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Thread: Late Huns in the Caucasus

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    Default Late Huns in the Caucasus

    New Results in Hunnish Research
    During the past decade it had been accepted by the most historians and professional orientalists that the first state in the steppe region was the Hunnish Empire. Moreover, they recognized the statement of the Shi Ji chronicle that the Huns had a united state around 3rd century B.C. There are some disputes among scholars from all over the world on some issues, namely when and under which name Huns had appeared in the Chinese chronicles, and when their first state was established.

    Hereby I only show some craggy opinions. According to Deguignes, the Huns had appeared in the Chinese sources around 1200 B.C., and they lived in Northern and Central China. Gumilyov maintains that the ancestors of Huns appeared only in the 7th century B.C. Mansag states that the Hun society and the state itself had been created during a long period, between 5000-400 B.C. By virtue of early sources, Chinese historians state that their first dynasty, Xia, was established by Huns; they recorded them as pre or early Huns. The researchers mostly agree with the date of the disruption of the Great Hunnish empire, during the 1st century A.D. If we take a look at how long small Hunnish states survived in Inner and Central Asia, from Northern China to Caucasus or around the Crimean peninsula, via India, we can see that until the 7th century A.D., some Hun kingdoms remained in operating throughout the vast steppe region. The history of Late Huns in the Carpathian Basin is also an important and not fully solved question. So is the history of the Huns on the territory of present-day Mongolia. Batsaikhan has proved that Huns have not disappeared at the end of 1st century A.D. there, as previously historians thought, but they had an independent state until the Ruanruan invasion, which took place in 410. The new Mongolian archaeological results contradict the old theory that Xianbei tribes would have ruled over Mongolia.
    Archaeologists have not found Xianbei graves or settlements at all in Mongolia, but the Chinese found huge amount of Xianbei relics in Inner Mongolia. It is very likely, that the Xianbei ruled that region. The newest results of Chinese scholars proved, that the Southern Huns, who joined the Han-dynasty, have not disappeared suddenly; moreover they lived in tribe-alliance system until the 8th century around the big bend of the Yellow River. Chinese sources of that time proved, that the Southern Huns, under the leadership of Helian Bobo, the great Hunnish Emperor of the Da Xia kingdom, flourished in the Ordos region, at the same time, when Attila spread his authority to Eastern and Western-Europe. In the past most historians and professional orientalists did not consider the relics of Central Asia and India, despite the fact that with the help of the local historical sources, and numismatic finds the history of Huns can be traced and dated very precisely. Therefore, it is clear that the Huns had states around the Lake Aral, Khorasan and Kashmir until the 7th century. This means, that the Huns interconnected the vast Eurasian steppe from the Ordos to the Carpathian Basin from ancient times to the medieval period, and some states survived even the Turkic invasion, which took place in the middle of the 6th century. Concerning the Huns, I am interested in how long they had survived in the forefront of Caucasus after Attila’s death. In order to investigate the question, I investigate contemporary historical sources — mostly Armenian and Byzantine ones.

    Huns in Caucasus
    Sometimes we learn from the literature, that after Attila’s death, the Huns had been defeated by the Goths and their allies, and the former Hun territory — the Carpathian Basin — became Goth and Gepid land, and the Huns suddenly disappeared from there. According to the ancient Hungarian tradition, Attila’s sons were defeated by enemies and that is the reason why his two sons returned to their ancestors’ land: Dengizik, settled down in Little-Scythia, or present-day Dobruja, his younger brother, or Attila’s third son, Hernac (Irnek, or Hungarian Chaba) settled down in another Little Scythia, which means present-day Dagestan.

    It is known from historical sources that Hun inhabitants remained in the Carpathian Basin, and some of them lived under the authority of other peoples. Recently, Russian and Romanian archaeologists analyzed the traces of the Huns in the eastern part of the former Hungarian Kingdom. The Romanians accept the ancient Hungarian Székely historical tradition, i.e. the Székelys are the direct descendants of the Huns, who remained in the eastern part of the Carpathian Mountains. Not only archaeologists found data supporting the Hun-Hungarian relationship, but historians, too. Authorized Meroving-sources recorded that Hungarians (Hungari) lived in Pannonia in the year of 561/562, which proved two things: first of all, Huns lived in their former center, secondly, Hungarians, who are the descendants of Huns, lived there 300 years earlier, than Hungarian historians had thought.

    We have other substantial data to the history of that region. Wolfram has written a monograph on the history of the Goths, in which he recorded that the Goths became “Scythians”, or learned the Scythian way of life and customs, during their stay on the Eastern-European steppes, and when they settled down in the Carpathian Basin or even more westward, they followed the Hun fashion, even after Attila’s death. The Austrian scholar paid attention to the fact that the Gepids did not rule the whole Carpathian Basin from the second half of the 5th century, and in the 6th century they controlled only present-day Voyvodina. The Huns left traces on their former center — the Carpathian Basin — for at least one century; their material culture clearly can be shown in some findings, which are regarded as Gepid treasures. It is likely that independent Hun tribes and tribal alliances remained in the Carpathian Basin, as Eastern and Western sources mention them. Other important theme to be researched is the land, where Hernak — or the Hungarian Chaba — returned to. That is the northern part of the Caucasus Mountain. For some historians the great migration in 463 — which brought entirely new inhabitants to that region — is a hinge when dealing with the Hun’s late history. They count that date as the moment in time when Huns disappeared from the historical sources and they link to this the appearance on the scene of the Turkic-speaking tribes, the Ogurs. Let us investigate, whether new tribes or peoples indeed had arrived there from Central-Asia.

    Huns and Ogurs
    In the literature dissimilar opinions can be read concerning the late history of the Huns and Ogurs. Most scholars agree that the Huns played a significant role until the 7th century in the Caucasus region, right there, from where the Hungarian chronicles originated the Huns and Hungarians. Fortunately, we have many written sources from that period and places, which make easier our research. If Hun Kingdoms controlled the vast territories of Central Asia and some parts of Eastern Europe, how was it possible for new tribes – namely Ogurs — to arrive into that region? If they did venture into a big migration and won a victory over the Huns, especially the strong Hephtalite Kingdom, why the written sources of that time had not recorded that? Even more, who were the Ogurs and where did they come from?

    If we want to answer these questions very shortly, we have to look only at the Byzantine sources about Ogurs. They say that the Ogurs belonged to the Huns, but the Persians later identified them with the Turks, as Hunnish people. Most probably, the Persian sources and Priscos’s fragment disordered the scholars the following way. Priscos described that around 463 new peoples — Saragurs, Ogurs, and Onogurs — appeared in Byzantine and stated that they migrated from their homeland, because they battled with the Sabirs, who were chased by Avars. Historians thought that this was an element of a new big migration, and related those events to the appearance of the Turkic speaking Ogurs in the Northern Caucasus. Scholars from the 19th century created an “Eastern connection” for the Ogur tribes and identified them with the Tie-le tribes, which lived in present ́-day Mongolia an around the Lake Baikal in early Middle Ages. According to the explanation, Ogurs lived on the Kazakh-steppe in 350 and from there departed westward after 460.

    First of all, we must investigate, whether the Ogurs equal to the Tie-le people. In the literature it is taken for granted that these two peoples are the same, despite historian sources of that time contradict this theory. Let us investigate the origin of the Turks. According to the Chinese sources, the ancestors of the Turks were the Dingling, who lived around the Lake Baikal and they belonged to the Donghu alliance. It is likely that they were a tribe of the later Xianbei people. The above mentioned Tie-le alliance system appeared in written sources only in the 5th century, when they lived around the Lake Baikal. One significant group moved southward, and they got a new name as Gao-che, or people of high couch. Presumably, there were tight connections between the Dingling and the Tie-le, because they lived in one place, but we do not know, whether they belonged to the same ethnic group. Now, let us take a look at the Tie-le question, and investigate some sources about them. The Wei-shu recorded that they were Huns on his mother side. They spoke the Hun language, but they had a small accent. Tang-shu wrote that the Tie-le consisted of 15 tribe alliance, and contained the ancestors of Turks and Uyghurs. It is sure, that the Tie-le and the Gao-che people lived until the 5th century A.D. in Eastern Inner Asia, they did not equal to the Ogurs in the Caucasus region. The Chinese sources wrote about the history of the
    Turks very thoroughly. They lived in present-day Gansu province and their royal house, Ashina was of Hun origin, which belonged to the Northern-Liang-dynasty, which controlled one significant sector of the Silk Road. That dynasty itself was of Hun origin, but they were not member of the royal clans of the Huns, so their kings wore only the title wang instead of danhu or shanyu. Sui-shu wrote that the ancestors of the Turks were mixed Huns, and the Ashina clan was a Hunnish tribe.

    Regarding the Gao-che, Wei-shu writes that their ancestor was Hong (Red) Di and Dingling; their languages was very similar to the Huns ́, but there are some differences, because they were the grandchildren of Huns on the daughter lineage. The Northern-Liang dynasty had been beaten by Ruanruan and escaped to the Altai Mountain and after one century, or around 550 they attacked the Ruanruans and got the authority over the steppes. As we see, the Turks just moved from the Altai to the Mongolian steppe in the middle of the 6th century, they did not appear near the Caucasus. Regarding the so-called Ogur migration, besides Priscos, other relevant sources had not written of new people, even we can not find new archaeological culture around Pontus, which contradicts the migration theory. The fragments of Priscos ́ text is not an original record, it remained in copy from the Suda-lexicon of the 10th century, under the name Abaris. The copy makers inserted there the old date, but we do not know, whether they altered it, because the Avars appeared only around 558 in Northern Caucasus, not in 463. Some historians paid attention to this mistake, but they tried to explain it by saying that Priscos’ date referred to the event of 350. This theory is also false, because during that period the Huns occupied the vast territories of Central-Asia from the 2nd century A.D. under the name Kidarita or Hionita. Hindi and Persian sources recorded that around 350 the Huns spread their control over Bactria and Tokharistan. If new people did not arrive, then only one solution remained — the Ogurs, Saragurs, Ugors, etc had lived there before. This theory is supported by Jafarov and Haussig. If we do not know of new people in Northern Caucasus after 453, Ogurs could only be people belonging to the Hun alliance, who after Attila’s death in 453, although appeared under independent tribe names as Ogurs, or Saragurs, Sabirs, etc, used the united name of Hun, too. As some scholars thought before, the steppe society tribes used at least two names for themselves. First of all they had an own tribe name, as Ogur, and if they belonged to a big alliance, they used that, too. Some authors realized that in the history of Scythians. As Gábor Bálint said, Mendander’s Ugur and Priscos’ Urog (Urug) were equal to the Hunuguri people. It is clear that the Ogurs were not Empire creators, names refer their function: they were tribes or clans, as Győrffy previously pointed out. Dobrev also stated that Ogurs were not independent tribe alliance, as historians thought, that is why he does not accept the solution for Onogur as “ten ogurs” He thinks that Hungar, which meant only Hungarians, had the root of Hung. Thúry stated that Ogur meant Huns and “unugroi, onoguroi, etc. names meant »belong to Huns.«” Huns had Hung or Honk form in the historian sources of that time. We can read in the Dasxuranci’s chronicle, that the ancestor of the Onogurs was Honagurs, who belonged to the Huns, which shows that the tribe name previously could have been a personal name. We find other examples of that custom, for example in Herodotus’’ work. The Greek historian recorded that Scythians got their name after their first king, Skolotos. As did Byzantine sources, when described, that Avar were Ugni or Huns, but after their leader they were called Avar. The same situation had happened to Khazars, whose leader’s name was Khazarig. Finally we must clarify one more question, the name and meaning of so-called Ugors. This kind of name did not exist in historical sources; it originated only in the 19th century, when linguists created this scientific expression in order to create a fictive Uralic phylum, and one branch became the Ugors, or Hanti-Mansi and Hungarian sub-divisions. As a matter of fact, the Ugors or the original form— Ogur — only meant Hungarians in Eastern sources. We can not say Ugric tribes at all, because the peoples living in the woods of Siberia were not able to establish political organizations, they remained in systems of clans or families, because their way of life prohibited the development of higher political and social organizations.

    Historical processes
    By virtue of the above mentioned dates and sources we can see that contemporary historian sources did not mention any new migration from the East in the middle of the 5th century. Now let us have a look at the historical processes of the Eurasian region. There were some events in the steppe of Central Asia in the end of Antiquity. We know that the people of Yue-chi (Scythians) pressed by the Huns moved to Central Asia in the 2nd century B.C., where they created a powerful state. After that event, in the 3rd century A.D. some significant political realignment had happened; firstly, the Parthian Empire collapsed and the Sassanid took command over the Middle East and Central Asia. At the same time, the Kushan Empire also declined, which affected vast territories around Northern India and Gandhara. The next big changes had happened in the middle of the 4th century, when the Huns occupied vast territories of Central Asia, and settled down around the Lake Aral. They were called as Hion or Kidarita, where the last one would refer to the royal clan. But we have no information about migration around 450. Only the White Huns, under the leadership of Heftal invaded the Indus Valley and created an Empire, using the old Kushan tradition. Regarding the historical dates, it is impossible that new people appeared in the northern part of the Caucasus, but as Haussig and Jafarov referred to that, only one explanation remained, tribes under own clan or tribe names became independent from the Huns, and they used those ones in diplomatic matters. By the way, in the history of the Caucasus two significant events were recorded. One is the revolt of the Albanian people in 463, when new a Hunnish tribe, the Sabirs emerged. The second is the migration of the Huns to the Crimean peninsula, where the Scythians and related people had lived. Some Russian and Ukrainian historians showed that cave dwellings surrounded Bakhchisaray came into existence because of the Hun attacks. Their populations remained there for centuries. Some people survived until the Mongolian invasion in the 13th century.

    In the course of the 5th century not only the great Hun Empire brake up, soon after Attila’s death, or in 476, the Western Roman Empire officially collapsed, and on its territories small Gothic, Alan, etc. Kingdoms were established. The Eastern Roman Empire, or Byzantine Empire existed, but it was weakened. We can say that that century was the end of the great united powers. Only in the course of the 6th century some powers wanted to unite the former Roman Empire again, under the leadership I. Justinian (527-565) Byzantine Emperor and Theodoric, the Eastern-Gothic King in Italy. The preceding was successful and recovered control the former Roman territories, even spread authority over some of the steppe belt — Western Caucasus and Crimea. Justinian used allied Huns against the Persians.

    Despite the European transformations, in the Central Asian regions big Empires — Persian and White Huns — survived, and fought with each other for the control over the commercial routes. When the Turks appeared in the middle of the 6th century, they replaced the Huns, but there was a big metamorphosis because of the same origin of civilization (bow bended people). Metamorphosis happened also after the Arab invasion, when new cultural and religious tradition appeared in the steppe, and the invaders did not belong to the bow bended people, so they counted as foreign elements among the late Huns and Turks.

    Huns and Hungarians
    It is known from various kinds of sources that the Huns appeared in Eastern Europe in the 2nd century A.D. Firstly, they settled down at the Caspian Sea, then gradually moved westward, and reached the mountains of the Caucasus. Their royal center was located at the Meotis swamps, which was the court of the Royal Scythians and Scythiced Goths before. The Huns first occupied the royal center, but when they occupied Western-European lands, they had to choose another royal center in order to organize the whole big empire from Eastern Europe to the River Rhone. The new center was established in the Carpathian Basin. When Attila died in 453, his youngest son returned to that old land, as I mentioned earlier. Irnek or Chaba, is the ancestor of Hungarians. Their tribes kept this place in memory.

    According to some old theories, Hungarians had connection to Onogurs, but they did not belong to the Huns. If we investigate the old sources, as I showed above, we could see that the Hun and the Onogurs (or Hunuguri) joined forces. Bolgars, who also originated from the Huns, accepted that they got Hunnish heritage.

    Besides the ancient Hungarian tradition, the tight connection between Huns and Hungarians were proved by Byzantine sources, too. Theophanes recorded that in the city of Kerch there was a Hun Kingdom, where two brothers lived. Ogurda was the king and his brother name was Muageris.

    Scholars showed that that was the first record of the present-day name of Magyars (Hungarians). So did Derbentname — a Persian source—, too, who recorded that on the territory of present-day Dagestan, there were two big Magyar cities (Ulu Majar and Kichi Majar). A Byzantine source also recorded that Hungarians had another name in the past; they were called as Savartoi Asphalu, which meant Sabir. As we know Sabirs belonged to Huns and ruled big territories above the city of Derbent, present day Dagestan. Thúry stated in the end of the 19th century that Hungarians appeared in the local sources as Ungur, Kuda-magar. Hence, the above mentioned sources had drawn the old territory of Hungarians, from present day Dagestan to the Meotis swamp.

    Hungarian historians, Turkologists debated that Hungarians had an independent state before the 9 century, and that was a powerful state around the Caucasus. The sources of that time contradicted that, because of early appearance of the name Hungarians as Majar or any variants from the 6th century. The name refers to that being a leading tribe among them, who were direct descendants of Attila. As regard the steppe tradition, they had the privilege to elect the king. Due to lack of sources we can not
    know for sure, when the Magyar tribes established for the first time an independent state under name of Majar. As Constantine VII stated, Hungarians were divided among voivodas, and the first voivoda was Levedi. As the Emperor said, that ruling system existed before the “invasion of Bechenegs”. As we know, after the first so-called Pecheneg attack, Savartoi Asphalu separated from other Hungarians, and settled down in the territory of Persia, in present-day Azerbaijan. The author also said, after the
    Pecheneg attack, Khazars occupied the land of Hungarians. Probably, the location of this event was Dagestan, which was the center of the Sabirs, Huns and other Hunnish people. Regarding the Khazars, we know that their first capital was Samandar, in present-day Dagestan, right there, where Sabirs and Hungarians previously lived. If the Khazars occupied that land from Hungarians, where they previously lived, as the Derbentname and above mentioned sources proved. The so-called Pecheneg attack occurred
    not in the 9th century but in the 6-7th centuries, when Arab troops strongly attacked that region. They tried to invade Eastern Europe through the Caucasus, the first war happened around 650, when they ruined the Sassanid Empire and the Middle Eastern territory, the second one happened after 711, when they occupied vast lands of Central Asia. Only the Khazars stopped them in bloody battles. As Botalov pointed out, in the Eastern European area big change happened in the 8th century. So, probably, most
    Hungarians departed from present-day Dagestan and Meotis-swamp, or legendary Levedia, and gradually reached the Carpathian Basin, the former Hunnish center. As Western sources proved, before the Avar settlements, sparsed Hungarians also lived under the name Ungarus, Ungari, and they settled there with Huns. Previously, Géza Nagy and István Zichy thought that Hungarians were there at the time of the Avars. The so-called “double homeland conquest” or relative connections between the Hungarians and the Avars were published by Gyula László.

    In my brief article I just referred to such kinds of questions, which can be of importance when dealing with the history of Late Huns in Eastern Europe. According to the huge sources (archaeological, historical, historical ethnography, etc.) we must reexamine and revalidate the history of Late Huns in Europe and the Caucasus region. We must investigate the history of Ogurs again, because they had not been Turkic people but they belonged to the Huns. Further, linguistics must think over theories, and due to the historical facts, we must speak of a Late Hun language instead of Bulgarian-Turkic one. Moreover, we must acknowledge that the Late Hunnish states determined the history of Eastern Europe in the Early Middle Ages and influenced the way of live of those who lived around these territories.


    Borbála OBRUSÁNSZKY,
    Historian, orientalist. She completed her studies at the University Eötvös Loránd in Budapest between 1992 and 1997 in history and Mongol civilization. This is followed by a postgradual study at the Mongol State University, where she is awarded a Ph.D. degree in 1999. Between 2000 and 2002 she worked as external consultant of the Asia Center at the University of Pécs, and organized the Mongol programs of the Shambala Tibet Center. During this period she participated in several expeditions in Mongolia and China. Ms. Obrusánszky is member and/or founder of several Hungarian scientific associations and she is author of numerous books and articles, and regularly provides analyses on Central-Asia in the scientific press. Next to that she is the editor-in-chief of an educational journal.

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