History Files


Far East Kingdoms

Central Asia




Göktürks (Blue Turks)

The Göktürks (Gok means 'blue' but also 'sky' or in a more abstract sense 'heavens') were early Turks who lived a semi-nomadic lifestyle in Asia. They appeared in the sixth century AD and managed to unite all Turkish speaking peoples in a confederation. İstemi and Bumin were the two brothers who succeeded in achieving this. The empire was immediately divided into two major provinces with one of the brothers in power in each, and they continued their lines independently.

(All details by Hayreddin Barbarossa, drawn from Turkish editions of Britannica and Grand Larousse.)


The Göktürks divide into Eastern and Western branches.

Eastern (Great) Kaghans
AD 552 - 742

The eastern faction pressed China. Less than two centuries later, both eastern and western factions collapsed, the eastern one falling under Chinese domination.

552 - 553

Bumin 'İl Kağan'

553 - 554

Kara K'ola


554 - 572



572 - 581



Bagha İşbara

Son of K'ola. Eastern kaghan.


Brother of Tapo. Western kaghan.

581 - 587

Bagha İşbara

581 - 583

Tardu of the Western Kaghans denounces the sovereignty of İşbara, despite his being elected by the high council. Internally, İşbara has to subdue the pretender, Apo, son of Mukhan.

587 - 588

Çur Bagha

Brother of İşbara.

588 - 600

Tunga Turan (Tuhan)

Son of İşbara.

600 - 609

Kimin Türe


603 - 609

Türe becomes great kaghan.

609 - 619


Son of Kimin Türe.


Culo of the Western Kaghans is overthrown by Şipi and is executed in 619.

619 - 621


Relationship unknown.

621 - 630

Kara Khieli

Relationship unknown.


Khieli is defeated and imprisoned by Tai Zong.

630 - 640

Interregnum. A noble, Kür Şad, revolts and ambushes the Chinese imperial palace with no success (639).

640 - 646


Vassal of the Tang emperors.

640 - 681

The Eastern Kaghans fall under Chinese sovereignty.

679 - 682

About half a century later, a descendant of the crown dynasty manages to organise a successful revolt against Chinese rule in 679. He reunites the tribes with a mixture of diplomacy and war and re-establishes the state. He is given the names İl Teriş (one who 'gathered' the country) and Kutlug (something along the lines of 'sacred, blessed'). Kutlug is aided by Tonyukuk (vizier in 682-721). The Chinese are defeated in 681 and the kaghandom restored. Kutlugh captures the capital town of Ötüken in 682.

682 - 692

Kutlugh İl Teriş


The Western Kaghans fall under the domination of the restored Eastern Kaghandom.

692 - 716


Equally successful brother of Kutlugh.



Son of Kapaghan.

716 - 734

Bilge Kaghan

Son of Kutlugh.


Bilge and his brother, Kül Tigin, army commander in chief, overthrow the weak Bögü. The two are later credited with starting the process of civilization amongst the Turks. Unfortunately, no city survives intact to the modern day. However, Bilge orders for his brother, himself and their wise chamberlain, Tonyukuk, monumental tombstones with so-called Runic (so-called because of the resemblance - it's a phonetic Turkic alphabet) scripture, carved in Turkish and Chinese. These tell not only of Turkic history and warfare but also of the social structure, and maybe an early state philosophy. Kül Tigin dies in 731.

734 - 738

Türk Bilge Kaghan

Son of Bilge.

738 - 740

Tengri Khan I


740 - 742

Tengri Khan II

Son of Türk Bilge.


The Basmıl, Karluk and Uyghur khans revolt.



Relationship unknown. Killed in the revolt.



Brother of Ozmış. Killed in the revolt.


Basmıl khan is elected kaghan but overthrown. Yabgu Tufa, khan of the Uyghurs, is elected as 'Kutlugh Bilge Kül' - a very Göktürk name. This effectively ends Göktürk power in the region and signals the start of Uyghurs sovereignty.