Home History of Kazakhstan Kazakhstan in Middle Age States of the Early and High Middle Ages (VI-XIII centuries) Kipchak Khanate

Kipchak Khanate

Kipchak Khanate (the beginning of the IX century – 1219)

First time the word “kipchak” was mentioned in the ancient runic inscriptions dated 760. In muslim sources the Kipchaks first time were notedby Arab geographer IbnKhordadbeh (9th cent.)in the list of the Turkic tribes as belonging to the 8th century.

After the fall of the Western Turkic Khaganate in 656 the large groups of Kipchacks in the north of the Altai Mountains and in the Irtysh region under the auspices of Kimeks formed the tribal alliance. However, the intention of major Kipchak tribes to self-determinate led to their separation from the Kimeks and movement to the west of Kimek tribes in the end of the 8th century. But the ultimate independence was not reached. In the 9-10th Kipchak`s history was closely intertwined with the history of Kimeks. The Kipchaks were in political dependence from Kimek Khagan, entered the confederation, and then the Kimek Khanate.

In the early 11th after the fall of the Kimek Khanate in the territory of the former settlement of Kimek, Kipchak and Cuman tribes military and political hegemony passed to the Kipchak Khans. The Kipchak`s dynastic nobility came to the power and began taking active steps in the southern and western directions leading to the direct contacts with the countries of Central Asia and South-eastern Europe.

In the second quarter of the 9th century theKipchak tribal aristocracy supplanted the Oghuzdzhagbu from the lower and middle reaches of the Syr Daryariver, of Aral and Caspian steppes.

In the second quarter of the 11th century with the changes in the ethno-political situation in the region associated the appearance of the name of Dasht-i-Kipchak (Kipchak Steppe) instead of common before in the written sources "Oghuz Steppe" (Mafazat al-ghuz). Having seized the Mangyshlak and adjacent areas the Kipchaks came close to the northern borders of Khorezm.

In the middle of the 11th century the Kipchak tribe began a movement to the west of Itil (Volga). Moving to the west the Cuman tribe first came into direct contact with the people of Eastern Europe, particulary Russia, Byzantium, Hungary.

Historical and geographical area Dasht-i-Kipchak, embraces the whole area from the Irtysh River to the Dniester, can be delimited along the Volga River on two major ethno-territorial associations: the Western Kipchaks led by the dynastic clan Toksoba and the Eastern Kipchaks with the ruling Khan's clan El-Borili. Formation of Kipchak ethnic community in the territory of Kazakhstan was a difficult and long process, which development consists of three phases.

The first stage includes the formation of the nucleus of the Kimek tribal alliance, in which the Kipchaks played a significant role from the end of the 7th till the end of the 8th century. At that time there were close ethnic and cultural interaction betweenthe Kipchak and the Tele tribes.

The second stage includes the period from the end of the 8th prior to the 11th century. In this timing the Kipchaks settled over a wide area of the Altai mountains and the Irtysh River in the east to the Southern Urals and the Volga in the west. Together with the Kipchaks in West Kazakhstan with the center in Mugodzhars lived the Cumans. The interaction and integration of the three major ethno-political associations: the Kimeks, Kipchaks and Cumans held under the unifying role of Kimek tribes. The Kipchaks, as well as the Kimeks and Cumans were in close ethnic and cultural links and interactions with the Bashkir, Pecheneg, Karlukand especially Oghuz tribes. The Kipchak ethnos was formed on the basis of several clans and tribes united on the basis of kinship, not on the territorial or economic relations.

From the beginning of the 11th to the beginning of the 13th century the formation of the Kipchak ethnic community enters its third phase of development, first of all associated with the growing might of the Kipchak Khans, whose power was legitimized by the Khans dynastic clan El-Borili.The development and ethnic relations in the Kipchak Khanate, as well as the formation of the Kipchak ethnic group were depended on the tribal consist of the Kipchak eastern ulus.

The structure of the Kipchak tribe in 11-12th centuries was complex and heterogeneous. The Kipchak community, besides the Kipchak one, consisted of the Turkic-speaking Kimek, Cuman, Bashkir, Oghuz tribes.

Due to the nature of the historical process in nomadic societies in such "secondary" tribal entities persisted the importance of blood ties, family trees, proving a common origin.

The multiple Kangly tribes took part in the formation of the Kipchaks, small groups of which formed an ethno-territorial alliance in the territory of Aral steppes in the second part of the 12th century, as well as the Turkic-speaking Uran tribes, which came into Kazakhstan from East Turkestan in the 10th century, the Bayats, Azkishs and Turgishs. The appearance of the last two tribes in the Black Sea region in the 12th century is likely to be associated with the movement of Kipchak tribes there, and the Azkishs and Gyurgeshs with them. The Karluks, Chigils and Kaisalso were the ethnic components of Kipchaks.

The same type of economy, the system of social relations and a common language made the ethic and cultural characteristics become similar. This process stimulated the formation of Kipchak nation on the territory of Kazakhstan. The Kipchaks close interaction with different ethnic groups affected their ethnic community. With the growing political clout of Kipchaks, tribes and ethnic groups, aware of belonging to a single ethnic group, took the ethnonym Kipchak. However, the final stage of the formation of Kipchak nation was interrupted by the Mongol invasion.


In the middle of the 11th centurythe Kipchak tribes settled in the large territory of present Kazakhstan - from the Altai and the Irtysh River in the east to the Itil (Volga) and the Southern Urals in the west, from the Lake Balkhash in the south to the forest-steppe zone of south-western Siberia in the north.

In the second half of the 11th century theKipchaks settled on Mangyshlak and Ustyurt, where together with them settled the group of Oghuz tribes. On the "Small Map" of al-Idrisi there was a marked ethnotoponym "Kipchak Steppe" (Sahra al-Kyfchak), located between the Caspian and Aral seas dating back to the second half of the 11th century.

The Kipchaks first movements to the west in the middle of the 11th century were marked in the geographical map of Mahmud of Kashgar, where their habitats are shown west of Itil and in the north-west of the Caspian Sea. The Itil River itself was attributed to the Kipchak country.

The Kipchak Khans have expanded the south borders of the state to the area of ​​Taraz. They have built the Kandzhek Sengir fortification, borderline with the Karahanids. Natural boundary between the rulers of Kipchaks and Karahanids was the Lake Balkhash and the Lake Alakol.

East boundaries encompassed the right bank of the Irtysh and the slopes of the Altai Mountains. Mahmud of Kashgar marked the Imeks (Kimeks) in the Irtysh basin, in their ancient territory that called "Imek steppe". In the 12th centurythe Kipchak tribes of the Altai and of the upper reaches of the Irtysh River had borders with the Naimans, Kanglys and Kerayits.

In the north-east the Kipchaks were related to the Sayan-Altai tribes, there are the Kyrgyzs, Khakass and other tribes. The northern borders of the Kipchak Khanate passed along the forest-steppe zone that separates the current Kazakh steppe of Western Siberia.

In the north-west the Kipchaks entered the ethno-cultural and political contact with the population of the Volga and Ural regions. Interaction of the Kipchak tribes with the Bulgars and Bashkirsin the second half of the 11th – beginning of the 13th centuries developed in the Kipchak language and cultural influence.

Ethnic territory of Kipchak tribes was relatively stable, with the exception of the south-western borders, where the state of Khorezmwas carrying out quite active policy since the 30's of the 12th century.

Khanate formation

The important events happened in the first half of the 11th century.The Kipchak aristocracy significantly expanded the territory of the Eastern Dasht-iKipchak, which led to wars and clashes with the power of the Oghuzs on the Syr Darya, with the Central Asian Seljuk, Khorezm and Karakhanid dynasties. The need for external security was an objective reason for the formation of the Kipchak Khanate.

Political foundations Kypchak Khanate significantly strengthened in the middle of the 11th century after the migration of multiple groups of Cuman and Kipchak tribes.

In the 2nd half of the 11th and the early 12thcenturiesrelative stabilization and political unity of the Kipchak Khans was observed. Therefore, in Kipchak ethno community there were supreme khans, who spread their authority over all of the Khanate.

The power of Kipchak Khans passed down from father to son. Dynastic clan was considered the el-Borili. In Khan's palace, called Horde, was the administrative apparatus, which was responsible for Khan's property and the Khan's army. In the military-administrative terms the Kipchak Khanate, following the ancient Turkic traditions, was divided into two wings: the right wing with the center on the Ural River in Sarai and the left wing centered in Sygnak. More powerful was the right wing. The center of the Khanate, most likely, was in Turgai steppes. The exceptional importance was attached to the military organization and military and administrative control systems, because they reflected the specificity of nomadic life and were the most organic and suitable for the nomadic life.

There was a strict hierarchy of the ruling aristocratic elite (the khans, tarkhans, baskaks, beks, bais). Clans and tribes also were classified by their social significance.

The Kipchak society was socially unequal. The basis of wealth inequality was the private ownership of the livestock. The main wealth was the number of horses. Many people in the country of Kipchak, as reported by the written sources, owned several thousands of fine horses, and some of them even 10- and more-thousandths herds. Encroaching on the property was punished harshly. It was considered punishable, according to established laws (tore). The livestock, which was in private property of Kipchakfamilies had tribal marks (tamgas).

The most deprived of rights group in Kipchak society were slaves, the prisoners of war. Slaves were mainly for sale, and only some of them were used in the household as servants.

Thus, the Kypchak Khanate was the prevailing feudal state, which continued and developed the traditions of the ancient Turkic state organization.

Foreign policy

In 1065, the ruler of the Seljuks Alp Arslan organized ​an expedition to Mangishlak against the Kipchaks. Having submission of Kipchaks, the Seljuk sultan marched to fight againstJenda and Sauran. As a result of this military campaign, part of the Kipchak tribe temporarily became dependent on the Seljuks of Khorasan.

At the end of the 11th century in Mangyshlak and on the east coast of the Caspian Sea the Kipchaks were still dominating. Some groups of Oghuz and Turkmen tribes were in political dependence on them. In 1096 the Kipchak tribes headed by "powerful" Khan made ​​an expedition against the Khorezm. However, the Seljuk patrons of Khorezm forced them to return to Mangishlak.

According to Mahmud of Kashgar the Kipchak military-nomadic aristocracy was in difficult political relations with the rulers of the Karakhanid dynasty. The Karahanids have several times marched against the eastern borders of the Kipchakulus. The Kimeks from the banks of the Irtysh also raided the Turkic Muslim land in Semirechye.

At the end of the 11th - beginning of the 12th centuriesJenda, Yangikent and other cities in the lower Syr Darya were in the hands of the Kipchak leaders. However, in the first half the 12th century this territory became the place of bitter fighting between the Kipchak Khans and the Muslim dynasties of Central Asia, who tried to possess it whatever happens. Atsyz Khorezmshah spreading Islam by force won Jenda, and then moved to the north and added Mangishlak to his possessions.

In 1133 the Kipchaks were defeated by Atsyz after his military campaign from Jenda against the Dasht-iKipchak. The historical sources do not contain any information about the reasons of the first defeat. Essentially from that time (12th century) the Kipchak Khanate became disunited due to several reasons. The main ones are: the formation of the large Kangly alliance and increasing of internecine strife for power.

From the second half of the 12th century, especially since the reign of Tekesh (1172-1200), new policy of approchement with the Kipchak nobility was carried out. The leaders of Kipchak, Kangly, Imek, Urantribal groups were brought to service the Khorezmshahs. Ruling aristocracy of the Kipchak Khanate and the Khorezmshah dynasty entered into a kinship. Dzhankeshi Kipchak Khan gave his daughter Terken Khatun for Tekesh Khorezmshah. According to medieval traditions, the relationships as the "covenant of peace and kinship" were very important.They caused thereal and often close relations, resulting in the socio-political mutual support.

However, generally the political situation in the region was very instable. This was caused and maintained by the Khorezmshahs as a result of their policy aimed at undermining of the foundations of independent Kipchak Ulus. To this end, they created a military classfrom the Kipchak aristocracy, which supported the purposesof the Khorezmshahs. The ideological basis of this policy was Islamization of theKipchaks, first of all, of their aristocracy. Meanwhile, multiple groups of Kipchak tribes remained outside of Islam till the end of the 12th century. Until the end of the 12th century the territory between Jenda and Farabwas considered as the pagan Kipchak land.

Traditionally, the rulers of Khorezm took wives from the Kangly and Kipchak Khan tribes. In the end of the 12th – early 13th centuriesthe Kanglytribal alliance was a great political force, which wanted to be independent. That was not contributing to the political unity of the Kipchak Khanate. It is known that the main military force of the Khorezmshahs was made of groups of Kangly and Kipchak tribes. At the beginning of 13th century the Kangly leader, Amin Malik, played an important role at the court of Khorezmshahs. Ala ad-Din Muhammad Khorezmshah married his daughter. The Kipchak aristocracy, endowed by the Khorezmshahs with government and military posts, defended the interests of the last ones. There were internal conflicts in Kipchak society intensified by the rivalry for supremacy. In this situation the Khorezmshahs fomented and supported feud between the Kipchak leaders.

At the beginning of the 13th centurythe region of Sygnak became a part of the state of Muhammad Khorezmshah (1200-1220). Despite the loss of Sygnak the Kipchak Khans continued to fight hard with the Khorezm. Muhammad several times marched from Jenda to the north to fight against the Dasht-i-Kipchak. In 1216 during one of his military campaigns against Qadeer Khan, he reached Irgiz where in Turgai steppes accidentally collided with an army of Genghis Khan, who was chasing the Merkits ran to the country of Kipchaks. After the battle with the Sultan the Mongols retreated under the cover of night. This was the first appearance of the Mongols in the territory of Kazakhstan, have ceased a long rivalry between the Kipchaks and Khorezmshahs. The era of the Mongol invasions began.


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