Kara Khanid Khanate, c. 1000.
|-||840–893 (first)||Bilge Kul Qadir-Khan|
|-||1204–1212 (last)||Uthman Ulugh-Sultan|
|-||1025 est.||3,000,000 km² (1,158,306 sq mi)|
|Today part of|
History of the Turkic peoples
|Turkic Khaganate 552–744|
|Avar Khaganate 564–804|
|Khazar Khaganate 618–1048|
|Great Bulgaria 632–668|
|Kangar union 659–750|
|Turgesh Khaganate 699–766|
|Uyghur Khaganate 744–840|
|Karluk Yabgu State 756–940|
|Kara-Khanid Khanate 840–1212|
|Gansu Uyghur Kingdom 848–1036|
|Kingdom of Qocho 856–1335|
|Oghuz Yabgu State
|Ghaznavid Empire 963–1186|
|Seljuk Empire 1037–1194|
|Seljuk Sultanate of Rum|
|Khwarazmian Empire 1077–1231|
|Delhi Sultanate 1206–1526|
|Golden Horde |  1240s–1502|
|Mamluk Sultanate (Cairo) 1250–1517|
The Kara-Khanid Khanate (Persian: قَراخانيان, Qarākhānīyān or خاقانيه, Khakānīya, Chinese: 黑汗, 桃花石) was a Turkic dynasty that ruled in Transoxania in Central Asia, ruled by a dynasty known in literature as the Karakhanids (also spelt Qarakhanids) or Ilek Khanids. Both dynastic names represent titles with Kara Kağan being the most important Turkish title up till the end of the dynasty.
The Khanate conquered Transoxania in Central Asia and ruled it between 999–1211. Their arrival in Transoxania signaled a definitive shift from Iranian to Turkic predominance in Central Asia, yet the Kara-khanids gradually assimilated the Perso-Arab Muslim culture, while retaining some of their native Turkish culture.
The Karakhanids were a confederation formed some time in the 9th century of Karluks, Yaghmas, Chigils, and other tribes living in Semirechye, Western Tian Shan (modern Kyrgyzstan), and Western Xinjiang (Kashgaria). The name of the royal clan is not actually known; the term Karakhanid is artificial—it was derived from Qara Khan or Qara Khaqan (the word "Kara" means "black" and also "courageous"), which was the foremost title of the rulers of the dynasty, and was devised by European Orientalists in the 19th century to describe both the dynasty and the Turks ruled by it. Arabic Muslim sources called this dynasty al-Khaqaniya ("That of the Khaqans"), while Persian sources often preferred the term Al-i Afrasiyab ("The Family of the Afrasiyab") on the basis of the legendary kings of pre-Islamic Transoxania.
The Karluks were a nomadic people from western Altai who moved to Semirechye. In 742, the Karluks were part of an alliance led by the Basmyl and Uyghurs that rebelled against the Kök Türk rulers. In the realignment of power that followed, the Karluks were elevated from a tribe led by an el teber to one led by a yabghu, which was one of the highest Turkic dignitaries and also implies membership in the Ashina clan in whom the "heaven-mandated" right to rule resided. The Karluks and Uyghurs later allied themselves against the Basmyl, and within two years they toppled the Basmyl khagan. The Uyghur yabghu became khagan and the Karluk leader yabghu. This arrangement lasted less than a year. Hostilities between the Uyghur and Karluk forced the Karluk to migrate westward into the western Türk-Türgesh lands.
By 766 the Karluks had forced the submission of the Western Türk-Türgesh and they established their capital at Suyab on the Chu River. The Karluk confederation by now included the Chigil and Tukshi tribes who may have been Türgesh tribes incorporated into the Karluk union. By the mid-9th century, the Karluk confederation had gained control of the sacred lands of the Western Türks after the destruction of the Uyghur state by the Kyrgyz. Control of the sacred lands, together with their affiliation with the Ashina clan, allowed the Khaganate to be passed on to the Karluks along with domination of the steppes after the previous Khagan was killed in a revolt.
During the 9th century southern Central Asia was under the rule of the Samanids, while the Central Asian steppe was dominated by Turkic nomads such as the Pechenegs, the Oghuz, and the Karluks. The domain of the Karluks reached as far north as the Irtysh and the Kimek confederation, with encampments extending to the Chi and Ili rivers, where the Chigil and Tukshi tribes lived, and east to the Ferghana valley and beyond. The area to the South and east of the Karluks was inhabited by the Yaghma. The Karluk center in the 9th and 10th centuries appears to be have been at Balasagun on the Chu River. In the late 9th century the Samanids marched into the Steppes and captured Taraz, one of the headquarters of the Karluk khagan, and a large church was transformed into a mosque.
Formation of the Kara-Khanid Khanate
During the 9th century, the Karluk confederation (including the Türgesh descended Chigil and Tukshi tribes) and the Yaghma, possible descendants of the Toquz-oguz, joined force and formed the first Karluk-Karakhanid khaganate. The Chigils appear to have formed the nucleus of the Karakhanid army. The date of its foundation and the name of its first khan is uncertain, but according to one reconstruction, the first Karakhanid ruler was Bilge Kür Kadïr Khan. The rulers of the Karakhanids were likely to be from the Chigil and Yaghma tribes – the Eastern Khagan bore the title Arslan Qara Khaqan (Arslan "lion" was the totem of the Chigil) and the Western Khagan the title Bughra Qara Khaqan (Bughra "male camel" was the totem of the Yaghma). The names of animals were a regular element in the Turkish titles of the Karakhanids: thus Aslan (lion), Bughra (camel), Toghan (falcon), Böri (wolf), and Toghrul or Toghrïl (a bird of prey). Under the Khagans were four rulers with the titles Arslan Ilig, Bughra Ilig, Arslan Tegin and Bughra Tegin. The titles of the members of the dynasty changed with their changing position, normally upwards, in the dynastic hierarchy.
In the mid-10th century the Kara-Khanids converted to Islam and adopted Muslim names and honorifics, but retained Turkic regnal titles such as Khan, Khagan, Ilek (Ilig) and Tegin. Later they adopted Arab titles sultan and sultān al-salātīn (sultan of sultans). According to the Ottoman historian known as Munajjim-bashi, a Karakhanid prince named Satuk Bughra Khan was the first of the khans to convert. After conversion, he obtained a fatwa which permitted him in effect to kill his presumably still pagan father, after which he conquered Kashgar. Later in 960, according to Muslim historians Ibn Miskawaih and Ibn al-Athir, there was a mass conversion of the Turks (reportedly "200,000 tents of the Turks"), circumstantial evidence suggests these were the Karakhanids.
Conquest of Transoxiana
In the final decade of the 10th century, the Karakhanids began a struggle against the Samanids for control of Transoxiana with a campaign led by the grandson of Satuk Bughra Khan, Hasan (or Harun) b. Sulayman (title: Bughra Khan). Between 990-992, the Karakhanids took Isfijab, Ferghana, Ilaq, Samarkand, and the Samanid capital Bukhara. However, Hasan Bughra Khan died in 992 due to an illness, and the Samanids returned to Bukhara. Hasan's cousin Ali b. Musa (title: Kara Khan or Arslan Khan) resumed the campaign against the Samanids, and in 999 Ali's son Nasr retook Bukhara, meeting little resistance. The Samanid domains were split up between the Ghaznavids, who gained Khorasan and Afghanistan, and the Karakhanids, who received Transoxiana; the Oxus River thus became the boundary between the two rival empires.
The Karakhanid state was divided into appanages, as was common of Turkic and Mongol nomads. The Karakhanid appanages were associated with four principal urban centers, Balasagun (then the capital of the Karakhanid state) in Semirechye, Kashgar in Xinjiang (Kashgaria), Uzgen in Fergana, and Samarkand in Transoxiana. The dynasty's original domains of Semirechye and Kashgaria conserved their prestige within the Karakhanid state, and the khagans of these domains retained an implicit seniority over those who ruled in Transoxiana and Fergana. The four sons of Ali (Ahmad, Nasr, Mansur, Muhammad) each held their own independent appanage within the Karakhanid state. Nasr, the conqueror of Transoxiana, held the large central area of Transoxiana (Samarkand and Bukhara), Fergana (Uzgen) and other areas, although after his death his appanage was further divided. Ahmad held Semirechye and Chach and became the head of the dynasty after the death of Ali. He was succeeded by Mansur.
After the death of Mansur, the Hasan Bughra Khan branch of the Karakhanids became dominant. Hasan's sons Muhammad Toghan Khan II, and Yusuf Kadir Khan who held Kashgar, became in turn the head of the Karakhanid dynasty. The two families, i.e. the descendents of Ali Arslan Khan and Hasan Bughra Khan, would eventually spilt the Karakhanid Khanate in two.
During the reign of Ahmad b. Ali, the Karakhanids engaged in wars against the non-Muslims to the east and northeast. In 1006, Yusuf Kadr Khan of Kashgar conquered the Kingdom of Khotan. In 1017–1018, the Karakhanids repelled an attack by a large mass of nomadic Turkish tribes in what was described in Muslim sources as a great victory. The brothers Ahmad and Nasr conducted different policies towards the Ghaznavids in the south – while Ahmad tried to form alliance with Mahmud of Ghazna, Nasr attempted to expand, unsuccessfully, into the territories held by Ghaznavids.
Division of the Kara-Khanid Khanate
Early in the 11th century the unity of the Karakhanid dynasty was fractured by frequent internal warfare that eventually resulted in the formation of two independent Karakhanid states. A son of Hasan Bughra Khan, Ali Tegin, seized control of Bukhara and other towns. He expanded his territory further after the death of Mansur. The son of Nasr, Ibrahim Tamghach Bughra Khan, later waged war against the sons of Ali Tegin, and won control of large part of Transoxania, and made Samarkand the capital. In 1041, another son of Nasr b. Ali, Muhammad 'Ayn ad-Dawlah (reigned 1041–52) took over the administration of the western branch of the family that eventually led to a formal separation of the Kharakhanid Khanate. Ibrahim Tamghach Khan was considered by Muslim historians as a great ruler, and he brought some stability to Western Karakhanid Khanate by limiting the appanage system which caused much of the internal strife in the Kara-Khanid Khanate.
The Hasan family remained in control of the Eastern Khanate. The Eastern Khanate had its capital at Balasaghun and later Kashgar. The Ferghana-Semirechye areas became the border between the two states and were frequently contested. When the two states were formed, Ferghana fell into realm of the Eastern Khanate, but was later captured by Ibrahim and became part of Western Khanate.
In 1040, the Seljuk Turks defeated the Ghaznavids at the Battle of Dandanaqan and entered Iran. The Karakhanids were able to withstand the Seljuks initially, and briefly took control of Seljuk towns in Khurasan. The Karakhanids, however, developed serious conflicts with the religious classes (the ulama). In 1089, during the reign of Ibrahim's grandson Ahmad b. Khidr, at the request of the ulama of Transoxiana, the Seljuks entered and took control of Samarkand, together with the domains belonging to the Western Khanate. The Western Karakhanids Khanate became a vassal of the Seljuks for half a century, and the rulers of the Western Khanate were largely whomever the Seljuks chose to place on the throne. Ahmad b. Khidr was returned to power by the Seljuks, but in 1095, the ulama accused Ahmad of heresy and managed to secure his execution.
The Karakhanids of Kashgar also declared their submission following a Seljuk campaign into Talas and Semirechye, but the Eastern Khanate was a Seljuk vassal for only a short time. At the beginning of the 12th century they invaded Transoxiana and even occupied the Seljuk town of Termez for a time.
Qara Khitai Invasion
The Qara Khitai was remnants of the Liao dynasty who moved west from Northern China when the Jurchens invaded in 1125 and destroyed the Liao dynasty. They were led by Yelu Dashi who also recruited warriors from various tribes and moved westward. Yelu occupied Balasagun on the Chu River, then defeated the Western Karakhanids in Khujand in 1137. In 1141 Qara Khitai became the dominant force in the region after they defeated Sultan Sanjar, the last Great Seljukid, at the Battle of Qatwan near Samarkand. Several military commanders of Karakhanid lineages such as the father of Osman of Khwarezm, escaped from Karakhanid lands during the Qara Khitai invasion.
The Qara Khitai, however, did not destroy the Karakhanid dynasty. Instead, they stayed at Semirech'e with their headquarters near Balasaghun, and allowed some of the Karakhanids to rule as vassals in Samarkand and Kashgar, with the Karakhanids acting as their tax-collectors and administrators on Muslim sedentary populations (the same practice was adopted by the Golden Horde on the Russian Steppes). The Qara Khitans were Buddhists and shamanists ruling over a largely Muslim Karakhanids, although they were considered fair-minded rulers whose reign was marked by religious tolerance. Islamic religious life continued uninterrupted and Islamic authority preserved, while Kashgar was a Nestorian metropolitan see and Christian gravestones in the Chu valley appeared beginning this period. However, Kuchlug, a Naiman who usurped the throne of the Qara Khitai Dynasty, instituted anti-Muslim policies on the local populations under his rule.
The decline of the Seljuks following their defeat by the Qara Khitans allowed the Khwarezmids, then a vassal of the Qara Khitans, to expand into former Seljuk territory. In 1207, the citizens of Bukhara revolted against the sadrs (leaders of the religious classes), which the Khwarezm-Shah 'Ala' ad-Din Muhammad used as a pretext for invading and taking Bukhara. Muhammad then formed an alliance with the Western Karakhanid ruler Uthman (who later married Muhammad's daughter) against the Qara Khitans. In 1210, the Khwarezm-Shah took Samarkand after the Qara Khitans retreated to deal with the rebellion from the Naiman Kuchlug who had seized the Qara Khitans' treasury at Uzgen. The Khwarezm-Shah then defeated the Qara Khitans near Talas. Muhammad and Kuchlug had, apparently, agreed to divide up the Qara Khitan's empire. In 1212, the population of Samarkand staged a revolt against the Khwarezmians, a revolt which Uttman supported, and massacred them. The Khwarezm-Shah returned, recaptured Samarkand and executed Uthman. He demanded the submission of all leading Karakhanids, and finally extinguished the Western Karakhanid state.
In 1211, Kuchlug seized the throne of the Qara Khitans. Earlier that same year the last of the Karakhanids in the Eastern Karakhanid state was killed in a revolt in Kashgar, putting an end to Eastern Karakhanid state. In 1218, Kuchlug was killed by the advancing Mongol army, and the territories of the Qara Khitai taken. The destruction of the Khwarezmian Empire soon followed.
The takeover by the Karakhanids did not change the essentially Iranian character of Central Asia, though it set into motion a demographic and ethnolinguistic shift. During the Karakhanid era, the local population began using Turkic in speech – initially the shift was linguistic with the local people adopting the Turkic language. While Central Asia became Turkicized over the centuries, culturally the Turks came close to being Persianized or, in certain respects, Arabicized. Nevertheless, the official or court language used in Kashgar and other Karakhanid centers, referred to as "Khaqani" (royal), remained Turkic. The language was partly based on dialects spoken by the Turkic tribes that made up the Karakhanids and possessed qualities of linear descent from Kök and Uyghur Turkic. The Turkic script was also used for all documents and correspondence of the khaqans, according to Dīwānu l-Luġat al-Turk.
The Dīwānu l-Luġat al-Turk (Dictionary of Languages of the Turks) was written by a prominent Karakhanid historian, Mahmud al-Kashgari, who may have lived for some time in Kashgar at the Karakhanid court. He wrote this first comprehensive dictionary of Turkic languages in Arabic for the Caliphs of Baghdad in 1072–76. Another famous Karakhanid writer was Yusuf Balasaghuni, who wrote Kutadgu Bilig (The Wisdom of Felicity), the only known literary work written in Turkic from the Karakhanid period. Kutadgu Bilig is a form of advice literature known as mirrors for princes. The Turkic identity is evident in both of these pieces of work, but they also showed the influences of Persian and Islamic culture. However, the court culture of the Karakhanids remained almost entirely Persian. The two last western khaqans also wrote poetry in Persian.
Islam and its civilization flourished under the Karakhanids. The earliest example of madrasas in Central Asia was founded in Samarkand by Ibrahim Tamghach Khan. Ibrahim also founded a hospital to care for sick as well as providing shelter for the poor. His son Nasr Shams al-Mulk built ribats for the caravanserais on the route between Bukhara and Samarkand, as well as a palace near Bukhara. Some of the buildings constructed by the Karakhanids still survive today, including the Kalyan minaret built by Mohammad Aslan Khan beside the main mosque in Bukhara, and three mausolea in Uzgend. The early Karakhanid rulers, as nomads, lived not in the city but in an army encampment outside the capital, and while by the time of Ibrahim the Karakhanids still maintained a nomadic tradition, their extensive religious and civil constructions showed that the culture and traditions of the settled population of Transoxiana had become assimilated.
Kara-Khanid is arguably the most enduring cultural heritage among coexisting cultures in Central Asia from the 9th to the 13th centuries. The Karluk-Uyghur dialect spoken by the nomadic tribes and turkified sedentary populations under Kara-Khanid rule formed two major branches of the Turkic language family, the Chagatay and the Kypchak. The Kara-Khanid cultural model that combined nomadic Turkic culture with Islamic, sedentary institutions spread east into former Kara-Khoja and Tangut territories and west and south into the subcontinent, Khorasan (Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, and Northern Iran), Golden Horde territories (Tataristan), and Turkey. The Chagatay, Timurid, and Uzbek states and societies inherited most of the cultures of the Kara-Khanids and the Khwarezmians without much interruption.
- Bilge Kul Qadir Khan (840–893)
- Bazir Arslan Khan (893–920)
- Oghulcak Khan (893–940)
- Satuk Bughra Khan 920–958, in 932 adopted Islam, in 940 took power over Karluks
- Musa Bughra Khan 956–958
- Suleyman Arslan Khan 958–970
- Ali Arslan Khan – Great Qaghan 970–998
- Overthrow of Samanids 999
- Ahmad Arslan Qara Khan 998–1017
- Mansur Arslan Khan 1017–1024
- Muhammad Toghan Khan 1024–1026
- Yusuf Qadir Khan 1026–32
- Ali Tigin Bughra Khan – Great Qaghan in Samarkand, c. 1020–1034
- Ebu Shuca Sulayman 1034–1042
- Split of Karakhanids to branches of Western and Eastern
- Muhammad Arslan Qara Khan c. 1042–c. 1052
- Tamghach Khan Ibrahim (also known as Böritigin) c. 1052–1068
- Nasr Shams al-Mulk 1068–1080: married Aisha, daughter of Alp Arslan.
- Khidr 1080–1081
- Ahmad 1081–1089
- Ya'qub Qadir Khan 1089–1095
- Mas'ud 1095–1097
- Sulayman Qadir Tamghach 1097
- Mahmud Arslan Khan 1097–1099
- Jibrail Arslan Khan 1099–1102
- Muhammad Arslan Khan 1102–1129
- Nasr 1129
- Ahmad Qadir Khan 1129–1130
- Hasan Jalal ad-Dunya 1130–1132
- Ibrahim Rukn ad-Dunya 1132
- Mahmud 1132–1141
- Defeat of Seljuks, Qara Khitai Occupation, 1141
- Ibrahim Tabghach Khan 1141–1156
- Ali Chaghri Khan 1156–1161
- Mas'ud Tabghach Khan 1161–1171
- Muhammad Tabghach Khan 1171–1178
- Ibrahim Arslan Khan 1178–1204
- Uthman Ulugh Sultan 1204–1212
- Khwarazm Conquest, 1212
- Ebu Shuca Sulayman 1042–1056
- Muhammad bin Yusuph 1056–1057
- İbrahim bin Muhammad Khan 1057–1059
- Mahmud 1059–1075
- Umar 1075
- Ebu Ali el-Hasan 1075–1102
- Ahmad Khan 1102–1128
- İbrahim bin Ahmad 1128–1158
- Muhammad bin İbrahim 1158–?
- Yusuph bin Muhammad ?–1205
- Ebul Feth Muhammad 1205–1211
- Qara Khitai Conquest, 1211
- Historic states represented in Turkish presidential seal
- Uyghur Khaganate
- Uyghur people
- List of Sunni Muslim dynasties
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