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(also Kitai), tribes of the Mongolian group that in antiquity roamed the territory of the present-day Inner Mongolian Autonomous Region (in the People’s Republic of China) and the Mongolian People’s Republic. They first became known to history in the fourth century.
In 907 the leader of the tribe, Ila-Abugi, proclaimed himself emperor of the Khitans and, after subjugating a number of neighboring tribes, extended the empire to the west and north. In 926, he conquered the Pohai kingdom in the east. In 947, the state was named Great Liao; in 983, the Great State of the Khitans; and in 1066, the Great Liao once again. The Liao state, which stretched from the Sea of Japan to eastern Turkestan, was the mightiest power in East Asia. After losing a war with the Khitans, China began to pay them a yearly tribute in 1005. At the end of the 11th century, the decline of the Liao state began, and in 1125 it was destroyed by the Jurchens. Some of the Khitans (the Kara-Khitans or Karakitai) moved westward to Middle Asia.
Two types of Khitan written language are known. The Russian name for China (Kitai), which came from the Mongols and the Turks, is derived from the name “Khitan.”
REFERENCESRudov, L. N. “Kidani.” In the collection Dal’nii Vostok: Sb. statei po filologii, istorii, filosofii. Moscow, 1961.
Starikov, V. S. “Formal’nyi analiz funktsional’noi struktury teksta.” In the collection Materialy po deshifrovke kidan’skogo pis’ma, book 1. Moscow, 1970.
Wittfogel, K. A., and Feng Chia-Sheng. History of the Chinese Society Liao. Philadelphia-New York, 1946.
V. S. STARIKOV