisher et al., "Ethnic atlas of Uzbekistan", Uzbekistan, "Open Society foundation", 2002, p. 176, ISBN 978-5-86280-010-4 (In Russian)
- Isin A., "Kazakh khanate and Nogai Horde in the second half of the 15th - 16th centuries", Semipalatinsk, Tengri, 2002, p. 22, ISBN 978-9965-492-29-7
- Yu. Zuev, "Early Türks: Sketches of history and ideology", Almaty, Daik-Press, 2002, p. 10, ISBN 9985-4-4152-9
- Zuev Yu.A., "Horse Tamgas from Vassal Princedoms (Translation of Chinese composition "Tanghuyao" of 8-10th centuries)", Kazakh SSR Academy of Sciences, Alma-Ata, I960, p. 132 (In Russian)
- Zuev Yu.A. "Ethnic History Of Usuns", p. 33-34
- Zuev Yu.A. "Ethnic History Of Usuns", p. 37
- Voevodsky M.V., Gryaznov M.P., "Usun graves in the territory of Kirgiz SSR (history of Usuns)", VDI, 1938, No 3
- К. Siratori, "Uber die Wu-sun Stamm in Zentral Asien", Keleti Szemle, 2-3, Budapest, 1902, p. 118.
- J. Marquart, "Ueber das Volkstum der Komanen", Berlin, 1914, p. 44, 45, 69.
- P. Pelliot, "A propos des Comans", Journal Asiatique, April–June, 1920, p. 138.
- В. Karlgren, "Analytic dictionary of Chinese and Sino-Japanese" P., 1923, No 466
- L. Bazin, "Recherches sur les parlers T'o-ba", "T'oung Pao", vol. 39 (1950), Bk. 4-5, p. 232
- Zuev, Yu.A. (2002) Early Türks: Essays on history and ideology, p. 35
- Peter B. Golden, An Introduction to the History of the Turkic Peoples, O. Harrassowitz, 1992, p. 121-122
- Carter Vaughn Findley, The Turks in World History, Oxford University Press, 2005, p. 39
- Carter Vaughn Findley, Turks in World History, Oxford University Press, 2005, p. 45: "Many elements of Non-Turkic origin also became part of Türk statecraft [...] for example, as in the case of khatun [...] and beg [...] both terms being of Sogdian origin and ever since in common use in Turkish."
- Peter Jackson, "Beg", in Encyclopaedia Iranica, Columbia University, Online ed.[dead link]
- Hulsewé, A. F. P. and Loewe, M. A. N. 1979. China in Central Asia: The Early Stage 125 BC – AD 23: an annotated translation of chapters 61 and 96 of the History of the Former Han Dynasty. Leiden: E. J. Brill, p. 145
- Zuev Yu.A. "Ethnic History Of Usuns", p. 6