(also Dzhetysu; from Kazakh zheti [“seven”] and su [“water”]), the southeastern part of the Kazakh SSR, located between Lake Balkhash in the north, lakes Sasykol’ and Alakol’ in the northeast, the Dzungarian Alatau in the southeast, and the northern Tien-Shan mountain system in the south. Semirech’e derives its name from its seven main rivers: the Ili, Karatal, Bien, Aksu, Lepsa, Baskan, and Sarkand rivers. The flat northwestern and northern parts of Semirech’e have sandy deserts with some solonchak soils. There are meadows and tugai landscapes (gallery forests) along the rivers. The foothills in the southeast have hardwood forests to an elevation of 2,000 m and spruce forests and Alpine meadows at higher elevations.
In historical writings “Semirech’e” was often used in reference to a much larger region that included the Chu river valley. Semirech’e was inhabited by several ancient civilizations of Middle Asia, for example, the Saka tribes (first millennium B.C) and Usun tribes (second century B.C through the fifth century A.D.). The West Turkic Kaganate appeared in Semirech’e in the mid-sixth century, followed in the eighth century by the Tur-gäsh state (to 758) and the Karluq state (766–940). The region was annexed by the Karakhanid state in the late tenth century and by the Karakitai state in the 1130’s. It was conquered by the Mongol-Tatars in the early 13th century. The Kazakh Greater Horde (or Uly Zhus) appeared in Semirech’e in the 16th century.
In the mid-19th century Semirech’e was incorporated into Russia. It was given the name Semirech’e Oblast in 1867 and was renamed Dzhetysu Oblast in 1922. In 1924–25, as a result of the national-state demarcation of the Soviet republics of Middle Asia, part of Semirech’e was incorported into the Kirghiz (Kazakh) ASSR and part into the Kara-Kirghiz (Kirghiz) Autonomous Oblast.