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Turkic Kaganate was a large medieval state in Asia, created by the Türkic (Türküt) tribal union. During its greatest expansion (end of the 6th century) Turkic Kaganate controlled territories of Northeastern China (Manchuria), Mongolia, Altai, Xinjiang, Central Asia, Middle Asia and Northern Caucasus. Between its inception in 552 CE and Chinese conquest in 604 CE it is usually directly referred to as Turkic Kaganate, or a First Turkic Kaganate. The restored Kaganate of the 682-745 period is usually referred to as Second Turkic Kaganate. This article covers the First Turkic Kaganate period.
 Historical Outline
 Formation of the Kaganate
An Altaic people known as the Tūjué lived in northern Mongolia after the decline of the Xiongnu Khanate. Around 460 AD the Tūjué were conquered by the Rouran Kaganate. A tribe led by the Ashina clan supplied iron to the Rourans and became the strongest of the Tūjué. Soon the Tūjué became known as "Türks", meaning solid or strong. According to A. Kononov, "Türk" was originally a political name for members of the steppe aristocracy led by the Ashina clan, and only later it became a name for all tribes subordinated to the Turkic Kagan.
After the decline of Wusun (Issedone) power in Zhetysu, that region became dominated by the Xiongnu kingdom of Yueban. The Rouran invaded Zhetysu in the late 400s AD, driving the Wusun south to Tien Shan and destroying Yueban. The upper regions of the Chu and Talas rivers were inhabited by the Kangars, who prevented the Rourans from spreading further west. Northeast of Zhetysu, the regions of Altai and Dzungaria (along the Irtysh river) were inhabited by Tiele tribes that threw off Rouran control in 482 and established a state that lasted until it was re-conquered by the Rouran in 516 AD.
In 542 AD, the Tiele tribes again rebelled against the Rourans. The Ashina, led by Bumin Khan, helped the Rourans defeat the Tiele and in return requested a marriage to the Rouran imperial clan. When his request was refused, Bumin Khan concluded an alliance with the Northern Wei state of China against the Rouran (545). The Rouran Kaganate was defeated in 551 AD, and Bumin Khan accepted the title of "Ilkhan" (Khan of the country). After Bumin's death in 552, he was succeeded by his son Kara-Issyk Khan, who defeated the Rourans in 552 and 553 AD, and finally destroyed the Rourans after massacring their nobility in 555 AD. These victories established the Göktürk Kaganate as the dominant power of the steppes east of Altai.
The Göktürks also began a campaign to the west in 554 AD, led by Bumin's younger brother Istemi Kagan. The Wusuns, Chumuhun, and Türgesh tribes, already weakened by Rouran raids, were easily overcome. By 555 Istemi's armies reached Tashkent and Aral sea. However, the Avar and Xionite tribes living north and east of the Aral sea furiously resisted and were subjugated only in 558. Türks seem to have reached the city of Itil but did not cross the (Volga) river. Thus in a short span of 16 years, the Göktürks created a huge nomadic empire ranging from the Urals to the Greater Khingan mountains.
 Culmination of Turkic Empire
The head of new state was Kagan, a second official was a relative with a title "Yabgu". The high officials were also Shads, Eltebers and Tutuks. Kagan relatives had a title "Tegin" (prince). Türks also called the highest officials "tarkhan", and the lowest, consisting of 24 classes, "buyuruk". Succession was by avuncular system, where father was succeed not by his son, but an elder brother by a younger brother, and a younger uncle by a senior nephew. In line to the throne, Shads received provinces (uluses) to rule.
In 568 the Turkic state was divided into four uluses, and in 576 already into eight. The capital of Kagan was in Altai. Socially, the Türks were divided into three levels, beks, karabudun - the main masses, and slave tats - prisoners of war. The Tele tribes, subordinated to Türks, were called oguzes (tribes). Just having emerged, the Turkic Kaganate at once became equal with the world empires of that time. In 560es Türks intervened in the struggle between Chinese Wei-Sui and Wei-Zhou states, and forced both of them to render tribute. Tobo-khan Kagan was saying: "If only two boys in the south (Zhou and Sui) were obedient, poverty would not threaten us".
In a 560 war with Hephtalites in Middle Asia, Türks captured Tashkent and Zeravshan valley. In 565 the Türks, led by Istemi-kagan, won a battle at Nesef, and Sogd was joined to Kaganate. In 570-576 Türks captured Northern Caucasus, in 576 they captured Bospor. As a result of these gains, Kaganate began controlling all important sections of the Great Silk Road, which provided Turkic aristocracy huge profits from the caravan trade. However, the might of the Turkic state was soon shaken by internecine strifes.
 Disintegration of khaganate
In 581 China suffered a coup d'état, and Zhou dynasty was replaced by Sui dynasty. The new ruler broke all relations with the Türks, and forbade exporting silk to the steppe, which at once undermined the power of Turkic nobility enriched by duties from caravan trade on the Silk Road. It coincided with death of Tobo khan and following dynastic conflicts between kagan relatives. After long confrontations a son of Kara-Issyk, Shetu, was elected a Great Khan, with a title Yshbara Khan. A second khan became Istemi son Kara Churin-Türk, Mugan-khan son Toremen received title Abo khan (eldest), and ulus on northern outskirts of the state.
Sui diplomacy at once felt the discord between Türks, and by all means began sowing dissensions between khans. It was successful, and in 584 Yshbara, tricked by Chinese, attacked the capital of Abo khan, accusing him of treason. Abo khan fled to Kara-Churin, and with joint forces they begun a war against Great Khan. After many encounters Abo khan retreated to Bukhara, but Yshbara khan died in 587, and the power passed to his brother Chulo khan. All Turkic princes swore an oath to the new Kagan, and Abo khan remained isolated. In the same year he was defeated near Bukhara, but the unity did not last for long.
Already in the 558 the enmity between the khan of the western lands Kara Churin, and the Great Khan flared up. Kara Churin aspired to independence, and the war lasted till 593. Finally, Yshbara khan's son Ün Yollyg became a Kagan, and Kara Churin was an actual ruler. But the break between western and eastern Türks was so great that when China begun a war in 598, the eastern Türks led by Jangar supported Sui Empire. Kara Churin was killed, but Turkic kaganate and did not reunite. In 604 an adolescent Taman, a great-grandson of Kara Churin became a Khan of Western Kaganate, and Jangar became a Khan of Eastern Kaganate. The unified Turkic kaganate ceased to exist. In Western Turkic Kaganate Türks were a minority, and the rulers sought power from the Jeti-su steppe tribes, the descendants of Usuns. They formed two tribal unions: Dulu (Tele) in Jeti-su and Dzungaria, and Onshadpyt (Right Wing) in Tian Shan. Each union included five tribes, and the people received a collective name "people of ten arrows".
Contradictions between the world powers for the control of the Silk Road resulted in forming in the 620es of two coalitions, on one side Western Türkic, China and Byzantium, and on another side Eastern Turkic Kaganate, Persia and Avar Kaganate. The war between these coalitions went on with alternating success, and did not bring a victory to any party. Unhappy with the never-ending war that stressed their forces and caused huge human losses, the Dulu tribes in 630 rose against Kagan and killed him. Sibir khan was proclaimed a new ruler. The later history of Kaganate is full of wars between Dulu and Onshadpyt (Right Wing) for control of the country. Using the troubles of the rulers, Bulgars and Ural Ugrs separated from the Western Türks. In the 635 the constituent tribal unions achieved autonomy, and r. Chu became a border between them. Concessions to separatist tendencies could not strengthen the state, and Türks continued losing their possessions. After Eastern Kaganate submitted to China, Chinese imperial armies came to the borders of Jeti-su. The Turco-Chinese war of 640-648 ended with a Türkic defeat, and Khazars separated from the Kaganate. The last Western Türkic kagan Yshbara khan tried to preserve the unity and independence of the country, but the Chinese aggression continued, and conflicts between Türkic tribes were increasing. As a result the Onshadpyts and Dulu in 656 recognized suzerainity of China, and Yshbara khan, betrayed by his subjects, retreated beyond the river Ili. The ruler of Tashkent turned him over to Chinese, and the Türkic Kagan died in 659 in captivity. Chinese divided the lands of the Western Türkic Kaganate into two governorships, which in turn were divided into districts and counties. However, the Jeti-su Türkic tribes did not accept the Chinese sovereignty.
 Social structure
In the First Turkic Kaganate the initial dynastic coalition consisted of a Kagan fraction (its symbol was a White Deer Golden Horns, i.e. the Sun) and a Katun fraction (its symbol was Snake/Dragon of fertility and prolificacy), deriving its origin from the gynocratic Yuezhi "clan of the Moon" .
Below is chronology of the known events in the history of ancient Türks and Türkic Kaganate. Dates with asterisk are unconfirmed reconstructions.
552 - Türkic kagan Bumyn revolted against Jujans. Destruction of Jujan state. Formation of Türkic Kaganate in Altai. Death of Bumyn. Rise to the throne of Kara Issyk Khan.
553 - Death of Kara Issyk Khan. Rise to the throne of Mugan Khan.
Between 567 and 571 - Türkic Kaganate conquest of Hazars and Bulgars.
572 - Death of Mugan Khan. Rise to the throne of Tobo Khan.
603 - Split of Türkic Kaganate into Western and Eastern Kaganates.
- Gumilev L.N., "Ancient Türks", SPb.: SZKEO, Publishing House "Crystal", 576 p., 2002. ISBN 5-9503-0031-9
- Zuev Yu., "Early Türks: Sketches of history and ideology", Almaty, Daik-Press, 2002, ISBN 9985-441-52-9
- ^ Yu. Zuev, "Early Türks: Sketches of history and ideology", p. 74