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The Cumans (Greek: Κο(υ)μάνοι, Ko(u)manoi;[1] Hungarian: kun / plural kunok;[2] Turkic: kuman / plural kumanlar[3]) were a nomadic Turkic people who inhabited a shifting area north of the Black Sea known as Cumania along the Volga River. They eventually settled to the west of the Black Sea, influencing the politics of Bulgaria, Serbia, Hungary, Moldavia, and Wallachia. Cuman is an exonym for the western Kipchak tribes living in Central Europe and the Balkans.

The Cumans were nomadic warriors of the Eurasian steppe who exerted an enduring impact on the medieval Balkans. The basic instrument of Cuman political success was military force, which none of the warring Balkan factions could resist. As a consequence, groups of the Cumans settled and mingled with the local population in various regions of the Balkans. According to some historians Cumans were the founders of three successive Bulgarian dynasties (Asenids, Terterids, and Shishmanids), and the Wallachian dynasty (Basarabids)."[4] However, in the case of the Basarab dynasty, all Medieval documents refer to them as a Vlach (Romanian) dynasty[5], so most historians attribue a Romanian origin to this dynasty.[6] They also played an active role in Byzantium, Hungary, and Serbia, with Cuman immigrants being integrated into each country's elite.

The people known in Turkic as Kipchaks were the same as the Polovtsy of the Russians, the Komanoi of the Byzantines, the Qumani (Cumans) of the Arab geographer Muhammad al-Idrisi, and the Kun (Qoun) of the Hungarians. According to Gadrisi, they originally formed part of the group of Kimak Turks who lived in Siberia along the middle reaches of the Irtysh River, or along the Ob River. The Kimaks and the Oghuz were closely related."[7]

Contents

Etymology

It is a known fact[citation needed] that the Cumans called themselves "Kipçak", but the origin of this word is not clear. Several sources have tried to explain this, Olzhas Suleimenov in his book Az i Ya proposes the theory that the word "kipçak" came from their tribal tamga (sign or emblem) that is represented by two sticks or two knives (iki pıçak). The modern tamga of the Qıpşaq tribe among the Kazakhs looks like two sticks but it is called "qos alıp" (double alīf). This name probably was changed due to islamisation.

Another explanation is a combination of the words "Qu" or "Ku" (bright) and "Saq" (ethnonym, probably Sakae/Scythian).[1][citation needed]

The Russian word "polovtsy" (Пóловцы) has many different explanations. The most common is that it means "blonde" since the old Russian word "polovo" means "straw". The German word for Cumans was "Folban" (blonde). Another explanation was given by O. Suleymenov as "men of the field, steppe" from the Russian word "pole" - open ground, field, not to be confused with "polyane" (cf. Greek "polis" - city). A third explanation of the word was also made by O. Suleymenov which stated that the name "polovtsy" came from a word for "blue-eyed," since the Serbo-Croatian word "plav" literally means "blue".[citation needed]

History

Asia in 1200 AD, showing the Cumans and their neighbors.
The field of Igor Svyatoslavich's battle with the Kypchaks by Viktor Vasnetsov
Kipchak stone statue in Lugansk (Ukraine)
Cuman prairie art, as exhibited in Dnipropetrovsk.

Originally inhabiting the prairies of southern Siberia and northern Kazakhstan the Cumans entered the grassland of Eastern Europe in the 11th century, from where they continued to assault the Byzantine Empire, the Kingdom of Hungary, and Rus.

Ladislaus I of Hungary defeated the Cumans who attacked the Kingdom of Hungary in 1089.

In 1091 the Pechenegs, a semi-nomadic Turkic people of the prairies of southwestern Eurasia, were decisively defeated as an independent force at the Battle of Levounion by the combined forces of a Byzantine army under Byzantine Emperor Alexios I Komnenos and a Cuman army under Togortok and Bunaq. Attacked again in 1094 by the Cumans, many Pechenegs were again slain. The remnants of the Pechenegs fled to Hungary, as the Cumans themselves would do a few decades later: fearing the Mongol invasion, in 1229, they asked asylum from Béla IV of Hungary.

In alliance with the Bulgarians and Vlachs[8][9] during the Vlach-Bulgar Rebellion by brothers Asen and Peter of Tarnovo, the Cumans are believed to have played a significant role in the rebellion's final victory over Byzantium and the restoration of Bulgaria's independence (1185). [10] The Cumans were allies with Bulgaria's emperor Kaloyan in the Bulgarian-Latin Wars.

Although the Cumans initially had managed to defeat the Great Prince Vladimir Monomakh of Kievan Rus in the 12th century (at the Battle of the Stugna River) later they were defeated by the combined forces of Russian principalities leaded by Monomakh and forced out of the Rus borders to Caucasus. Many Cumans at that time resettled into Georgia were they achieved prominent positions and helped Georgians to stop the advance of Seljuks. After the death of warlike Monomakh in 1125 Cumans returned to the steppe along the Rus borders.

Like most other peoples of medieval Eastern Europe, they put up resistance against the relentlessly advancing Mongols, but they were finally crushed in 1238. Previously, in 1229, they had asked for asylum from king Béla IV of Hungary, who in 1238 finally offered refuge to the remainder of the Cuman people under their leader Kuthen (Hungarians spelled his name Kötöny). Kuthen in turn vowed to convert his 40,000 families to Christianity. King Béla hoped to use the new subjects as auxiliary troops against the Mongols, who were already threatening Hungary. The king assigned various parts of central Hungary to the Cuman tribes. A tense situation erupted when Mongol troops burst into Hungary. The Hungarians, frustrated by their own helplessness, took revenge on the Cumans, whom they accused of being Mongol spies. After a bloody fight the Hungarians killed Kuthen and his bodygards, and the remaining Cumans fled to the Balkans. After the Mongol invasion Béla IV of Hungary recalled the Cumans to Hungary to populate settlements devastated by war. The nomads subsequently settled throughout the Great Hungarian Plain. Throughout the following centuries the Cumans in Hungary were granted various rights, the extent of which depended on the prevailing political situation. Some of these rights survived until the end of the 19th century, although the Cumans had long since assimilated with Hungarians.

The Cumans who remained scattered in the prairie of what is now southwest Russia joined the Golden Horde khanate and their descendants became assimilated with local Tartar populations.

The Cumans who remained east and south of the Carpathian Mountains established a country named Cumania, in an area consisting of Moldavia and Walachia. The Hungarian kings claimed supremacy on the territory of Cumania, among the nine titles of the Hungarian kings of the Árpád and Anjou dynasties were rex Cumaniae.

The Cuman influence in Wallachia and Moldavia was very strong, according to some historians who claim that the earliest Wallachian rulers bore Cuman names (Tihomir and Bassarab). This hypothesis is though disputed. In lack of convincing archaeological evidence of a Cuman civilisation, it appears the Cumans were just a minority within the local population, but they made up part of the ruling elite in Wallachia. As in the case of Bulgaria, they were assimilated by the majority, the present-day Romanians.

Basarab I, son of the Wallachian prince Tihomir of Wallachia obtained independence from Hungary at the beginning of the 14th century. The name Basarab is considered by some authors as being of Cuman origin, and meaning "Father King".

It is generally believed by Bulgarian historians that the Bulgarian mediaеval dynasties Asen, Shishman and Terter had at least some Cuman roots.

Culture

Robert de Clari described Cumans as nomadic warriors, who did not use houses, or farm, but rather lived in tents, and ate milk, cheese and meat. The horses had a sack for feeding attached to the bridle, and in a day and a night they can ride seven days of walking (Mansio), they go on campaign without any baggage, and when they return they take everything they can carry, they wear sheepskin and were armed with composite bows and arrows. They pray to the first animal they see in the morning.[11][12]

Religion

In the 13th century, the Western Cumans adopted Roman Catholicism (in Hungary they all later became Calvinist) and the Gagauzes Pravoslav/Orthodox, while the Eastern Cumans converted to Islam. The Catholic Diocese of Cumania founded in Milcov in 1227 and including what is now Romania and Moldova, retained its title until 1523. It was a suffragan of the Archdiocese of Esztergom in Hungary.

Legacy

While the Cumans were gradually absorbed into eastern European populations, their trace can still be found in placenames as widespread as the city of Kumanovo in the Northeastern part of the Republic of Macedonia; a Slavic village named Kumanichevo in the Kostur (Kastoria) district of Greece, which was changed to Lithia after Greece obtained this territory in the 1913 Treaty of Bucharest, Comăneşti in Romania, and Comana in Dobruja (also Romania).

As the Mongols pushed westwards and devastated their state, most of the Cumans fled to the Bulgarian Empire as they were major military allies. The Bulgarian Tsar Ivan-Asen II settled them in the southern parts of the country, bordering the Latin Empire and the Thessallonikan Despotate.[citation needed] Those territories are present-day Turkish Europe and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.[citation needed] The Cumans also settled in Hungary and had their own self-government there in a territory that bore their name, Kunság, that survived until the 19th century. There, the name of the Cumans (Kun) is still preserved in county names such as Bács-Kiskun and Jász-Nagykun-Szolnok and town names such as Kiskunhalas and Kunszentmiklós.

The Cumans were organized into four tribes in Hungary: Kolbasz/Olas in the big Cumania around Karcag, and the other three in the lesser Cumania.


Unfortunately, the Cuman language disappeared from Hungary in the 17th century, possibly following the Turkish occupation. Their 19th century biographer, Gyárfás István, in 1870 was of the opinion that they originally spoke Hungarian, together with the Iazyges population. Despite this mistake, he has the best overview on the subject concerning details of material used.

In addition, toponyms of Cuman language origin can be found especially in the Romanian counties of Vaslui and Galaţi, including the names of both counties.

In the countries where the Cumans were assimilated, family surnames derived from the words for "Cuman" (such as coman or kun, "kuman") are not uncommon. Traces of the Cumans are the Bulgarian surnames Kunev or Kumanov (feminine Kuneva, Kumanova), its Macedonian variants Kunevski, Kumanovski (feminine Kumanovska), and the widespread Hungarian surname Kun. This name was also used as a magyarized version of the Jewish-German name Kohn/Cohen, like for the communist leader Béla Kun. The names "Coman" in Romania and its derivatives however do not appear to have any connection to the medieval Cumans, as it was unrecorded until very recent times and the places with the highest frequency of such names has not produced any archaeological evidence of Cuman settlement.[13]

The Cumans appear in Rus culture in the The Tale of Igor's Campaign and are the Rus' military enemies in Alexander Borodin's opera Prince Igor, which features a set of "Polovtsian Dances".

The name Cuman is still the name of several villages in different parts of Turkey, including the Black Sea region.

See also

Notes

  1. ^ Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium, p. 563
  2. ^ Encyclopædia Britannica Online - Cuman
  3. ^ Loewenthal, Rudolf (1957). The Turkic Languages and Literatures of Central Asia: A Bibliography. Mouton. http://books.google.com/books?id=M6cSAAAAIAAJ&q=turkic+kumanlar&dq=turkic+kumanlar&lr=&hl=en&pgis=1. Retrieved 2008-03-23. 
  4. ^ István Vásáry (2005) "Cumans and Tatars", Cambridge University Press.
  5. ^ For example: "Bazarab infidelis Olahus noster", "Basarab Olacus et filii eiusden", "Bazarab filium Thocomerius scismaticum olachis nostris". http://www.arcanum.hu/mol/lpext.dll/fejer/152e/153a/1654?fn=document-frame.htm&f=templates&2.0
  6. ^ Stephenson, Paul. Byzantium's Balkan Frontier: a political study of the Northern Balkans, 900-1204. Cambridge University Press. 2000.
  7. ^ Rene Grousset, The Empire of the Steppes, 1970, p.185, Rutgers University
  8. ^ The meaning of the term "Vlach" in this case was the subject of fierce dispute in the late 19th and 20th centuries (see also Kaloyan of Bulgaria).
  9. ^ As mention in the Robert de Clari Chronicle
  10. ^ In his History of the Byzantine Empire, isbn13: 9780299809256, 1935, Russian historian A. A. Vasiliev concluded in this matter “The liberating movement of the second half of the 12th century in the Balkans was originated and vigorously prosecuted by the Wallachians, ancestors of the Romanians of today; it was joined by the Bulgarians, and to some extent by the Cumans from beyond the Danube “
  11. ^ As mentioned in Robert de Clari's chronicle.
  12. ^ Ovidiu Pecican Troia Venetia Roma
  13. ^ Spinei, Victor. The Cuman Bishopric - Genesis and Evolution. in The Other Europe: Avars, Bulgars, Khazars and Cumans. Edited by Florin Curta and Roman Kovalev. Brill Publishing. 2008. p. 64

Further reading

  • István Vásáry (2005) "Cumans and Tatars", Cambridge University Press.
  • Gyárfás István: A Jászkunok Története: [2]http://vfek.vfmk.hu/00000097/toc/index.html
  • Györffy György: A Codex Cumanicus mai kérdései
  • Györffy György: A magyarság keleti elemei
  • Hunfalvy: Etnographia
  • Perfecky (translator): Galician-Volhynian Chronicle

External links

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Simple English

The Cumans were a travelling people who lived in the area along the Black Sea near the Volga River.


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