Russian conquest of Central Asia

Gaining control of the Kazakh Steppe
Ural Cossacks in skirmish with Kazakhs
1718 Jan 1 - 1847

Gaining control of the Kazakh Steppe


Since the Kazakhs were nomads they could not be conquered in the normal sense. Instead Russian control slowly increased.

Although the Sunni Muslim Kazakhs had numerous settlements near the Kazakh-Russian border, and although they conducted frequent raids on Russian territory, the Tsardom of Russia only initiated contact with them in 1692 when Peter I met with Tauke Muhammad Khan. The Russians slowly began building trading posts along the Kazakh-Russian border over the next 20 years, gradually encroaching into Kazakh territory and displacing the locals.

Interactions intensified in 1718 during the reign of Kazakh ruler Abu'l-Khair Muhammed Khan, who initially requested the Russians to provide the Kazakh Khanate protection from the rising Dzungar Khanate to the east. Abu'l-Khair's son, Nur Ali Khan broke the alliance in 1752 and decided to wage war on Russia, while taking the help of the famous Kazakh commander Nasrullah Nauryzbai Bahadur. The rebellion against Russian encroachment went largely in vain, as the Kazakh troops were defeated on the battlefield numerous times. Nur Ali Khan then agreed to re-join Russian protection with his division of the khanate, the Junior jüz, being autonomous.

By 1781, Abu'l-Mansur Khan, who ruled the Middle jüz division of the Kazakh Khanate, also entered the sphere of Russian influence and protection. Like his predecessor Abu'l-Khair, Abu'l-Mansur also sought better protection against the Qing. He united all three of the Kazakh jüzes and helped them all gain protection under the Russian Empire. During this time, Abu'l-Mansur also made Nasrullah Nauryzbai Bahadur one of his three standard-bearers in the Kazakh army. These moves allowed the Russians to penetrate further into the Central Asian heartland and interact with other Central Asian states.