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Saturday, January 28, 2017

Origin of Turks

The ethnonym Turk first appears with certainty in the Chinese sources dealing with events of the mid-sixth century in the form Tujue in Modern Mandarin Chinese. The exact form of the ethnonym masked by the Chinese character remains contested.[1][2]

These Turks were not the first Turkic-speaking people attested in our sources. The first Turkic speaking people identifiable in Chinese sources are a group of three peoples, Dingling, Gekun ( or Jiankun), and Xinli, located to the north in Southern Siberia that were conquered by Modun after he had subdued the Eastern Hu and the Yuezhi on his eastern and western flanks. There is a thread of historical continuity linking the Dingling of Han times with the Tiele of the fifth and sixth centuries out of whom the Uighurs eventually emerge. The Gekun/Jiankun have long been identified with the Kirghiz. The name Xinli is probably the same as Xue of seventh century Chinese sources, transcribing the Turkish tribal name Syr found on the Orkhon inscriptions. A fourth ethnic name of Western Han times that might be Turkish, located farther west, is Hujie or Wujie. A connection has been proposed with Turkish Ogur/Oguz but is less convincing phonetically.[3][4]

The Loulan in Xinjiang, the Yuezhi and the Wusun are Indo-Europeans. Xiongnu ethno-linguistic affiliations remain obscure. They have been identified as Turkic (perhaps, some “Pre-Proto-Bulgaric,”), Iranian or Palaeo-Siberian (in particular Kettic, a theory proposed by Ligeti more than half a century ago) The relationship of the Xiongnu ( EMC Hun-nu) to peoples subsequently appearing in the central - western Eurasian steppes and Europe bearing the ethnonym “Hun” ( or variants of it - Iranian-Sodian (hwn), Indian(Huna), Graeco-Roman Hunni) ) has also been contentious. The most recent considerations of the material argue for a Xiongnu-Hun connection.[4]

The Turkic ancient homeland

Tiele appears to be a later name (or variant) of the ethnonym Dingling - one of the names associated with early Turkic peoples. The Dingling/Tiele come into view in the second century BC in the area north of the Xiongnu, in Northern Mongolia and the Irtys region,extending to Lake Baikal and the Middle Yenisei. The Tiele union included Mongolic, as well as Turkic groupings. They were brought by force into the Xiongnu union and remained recalcitrant vassals. The Tiele formed a number of polities before their incorporation into the Turk Empire.

The various reconstructions, based largely on linguistic evidence showed that the early Turkic linguistic community must have been in a zone in which they had contact with Indo-European, Uralic and Yeniseic in their West and Northwest and Mongolic in their East. This was most probably in the forest-steppe zone of South Siberia around the Altay extending into Mongolia, where they may also have acquired elements of equestrian culture and pastoral nomadism from the Indo-Europeans.

The Indo-European Scytho-Iranians were their neighbors (and likely predecessors) in Mongolia and South Siberia (and perhaps extending into areas of Western Siberia). In Eastern Turkistan/Xinjiang, the early Turks interacted with both eastern Iranian and Tokharian-speaking peoples.[4]

Ashina dynasty

According to the legends Ashina people migrated towards the Altai Mountains from East Turkestan or the Turpan Oasis. As stated in one of these legends the sons of the she-wolf (ten in number) married local women and took their family names, one of which was Ashina. Most probably the name Ashina itself is of Iranian origin. The two most senior titles after that of the Khagan in the Turkic Khaganate were shad, which had Iranian roots ( along with the title of the khagan's wife- khatun) and yabgu , of Tocharian origin. It is presumed that the khagan, khan, tegin, chor and tarkhan titles, as well as the name Turk itself, are also of Iranian origin. The bek title can be added here as well. In addition, the names of the early Turkic khagans : Bumin, Istemi, Muqan, Taspar and Nevar, are not of Turkic origin either.[5]

Many orientalists as Yu. A. Zuev, A. N. Bernstamm and D. G. Savinov argued about the Saka-Wusun origin of the Ashina clan.


1. Studies on the Peoples and Cultures of the Eurasian Steppes, Peter B. Golden, page 20

2. Encyclopædia Britannica, Turkic peoples

3. THE PEOPLES OF THE STEPPE FRONTIER IN EARLY CHINESE SOURCES, Edwin G. Pulleyblank, 1998, University of British Columbia, page 53

4. Studies on the Peoples and Cultures of the Eurasian Steppes, Peter B. Golden, page 27-28

5. Khazaria in the Ninth andTenth Centuries, By Boris Zhivkov, page 23