Sunday, November 20, 2016

Kipchak Cuman Confederation


The Kipchak Cuman confederation were  a grouping of two Turkic speaking tribes with origins in Southern Siberia. In Russian and Ukrainian also known as the Polovtsy (or pale people). The Kipchaks originating between the River Ob and Irtysh, possibly connected to the Kimäks and the Cumans, who it is believed were connected with the Kun both amongst the original fifteen Turkic tribes).

In the course of the Turkic expansion during the 9th century both groups migrated further into Siberia and then westwards into the trans-Volga region. During 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. By the late 11th Century they had spread from what is now Kazakhstan into Europe reaching the Moldavia, part of Transylvania and Wallachia up to the Danube. Their lands located between the Rus and the Black Sea the Polovtsy controlled trade between the two regions and directly participated in commercial activities. For their livestock, they received agricultural products and luxury items from Rus. Controlling much of the Crimea (from Sudak), the Polovtsy engaged in the sale of slaves and furs to Byzantium and the Islamic East. 

While some Polovtsy may have converted to Christianity and Islam, the overwhelming majority retained their shamanist-Tari religion. The great traveller Ibn Batutta said of Confederation. "This wilderness is green and grassy with no trees, nor hills, high or low there is no means of travelling in this desert except in wagons". His contemporary, Hamdallah Mustawfi, elaborated, "This is of the Sixth Clime, its plains bear excellent pasturage but there are here few houses or towns or villages. Most of the inhabitants are nomads of the plain Many of the lands here are swamps The pasturage, however, being excellent, horses and cattle are numerous, and the population for the most part subsists on the produce thereof. The climate is cold, and their water comes from springs and wells".

In the late 11th and 12th centuries the Kipchak Cuman confederacy 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 both 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 and incorporated their lands into the Golden Horde, the western-most division of the Mongol empire. The Kipchaks constituted a majority of the khanate whose lands today are split between 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. However for at least one century after the Mongol invasions the name “Kipchak Khanate” was used for the Golden Horde with its capital at Saraj (Saratov) and extended from the Carpathian Mountains in eastern Europe to Siberia, and controlled many of the valuable Silk Road trading routes connecting China with medieval Europe.

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. The Kipchak languages are today spoken by approximately 26–28 million people from China to Central Asia to the Crimea.

Kazakhs and Karakalpaks are remnants of Eastern Kipchak tribes who lived in Northern Kazakhstan in the 10th century, but migrated towards European Russia 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.