History has been accepted to have started during 4000 BC with the first writings found by the Sumerians. Knowledge on the world adventures of mankind before the first writings are very limited and obscure. This era is known as the “Prehistoric Era”.
In an historic process of about 6000 years, Egypt and Near East Nations are seen in the historic scene after the Sumerians. In written sources, Turks are mentioned as a people from the Altay branch, known more as Turani (Touranien in French), of the Ural-Altay race group. Based on our knowledge today, the original homeland of the Turks is the big triangle area between the Aral Lake-Altay Mountains and the God (Tiyansan) Mountains that encompasses the Balkas Lake. Turks however, spread around very rapidly in early ages, moved forward to the northeast and settled to the North of China. From there they mixed into the Iranian people and poured to the west under the name Saka (Iskit). Most historians also agree that the Cu dynasty that ruled as sultan in China between the years 1111 BC and 256 BC for 855 years were Turks.
At the beginning, the name Turk was the name of only one society of the societies that spoke the Turkish language. After the VI Century, after the Gokturk Empire that is, all the societies that spoke Turkish were commonly known with the name “Turk”. The word that has meanings such as “powerful, mighty, abundance” was uttered as “Turuk” in antiquity. The word being written as “Tik” is seen in XVIII Century BC in Chinese sources for the first time. As we have also learned from Chinese sources, from 781 BC on the Turks started to seize the first Chinese states.
The old Turks were tall (about 180 cm.), had white, pure complexions and blond-like brown-hair. Swarthiness has appeared after racial mixing. Turks also did not have features such as slanting and round eyes, and malar clarity. These Mogol and Chinese marks are seen in the Turks that mixed with these racial groups. From the beginning Turks have been a people that integrated and blended easily with these nations and societies.
The Old Turks are from the “Gok Tanri” religion. This religion does not have a specific prophet, holy book, enshrine, way of worship or prelate. It had only one God. This creator of the universe and eternal God was believed only to be the God of Turks. A sacrificial animal would be presented to God. Totemism and paganism did not exist. The wolf that is mentioned frequently in old Turkish legends was sacred but not a totem. There were beliefs such as life after death, immortality of the soul, heaven and hell. For this reason they would mummify the dead and burry their essentials.
They wouldn’t eat pork or feed pigs. No Turk could be a slave or concubine. They gave great importance to virginity and the chastity of women. The one and only punishment of ravishment was the death penalty.
They had succeeded in domesticating the cattle, horse, sheep, camel, reindeer and the ox. They are a hunter, nomad and fighter society. Yet they have also built big cities and castles in early ages. They could process minerals such as iron, copper and gold and create various tools and works of art out of them. Especially during the Hun Empire period, Turkish art that had come from the north of the Black Sea to the shores of the Great Ocean was dominant. The Silk Road, the world’s longest trade way, passed through Central Asia, in other words from their own region. Thus due to the transit trade, the Turks had prospered enormously. The Turks ensured the connection between the Chinese, Egyptian and other the biggest civilizations of the time.
Turks have given great importance to their attire, dress and finery. On the other hand, since they were a rigorous climate race they had to dress well in order to raise their resistance to the cold. They were very advanced in the tanning and textile industries. They made different clothes both from the fabrics and materials they processed and the fabrics of the neighboring country China that was very advanced in the silk industry. They wore clothes such as blouses, pants and jackets. In fact, some sources state that this dress and finery style they have taught first the Chinese, then the Romans as of the Christian era, is the founder of the European dress style today.
Turkish men usually had mustaches but rarely grew beards. Men and women grew their hair long and tied it as a ponytail.
They did not nourish any antagonism against foreign nations, their religions, cultures and customs. They also did not try to enforce their language and religion upon others.
Turks believed they were chosen by God and created as a master people. They have often qualified their emperors as world dominators all along: Acun Bey as World Dominator, Cihan Sultan as the khan of land and sea etc., which is proof to their belief.
The Turks’ desire for expansion, idea of victory, determination of getting out of even the hardest situation, establishing world domination through great empires and bringing order and structure, justice, peace, prosperity and happiness to the world has even drawn the attention of foreign nations. Some tie this situation to a magical stone called “yada stone” that only Turks are believed to possess. The Chinese, on the other hand, with a more realistic approach, link “this situation” to the Turks’ cavalryman quality. The Turkish chevalier truly was the fastest war element of those epochs and thus had an important role in Turks’ holding very wide countries under its rule. Additionally, their mastery of iron, the fact that they possessed and processed it to make different arms and gears made them gain an unmatchable power.
The Hun Empire believed a great khan called Yabgu lead the Turks and that he was Gok the Sky-God’s agent on earth. The state and military establishment was superb. Bravery, heroism, courage, straightness and honesty were seen as the essentials of an ideal life. They were experts in horseback riding and fencing. A child would start to horseback ride at the age of four and would not leave his horse thereafter; they were practically thought to been born with their horses.
As soon as the Turks appeared in the historical scene, they came face-to-face with the Chinese, a people of much greater number than the Turks, and had to get into a life-and-death struggle. In order to maintain their existence they were forced to build a strong infrastructure based on military discipline and a hierarchical system. They had to militarize themselves in a way that would aid them to resist a powerful enemy coalition, armed and ready to go to war any minute.
Qualities such as aristocracy and nobility were looked for in the Old Turks. Most of the army officers were aristocrats. However there wasn’t a huge separation and disagreement between the nobles and the common people in rights other than the state government. Top-ranking offices and generalship were bestowed only to khan and ruler family members, mostly only to khan princes and they were called “tegin”, “sad” (happy). Their affiliation with other businesses was not welcomed.
Turks were split into clans, statures and scouts. They all had chiefs. To rule the clan confederation and be the chief of such a confederation however, one needed to “get Kut” from the Sky-God. It was believed that the Sky God gave this Kut to the Oguz Khan dynasty. The dynastic family had split into twenty-four statures in total, Oguz Khan’s six sons and their sons, four each. All the Turkish khans, from the III Century BC Hun Empire to the XX Century AC Ottoman Empire came from this dynasty. The Ottomans came from the Kayi stature: the most superior of all the twenty-four Oguz statures. The Seljuks on the other hand were of the Kinik stature. Each stature had a specific seal. They sealed their animals, arms, and possessions with this seal. The Kiyi stature seal is seen on coins and even on XVI century Kanuni Sultan Suleyman cannons. No one outside of the dynasty would even think of becoming a khan. No Turk would see a person outside of the dynastic family as a khan or obey him anyway.
The great Turkish Emperor known as the khan was believed to have chosen by God to exercise his own will and thus the he was considered to be sacred. This holiness was true for all the dynasty members of the dynasties the khan belonged to. The khan was considered not as God but similar to God; it was believed that he got his ruling powers from God. Emperorship was usually passed from father to son, often to the oldest son but this wasn’t a definite rule. Every dynastic prince could pretend to the throne and whoever out did everyone else and sat on the throne was believed to be chosen by the Sky-God and therefore it was accepted that he had to be obeyed. This custom is one of the most important causes of the premature disintegration and collapse of the federated structured, short-lived Turkish Empires. Because Princes, too, who held governorship and directorship positions at certain places used royal prerogative rights on the extensive lands they governed. If the khan was strong and powerful they obeyed him but they constantly tried to find opportunities to rebel against him. If the khan was talented and clever the State fortified, if not a rapid dispersion process was inevitable. This system remained in force within the Turkish States until the Ottomans, and ceased thereafter.
The Turks’ strong appearance in the historic scene was, for the first time, with the Great Hun Empire in III Century BC. The epoch before the Huns is considered the pre-historic era for the Turks. After that date the Turks never descended from the historic scene and shaped the course of world history with the many great states and empires they built. The Turks that until then occupied scatted cultural centers united for the first time under the Hun Empire and thereby played a primary role in the emergence of the Turks as a nation. During the Hun period the Turks brought peace and prosperity to the area between the Korean to the Magyar plains.
Teoman Yabgu (244-209 BC) was one of the greatest Hun Khans. His son Mete (209-174 BC) turned the empire into a world state and expanded its territories to an 18 million kilometer square area between the Caspian and Japanese Seas, and the Himalayas and Siberia. Many Turkish emperors, including the Seljuks and the Ottomans, come from the descent of this great Turk Khan (known by names “Mete Khan”, “Oguz Khan” and glorified in legends by the Turks).
Out of the big and little, countless Turkish States, during the times of three of them, the Turkish speaking societies that lived in the vast plains of North Asia united under one flag and empire. These empires are the Great Hun, Gokturt and Great Seljuk Empires.
The past Turkish government centers around Mongolia have always followed a path from west to east. They came the East Turkistan, Central Asia, with the Uygur Empire and moving more towards the Near East to West Turkistan with the Karahan Empire. The Great Seljuk Empire and the Turkish dynasty that came in place of the Karahan Empire in 1040 reached the Mediterranean and became the biggest Nation of the Near East.
The Seljuk Empire, making Anatolia their eternal homeland, created the Turkish Seljuk State in 1075 and from the tenth century on Anatolia was mentioned as Turkey. With the Ottoman Empire, they were able to succeed in their aim of global dominance, and become a world state by creating both their own and the world’s most advanced, big and long-lived Nation.
Turks also have a big history beyond this geography that they made their homeland. Turks have established powerful Nations and dynasties in China, India, Egypt and East Europe.