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Ancient Otrar always attracted attention because of a favourable strategic situation. It was located at the cross of the caravan ways, which existed long before. The city was connected with Taraz, China, Povolzhie and Caucasus by trading links. The way, lying through the Betpak-Dala desert, led caravans to Siberia. Otrar was on the right bank of the Arys River and according to some sources occupied 200 hectares. Thanks to it far ancestors of Kazakh began trading and having international relations. The city population grew rice, wheat, millet; occupied themselves in gardening and vine-growing; sowed cotton. Well-developed and thought over system of watering led to flourishing. As for fortification the city was well protected, it could stand long enemy’s attacks. That was why it was the target for everybody, as it meant getting power over all cities in the area.
In the middle of the Xi century the region was seized by Kypchaks. They built and enlarged Otrar, added new defence. By the time of Chingis Khan attacks the city belonged to Khorezm. At that time the ruling dynasty was the Kypchaks. Worried by the mongols’ victories khorezmhah Mukhammed sent his ambassadors to Mongolia, Chingis Khan also sent his ambassadors with the suggestions of peace. After the ambassadors the Mongols sent a trade caravan, which stopped in Otrar. The city governor – Kaiyr Khan – suspected the merchants of spying, murdered them and captured their caravan. Infuriated Chingis Khan demanded to give him Kaiyar Khan. But khorezmshah Mukhammed refused. Moreover, he ordered to kill the ambassadors, too. The khorezmshah did so because of his mother’s pressure – Terken-khatun – who was from the Kypchak ruling clan. She possessed great power and in fact ruled the state. The city governor – Kaiyr Khan was her nephew. Thus being afraid of Kypchak nobility’s anger khorezmshah refused to give up Kaiyr Khan to the Mongols.
The war of 1219 began with the surrounding Otrar. It lasted 5 months. Kaiyr Khan knew that he would not be let free and so defeated himselfdesperately. But the Mongols learned how to seize cities by that time. Moreover the khorezmshah divided his army into several parts. Thus the army was sure to be defeated and Otrar lost help. The treachery of one of the commanders quickened the fall of the city. Coming out of the gates at night he surrendered to the Mongols together with his people. Through these gates Chingis Khan entered the city. Part of the citizens and left troops continued to fight. Only a month later the Mongols took the fortress. Everybody was killed, the citadel was ruined. Kaiyr Khan was murdered, Otrar fell. After in the Mongols began to control the whole Kazakhstan territory and Middle Asia.
Only in 50 years Otrar rose back from the ruins. But the city hah had fate. It was under the power of “roaming Uzbeks”, rules of the Golden Horde. Later it was taken by Timur. Otrar was the centre of struggles between Kazakh khan and the descendants of Abulkhair.
In the XVI century Kazakh khanate became a powerful force in the region. The battles with Dzhungarleaders followed. The city struggled for a year and a half. Only when the enemy dug a canal from the Chirchik River and flooded Otrar, it surrended. Those who escaped were either murdered or taken prisoners.
The last mentions of Otrar as a small settlement with only 40 families date back to the middle of the XVIII century.