Göktürk civil war

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The two successor khaganates at their height, c. 600 CE :
  Western Göktürk: Lighter area is direct rule, darker areas show sphere of influence.
  Eastern Göktürk: Lighter area is direct rule, darker areas show sphere of influence.

The Göktürk civil war (or Turkic interregnum) was an important crisis in Central Asia during the 580s, which resulted in the split of the Göktürk Khaganate and the creation of separate western and eastern khaganates.


Main article: Göktürks

The Turkic Khaganate or Göktürks, was a vast empire stretching between the Chinese Empire and the Black Sea.[citation needed] The name of the ruling dynasty was Ashina. The khagans were appointed by the kurultay (council of leaders).

Beginning of the interregnum[edit]

In 581, the fourth khagan Taspar Qaghan died. There were four claimants to throne. The personal and regnal names and personal names are shown below:

Regnal name

(Chinese reading)

Personal name

(Chinese reading)

Regnal name

(Turkic reading by Gumilev)[1]

Personal name

(Turkic reading by Gumilev)[1]

Prince Anluo Диэр-кэхань ànluó, An-lo NA Амрак (Amrak)
Apa Qaghan ābō kěhàn, a-po k'o-han dàluóbiàn, ta-lo-pien Апа-хан Торэмен (Töremen)
Ishbara Qaghan shābōlüè kěhàn, sha-po-lüeh k'o-han, shètú, she-t'u Эр-бег-шад, Иль-кюлюг шад, Бага Ышбара-хан Er Beg Shad
Tardu dátóu kěhàn, ta-t'ou k'o-han diànjué, tien-chüeh Тардуш-хан, Боке-хан Кара Чурин Тюрк (Kara Çürün)

Prince Anlou was Taspar's son, Talopien (Apa) and Shetu (Ishbara) were Taspar's nephews, while Tardu (Tardush, Tienchueh) was Taspar's cousin.

Before dying, Taspar had announced his preference for Talopien to succeed him instead of his son Anluo, although he had no right to determine the succession. During the kurultay after Taspar's death, Shetu, who was also a claimant, saw that he had no chance and supported the pacifist[citation needed] Anluo on the ground that Talopien's mother was not of noble birth.[2] He threatened the kurultay that in case of Talopien's election he would revolt. Thus the kurultay[citation needed] appointed Anluo as the new khan. However Anluo's regency was short-lived because of the reaction of Talopien's partisans. Anluo quickly renounced the title on behalf of Taspar's "Niwar Qaghan" (爾伏可汗) Shetu, who became the khan with the regnal name Ishbara.[2]


Ishbara was the central khagan, residing in the holy forest Ötüken in central Mongolia. But the other claimants were not subdued. The second khagan was Tienchueh, now called Tardush Khagan, who chose the Tienshan mountains in western China as his seat, and became the de facto ruler of all western territories. The third khagan was Anluo, who controlled the region around the Tuul River in Mongolia. Töremen, now called Apa Khagan, was sovereign in the northern territories.[3]

Civil war[edit]

In 584, Ishbara raided Apa Khagan's territory and killed the latter's mother. Apa took refuge in the west and allied himself with its powerful ruler Tardush. Both Tardush and his brother Tamgan (Turksanf), the ruler of the Volga river area, supplied him with troops. Ishbara wasn't able to compete with this force, and accepted the suzerainty of Sui China to protect himself. With Chinese support he was able to capture Apa Khagan's family members. Apa Khagan once again escaped west and settled in the Paykend near Bukhara (in modern Uzbekistan). However in his new territory, the former alliance broke and he lost the support of Tardush because of the disagreement over the control of Silk road. In 587, both Ishbara and Apa Khagan died.


After the death of Ishbara and Apa Khagan the new khagan was Bagha Qaghan, Ishbara's brother. He tried to unite the khaganate, but couldn't control the western portion, where the ambitious Tardush was acting independently. After 593, the khaganate was partitioned into two, and the two parts remained separate except for a brief period in the early eighth century. The Turks of the western part settled in parts of European Russia and Turkestan[citation needed].

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Turkic reading in the onomastic table of Ancient Turks by Lev Gumilev, Лев Николаевич Гумилёв, «Древние тюрки», 1967 г, С. 463-469, Ономастическая таблица. (Russian)
  2. ^ a b Book of Sui, Vol. 84
  3. ^ Lev Nikolayrviç Gumilev: Eski Türkler (trans. D.Ahsen Batur) Selenge yayınları, İstanbul, 2002 ISBN 975-7856-39-8 p. 140