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Political Structure of Kimaks

28 October 2014
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The Kimaks ruler was powerful. With the social and political development of the Kimaks society from a tribe to a state formation, a gradation was observed in the hierarchy from leaders of the lower level (Shad-tutuk) to the highest leader (the Kagan). In comparative terms, the nobility of the ancient Turks was characterized by the following gradation: Shad, Yabgu (Ulug Shad), Kichig Kagan, Ulug Kagan. Within his territory, the Kagan could appoint governors (owners of domains), selecting them from the tribal nobility.

The institution of hereditary succession of power was not only within the Kagan’s and the Khan’s family, but also within the tribal nobility. Therefore, the domains of 11 rulers of the Kimaks Kagan were inherited by the children of these rulers [1].

The confederation of Kimaks tribes was not a formation based on family ties and kinship. It was based on the principles of territorial-administrative relations. In social terms, the Kimak union was over the tribal structures, and the tribes there were interrelated by hierarchical and vassal relations strictly regulated by the customs of the society [2].

The patriarchal and feudal relations in the Kimaks society served as the basis for the creation of large tribes, which in turn resulted in the emergence of a domain and tribe system. The chiefs of large tribes (which are both rulers and military leaders) received domains from the Kagan for their service, seeking to strengthen individual nomadic domains and to strengthen their political weight. Specific ownership exhibited king as a certain number of troops.

Some rulers became the semi-dependent khans seeking to seize the supreme power in the state under favorable circumstances. However, it was not so easy: the Kagan carefully planned both the policy of retaining the power inside the state and the foreign policy. This contributed to successful campaigns in the south, where they seized the lands of Tokuz-Guzes (the city of Karantia located on the southeastern shore of Lake Gagan, modern Alakol), and raided the city of Jamlekes in East Turkistan [3] and in the territory of the Yenisei Kyrgyzes.

The residence of the rulers were the cities surrounded by walls. Such castles and fortresses were located mainly in high places where the rulers maintained numerous troops. They kept their riches and warehouses in inaccessible, carefully protected mountain areas.

The horde of the Kagan was in the city of Imekia surrounded by a fortified wall with iron gates [4]. The city had the troops and the treasury. There were no differences between the Kagan’s power and the state power. According to the 9th century Persian researcher Gardizi, ordinary people «tended cattle for their masters», «preparing for the winter, they (Kimaks) prepared dried meat of lamb, horse, or cow, each according to their wealth» [5].




1. V. V. Bartold. Hudud al-alam, Sheet 18 b.

2. History of Kazakhstan: Lectures / edited by K. S. Karazhan.  Almaty: NURPRESS, 2011. 432 pp.  P. 47

3. Minorsky v. Hududal-Alam, p. 306.

4. Minorsky v. Hududal-Alam. The Region of the World. A Persian Geography 372 A. h  982 A. D. London, 1937. p 310; al-Idrisi. Nuzkhat ach-mushtak, s. 68 b.

5. V. V. Bartold, Extraction from the composition of Gardizi, page 84, 107.

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