Kirghis, or KIRGHIS - KAISAKI (Cossacks of the Steppes), is the name of a people spread over the immense territory bounded by the Volga, desert of Obshtchei (in 550 N. lat.), the Irish, Chinese Turkestan, AlaTau Mountains, the Sir-Daria, and Aral, and Caspian Seas-a vast tract of land, not unfrequently designated as the "Eastern Steppe," and containing 850.000 English square miles; sterile, stony, and streamless, and covered with rank herbage five feet high. The Kirghis are of Turkish origin, and speak the Uzbek idiom of their race. They have from time immemorial been divided into three branches, called the Great, Middle, and Little Hordes. The first of these wanders in the south-west portion of the Eastern Steppe; the Middle Horde roams over the territory between the Ishim, Irish, Lake Balkhash, and the territory of the Little Horde. The Little Horde (now more numerous than the other two together) ranges over the country bounded by the Ural, Tobol, Siberian Kirghis, and Turkestan. (A small offshoot of them has, since 1801, wandered between the Volga and the Ural river, and is under rule of the governor of Astrachan.) South of Lake Issikul is a wild mountain tribe called the Diko-Kamennja, the only tribe which calls itself Kirghis. They are called by their neighbors Kara or Black Kirghis, and are of Mandshfir stock. Their collective numbers are estimated at upwards of 14 millions of souls, more than half of whom belong to the Little Horde. This people is, with the exception above mentioned, nomadic, and is ruled by sultans or khans. They are restless and predatory, and have well earned for themselves the title of the " Slave-hunters of the Steppes," by seizing upon caravans, appropriating the goods, and selling their captives at the great slavemarkets of Khiva, Bokhara, etc. Their wealth consists of cattle, sheep, horses, and camels. They are of the Moslem faith, in a somewhat corrupt form, and, like the followers of Mohammed, are the sworn enemies of the Mongols. "Fired by hereditary hate," says Dixon (Russia, p. 339 sq.), "these Kirghis bandits look upon every man of Mongolian birth and Buddhistic faith as lawful spoil. They follow him to his pastures, plunder his tent, drive off his herds, and sell him as a slave. But when this lawful prey escapes their hands they raid and rob on more friendly soil, and many of the captives whom they carry to Khiva and Bokhara come from the Persian valleys of Atrek and Meshid. Girls from these valleys fetch a higher price, and Persia has not strength enough to protect her children from their raids." Notwithstanding the strenuous efforts of Ruissia to educate the Kirghis, there are among them at the present time only twelve schools, attended by about 370 children. See Chambers, Cyclopcedia, vol. 5:s.v.; Brockhaus, Real Encyklopadie, vol. 8, s.v. Kirgesen.

Bible concordance for KIR.

See also the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia.

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