The Kipchak (also spelled Qipchaq, Kypchak, ro Kıpçak) were a Turkic nomadic people. Originating in the Kimek Khanate, they conquered large parts of the Eurasian steppe during the Turkic expansion of the 11th and 12th centuries together with the Cumans, and were in turn conquered by the Mongol invasions of the early 13th century. Cuman-Kipchak confederation was a predecessor of the Kazakh Khanate and later modern-day Kazakhstan.
The name may occasionally be spelled in other languages, such as Arabic: قفجاق, Qifjāq; Georgian: ყივჩაყი, ყივჩაღი; Turkish: Kıpçak; Crimean Tatar: Kıpçaq; Karachay-Balkar: Къыпчакъ; Uzbek: Qipchoq, Қипчоқ; Uyghur: قىپچاق, Qipchaq, қiпчақ; Kazakh: Қыпшақ; Kumyk: Къыпчакъ; Kyrgyz: Кыпчак; Nogai: Кыпчак; Chinese: 欽察/钦察, Qīnchá. They are called Polovtsy in Russian and Ukrainian. The Kipchaks described their name as meaning 'hollow tree', as it was, according to them, inside a hollow tree that their original human ancestress gave birth to her son.
The Kipchaks were a tribal confederation that originally settled on the River Irtysh, possibly connected to the Kimäks. According to Ukrainian anthropologists, Kipchaks had racial characteristics of Caucasians and Mongoloids, namely a broad flat face and protruding nose. Researcher EP Alekseeva drew attention to the fact that European Kipchak stone images have both Mongoloid and Caucasoid faces. However, in her opinion, Kipchaks, who settled in Georgia in the first half of the 12th century, were predominantly Caucasoid in appearance with some admixture of Mongoloid traits. They were already joined by Cumans, who had originated east of the Yellow River. In the course of the Turkic expansion they migrated into Siberia and further into the Trans-Volga region. Eventually they occupied a vast territory in the Eurasian steppe, stretching from north of the Aral Sea westward to the region north of the Black Sea, establishing a state known as Desht-i Qipchaq. . Cumans expanded further westward, by the 11th century reaching Moldavia, Wallachia, and part of Transylvania.
In the late 11th and early 12th centuries, the Cumans and Kipchaks became involved in various conflicts with the Byzantines, Kievan Rus', 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, and again by Knyaz Vladimir Monomakh of the Rus in the 12th century. They sacked Kiev in 1203.
They were finally crushed by the Mongols in 1241. During the Mongol empire, Kipchaks constituted a majority of the Kipchak Khanate comprising present-day Russia, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan, and called the Golden Horde - the westernmost division of the Mongol empire. After the fall of the Mongol Empire, the Golden Horde rulers continued to hold Saraj until 1502.
The Cuman fled to Hungary, and some of their warriors became mercenaries for the Latin crusaders and the Byzantines. Members of the Bahri dynasty, the first dynasty of Mamluks in Egypt, were Kipchaks/Cumans; one of the most prominent examples was Sultan Baybars, born in Solhat, Crimea. Some Kipchaks served in the Yuan dynasty and became the Kharchins.
Language and culture
The Kipchaks and Cumans spoke a Turkic language (Kipchak language, Cuman language) whose 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 important in the study of several old Turkic languages.
Some Kipchaks and Cumans are also known to have converted to Christianity, around the 11th century, at the suggestion of the Georgians as they allied in their conflicts against the Muslims. A great number were baptized at the request of the Georgian king David IV, who also married a daughter of the Kipchak khan Otrok. From 1120, there was a Kipchak national Christian church and an important clergy. Following the Mongol conquest, Islam rose in popularity among the Kipchaks of the Golden Horde.
When members of the Armenian diaspora moved from the Crimean peninsula to the Polish-Ukrainian borderland in the end of the 13th century, they brought Kipchak, their adopted Turkic language with them.
During the 16th and 17th centuries the Turkic language among the Armenian communities of the Kipchak people was Armeno-Kipchak. They were settled in the Lviv and Kamianets-Podilskyi area of what is now Ukraine.
The modern Northwestern branch of the Turkic languages is often referred to as the Kipchak branch. The languages in this branch are mostly considered to be descendants of the Kipchak language, and the people who speak them may likewise be referred to as Kipchak peoples. Some of the groups traditionally included are the Karachays, Siberian Tatars, Nogays, Bashkirs, Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, Volga Tatars, and Crimean Tatars. There is also a village named "Kipchak" in Crimea. The name Kipchak also occurs as a surname in Kazakhstan. Some of the descendants of the Kipchaks are the Bashkirian clan Qipsaq. 
Kipchak steppe art as exhibited in Dnipropetrovsk
- Battle of the Kalka River
- Battle of the Stugna River
- Codex Cumanicus
- Afghan Kypchaks
- Encyclopædia Britannica Online -Kipchak
- Vásáry, István, Cumans and Tatars: Oriental military in the pre-Ottoman Balkans, 1185-1365, (Cambridge University Press, 2005), 6; "..two Turkic confederacies, the Kipchaks and the Cumans, had merged by the twelfth century.".
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- István Vásáry (2005) "Cumans and Tatars", Cambridge University Press.
- Carl Waldman; Catherine Mason (2006). Encyclopedia of European Peoples. Infobase Publishing. pp. 475–. ISBN 978-1-4381-2918-1.
- (Roux 1997, p. 242)
- Islamic Civilization
- An Armeno-Kipchak Chronicle on the Polish-Turkish Wars in 1620-1621,Robert Dankoff, p. 388
- Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland - Page 85 by Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland
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- "Kipchak". Encyclopædia Britannica, Academic Edition. 2006.
- "Polovtsi". The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001-05.
- Roux, Jean-Paul (1997), L'Asie Centrale, Histoire et Civilization, Librairie Arthème-Fayard, ISBN 978-2-213-59894-9
- Csáki, E. (2006). Middle Mongolian loan words in Volga Kipchak languages. Turcologica, Bd. 67. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz. ISBN 3-447-05381-X
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Kipchaks.|
- Codex Cumanicus
- Kipchak dateline at the Wayback Machine (archived October 13, 2004)
- Murad ADJI, The Kipchaks