Western Turkic Khaganate

From Kazakhstan Encyclopedia

Template:Infobox Former Country Template:History of the Turks pre-14th century Template:History of Xinjiang The Western Turkic Khaganate or Onoq Khaganate (Template:Zh) was a Turkic khaganate formed as a result of the wars in the beginning of the 7th century (AD 593–603) after the split of the Göktürk Khaganate (founded in the 6th century in Mongolia by the Ashina clan) into the Western khaganate and the Eastern Turkic Khaganate.

At its height, the Western Turkic Khaganate included the later areas of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

The ruling elite or perhaps the whole confederation was called Onoq or "ten arrows", possibly from oğuz (literally "arrow"), a subdivision of the Turkic tribes. A connection to the earlier Onogurs, which also means 'ten tribes', is questionable.

Initially, the Western khaganate sought friendly relations with the Eastern Roman Empire, in order to expand their territory at the expense of their mutual enemy, the Sassanid Persian Empire.[1]

The Western and Eastern khaganates were reunited as the Turkic Khaganate in 682.


Summary: The first Turkic Khaganate was founded by Bumin in 552 in Mongolia and quickly spread west toward the Caspian. Within 35 years the western half and the Eastern Turkic Khaganate were independent. The Western Khaganate reached its peak under Tong Yabghu Qaghan (618–630). After Tong's murder there were conflicts between the Dulu and Nushibi factions, many short-lived Khagans and some territory was lost. From 642 the expanding Tang dynasty Chinese began interfering. The Tang destroyed the Khaganate in 657–659. The far west of the Khaganate evolved into the Khazars.

For the origin of the Onoq two contradicting accounts are given:[2][3]



The first statement dates their origin back to the beginning of the First Turkic Qaghanate with Istämi, younger brother of Tumen (Bumen), who had brought with him the ten tribes probably from the Eastern Qaghanate at Mongolia and left to the west to expand the Qaghanate. The exact date for the event was not recorded, and the shanyu here referred to might be Muhan Khan.

The second statement contributes it to Dielishi, who took over the throne in 635 and began to strengthen the state by further affirming the initial ten tribes and two tribal wings, in contrast with the rotation of rule between the Tumen (through Apa) and Istämi (through Tardu) lineages in the Western Qaghanate. Thereafter, the name "ten tribes" (十姓) became as a shortened address for the Western Turks in Chinese records. However it should be noted that those divisions did not include the five[4] major tribes, who were active further east of the ten tribes.[5][6]

The earlier tribes consisted of eight primary tribes ruled by ten chiefs-in-command, afterwards called the on (ten) oq (arrows) (十箭). They were the five[7] Dulu (咄陆) tribes, and the three[8] Nushibi (弩失毕) tribes. The relationships between the ten tribes and the ruling elites were divided into two groups. The more aristocratic Dulu tribes, who held the title qur, and the lower-rated Nushipi in west, who were probably initially made up of Tiele conscripts.[9][10] During the reformation the more powerful Nushipi tribes such as A-Xijie and Geshu were sub-divided into two tribal groups with a greater and lesser title under a fixed tribal name.

In 619 the Western Turks invaded Bactria but were repulsed in the course of the Second Perso-Turkic War. During the Third Perso-Turkic War Khagan Tung Yabghu and his nephew Böri Shad joined their forces with Emperor Heraclius and successfully invaded Transcaucasia.

The khaganate's capitals were Navekat (the summer capital) and Suyab (the principal capital), both situated in the Chui River valley of Kyrgyzstan, to the east from Bishkek. The khaganate was overrun by Tang Chinese forces under Su Dingfang in 657–659 during the Tang campaign against the Western Turks.[11]

Turks and Byzantines

This needs special treatment because of the importance of Byzyantium and the better documentation. [12] Istämi ruled from a winter camp near Karashar. The westward expansion can be reconstructed as follows: 552: Turks conquer Mongolia, 555: Aral Sea(probably); 558: Volga by defeating the Avars; 557–565: Turks and Persians crush Hephthalites, Turko-Persian border along the Oxus which lasted several decades; 564: Tashkent; 569 brief war with Persia. 567–71 north Caucasus, 576 Black Sea raid.

The Oxus frontier gave the Western Turks control of the Sogdian merchant cities. As a Chinese general complained:

 "The Turks themselves are simple-minded and short-sighted and dissention can easily be roused among them. Unfortunately, many Sogdians live among them who are cunning and insidious; they teach and instruct the Turks."

Sinor saw the Byzantine alliance as a Sogdian scheme to benefit themselves at the expense of the Turks. A related fact is that the Eastern Turks were extracting a large amount of silk as booty from the Chinese which had to be marketed westward. Before 568 Maniakh, a leading merchant, was sent to the Sassanian Persians to open up trade. This was refused, apparently to restrict trade with the Byzantines. The members of a second embassy were, it is said, poisoned. In 569 Turk armies invaded Persia, failed near Merv and peace was restored in 571. (In 588–89 (First Perso-Turkic War) a raid into Bactria failed.)

Maniakh now proposed to bypass the Persians and re-open a direct route north of the Caspian. If trade on this route later increased (uncertain) it would have benefited Khorezm and the Black Sea cities and might have had something to do with the later rise of the Khazars and Rus’. The first embassy reached Constantinople in 563. In 568 Maniakh led a second embassy, the object being trade and an alliance against the Avars and Persians. Maniakh returned with the Byzantine official Zemarchus, who left an important account of the Turks. In 576 Valentinus led a mission to a Turxanthos whose camp was west of the Caspian. Valentinus wanted action against the Persians and Turxanthos complained that Byzantium was harboring the Avars. Valentinus then went east to meet Tardu. What caused this hostility is not clear. In 576–77 a Turk general called Bokhan and an Utigur called Anagai captured the Crimean Byzantine town of Panticapaeum and failed at a siege of Chersonesus. This marks the westernmost extent of Turk power.

The alliance was revived in the 620s during the last great Byzantine-Persian war before the Arab conquests. In 627 Tong Yabghu Qaghan sent out his nephew Böri Shad. The Turks stormed the great fortress of Derbent on the Caspian coast, entered Azerbaijan and Georgia, did a good bit of looting and met Heraclius who was besieging Tiflis. When the siege dragged on, the Turks left and Heraclius went south and won a great victory over the Persians. The Turks returned, captured Tiflis and massacred the garrison. A Turk general, Chorpan Tarkhan then won most of Armenia for the Byzantines. See Third Perso-Turkic War. What the Turks gained from this is not clear.

See also


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