The Russian word gerb for «emblem» comes from the German word Erbe (legacy) and Polish herb (emblem). It means a distinctive sign composed of different figures and objects, the main significance of which is the expression of the historic traditions of the owner. The most ancient emblem prototypes were the totemic images of animals – the protectors of a tribe or a clan in the primeval society.
The immediate predecessors of the Emblem were the clan and family property signs – flags, borders, the marks of Slavs and tamgas of Turks and Mongolians. Tamga was a tribal emblem with which the stones at the frontiers of the tribal lands were marked, similar to the state emblem placed on the boundary posts nowadays (Olzhas Suleymenov). In the third century B.C. the Shumer states emblem already existed – an eagle with a lion’s head. Some other emblems are well-known too, like the snake of Egypt or the eagle of Persia (later Rome ). The emblem of Byzantium later adopted by Russia was a double-headed eagle. The emblems of the cities, existing till today, appeared in the Middle Ages: the red lily of Florence , the winged lion of Venice , the boat of Paris and the cross and sword of London .
According to heraldry, the images of animals, birds and plants denoted certain qualities. For example: lion – force, courage and generosity; snake – wisdom; bull – fertility of soil; a crow – longevity; an oak – strength and force; an olive tree – peace.
In most Moslem countries, where depicting live creatures was forbidded by religion, ornamental patterns were used for heraldic signs, as for instance, on the city emblem of Samarkand . On the legendary emblem of Timur there were three elliptic rings, that denoted the three parts of the world conquered by him – Asia , Europe and Africa .
The Turkic – distant ancestors of Kazakhs – depicted a wolf’s head. The ancient Turks worshipped the wolf as a totem.
According to a legend on the origin of the Turkic people, an infant who luckily survived the devastating invasion of an enemy tribes was nursed by a she-wolf. Later ten sons were born to their sacred matrimony. They became the first Turks. From the history of Turkic Kaganate, these ten tribes were amalgamated into a single state in 732 A.D. (the Great Inscription of Kulteginmonument).
The basic elements constituting the Emblem of Kazakhstan are shanrak, winged horse and star.
The heart of the Emblem of the Republic of Kazakhstan is the shanrak.
Shanrak (traced back to Sanskrit charka) is Sun-wheel. Similar to swastika which is in fact the dynamic image of the Wheels of Sun rays-spokes motion. Shanrak as a matter of fact is nothing but a steppe clock, reflecting the speed of the Sun’s movement. Shanrak is the dome of yurta, where the only window overlooking the sky is located. By the marks on a shanrak Kazakhs fixed the time of the day. To the Turkic nomad the shanrak signified the same European fundamentals, that is home, hearth, family and clan.
The shanrak on the National Emblem symbolizes the state’s fundamental principle – the family and it is a denotation of Hearth and Integrity of World.
Traditions of Eurasian art, the so-called «animal style» found their reflection in the graphic designs of the National Emblem, in which we find winged horses, tulpars, with big horns.
According to the religious convictions of many Indo-Iranian tribes the horse was the symbol of the Sun. the tribe of Saks Massagets sacrificed the fastest of all animals – the horse – to the fastest of all gods – The Sun.
A deer, a goat, an Asian ram are the ancient ancestors-totems.
In the Ancient East the goat was the masculine stimulant of the Tree of Life fertility. Later, not the animals but only the horns were depicted as their symbols.
Tulpar is a steppe Pegasus that every dzhigit (young man) dreams about, fast as wind, personifying the will to win and loyalty and at the same time aspiration for independence and freedom.
A real tulpar fuses Time and Space in itself. It is a personification of a winged dream, a flight of creative fantasy, a desire never to be satisfied, a striving for the better. It is a figure of immortality on our Emblem called to denote the incessant development and a spiritual wealth of our people.
Every man has his lodestar. The state is bound it have it too. We come across the following information about ancient Kazakh belief in Chokan Valikhanov,s book entitled The Kyrgyz People (the former name for Kazakh in Russian historiography). Belief in the stars has an influence on man’s happiness and destiny. Every star corresponds to the soul of a man on Earth, and when the man dies his star falls to the Earth. When the Kyrgyz sees a falling star they say «My star is higher», thus wishing oneself longevity.
The pentagonal star that tops our Emblem means elevation of thoughts and the inextinguishable viability of our state.