The Kimek or Kimak (Yemek, Yamak, Djamuk) were one of the Turkic tribes known from Arab and Persian medieval geographers as one of the seven tribes in the Kimek Khanate in the period of 743-1050 AD. The other six constituent tribes, according to Abu Said Gardizi (d. 1061), were the Yamak, Kipchaks, Tatars, Bayandur, Lanikaz, and Ajlad.
The name Kimek arose from the union of the twin tribes Imi and Imek, named after the river Imi in the valley of the Argun ("Silver") river, a tributary of the Amur. Marquart suggested a Turkic etymology as Kimäk Iki Imäk (Two Imeks). No separate tribe was self-described as "Kimek", they were always mentioned as a pair. Medieval Chinese geographers did not know the ethnonym Kimaks, always referring to them as Yueban.
From 155 to 166 AD the Xianbei organized a state, and took over the lands of the Xiongnu empire. After that, the Dingling, the future Kipchaks, were pushed into the Sayan Mountains. The strongest tribes of the Xiongnu confederacy, known by the Chinese as "Strong Huns", moved westward. With new Tocharian, Iranian, Ugrian and Caucasian allies they eventually reached Europe as the Huns, where they dominated the Alans and the Goths.
In the 2nd century AD the Chuban or "Weak Huns" settled in Tarbagatai, and later spread to Zhetysu. The Chuban remained in Zhetysu and established a princedom that existed until the 5th century AD. They were also known as the Central Asian Huns.
In the 5th century the Chuban were conquered by the Uyghurs, and separated into four tribes: Chuüe, Chumi, Chumugun, and Chuban. After 436 AD the Central Asian Huns sent an embassy to China to seek an alliance against the Rouran.
A part of the Chuüe tribe intermixed with the Göktürks and formed a tribe called Shato, which lived in southern Dzungaria, to the west of Lake Baikal. In the Western Turkic Khaganate the Chuy tribes occupied a privileged position of being voting members of the confederation, same as the Nushibi (Ch. 弩失畢, left wing) tribes. The Shato separated from the Chuüe in the middle of the 7th century, and presently are a well known ethnic group, listed in censuses taken in Tzarist Russia and in the 20th century.
After the disintegration in 743 AD of the Western Turkic Kaganate, a part of the Chuy tribes remained in its successor, the Uyghur Kaganate (740-840), and another part retained their independence. During the Uyghur period, the Chuy tribes consolidated into the nucleus of the tribes known as Kimaks in the Arab and Persian sources. The head of the Kimek confederation was titled Shad Tutuk, i.e. "Prince Governing, or Ruling”. By the middle of the eighth century, the Kimeks occupied territory between the Ural River and Emba River, and from the Aral sea and Caspian steppes, to the Zhetysu area.
After the 840 AD breakup of the Uyghur Kaganate, the Kimeks headed a new political tribal union, creating a new Kimek state. Abu Said Gardizi (d. 1061) wrote that the Kimak federation consisted of seven tribes: Kimeks (Imak, Imek, Yemek), Imi, Tatars, Bayandur, Kipchak, Lanikaz and Ajlad. Later, an expanded Kimek Kaganate partially controlled the territories of the Oguz, Kangly, and Bagjanak tribes, and in the west bordered the Khazar and Bulgar territories. The Kimaks led a semi-settled life, while the Kipchaks were predominantly nomadic herders.
In the beginning of the eleventh century the Kipchak Khanlyk moved west, occupying lands that had earlier belonged to the Oguz. After seizing the Oguz lands, the Kipchaks grew considerably stronger, and the Kimeks became dependents of the Kipchaks. The fall of the Kimek Kaganate in the middle of the 11th century was caused by the migration of Central Asian Mongolian-speaking nomads, displaced by the Mongolian-speaking Khitan state of Liao, which formed in 916 AD in Northern China. The Khitan nomads occupied the Kimek and Kipchak lands west of the Irtysh. In the eleventh to twelfth centuries a Mongol-speaking Naiman tribe displaced the Kimeks and Kipchaks from the Mongolian Altai and Upper Irtysh as it moved west.
Between the ninth and thirteenth centuries Kimek nomadic tribes were coaching in the steppes of the modern Astrakhan Oblast of Russia. A portion of the Kimeks that left the Ob-Irtysh interfluvial region joined the Kipchak confederation that survived until the Mongol invasion, and later united with the Nogai confederation of the Kipchak descendents. The last organized tribes of the Nogai in Russian sources were dispersed with the Russian construction of zaseka bulwarks in the Don and Volga regions in the 17th-18th centuries, which separated the cattle breeding populations from their summer pastures. Another part of the Nogai were deported from the Budjak steppes after Russian conquest of Western Ukraine and Moldova in the eighteenth and early nineteenth century.
- Kipchak people
- Kipchaks in Georgia
- History of Kyrgyzstan
- History of Kazakhstan
- History of Mongolia
- History of China
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