On the Hierarchy among the Early Turks

Edward Tryjarski

On the Hierarchy among the Early Turks

(55th Meeting, 2012)

The term “hierarchy” has several shades of meaning and is in frequent occurrence in sociology, psychology, in the study of religions, in state and military administration, also in biology, and thus it must be in a scientific debate accurately defined. At the same time the historical and ethnic term “early Turks”, used by some historians of Asia and Turkologists, also demands a short explanation. After a few introductory remarks the author presents his main point saying that the tendency to hierarchical concept of the world, having a universal character, is naturally observable also among the Turkic peoples, equally those standing on a lower stage of historical and social development. Notwithstanding a small number of trustworthy sources, the problem can surely be the matter of a scientific many sided debate.

A popular opinion suggests that the Eurasian nomads were not only free in their decisions but also equal among themselves what should have been the result of their equal mode of life. This is of course not exact and a deeper insight in their life shows that within the framework of their tribal and administrative-military organization, they were considerably hierarchised. The object of the present remarks is the most ancient Turks (Turku) (in Chinese chronicles we read about the people called T’u-kue) who were politically and militarily active, especially in their two kaganates (551- 630 and 682-744 A.D.). So, traces of hierarchisation in the life and ideas of that group can be observed in:

a) state administration both during the peace and in war-time. A specific circumstance is here a privileged position of the royal clan Ashih-na, from which descended all important rulers, chiefs, dignitaries, etc. A list of the top people, military men, commanders etc. included, is rather long (bag, cor, eltabdr, irkin, isbara, sad-pit, tabir, tarxan, tegin, totok, toygun, tudun, yabyu, etc.). Much to our regret, we do not know in detail all the duties that rested on them and, consequently, have not a satisfactory picture of their mutual hierarchic graduation the existence of which is as a rule certain;

b) religious beliefs. The researchers are traditionally ready to put up the holy things of ancient Turks within four formulae: animism, ancestor’s cult, tangrism and shamanism. In each of them the elements of hierarchisation are traceable;

c) promoted social status of certain individuals being result of their extra-qualities or personal efforts (national heroes or warriors in battle, winners in sports and games, especially in horse-racing and wrestling).