Abu'l-Khayr Khan

Abu'l-Khayr Khan (1412–1468) was the leader who united the nomadic Uzbek tribes from which the Kazakh khanate later separated in rebellion under Janybek Khan and Kerei Khan beginning in 1466.

Abu'l-Khayr was born in 1412. He was a descendant of Genghis Khan, through Jöchi's fifth son Shiban, and a bej of the White Horde. At the time of his birth the ulus (tribe) of Siban had divided into separate nomadic groups, one of which was led by Jumaduq Khan. Abu'l-Khayr served in Jumaduq's army, and was taken prisoner when Jumaduq was killed in battle in 1427.

After being released in 1428, Abu'l-Khayr began consolidating various nomadic groups of the old Shaybani ulus in the area around Tyumen and the Tura River. He deposed and killed Kazhy-Mohammed, the Khan of the Khanate of Sibir, after a battle on the Tobol River, after which he was proclaimed Khan of Western Siberia. The next four years were spent strengthening his control throughout the region.

Abu'l-Khayr Khan was assisted in his consolidation by the Manghits, another tribe in the White Horde, and especially by Vaqqāṣ Bej, Edigü's grandson.

In 1430–1431 Abu'l-Khayr, joined by Vaqqāṣ, launched on attack on Khwarezm, occupying the regional capital Urganj. The Uzbeks could not hold the city, however, and retreated in the summer of 1431. Abu'l-Khayr's army pulled back to the steppe, where they defeated two opposing khans near Astrakhan. In 1435–1436 the Uzbek armies attacked Khwarezm again, and several years later they raided Astrakhan. Starting in 1446 Abu'l-Khayr and his forces invaded the Syr Darya region, eventually wresting some lands from Timurid control. The town of Sighnaq became Abu'l-Khayr's new capital, from where he later launched raids into Mawarannahr (Transoxiana).

In 1451 Abu Sa'id requested Abu'l-Khayr Khan's assistant in battle against 'Abdullah. Abu'l-Khayr agreed to support Abu Sa'id, and the two armies marched on Samarkand. 'Abdullah was defeated and killed, after which Abu Sa'id quickly moved his forces into the city and locked the gates, leaving Abu'l-Khayr and the Uzbeks outside. To avoid reprisal, Abu Sa'id presented the Uzbeks with many presents and riches.

Abu'l-Khayr Khan died in 1468 (though some sources say 1469 or 1470). After Abu'l-Khayr Khan's death two separate lines of descent controlled the twin Uzbek states of Mawara al-Nahr and Khwarezm. In the first decade of the 16th century his grandson Muhammad Shaybani finally succeeded in the unification of the Uzbeks and established the short-lived Shaybanid Empire, centered in Samarkand.

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