Orkhon-Enisei Inscriptions

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Orkhon-Enisei Inscriptions


ancient written records of Turkic-speaking peoples. The inscriptions were discovered by the Russian scholars S. Remezov, F. Stralenberg, and D. Messerschmidt in the period 1696–1722 along the upper Enisei and in 1889 by N. M. Iadrintsev on the Orkhon River (Mongolia). They were deciphered by the Danish linguist V. Thomsen in 1893 and read for the first time by the Russian Turkic scholar V. V. Radlov (W. Radloff) in 1894. The inscriptions date from the seventh to 11th centuries and are written in runes, which go back to Aramaic via Old Sogdian.

Seven groups of Orkhon-Enisei inscriptions are known: Lena-Baikal, Enisei, Mongolian, Altai, Eastern Turkestan, Middle Asian, and Eastern European. They belonged to the Kurykan tribal alliance, the Kirghiz Kaganate, the Eastern Turkic Kaganate, the Western Turkic Kaganate, the Uighur Kaganate in Mongolia, the Uighur state in Eastern Turkestan, the Khazars, and the Pechenegs. They include historical and biographical stone inscriptions (Mongolia); epitaphic lyric poetry (texts of the Enisei and Semirech’e); legal documents and magical and religious texts on paper (from Eastern Turkestan); memorial inscriptions on cliffs, rocks, and structures; and markings on household objects. The inscriptions of Mongolia, which set forth the history of the second Eastern Turkic and Uighur kaganates, are of the greatest historical significance.


Malov, S. E. Pamiatniki drevnetiurkskoi pis’mennosti. Moscow-Leningrad, 1951.
Malov, S. E. Eniseiskaia pis’mennost’ tiurkov. Moscow-Leningrad, 1952.
Malov, S. E. Pamiatniki drevnetiurkskoi pis’mennosti Mongolii i Kirgizii. Moscow-Leningrad, 1959.
Kliashtornyi, S. G. Drevnetiurkskie runicheskie pamiatniki kak istochniki po istorii Srednei Azii. Moscow, 1964.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.