This article deals with the promotion of the radical cause that Kazakh community should change from a nomadic society to a sedentary one, by early modern Kazakh intellectuals as a condition to the very survival of the Kazakh people. They defended this position by arguing that the true nature of Kazakh society is based on progress, with sedentarisation being the next step in this progress—with the goal of saving remaining pasturelands from further Russian settlement. The traditional leaders of the Kazakhs, who advocated nomadic life, were presented as enemies of the nation. Retrospective chapters on Kazakh nomadism and Russian land colonisation are followed by paragraphs on the struggle for the leadership of the community between, on the first hand, traditional aqyns (travelling bards) advocating nomadic life but delegitimizing the traditional leaders of the Kazakh community, seen as traitors, and on the other hand an early group of intelligentsia educated in Russian and Tatar schools in order to help Russians to administer Kazakh land. Through enlightenment, however, these early intellectuals (Valikhanov, Altynsaryn, Qunanbaev) saw that the Kazakhs could become equal to their Russian oppressors. By the beginning of the twentieth century a second generation of Kazakh intellectuals (Bokeikhanov, Dulatov, Baitursunov) became more vocal in their criticism of the Russian administration’s land policy. They also articulated the idea that the Kazakhs are a distinct nation, and are therefore entitled to certain rights. Becoming much more familiar with the Russian and other national intelligentsias, they incorporated the ideas of these groups into their own discourse.