Changing Perceptions of Türk Identity Among the Medieval Nomads of Central Eurasia

  • István Zimonyi MTA-ELTE-SZTE Silk Road Research Group, Hungarian Academy of Sciences


The Türk Khaganate and the ethnonym Türk have been used in modern nation-building processes among the Turkic-speaking peoples of Eurasia since the end of the nineteenth century. The historical importance of the name is exemplified by the country of Turkey today, the plan for a Turkic Republic in Central Asia in the 1920s, and the latest Kazak (Tatar) historiography after the fall of the Soviet Union. The study focuses on the meanings of Türk in the period of the Türk Khaganate (6th–8th centuries). Its first denotation is for an ethnic community or nationality, that is, a nomadic tribal confederation defined by use of the model of gens, including a common origin, language, and traditions with centuries of a stable political framework and the majority of society sharing common law. The second aspect of the usage of the term Türk, being political, referred to all peoples subject to the power of the Türk Khagan. After the fall of the Türk Khaganate, both meanings faded away due to the lack of political stability in the history of the Eurasian steppe, revealing an absence of ethnic continuity from the Middle Ages. However, fragments of Türk identity may have survived in the forms of language community, the Islamic legend of descent from an eponymos hero, and a nomadic way of life opposed to the territorial principles of settled civilisations.

Keywords: nationality, Turk identity
Dec 22, 2018
How to Cite
Zimonyi, I. (2018). Changing Perceptions of Türk Identity Among the Medieval Nomads of Central Eurasia. Studia Orientalia Electronica, 6, 79-89.