Last Page Update:
September 05, 2001
Structure of the Red Kaganate
Gatherings, Events, . . .
Historic Steppes Tribes
Legends of the Nomads
Flags and other Identifiers
Clothing and Apearance
Food and related Matters
Weapons and Combat
Norman J. Finkelshteyn
The Historic Steppes Nomad Tribes
The Kaganate (or the smaller tribal confederacy) was commonly built of leading Steppes Nomad tribes, subject Steppes Nomad tribes, subject agricutural and hunter-fisher (together henceforth called "settled") tribes of the region, vassal tribes (tribes owing Taxes to the Kaganate but not living within its "borders"), as well as tribes in more or less continuous relationships with the Kaganate (and thus influenced by, and influencing the culture of the Kaganate).
This article is an attempt at a list-form overview of three thousand years of Steppes Nomad history.
It is a work in progress -- Contributions to the article are welcome.
Where a more detailed article on a given tribe exists, a hyperlink is provided to that detailed article.
The Kurgans - To disappoint "Highlander" fans -- this is not a tribe.
A Kurgan is a burial mound - similar to the Barrows or "Fairy Mounds" of Brittain. The Kurgans were the method of burial used by the Steppes Nomads from the earliest times and into the High Middle Ages. For the Early Nomad cultures, the goods found in those mounds are fundamental to our knowledge of those cultures, while for the Medieval Nomads, the Kurgans offer a valuable suplement to other evidence.
(to help out "Highlander" fans -- the "Kurgan" character seems to have been a caricature Scythian)
THE ANCIENT STEPPES KINGDOMS
The Cimerians - This was an Iranian-speaking tribe which came down from the Eurasian Steppes into the fields of Eastern Europe in roughly 1000 BCE and was the leading force in the area until it was eclipsed by he Scythians.
Yes, this is the tribe of fantasy's famed Connan - although Connan is a Celtic name - not likely to have been used by them. To disapoint film fans further, the iron swords used by the Cimerians were light, long, one-handed swords with a small grip that would have been used with two fingers by the movie hero.
The Scythians - Likely closely related to the Cimerians, the Scythians came down from their ancestral lands in the Altai mountains in approximately the 8th century BCE, taking the place of the Cimerians.
Their chief deity seems to have been a snake-footed godess and, in Greek historiography, they were thought to be the descendants of Hercules and this godess.
Briefly making a bid for Persia, the Scythians settled in Eastern Europe where they controlled trade between the Greeks and the settled tribes of Eurasia (keeping a tight hold on Greece's wheat supply).
The Scythians were decimated by Philip of Macedon (the father of Alexander) and never recovered.
A number of tribes closely related to the Scythians remained to the East and North, closer to the Scythian ancestral areas.
- The Saka - One of the more famous of these, located in the area of modern Kazakhstan.
- The Amazons - Little is known about this tribe outside of the Greek legends. The name the Scythians used for them means "Man killers", which seems to back the legends.
The Sarmatians - Said by the Greeks to be the offspring of the Scythians and the Amazons, this new group of Iranian tribes came onto the scene as the Scythians declined, in roughly the 3rd century BCE.
THE MEDIEVAL STEPPES KINGDOMS
The Huns - This confederation of tribes was built solely on the strength of character of their leader -- the famed Attila. It began with his assent and ended with his death. In between, the Hunnic Kaganate took tribute from both Eastern and Western Rome.
Displacing, and likely incorporating, the Sarmatian tribes, the Huns incorporated what were to become the new Turkic and Uighur tribes that would thenceforth be the face of Steppes nomad culture.
The RED KAGANATE Begins - 560 CE
The Great Turk Kaganate - Considered by their Byzantine contemporaries to be the descendants of the Saka, the Turks entered the world stage in the second half of the 6th century.
From the begining, this confederacy was composed of two semi-autonomous nations - the White (Eastern) Turks and the Blue (Western) Turks who soon quareled and split into independant Kaganates.
The Blue Turks - The Western half of the original "Great Turk Kaganate", this kingdom controlled Eastern Europe and Western Central Asia and seems to have been the direct ancestor of the Khazar Kaganate.
The Uighur - These tribes formed several important empires in the Central and Eastern Steppes. Uighur groups are often named with a prefix added to the root Gur (ie: the Onogur).
Bulgars - The Bulgars entered the world stage in the 6th century CE.
The "Great Bulgar" Empire was established near the Caspian Sea, where the group that eventually converted to Islam came to be known as the Volga Bulgars.
A second group continued west and south, invading the region between the Danube River and the Black Sea now known as Bulgaria, where they formed a relatively small ruling class over a large Slavic population. Bulgaria was converted to Christianity in the 9th century under Kijnaz (king) Boris/Michael. The first Bulgarian Empire was a major rival to the Byzantines until it was conquered and absorbed by them in the 11th century. A second empire's brief flowering was cut short in the 14th century by the conquest of the Ottoman Turks.
The Khazars - Picking up after the Blue Turks, the Khazars gained controll over a large part of the Caucas and Eastern Europe, building fortresses and cities to cement that controll.
Under triple pressure from the Russ, Byzantium, and Persia, they declined in the 10th century and were finally descimated by the Russ leader Svyatoslav, who then took to himself the title Kagan in immitation of the Khazar ruler.
The Magyars - Originally a subject peoples of the Khazar Kaganate, the Magyars began a Westward migration in the Seventh Century CE, settling in the Carpathian Basin by about the Ninth Century.
The population of the modern state of Hungary are Magyars.
Kyrgyz - This Northern people appears on the world stage in the sixth century becoming the leader of the nations of the Minusin basin (in Siberia), and quickly becomes a vasal of the Turk Kaganate. The Kyrgyz were famous throughout the holdings of the Turk Kaganate for the "sharp blades" they gave in tribute. Other tribute seems to have included fur and "Kyrgyz Maidens". The Kyrgyz repeatedly gained independance and were reconquered by a succession of Blue Turks and then Uighurs. By the ninth century, the leaders of the Kyrgyz have even lost the title of Khan and only apear as "Ajo".
Finally, in 820 CE, the tide turns. The leader of the Kyrgyz takes the title Kagan and, by the 40ies of the century they have taken the lands of the Uighur. The Kyrgyz Kaganate thrived and expanded until the second half of the 10th century - at which point it became too big to govern and began to fail under its own pressure. From the later 10th to the 12th century, the Kyrgyz fought internal wars and, by 1130, their lands begin to be taken by the Kara-Kidan (a Mongolian-speaking Eastern people).
Ghuz (Turkmen) -
The Seljuk Turks - The tribal groups mentioned above gained notoriety as they entered the area of modern Russia. The Seljuks, founded and named after the son of a Khazar general, went in a different direction.
It was the successful penetration of the Seljuk Turks into the Middle East at the end of the first Millenium CE that sent Byzantium into a panic. Hoping for military aid, Byzantium called Western Europe for help. Europe responded by instituting the First Crusade.
The Seljuk Empire layed the groundwork for what would eventually become present-day Turkey.
The Pechenegs - Following hard on the decline of the Khazar Kaganate, the Pechenegs chiefly asserted themselves in Western Eurasia in the Eleventh Century.
KaraKalpak - Cherniye Klobuki - Black Caps -
This confederacy was formed of a collection of small tribes being pushed from the East - better known among them being the Torks, and Berendey.
The KaraKalpak Settled on the border of Russian holdings. In the complex politics between Rus (the newly forming Russian ethnicity) and the Steppes, they were a sort of semi-internal complicating Turk element. At times they acted as a buffer for the Rus against the onslaught of other Steppes tribes, at other times their own political needs prevented Russians from making peace with those other tribes. Generally quite loyal and powerful allies to the Rus Knyazi (city kings), they nevertheless made their independence clear -- and, when insulted, were not loath to side with sometime enemies against the Rus.
Polovtsi - Kipchaks - Cumans - Pushing all other tribes before them, this confederacy became the dominant power in Eurasia by the second half of the 11th Century and continued as the major independent Steppes force until the Mongol Hordes came upon the scene in the mid 13th Century.
Prior to the time of the Mongols, the Kipchaks were a Kaganate without a Kagan -- they seem to have recognised themselves as a single entity but nevertheless operated as a series of small Khanates. During Mongol rule, Khan Batu, a grandson of Chingis Khan, took firm control of the conquered Kipchak tribes, becoming Kagan of the Kipchak Kaganate and establishing the Golden Horde.
This is NOT
The Great Mongol Kaganate - Temujin was born into a small, dying tribe on the Eastern Steppes. Through his charisma and political accumen he arose to leadership and, by the dawn of the 13th century, unified the tribes of the Eastern Steppes into a great confederacy -- more so, out of these tribes he created the national identity of Mongolia. Chingis Khan, as he came to be called, then led a series of successful campaigns, establishing what may rightly be called a World Wide Empire.
The Golden Horde - In the Mid 13th century, Khan Batu, a grandson of Chingis Khan, became Kagan of the Kipchak Kaganate. Prior to the coming of the Mongols, the Kipchaks (or Polovtsi) operated as small, independant Khanates. Khan Batu, with the power of the Great Mongol Empire, claimed rulership of this captured people creating the Golden Horde.
When, soon after the death of Chingis Khan, his Great Empire fragmented, the Golden Horde Kipchak Kaganate became the major power in its own right. The leaders of this Turco-Mongol Empire saw themselves as heirs to Chingis Khan but, in contrast to Chingis' trully Nomad kingdom, The Golden Horde created a national system of government and built many cities to implement their rule.
The Golden Horde spread from Eastern Europe through Northern Central Asia and at its height was the only place in the Middle Ages where un-walled cities could operate without fear.
The Empire was heavily damaged by the Timurid incursion at the end of the 14th century but it stood until Tzar Ivan IV of Russia, with allies from newly developing Turk confederacies, decimated it in 1480. The Golden Horde fell in the early 16th century under continued attacks from all points and most importantly Russia.
The Timurids - Timur Lenk ("the lame" - called that for a lame leg resulting from a wound early in his career), or Tamerlane to the Europeans, was born, an assimilated Mongol nobleman, near Samarkhand in one of the splinter kingdoms of the Mongol horde.
Though he raided far and wide, at one point decimating the holdings of the Golden Horde, he did not remain to rule in the North, limiting his kingdom, which lasted from the later half of the 14th to the 16th century, to areas of South Western Central Asia and Persia.
The Ottoman Turks - With the decline of the Seljuk Empire in Anatolia and the Middle East, in the spirit of Steppes confederacy building, several smaller entities took the place of the Seljuks. Eventually, one of these, the Ottomans, displaced all of the others becoming the heir to the Seljuk legacy and establishing by the 15th century what would become modern Turkey.
The Mughals (or Moghuls) - Though Babur was descended from Chingisid nobility on one side, and Timurids on the other, evidently due to some notion of civilisation, he considered himself a Timurid and was ashamed to be connected with the Mongols. His protestations did not help. He, and the kingdom he founded, came to be known as Mughal (or Moghul) -- the Indian word for Mongol.
Babur began his kingdom with an invasion of Afghanistan, early in the 16th century, and went on to conquer India. The Moghuls would continue as India's rulers until the British invasion in the mid 19th century.
The RED KAGANATE Ends - 1530 CE
The end date of The Red Kaganate coincides with the death of Babur -- the Last of the Timurids and First of the Mughal Kings.
THE MODERN PERIOD
The Modern period is an aproximation equating roughly with the rise in dominance of Western European culture. Western Art, Dress, and modes of thinking slowly became fashionable and even thought of as superior in the Eastern World in roughly the 18th century.
The last of the Steppes Empires, and those that lasted into this "Modern period" were the Mughals and the Ottomans.
Though wracked by rebellions from the non-Mughal population of India, the Mughal Empire lasted into the mid 19th century, when India was conquered by Britain.
Ottoman Turkey's economy declined and the government fell into decay. Finally, following World War One, a nationalist revolution led to the establishment of the Republic of Turkey.
In the process of upgrade.