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This article refers to the Turkic state Kara-Khanid Khanate (also designated as Qarakhanids). For the Khitan Khanate, see Kara-Khitan Khanate.

Kara-Khanid Khanate was a Turkic Khanate founded by the Karakhanids or Qarakhānids, also called the Ilek Khanids ( , , ), who were a Turkic dynasty. The Khanate ruled Transoxania in Central Asia from 840-1211. Their capitals included Kashgarmarker, Balasagunmarker, Uzgenmarker and then again Kashgar. The name of the state comprises two Turkish words, "Kara" and "Khan". "Kara" means "black" in Turkish, indicating nobility, and "Khan", actually Kağan, is a Turkish title given to the ruler of a state like Hakan, Tanhu, Yabgu, and İlbey.


Early history

Despite continuity from the first Uyghur Empire and affinity with the Kara-Khojas, the Kara-Khanids claimed descent from the legendary Afrasiab dynasty. The use of the vertical Uyghur script among Muslim Turks extended well into Timurid times in western Turkistan, and well into Manchu times in some enclaves in Eastern Turkistan. The Anatolianmarker Turkish beyliks in Ilkhanid times and early Ottoman times still retained scribes trained in the vertical script in order to do transactions with the Timurids. These scribes were called "bakshy", a name possibly of Chinese origin, meaning "great scholar", one of the titles of the Confucian soldier-scholar Yelu Dashi, or of Sanskrit origin.

The Muslim, Persianized , sedentary elements of the Kara-Khanid culture are preserved today among the Uyghur,Tajikmarker, Uzbekmarker, Afghanmarker, and Hui nations. The nomadic elements of the two of which speak Chagatay Turkic languages.Kara-Khanid and Kara-Khitan states, the Karluk and Naiman hordes, laid the foundation for the modern Kypchak Turkic-speaking cultures of the Kazakhs, Kyrgyz and Tatars.

Early migrations

Kara-Khanid Khanate in 1025 AD.
A branch of the Uyghurs migrated to oasis settlements of Tarim Basin and Gansumarker, such as Gaochangmarker (Khoja) and Hami (Kumulmarker) and set up a confederation of decentralized Buddhist states called Kara-Khoja. Others, occupying western Tarim Basin, Ferghana Valleymarker, Jungaria and parts of Kazakhstanmarker bordering the Muslim Khwarazm Sultanate, converted to Islam no later than 10th century and built a federation with Muslim institutions called Kara-Khanlik, whose princely dynasties are called Kara-Khanids by historians.

In 999 Harun (or Hasan) Bughra Khan, grandson of the paramount tribal chief of the Uyghur-Karluk confederation, occupied Bukharamarker, the Samanid capital. The Samanid domains were split up between the Ghaznavids, who gained Khorasan and Afghanistanmarker, and the Karakhanids, who received Transoxania; the Oxus Rivermarker thus became the boundary between the two rival empires. During this period the Kara-Khanids were converted to Islam.

Early in the 11th century the unity of the Kara-Khanid dynasty was fractured by constant internal warfare. In 1041 Muhammad 'Ayn ad-Dawlah (reigned 1041–52) took over the administration of the western branch of the family, centred at Bukhara. After the rise of the Seljuk at the end of the 11th century in Iran, the Kara-Khanids became nominal vassals of the Seljuks. Later they would serve the dual suzerainty of both the Kara-Khitans to the north and the Seljuks to the south.

With a decline in Seljuk power, the Kara-Khanids in 1140 fell under domination of the rival Turkic Karakitai confederation, centred in northern Chinamarker. 'Uthman (reigned 1204–11) briefly reestablished the independence of the dynasty, but in 1211 the Karakhanids were defeated by the Khwarezm-Shah 'Ala' ad-Din Muhammad and the dynasty was extinguished.

Famous Kara-Khanid rulers

Historically influential Kara-Khanid rulers include Mahmoud Tamgach of Kashgarmarker. After the defeat of the Khitan dynasty by the Jin Dynasty in Northern China, the great Khitan mandarin Yelu Dashi escaped from China with a small band of Khitan soldiers, recruited warriors from Tangut, Tibetan, Karluk, Kara-Khoja, Naiman areas and marched westward in search of asylum.

Yelu Dashi was accommodated by the hospitable Tangut Western Xia Kingdom and the Buddhist Kara-Khojas. However, he was shut out by the Muslim Kara-Khanids near Gulja and Kashgar. Enraged, he subjugated Karakhanid states one by one and set up the Kara-Khitan suzerainty in Balasagunmarker on the Chu River. Several military commanders of Kara-Khanid lineages such as the father of Osman of Khwarezm, escaped from Kara-Khanid lands during the Kara-Khitan invasion. In 1244, upon the invitation of the Egyptian Mamluks, Osman of Khwarezm marched on Jerusalem and liberated the holy city, on behalf of Islam, from the Crusaders.

Kara-Khitan Invasion

Asia in 1200 AD, showing Kara-Khitan and neighbors.
The Kara-Khitan Khanate, though harsh on the Muslim Turks, did not dispossess all of the Kara-Khanid domains. Instead, the Khitans (most of them were actually Naimans, Tanguts and Karluks speaking the same Turkic language as the Kara-Khanids) retreated to the northern steppes and had the Kara-Khanids act as their tax-collectors and administrators on Muslim sedentary populations (the same practice was adopted by the Golden Horde on the Russian Steppes). The Kara-Khitans even incorporated Kara-Khanid Muslim generals such as Muhammad Tai, who surrendered to the Naiman usurper Kuchlug at the end of the Kara-Khitan Dynasty. Kuchlug, the last ruler of the Kara-Khitan Dynasty, was especially harsh on the Muslim populations under his suzerainty. He went so far as to forcing conversions from Islam to Buddhism, the dominant religion of the ruling Kara-Khitans. The elite Kara-Khitans and their Naiman soldiers, on an interesting note, were very often Nestorian Christians, as suggested by the Syriac names of the Gur-Khans (Emperors), who at the same time had Confucian titles and patronized Buddhist establishments. Kuchlug's Naimans were perhaps largely Nestorian Christian. The reason for forced conversions to Buddhism was perhaps the underdevelopment of Nestorian institutions, making Nestorianism unsuitable as a tool for ruling sedentary populations.


In the early 13th century Kara-Khitan ruler Kuchlug, a sworn foe of Genghis Khan, was crushed by the advancing Mongol army along with his Kara-Khitan military state. His vassals, the Kara-Khanids, offered meager resistance to the Mongols. Kuchlug put an end to eastern part of Kara-Khanid state in 1211. Also, Khwarezmian Empire demolished western part of the Kara-Khanid state in 1212.


It is perhaps because of the similarities between Kara-Khanid and Kara-Khoja cultures that during the Yuanmarker and Mingmarker periods former Kara-Khoja and Xixia lands were populated by converts to Islam indistinguishable from Chagatay and Timurid lands. These Turkic Muslims under Chinese influence later adopted the Chinese language while still maintaining extensive trade relations with Turkestan. They were designated "Hui" in Chinese, obviously derived from "Huihui" or "Huihu", an archaic transliteration of "Uyghur". The Kara-Khanid culture started as a literate tradition, with a body of Muslim subjects recorded in the vertical Sogdian script of the first Uyghur Empire.

The Islamized Karluk princely clan, the Balasaghunlu Ashinalar (the Kara-Khanids) gravitated toward the Persian Islamic cultural zone after their political autonomy and suzerainty over Central Asia was secured during the 9-10th century. As they became increasingly Persianized (to the point of adopting "Afrasiab", a Shahnameh mythical figure as the ancestor of their lineage), they settled in the more Indo-Iranian sedentary centers such as Kashgarmarker, and became detached from the nomadic traditions of fellow Karluks, many of whom retained the Nestorian-Mahayana-Manichaean religious mixture of the former Uyghur Khanate.


Kara-Khanid legacy is arguably the most enduring cultural heritage among coexisting cultures in Central Asia from the 9th to the 13th century. The Karluk-Uyghur dialect spoken by the nomadic tribes and turkified sedentary populations under Kara-Khanid rule branched out into two major branches of the Turkic linguistic 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 Turkeymarker. The Chagatay , Timurid and Uzbekmarker states and societies inherited most of the cultures of the Kara-Khanids and the Khwarezmians without much interruption.

Kara-khanid dynasty

  • 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
  • Ahmad Arslan Qara Khan 998-1017
  • Overthrow of Samanids 1005
  • Mansur Arslan Khan 1017-1024
  • Muhammad Toghan Khan 1024-1026
  • Yusuf Qadir Khan 1026-32
  • Ali Tigin Bughra Khan - Great Qaghan in Samarkandmarker, c.1020-1034
  • Ebu Shuca Sulayman 1034-1042
  • Split of Karakhanids to branches of Western and Eastern

Western Karakhanids

  • Muhammad Arslan Qara Khan c.1042-c.1052
  • Ibrâhîm Tabghach Bughra Khan c.1052-1068
  • Nasr Shams al-Mulk 1068-1080
  • 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, Kara-Khitan 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

Eastern Karakhanids

  • 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
  • Kara-Khitan Conquest, 1211

See also


  1. Encyclopædia Britannica

External links

  • Crusades

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