Thursday, October 27, 2016

Kipchak Cuman Confederation

The Kipchaks (known in Russian and Ukrainian as Polovtsy) were a tribal confederation which originally settled at the River Irtysh, possibly connected to the Kimäks. They were joined by Cumans, who had originated also in Southern Siberia. In the course of the Turkic expansion in the 9th century they migrated further into Siberia and then westwards into the trans-Volga region. In the 11th century they continued spreading west, occupying a vast territory in the Eurasian steppe, stretching from north of the Aral Sea westward to the region north of the Black Sea (now within what is southern Ukraine and southwestern Russia) establishing a state known as Desht-i Qipchaq. The western grouping of this confederation was known as the Polovtsy (Kuman/Cumans) who expanded into Europe reaching Moldavia, Wallachia, and part of Transylvania. In the late 11th and 12th centuries this nomadic confederacy of the Cumans and (Eastern) Kipchaks became involved in various conflicts with the Byzantines, Kievan Rus, the Hungarians (Cuman involvement only), and the Pechenegs (Cuman involvement only), allying themselves with one or the other side at different times. In 1089, they were defeated by Ladislaus I of Hungary, again by Knyaz Vladimir Monomakh of the Rus in the 12th century. They sacked Kiev in 1203.

During the first Mongol invasion of Kievan Rus (1221–23), the Kipchak sided at different times with the invaders and with the local Slavic princes. In 1237 the Mongols penetrated for the second time into Kipchak territory and killed Bachman, the Khan of the eastern Kipchak tribes. The majority of the Kipchaks being incorporated into the Golden Horde, the western-most division of the Mongol empire. (The Kipchaks constituted a majority of the khanate comprising present-day Russia, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan. The Mongolian raids can be considered as a certain boundary which the Kipchacks started to become known as  the new-emerged Tartar people.  For at least one century after the Mongol invasions the name “Kipchak Khanate” was used for the Golden Horde.After the fall of the Mongol Empire, the Golden Horde rulers continued to hold Saraj until 1502).

In 1229 the king of Georgia was able to field an army that included 20,000 Kipchak mercenaries. In the east the  Khwarazmians were also being able to raise large armies of Kipchak mercenaries. In fact that was the backbone of their military.The defeated Kipchaks also became a major source of slaves for parts of the Islamic world, Kipchak slaves called Mamlūks serving in the Ayyūbid dynasty’s armies came to play important roles in the history of Egypt and Syria, where they formed the Mamluk state, the remnants of which survived until the 19th century. Members of the Bahri dynasty, the first dynasty of Mamluks in Egypt, were Kipchaks/Cumans as was Sultan Baybars, born in Solhat, Crimea. Some Kipchaks served in the Yuan dynasty and became the Kharchins.

Many Cumans fled into Hungary, Bulgaria, and Turkey before and during the invasion with some of their warriors becoming mercenaries for the Latin crusaders and the Byzantines. It is reported that Koten Khan, the leader of the Cuman-Kipchaks (western branch) when the Mongols invaded eventually fled to Hungary with 40,000 families. This migration is considered the last of several waves of nomadic migrations who came into central and eastern Europe from the east. (Huns, Avars, Maygars and Pechengs).

The name of the Kipchacks has not perished. It has survived in the form of personal names, the names of places, and the names of clans or families. The Kipchaks have also given their name to a whole family of Turkic languages. The descendants of the Kipchak language include the majority of Turkic languages spoken in Eastern Europe and the Caucasus today, as Kipchak was used as a lingua franca in Golden Horde-ruled lands.

Kazakhs and Karakalpaks are remnants of Eastern Kipchak tribes who lived in Northern Kazakhstan in the 10th century, but migrated to Europe later. So, their language originates from a more isolated form of earlier Kipchak. Bulgar-speaking Volga Bulgarians (or Kazan Tatars), Astrakhan Tatars, Balkars, Bashkirs and Mongolian aristocracy adopted the Kipchak language in the days of the Golden Horde. The most important surviving record is the Codex Cumanicus, a late 13th-century dictionary of words in Kipchak, Cuman, and Latin. The presence in Egypt of Turkic-speaking Mamluks also stimulated the compilation of Kipchak/Cuman-Arabic dictionaries and grammars that are still important in the study of several old Turkic languages. 

Source: various Wikipedia articles