A thousand years before the Christian era, the nomadic Skythian-
Saka civilization prospered on the Central Asian steppes. Many
of their cultural monuments have survived till present days. The
most impressive are tools and things of everyday life made in gold
and bronze in the “wild animals style” extracted from burial
mounds in different regions of Kazakhstan. The royal tomb of the
Golden Warrior Prince” of the Saka civilization, found in the
ancient town of Issyk close to Almaty, is famous for its integrity,
beauty, elegance and craftsmanship. The motifs of this cultural
treasure have become the basis of the modern Monument of
Independence erected in Almaty in 1990s.

In later centuries, the steppes were home to a powerful state
formed by the Huns. Their empire greatly influenced the
geopolitical map of that time. The Great Roman Empire in Europe
eventually fell from the blows of the Attila the Hun’s daring warriors.

Later, the Huns were replaced on the steppes by Turkic tribes.
They founded several large states known as “kaganats” stretching
from the Yellow Sea in the East to the Black Sea in the West.
These states were distinguished by a culture progressive for that
time. They were based not only on a nomadic economy but also
on an oasis urban culture with rich trade and handicraft traditions.
During this time, cities and caravanserais were founded in the
oases of Central Asia, the territory of South Kazakhstan and
Central Asia. They stood along the famous trade route known
as the Great Silk Road which connecting Europe and China.
Other trade routes were also important including the route along
the Syr Dariya River to the Aral Sea and the South Urals as well
the so called “Sable Road” from South Western regions of Siberia through Central Kazakhstan and the Altai region. It was through trade on the “Sable Road” that the Middle East and Europe were supplied with expensive furs. Major cities and trade centers founded on these routes included Otrar (Farab), Taraz, Kulan, Yassy (Turkestan ), Sauran, and Balasagun.

The Great Silk Road not only stimulated
the development of trade, it also became
a conduit for progressive scientific and
cultural ideas. For example, the great
philosopher Al-Farabi (870-950) was greatly
influenced by the culture of the trade routes.
Born in the Farab district, Al-Farabi was
dubbed in the East “the Second Teacher”
after Aristotle for his profound researches in
philosophy, astronomy, musical theory and
mathematics. The outstanding scholar of
Turkic philology Mahmud Kashgari lived
here in the 11th century. He created the
three-volume “Dictionary of Turkic Dialects”
which summed up Turkic folklore and
literature heritages.

In the 11th Century, Yusup Balasaguni of
the town of Balasagun, a famous poet and
philosopher, wrote “Kutaglu Bilig” (“A
Knowledge that Brings Happiness”) which
is recognized as having played an important
role in the development of modern social,
political and ethical conceptions. The Sufi
poet Hodja Ahmet Yassaui, who lived in the
12th century, wrote a collection of poetic
thoughts “Divan-i-Khikmet” (“Book of Wisdom”).
He is famous throughout the Muslim world.

Part of the cultural legacy of that period is the elegant urban architecture. Examples such as the mausoleums of Arystan Baba, of the great Sufi Hodja Akhmet Yassaui in Turkestan
and Aisha Bibi in Taraz are among the
best preserved. Apart from this, the most
ancient nomads of the region invented
the “yurt”, a dome-shaped easily
dismantled and portable house made
from wood and felt, ideal for their
nomadic life and beliefs.