Back to category Published: 19 june 2021 Author: Галина

National Crafts in Kazakhstan


Kazakhstan boasts a rich cultural heritage that encompasses a variety of unique folk crafts that have evolved over thousands of years. Archaeological excavations have revealed that the country's handicrafts date back to the Bronze Age, and the artifacts discovered provide compelling evidence of the extensive development of crafts during this era. The diverse range of items discovered during excavations includes exquisite jewelry made from precious metals like gold, silver, and copper, weapons, household utensils, ceramics adorned with intricate patterns, and intricately carved items made from bone and horns.

By studying these archaeological finds and conducting further research, we can uncover the fascinating story behind the evolution of Kazakh folk crafts. From the early days of civilization to the present day, these crafts have been passed down through generations, and they continue to be an integral part of Kazakhstan's cultural identity.

Kazakh Folk Crafts

Kazakh folk crafts are deeply rooted in the nomadic culture of the Kazakh tribes. The nomadic way of life was harsh and demanding, and as a result, the nomads had to rely on their ingenuity and resourcefulness to create everything they needed from the materials they had at hand.

The primary occupation of the Kazakh nomads was cattle breeding and hunting, which meant that materials obtained from animals, such as leather, wool, bones, and horns, were used extensively in their crafts. This gave rise to a variety of traditional crafts such as felting and felt making, leather dressing, and the production of leather and felt clothes and carpets. Skilled craftsmen also used bones and horns to create intricate jewelry and household items. The art of bone carving was highly developed during this period, and craftsmen created a wide range of items such as figurines, thin plates with intricate patterns and drawings, which were often inlaid with furniture.


Livestock leather and animal fur were used to create a wide range of household items, including winter clothing, military armor, horse harnesses, and water vessels. Leather boots, in particular, were a popular item of clothing for the nomads and were worn throughout the year. These leather products were often decorated with intricate embossing, which was highly valued not only among the Kazakh people but also among neighboring nations.

Felt making is one of the oldest and most significant Kazakh crafts. Thick felt, known as koshma, was used to cover yurts, the traditional portable dwellings of the Kazakh people, while thin felt was used to create a variety of clothing items, including chapans (coats worn over clothes), dressing gowns, and hats. Felt also served as the foundation for the tekemet carpet, which was used as flooring in the yurt, and the beautiful tuskiiz carpets, which were hung on the yurt's inner walls as decoration. Along with felt, the Kazakh people also developed expertise in carpet weaving using wool, as well as creating rugs from thin strips of fabric known as korpe.

Woodworking was equally important to the nomads, who crafted a wide range of items from this material, including dishes, furniture, parts for saddles, handles for working tools, lockers, and chests. These wooden items were often adorned with intricate ornamental carvings. The construction of yurts was a significant aspect of wooden crafts, with artisans specializing in creating the various components of the yurt frame, such as shanyrak (upper domed part of the yurt), uyk (poles), and kerege (lattice walls).

The yurt was a critical component of the nomadic lifestyle, as the people frequently moved from place to place. The yurt needed to be lightweight and easy to dismantle, while also providing sufficient warmth to withstand the harsh winter climate with its snowstorms. The yurt's wooden frame was covered with a thick layer of felt, which provided excellent insulation against the cold. While many nomads had the skills to build their own yurts, they often ordered the yurt's carcass from skilled artisans.

Another Kazakh folk craft associated with wood is the manufacture of musical instruments. Instruments such as the dombra, kobyz, and sybyzgy were used in ancient times to brighten up the harsh everyday life of nomads and were obligatory attributes of holidays. Today, these instruments are still an important part of orchestras that play folk music.

Although the Kazakhs knew how to smelt metal and make tools, dishes, and weapons from it back in the Bronze Age, metals were a less common material for Kazakh artisans. However, Kazakhstan is still rich in various ores, including noble metals such as gold and silver. Many deposits of ore still exist on the sites of ancient settlements, where iron, silver, and copper were smelted, and many items were made of copper.

Inside a yurt

Blacksmithing was an important skill for nomads as they constantly needed horseshoes, stirrups, harness parts, and harnesses for horses, as well as knives, weapons, and other tools. However, blacksmithing required a more sedentary lifestyle from the artisan, so forges were mainly built and worked in settlements and cities. Nomads often bought finished metal products from sedentary blacksmiths rather than making them themselves. Blacksmithing and jewelry craft were developed in cities such as Sygnak, Otrar, Taraz, Turkistan, and others.

Kazakh jewelers were skilled in many techniques, including forging, chasing, and stamping. The main material used for decoration was silver, with gold being used less frequently. Silver was used to create various items such as rings, bracelets, earrings, pendants, as well as clothing details like buckles and buttons. In addition, silver was used to inlay weapons, furniture, clothes, and other household items.

Pottery making also thrived in the same cities and settlements. Kazakh potters created a variety of items, including dishes, ceramic tiles, jewelry, and even musical instruments such as the sazsirnay and flute. Pottery was often decorated with traditional patterns and designs, and pottery rows were a common sight at fairs and bazaars.

Modern Crafts

In modern times, the works of folk artisans are seldom used as household items or for their intended purposes. Instead, they are mostly produced as high-quality souvenirs in limited quantities. These souvenirs can be purchased in many places, including dedicated departments in large shopping centers. Specialized fairs and festivals celebrating ancient crafts are also frequently held, featuring various workshops where visitors can learn to create traditional items themselves.

Where can I see Kazakh traditional crafts?

Ykylas Museum of Folk Musical Instruments in Almaty. There, you can see over 400 Kazakh folk musical instruments. The museum is located in a historic building – the former House of Officers, built in 1908.

Ethnographic Hall at the Central Museum of Kazakhstan, Almaty. The museum showcases works of artisans, both ancient and modern.

Hall of Folk Crafts in the Museum of Almaty.

Kasteyev Museum of Arts in Almaty. There is a permanent exhibition of applied arts.

Qazaq-Oner Center with two branches in Almaty. This is a training, industrial, trade, cultural, historical, and entertainment center where you can buy products from Kazakh artisans and learn how to make them yourself.

If you're interested in purchasing authentic handicrafts made by Kazakh artisans, you're in luck – many souvenir shops offer a range of locally-made products. These handicrafts hold great cultural and historical significance, making them an excellent way to take a piece of Kazakh culture home with you. For a particularly memorable shopping experience, head to the pedestrian section of Zhibek Zholy Avenue in Almaty, also known as Arbat. This popular spot is beloved by painters, artists, and craftsmen, and is a great place to find unique and high-quality souvenirs.

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