By Serpil Kadirlar
Researching the origins and history of Turkish people is not a simple task. Using the cliché example of a tree is an accurate way to verbalise the visual description of the astounding biological nature of a tree as well as that of Turkish ancestry. That which manifests in the physical form, and appears to be something which is merely one of millions, means it is easy to forget or ignore the depth behind the face value of these living beings-whether one is referring to trees or ancestry, the analogy is the same.
The roots of a tree hold firmly to the ground and reaches far beneath the soil-past the depths of the resting places where our ancestors lay. The tree trunk- a strong, sturdy support network which functions effectively to provide nutrients that are distributed from the roots to the leaves, ensuring growth while comprising of the youngest tissue within the wood which ensures its longevity. The branches that form and develop in every direction. They grow to give the most leaves the most light, even if that means growing sideways, making home for leaves which process sunlight energy, turning the nutrients from the soil and water into sugar-or food- stored in the branches for sustenance. The tree will provide home and shelter for other species-plants, insects, birds and mammals, and network with neighbouring trees with their own unique communication methods. But most fascinating of all, some trees belong to the few plant species which are capable of living for thousands of years. The smallest root can be nurtured into the most spectacular tree, a dead tree can be revitalised and will live on, and the fruits from one tree provides the seeds of thousands for generations to come…
It is impossible to present The origin of Turkish people in one easy-to-digest article, therefore this is the first part of “The Origins”, beginning with the Oğuz Turks. Today the Turkish residents of Turkey, North Cyprus, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Egypt, Bulgaria, Romania, Greece, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Kosovo, and Serbia are descendants of Oğuz Turks and their language belongs to the Oğuz- a southwestern form and one of of many Turkic languages spoken throughout the world by an estimated 110 million people.
The very name “Oğuz” is a historical term for “military division, clan, or tribe”.
In 630, the Göktürks (Small Turkic tribes) began to unite in the face of a weakening Chinese empire. The unification of the Göktürk tribes lead to a rebellion and by the end of the 7th century, the resistance became completely independent of Chinese rule. Western Oğuz tribes migrated to Ötüken and merged with the Göktürks under the umbrella of the Uighur State founded by Kutluk Bilge Kağan. The Oğuz communities in the western part of the Altai prospered together and alongside the Göktürks, Turkic or Turkes Khanate. The Oğuz took significant roles in political affairs and the official state was founded by Karluk in the 760s.
Leadership was established in the Karahanli State, with statesmen from the Göktürk Yağma and Çiğil tribes also Leadership from Oğuz tribes.
The history of the Oğuz population in the East developed in another direction. In 840, when the Uighur state was overthrown by the Kyrgyz, the great immigration of the Oğuz began, and they migrated to the west of Asia.
During the 8th century, a confederation of Turkic tribes formed the “Oğuz Yabgu State”. The “Yabgu”, was a state office in the early Turkic states, roughly equivalent to Viceroy. The title carried autonomy in different degrees, and its links with the central authority of Khagan varied from economical and political subordination to superficial political deference. The title had also been borne by Turkic princes in the upper Oxus region (the border between Tajikistan and Afghanistan, and into the southern remnants of the Aral Sea).
Located between the coasts of the Caspian and Aral Seas (Current day Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan), encapsulating Irgiz, Yaik, Emba, and Uil rivers, the Syr Darya valley within the Tian Shan mountains, the foothills of the Karatau Mountains in Tian Shan, and the Chui River valley, the Capital of the Oğuz state was Guziya (Current day Zharkent in Kazakhstan). The Location of this Capital City was selected for strategic purposes; the geographical location of the city bordered with large agricultural regions of Asia, Korezm (Current Xorazm, a region in Uzbekistan) and Mā warāʼ an-Nahr (the portion of Central Asia corresponding approximately with modern-day Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, southern Kyrgyzstan, and southwest Kazakhstan). As well as Zharkent (Almaty Region, Kazakhstan) which was located along the important trade road which lead through the Kimak steppe to Sarysu, Kengir, Esil and Nura river regions. Trade roads leading to Syganak and South Ural also crossed this city.
Abu al-Gazi Bahadur (1603 – 1663), a prominent historian and an expert in Oğuz origins, who remains a chosen historian as a point of reference for current day scholars and historians who continue to research the roots of Turkish people- is recorded to have used at least 18 sources of reference while compiling his documentation and history books on the Oğuz people, including the works of Raşid-al-Din Hamadani and Şerif ad-Din Ali Yazdi. Abu al-Gazi Bahadur recorded that, “On the south of the Oğuz there is Ysygh Lake (Lake Kaindy) and Almalyk (Almaty), on the west – Sairam (Sayram), Kazyghurt (Kazygurt) and Karazhyk mountains (Khan Tengri), on the north – the end flow of the river Syr, Yanakent, and Karakum. They lived in this mentioned territory for four thousand, five thousand years. The ruler was elected from the tribe with more (the most) population”
In the beginning of the 9th century Oğuz united with Kimaks- one of the seven Turkic tribes in the Kimek confederation, and the Karluks, a prominent nomadic Turkic tribal confederacy residing in the regions of Kara-Irtysh (Black Irtysh) and the Tarbagatai Mountains west of the Altay Mountains in Central Asia- in the fight against Khangar-Pecheneg community, and occupied the territory of middle and low flow of the river Syrdariya, as well as Aral area. By the end of the 9th century, they were in alliance with Khazars in the fighting against Pechenegs, which resulted in their occupation of the territory between Volga and Zhaiyk rivers. In this territory, many cities of the state of Oğuz were built, which further had trade-economical, political-strategic significance during the formation of Khanate.
The Oğuz were the only tribe which formed Turk Khanate. The wide spread of Islam around the world had its influence on states located in the Oğuz territories and of its population. Part of population who lived in Zhanakent, Zhent, Sutkent and other cities were reverted to Islam, although Christians and Buddhists remained among the population.
Approximately in the middle of the 10th century, the Oğuz had only a few cities such as Zahnakent (Zarkent), Zhent (Astana), and Zhuvare (Huvare). Later they built other cities like Sauran, Karashyk, Karnak, Sığanak, and Sütkent. By the 12th century, cities such as Barshynkent had been built and during the first quarter of the 13th century, many other cities such as Uzkent and Ashnas were added to the list of Oğuz’s cities.
Although also settled and urbanized, their original nomadic way of life bred in them a combative spirit, sense in leadership, the habit of mobility, elegant equestrian skill, and an unusual dexterity as archers on horseback. Since early times in their history, they were noted for such moral virtues as endurance, loyalty, self-discipline and foresight.
In the later centuries, they adapted and implied their own Turkic traditions and institutions to the ends of the Islamic world and emerged as empire-builders with a constructive sense of statecraft, making a positive contribution to history as the vast regions in which they ruled evolved into new phases of social, economic, religious and intellectual advancement.
Various empires and Dynasties were seen to have developed from Factions of Oğuz tribes. The Bayrat tribe founded the Qajar Dynasty, which ruled Persia from 1794 to 1925. The Döğer tribe founded the Artquids or Artuqid dynasty that ruled in Eastern Anatolia, Northern Syria and Northern Iraq in the eleventh and twelfth centuries. The Avşar tribe founded the Afsharid dynasty in Iran’s north-eastern province of Khorasan, ruling Persia in the mid-eighteenth century. The Beğdili tribe founded the Khwarazmian dynasty and ruled large parts of Central Asia and Iran during the High Middle Ages, in the approximate period of 1077 to 1231, first as vassals of the Seljuqs and Qara-Khitan, and later as independent rulers, up until the Mongol invasion of Khwarezmia during 13th century. The Kayı tribe founded the Principality of Isfendiyar- an Anatolian Turkoman Beylik (small principalities ‘or petty kingdoms’) in Anatolia, governed by Beys that ruled principally in the regions corresponding to present-day Kastamonu and Sinop provinces of Turkey, also covering parts of Zonguldak, Bartın, Karabük, Samsun, Bolu, Ankara and Çankırı provinces, between 1292–1461, in the Black Sea region of modern-day Turkey. Also and most noteably, the Kayı tribe founded the great Ottoman Empire, which lasted for centuries.
Throughout history, the Oğuz Turks have founded different nations that have developed political and geographical identities of their own, yet share Oğuz ancestry, culture, history, language and literature. The modern Turkic nations of Azerbaijan, Turkey (and subsequently North Cyprus/Turkish Cypriots) and Turkmenistan are the three most historical of Oğuz Turk peoples.
The 24 Oguz Turkic Tribes:
Bozoklar Oğuz Tribes:
YILDIZ: Avşar, Kızık, Karkın, Beğdili.
AY: Yazır, Döğer, Dorduga, Yaparlı.
GÜN: Kayı, Bayat, Aklaevli, Karaevli
Üçoklar Oğuz Tribes:
GÖK: Bayandur, Peçenek, Çavuldur, Çepni.
DAĞ: Salur, Eymür, Alayuntlu, Yüregir.
DENİZ: İgdir, Büğdüz, Yıva, Kınık