Several of my students, along with some adults, have been asking me questions about Kazakhstan's history. With the caveat that I am not an expert, I will use the Wild Apple Grove share some things that I learned on my trip.
There will be a lot of gaps here, so I would love for my Kazakhstani readers--and anyone else who is knowledgeable--to add to these posts and correct any mistakes by posting comments below.
In Independence Square in Almaty, there stands a series of ten bronze bas-relief panels that tell about the history of Kazakhstan. I will use these panels to frame each of my posts.
The first panel depicts the famous Scythian queen Tomyris receiving the submission of the Persians after defeating Cyrus the Great on the battlefield. According to legend, she asked for Cyrus's head upon her army's victory. When she received it, the legend states that she dunked his head in a bowl of blood, saying "I told you I would give you your fill of blood--now drink it!"
Who were the Scythians? They were among the first great horse-riding pastoral nomadic cultures who lived in the vast Eurasian steppes. They seem to have inhabited the steppes of Kazakhstan, Siberia, and Eastern Europe starting around 1500 B.C. We know some things about the Scythians from the Greek historian Herodotus, who wrote about their wars with the Persians.
Kazakhstan's famous "Golden Man" (Issyk kurgan) was created between 400-200 B.C., during the Scythian period Kazakhstan. The Golden Man was unearthed near Almaty in 1969 and dates to the 3rd or 2nd century B.C. Today he is a symbol of independent Kazakhstan, and there is an impressive statue of him in Independence Square in Almaty.
Tomorrow I'll talk about the successors to the Scythians. Here's a sneak peak: