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Kazakh

Kazakh
The Kazakhs are the descendants of Turkic, Mongolic and Indo-Iranian tribes and Huns that populated the territory between Siberia and the Black Sea. They are a semi-nomadic people and have roamed the mountains and valleys of western Mongolia with their herds since the 19th century.
“Fine horses and fierce eagles are the wings of the Kazakh”
The ancient art of eagle hunting is one of many traditions and skills that the Kazakhs have, in recent decades, been able to hold on to. They rely on their clan and herds, believing in pre-Islamic cults of the sky, the ancestors, fire and the supernatural forces of good and evil spirits. 
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The Kazakhs live mainly in the 
province of Bayan-Ölgii,
meaning ‘Rich Cradle’

- Jimmy Nelson

Kazakh eagle hunting

March 2011

Among many Kazakh traditions is the ancient art of eagle hunting.
For more than two centuries, Kazakh men have hunted on horseback
with trained golden eagles. Across mountains and steppes, a large
variety of animals – including rabbits, marmots, foxes and even wolves –
are hunted for their fur, an integral part of traditional Kazakh clothing.

The skill of training a golden eagle is passed on through generations.
Eagle hunters wear boots, black coats and fox-fur hats called loovuuz.

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- Jimmy Nelson

Ulaankhus, Bayan Oglii

March 2011

Mongolia is subject to occasional harsh climatic conditions. Mongolia is high, cold, and windy. It has an extreme continental climate with long, cold winters and short summers, during which most of its annual precipitation falls. The country averages 257 cloudless days a year, and it is usually
at the center of a region of high atmospheric pressure. 
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"These were people that didn't understand what I wanted, but full well what I needed."

- Jimmy Nelson

Khan la Khan

March 2011

Kazakhs have a tradition of oral history. They lean heavily on their clan
and are supposed to remember at least seven generations of their
ancestors names in order ‘not to forget where we come from’.

In recent decades, the Mongolian Kazakhs have been able to hold on
to their traditions and skills much more than their brothers in
neighbouring Kazakhstan.

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"We had to wait two days for the right conditions for this image I spent years dreaming of making."

- Jimmy Nelson

Sunset in Altantsogst, Bayan Olgii

March 2011

They wear beads and talismans to protect themselves from evil. Shamanic
beliefs have been widely preserved among the Kazakhs, as well as belief
in the strength of the bearers of this cult - the shamans, which the Kazakhs
call bakhsy.

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"As with all relationships in life, the key to profoundly connecting with someone is trust."

- Jimmy Nelson

Ulaankhus, Bayan Olgii

March 2011

Up until 1930, the nomads could freely move between Kazakhstan,
Mongolia and the Chinese province of Xinjiang. However, after the
founding of the Mongolian People’s Republic in 1924, many of them
gave up their semi-nomadic lifestyle and began settling down in the
western Mongolian highlands.

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- Jimmy Nelson

Khairatkhan, the eagle hunter

March 2011

The mid-October Golden Eagle Festival signals the opening of the hunting
season. It is a colourful and picturesque event attracting the best hunters
and birds and an important celebration for the community.

The Kazakhs indulge in richly embroidered clothing; women wear bright
headscarves (ah jaulih) and men wear skullcaps (tuhia) or fox-fur hats.
Kazakh culture is quite different from Mongolian culture: even Kazakh
saddles are a different shape.


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- Jimmy Nelson

Altansogts, Bayan Olgii

March 2011

The Kazakhs are a semi-nomadic, pastoral people. Many families move
several times a year with their herds between fixed seasonal 
settlements. Others with smaller herds stay closer to their winter home
during the summer but will nevertheless set up a yurt (kiiz yi, meaning
‘felt house’). The summertime yurt (and to a lesser extent the winter
house) is richly furnished with embroidered, felt and woven textiles.

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"Two woman rubbed and warmed my frozen hands for five minutes, humming softly in the howling winds."

- Jimmy Nelson

Idrish, Khairatkhan, Nurkairath & Bashakhkhan

March 2011

Most Kazakhs in this remote, mountainous region are dependent on
domestic animals for their livelihood. They have roamed the 
mountains and valleys of western Mongolia with their herds since
the 19th century. The area has many peaks, ranging from 3,000 to
4,000 metres. Today the Kazakhs in the province of Bayan-Ölgii
number around 87,000 or about 88.7% of the provincial
population, while across the country they represent around 4%
of the total Mongolian population (about 110,000 people).

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"Shooting with a long lens from a distance, you'll never get that kind of intimacy."

- Jimmy Nelson

Ergalim

March 2011

Many Kazakhs are skilled in the performance of traditional music.
The dombra, a plucked lute with two strings, and the kobyz, a bow
instrument played on the knees, are mentioned in early documents.

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- Jimmy Nelson

Kazakh portrait

March 2011

For hundreds of years, Kazakhs have been herders raising fat-tailed sheep, camels, and horses, relying on these animals for food, clothing and
transportation. Mutton and horse are the preferred meats. 
There is widespread practice of salting and drying meat to preserve it, 
and there is a preference for sour milk, as it is easier to store and therefore 
better suits their nomadic lifestyle.


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- Jimmy Nelson

Altanstogts, Bayan Oglii

March 2011

Mongolia is the world's 19th-largest country. 
The geography of Mongolia is varied, with the Gobi Desert to the south and with cold and mountainous regions to the north and west.
Most of the country is hot in the summer and extremely cold in the winter,
with January averages dropping as low as 30 °C (22 °F).
A vast front of cold, heavy, shallow air comes in from Siberia in winter and
collects in river valleys and low basins causing very cold temperatures while
slopes of mountains are much warmer due to the effects of temperature
inversion.

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- Jimmy Nelson

Man with eagle

March 2011

The Kazakhs of Mongolia are (like their brothers in Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, China and Russia) a Turkic people originating from the northern parts of Central Asia. They are the descendants of Turkic, Mongolic and Indo-Iranian tribes and Huns that populated the
territory between Siberia and the Black Sea.
Kazakhs trace their roots to the 15th century. 

In Mongolia, the Kazakhs form the largest minority and live mainly in the 
westernmost province of Bayan-Ölgii, meaning ‘Rich Cradle’ in Mongolian.

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- Jimmy Nelson

Idrish, Bashkakhan, Khairatatkhan, Nurkairath

March 2011

Islam was brought to the ancestors of the Kazakhs in the 8th century.
Most Kazakhs are Sunni Muslims, who more often than not continue
to believe in pre-Islamic cults of the sky, the ancestors, fire and the
supernatural forces of good and evil spirits, of giants and wood goblins.