The Kazak of Mongolia
The Kazak developed a distinct ethnic identity in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries. In the nineteenth century, the Russians acquired Central Asia through a steady process of annexation. They eventually claimed the entire territory of Kazakstan. About half of the Kazak population was killed during the Russian Civil War of the 1920's and 1930's. During this time, many fled to China and Mongolia.
The Kazak who now live in Mongolia make up the largest non-Mongolian ethnic group in the country. However, at the present time, their number is decreasing since many are emigrating back to their homeland, Kazakstan.
What are their lives like?
Like the Mongols, the Kazak are stockbreeders. Their livestock includes sheep, goats, and some cattle. Many also have horses, but only for prestige. To the Kazak, horses represent the key to freedom. Even their economy and wealth are based on the number of horses they own. When a young couple marries, the "bride price" is often paid in horses. This custom is reflected in the words of a favorite quotation which says, "A beautiful maiden is worth 80 fine horses."
The Kazak usually live as "extended families." These include the parents, the married sons and their families, and the remaining unmarried children. In previous times, polygyny (having more than one wife) was practiced, but only by men who could afford it or by men whose first wife was childless. Today, marriages are generally monogamous.
The Kazak have Mongolian features, black hair, rough complexions, and medium frames. They are generally short-tempered and find it easy to move on in difficult times. Their clothing is made from felt and sheepskins.
Because of the harshness of the climate, the diet of the Kazak changes considerably throughout the year. In the winter they consume fat and meat, and during the summer months, dairy products are eaten. A favorite drink, called kumiss, is a wine made from fermented mare's milk.
In the Kazak province of Bayan-Ölgiy, Kazaki is the primary language spoken. It is used both in grammar schools and in local administrative offices. Halh Mongolian and Russian are also taught as second and third languages in Kazak schools.
What are their beliefs?
Essentially, the Kazak are Islamic animists and are still engaging in ancestor worship and other such practices. ("Animism" is the belief that non-human objects have spirits. "Ancestor worship" involves praying and offering sacrifices to deceased ancestors.) They also consult shamans (priests who cure the sick by magic, communicate with the spirits, and control events) for both religious and political reasons.
What are their needs?
Latest estimates from the World Evangelization Research Center.
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Bethany World Prayer Center
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