The steppes of central Eurasia have been the source of countless nations and tribes, from the last retreat of the glaciers some 50,000 years ago, to nearly modern times (1845 CE, see the Buqei Horde). This page attempts to examine a few of the better known tribes to emerge from the region. It is hopelessly fragmentary and incomplete of course, but what is set down will be of interest anyway, I hope. This file can be considered a companion to my western nomad file - the Teutons - each can be studied with a view toward analyzing the different sorts of pre-literate nomads (barbarians, in popular parlance) to have wandered Eurasia. Additionally, some of the major regions of Siberia are noted. Siberia, the largest block of land on the planet that is not a continent of itself, does not lend itself well to an archive such as this, since most of the many peoples who inhabit it were and remain pretechnical semi-nomads, with little in the way of formal Kings and Rulers. Nevertheless, some commentary on this vast realm should be of use. As a final note, it may be of interest to recall that the three best-known words in English of Siberian extraction are "horde" (urdu), "mammoth" (mamunt - the animal, and by extension the adjective), and "shaman".

Presently this holds notes on: Aka Saka, Alani, Altyn Oba, the Amazons, Aorsi, the Avars, the Barsils, the Bartang, the Bashkir, Basileani, Bokhai, Budini, the Bulgars, theBuqei, the Burtas, the Buryats, the Chionites, Choban, Chor, the Cimmerians, the Cumans, Dahae, Eastern Turkiut, Ertin, Far Eastern Province, Free Sarmarti, Gargari, Gelae, Gok Turkiut, Gyula, Haraiva, the Hephtalites, the Hsien-Pi, the Hsiung-Nu, the Huns, Iaxamate, Iazyges, the Issedones, the Juan-Juan, the Kalmucks (Oirat), Kamchatka, Kapan, Karabai, the Kayi, the Kazakh Horde, Khakass, the Khazars, Kimak, Kipchak, Kukhei, Kutrigur, Legae, Magadan, the early Magyars, the Massagetai, Mathura, the Melanchaeni, Northern Hsiung-nu, the Oghuz, Onogundar, Parni, the Pechenegs, the Roshani, Roxolanoi, the Sabir, Saii, Saka Haumavarna, Saka Paradraya, Saka Tigrakhauda, Sakae, the Sarmatians, Sauromatae, the Scythians, Siraces, Southern Hsiung-nu, Suren, Tolmach, the Torghuts, early Turks, Tannu Tuva, the Thyssagetae, Utrigur, Vladivostok, Yabghu, and Yakutiya.

The Amazons have been an enduring Hellenic legend for better than 2800 years. They were said to be a tribe of woman warriors inhabiting the steppe region around the Sea of Azov (other variants of the tale speak of the upper Danube, or the Caucasus, as their homeland). Sourced out of a culture noted for the extreme lengths to which it repressed its women - treating them as little more than domesticated animals - the tale of the Amazonoi is fairly clearly an elaborate version of the "upside-down" story; a tall tale relating a circumstance in which every normal mode of society is turned on it's head. According to the myth they met a Scythian tribe, the Gargarii, once a year to mate and kept only female children, selling or giving the boys to neighboring tribes, or in some cases mutilating them and retaining them as slaves. The Amazons were supposedly ruled by two queens, one for internal matters and one for war. A number of complex tales grew up around the idea, eventually having them invade Asia Minor, found the city of Ephesus, retreat back into the north, and at other times interact with every Hellenic warrior-hero from Herakles through Theseus to Alexander. Why, then, do I bother including them in this archive? Because there may be a germ of truth to the story. I don't believe in the existence of an all-female tribe of warriors, but recent archeological evidence in the region has supported the idea of at least some steppe-dwelling females achieving status as warriors. Then too, the Central Asian Massagetae, ruled at an early date by the warrior-queen Tomyris lends some credence to the idea. Herodotus tells us that the Scythians knew of the Amazons, refering to them as Oiorpata ("man-slayers"), and while he is as often called the "Father of Lies" as he is the "Father of History", he apparently lived among the Scythians for a time, and may very well collected first-hand data about what that people believed concerning their part of the world. So, here is a listing of Amazonian queens, with a bit of commentary as well. Take it with whatever degree of skepticism you feel is necessary.

The AVARS A Central Asian people living near the frontier of Iran, since they brought with them several Irani loan words that have crept into general European usage (cf. "Ban" as a Balkan title for military governor). There is still an ethno-linguistic group called Avar within the Caucasus who may be related to them. They penetrated the Balkans in the wake of the Huns and established a Dark Ages empire within the western and central Balkans. Always challanged by Franks to the West as well as their own Slavonic subjects, their state lost cohesion in the latter 8th century, and was largely absorbed by Charlemagne at the beginning of the 9th.

 A Turkic tribal union, who settled in what is now the Volga delta region around the end of the sixth century CE.

The BARTANGS An Iranian-speaking people, possibly a remnant of the Scythians or Sarmatians, inhabiting the Pamir region of Turkestan.

BASHKIR (Bashkorts) A Turkic people, possibly descended from the Bulgar horde of Bayan (the common Turkic word "Bashkir" becomes "Bilkir" or "Bilgir" translated into the Oghuric sub-branch, of which proto-Bulgarian is a part). They may alternatively have been of Finno-Ugrian origin. They live today between the Volga and the Urals, and beyond the Urals to some extent. Mediaeval travelers report them as practicing a phallocentric cult; but today the majority are Sunni Muslims - a significant minority are Eastern Orthodox Christians.

The BULGARS The origins of the Bulgarian people are obscure. They emerge at the end of the 5th century as one of many people which had been associated with the Huns. When Attila's empire fragmented at his death in 453, the component elements which he ruled, both Hunnic and non-Hunnic, all slipped free and began jostling one another, migrating across the Balkans and the Ukraine, by times controlling or being controlled by others. Within this confused welter of peoples, a sept or clan of what were the ancestors of the Bulgars, the Onogundar, established themselves beside the upper Volga. From that base, they absorbed a number of other tribes and groups, including remnants of the Huns (the Altyn Oba, the Kutrigur, and the Utrigur), among others. Falling first under Avar influence, and later to the Khazars, the early Bulgars migrated further up the Volga, and there sundered into five seperate hordes , each of which followed an independent destiny.

The BUQEI HORDE The last nomad nation in Central Asia, located in Western Khazakhstan, between the Volga and Ural Rivers; it consisted of roughly 5,000 families of Kazakhs of the Younger Kazakh Zhuz (clans of Adai, Jappas, Baibakty, Tana, Bersh, Cherkesh, Maskar, Isyk, Isen-temir, Alacha, Kyzyl-kurt, Taz, Tama, Kerderi, Tabyn and Kite). Always under Russian hegemony, it was first a Sultanate, becoming a Khanate in 1812.

BURTAS (Udmurts or Votyak) A nomadic Finno-Ugric tribe inhabiting the region between the Don and the Volga rivers, especially centered around Izhevsk, northeast of Kazan. Some of their tribes may have contributed to the Magyar confederacy. Some scholars have identified them as Alan in origin (Burt-As) and with the Mishars and Mokshi of Russian historiography.

The BURYATS A Mongol people originating in northern Mongolia. They have since spread and form significant minorities in areas of Russia, Mongolia, China, and Kazakhstan.

CHIONITES (RED HUNS) From the Middle Persian word xiyon, 'Hun', a Hunnic tribe that began encroaching upon the frontiers of Iran and the the Kushan state circa 320 A.D. A distinct people from the Hephtalites, the Chionites were also called 'Red' Huns. Shortly after 340 (?) A.D., the enigmatic leader Kidara pushed the Kushans out of northern Pakistan and gave his name to this short-lived dynasty. At the end of the 4th century, a new wave of Hunnic tribes (Alchoni) invaded Bactria, pushing the Kidarites into Gandhara. The Kidarites in northern India continued to mint debased gold and copper coins until the end of the 5th century. Dates and attributions below are questionable. Kidarite principalities may also have existed at Kota Kula, in Kashmir and Taxila; the names of the monarchs in those areas are unknown.

The CIMMERIANS A proto-Iranian group which held the steppes of the Ukraine and southern Russia for quite a long while. They are best known today for their large and treasure-heavy burial mounds, called Kurgans. They, or rather their name, have also found a place in modern fantasy literature; Robert E. Howard adopted the name as the home tribe of his fictional hero, Conan the Barbarian. In the 8th century BCE, they came under increasing pressure from the Scythians, and in response migrated around the Black Sea to lay waste to large portions of Thrace and Anatolia. They were eventually disrupted by Lydia, but pockets of their language and culture persisted until the 5th century BCE. They are poorly documented and, in fact, the selection of names below has been Hellenized to a considerable degree.

The CUMANS In Turkic called Kipchaks, by the Russians called Polovetses, the Cumans were a vast tribal confederation that at times stretched from the Aral Sea, across the Volgan and Ukrainian steppes, to as far west as Hungary. Normally they were organized by septs and tribes, with little in the way of overall cohesion. A warlike people, they fought incessantly against Russian Princes, but just as often involved themselves with various Russians against others. Destroyed by the Mongols in the 13th century, western refugees migrated into Hungary and assimilated with that culture. Their lasting influence is diffuse and subtle, but far-reaching: Khazakhs, Uzbeks, and the Crimean Tatars are largely descended from Eastern Cumans. Qutb ad-Din Aibeg, founder of the Delhi sultanate, was a Cuman; redeemed from slavery by Afghan shakh Mahmud Ghuri, he became his governor in Delhi and proclaimed independence after the death of his patron. Egyptian Mamluks were also Cuman to a large degree, engaged in the Sultan's Guard, later to rebel and seize Egypt.

The HEPHTALITES A people of Central Asia, who migrated into the Oxus watershed, and from thence south and southeastward, into what is now Afghanistan, Pakistan, and portions of northern India. Ethnically, they elude precise classification; probably a blend of various tribes to one extent or another, they nevertheless retain a link to the complex group of peoples known in China as the Hsiung-Nu and in the west as Huns: to the Chinese they were the Hua, and to their Hindu opponents they were the Hunas.

HSIEN-PI (Xianbi) A group of Tungusic and proto-Mongolic people who supplanted the Hsiung-Nu as masters of the steppe north of the Great wall in the 100's CE. They were only briefly unified, under Dardjegwe in the late 100's.

The HSIUNG-NU The Hsiung-nu were a people of vaguely Turkic stock, nomadic pastoralists living north of China. They often raided China of the Han dynasty, providing a major security threat for centuries. Their presence induced, in fact, the Chinese to begin construction of the Great Wall.

The HUNS The western Huns controlled at their greatest extent the Balkans, much of central Europe, and the western Russian steppes of the Ukraine and Belarus. This list minimizes the fact that the Huns were seldom if ever completely unified, but as there is virtually no documentation on splinter groups, this survey of major Hunnic rulers will have to suffice. See also the Hsiung-Nu for the probable antecedents of this people, and the Chionites and Hephtalites for related Hordes. Other post-Attila Hunnic hordes of note were the Huns of Crimea (see Keremi Huns) and those of the North Caucasus (see Kavkhazia). The Khazars are believed to have spoken a Hunnish language.

For any visiting the Huns from elsewhere in this archive, here is an express back to where you were before...

Austria, Crimea, Hungary, Moldavia, Moldova, Moravia, Slovakia, Transylvania, Ukraine, Wallachia.

ISSEDONES An ancient people of Central Asia at the end of the trade route leading north-east from Scythia. They were described by Herodotus, Pausanias and Ptolemy. Like the Massagetae (with whom they often warred) the Issedones were similar to the Scythians yet Herodotus distinguishes between them.  They probably inhabited the Tarym basin. Among their more unique customs was the holding of wives in common, ritual parricide and cannibalism. Some of these customs survived until relatively recently in parts of Tibet and it is possible that the Issedones were proto-Tibetan in origin.

The JUAN-JUAN A Central Asian Horde inhabiting what is now Mongolia and parts of Xinjiang. Their ethnic affinities are obscure; they have been identified by various authorities as connected to Mongols, Turks, Huns, or even Avars. Knowledge about them is fragmentary; the following list is based on Chinese records, and therefore most of the entries cannot pretend to represent the rulers names with much degree of accuracy (the reasonably accurate ones are those within 402-552).

The KALMUCK (Kalmyk, Oirat) A West Mongolian people living mainly in central Asia (as opposed to Eastern Mongols - Mongol and Buryat). The were a nomadic people who migrated in large numbers into western Kazakhstan in the 17th century, and formed an Empire which encompassed much of the central Asian plateau at one time. Suppressed during World War II for supposed "anti-Soviet activity", they were rehabiltated in 1957 and reinstated as a republic (on the edge of Kazakhstan, northwest of the Caspian Sea) within the Soviet state. For representative clients and territories of the Oirat rulers, see Bartang, Kazakhstan, Roshani, and Xinjiang. See also the Torghuts for a particular group of Oirat who settled in Russia for a time before needing to flee back to their ancient homeland in Xinjiang.

The KAZAKH HORDE Occupying the wide expanse of steppe north of Central Asia.

KHAKASS A Turkic-speaking people related to the Kyrgyz (they may be descendents of Kyrgyz who remained behind when the bulk of that nation began migrating southwest) and living in the middle reaches of the Yenisei river in Siberia. The Khakass have inhabited that region since time immemorial. Historically they were nomadic herders but in the last two centuries they were Christianized and forced to settle by the Russian government. They now form a constituent republic of the Russian Federation (albeit a Republic with a Russian ethnic majority); there are aproximately 550,000 Khakass in the world today. The capital of Khakassia is the city of Abakan.

The KHAZARS The Khazars were a Turkic-speaking nation of semi-nomadic steppe dwellers living to the northwest of the Caspian Sea, near the portage between the Volga and Don Rivers. Proselytized by both Christian and Muslim missionaries, they took the remarkable step of converting to Judaism as a way of side-stepping potential domination by either the Byzantine Empire or the Caliphate. Thereafter, they contained Muslim expansion beyond the Caucasus for several hundred years. Their Kingdom disintegrated in the 10th century, and they were dispersed as a people after the 13th. century. I have information on both the Khagans and also the military commanders, the Beks, and so include both.

MAGADAN and KAMCHATKAThe extreme eastern end of Siberia, consisting of the Pacific coast and its juncture with the Arctic Sea around the Chukchi Peninsula. The Kamchatka Peninsula is the large leaf-shaped ridge of land springing off Chukchi to the southwest.

The MAGYARS The original Hungarians, a tribal confederacy of seven related clans. The Magyars are by-and-large a Finno-Ugrian people, related to a degree to Finns, Karelians, and Estonians on the one hand, and Turkic peoples on the other. The original confederation, consisting of the Magyari (Madjary), Nyék (Nyak), Kari, Kasi, Taryán, Kurt-Djarmat, and Yenö tribes, was augmented by three dissident Khazar clans, collectively called the Kabars, and the seven plus three formed the "On Oghur" ("Ten Arrows") Confederation; some think that "On Oghur" is the source behind the modern term  "Hungary".

The MASSAGETAI (Massa Getae)A nomadic people inhabiting the Central Asian steppes east of the Caspian. It is not exactly clear just who these people were - they resembled Scythians to a degree, although Herodotus takes pains to differentiate between the two, and some scholars have connected the name Massa Getai with the later Goths - but  this etymology is not widely accepted. The Persians made several attempts to conquer the Massagetai with little success; indeed, it was the Massagetai who killed the first and arguably greatest of the Persian kings, Cyrus the Great. According to Herodotus, the Massagetai were sun-worshippers who practiced ritual patricide and cannibalism.

MELANCHAENI (Black Cloaks)Almost nothing is known about this group, who Herodotus describes as similar to, but distinct from, the Scythians. The name he gives them means "Black Cloaks" or "Black Robes", presumably due to their national costume. They were supposed to have lived "north of the Royal Scythians (the Sakâ Paradraya)", probably in the western part of the Volga river valley about midway between the Caspian and the Kama junction. [Herodotus 4.20]

The MONGOLS This famous people has existed within numerous different Hordes and Nations; they are described on their own page, HERE.

OGHUZ (GHUZZ) The Oghuz, also called Ghuzz or Ouzz, were a confederation of 24 Turkic tribes inhabiting the region between the Caspian and the Aral Sea (northern and western Khwarazm). They were successors to the Gök Turks, from whom most of the tribes were descended (some may have been Uighur originally). Though frequently subject to the Khazars or other steppe peoples, they are nonetheless of critical importance to world history as being the forbears of the Seljuq Turks. Their ruler, when they were united under one individual, held the title Yabghu (prince); his foremost warlord and military leader was called the Kudarkin. Around 1000 Cuman incursions caused the Oghuz remaining in Khwarazm to fragment. Some, like the Torks and Berendei, took up residence in Russia (the "Black Hats" who served Russian princes as mercenaries were formed from these tribes.) Others remained behind and formed the nation that would eventually be called Turkoman, periodically emerging as the White Sheep Turks and Black Sheep Turks to seize parts of Iran and Mesopotamia. The Oghuz language is spoken today in variants including Modern Turkish, Azeri, and Turkoman.

KAYI An Oghuz clan, closely related to the Seljuqs.

The PECHENEGS A semi-nomadic people of Turkic stock, emerging out of Central Asia from the 7th century CE. Their Qagans were apparently Manichaean refugees from Transoxiana, and may have had a connection to the Oghuz. In control of much of the land between the Don and the lower Danube by the 10th century, they forced the Magyars before them into central Europe and were harried incessantly by the Khazars behind them. Slowly driven southward by the Russians, they repeatedly raided Thrace, and were in almost continual conflict with the Byzantines (who referred to them as "Patzinaks"). Their power was broken once and for all in 1092, by a combined Byzantine-Cuman army, but they did not completely disappear before about 1200. They are fairly poorly documented, and the following list is very fragmentary.

The first eight entries, from Choban to Tolmach, represent local tribes or septs...

I cannot forebear from mentioning that Kurya is notorious for having a drinking goblet made of Knyaz Svyatoslav of Kiev's skull, following his demise in battle, 972. This use for enemy skulls seems to have been something of a tradition on the steppes; Herodotus mentions the same custom among the Scythians in the same region, 1500 years before Kurya.

ROSHANI (Shughni) An Iranian-speaking people inhabiting the Pamir region of Tadjikistan, near the Afghan border.

SABIR A Hunnic tribe that briefly established a powerful state north of the Caucasus. They may have been attested to as early as 124 BCE, in which case they are ultimately Sarmatian or Scythian in origin. They were allied with Sassanid Persia until c.550, when they were enticed to join a Byzantine-led coalition.

The SARMATIANS A people originally of Iranian stock who migrated from Central Asia to the Ural Mountains between the 6th and 4th century BCE and eventually settled in most of southern European Russia and the eastern Balkans. Like the Scythians to whom they were closely related, the Sarmatians were highly developed in horsemanship and warfare. Their administrative capability and political astuteness contributed to their gaining widespread influence. By the 5th century BCE the Sarmatians held control of the land between the Urals and the Don River. In the 4th century they crossed the Don and conquered the Scythians, replacing them as rulers of almost all of southern Russia by the 2nd century. Sarmatia perished when hordes of Huns migrated after AD 370 into southern Russia. Those surviving became assimilated or escaped to the West to fight the Huns and the last of the Goths. By the 6th century their descendants had disappeared from the historical record. The Sarmatians never formed a single unified polity; rather they were divided into numerous tribes, the most important of which were:

The SCYTHIANS A wide-ranging group of horse nomads who emerged out of central Asia to displace the Cimmerians in the Ukraine during the 8th and 7th centuries BCE. They were among the first people to completely master the art of horsemanship, and their ferocity and mobility became legendary because of it. Superb mounted archers, they also maintained a brilliant and artistically gifted culture whose artifacts can be appreciated in museums around the world. Information about them is fragmentary; much of it derives from the Greek historian Herodotos, who is said to have visited them. Many different Scythian tribal groups have been identified, here is a catalogue of the best-known:

TANNU TUVA A small region in southern Siberia, adjacent to the Mongolian frontier at the headwaters of the Yenisei. The people are of Turkic stock, related to a degree to the Yakut.

THYSSAGETAI (Thyssa Getae) A tribe inhabiting the southern Urals during the 400s BCE. They are discussed by Herodotus. Almost nothing is known about them, although their name suggests a connection of some sort with the Massagetai.

THE TORGHUTS (The Volga Kalmucks) The western branch of the Kalmuck people (see Dzungarian Kalmucks, Xinjiang), they migrated into the Volga Basin in the early 17th century, there serving for the most part as mercenaries in Czarist armies. In doing so however, their religion (Lamaist Buddhism) and tribal traditions came under increasing oppression, and at length (in 1771) 300,000 of them made an epic journey back to Xinjiang, pursued by Cossacks and harried by intervening Muslim Khanates all the way. The surviving 15,000 settled in their old homeland once more, and swiftly faded from view. A small remnant remained by the Volga, and survive today as a minor ethnic group with it's own autonomous Republic within the Russian Federation (1936-1944, suppressed for anti-Soviet sedition, re-instated 1958).

The TURKS The Turkic peoples form a major ethnic group which has had an enormous impact on Central Asian and Levantine-Mediterranean history and culture for the past 1500 years. In their origins, they seem to have arisen as a Mongolic group in the broad and semi-arid steppes between Lake Balkhash to the southwest and Lake Baikal to the northeast - basically southwestern Siberia, northeastern Khazakhstan, northern Xinjiang, and western Mongolia. At some point before c. 400 CE they began spreading out, mostly southward and westward, although there are some Turkic speaking groups such as the Yakut who went north. In the 5th century CE, they began encountering literate opponents, and so pass into history. They threw off the hegemony of the Juan-Juan, establishing a vast but ill-defined nomad empire stretching across the central steppes. Quickly dividing into an Eastern and Western Qaganates, they endured until being rent asunder by newer peoples. Since that time, they have slowly differentiated into varying ethnoi, but their languages and dialects have remained very similar to one another. Various later Turkic nations dealt with in this archive include the Azerbaijani, the Balkari, the Bashkirs, the Cumans, the Khakass, the Khazakhi, the Khazars, the Kyrgyz, the Oghuzz, the Ottomans, the Pechenegs, the Qarakalpak, the Seljuqs, the T'u-Chueh, the Turkomans, the Uighur, the Uzbeks, and the Yakuts. It is likely that the various Mongol peoples, particularly the Tatar, are of Turkic descent to one degree or another. It is also likely that such peoples as the Burtas and the Magyars are distantly related to the Turks.

VLADIVOSTOK and the FAR EAST PROVINCE The extreme southeast corner of Siberia, where it curves past the Amur River and down to the Golden Horn and the edge of Korea.

YAKUTAn immense (roughly the size of India) region in Eastern Siberia situated between the Chukchi Peninsula to the east and the Yenisei River Basin to the west; itself watered by the Lena. Composed largely of taiga in the south, and subarctic tundra to the north, Yakut has the distinction of having the most rigorous climate in the inhabited world (average temperatures range from +65 F. in July to -45 F. in January, but temperatures of -89 have been recorded).