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Turkey: The Sixteen Great Turkish Empires

Last modified: 2011-11-11 by ivan sache
Keywords: turkish empires (the sixteen great) | hun | timur | tamerlane | avar | hazar | uygur | seljuk | babur |
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Presentation of the Sixteen Great Turkish Empires and their alleged flags

The Sixteen Great Turkish Empires (16 büyük Türk imparatorluğunu) are introduced on the website of the Turkish Presidency as follows:

The 16 Great Turkish Empires before the Republic - The Turkish Presidential seal is composed of a sun (16 points/rays) surrounded by 16 stars. The sun represents the present Turkish Republic and the stars represent the 16 independent Turkish Empires that have been founded throughout history.

The 16 Great Turkish Empires are listed on several Turkish sources, such as the websites of the Research Centre for Turkestan and Azerbaijan and the Australian-Turkish Media Group. All sources give an identical presentation of the Empires, which probably comes from some official document. In all sourcesn the Empires are listed in chronological order.

The Presidential seal is shown on the website of the Turkish Presidency surrounded by the flags of the 16 Great Turkish Empires. Starting from the top of the emblem, the flags are arranged clockwise in the chronological order.
These flags are also shown on a series of postage stamps released by the Turkish Postal administration.
To the best of our knowledge, the historical existence of most of these flags is not proven and we are not aware of their origin and designer. Any information on these questions would be greatly appreciated.
The flags are presented below with the "official description" from the sources mentioned above and additional historical comments when required.

Ivan Sache, 4 July 2004

Similarly, the eight-pointed star on the flag of Azerbaijan refers to eight major Turkish nations.

António Martins, 12 June 2003


The Great Hun Empire (Büyük Hün İmparatorluğu)

[Great Hun]

Alleged flag of the Great Hun Empire - Image by Ivan Sache, 4 July 2004

Official description: Founded by Mete (Bagatir), bordering Siberia in the North, Tibet-Kashmir in the South, the Pacific Ocean in the East and the Caspian Sea in the West (total area 18,000,000 sq. km).
Additional information: The Chinese called them the Hsiung-Nu.
Flag: The alleged flag of the Great Hun Empire is an orange-yellow flag with a yellow dragon.

Ivan Sache & Jarig Bakker, 4 July 2004


The Western Hun Empire (Batı Hün İmparatorluğu)

[The Western Hun Empire]

Alleged flag of the Western Hun Empire - Image by Ivan Sache, 4 July 2004

Official description: Founded by Panu, covering the area over present day Central Asia.
Additional information: The Empire of Western (Hiung-Nu) Huns lasted from 48 to 304 AD. The ruler had the title of Shan-Yu. This state was under Chinese overlordship. One of the leaders founded the short-lived Earlier Chao state, one of the 16 kingdoms, in Shansi (304-329).
Flag: The alleged flag of the Western Hun Empire is a plain yellow-orange flag.

Ivan Sache & Jarig Bakker, 4 July 2004


The European Hun Empire (Avrupa Hün İmparatorluğu)

[The European Hun Empire]

Alleged flag of the European Hun Empire - Image by Ivan Sache, 4 July 2004

Official description: Founded by Muncuk, Oktar, Rua and Aybars (brothers) covering the area ofpresent day Southern Russia, Romania, Northern Yugoslavia, Hungary, Austria, Czechoslovakia, Southern and Central Germany (total area 4,000,000 sq. km). Gradual decline after 454 AD.
Additional information: This is Attila the Hun's Empire, which caused the Great Migration in Europe and ended with Attila's death in 453 AD.
Flag: The alleged flag of the European Hun Empire is white with a yellow crowned bird with spread wings.

Ivan Sache & Jarig Bakker, 4 July 2004


The White Hun Empire (Ak Hün İmparatorluğu)

[The White Hun Empire]

Alleged flag of the White Hun Empire - Image by Ivan Sache, 4 July 2004

Official description: Founded by Aksuvar (Aksungur) covering half of Northern India, Afghanistan and part of Turkestan (total area 3,500,000 sq. km).
Additional information: The White Huns (a.k.a. Hephthalites, Ephthalites, Hayathelites, Ye-tai, Huna), originating from the Altai Mountains, occupied in the 5th century AD Western Turkestan and disappeared in the second half of the VIIth century.
Flag: The alleged flag of the White Huns is white with three yellow stars placed vertically in upper hoist.

Ivan Sache & Jarig Bakker, 4 July 2004


The Göktürk Empire (Göktürk İmparatorluğu)

[The Gokturk Empire]

Alleged flag of the Göktürk Empire - Image by Ivan Sache, 4 July 2004

Official description: Founded by Bumin Khan (Tumen) in the inaccessible valleys of the Altai Mountains (Ergenekon) (total area 18,000,000 sq. km).
Additional information: The Blue Turks overthrew the Juan-Juan masters of Mongolia in the 6th century AD and established a vast Empire spreading across both eastern and western steppelands to the Volga and beyond. Almost immediately this state split into western and eastern Khanates. They were finally defeated by the Uighurs in 745. This is the first documented Turk state. The Buddhist monk Xuan Zang met its ruler galopping in the steppes in the vicinity of Tashkent in 685.
Flag: The alleged flag of the Göktürk Empire is blue with a green wolf's head.

Ivan Sache & Jarig Bakker, 4 July 2004


The Avar Empire (Avar İmparatorluğu)

[The Avar Empire]

Alleged flag of the Avar Empire - Image by Ivan Sache, 4 July 2004

Official description: Founded by Bayar Khan, covering the area between the Volga River, Hungary and Bessarabia.
Additional information: Avars were a nomadic Turkish or Mongol people which, in the late VIth century AD invaded the plain of Hungary and set up a powerful kingdom, even besieging Constantinople. They declined in the 8th century, until defeated by Charlemagne at the end of the 8th century.
Flag: The alleged flag of the Avar Empire is green with a black rider shooting backwards with a bow.

Ivan Sache & Jarig Bakker, 4 July 2004


The Hazar Empire (Hazar İmparatorluğu)

[The Hazar Empire]

Alleged flag of the Hazar Empire - Image by Ivan Sache, 4 July 2004

Official description: Founded by the Hazar tribe of Göktürks who migrated to the West and settled in the area stretching from the Caucasian Mountains to the Danube River and to the middle of Russia. Its greatest ruler was Hakan Yusuf.
Additional information: The Hazars or Khazars were a nomadic people who set up an extensive state in the steppelands east and west of the lower Volga in the 6th century AD. They were converted to Judaism around 800 (that is, they chose this religion in preference to Islam and Christianity). In the later 10th century the rulers of Kiev broke their power. Some writers such as Arthur Koestler have claimed that the majority of the European or European-descended Ashkenazic community of today are not really Semites but are actually the descendants of these Hazars. They allegedly traveled westwards into Eastern Europe when the other Turkic peoples embraced Islam.
The Hazara of Afghanistan are an ethnic group which has been around for ages but which have only recently developed a sense of ethnic identity. There is no relation whatsoever to the medieval Hazars or Khazars.
Flag: The alleged flag of the Hazar Empire is blue with an unidentified white device in canton and five white stars arranged in a > pattern.

Ivan Sache, Ron Lahav & Jarig Bakker, 4 January 2006

The unidentified device on the flag is in fact an implement used in circumcision throughout the Asian Jewish communities (Anatolia, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Persia), The device is used by guiding the boy's foreskin through the lower curve past the very sharp part of the blade which is here connecting with the solid support, and through to the small opening in the top. The device is swung open by the circular hinge a the top for sharpening, and is in fact a kind of a flick-knife. This device is not seen so much now outside of Israel, the European implements being more preferred during circumcision which is in fact often performed with a surgical scalpel these days.
I would suggest that the five stars stand for the five books of Torah.

Greg Chalik, 31 December 2005


The Uygur State (Uygur Devleti)

[The Uygur State]

Alleged flag of the Uygue State - Image by Ivan Sache, 4 July 2004

Official description: Founded by Kutlug Bilgekul Khan, covering Central Asia and northern Mongolia.
Additional information: This state was related to the Uyghurs/Uighurs, the Turkic people over near where the Turks originated, in the 8th-9th centuries in Sinkiang, Western China.
Flag: The alleged flag of the Uygur state is yellow-orange with two yellow masks (?).

Ivan Sache & Jarig Bakker, 4 July 2004


The Karahan (Karahanlılar)

[The Karahan]

Alleged flag of the Karahan - Image by Ivan Sache, 4 July 2004

Official description: Founded by Saltuk Bugra Khan, covering the Trans-Oxus area including Issyk and Balkash lakes.
Additional information: This was an Empire north of the Ghaznevid Empire, founded by a family of Karluk Turkish descent, which ruled in the 10th-12th centuries, with capitals in Bukhara and Kashgar (Balasaghun).
Flag: The alleged flag of to the Karahan is yellow-orange with an unindentified white device.

Ivan Sache & Jarig Bakker, 4 July 2004


The Gazneli (Gazneliler)

[The Gazneli]

Alleged flag of the Ghazneli - Image by Ivan Sache, 4 July 2004

Official description: Founded by Alptekin, covering the area from the Trans-Oxus to the Ganges River, from the shores of the Caspian Sea to the steppes of the Pamir (total area 4,700,000 sq. km).
Additional information: The Empire of the Ghaznavids, founded by Mahmud of Ghazni (ruled 998-1030), had its center in Ghazni, Afghanistan.
Flag: The flag attributed to the Gazneli is green with a grey crescent in canton and a peacock.

Ivan Sache & Jarig Bakker, 4 July 2004


The Great Seljuk Empire (Büyük Selçuk İmparatorluğu)

[The Great Seljuk Empire]

Alleged flag of the Great Seljuk Empire - Image by Ivan Sache, 4 July 2004

Official description: Founded by Selçuk Khan, bordering Balkash and Issyk lakes and Tarim Derya in the East, Aegean and the Mediterrenean shores in the West, Aral Lake, Caspian Sea, Caucasian and the Black Sea in the North and Arabia and Gulf of Oman in the South (total area 10,000,000 sq. km)
Additional information: This refers to the Seljuk Turks, a Muslim dynasty established in what is now eastern Turkey after about 1065 AD.
Flag: The alleged flag of the Great Seljuk Empire is blue with a white winged and double-headed silhouette and a black bow and arrow.

Ivan Sache & Thomas Robinson, 4 July 2004


The Harzemshah (Harzemşahlar)

[The Harzemshah]

Alleged flag of the Harzemshah - Image by Ivan Sache, 4 July 2004

Official description: Founded by Kudrettin Mehmet (Harzemshah), covering Persia, Southern Caucasia, Dagestan, Afghanistan and most of Central Asia (total area 5,000,000 sq. km)
Additional information: Khwarizm Shah was the region around Khiva, near Lake Aral. This area is related to the Anushtiginid dynasty, which ruled nearly all of Central Asia till India from 1097-1231, when they were crushed by Genghis Khan.
Flag: The alleged flag of the Harzemshah is a plain black flag.

Ivan Sache & Jarig Bakker, 4 July 2004


The Golden Horde (Altınordu Devleti)

[The Golden Horde]

Alleged flag of the Golden Horde - Image by Ivan Sache, 4 July 2004

Official description: Founded by Batur Khan, covering Eastern Europe, the Western Urals, Crimea and the area to the north of the Volga.
Additional information: The Golden Horde, the Mongol Khanate in Russia, was established in the mid-13th century and lasted till the 15th century.
Flag: The alleged flag of the Golden Horde is white with a red crescent pointing upwards, placed above a grey disk charged with a black symbol.

Ivan Sache & Jarig Bakker, 4 July 2004


The Great Timur Empire (Büyük Timur İmparatorluğu)

[The Great Timur Empire]

Alleged flag of the Great Timur Empire - Image by Ivan Sache, 4 July 2004

Official description: Founded by Timur Gurgani bordering the Balkans in the West, the Volga in the North, Indian Ocean in the South and Central Asia in the East
Additional information: Quoting R.F. Tapsell, Monarchs, Rulers, Dynasties and Kingdoms of the World, 1983:

Timurids: Barlas Turkish family founded by Timur (Tamerlane), who rose to power in the mid-14th century in Transoxiana and spent his long reign in far-ranging and immensely destructive campaigns, overrunning Iran, Iraq, Asia Minor and the domain of the Golden Horde in Southern Russia. He sacked Delhi in 1398 and temporarily broke the power of the Ottoman Turks at Ankara in 1402. On his death his large empire in Iran and Transoxiana became divided among his descendants and shrank rapidly over the 15th century amid family quarrels. The last minor prince of the dynasty, Babür, was expelled from Farghana by the Shaibanids, conquerors of Transoxiana, and established himself at Kabul. In 1526, he defeated and killed the Lodi sultan of Delhi, becoming master of northern India and founding the Moghul empire.

Recent studies have shown that this Empire was a Mongol state but official Turkish sources still consider it as Turk.

Flag: The alleged flag of the Great Timur Empire is blue with three white disks placed 1 + 2 in the middle of the flag.

Ivan Sache, Jarig Bakker & Onur Özgün, 4 July 2004

[Other reported Tamerlane's flag]

Other reported flag of the Great Timur Empire - Image by Jarig Bakker, 15 July 2003

In Flags of the World 1669-1670, edited by Kl. Sierksma, 1966 [sie66] is a flag on p. 271 with caption "TAMERLANE". This particular flag nowhere has its counterpart. It is not to be found in the Sketchbook, a Napolitan manuscript from c. 1666&.
Nevertheless it can almost certainly be defined as the flag of the empire of Tamerlane, inasmuch as we read in Cleirac (pages 67 and 68) [cle47]:

Tamerlan, le fléau de l'Asie, souloit arborer ses pavillons de trois diverses couleurs, de blanc, de rouge & de noir, couleurs de paix, de sang, & de mort.

which translates in English as:

Tamerlan, the scourge of Asia, wanted (? provided souloit is indeed vouloit, the ancient form of voulait) to hoist his three-coloured ensigns, white, red and black, colours of peace, blood and death.

The full source is: Cleirac, Estienne: Explication des termes de marine employés dans les dicts, ordonances et réglemens de l'admirat ... Jacques Mongiron Millanges, Bordeaux, 1647. -4to, First edition 1636.
I suppose that Cleirac based his remarks on the travel-book of Ruy Gonzalez de Clavijo, who travelled to the court of Timur 1403-1406, and wrote the Historia del gran Tamurlan e itinerario, which appeared in the Hakluyt series in English translation in 1859 (1st series, no. 26).

Jarig Bakker, 15 July 2003


The Babür Empire (Babür İmparatorluğu)

[The Babur Empire]

Alleged flag of the Babür Empire - Image by Ivan Sache, 4 July 2004

Official description: Founded by Babür Shah, covering Afghanistan and India (total area 2,700,000 sq. km)
Additional information: Babür descended from the Timurids in Fergana, was expelled from there by the Shaibanids and fled to India, which he conquered. He founded the Moghal (or Moghul) dynasty, which ruled from 1526 to 1857.
Flag: The alleged flag of the Babür Empire is red with a yellow triangle placed all along the fly and pointing to the middle of the hoist.

Ivan Sache & Jarig Bakker, 4 July 2004


The Ottoman Empire (Osmanlı İmparatorluğu)

[The Ottoman Empire]

Alleged flag of the Ottoman Empire - Image by Ivan Sache, 4 July 2004

Official description: Founded by Osman, covering Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Sudan, Arabia, Jordan, Israel, Syria, Iraq, Anatolia, Caucasia, Crimea, Hungary, Romania, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, Greece, Cyprus (total area 20,000,000 sq. km).
Additional information: The Ottoman Empire preceded the modern Turkish Republic.
Flag: The alleged flag of the Ottoman Empire is red with a white crescent and an eight-pointed star.

Ivan Sache, 4 July 2004