One of the oldest cities in Kazakhstan and in Transoxania, Taraz celebrated its official 2000 anniversary (recognized by UNESCO) in 2001, dating from a fortress built in the area by a Hun (Ch. Xiongnu, Hsiung-nu, etc) chanyu named Zhizhi and was a site of the Battle of Zhizhi in 36 BCE. The city was first recorded under the name "Talas" in 568 CE by Menander Protector, the medieval city of Talas was a major trade centre along the Silk Road. Talas was later described by Xuanzang, who passed Talas in 629 and later wrote: Traveling westward from the Thousand Springs 140 or 150 li, we come to the city of Daluosi. The city is 8 or 9 li in diameter; and was settled by Hu ("barbarian") merchants from various nations. The products and the climate are about the same as Suyab. The Talas alphabet, a variant of the Turkic "runiform" Orkhon script, is named for the town. Talas secured a place in history by virtue of the Battle of Talas (751 CE), which was fought between forces of the Chinese Tang Dynasty and those of the Arab Abbasid Caliphate. The battle took place somewhere along the Talas River in the Talas valley. One of its indirect outcomes was the introduction of paper to the west, via the Arab capture of Chinese paper makers.
Numerous archaeological finds and monuments in the foothills of Karatau and in Talas-Assin oasis show the antiquity of settlements in the Talas River valley, supporting Taraz' claim to being the most ancient city in Kazakhstan. The history of the city is composed of several historical periods, interrupted by destruction and depopulation. The first reference historically recorded city linked with Taraz and the basis for the claim of 2000 year old history is the fortress of Zhizhi that briefly existed at the site of modern day Taraz in the first century BC. A city known as "Taraz" or "Talas" is then recorded in 568 CE and is known to exist until its destruction in 1209. The third historical period begins with the establishment of Aulie-Ata (later renamed Dzhambul and eventually Taraz again) on the same site and lasts till today.
Discovery of caves and ancient campsites during the investigation of the eastern part of the Talas-Assinsky Oasis, in the Karatau Ranges spur has confirmed Bernshtam's opinion (expressed in 1903) that the Talas Valley was settled before the 1st century BC: "It is doubtless that the continuation of valley's research will give older testimonies of man's stay." Remnants of material culture that were found during excavation of Taraz speak about the lifestyle in this territory to the Neolithic period.
Hanshu, 70 from 1st-century, talk about the fortress constructed on Talas River by Zhizhi Chanyu, a prince of Hun (Ch. Xiongnu, Hsiung-nu, etc). The fortress is believed to have been at the site of modern Taraz.
The opinion was expressed in 1903 by the authors of the book Turkistan that ancient Taraz was situated under modern Taraz. However scarcity of information, inaccuracy of descriptions, and weakness of geography made it impossible to know the location until 1936. Professor Wilhelm Barthold's research established that the location of ancient Taraz was under the Green Bazaar. Further research and archaeological excavations, which were made by an expedition of The USSR Academy of Science in 1938 under the supervision of A. Bernshtam and G. Patsevich to the depth 2-6 meters, made it possible to reconstruct the appearance and cultural – economic importance of ancient Taraz. The latest archaeological data has considerably expanded ideas about Taraz.
The year of Taraz's foundation is generally accepted as 568 A.D., the date of the first written record according to the Greek sources. At that time the Great Silk Road run across Southern Kazakhstan. It played a major role in trade and cultural exchange between China, India, Byzantium, and Persia. Taraz developed as a fortified tradecraft city on the greatest transcontinental route in history. Comparatively gentle climate, fertile soil and rich pastures attracted many stock-breeder and farmers. In the 60-s of the 6th century the territory of the First Turkic Kaganate section included Taraz. The Sogdian merchants, who controlled the Central Asian section of the caravan route, were interested in easier access to Byzantium, and initiated trade negotiations first with the Persians, and then with Byzantium. In response, Byzantium sent ambassadors to the Turkic Kaganate, and in the 568 the embassy led by Zemarchus and Maniach to the Muhan Khan arrived in Taraz at the court of Istemi Yabgu. The Persian ambassador also appeared at the court of the Turkic Kagan at the same time, but Istemi Yabgu allied with Byzantium.
Unfortunately, it is not illustrated in the written sources of that time what Taraz looked like but it is said to have been a big city . The Chinese pilgrim Huan Tsiang, who passed through Taraz in 630 came to the Ta-lo-se having travelled 8 or 9 li. (according to the Chinese measures this equals 576m) in this city alternately. Due to written sources and archaeological investigation it is known from the 1st BC to 5th AD Kangui (Kanglu) tribes lived in the Talas River Valley. Similarity between the excavated materials of Taraz and the Kurgans of the Gynskyi and Usunskyi-Kanguiskyi tribes show the introduction of Turkic language. Mongolian features and elements appear in the settled culture of local mainly European population. According to A. N. Bernshtam's statement it was a period of ethnogenesis for Central Asia's modern Turkic populations Taraz was joined to the Western Turk Khanate. It felt, like other cities of the region, the influence of Sogdian culture.
The research proves, that in Taraz as other cities in Southern Kazakhstan, Turks were the major population in 4th-13th centuries, together with Sarts, Arabs and Persians . Written sources, of Paleo-Anthropological material that was collected in Kurgans of Southern Kazakhstan show the existence of close ties between Tarazand the Kypchaks, Qarluq populations of nearby valleys. As a result of interbreeding struggle at the beginning of 8th century Turk Khanate the Turgish tribe of the Ili River was divided into two branches Yellow and Black. The Black(Kara) Turgish owned the region of the Talas River Valley. In the middle of 7th century Taraz became their capital. In 751 in the Talas river region, upstream from the modern city, Chinese troops, including Kara-Turgish mercenaries confronted the Arabs and Turgish and were demolished. Despite the victory the Arabs retreated. In 766 Kara-Turgish torn by the internecine war, were demolished by Qarluks from the northwest. Later nearly all the tribes of the former Western Turk Khanate were Conquered. Southern Kazakhstan. It had arisen as the result of the development and strengthening of political and economic ties between the largest countries of that epoch such as China, India, Byzantium, Persia and Ancient Russia. It played a major role in trade and cultural exchange between them. Its location promoted Taraz's development as a fortified tradecraft city of the greatest transcontinental route in the history. A comparatively gentle climate, fertile soil and rich pastures attracted many stockbreeder and farmers. In the 60-s of the 6th century the political and economic relationship of the above mentioned largest states of that time involved the territory of the Turk Khanate, which included Taraz. The struggle between Persian and Byzantium for the control above the major trade route forced both sides to look for allies. Byzantium sent ambassadors to the Western Turk Khanate, and Zemarkha Kililyskyi arrived in Taraz in 568. Simultaneously the Persians sent their ambassador to the Turks, but Istemi Khan was on the side of Byzantium.
The research proves, that in Taraz as other cities in Southern Kazakhstan, Turks were the major population in 4th-13th centuries, together with Sarts, Arabs and Persians . Written sources, of Paleo-Anthropological material that was collected in Kurgans of Southern Kazakhstan show the existence of close ties between Tarazand the Kypchaks, Qarluq populations of nearby valleys. As a result of interbreeding struggle at the beginning of 8th century Turk Khanate the Turgish tribe of the Ili River was divided into two branches Yellow and Black. The Black(Kara) Turgish owned the region of the Talas River Valley. In the middle of 7th century Taraz became their capital. In 751 in the Talas river region, upstream from the modern city, Chinese troops, including Kara-Turgish mercenaries confronted the Arabs and Turgish and were demolished. Despite the victory the Arabs retreated. In 766 Kara-Turgish torn by the internecine war, were demolished by Qarluks from the northwest. Later nearly all the tribes of the former Western Turk Khanate were Conquered.
During the first two decades following the Russian Revolution and the Civil War, Aulie-Ata remained a small town. It was re-named Mirzoyan (Russian: "Мирзоян") in 1936, after Levon Mirzoyan (Мирзоян, Левон Исаевич), an ethnic Armenian head of the Communists of Kazakhstan. In 1938, after Mirzoyan lost power, the city was renamed Dzhambul (Russian: "Джамбул", Kazakh: "Жамбыл") after Zhambyl Zhabayev, a Kazakh akyn (folk singer). Starting the in the 1930s, Dzhambul, along with other places in Kazakhstan, became the destination for large numbers of the deported peoples who were subject to internal exile. Millions of Volga Germans, Chechens, Ukrainians, Koreans and other ethnic minorities, along with other marginalized subjects (former kulaks, members of the aristocracy, families of convicted "enemies of the people," etc.) were forced to relocate to Kazakhstan, many of whom settled in Dzhambul. Some were evacuated to Kazakhstan, and to Dzhambul, during WWII from the areas that were, or were feared to come, under German occupation. The city's population continued to grow throughout the 1960s and 1970s in spite of the end of exiles, due to an industrial spurt the city received during that time. As a result, Dzhambul had a highly diverse population composed of multiple ethnic groups, the largest being the Russians, followed by the Kazakhs. Fast-paced industrialization brought many amenities of modern urban living to the city, previously largely unknown, such as typical Soviet apartment blocks as well as condo-style houses, now all supplied with electricity and running water; roads and public transport; several higher education institution; large public parks, department stores, etc.
Although chemical and construction industries made up the core of the city's economy, Dzhambul continued to function as an unofficial trade post with its proximity to the other Central Asian republics and a relatively mobile population. The city was known in the area for its large bazaars with farmers selling agricultural produce from throughout the region.