Ludy Europy Wschodniej

It is known about the ancestors of the Polovtsians that they were an ethnic mixture, derived from the tribes of T'ie-le, belonging to the Turkish language group, as well as the population using one of the dialects of Mongolian language group.



1. The first group of ancestors of the “European Polovtsians” was identified as the people of Seyan-To, which was mentioned for the first time in the Chinese Sin-Tanshu Chronicle (11th century), in an entry referring to the 4th century. In the Turkish sources that people has been referred to as a part of T'eie-le tribes called the “Syr”. In 300 years of tumultuous history of the Seyan-To, they have fallen under the power of the Turks to become their vassals (during the period of the First Turkic Khanate; 551-630), they have been fighting the west-Turkic Khanates for independence (605-606), they have been struggling, supported by the Uyghurs and the reinforcements from the T'ang Empire [footnote 1] , against the East-Turkic Khanate (628) and they have finally, allied with their former enemies, the Turks, faced the armies of T'ang Dynasty (630). In the early 7th century, the territories of the Seyan-To under West-Turkic Khanate's dominance, stretched from the Altay in the west, to the Great Tshingan in the east, and from the Gobi Desert in the south, to the Lake Baikal in the north. In the period of the East-Turkic Khanate's domination, the Seyan-To populated the territories of the basins of Selengi and Orkhon and the left bank of low Tola. In a certain moment, by creating an ephemeral alliance with the Uyghurs (630-640) and their own Khanate, the Seyan-To have become a major threat to the Chinese Empire. In consequence, the policy of T'ang Dynasty, “to vanquish the enemies – by the hands of the enemies”, led to a clash and the Seyan-To have suffered many defeats and, in 646, they have fallen under the blows of their former allies, the Uyghurs and some minor Turkic tribes, with whom they were allied. Some members of the population have been slain in battles, some have been displaced within the Empire and only few have managed to retreat to their former territories. Some years later, they appeared fighting the T'ang Empire at the side of the Turks. In that period, the East-Turkic Khanate were rising (679-687, in 744 they have been destroyed by the Empire). Since 735, the Seyan-To have never been mentioned again by the Chinese chronicles. New traces appeared though in the sources written in Turkic languages in the 8th century. They mention a people called the “Syr” and the Kypchaks. The change of the name of the tribal name from the “Syr” to “Kypchak” could have been, from one point of view, linked with the tragic fate of the tribe (numerous bloody wars led to extinction or dispersion), or, from another point of view, with a belief, typical for Turkic and Mongolian peoples, that a name change may distract the “bloodthirsty spirits” or the enemies (the Uyghurs) and may save, or “heal” the survivors. An Old Turkic word “Kypchak” means “failed, unlucky, attracting evil”, although in diverse versions of the legends, which are known from Arab sources, it is linked with the name of an ancestor of the new kin. He was born in a tree hole or within a rotten tree (“Kypchak” from “kobuk”, meaning “a tree rotten inside”), or on boards of which a kind of a floating bridge was made (the legend of Oguz-Khagan by Rashid ad-Din [footnote 2] , the series of epic stories of Oguz-Khagan „Oguzname”). The realm, in which Kypchak was born, is associated with the It-Barak people. They inhabited a territory south from the Sayan-Altay foothills, the valley of upper Yenisei. That is where original dwellings of the Kypchaks are now believed to have been located.


The people mentioned by the 11th century oriental sources, as “the Kimaks” by a Persian, Gardizi, as “the Kai” by an Arab, Mahmud of Kashgar, as “the Kumokhs, the Kumos and the Kumak-Kai” in the Chinese Chronicles (in Canton dialect, „kai” means “a viper”, in Mongolian it means “a viper” or “a dragon”) belonged to a tribal alliance of the Sian-Pi that is rated among the Mongolian language group. The Sian-Pi belonged to the Dun-Hu, which are referred to by Sym-Cian Chronicle (3rd-2nd century BC) as the ancestors of the Mongolians. In the 5th century, their original dwellings were located in the East and South-East Mongolia. In the first half of the 4th century, the Kimaks were subordinate to the Imperium Żoł-Żenów (lata 551-556), then they have been made part of the First Turkic Khanate (551-630) and their territories laid near the land of Seyan-To that was under Turkish dominance. After the East-Turkic Khanate lost its meaning in the 7th century and the fall of Seyan-To, some of the T'iele tribes migrated to the west (1st wave – 646, the last – 868). The Uyghurs have remained and in some time they gained a considerable political meaning. The Kimaks stayed in their lands and executed a shrewd policy towards the Uyghurs and their enemies, the Turks. In 744, after the fall of the Second East-Turkic Khanate and the creation of Uyghur Khanate, the Kimaks fell under the Uyghur influence and such state of affairs remained until 840, when the Kirgiz of Yenisei have overthrown the Khanate. Some of the Kimaks migrated to Manchuria, but as they could not find peace there, they moved to the west. It is referred to by “The New History of T'ang Dynasty” that tells of slaughter and pillage done to the Kimaks by the Kidans. The other part of the Kimaks, along with the Tartars and some minor tribes, moved west, to the basin of upper Irtish, where they faced the descendants of Seyan-To, the Kypchaks, again. Mahmud of Kashgar, whose work comes from the 11th century, narrated that the Kai-Kimaks have not lost their language and historical memory, though they established lasting relationship with the people of Turkic language (the Kypchaks and the Yemeks). It seems that some time after that a slow ethnic and language unification of both peoples proceeded. Matthew of Odessa, an Armenian historian, living in the 12th century considered the influence of the “Otc” people (in Old Armenian “otc” means “a viper”, so it may refer to the Kimaks) on their “khardiash” neighbours (“khardiash” meaning - “bright haired”, seemingly, Kypchaks).

[1] The period when the T'ang Dynasty reigned – 618-907.

[2] Rashid ad-Din (1247-1318), an Arab historian.


Gumilow L.
1973 - Śladami cywilizacji wielkiego stepu; PWN, Warszawa.

Гуркин C. В.
2000 - O прeдкaх кипчaков и кимaкoв; Плeмeнa и нaрoды; Дoнскaя Археoлoгия; Нo. 3 – 4/2000; Рoстoв нa Дoну; с. 6 – 23.

Praca zbiorowa; red. Б. А. Рыбаков
1993 - Степи Евразии в эпоху средневековья; Археoлoгия CCCP; Издательство „Наука”, Москва.