Bilge Kağan Yazıtı’ndaki Yer ve Kavim İsimleri Üzerine

Orhun Yazıtları’ndaki yer ve etnisite isimlerini etimolojileri yönünden incelerken birçoğuyla ilgili bilgilerimizin ya varsayımsal ve temelsiz olduğunu ya da zaten hiç bilmediğimizi fark ettim. Değerli hocalarımızın görüşlerini merak ediyorum. Bilge Kağan Yazıtı’ndan tamamen amatör bir etnonim ve toponim derlemesidir.

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  • Kadırgan (Kingan) Dağları: Da Xing’an Ling, bugünkü Çin’in İç Moğolistan Özerk Bölgesi’nin doğu üçte biri ve Moğolistan arasında uzanan dağ sırası. Geleneksel olarak Türk boylarının doğu sınırı. Ötesinde Tunguzlar, Mançu, Evenkler yaşar. Bu isim Çince ismin Türkçeleştirilmesi midir, yoksa Türkçe kökenli midir?
  • Böküli Çölüg: Kaynaklarda Kore olarak yorumlanmış. Peki neye göre? Göktürklerle çağdaş olan Kore’deki Baekje krallığı ile ilişkilendirilmiş olabilir diye düşündüm.
  • Tabyaç: Çin. Bu kesin. Çünkü Kaşgarlı “Yukarı Çin’e Tawgaç derler.” gibi bir ifade kullanıyormuş. Bilge Kağan yazıtta “Ben Tabyaç’ta doğdum.” diye bahsediyor. Tabgaç aslında Çinlilerin To-balar/Tupalar dediği yabancı bir boyun ismi. Xiong-nu’lar ortadan kalkınca Xienpiler kuzey Çin sınırına egemen olmuşlar, To-balar ya da Tabyaçlar bunların içinde bir boy. Kaynaklarda Kuzey Wei hanedanı diye bahsedilen hanedanı kuruyorlar ve 557’ye kadar kesin iktidarda kalıyorlar. Bizdeki görüş Türkî olmaları gerektiği yönünde. Moğol veya Tunguz diyen de varmış, bilmiyorum. Bugünkü Tuva Türkleriyle ilişkili olmaları da akla yatkın ama bunu da bilmiyorum. Gerçekte Wei Nehri’nin yukarı bölgesine denk gelse de Göktürkler sanırım bütün Çin’i Tabyaç/Tabgaç addediyor. Bazı İslam ve Bizans kaynaklarında da Çin’i bu isimle tanımış.
  • Tüpüt: Tibet olsa gerek, değil mi?
  • Apar: Ortak yoruma göre Avar kelimesinin Eski Türkçesi. Batıdaki eski düşman. Peki Çinlilerin Ruan-ruan dedikleri bu mu? Attila’ya müteakip gelen Avarlarla ilgileri kesin mi?
  • Purum: Roma, Romalılar. Kronoloji düşünülürse Doğu Romalılar. Ama neye göre? Nerden biliyoruz Purum’un Doğu Roma demek olduğunu? Purum>Rum ilişkili midir? Aklıma Sasaniler geliyor ama İslam öncesi Farsçada Rum “Hrōmāy-īg” idi diyor Wikipedia. O değil herhalde. Neye göre Roma olduğunu bilen var mı?
  • Kırgız: Kırgız. O zamanlar şimdiki Kırgızistan’da değil, Yenisey nehri boyunca yaşıyorlarmış. Göktürklerin neredeyse düşman ilan ettikleri, sık sık hanlığa bela olan bir topluluk. Sonradan güneybatıya göçmüşler.
  • Üç-Qüriqan: Kimdir? Nedir? Qüriqan ne demektir? Damat anlamındaki ‘Küregen’le ilgisi var mıdır? Üç-ok denen Karluklarla bir ilgisi olabilir mi?
  • Otuz-Tatar: Bugün bildiğimiz Pontik step Tatarlarıyla bir ilgileri var mı? Yoksa Anadolu Türklerinin Tatar dediği Moğollarla bir ilgileri var mı? Yine belirsiz.
  • Kitan: Kitanlar veya Hitaylar. Moğol mu Türk mü Tunguz mu belirsiz bir etnisite. Çin kaynaklarına göre yukarıda bahsettiğim Kadırgan Dağları ve doğusunda yaşayan bir halk. Sık sık Çin’in Hebei bölgesine yağmalar düzenliyorlar. Göktürklerle arada bozulan bir ittifakları var. Göktürk ve Uygurların siyasi gücü bittikten sonra Liao hanedanını kuracaklar. Buraya kadar makul. 1125’te Liao Çinlilerce yıkılınca bir kısmının batıya gidip Müslüman olup Yedi-su bölgesinde Karahitaylar adını aldığı söyleniyor ama, ee, bizim bildiğimiz Karahitaylar Türkçe konuşan bir kavim değil miydi?
  • Tatabi: Benim erişebildiğim Türkçe kaynaklarda bir bilgi bulamadım. Ama yabancı kaynaklar Çinlilerin Kumo Xi dediği göçebe bir halkla eşleştirmiş. (Neye göre demişler?) Bu halk sonradan Liao hanedanının tebaasına asimile olmuş. Peki o zaman Batı kaynakları neye göre Kumo Xi’ler Mongolic’tir diyor? Bunların dilinden bir örnek mi var elimizde? Bu da belirsiz.
  • Temir Kapıg: Demir Kapı, Maveraünnehir’deki Belh ve Semerkand şehirlerini bağlayan ticaret yolunun yüksek bir dağ geçidi. Bugün Afganistan kuzeydoğusundaki Feyzabad şehri yakınlarında sarp, kayalık, korkutucu ama çok stratejik bir yer.
  • Tokuz-Oguz: Meşhur dokuz Oğuzlar. Eveet, buyrun bakalım: burdaki Oğuz sonradan batıya göçüp Oğuz Yabgu Devleti’ni kuracak olan bildiğimiz Oğuzlar mı yoksa genel olarak “boylar” anlamındaki “ok-uz” kelimesi mi? Kısa süre sonra taa Tuna düzlüklerinde yerleşecek Onogurlarla ya da Uzlarla KANITLANMIŞ bir ilgileri var mı? (Bu arada her kimlerse bu Tokuz-Oguzlar ve başlarındaki Baz Kağan Göktürklerin “kuzeydeki düşman” olarak tanıdıkları bir tehdit.)
  • Töles ve Tarduş: Bilge’nin babası İlteriş Kağan bu “Töles ve Tarduş halkları”nı düzene sokup başlarına şad ve yabgu atamış. Kim bunlar? İma edilene göre Türklerin sırasıyla batı ve doğu yarılarıymış. Tölesler Çin kaynaklarındaki Tiele, Tarduș da Xueyentuo (Seyanto) olarak düşünülüyor. İkisi de Xiongnu dağıldıktan sonra Çinlilerin uğraşmak zorunda kaldığı yağmacı göçebe kağanlıkları. İster istemez soruyorum, Göktürklerden önce Türk boyları arasında Tölis-Tarduş ayrımı mı varmış? Ahmet Taşağıl hocanın söylediğine göre varmış: (https://slidex.tips/download/sr-tardular-ahmet-taail) Ahmet hoca özellikle Tarduşların Göktürk devlet yönetiminde etkili olduklarını söylüyor. Peki Töles ne demek, Tarduş ne demek?
  • Yaşıl-Ügüz: Sarı Nehir, Çinçede Huang He. Bilge Kağan buraya amcasıyla ve Tarduşlarla beraber sefer düzenlediğini söylüyor. Fakat neden ‘yaşıl’? Huang Çince sarı demek. Moğollar çok sonraları bu nehre Şar Mörön yani sarı nehir demişler. Belki “Yaşıl” Nehir de bu değildir, az güneyindeki Yangtze Nehridir, neden olmasın?

    …diye düşünüyordum ki:
  • Şantung: Çince Şandong, okyanus sahilinde bir il. Kültürel ve dinî bir merkez, Konfüçyus’un da memleketi. Bilge Kağan amcasıyla yaptığı doğu seferlerinde Yaşıl-ügüzle beraber Şantung’u da sayıyor. Şantung Sarı Nehrin denize döküldüğü yer. O yüzden Yaşıl-ügüz Huang He/Sarı Nehir olmalı.
  • Kögmen Dağları: Batı seferlerinde bu dağlar aşılıp Kırgız diyarına ulaşılmış. Kırgızlar Yenisey havzasında olduğuna göre burası şimdiki Rusya-Moğolistan sınırındaki Sayan Dağları olmalı sonucu çıkarılıyor. Burası aşıldığına göre Göktürk hakimiyeti Sibirya içlerine ulaşmış diyebiliriz.
  • Türügeş: Bağlılığını bozup ihanet eden bir kağanın adı olarak anılmış, savaşılıp öldürülüyor. Bu aynı zamanda boy ismi gibi de görünüyor. Kağanın ismi Çin kaynaklarında Suogo. Öldükten sonra Türügeş boyu Yedi-su bölgesine doğru kaçmış, Göktürklerden sonra bağımsız kağanlık olup Emevilerle savaşacaklar.
  • On-ok: Belirsiz. Yazıtta tek kelime olarak kayda geçirilmiş: “Onok”. Onogurlar mı bunlar? Olabilir. Bozguna uğratılmışlar.
  • Az: Kopkoyu bir muğlaklık daha. Beysiz buyruksuz düzensiz kalmasınlar diye düzene sokulduğu kaydedilmiş bir halk. “Az budunu”. Kimdir neyin nesidir, Bilge Kağan neden bu kadar sahiplenir?
  • Kengü Tarban: Maveraünnehir. Kağanlığın batı ucu olarak bahsediliyor. Benim sorum şu: Kengü ne demektir, Tarban ne demektir? (tam fonetik yazılışıyla Keŋü Tarmanq)
  • Altı-Çub Sogdak: Soğdlar. Altı-Çub ne demektir bulamadım.
  • (Yer) Bayırku: Çin kaynaklarındaki Pa-ye-k’u olduğu genel kabul. Ulu İrkin denen biri tarafından yönetilen bir boy. (İrkin neden ulu acaba?) İsyan ediyorlar. Çin kaynaklarına göre Pa-ye-k’u bir Türk boyu, hatta Dokuz Oğuz’dan biri. Fakat Kaşgarlı’da, Reşidüddin’de, Ebu’l Gazi’de böyle bir Oğuz boyu ismi yok. Yabancı kaynaklarda da bir tane bile Bayırku’yla ilgili bilgi görmedim. Başındaki “yer” ifadesini de anlayamadım. Çinliler mutlaka bu konuda bir şeyler yazmıştır, bilenler aydınlatırsa çok mutlu olurum.
  • Türgi Yargun Gölü: Bayırku’nun Ulu İrkin’inin mağlup edildiği savaşın gerçekleştiği alanı tarifleyen göl. Neresi olduğu belirsiz.(http://www.turkishstudies.net/d…/cilt1/sayi6/sayi6pdf/80.pdf)
  • Songa Dağları: Belirsiz bir dağ sırası. Kögmen Dağları aşılıp Kırgız ülkesine gelindiğinde Songa Dağlarında Kırgız kağanıyla çarpışılmış.
  • Ertiş: İrtiş Nehri. Bu isim Türkçe kökenli midir, sevgili etimolojiye gönül vermiş insanlar? 
  • Bolçu: Türügeş’in mağlup edildiği bir nehir boyu ya da ova. Türügeşlerin yaşadığı yer göz önüne alındığında İrtiş Nehri’nin bir boyu olması gerektiği söyleniyor.
  • Tabar: Türügeş’in kağanı Suogo öldürüldükten sonra Türügeş boyunun iskan ettirildiği belirsiz bir yer.
  • Yincü-ügüz: Günümüz Türkçesiyle sanırım “inci” nehir, günümüz Kazakistan’ında Seyhun ya da Sir Derya Irmağı, antik Yunancada Jaxartes. Soğdlara karşı buraya kadar sefer yapıldığı ve boyların iskan ettirildiği söyleniyor.
  • Kengeres: Muhtemelen Hazar kuzeydoğu düzlüğü boyunca uzanan Kangar bölgesi. İsmin etimolojisi belirsiz, Toharca ve Kıpçak lehçeleri için varsayımlar öne sürülümüş. Yazıtta burası kağansız kalan Türügeşlerin ikinci kez isyan çıkardığı yer olarak bahsediliyor. İsyandan sonra bölgeye yerleşen Peçenek, Oğuz ve Kıpçak boyları Yunanca literatüre topluca Kangar, Çince literatüre Qangli olarak geçmiş. Göktürklerden kısa ömürlü bir boy konfederasyonu olarak devlet ismi haline gelmiş.
  • Kara Köl: Az halkının çıkardığı isyana karşı sefere çıkılan bölgenin ismi. Yukarıda paylaştığım Köktürkçe Nehir ve Göl dizininde güney Tuva bölgesinde tarif edilmiş ama Kırgızistan’da da aynı isimde bir yer var.
  • İzgil: Türk boy ismi. Onlar da isyan çıkarıp Göktürklerin gazabına uğruyorlar. Çok büyük ihtimalle sonradan İbn Fadlan’ın bahsettiği Askel Türkleri veya Ahmed bin Rüsteh’in Bersula ve Bulgarlar ile birlikte İtil Türklerinin üçüncüsü olduğunu söyleyeceği Esegel boyu ile aynı boy. Zuev’e göre Çinlilerin “en güçlü ve müreffeh Dokuz Oğuz boyu” olarak takdim ettikleri Axijie ve Issık Köl civarında yaşadığı söylenen Çiğil boyu ile de aynı olabilirler ama bu kadarı pek net değil.
  • Togu-balık: Togu şehri(?). Neresi olduğu belirsiz. Dokuz Oğuz’la yapılan ilk savaşın yeri.
  • Koşulgak: Ediz boyu ile çarpışmanın olduğu yer ismi. Koşulgak’ın neresi olduğu meçhul. Ediz boyu da bana sorarsanız aynı ölçüde meçhul, Ediz’i Çin kaynaklarındaki A-tie ile ilişkilendirecek pek bir şey yok zira. Yazıtta Dokuz Oğuz savaşlarının içinde gibi bahsedilirken A-tie’ler zaten Çinlilerce Dokuz Oğuz’dan biri sayılmamış. İkisiyle de ilgili pek veri yok.
  • Çuş Başı: Dokuz Oğuz savaşlarından birinin daha yeri. Yine bilinmiyor. Fakat Çuş nedir, başı nedir? Bir pınar kast edilmiş olabilir mi?
  • Azgıntı-Kadız: Dokuz Oğuzla son savaş yeri???
  • Magı-Korgan: Dokuz Oğuz savaşından sonra ordunun kışı geçirdiği bir yer. “Kurgan” kelimesiyle belki bir ilgisi vardır diye düşündüm. Dokuz Oğuz Savaşı ile ilgili diğer bilinmeyen yerlerle birlikte Tula Nehri boyunca Kuzey Moğolistan civarında bir yer olması beklenebilir.

 

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How to Kill Your Father to Establish an Empire: A Turkic Fairytale from East Asia

Only few sources make us to distinguish real historical events of ancient age from fancy myths in East Asian scene of world history. In this remote part of the world, political history books typically start by some folk tale, a legend consisting dragons, heros or sorcerers, or holy founding father with super powers. Here I try to tell you one interesting story staying just in the purgatory between these two.

Our story is ultimately based on Chinese chronicles, which all whom interested in with this spesific section of history are much obliged to. Sima Qian, also known as “Herodotos of China”, coming from a traditionally intellectual family background, appointed for official historical records of ruling Han dynasty in proximity of first century BC. However, bearing some suprisingly liberal views on history recording and also, notoriously having troublesome relations with the ruling dynasty, Sima chose to write a different version of his deep knowledge of history, today we know it as ‘Shinji’ or ‘Records of the Grand Historian’.

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(Young Sima Qian, depicted with his early works) 

In this serious collection of historical records, section 94 tells us some serious historical events with a vividity unexpected from an author recording about what had happened almost a century before his lifetime. This certain part of Records is about famous unification of Chinese feudal states by Qin dynasty and its tyrannical ruler King Qin Shi Huang. Accordingly King one by one defeated his rivals and constituted a strong government build-up across the fertile rivers of Chinese valleys, established the first police state in the history with ‘unfortunate’ policies like “burying the dissident scholars alive” and “burning libraries” and didn’t stop there and actually attempted to initiate erecting a huge wall shielding Chinese agricultural settlements from what he considered to be a threat coming from barbarians at the northwest. Yes, this was what to be archaic core of Great Wall of China and King Qin was the theoretical father of this idea.

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(Divided China until Qin Shi Huang’s reign. Warring States were dreadlocked with endless anomisities against each other and first examples of Chinese wall building architecture is dated back to these era. After the unification, Emperor Qin’s regime would exploit this tradition for external defensive purposes.)

King Qin Shi Huang’s political career is a huge story to tell with his many glorius achievements such as a terracotta army patroling his deceased body in afterlife. However, my focus in this story is not even around him. We, hereafter, need to embroaden our proximity of event. King Qin was well-aware that a wall erected next to rich terrains of Yellow River vale would stir his neighbour nomadic Xiongnu people up, as they were already enraged by the restrictions of royal palace bilaterally prohibiting any trade activity between Xiongnu nomads and Chinese settlers dwelling next to borders. Thus, he comissioned his trusted General Meng Tian to set up a pre-emptive attack on Xiongnu, to frighten them right away before any possible interruption to building process to come. Meng Tian was a well-educated and properly experienced warlord in Chinese bureucracy and also known to be a member of a family with a tradition of growing up formidable battle tacticians. He knew that a mere pre-emptive attack against a crowded, warlike, steppe nation would have turned out to be nothing but shoving a stick into a hive.

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(Expansion of Qin rule at the end Warring States Period. King Qin Shi Huang established an absolute hegemony over Chinese valleys and fortified cities.)

Considering these hypothesis, Meng accepted the task but demanded all the cavalry force of the Qin army. His main aim was not only frightening of the nomads but effectively crushing and making them flee away from the construction site. He led a combined force of (allegedly) 100,000 units to the north and surprised the pastoral tribesmen of Xiongnu and utterly defeated their leader Touman in 215 BC, making him run and hide deep into the north of the continent. This record also represents the first citation of a Xiongnu leader, a ‘shangyu’, and today still stipulated in Turkish schoolbooks to be the first direct historical mention of Turks, based on the widely accepted view for Xiongnu to be Turkic/Para-Turkic people. (Due to rise of nationalist ideas in twentieth century, an erroneous transliteration of name “Touman” is revived through Turkish population as “Teoman” which still remains alive today as a popular male name.)

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(Meng Tian [dressed black] and his retinue. He was a proponent of Confucian school in China and beyond local political disputes he was respected statesman.)

Implied leading commander over the complex relationships of Xiongnu tribes, Touman, hasn’t been able to turn back near Chinese border for next 10 years. Meng Tian maintained to be an intimidatory figure through the construction period. He enjoyed the full trust of the mighty emperor. However, exile of heir of Qin dynasty, Fusu, has changed everything for Meng’s remaining career. King Qin’s iron-fist domination over every traditional institution in the country had been dealing young prince’s mind for some time and after he counselled his father not to do any harm on Confucian school any more, he was sent out to north, to the retinue of Meng Tian, where he found a welcoming attitude and a satisfactory friendship with the respected general. This was an abrupt and tragic exile for the future of powerful dynasty, as, in Fusu’s abscence, eunuchs and officers in the palace monarchy has taken sides with Fusu’s weak demeanored brothers and unreliable generals and capturing more powerful statuses in the expense of stability of the goverment.

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(Terracotta Army protecting mighty King Qin’s mausoleum.)

Famous King Qin suddenly died in 210 BC before even his 50th birthday. His death was followed by a series of bloody conspiracies culminated to enthroning of the Qin’s youngest son who was under direct influence of former emperor’s eunuchs. New emperor Huhai instantly issued a royal denouncement for Fusu and unfavored prince’s protector General Meng. Seeing no other honourable choice, both commited suicide. The most eminent force of the empire with more than 200,000 troops in the northern border was thus decapitated.

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(Estimated status of King Qin’s Great Wall at the time of his death. Even not much manned and strengthened, Great Wall should have been a serious defensive line against nomadic battle tactics strange to siege equipments. Qin’s big project was almost complete by his own lifetime.)

Aware of this opportunity born of the chaos, Touman of Xiongnu restarted to infiltrate into Northern China and renewed commercial arrangements with silk merchants along the borders. Touman had spent his years in the north with dreams of re-establishment of a stabile position for himself. The rival nomadic force in the steppe, Yuezhi clans, was tried to taken into alliance with Touman and an armistice was agreed on with other horselords in the eastern Donghu borders. To strengthen his position even further and secure rest of his chanyu years, Touman arranged a new marriage with a Yuezhi concubine and proposed his son, Modu, to be taken a royal hostage by Yuezhi as a sign of mutual trust. Though his proposal was accepted, this plan was actually meant to be a ruse.

Touman’s idea that includes fathering a Yuezhi-Xiongnu son to heir both nations was also targeting his own son. Modu was grown up in the harsh conditions of norther Mongolian steppes after the heavy loss against Meng’s advance. Ruthless years among barbarian cultures had forged him to be a total military man and his popularity in the common folk was on perpetual rise. Touman was doubtful about this rise and he concluded to eliminate his son. The custody term of Modu was the secret use of the marriage. After he married the Yuezhi concubine, he immediately ordered a minor attack on Yuezhi hoping such aggresion would have provoke direct execution of his son in custody. This plan would turn out to be a catastrophy. Here our little folk tale begins.

Modu was ready in his mind for such conspiracy of his father and hearing Xiongnu attack, he stole a horse right away and escaped the Yuezhi camp he was held in. He managed to reach Xiongnu fields and Yuezhi were left with nothing in their hands against Touman’s attack. Touman, disappointed with the semi-failure of his plan, decided to pose a welcoming warm-hearted attitude for Modu and ostensibly  presented him with command of 10,000 cavalry for his brave survival, probably hoping it would be enugh for regaining his son’s love and trust. Modu acted a fool and gladly accepted this gift. He turned to be a legendary warrior now and left his father’s throne with his new forces.

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(Xiongnu troops ravaging the Great Wall.)

Modu Tegin (Old Turkic title  for “prince”) sought to even increase his force with new recruitments due to his starring popularity. He insisted on a strict course of military training consisting his personal guards. Records of Great Historian describes what happened later with an outstanding vividity:

  • “Modu managed to make whistling arrowheads and with them training his riders to shoot. He gave an order, saying: “Those who do not always shoot at something shot at by an arrow with a whistling arrowhead will be beheaded.” He conducted hunting for game-animals. He had some not shooting at something the whistling arrowhead(s) [had] shot at, and he on the spot beheaded them. That being done, Modu with a whistling arrowhead shot at a good horse of his own. At [his] left and right, some did not at all dare to shoot. Modu straightaway beheaded them. [Next,] he waited, a while passed, [then,] again with a whistling arrowhead, he shot at his own beloved wife. At [his] left and right, he had some who were quite afraid and did not dare shoot, and he again beheaded them. A while passed. Modu went out hunting. With a whistling arrowhead, he shot at a good horse of [Touman,] the chanyu’s. At [his] left and right, all shot at it. Modu thereupon knew that his left and right could be used [for the task]. He went along on a hunt of his father, the chanyu, Touman’s, and with a whistling arrowhead shot at Touman. His left and right, all following the whistling arrowhead, shot at and killed Touman. They put to death both his stepmother and the younger brother and even some important retainers who did not obey and go along. Modu thereupon installed himself and became chanyu.”

Modu, now a self-proclaimed chanyu, quickly turned his look into expansionist ideals of Xiongnu and initiated a campaign against former-allied Donghu tribes utterly crashing them in 213 BC. He made Dinglings of North Mongolia submit and massed entire steppen power against his last but strongest local rival, Yuezhi. As he claimed all Yuezhi territory after clever diplomatic strategy and some major clashes in 208 BC, Modu Chanyu was feeling safe to storm weakened China with the revenge of now-unified nomads.

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(Xiongnu and their neighbours. Yuezhi to the west, Donghu and Xianbei to the east, Dinglings to the north-northwest. Modu have taken these vagrant nomads under his command -by force in many occasions- and done exactly the same kind of unification King Qin once had done.)

Xiongnu horsemen organized multiple raids on Chinese bases for three years and Modu instituted a strong hold over all the plains beyond Qin’s Wall. Under Modu’s pressure, Chinese imperial margraves were wavering in their loyalty for the now-weak central monarchy. Finally an important military general of the monarchy, Han Xin, switched sides and agreed to submit to Xiongnu rule tearing a considerable portion of Chinese territory away for Modu’s rule. This treason urged Chinese emperor to act abruptly. Next year new emperor of China, Gaozu of Han, broke the Xiongnu siege surrounding his royal capital, Taiyuan, and managed to drive the nomads northward. However, Modu, ready for such counter-initiate, mobilized his entire forces to blockade the emperor on a high plateau on Baideng and pinned him in his camp with a force over 300,000 horsemen for seven long days.

Emperor Gaozu was in utter despair and far away from any possible reinforcement options. He was willed to fight until an honourable death on the battlefield but his advisor, Chen Ping, persuaded him to send a secret mission away to bribe Modu’s wife with an unknown name. What the mission actually offered as a bribe is also unknown today. The underlying reason of acceptance is also unknown. Modu’s wife should have been living in a remarkable wealth for her age, she didn’t actually needed any money. Regardlessly, Records make us sure that she accepted. Later, she convinced his chanyu husband to halt the bloodshed coming through. Modu relieved Emperor and agreed to negotiate peace terms.

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(Imperial borders in the time of Modu, especially depicting the invaded parts of North China.) 

Gaozu was over his fifties by the time. Grown up in always dangerous politics of China, he was experienced enough to understand vanity of any military attempt against Xiongnu. Complied with his council’s advice, he accepted what to change the nature of Sino-Xiongnu relations for good in the next centuries. He supplied his generous peace offer with a Han princess to marry Xiongnu leader. Such marriage would assure a long-termed peaceful attitude of Xiongnu for China, since a royal marriage was a binding concept in nomadic traditions called “töre”. No respectable nomadic man could have dared to open war against his own father-in-law. It was a well-known ignoble crime in the Eurasian steppes.

Chinese aristocracy was disgusted of such dishonour. A royal Chinese bribe “sold” to nomadic barbarians had never been heard of, that it was national shame. Nevertheless, not Gaozu nor consequent Chinese emperors would afford to leave this practice. Under the pressure of nomadic warlords, China continued to seek peace through “Heqin marriages” and by time, “Heqin princesses” turn into a tradition that royal palace persistantly provided special education to young maids of the royalty according to the Xiongnu Chanyus demands and personal requests. Princesses were trained to learn barbaric languages of steppes, nomadic cultures and family organization and -since a chanyu’s wife was an official and seriously effective member of Xiongnu battle council by the tradition- elegant diplomacy to alter Chanyus’ attitude in the benefit of China. Marriage between nomads and empire became the insignia of a peaceful balance.

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(Modu’s borders have been extended in the reign of his son, Laoshoang, reaching to Aral lake, making it the largest steppe faction of the era and giving a full control of Silk Road to Xiongnu chanyus. Xiongnu would keep defending this privileges for a hundred years more.) 

Modu Chanyu and his life story are believed to be the inspiration for famous Turkic folk legend, Oghuz Khagan. Researchers suppose the obvious resemblences between Modu and Oghuz Khagan indicates a direct link. Folklorist Christian Beckwith even goes further claiming Modu’s life might be the origin for universal scheme of heroic tales which always show the same pattern of “humiliated and exiled high-blood youngster, expands his retinue in foreign lands, proves his quality, returns his country as a hero and slays the ruler to take revenge and becomes new rule”. Whether origined in Modu or not, Oghuz Khagan’s legend is still fresh in most of Turkic cultures across the Asia even today.

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(Oghuz Khagan’s figurative portrayal on the official banknote of modern Turkmenistan, a post-Soviet Central Asian state with a Turkic-dialect speaker majority of population.)

What We Fail To Teach About Turkish History

(Cover: “The Invasion of Barbarians or The Huns Approaching Rome” by Ulpiano Checa, fictional depiction of the never-actualized sack of Rome by Huns, hinting up the thrill by Hunnic barbarian image still intense in minds of modernity.)

 

 

 

 

Question: in Turkish schools today, before Manzikert, do they prioritise Turkic, Anatolian, or Islamic history, or how much each?

 

Answer is they prioritise Turkic history, with full of both meaningless lackings and weird misinformation.

  • They consider Huns as first Turkic state and call Xiongnu “Asian Huns” and Atilla Empire “European Huns”, the prior is told to be defeated by the Chinese and migrated westward to become the latter. Also, White Huns/Ephtalites and Avars/Rouan-Rouan, both Indo-Iranian groups, are regarded among first Turkic states. No further information is taught about them.
  • Ironically, Scythians are still considered Turkic, too (probably because of old debate on it) but no one really asks why we don’t identify them to be first Turkic state, then. Iranian word “Saka”, the self-definitive word for some Scythians, is pointed out as a Turkic tribal name.

(Scythians remained unidentified by ethnologist so long until authentic historical documents proved they spoke an Indo-Iranian language and archeological findings provided more support in favour of an Iranian culture. The image up shows a document written in a Scythian dialect, Khotani, recording some information about a cattle and other nomadic belongings.)

  • Origin of Turkic runic isn’t indicated and Sogdians are totally missed to be mentioned as cultural pioneers of Turkic khanate. A “Turkic calendar” is somehow made up, referring the obviously Chinese calendar used in all Asia.
  • Several fictional characters in Shahname of Ferdowsi such as Afrasiyab or Turkic mythological figures like Oghuz Khan, Alp Er Tunga are presented as almost genuine historical leaders without further explanation. And a real historical event, raid of Jiucheng Palace is strangely told with the terms of a fictional nationalist novel written in 1940s.
  • First Turkic poet in history is ignored. Irk Bitig, a great source for old Tenriist religion, is unheard. Zemarchus, a Byzantine diplomat with direct contact with Turkic khanate, who, I believe, provides a wonderful set of first-hand information is unbelievably non-existent. Most of valuable political events of Khanate era are absent. Byzanto-Turkic alliance and wars against Sassanid rule are also absent. Codex Cumanicus, accounts of Ibn Battuta and map of Pomponius Mela, the first map ever with a land named “Turcae” are all ridiculously missed to be included in history textbooks.

(Pomponius Mela, a successful Roman cartographer lived in 1st century CE, provided us the first undoubtful mention of Turkish ethnicity. Notice east direction lies through upside of the map. You may see “Turcae” placed near left margin of map, just above Essedones River)

  • Surprisingly, Turkic origin in concept of Bulgaria and Bulgarian ethnogenesis is all ignored! Dulo clan of Bulgarian Turkic and their long and eventful history are excluded. How incoherent with other nationalist nonsense it is…

(Monogram of Khan Tervel, below. Khan Tervel of Bulgaria was a legendary ruler of Old Bulgarian Khanate, which was descendant of Turkic rule in western borderline of disintegrated Western Turkic Khanate. Tervel was famous with his Rush hour aid to save Constantinople from Arabian Muslim siege, praised by all Christians across the Europe. Bulgarian Khans sustained the Turkic tradition of “tamga” through such royal monograms.)

As for the rest of topics in the book, part of ancient age Anatolia is rather extensive. I think, it is probably due to state policy of 1930s bearing Anatolia with her whole history as a homeland of Turks and emphasizing the idea that Turks are not invaders on this land but dwellers as many previous civilizations; with a huge exception of Byzantine era which is almost non-existent either, other than a small paragraph for a thousand years of Anatolia, however, that is something I suppose to be expected for 1930s, just after about ten years from Independence Wars against Greece, and in a world with the international race on nationalist education programs.

(Codex Cumanicus, below, a very neat document on Pontic Turkic society. It’s firstly authored by an anonimous Italian missionary priest in early Middle Age. The among rich contents of the Codex were a medium-sized dictionary, a list of proverbs, some useful phrases for daily conversation and general description of Cuman Turkic social life. It was later edited by another anonimous German merchant probably with less education.)

Islamic history once held a smaller proportion of a textbook but recent changes in state politics eventually effected the curriculum and Caliphs and Islamic Golden Era are increasingly becoming a big topic. Avicenna, Khayyam, Biruni and Khwarizmi are considered Turkic scholars wrongly and for some reason, powerful Turkic state of Mamluks in Egypt are just briefly mentioned (I think neo-Ottomanist rivalry against Mamluks is the reason) Horrible persecutions during Turkic mass Islamification period is still a taboo in Turkey. Other than that, current lean in Turkish education is to deepen Islamic knowledge in the history books alongside with excessively expanded share of Ottoman history in recent years.

(Mamluks founded a well-established militarist dynasty in Egypt. They were a group of Kipchak Turkic steppe elites with ruthless discipline. Even intercepting the storming Mongol hordes in Middle East for the first time in world, they seemed unrivaled until Ottoman Turks toppled them over in 16th century. Mamluks gifted the term of “Turkiyya” to records as a country name which still lives on.)
I agree it’s an inevitable truth that nation-states intrude history textbooks and use history syllabus to propagadise. We might disapprove it but have to accept this fact as long as it remains under some reasonable limit. For example, I’m pretty sure that Huns will always stay nothing but Turkic in textbooks, okay. However, inventing a Turkic calendar in the name of Turkic cultural legacy is just laughable.

(Hittite sun disc, above. Unofficial token of new historical understanding in Turkey in first years of republic. Proudly badging the capital municipality with an authentic mark of Anatolian historical legacy and revival of a civilization in ancient Hittite soil was iconic for freshly organized education system to represent modernist views of Turkish state.)

Actually, Ataturk was a man of reason not to call ancient Anatolia a Turkic region. Nevertheless, Hittite sun sign, an ancient logo, was officially declared symbol of municipality of Ankara, although it had never been a thing to either Ankara or Turks. But this shows the course of his goverment to re-establish an identity based on Anatolia and Turkic history together. Even today, every Turkish student has an idea on Hittites, Frygians, Lydians and etc. thanks to the remnants of that vision still seen in textbooks. Later years after WWII, right-wing goverments firstly boosted nationalism in textbooks and openly an assigned cadre of nationalist teachers assisted them. Then, a wave of Turk-Islamist politicians expanded the fictitious elements in the book.

Only nationalist hypothesis remained from Ataturk’s era are Altaic doubt on Summerian language, which is all out of syllabus now but survives in popular history chitchat, and Scythians being Turkic reflecting the lack of consensus of the age. The rest is Turanist propagandas later emerged. On the other hand, very inclusive narratives of Roman history, Alexandrian history, Mesopotamian history and Ancient Greek history have slowly been erased and seen out of context. (Probably same in everywhere in the world)

(Emperor Constantine of Byzantine, you see head part of his effigy upwards, founder of current Istanbul and the man transported a Roman dynasty and identity to modern Turkish lands is pretty much unknown by Turkish citizens and almost completely ignored by Turkish history education.)

P.S. By Sogdian pioneers I mean their seemingly upper-culture role in Turkic Khanate. The first inscription made by Turks -Bugut Inscription, 582 CE.- was actually in Sogdian language, also Sogdian language remained lingua franca of Central Asia for many centuries. Old Uygur alphabet and Mongolian alphabet are direct descendants of Sogdian alphabet. Even if yet to be proved, the most probable origin of Turkic alphabet is seen Sogdian script. During Zemarchus’ visit to Turkic throne, the Byzantine diplomat was assisted by a Sogdian translator and he observed Sogdians to keep the role of middleman in every aspect through vast territories of khanate. Sogdians were known to be master merchants of Silk Road and, therefore, a direct link between Mediterranean basin and Transoxiana. I think Sogdians deserve more attribution in Turkish syllabus.

(Bugut Inscription in garden of Çeçerleg Museum, Mongolia and the Sogdian lamguage scripture on it, coloured. This is the earliest historical scripture discovered so far, of Turkic people.)

What we fail to teach in history classes is simply evidence-based history. We teach what we’d like student to hear, we teach what once thought to be useful, we teach what examination system requires but we lose reality in turmoil of other anxieties. We lose our sincerity and that’s why what we narrate is hardly more than a fable in a student’s ears. We fail because we’re cripple with what we try and so we have to push so hard. We fail because we don’t trust what we try to do.