Turkic Kaganate

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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Turkic Kaganate


(552–745), a state founded in Central Asia by a Turkic tribal alliance.

In 460 a Hun tribe known as the Ashina came under the domination of the Juan-juan and was forced to migrate from eastern Turkestan to the Altai, where an alliance was formed with local tribes that adopted the name “Turks.” The Turks defeated the Uighur tribes in 545 and the Juan-juan in 551. The leader of the Turks, Bumyn (died 552), proclaimed himself kagan. By 555, all the peoples of Central Asia, including the Khitans in western Manchuria and the Enisei Kirghiz, had fallen under Turkic rule. The headquarters of the kagan was moved to the upper course of the Orkhon River (seeORKHON TURKS).

Between 560 and 570, the Turks destroyed the state of the Ephthalites in Central Asia and in the third quarter of the sixth century subjugated the northern Chinese states of Chou and Ch’i. The Turkic Kaganate, in alliance with Byzantium, launched a war with Persia over control of the Great Silk Road. In 571, after the Turkic campaign in Persia, a border was established along the Amu Darya River, and in 588 and 589 the Turkic Kaganate annexed several regions on the western bank of the Amu Darya. In 576 the Turks seized the Bosporus (Kerch’) and in 581 laid siege to Chersonesus Thracica.

By the middle of the sixth century, early feudal relations were developing among the Turks in conjunction with the remnants of a military democracy. The increased wealth and influence of the Turkic aristocracy and its desire for autonomous control over the conquered territories brought about an acute political crisis and civil strife (582–603), aggravated by the intervention of the Chinese empire under the Sui Dynasty (591–618). As a result, the Turkic Kaganate split into the mutually hostile eastern (Central Asian) and western (Middle Asian) kaganates.

The eastern Turkic Kaganate restored its influence in Central Asia under the kagans Sibi (609–619), who affirmed the state’s independence in wars with the Sui Dynasty, and Heli (620–630), who undertook 67 campaigns against China. Popular unrest over increased taxes, combined with the rebellions of several subject tribes, resulted in the eastern Turkic Kaganate’s defeat in 630 and its subjugation by China for the next 50 years. The anti-Chinese rebellion of 681 restored independence. Under Kapagan Kagan (691–716), the eastern Turkic Kaganate briefly extended its frontiers from Manchuria to the Syr Darya River; Turkic detachments even reached Samarkand, where, however, they were defeated by the Arabs in 712 and 713. The brothers Bilge Kagan (716–734) and Kul-tegin (died 731) were forced to defend the independence of the Turkic Kaganate in fierce wars with the T’ang Dynasty and its allies. Civil strife and the disintegration of the eastern Turkic Kaganate into feudal possessions, which began after the death of Bilge Kagan, led to the downfall of the state and its replacement by the Uighur Kaganate (745–840).

The western Turkic Kaganate, under the kagans Segue (610–618) and Ton-Yabgu (618–630), reestablished the boundaries in the Altai, in the Tarim River basin, and along the Amu Darya River. Suiab became the headquarters of the western Turkic kagans. A struggle for the throne that began in 630 developed into a protracted war between the two principal tribal alliances of the western Turkic Kaganate—the Dulu and the Nushi-bi. Even the administrative reform of Isbar Hilas (634–639), who divided the country into ten strels, or tribal territories, could not end the war. In 658 and 659 the principal lands of the western Turkic Kaganate were occupied by Chinese troops. In 704 the Western Turkic Kaganate freed itself from Chinese dependence, although attacks by aggressive neighbors to the north and internal conflicts led to the destruction of the kaganate in 740.

The Turkic Kaganate played an important role in the consolidation of the Turkic-speaking population of Eurasia and aided the subsequent development of the ethnic groups that were to become the modern Turkic-speaking peoples.


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