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Khagan, Chagan, Großkhan or Großchan ( Old Turkish ??? kaɣan ; Mongolian ᠬᠠᠭᠠᠨ Хаган / Хаан ; chinese  可汗 , pinyin kèhán ; kor.  가한 , MR  kahan ; Persian and Arabic خاقان chaqan , DMG ḫāqān ; alternative spellings Kagan , Kağan , Qagan , Qaghan ), isa title in Mongolian and the Turkic languages thatcorresponds tothe imperial title and is thus above that of a khan . In modern Mongolian the title is called Khaan , whereby the g-sound can hardly be heard or not at all (i.e. a very weak voiceless velar fricative ), in modern Turkish the sound of the "ğ" of the word Kağan is also silent.

The title Khan is therefore sometimes seen as a contraction and thus a phonetic variant of Khagan. However, they appear to be different titles, albeit viewed as interchangeable on a case-by-case basis. In the case of the Turks and their successors, both forms encountered as interchangeable. The Mongols, on the other hand, distinguish, as also The Secret History of the Mongols , between Khan and Khaan , the latter title being reserved for Genghis Khan and his descendants. However, during his lifetime Genghis Khan was only called Khan , only Ögedei was then called Khaan . Posthumously, Genghis Khan was then retrospectively called Khaan .

Origin of the title

First, according to a popular opinion, the title was used by the rulers of the Rouran . According to the evidence provided by the researchers Edwin G. Pulleyblank , Gerhard Doerfer and Taskin, they had borrowed the title from the Xianbei , even if their rulers did not use this well-known title themselves. Alexander Vovin traces the title back to the (proto-) Yenisian and in succession to Pulleyblank to a title of the Xiongnu , whose language after Vovin belonged to the Yenisian languages.

The first time the title was used in a speech is when the Xianbei ruler Murong Tuyuhun fled from the Liaodong peninsula to the Ordos Plateau from his younger stepbrother Murong Hui between 283 and 289 . One of the Murong generals by the name of Yinalou called him kehan ( 可 寒 , later 可汗 ). According to other sources, Tuyuhun used the title after settling on Lake Qinghai .

The Avars , who at least claimed a successor to the Rouran, knew this title when they invaded the Balkans in the late late antiquity and established an empire in the Danube region that lasted until the late 8th century, albeit in the early 7th century. Century lost a lot of power.

Mongolian khagans

"Činggis qaɣan" (Genghis Khan) written in Mongolian script

The Mongolian khagans that made up the Yuan dynasty were:

Although the Mongol Empire was divided by the War of Succession 1260-1264 and the death of Kublai Khan, the title Khagan was also used by the emperors of the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368) and the Northern Yuan. Timur Khan (reign 1294–1307) made peace with the western khanates and became the suzerain of the Mongolian world in 1303/1304 , although the time without conflicts among the Mongolian tribes was relatively short.

The last Mongolian Khagan Ligdan of the Chahar , who fought against the Qing dynasty founded by the Manchu , died in 1634.

Khagans of the Turkic peoples

The göktürks and their successors, but other Turkic peoples such as the Oghuz (so the Oghusenherrscher Baz Khagan in the Orkhon inscriptions ) used the title Khagan for their leader. Among the Khazars , a high military title was Khagan Bek . A difference in meaning or rank to the title Khan, which is also used, cannot be determined.

The sultans of the Ottoman Empire had both the title Han and the longer form Hakan in their titles .

The Chinese emperor Tang Taizong was called Tian Kehan (heavenly Kagan) by some Turkic peoples after the Tang Dynasty defeated the Kokturks .

Slavic khagans

At the beginning of the 10th century, according to the Arab geographer Ahmad ibn Rustah, the princes of the Eastern Slavs used the title kagan (or qaghan ), as he wrote between 903 and 913. This tradition lasted until the 11th century, when the Metropolitan of Russia Hilarion of Kiev gave the Grand Duke Vladimir I (978-1015) and Yaroslav the Wise (1019-1054) the title of kagan ; in addition, an inscription on the walls of St. Sophia Cathedral in Kiev named the son of Yaroslav, Svyatoslaw II (1073-1076), also kagan .



  1. ^ The Cambridge History of China . Vol. 6. Cambridge 1994, p. 367 .
  2. a b c d e Alexander Vovin : Once Again on the Etymology of the Title qaγan. In: Studia Etymologica Cracoviensia. Vol. 12 2007, pp. 177-187 ( online ).
  3. ^ Weizhou Zhou: A History of Tuyuhun . Guangxi Normal University Press, Guilin 2006, ISBN 7-5633-6044-1 , pp. 3-6
  4. Walter Pohl : The Avars. 2nd Edition. Munich 2002.
  5. In the Middle Ages mostly called the Great Khan, e.g. B. from Raschid ad-Din in Jami 'at-tawarich (Universal History) and Alugh Beg Mirza in The Shajrat ul Atrak (The Family Tree of the Turks)
  6. Reuven Amitai-Price, David O. Morgan (Ed.): The Mongol Empire and its Legacy. Leiden 2000, here p. 14.
  7. Annemarie von Gabain: Life in the Uighur Kingdom of Qočo (850-1250) Harrassowitz, Wiesbaden 1973, ISBN 3-447-01296-X , Part 1: Textband, pp. 67-68.