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Turkic Khaganate

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Turkic Khaganate

Turkic Khaganate
(Kök) Türk xanlïqï
Göktürk Kağanlığı



The Türk Khaganate (green) in its earliest years.
Capital Ordu Baliq
Languages Old Turkic
Religion Tengrism
Political structure Khaganate
 -  551–553 Bumin Qaghan
 -  553–576 İstemi Yabghu
Legislature Kurultai (Qurultay)
 -  Established 552
 -  Disestablished 744
 -  557-630 18,000,000 km² (6,949,839 sq mi)
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Rouran Khaganate
Western Turkic Khaganate
Oghuz Yabgu State
Uyghur Khaganate
Kimek Khanate
Today part of  Mongolia
History of the Turkic peoples
History of the Turkic peoples
Pre-14th century
  Chuban 160–490
  Wei (Dingling) 388–392
Turkic Khaganate 552–744
  Western Turkic
  Eastern Turkic
Avar Khaganate 564–804
Khazar Khaganate 618–1048
Xueyantuo 628–646
Great Bulgaria 632–668
  Danube Bulgaria
  Volga Bulgaria
Kangar union 659–750
Turgesh Khaganate 699–766
Tatar confederation 8th century–1202
Uyghur Khaganate 744–840
Karluk Yabgu State 756–940
Kara-Khanid Khanate 840–1212
  Western Kara-Khanid
  Eastern Kara-Khanid
Gansu Uyghur Kingdom 848–1036
Kingdom of Qocho 856–1335
Pecheneg Khanates
Kimek Khanate
Oghuz Yabgu State
Shatuo dynasties 923–979
  Later Tang
  Later Jin
  Later Han (Northern Han)
Ghaznavids 963–1186
Seljuk Empire 1037–1194
Khwarazmian Empire 1077–1231
Sultanate of Rum 1092–1307
Delhi Sultanate 1206–1526
  Mamluk dynasty
  Khilji dynasty
  Tughlaq dynasty
Mamluk Sultanate (Cairo) 1250–1517
  Bahri dynasty
Sufids 1361–1379

The Turkic Khaganate (552-744; Old Turkic: Türk xanlïqï Chinese: 突厥汗国; pinyin: Tūjué hánguó), sometimes referred to by its Anatolian Turkish version Göktürks' khaganate (Celestial/Blue Turks), was a khaganate established by Ashina Türks in medieval Inner Asia. The Ashina Türks, under the leadership of Bumin Qaghan (d. 552) and his sons, succeeded the Rouran Khaganate as the main power in the Mongolian plateau and established a stronger empire, which rapidly expanded to rule huge territories in Central Asia. This khaganate interacted extensively with various dynasties based in north China, and for significant periods exercised considerable control over the lucrative Silk Road trade. This first dynasty collapsed in 581, and fifty years later Kutlugh (d. 692) established the Second Türk Empire (683-734), also referred to as the Turkic Khaganate, which controlled much of the eastern portion of the former Turkic Khaganate and produced the Orkhon inscriptions that have survived to the present.[1]

Kızıl city.

First khaganate

The origins of the First Türk Empire trace back to 546, when Bumin Qaghan made a pre-emptive strike against the Uyghur and Tiele groups who were planning a revolt against their overlords, the Rouran. For this service he expected to be rewarded with a Rouran princess, i.e. marry into the royal family. However Rouran Khaghan Anagui sent an emissary to Bumin to rebuke him, saying, "You are my blacksmith slave. How dare you utter these words?". As Anagui's "blacksmith slave" (鍛奴 / 锻奴, Pinyin: duànnú, Wade–Giles: tuan-nu) comment was recorded in Chinese chronicles, some claim that the Göktürks were indeed blacksmith servants for the Rouran elite,[2][3][4][5] and that "blacksmith slavery" may indicate a form of vassalage within Rouran society.[6] According to Denis Sinor, this reference indicates that the Türks specialized in metallurgy, although it is unclear if they were miners or, indeed, blacksmiths.[7][8] Whatever the case, that the Turks were "slaves" need not be taken literally, but probably represented a form of vassalage, or even unequal alliance.[9]

A disappointed Bumin allied with the Wei state against the Rouran, their common enemy. In 552 (February 11 – March 10, 552), Bumin defeated the Rouran Khan Anagui north of Huaihuang (in the region administered by present-day Zhangjiakou, Hebei).[10]

Having excelled both in battle and diplomacy Bumin declared himself Illig Qaghan of the new khaganate at Ötüken but died a year later. His son Muqan Qaghan defeated the Hephthalite (厭噠),[11] Khitan (契丹) and Kyrgyz (契骨).[12] Bumin's brother Istämi (d. 576) bore the title yabghu of the west and collaborated with the Persian Sassanids to defeat and destroy the Hephthalite, who were allies of the Rouran. This war tightened the Ashina clan's grip on the Silk Road. The appearance of "Avars" in the west has often been seen as a nomadic faction fleeing the westward expansion of the GokTurks, although the specifics are a matter of irreconcilable debate, given the lack of clear sources and chronology. E.g., Rene Grousset links the Avars with the downfall of the Hephthalites rather than the Juan-Juan,[13] whilst Denis Sinor argues that Rouran - Avar identification is "repeated from article to article, from book to book with no shred of evidence to support it"[14]

Istämi's policy of western expansion brought the Göktürks into Europe.[15] In 576 the Göktürks crossed the Cimmerian Bosporus into the Crimea. Five years later they laid siege to Chersonesos Taurica; their cavalry kept roaming the steppes of Crimea until 590.[16] As for the southern borders, they were drawn south of the Amu Darya (Oxus), bringing the Ashina into conflict with their former allies, the Sassanids of Persia. Much of Bactria (including Balkh) remained a dependency of the Ashina until the end of the century.[16]

Civil war

This first Turkic Khaganate split in two after the death of the fourth Qaghan, Taspar Qaghan (ca. 584). He had willed the title Qaghan to Muqan's son Ahina Daluobian, but the high council appointed Ishbara Qaghan in his stead. Factions formed around both leaders. Before long four rival qaghans claimed the title of Qaghan. They were successfully played off against each other by the Sui and Tang dynasties of China.

The most serious contender was the Western qaghan, Istämi's son Tardu, a violent and ambitious man who had already declared himself independent from the Qaghan after his father's death. He now titled himself as Qaghan, and led an army to the east to claim the seat of imperial power, Ötüken.

In order to buttress his position, Ishbara of the Eastern Khaganate applied to the Chinese Emperor Yangdi for protection. Tardu attacked Chang'an, the Sui capital, around 600, demanding from Emperor Yangdi to end his interference in the civil war. In retaliation, Chinese diplomacy successfully incited a revolt of Tardu's Tiele vassals, which led to the end of Tardu's reign in 603. Among the dissident tribes were the Uyghur and Syr-Tardush.

Eastern Turkic Khaganate

The civil war left the empire divided into eastern and western parts. The eastern part, still ruled from Ötüken, remained in the orbit of the Sui Empire and retained the name Göktürk. The qaghans Shibi (609-19) and Illig (620-30) of the East attacked China at its weakest moment during the transition between the Sui and Tang dynasties. On September 11, 615[17] Shibi Qaghan's army surrounded Emperor Yang of Sui at Yanmen (in present day Dai County, Xinzhou, Shanxi).[18]

In 626, Illig Qaghan took advantage of the Incident at Xuanwu Gate and drove on Chang'an. On September 23, 626[19] Illig Qaghan and his iron cavalries reached the bank of the Wei River at the north of Bian Bridge (in present day Xianyang, Shaanxi). On September 25, 626[20] Li Shimin (Emperor Taizong) and Illig Qaghan formed an alliance with slaying a white horse on Bian Bridge. Tang paid compensation and promise further tributes, Illig Qaghan ordered to withdraw their iron cavalries (Alliance of Wei River, 渭水之盟 or Alliance of Bian Qiao 便橋會盟 / 便桥会盟).[21] All in all, 67 incursions on Chinese territories were recorded.[16]

Before mid-October 627 heavy snows on the Mongolian steppe covered the ground to a depth of several feet, preventing the nomads' livestock from grazing and causing a massive dying-off among the animals.[22] According to the New Book of Tang, in 628, Taizong mentioned that "There has been a frost in midsummer. The sun had risen from same place for five days. The moon had had the same light level for three days. The field was filled with red atmosphere (dust storm)."[23]

Illig Qaghan was brought down by a revolt of his Tiele vassal tribes (626-630), allied with Emperor Taizong of Tang. This tribal alliance figures in Chinese records as the Huihe (Uyghur).

On March 27, 630[24] a Tang army under the command of Li Jing defeated the Eastern Turkic Khaganate under the command of Illig Qaghan at the Battle of Yinshan (陰山之戰 / 阴山之战).[25][26][27] Illig Qaghan fled to Ishbara Shad. But on May 2, 630[28] Zhang Baoxiang's army got advance to Ishbara Shad's headquarter. Illig Qaghan was taken prisoner and sent to Chang'an.[27] The Eastern Turkic Khaganate collapsed and was incorporated into the Jimi system of Tang. Emperor Taizong said that "It's enough for me to compensate my dishonor at Wei River."[26]

Western Turkic Khaganate

The Western qaghan Shekuei and Tung Yabghu constructed an alliance with the Byzantine Empire against the Persian Sassanids and succeeded in restoring the southern borders along the Tarim and Oxus rivers. Their capital was Suyab in the Chui River valley, about 6 km south east of modern Tokmok. In 627 Tung Yabghu, assisted by the Khazars and Emperor Heraclius, launched a massive invasion of Transcaucasia which culminated in the taking of Derbent and Tbilisi (see the Third Perso-Turkic War for details). In April 630 Tung's deputy Böri Shad sent the Göktürk cavalry to invade Armenia, where his general Chorpan Tarkhan succeeded in routing a large Persian force. Tung Yabghu's murder in 630 forced the Göktürks to evacuate Transcaucasia.

The Western Turkic Khaganate was modernized through an administrative reform of Ishbara Qaghan (reigned 634–639) and came to be known as the Onoq.[29] The name refers to the "ten arrows" that were granted by the khagan to five leaders (shads) of its two constituent tribal confederations, Dulo and Nushibi, whose lands were divided by the Chui River.[29] The division fostered the growth of separatist tendencies, and soon the Bulgarian tribes under the Dulo chieftain Kubrat seceded from the khaganate. The Tang Dynasty fought a series of wars against the khaganate and their vassals, the oasis states of the Tarim Basin. The Western Turks retreated from Karakhoja in 640 and were defeated by the Tang at Karasahr in 644 and at Kucha in 648.[30][31] In 657, the khaganate was overrun by the Tang general Su Dingfang.[32]

Emperor Taizong of Tang was proclaimed Khagan of the Göktürks.

In 659 the Tang Emperor of China could claim to rule the entire Silk Road as far as Po-sse (Chinese: 波斯; pinyin: bōsī, Persia). The Göktürks now carried Chinese titles and fought by their side in their wars. The era spanning from 659-681 was characterized by numerous independent rulers - weak, divided, and engaged in constant petty wars. In the east, the Uyghurs defeated their one-time allies the Syr-Tardush, while in the west the Turgesh emerged as successors to the Onoq.

Second Turkic Khaganate

Despite all the setbacks, Ashina Kutluk (Ilterish Qaghan) and his brother Qapaghan Qaghan succeeded in reestablishing the Khanate. In 679 they revolted against the Tang Dynasty Chinese domination [33] and, over the following decades, steadily gained control of the steppes beyond the Great Wall of China. By 705, they had expanded as far south as Samarkand and threatened the Arab control of Transoxiana. The Göktürks clashed with the Umayyad Califate in a series of battles (712–713) but the Arabs emerged as victors.

Following the Ashina tradition, the power of the Second Khaganate[34][35][36] was centered on Ötüken (the upper reaches of the Orkhon River). This polity was described by historians as "the joint enterprise of the Ashina clan and the Soghdians, with large numbers of Chinese bureaucrats being involved as well".[37] The son of Ilterish, Bilge, was also a strong leader whose deeds were recorded in the Orkhon inscriptions. After his death in 734 the Second Turkic Khaganate declined. The Göktürks ultimately fell victim to a series of internal crises and renewed Chinese campaigns.

When Kul Bilge Qaghan of the Uyghurs allied himself with the Karluks and Basmyls, the power of the Göktürks was very much on the wane. In 744 Kutluk seized Ötükän and beheaded the last Göktürk khagan Ozmysh Qaghan, whose head was sent to the Tang Dynasty Chinese court.[38] In a space of few years, the Uyghurs gained mastery of Inner Asia and established the Uyghur Khaganate.

Customs and culture

Political system

Peter B. Golden points out that there is the possibility that the khaghans of the Turkic Khaganate, the Ashina, were themselves originally an Altaic speaking.[39] German Turkologist W.-E. Scharlipp writes that many central terms are Turkic in origin.[40]

The Turkic temporary qaghan from the Ashina clan were subordinate to a sovereign authority that was left in the hands of a council of tribal chiefs.


The Khaganate received missionaries from the Buddhists religion, which were incorporated into Tengriism. After the fall of the khaganate, many refugees settled in Central Asia, Middle East and Europe adopted the Islamic faith.

See also


  1. ^ Christian, David (1998). A history of Russia, Central Asia and Mongolia, Vol. 1: Inner Eurasia from prehistory to the Mongol Empire. Blackwell. pp. 247–64. 
  2. ^ 馬長壽, 《突厥人和突厥汗國》, 上海人民出版社, 1957,p. 10-11 (Chinese)
  3. ^ 陳豐祥, 余英時, 《中國通史》, 五南圖書出版股份有限公司, 2002, ISBN 978-957-11-2881-8, p. 155 (Chinese)
  4. ^ , V. Cilt, Türk Tarih Kurumu, 1991, s. 731.X. Türk Tarih Kongresi: Ankara 22 - 26 Eylül 1986, Kongreye Sunulan BildirilerGao Yang, "The Origin of the Turks and the Turkish Khanate", (English)
  5. ^ Burhan Oğuz, Türkiye halkının kültür kökenleri: Giriş, beslenme teknikleri, İstanbul Matbaası, 1976, p. 147. «Demirci köle» olmaktan kurtulup reisleri Bumin'e (Turkish)
  6. ^ Larry W. Moses, "Relations with the Inner Asian Barbarian", ed. John Curtis Perry, Bardwell L. Smith, Essays on Tʻang society: the interplay of social, political and economic forces, Brill Archive, 1976, ISBN 978-90-04-04761-7, p. 65. '"Slave" probably meant vassalage to the Juan Juan [=Ruanruan or Rouran] qaghan, whom they [the Türks] served in battle by providing iron weapons, and also marching with the qaghan's armies.' (English)
  7. ^ Denis Sinor, Inner Asia: history-civilization-languages : a syllabus, Routledge, 1997, ISBN 978-0-7007-0380-7, p. 26. Contacts had already begun in 545 A.D. between the so-called "blacksmith-slave" Türk and certain of the kingdoms of north China,
  8. ^ Denis Sinor, ibid, p. 101. 'Beyond A-na-kui's disdainful reference to his "blacksmith slaves" there is ample evidence to show that the Türks were indeed specializing in metallurgy, though it is difficult to establish whether they were miners or rather blacksmiths.' (English)
  9. ^ Nachaeva (2011)
  10. ^ Linghu Defen et al., Book of Zhou, Vol. 50. (Chinese)
  11. ^ Li Yanshou, History of Northern Dynasties, Vol. 99.
  12. ^ Sima Guang, Zizhi Tongjian, Vol. 166.
  13. ^ Grousset (1970, p. 82)
  14. ^ History and historiography of the Nomad Empires of Central Eurasia. D Sinor. Acta Orientalia Academiae Scientarum Hung. 58 (1) 3 - 14, 2005
  15. ^ Walter Pohl, Die Awaren: ein Steppenvolk im Mitteleuropa, 567-822 n. Chr, C.H.Beck (2002), ISBN 978-3-406-48969-3, p. 26-29.
  16. ^ a b c Grousset 81.
  17. ^ 大業十一年 八月癸酉 Academia Sinica (Chinese)
  18. ^ Sima Guang, Zizhi Tongjian, Vol. 182. (Chinese)
  19. ^ 武德九年 八月癸未 Academia Sinica (Chinese)
  20. ^ 武德九年 八月乙酉 Academia Sinica (Chinese)
  21. ^ Sima Guang, Zizhi Tongjian, Vol. 191. (Chinese)
  22. ^ David Andrew Graff, Medieval Chinese warfare, 300-900, Routledge, 2002, ISBN 978-0-415-23955-4, p. 186.
  23. ^ Ouyang Xiu, New Book of Tang, Vol. 215-I (Chinese)
  24. ^ 貞觀四年 二月甲辰 Academia Sinica (Chinese)
  25. ^ Old Book of Tang, Vol. 3. (Chinese)
  26. ^ a b Ouyang Xiu et al., New Book of Tang, Vol. 93. (Chinese)
  27. ^ a b Sima Guang, Zizhi Tongjian, Vol. 193. (Chinese)
  28. ^ 貞觀四年 三月庚辰
  29. ^ a b Gumilev 238.
  30. ^ Grousset 1970, pp. 99-100.
  31. ^ Wechsler 1979, pp. 225-228.
  32. ^ Skaff 2009, p. 183.
  33. ^ Barfield, Thomas J. The Perilous Frontier: Nomadic Empires and China. Cambridge, Mass.: B. Blackwell, 1989. Print.
  34. ^ Elena Vladimirovna Boĭkova, R. B. Rybakov, Kinship in the Altaic World: Proceedings of the 48th Permanent International Altaistic Conference, Moscow 10–15 July 2005, Otto Harrassowitz Verlag, 2006, ISBN 978-3-447-05416-4, p. 225.
  35. ^ Anatoly Michailovich Khazanov, Nomads and the Outside World, Univ of Wisconsin Press, 1984, ISBN 978-0-299-14284-1, p. 256.
  36. ^ András Róna-Tas, An introduction to Turkology, Universitas Szegediensis de Attila József Nominata, 1991, p. 29.
  37. ^ Wink 66.
  38. ^ Grousset 114.
  39. ^ Peter B. Golden, An Introduction to the History of the Turkic Peoples, O. Harrassowitz, 1992, p. 121-122
  40. ^ „(...) Über die Ethnogenese dieses Stammes ist viel gerätselt worden. Auffallend ist, dass viele zentrale Begriffe iranischen Ursprungs sind. Dies betrifft fast alle Titel (...). Einige Gelehrte wollen auch die Eigenbezeichnung türk auf einen iranischen Ursprung zurückführen und ihn mit dem Wort „Turan“, der persischen Bezeichnung für das Land jeneseits des Oxus, in Verbindung bringen.“ Wolfgang-Ekkehard Scharlipp in Die frühen Türken in Zentralasien, p. 18

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