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The Second Turkic Khaganate (Chinese: 後突厥; pinyin: hòu Tūjué, 682-744) was a nomadic confederation or steppe empire in Mongolia. It was preceded by the First Turkic Khaganate (552-630) and then a period of Tang Chinese rule (630-682). The Second Turkic Khaganate was followed by the Uyghur Khaganate (744-840). During the khaganate, the Tang dynasty and Tibetan Empire were near their peaks, and Islam was just beginning to spread into Central Asia. Although centered in Mongolia, around 712 it pushed as far west as Samarkand before being driven back by the Arabs. The Second Khaganate left the Orkhon inscriptions, the earliest writing in any Turkic language and an important source for the mentality and actions of the Turkic rulers.[citation needed]

Second Turkic Khaganate

Second Turkic Khaganate c. 700.
Second Turkic Khaganate c. 700.
Common languagesOld Turkic
• 682 - 691
Ilterish Khaghan
• 744
Kulun Beg
• Established
• Disestablished
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Tang dynasty
Uyghur Khaganate


It was ruled by the Ashina clan which had founded the first khaganate. The Ashina ruled over the Toquz Oghuz, Basmyls, Uyghurs and Karluks. Succession was lateral, that is, power passed to a ruler's younger brothers before returning to his son. This could cause problems in later generations. The religion of the Ashina rulers may have differed from the Shamanism of the common people. When the Ashina elite gathered on Mount Otukan to worship Tengri, women, children and shamans were excluded. Like the previous khaganate and the later Uyghurs, trade was controlled by the Sogdian merchants who had bases from Bukhara to China.[citation needed]


Outline: The khaganate was successful while Tonyukuk was alive under the first four khagans. In the last 10 years there were rebellions and seven different rulers. Note that the sources use different spellings and have slightly different regnal years. This article does not list all the variants. Regnal years in this article are from Baumer and may differ from other Wikipedia articles.

Before: After the fall of the Eastern Turkic Khaganate (630) the Chinese left northern Mongolia to the Xueyantuo and moved the Ashina Turks to the Ordos Loop. In 679-81 Ashina Nishufu and Ashina Funian unsuccessfully rebelled against the Chinese.

Success: 682-734: We should first mention three people who were important but never reigned. Tonyukuk (lived c646-c725) was a general, statesman and advisor to the first four kaghans. He advised the Turks to stay on the steppe and avoid Chinese ways. He left the Tonyukuk inscription in which he praised himself, apparently with justification. Kul Tigin was the second son of Ilterish and a general and statesman. Po Beg was the daughter of Tonyukuk and wife of Bilge. After her husband’s death she was an unsuccessful regent for her son.

The kaganate was founded by #1 Ilterish Qaghan (682-91). In 682-87[1] he united the tribes by gathering Funian’s troops, subjugating the Toquz Oghuz (which included the Uyghurs) and joining with the Sir tribes, Basmyls and Karluks to the west. He defeated Chinese armies and raided China. He chose Otukan as his center. Under his brother #2 Qapaghan Qaghan (691-716), the empire reached its height. In the east he annexed the Khitans, raided China and extracted tribute from Emperess Wu. In the north he subdued the Yenisei Kyrgyz and Tuva (709-10) (The attack on Tuva involved a difficult mountain crossing.). In the west he defeated some Western Turkic remnants and allied with the Kankalis, thereby almost reaching the bounds of the first kaganate. But when he pushed toward Samarkand he was defeated by the Arabs (712).[2] In 714 he was defeated at Beshbalik by someone and withdrew from the central steppe. His new weakness provoked a rebellion by the Toquz Oghuz. This was put down (715-16), but returning from the campaign he was ambushed and killed.

In violation of custom, the throne was taken by Qapaghan's son #3 Inel Qaghan (716). He and his supporters were soon killed by Kul Tegin who inthroned Bilge, Ilteresh’s first son and Kul's elder brother. Under #4 Bilge Khagan (716-34) power was in the hands of Bilge, his brother Kul Tegin and his father-in-law Tonyukuk. The Uyghurs, Tokuz Oghuz and Khitans were subdued but in the far west the Turgesh maintained their new independence. In 720 Emperor Xuanzong of Tang attacked but Tonyukuk defeated his Basmyl cavalry and the Turks pushed into Gansu. Next year Xuanzong bought him off. In 727 he received 100,000 pieces of silk in return for a 'tribute' of 30 horses. He refused to ally with Tibet against China. His wisdom was praised by Zhang Yue (Tang dynasty). The deaths of Tonyukuk (725) and Kul Tegin (731) removed his best advisors. It is reported that he was killed by poison, but the poison was slow-acting and he managed to kill his murderers before he died. His account of his reign is given in the Kultegin inscription which was set up by his son Yollig.

Failure 734-744: Bilge was followed by his elder son #5 Yollig Khagan (734-?), and younger son #6 Tengri Qaghan (?-741). Yollig was responsible for at least one of the Orkhon inscriptions. Tengri was a minor and dominated by his mother, Po Beg, and her favorite. Neither khagan could hold the tribes together.

In 741/42 there were four kaghans. After Tengri killed the western shad he was killed by the eastern shad, Pan Kültiğin (Pan Kyul), who installed Tengri’s son (#7).[3] Pan Kyul was soon killed by the Basmyls. Kutluk killed the new kaghan, installed (#8,name?) and then usurped the throne as #9 Kutluk Yabgu Khagan (741-42). He was followed by #10 Özmiş Khagan (742-44), son of Pan Kyul and the last independent kaghan.

Meanwhile, the Basmyls (Dzungaria and western Mongolia) allied with the Karluks (west) and Uyghurs (east). Ilterish Khagan of the Basmyls (742-44) called himself kaghan and called the Karluk and Uyghur leaders ‘yabghu’ or viceroy. He, or his alliance, killed the last two Turkic khagans and was in turn killed by the Karluks and Uyghurs. #11 Kulun Beg or Bomei Khagan (744-45), a relative of Ozmysh, tried to resist and was killed by the Uyghurs with Chinese help.

Later: Having defeated the Basmyls, the two other tribes fell out. The Uyghurs drove the Karluks west toward Semirechye and Kutlug I Bilge Kagan (744-47) declared himself ruler of the Uyghur Khaganate. The Chinese were happy that their Uyghur friends and eliminated the Turks but soon learned that the new khaganate was more formidable than the old.


  • Christoph Baumer, History of Central Asia, volume 2, pp255–270. The other usual sources (Grousset, Sinor, Christian, UNESCO have summaries)
  • Lev Gumilyov, The Ancient Turks, 1967 (long account in Russian at: [1])


  1. ^ or 'between 687 and 691', David Christian, Hist. Russia, Cent.Asia and Mongolia, page 261
  2. ^ Baumer says Qutayba ibn Muslim himself, which is questionible.
  3. ^ Numbers 7 and 8 are in Gumilyov, chapter XXVI only. The whole period is poorly documented. Sinor, Hist.Early Inner Asia, page 313 says following the death of Bilge, 'we cannot even establish with certainty the number of those who claimed to be the rulers of the Turks.' Baumer has two rulers between Tengri and Ozmish, but does not name them. Gumilyov calls #7 the 'son of the deceased' which implies Tengri, but could possibly be Bilge. For #8 he says that Kutluk killed the new Khan and replaced the latter with his brother. This could be the #7's brother or Kutluk's brother. If 7 and 8 were Tengri's sons they were probably the legitimate heirs, but may have been too young to rule since Tengri is described as a minor. This needs to be checked against the two Tang Shus.