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Approximate areas occupied by the three Kazakh hordes in the early 20th century; red represents the Greater zhuz, orange represents the Middle zhuz and green represents the Junior zhuz.

A zhuz (Kazakh: жүз jüz [ʒʉz], also translated as "horde" or "hundred") is one of the three main territorial and tribal divisions in the Kypchak Plain area that covers much of the contemporary Kazakhstan, and represents the main tribal division within the ethnic group of the Kazakhs.

  • The Senior zhuz (also Greater zhuz; Kazakh: Ұлы жүз / Ulı jüz) or Uysun horde covers territories of southern and southeastern Kazakhstan, northwestern China (Xinjiang) and parts of Uzbekistan.
  • The Middle zhuz (Kazakh: Орта жүз / Orta jüz) or Argyn horde consists of six tribes, covering central and eastern Kazakhstan
  • The Junior zhuz (also Lesser zhuz, Kazakh: Кіші жүз / Kişi jüz)) or Alshyn horde consists of three tribes, covering western Kazakhstan.


The earliest mention of the Kazakh jüz or hordes dates to the 17th century. Velyaminov-Zernov (1919) believed that the division arose as a result of the capture of the important cities of Tashkent, Yasi, and Sayram in 1598.[1]

Some researchers argued that the jüz in origin corresponded to tribal, military alliances of steppe nomads that emerged around mid-16th century after the disintegration of the Kazakh Khanate. Yuri Zuev[year needed] argued their territorial division comprises three ecological or topographic zones, the Greater zhuz of the southern and southeastern steppe being set apart from the two other zones by Lake Balkhash.

According to Kazakh legends,[citation needed] the three jüz were the territorial inheritances of the three sons of the mythical founder father of the Kazakhs. In Kazakh language, jüz means either "union" or "hundred".[citation needed]

Senior zhuz[edit]

Ethnographic map of the Senior or Uysyn zhuz in Kazakhstan in the early 20th century, following M. S. Mukanov (1991).[2]

Historically, the Senior zhuz (Kazakh: Ұлы жүз, Ulı jüz; Russian: Старший жуз, Starshiy zhuz) inhabited the northern lands of the former Chagatai Ulus of the Mongol Empire, in the Ili River and Chu River basins, in today's South-Eastern Kazakhstan and China's Ili Kazakh Autonomous Prefecture (northern Xinjiang). It was also called Uysun jüz.[citation needed]

The first record of the Greater zhuz dates to 1748, due to a Tatar emissary of the Tsaritsa who had been sent to the steppe to negotiate the submission of Abul Khair Khan in 1732. According to Nikolai Aristov,[citation needed] the estimated population of the Greater zhuz was about 550,000 people in the second half of the 19th century. The territory was conquered by the Kokand Khanate in 1820s, and by the Russian Empire during the 1850s to 1860s.

Kazakhstan's ruling elite, including current president Nursultan Nazarbayev, former First Secretary of the Communist Party of Kazakhstan Dinmukhamed Konayev, as well as famous poet Jambyl Jabayev are representatives of the Greater zhuz.

There have been several attempts to determine the exact names and nature of top level clans throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries. However, different studies created vastly different names and population numbers for the steppe clans. Generally accepted names of the first order Greater zhuz tribes or clans are:[citation needed]

Middle zhuz[edit]

Ethnographic map of the Senior or Uysyn zhuz in Kazakhstan in the early 20th century, following M. S. Mukanov (1991).[2]

The Middle zhuz (Kazakh: Орта жүз, Orta jüz; Russian: Средний жуз, Sredniy zhuz), also known as Argyn zhuz, occupies the eastern lands of the former Golden Horde, in central, northern and eastern Kazakhstan.

Some of Kazakhstan's famous poets and intellectuals were born in the Middle zhuz territories, including Abay Qunanbayuli, Akhmet Baytursinuli, Shokan Walikhanuli and Alikhan Bokeikhanov.

The Middle zhuz consists of the following tribes:

Junior zhuz[edit]

The Junior or Lesser zhuz (Kazakh: Кiшi жүз Kişi jüz; Russian: Младший жуз Mladshiy zhuz), also known as Alshyn zhuz, occupied the lands of the former Nogai Khanate in Western Kazakhstan. It was also called Alshyn jüz.

They originate from the Nogais of the Nogai Horde, which once was placed in Western Kazakhstan, but in the 16th century it was defeated by the Kazakhs and the Russians and Nogais retreated to the Western part of their khanate, to the Kuban River steppes. In the 18th century they endanged inner Russian cities, so the Russian Empire allied the Kalmucks (Kalmyks) to supplant Alshyns back to the Urals. There they formed the Lesser zhuz. During Kazakh-Kalymk struggles, Khiva Khanate annexed Mangyshlak Peninsula for repelling Kalmyk raids and managed it for two centuries before Russian conquest. In the beginning of the 19th century, Kazakhs shifted some to the west, to Astrakhan Governorate, forming Bukey Horde there. As the Kazakh SSR was formed with Bukey Horde as the most remoted its western part,[clarification needed] situated geographically in Europe.

Historical leaders of Kazakh resistance against the Russian Empire associated with the Junior zhuz include Isatay Taymanuly (Kazakh: Исатай Тайманұлы, 1791—1838) and Makhambet Otemisuly (Kazakh: Махамбет Өтемісұлы, 1803/4–1846).

The Junior zhuz consisted of three groups, subdivided into clans:

  • Baiuly (Kazakh: Байұлы)
  • Alimuly (Kazakh: Әлімұлы)
  • Jetyru (Kazakh: Жетіру)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Velyaminov-Zernov, "Russia, Mongolia, China in the 16th, 17th, and early 18th centuries". Vol II. Baddeley (1919, MacMillan, London). Reprint – Burt Franklin, New York. 1963 p. 59.
  2. ^ a b Муканов М. С., Этническая территория казахов в 18 – нач. 20 вв ("Ethnic territory of Kazakhs from the 18th to the beginning of the 20th century"), Almaty, 1991.


  • Svat Soucek, "A History of Inner Asia". Cambridge University Press (2000). ISBN 0-521-65704-0.
  • W. W. Bartold, Four studies in history of Central Asia, Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1962.
  • Ilkhamov Alisher et al., "Ethnic atlas of Uzbekistan", Uzbekistan, "Open Society foundation", 2002, p. 176, ISBN 978-5-86280-010-4 (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 (Russian)
  • S. Qudayberdiuli. "Family tree of Turks, Kirgizes, Kazakhs and their Khan dynasties", Alma-Ata, Dastan, 1990 (Russian)
  • S. Kudayberdy-Uly, Family tree of Türks, Kyrgyz, Kazakhs and their Khan dynasties, Alma-Ata, Dastan, 1990 (Russian)
  • M. Tynyshbaev, 'The Uysyn', in Materials on the history of the Kazakh people, Tashkent 1925 (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. (Russian)
  • А. Т. Толеубаев, Ж. К. Касымбаев, М. К. Койгелдиниев, Е. Т. Калиева, Т. Т. Далаева, перевод с казахского языка С. Бакенова, Ф. Сугирбаева. — История Казахстана. Изд-во «Мектеп», 2006 г. — 240 с ISBN 9965-33-628-8

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