The renowned Turkish historian Zeki Velidi Togan stated that the first Turk, fed by a female gray wolf, was born in the foothills of the Tengri Mountains. The so-called Ergenekon Legend, which is thought to have been created by the Göktürks, could indeed be interpreted as an explanation for the springing forth and spreading of the entire Turkish civilization.
Turks possess one of the oldest cultures and civilizations in the world. It is hard to precisely specify the beginning of Turkish history. There is a high probability that the oldest culture of Central Asia, the so-called Anav Culture, which was unearthed at the end of toilsome archaeological and anthropological research and has a history that goes back to 4000 B.C., has ties to proto-Turks. As we move forward into the more recent millennia of history, we more clearly see the linkage between the cultures of Kelteminar and Afenesavo (3000 B.C.), Andronova (1700 B.C.), Karasuk (1200 B.C.), Tagar and Tashtyk (700 B.C.) and proto-Turks. There is plenty of scientific evidence proving this linkage, most notably among archaeological findings obtained from the Pazyryk and Issyk mounds.
In the meantime, research carried out over the last several years supports the argument that the Scythian civilization that emerged in the eighth century B.C. was a Turkish empire. There is not much doubt among historians about the Turkish nature of the Great Hun Empire, which ruled between 318 B.C. and 216 A.D., as well as that of its predecessor proto-Huns, whose presence was confirmed by Chinese sources. The Great Hun Empire, the Western Hun Empire and especially the European Huns were examined comprehensively by Western historians. There are not many people who do not know the story of the Great Hun Emperor Mete Khan (Oghuz Khan according to Turkish epics) and the glorious Turkish Khan Atilla. European Huns changed the course of world history as a result of the Germanic Migrations.
The best-known part of the Turkish history can be traced back to the Göktürks. It was the Göktürks who first used the word “Turk” in the official name of their state. The second to do so was Kemal Atatürk, who proclaimed the establishment of the Republic of Turkey. One can hear Bilge Khan calling out, as in the well-known Göktürk Inscriptions, “Oh race of Turks. If the sky above did not collapse and the earth did not give way, oh noble race, who would be able to destroy your nation and institutions?”
Following the Göktürks were the Uyghurs, who presented the best examples of Turkish sedentary culture; the Kyrgyz, Qarluks, Turgish, Tatars and other Turkish tribes of Central Asia; the Khazars, who turned their country into an attractive center of trade; the Bulgars, who shaped today’s Eastern Europe; and then the Oghuz, Avars, the Pechenegs, and the Qumans. They all took their places in Turkish history, one after another.
Throughout history, Turks founded a total of 113 states, 16 of which are deemed to be large. These states and empires came to dominate large sections of world geography at different times in history. The Legend of Oghuz Khan is a monumental work on the idea of state in Turks and the image of the heroic “alp,” who accomplished great conquests. This extraordinary talent for organizing and molding states is unprecedented as compared to other world nations throughout history.
One of the most significant turning points in Turkish history is certainly the Turks’ encounter with Islam. Turkish culture and civilization were adorned with more profundity, glory and meaning following the mass conversion to Islam. The “Kızıl Elma” of Mete Khan and Atilla turned into the kızıl elma of Alparslan, Fatih the Conqueror and Suleyman the Magnificent. Turkish culture was further enriched with the holy ideal of ghaza. Merging the cultural heritage they brought from Central Asia, the motherland, with Islamic values, Turks were able to create a brand new, original and rich culture for themselves. Our people explain the origins of this miraculous accomplishment by referring to the spiritual element, which is strong in the Turkish national structure. With this spirit, the heroic alps of Oghuz Khan were transformed into the “alperens” of Hodja Ahmed Yesevi, and this transformation profoundly impacted world history.
According to scientific studies, the common history of the entire Turkish world follows the Hun-Göktürk-Uyghur chronological line. Three main lines broke off from this main axis over time. The Oghuz-Turkmen tribes were the first line headed towards the West, and they became the most eminent representatives of the Turkish world through a period of more than ten centuries by creating numerous states one after another, namely the Great Seljuk Empire, the Atabeylik states, several Turkish states in eastern Anatolia, the Khorezmshah State, the Anatolian Seljuk State, the Anatolian Turkish beyliks, the Karakoyunlu and Akkoyunlu states, the Turkish dynasties and states in Iran (Safavids, Avshars and Qajars), the Ottoman Empire, the Republic of Turkey, the Azerbaijan khanates, the Republic of Azerbaijan and the Republic of Turkmenistan. A second line consisting of Kazakhs, the Kyrgyz, Uzbeks and the people of Eastern Turkestan stayed in Turkestan, the fatherland, and have survived until the modern day. The third line comprises Tatars, the Bashkurt, Avars, Kipchaks, Bulgars, Pechenegs and Qumans. This line was influential in shaping the politics of the vast region to the north of the Black Sea and the political geography of Eastern Europe.
The khanates of Chagatay and the Golden Horde have an important place in the history of Turks. Turkish khanates in the Kipchak steppes, namely Kazan, Astrahan, Nogay, Qasim, Sibir and Crimean, are their inheritors. The Tatars of Crimea and Kazan are especially distinguishable within the Turkish world for their culture and inclination to struggle. The Timur Turks and their extension in India, the Babur Empire, had a scientific and cultural life with an extraordinary richness. They improved Central Asia and India with a great number of artistic monuments.
In Turkestan, the khanates of Uzbek, Bukhara, Khive, Khokand, Kashgar, Turfan, Kazak and the Kyrgyz dominated the vast Turkestan geography up until the Russian and Chinese occupations, constituting the Middle Age history of today’s Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. Unfortunately, these Turkish lands had to live under the dominance first of Tsarist Russia, then of China and, until recent decades, the Soviet Union.
The Ottoman Empire formed the pinnacle of all the states founded by Turks throughout history. The Empire, which is the second longest-lived of all world states after the Roman Empire and the longest-lived of all states in terms of the rule by a single dynasty, ruled over territories stretching across three continents, established the “Pax Ottomana” and was recorded in the history books as a “civilization of peace.” The Ottomans survived over a six-century period, encompassing the terms of several sultans ranging from the founder of the empire Osman Gazi to Fatih the Conqueror, who closed an era and opened a new one by conquering Constantinople/İstanbul, to Sultan Abdülhamid, who managed to keep the empire alive through excellent diplomatic manoeuvres even in the weakest times, arrived at their zenith with a magnificent civilization full of cultural richness.
However, in World War I, the Ottoman Empire used up its last drop of power, which had been running out since the Balkan Wars, and won a victory in the Dardanelles at the cost of thousands of martyrs, changing the course of the world history. Yet this heroic victory in the Dardanelles could not save the Ottoman Empire from facing its doom when İstanbul and İzmir were occupied by Allied forces. The Turkish people, however, refused to yield to defeat, and started a resistance movement by establishing the National Forces and Foundations for the Defense of Ottoman Rights, through which a new Legend of Ergenekon was written.
On May 19, 1919, Mustafa Kemal arrived in Samsun and the National Struggle began. This date marked the beginning of the struggle of an impoverished nation marked by great sacrifices and ending with a glorious victory, at the end of which the occupying enemy forces were driven out, and the proclamation of the Republic of Turkey was made on October 29, 1923.
Beyond Anatolia, the Turkish republics of Central Asia and the Caucasus won their independence after the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. The Turkish world, comprised of independent states, autonomous or federated states and Turkish communities in different parts of the world, is now made up of 180 million people spread over five continents. Leaving Ergenekon thousands of years ago on steep mountains of melting snow, the Turks of today should never forget that they are branches of the same tree. Children of Oghuz Khan, Sun, Moon, Star, Sky, Mountain, and Sea meet once again in the light of the 21st century. As İsmail Bey Gaspıralı put it, Turkish people should “unite in rhetoric, idea and work” and, never forgetting their common origin, spend more effort to enhance cooperation. We are of the conviction that elements of the Turkish World will become bound to each other much more closely in the future, benefiting from an awareness of a common history.
The Turkish nation has existed since the earliest ages of history, and it became influential in the shaping of the world history. Despite this fact, however, there has been no academic work that comprehensively covers the history of Turks from the beginning till the current day. It was for this reason that we felt the need for a research project that will unfold the history and civilization of the Turkish nation, and it was the need that led us to carry out the Research of Turkish History, Culture and Civilization, which we refer to in short as “the Turkish Project.” At the end of long and tiring efforts, the Turkish Project, which is the biggest historical research project undertaken in the world, was finally brought to life.
Our project was accomplished as a result of participation by eminent Turkologists and Turkish historians from around the world. It started with the formation of a Editorial Board and an Advisory Board comprised of the foremost academic experts on Turkish history and civilization. On the basis of a draft of subjects that was set out by the Editorial Board, which acted as an international jury, orders were made for articles. Our team contacted some 3,059 academics and experts in almost all countries of the world. In Turkey, another 3,120 academics, from professors to research assistants, who are working in a variety of fields, ranging from history to literature, linguistics, philosophy, history of arts, history of science, history of law, economic history and social history were contacted. At the end of these contacts, our project began to emerge with 2,320 academics and experts from 48 countries (589 from outside of Turkey and the remaining 1,721 from Turkey) agreeing to contribute their valuable works. Of the participants, 721 are professors; 377 are associate professors; 538 are assistant professors; 385 are doctors and 289 are experts and researchers. The number of articles that are published in our work is 1,623, of which 1,248 are from Turkey and 375 from other countries. Most of the articles that were omitted were scientific works; but some editorial criteria, such as avoiding repetition, inconformity with format rules and failure of authors to send them in time were factors behind the Publication Committee’s decision to discard them.
Originality was one of the most important criteria in accepting an article, as our Publication Committee gave utmost care to publish only those articles that had never been published in any language in the past. In the meantime, the work also contained a few articles (4 percent of the entire work) by now deceased authors as a show of respect and fidelity to them. Archeological findings and archives of world countries that related to Turks were scanned while doing this research.
Our work is a collection of three parts that are made up of 37 volumes and 35.000 pages. The main part, Türkler, consists of 21 volumes, one of which was the index, and 20.500 pages; The Turks, which was prepared as a summary of the work in English, is the most comprehensive work in a foreign language and comprises six volumes and 6.500 pages. The last part is the ten-volume Genel Türk Tarihi, which is a general evaluation of the main articles on a chronological basis and consisting of a total of 8.000 pages. Some 30.000 pieces of visual materials (pictures, photographs, maps, paintings and miniatures, etc.) were used throughout the work.
Throughout the preparation and editorial supervision of the work, Turkish history was taken in its entirety, as it was not only the history and civilization of Turks of Turkey but of all Turks throughout history that were in the spotlight. This work is important in the sense that it is an effort to uncover the common history of the entire Turkish world. The work, which was prepared with a new method of scientific classification, format and content, is the first attempt since the establishment of the Republic of Turkey to write a comprehensive history. It attaches special importance to an analysis of the current-day situation of the Turkish world in several respects, though the editors were also very careful to stick to the long-term perspective that a work on history should have.
One of the most difficult tasks in such a publication is to provide terminological consistency. A variety of transcriptions, as well as preferences in writing according to English pronunciations, lead to variations in spelling, and many kinds of wordings referring to the same term do appear. We respected the choices of our authors who sent their essays in English, but tried to set up a standard for well-attested terms, mainly ethnonyms and androponyms, in the essays translated from Turkish.
We extend our most sincere gratitude to the Deputy Prime Minister Devlet Bahçeli, who lent us the greatest support and appreciated most deeply the significance and meaning of the project. It would have likely not been possible for us to accomplish this work were it not for his support.
We owe a debt of gratitude to Culture Minister İstemihan Talay, who provided us with encouragement during the course of this project, as he did throughout the Ottoman Project.
Professor Yusuf Halaçoğlu, the head of the Turkish Historical Society (TTK) and the chairman of our Editorial Board, lent his whole-hearted support from the very beginning, mobilizing the scientific resources of the TTK and personally making a valuable contribution to the work. Professor Halil İnalcık, the most eminent Turkish historian of the century and our Advisor, has spent all his efforts to help us. We also deem it a duty to express our gratitude to all members of the Editorial and Advisory boards.
We owe thanks to Özlem Dilmen and her assistants Fatma Doğancı and Burcu Özdemir, who successfully completed the coordination of the greatest translation project Turkey has ever seen, and the group of 140 translators and redactors, mainly composed of young scholars, who participated in the compilation of this work. Thanks are also due to Sabiha Sungur who spent a great deal effort with regard to international coordination, and accomplished with patience the task of project assistantship.
Meanwhile, we must mention our gratitude to Güler Eren, the founder of our institution and the editor-in-chief of Yeni Türkiye.
For the realization of the project, we must thank our technical coordinator, Murat Ocak, who worked day and night with superhuman resolve. Hamza Gürer fulfilled the task of art and graphic designer brilliantly and with self-sacrifice. Şafak Tavkul, an art advisor, contributed much to the edifice with his original inventions. The director of photography, Assistant Professor Tufan Gündüz, accomplished the creation of the widest and the highest-quality visual images ever seen in Turkey. Thanks are also due to his assistant, Hasan Tahsin, and their team, as well as the team of typesetters, the team of correctors and hundreds of other specialists. They are the unnamed heroes of the project we present.
Moreover, thanks to Mustafa Çakır, the owner of Semih Ofset, which published this work, and also to Muammer Bilgiç, the owner of Balkan Ciltevi, the company that bound it.
Lastly, our endless gratitude is due to the scholars and academicians whose names would not fit into volumes if we attempted to write them down. This work has become a leaf in history through their arduous effort.
We hope the Turkish Project to light the way for studies in Turkology and Turkish history, and become a stimulus for better research.
Hasan Celâl GÜZEL
The historical role of the Eurasian originated peoples in shaping today’s world is well attested in historiography. Though there have been other people of such as Finno-Ugric, Mongolic and Iranic origin in the region (Inner Asia and Eastern Europe in narrower sense), a bulk of Eurasian settlers, or wanderers, were of Turkish stock throughout history. Besides their abundance, the very mobile life forced by the steppe conditions led Turks to be hyperactive not only in this vast region and its surroundings, but also in almost all parts of the Old World.
Following the old cultures of Inner Asia namely, Anav, Afanesevo, Tagar, Tashtyk, etc, there emerges the Saka/Scyth world. After the cloudy days of Sakas/Scyths, a well-known episode of Turk history began with Huns (Xiongnu) in the last quarter of the III. Century B.C. Long-lasting quarrels between Huns and the Chinese led to construction of the Chinese Wall at the beginning of the ‘known’ period, which points to the great age of the tradition: Huns were in relations with the Chinese at least from the VII. Century B.C. on. Many scholars believe in a Turkish origin for the Chou dynasty (1027-256 B.C.) of China. After the Great Hun state in the East collapsed in the II. Century C.E., a great Hunnic mass moved west to establish the European Hun Empire in the IV. and V. Centuries, and another mass turned to the southwest and founded the White Hun (Chionite) state, which survived until the Göktürk conquest (556-557).
Although antique Mediterranean sources recorded some ethnonyms north of the Black Sea and the Caucasus that resemble or bring to mind the word ‘Turk’ Göktürk Empire is known as the first political formation using ‘Turk’ in its name. Based on Hunnic tradition, the Göktürk state marked a certain period in the world history between VI. And VIII. Centuries. This huge empire provided spread of the word ‘Turk’ to all tribes speaking the same language from the Black Sea coasts to the borderlands of today’s Manchuria, thus serving the rise of a preliminary national consciousness among Turks. The Göktürk state became also model for almost all later Turkish, and even Mongol states up to the modern times. What is more, rulers of many Turkish states, successors of the Göktürks, descended from the Ashina dynasty, founder and rulers of the Göktürk Empire.
The Socio-political structure and traditions of the steppe, created by the conditions of the geography provided very rapid rise of states, sometimes from a clan to a worldwide empire, but did not help them live long. Two main facts are determinant in this issue: That the country and all conquest lands were shared among members of the dynasty, and that state was indeed a tribal union. That is, if any tribe rebelled or successes, territorial integrity of the state was deeply depressed. And, massive secession of tribes means sudden collapse of huge empires. The Göktürk state also declined in such a way: Member tribes simultaneously rebelled and the Ashina dynasty lost all control.
The Göktürk state was succeeded by two important formations: In the east, today’s Mongolia, Uygur Turks seized control over the region and tribes (744) and set up a great state in the north of China. In the west, south Siberia, Turkish tribes and other people were united around the Kimek tribe, and formed a khaganate. Later Kuman/Kipchaks originated within this structure. The Uygur khaganate was the latest great Turkish state in the east of Inner Asia. After a century, it faced the same fate as the Göktürks, and was destroyed by another Turkish tribe, the Kyrgyz, who could not set a successive state and, moreover, had to leave Mongolia as the latest Turkish group. Dispersed Uygurs migrated to what is today Eastern Turkestan, where they adopted sedentary life, as well as Buddhism as their new religion. This migration also gave birth to a brilliant Turkish sedentary civilization in the oases of Eastern Turkestan, based on mainly usage of paper and pen. With their literary capacity, Uygurs served later the Chingissid Turko-Mongol Empire, being backbone of its bureaucracy. The Uygurs’ literary production continued after they converted to Islam. That their country was on the Great Silk Road contributed also to their civilization rise.
After the Uygurs, Inner Asian Turks usually remained stateless, except newly rising Turko-Islamic states. In the west, the situation was divertive. After the Huns, who conquered most of Europe, and who caused the shapening of modern Europe by starting Wölkerwanderung, the Great Migration, Ogur-Bulgar Turks became lords of Eastern Europe. Today’s Bulgaria, Hungary, Croatia, Tatarstan and Chuvashia, as well as some component of ethno genesis of Karachay-Balkar Turks are their remnants. Bulgars Turks were in the course of time assimilated by crowded Slavic and Ugric communities, on which they ruled, or by other, mainly Kipchak Turks. Only Chuvashes are to be their ‘direct’ grandsons.
Avars ruled on Central Europe between the years 558 and 895. They came from Central Asia by fleeing Göktürks, and are supposed to be part of Mongolic Juan-Juans, who dominated Inner Asia before Göktürks. But all traces they left us point to their Turkishness, and no Mongolic figure concerning them has yet been found. When the Ashina family lost power, the westernmost provinces of Göktürk empire turned to be Khazar state, which by the end of the X. century kept their state on the north and northwest of the Caspian Sea, being intermediary between civilizations and especially trade centers.
After the collapse of Göktürks, many Turkish tribes started to move to Europe. Pecheneks are the first in this wave. They came to Europe to escape Oguz pressure, who had been themselves suppressed by Kipchaks. These three Turkish groups came to Europe following each other, but failed in setting their states. After making Byzantium, Hungary and the Rus’ busy with their indefinite raid and plunders between IX. and XII. centuries, they dramatically ceased to exist. Some of them was assimilated among East European peoples, some joined to ethno genesis of other Turks like the Crimean Tatars, Nogays and Balkanic Ottoman Turks, and some kept their identity up to now being non-Muslim Turks, like the Gagauz, Karaims and Kirimchaks.
Ancient Turks’ very active life meant an intensive interaction with those contacted, and this led to many influences and changes in the cultures of the both sides. But different Turks always had common peculiarities, outlines of which determined Turkish identity. This is thanks to their establishment of a unique civilization, which is mostly and unjustly called ’nomadic steppe civilization’. Steppe conditions did not permit them to build masterpieces, but they developed a very rich folk culture, applied art, and especially worldview, comparable to the most advanced civilizations. State organization especially was at a high level among Turks and they taught many nations of the Old Continent about social and political institutionalization, which is an indicator of a high culture. We can find its reflections in many places and areas. Very scarce sources remaining from ancient times provide necessary proof about the material culture of ancient Turks, however, further archaeological research would help to discover the many unknowns of this civilization