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Turkic Tribes IndexAltyn Ola Horde (Turks)
Incorporating the Altziagiri & Ultzinzures

One of many steppe nomad groups of the Pontic-Caspian steppe in the fifth and sixth centuries AD, the origins of the Altyn Ola horde are obscure. They first entered the historical record as a division of the Huns during the fragmentation process for Attila's empire following his death. That death led to Attila's sons fighting each other for control, and the Hunnic confederation began to dissolve as a cohesive entity. The following year, the core Hunnic lands were conquered by the Gepids, scattering the empire's various nomadic groups, and within two years Attila's sons had been routed by the Ostrogoths. At least three main survivor branches emerged, the Altyn Ola horde, the Kutrigurs, and the Utigurs, but they may not have been formalised as such until the next generation of leaders succeeded Attila's sons. The Altyn Ola appear to have been linked to the Kutrigurs, although they eventually had their own ruler in the form of Ernakh's third son, Djurash Masgut.

The Altyn Ola are referred to in some sources but their existence cannot be fully confirmed, so perhaps they were merely a more westerly extension of the Kutrigurs. They remained on the northern side of the Black Sea, in modern Ukraine, and west of the River Don. Perhaps they can be equated with the Altziagiri of Jordanes, a tribe that is otherwise unattested and which cannot be matched up to any more concretely-known tribe.

Trying to explore the meaning behind the names is also fraught with danger. The use of 'altziagiri' in written records could be a mistake for 'ultziagiri', the 'people of Ultzindur', a kinsman of Attila (sometimes referred to as a lesser son). This tribal name has also appeared in the form of Ultzinzures, but it could be a misrepresentation (by Miftakhov and possibly others) of the Kutrigur name, with an alternate version - Ultzingur - referring the the Utigurs. The word 'altyn' would appear to originate in the Turkic 'altin', meaning 'gold'. The ethnic Mongol name for the Golden Horde was 'Altan Orda', showing some of the connectivity between Mongol and Turkic roots. Ernakh supposedly pronounced the creation of a principality by the name of 'Altynoba' on the steppe, meaning the 'golden camp', and this would seem to be the most appropriate meaning for the same name in a slightly altered form - Altyn Ola.

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information from An Introduction to the History of the Turkic Peoples, Peter B Golden (1992), from The World of the Huns: Studies in Their History and Culture, Otto J Maenchen-Helfen (University of California Press, 1973), from The Origin and Deeds of the Goths, Jordanes (Dodo Press - and C C Mierow supplies a different translation from this version alongside some dates for early kings), from Djafgar Tarikhy - Collection of Bulgarian Annals, Vol 1, Bakhshi Iman (Orenburg, 1993), from Millennium around Caspian, L N Gumilev (1993), from History, Vol III, Book XXXI, Ammianus Marcellinus, from Wars of Ancient Rus, R G Skrynnikov (Historical Questions, 11-12, 1995), from The Huns after Attila, Amedei Tieri (Homeland Notes, Volume XCVIII, SPb, 1855), and from External Links: Gothica, Jordanes (full text available online at Archive.com), and The First Bulgarian State Formations, Zufar Miftakhov.)

456 - 469

Dengisich / Dengizik / Dintzic / Tingiz

Son of Attila the Hun. Ruler of the Kutrigurs and Altyn Ola. Killed.

456 - 481

Ernakh / Irnek / Hernach / Belkermak

Brother. Ruler of the Utigurs and Altyn Ola.

456 - 457

The Ostrogoths defeat and rout Attila's sons in their fight for independence. The central core of Huns apparently divides into the Kutrigurs and Utigurs (which can sometimes also be referred to as the 'Bulgarian Huns'). Dengisich may be king (khan) of the former, while his brother Ernakh could be king the latter. The two also apparently control the Altyn Ola horde during their lifetimes. Judging by the name breakdown for the Altyn Ola (see introduction, above), this could be the core Hun remnant group, the horde which leads its subjects, the Kutrigurs and Utigurs, plus others including Bulgars and Onogurs.

Most Huns drift back to 'Scythia' following the defeat, meaning the Pontic-Caspian steppe, to join this horde. They probably take elements of various subject groups including the Venedi with them, one of the latter of which seemingly reappears in 668, while others remain behind. One group of Huns and their subjects settles permanently in Dacia (the Szekelys). They find that the plains of Pannonia (essentially western Hungary, northern Croatia, Slovenia, and eastern Austria) to the west of Dacia, secured by the Carpathians, is a perfect place in which to maintain their nomadic lifestyle, with its wide open grazing lands.

Map of Eastern Europe AD 450-500
Pannonian plains
Soon after the middle of the fifth century AD the Hunnic empire crashed into extinction, starting with the death of Attila in 453 (click on map to view full sized), while below that, the plains of Pannonia (now western Hungary) were not under Hunnic domination for very long, before they were forced back towards the east

c.467

Oguric-speaking tribes have recently been pushed out of the Kazakh steppe by the Sabirs due to population pressures from farther east and a domino effect of tribal movement in a westwards direction. Now they make their presence felt on the Pontic-Caspian steppe. With the Sabirs pushing them on, the Saragurs attack the Akatirs and other tribes that had been part of the Hunnic union. Then, perhaps prompted by the Eastern Roman empire, the Ogurics raid Sassanid-held Transcaucasia, ravaging the Georgian kingdoms of Egrisi and Iberia and also Armenia while on their way southwards.

469

With battles against the Ostrogoths and Eastern Romans seemingly ongoing for the past decade, Dengisich is now killed by Anagastes, the Roman general in Thrace, and his head is taken to Constantinople to be paraded through the city. His brother, Ernakh, is probably now the dominant Hunnic ruler on the Pontic-Caspian steppe via the Utigurs and Altyn Ola. His fate is unknown, suggesting a peaceful end for a ruler who is more content with the lands under his control than had been the case with his brother.

c.481/98 - c.505

Djurash 'Masgut'

Son of Ernakh. 'Masgut' was a nickname.

498 - 499

As leader of the Altyn Ola and, therefore it would seem, overall commander of the Hunnic remnants on the steppe, Djurash defeats Eastern Roman troops to regain access to the River Danube. Further campaigns are conducted along the Danube by Djurash's son, Tatra.

fl early 500s

Tatra

Son.

c.520 - 528

Grod / Gordas

Son. Converted to Christianity and then murdered for it.

c.528 - 530

Muager

Brother.

c.530 - 540

Khinialon / Chinialon / Chinialus

Brother. Khan of the Kutrigurs. Abdicated in favour of Zelorbes.

c.540

Khinialon serves as khan of the Altyn Ola horde before giving way to his elder brother's son (Zelorbes, son of Grod) who would be seen as a leader with a better claim. Perhaps not coincidentally, it is around this very point in time that Khinialon becomes khan of the Kutrigurs instead.

c.540 - 582

Zelorbes

Nephew. Subjugated by the Onogur-Bulgars.

550/551

The Gothic writer Jordanes, a bureaucrat in the Eastern Roman capital of Constantinople, completes his sixth century work at this time, entitled Getica. Among many other things, it provides an account of the people of the Acatziri who live to the south of the Goths (Tauric Goths). Beyond them, above the Pontic Sea (Black Sea), is the habitat of the 'Bulgari', seemingly neighbouring the Hunnic branches of the Altziagiri (possibly the Altyn Ola horde) and Saviri (probably Sabirs). The Altziagiri trade with 'greedy merchants' who 'bring the goods of Asia' to them. They remain nomadic in nature, travelling from pasture to pasture with their herds in the summer and returning to their main base 'above the Pontic Sea' for the winter.

Hunnic nomad warrior
This illustration shows a horse-borne Hun killing an Eastern Roman soldier - although the ethnic composition of the Altyn Ola horde is unknown, it is likely that it contained some ethnic Huns anlongside a population of early Turkics

c.582 - 590

Boyan Chelbir

Supposedly the son of Tatra. Died 590.

c.590 - 600s

The Altyn Ola are absorbed by the early Bulgars, probably immediately prior to the formation of Great Bulgaria. The Avars are moving west at this point, pressured into doing to by the Turkic tribes of the Kazakh steppe. Their migration has placed pressure on the Sabirs who have been seeking an alliance with the Altyn Ola. Prior to his death, Chelbir would appear to be able to negotiate a degree of autonomy for the Onogur-Bulgars who now make up the majority of his people. His son, Tubjak, seemingly commands them following Chelbir's death, but as an Avar vassal.