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The Kazak ethnic minority (4)

(People's Daily)

11:13, August 08, 2011

Tribal Life

All Kazaks belonged to definite clans before 1949. They and their area were divided into three hordes (ordas): the Great Horde, Middle Horde and Little Horde -- or the Right, Left and Western branches as the Qing government documents referred to them. The Middle Horde was the most powerful, with the largest number of people and most complete clan lineage. The Kazaks in China mostly belonged to the Great and Middle Hordes.

The clans were formally blood groups of different sizes. The smallest productive organization and nomadic community within the clan was the "Awul," people with the same grandfather or father; sometimes they included people without any blood ties, mostly dependent poor herdsmen from without. So, there was a sharp contrast of wealth in the "Awul" of three, five, a dozen or more families. Owing to wars, migration or other causes, such internal blood relations became very loose.

The ruling group was composed of the nobility, tribal chiefs, herd owners and "Bis." The Bis generally came from a rich herdsman's family, were well-versed in the laws, customs and eloquence, and were generally regarded as qualified mediators. The ethnic group did not have any written law, but each clan had its own common law which protected private property, the privileges of the tribal chiefs, and tribal solidarity and unity. Whenever there were disputes over property, marriage or other matters, the "Bi" mediated and handled them in accordance with the clan law, generally practicing "punishment by nine," i.e., compensation of nine head of animals paid by the loser to the winner of the lawsuit.

The Kazak clan organization was a combination of the feudal system of exploitation and the clan patriarchy. The ruling class plundered the people economically and enjoyed political privileges. The majority of the poor herdsmen were deprived of all rights whatsoever.

【1】 【2】 【3】 【4】 【5】 【6】

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