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Outline of Turks and Turkish States: Western Turks

Turks who first appear in history in the 7th century B.C. at the foot of the Köğmen Mountains, are a society whose language is of the Ural-Altaic linguistic group. Throughout history the Turks have established numerous states in various geographical regions on the continents of Asia, Europe and Africa. Since they possessed a pioneering spirit they brought their culture to the places to which they had migrated and were also affected by the cultures of these regions. According to Chinese records, Turkish political history in Asia commenced with the Huns.
  • The Western Turks and the "Sword of the God of War"
    • Avars
    • Khazars
    • Pechenegs

The Western Turks and the "Sword of the God of War"


The West Huns, descendents of the Asia Huns who lived in the Turkistan region and around Lake Aral, left their homeland due to the pressure exerted by the Uars and migrated west of the Volga. After Başbuğu (commander-in-chief) Balamir defeated the East Goths and attacked the West Goths, the Visigoths fled westward with the Hun soldiers in pursuit. This is how the "Tribal Migration", that changed the ethnic composition of Europe, all the way to Spain which caused turmoil in the Northern Districts of the Roman Empire, began.

In 434, Atilla assumed control of the West Hun Empire which is the first known Turkish State established in Europe. During Atilla’s reign, the barbarian tribes of Europe were defeated, even Byzantium and Rome submitted and the borders of the West Hun empire expanded from the shores of the Rhine river to those of the Volga river. The Christian world even believed that the God of War, Aries, had given his sword to Atilla. With this sword the authority to conquer and rule the world was given to Atilla.

Atilla who died in 453 went down in history as the most famous and skillful commander of all time. This great commander became a legend-like figure and tales of his achievements spread throughout Europe. Atilla became the subject of books, poems, novels, paintings, operas and sculptures. With Atilla’s death, the incursion of Turks in Europe subsided.

The West Huns were pioneers in opening up the way to Europe for the Turks, who not only took their culture and civilization to Europe but also protected those civilizations that were threatened by barbarian tribes in Europe. This resulted in a migration from Asia to Europe that would last for 900 years.Up



A second Turkish tribe that was respected and feared in Europe was the Avars who followed the West Huns.

The Avars, who left their homeland in Central Asia and escaped towards the West when the Göktürk State was founded in 552, played an important role in European history. They first came to Caucasia and the north of the Black Sea, and fought against and defeated the Turkish tribes such as the Sabirs and Onogurs. They went all the way to the banks of the Danube River. They frequently went to the Balkans. They founded a civilization that spanned from present day Yugoslavia to Germany. They reigned over the Slavs in the Danube area and the Bulgarians living on the shores of the Black Sea. During the reign of their commander Bayan Kağan Khan, the borders of the Avar Empire stretched from the Dnieper River to the Elbe River and from the North Sea to the Adriatic coast. They laid siege to İstanbul in 626 with the Bulgarian Turks. The first Turks in history to lay siege to İstanbul were the Avars. The constant attacks of the French Emperor Charlamagne which began in 791 and lasted 15 years, diminished the power of the Avars. They wished to settle in the plateau between the Danube and the Tizsa rivers. The French attacks continued and the Avar group dispersed in the Balkans. In 805, they lost their national identity. Up




After the Avar existence in Europe came to an end, a new Turkish State called the Khazars came into being. The Khazars, who were considered the continuation of the Göktürks, appeared after the Avars defeated the Sabir State in the east of Europe. Between the 7th and 8th centuries they founded a strong state that spanned from the Volga to the Dnieper, and from Çolman to Kiev. The Khazars established a period of peace in East Europe during the 7th-9th centuries. The Khazar State was extremely tolerant regarding the religious beliefs of the people living under its domination, and it is considered one of the first and few states that showed religious tolerance. The Caspian Sea (Khazar Sea as it is called in Turkish) is named after this state, in which the most widespread language was Turkish. The Khazars were attacked by the Pechenegs from the eastern steppes and could not stop their spread to the west. They were not able to withstand the attacks of the Russian forces on the Khazar cities for long. The Russian army captured most of the Khazar lands during the reign of the last Khazar Khan Yusuf. The Khazars political existence as a state came to an end in 968.Up



Another Turkish tribe that appeared in eastern and southeastern Europe and in the Balkans in the 10th century was the Pechenegs. The Pechenegs, who were not able to withstand the pressure of the Khazar-Oghuz alliance crossed the Volga and reached Hungary. They settled in these lands and the Hungarians, who lived there, were compelled to leave. They spread out on the steppes from the Don River to the west of the Dnieper. In the 11th century they descended down the Dnieper to present-day Bessarabia. When in 1091 they joined forces with the Emir of İzmir Caka Bey, to take İstanbul, they suffered the most bitter defeat in their history in the battle with the Byzantine-Cuman forces on the shores of the Maritza river. In accordance with their traditions, many chose to die in battle. The Byzantines executed all the Pechenegs they had captured. Thus, the political life of the Pechenegs ceased. The surviving Pechenegs went to Hungary. Those that were captured by the Byzantines remained in Macedonia. With the end of the Pechenegs, the first stage of the advance of the Turks into Europe came to an end. The Turks would not be seen in Europe for another 200 years.Up




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