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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



the name of Iranian-speaking tribes, mostly nomadic, that lived from the first millennium B.C. to the first centuries A.D. The name “Saka” is used in cuneiform inscriptions, by classical authors, in Chinese chronicles, and in Indian sources to denote various tribes; classical sources generally use the term to refer to the Scythians. Ancient Persian inscriptions distinguish three groups of Saka: Saka-Haumavarga (“god-fearing,” called Ami-urgii in classical sources), Saka-Tigrahauda (“with pointed hats”), and Saka “who live beyond the sea” (Black Sea Scythians). In modern scholarly literature, Saka is the name given to the ancient tribes of the northern and eastern regions of middle Asia, Kazakhstan, and East Turkestan to distinguish these tribes from the related Massagetae of the Aral and Caspian regions and the Scythians of the Northern Black Sea Shore.

In the late sixth century B.C. and the early fifth century, some of the Saka were conquered by the Persian kings of the Achae-menid dynasty; they paid the Persians tribute and sent men to serve in the Persian army. As part of the Persian army, Saka fought in the wars between Greece and Persia (500–449 B.C.) and served in garrisons in various parts of the Achaemenid state.

The Saka were predominantly nomadic cattle breeders, with only individual groups becoming sedentary. A class society developed among the Saka of Middle Asia. There was sharp social and property stratification, and the aristocracy had great wealth concentrated in its hands, although an important role was still played by clan-tribal relations. In approximately the mid-third century B.C., a group of Saka tribes invaded Parthia and contributed substantially to the formation of the Parthian kingdom. Later these tribes penetrated into Drangiana, where they settled, giving Drangiana the name Sakastan (“the land of the Saka”; modern Sistan, or Seistan). In the late second century and the first half of the first century, the Saka penetrated into North India. By the first centuries of the Common Era, they were evidently already assimilated by local peoples and newly arrived nomadic tribes in what is now Middle Asia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and North India. In East Turkestan (Kho-tan) their language was preserved until the tenth century A.D. The Saka played an important role in the ethnogenesis of the peoples of Middle Asia, Afghanistan, and northern Hindustan.

Remains of Saka culture have been discovered by Soviet archaeologists in the southern regions of the Kazakh SSR and the Uzbek SSR, as well as in the Kirghiz SSR and the Tadzhik SSR. Religion was in large measure bound up with a supreme deity and sun worship. Saka art was characterized by art objects executed in what is called the Scythian animal style. The epic literature of the Saka is one of the sources of Middle Asian epic literature.


Bernshtam, A. N. Istoriko-arkheologicheskie ocherki Tsentral’nogo Tian’-Shania i Pamiro-Alaia. Moscow-Leningrad, 1952.
Gafurov, B. G. Tadzhiki. Moscow, 1972.
Litvinskii, B. A. Drevnie kochevniki “Kryshi mira.” Moscow, 1972.
Artamonov, M. I. Sokrovishcha sakov. Moscow, 1973.
Vishnevskaia, O. A. Kul’tura sakskikh plemen nizov’ev Syrdar’i v VII-V vv. do n. e. Moscow, 1973.
Junge, J. Saka-Studien. Leipzig, 1939.
Bailey, H. W. “Languages of the Saka.” In Handbuch der Orientalistik, vol. 4: Iranistik, part 1: Linguistik. Leiden-Cologne, 1958.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
Meanwhile, ANF and Frontier Corps recovered 3.5 kilogram of hashish, 10 kilogram heroin during a raid conducted in Shakas area of Khyber district.
PESHAWAR -- Governor Shah Farman turned out to be an expert marksman winning the overall best shooter trophy at Frontier Corps K-P (North) Firing Gala-2019 held at Shakas Firing Range Khyber tribal district.
PESHAWAR -- Elders of Katyakhel tribe of Khyber Agency have declined to sell their land for establishment of a judicial complex in Shakas area at throwaway price and warned to launch a protest campaign if the owners are not given proper price of the land.
He said that the land property at Shakas area was costly due to the increasing commercial activities and the owners would not sell it at nominal rates.
industrial unit in Peshawar, causing suffocation and hospitalization of around 250 people in Shakas area of Khyber Agency on Sunday, has been termed as accidental and factory has been sealed till proper repair in compliance with environmental laws.
Majority of the affected people were dwellers of nearby Shakas area in Khyber Agency.
Similarly, unidentified militants blew up a Hujra (guest house) of a tribal elder with explosive devices on Tuesday in Qadam Shakas area of Jamrud tehsil, causing no human losses.
In this connection, a firing and shooting competition was held at Shakas Khyber Tribal District among tribal elders, masharans, youth and media-men.
The Hindu era begins from Vikrami Samvat (from Hindu king Chandra Gupta Vikramaditya) and Shaka Samvat which are 2055 and 1922 years old respectively.
Hindu Brahminisation began with the Shaka era and continued to the Vikram era.
Shaka era actually started from Kanishka, a Buddhist emperor of Kushan dynasty.