Cumans ( _bg. Кумани [Златарски, В. История на Българската държава през средните векове, Притурка 13: Известия за куманите] , Byzantine: "Kuman" or "Cuman" [
Encyclopædia BritannicaOnline - [http://www.britannica.com/eb/article-9045588/Kipchak "Kipchak"] ] , _hu. Kunok [Encyclopædia Britannica Online - [http://www.britannica.com/eb/article-9028174/Cuman "Cuman"] ] , Turkic: "Kumanlar" [cite book|last=Loewenthal|first=Rudolf|title=The Turkic Languages and Literatures of Central Asia: A Bibliography|publisher=Mouton|year=1957|url=http://books.google.com/books?id=M6cSAAAAIAAJ&q=turkic+kumanlar&dq=turkic+kumanlar&lr=&hl=en&pgis=1|accessdate=2008-03-23] ) were a nomadic Turkic people who inhabited a shifting area north of the Black Seaknown as Cumaniaalong the VolgaRiver. They eventually settled to the west of the Black Sea, influencing the politics of Bulgaria, Hungary, Moldavia, and Wallachia. "Cuman" is an exonym for the western Kipchaktribes 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. The Cumans were the founders of three successive Bulgarian dynasties (
Asenids, Terterids, and Shishmanids), and the Wallachian dynasty ( Basarabids). [István Vásáry (2005) "Cumans and Tatars", Cambridge University Press.] 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
Kipchakswere the same as the Polovtsyof 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 Siberiaalong the middle reaches of the Irtysh, or along the Ob. The Kimaks and the Oghuz were closely related. [Rene Grousset, The Empire of the Steppes, 1970, p.185, Rutgers University]
It is known fact that cumans called themselves "kipçak", but the origin of this word is not clear. Several sources have tried to explain this, O. Suleymenov in his book "Az i Ya" proposes theory that word "kipçak" came from tribal
tamga(sign or emblem) that is represented by two sticks or two knives (iki pıçak). The modern tamga of Qıpşaq tribe among 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 word "Qu" or "Ku" (bright) and "Saq" (ethnonym, probably
Sakae/ Scythian), which could evolve as Qusaq, Qıwsaq, Qıpçak, Qazaq, Kazakh, Cossack, etc. [http://www.transoxiana.org/0109/baltabaev_qypchaks.html]
"Cuman" is seen by some turkologists as endoethnonym or self-designation of Kipçaks. Traditionally it was translated as "cu-man" "ku"-man, however after further research was made translation of "cuman" became clear "bright-me", "qu" (bright) and "men" (me). This word is also found in
kazakh languageas "quba" which translates as "blond".
Russian word "polovtsy" (Пóловцы) has many different explanations. Most common version 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 field, steppe" from Russian word "pole" - open ground, field, not to be confused with "polyane" (from Greek "polis" - city). A third explanation of the word was also made by O. Suleymenov which stated that the name Cumans came from a word for "blue-eyed," since the
Serbo-Croatianword "plav" literally means "blue".
Originally inhabiting the
steppesof southern Siberiaand northern Kazakhstanthe Cumans entered the lands of present-day southern Ukraine, as well as historic Moldavia, Wallachiaand part of Transylvania, in the 11th century. Having conquered the area, they continued their assaults by attacking and plundering the Byzantine Empire, the Kingdom of Hungary, and Rus. In 1089, they were defeated by Ladislaus I of Hungary. Pechenegs, a semi-nomadicTurkic people of the steppesof southwestern Eurasia, were annihilated as an independent force at the Battle of Levounionby a combined Byzantinearmy under Byzantine Emperor Alexios I Komnenosand Cuman army under Togortok and Maniak in 1091. Attacked again in 1094 by the Cumans, many Pechenegs were slain or absorbed.
In alliance with the
Bulgariansand Vlachs[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).] [As mention in the Robert de ClariChronicle] during the Vlach-Bulgar Rebellionby 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). The Cumans were allies with Bulgarian emperor Kaloyan in the Bulgarian-Latin Wars. Robert de Clari described Cumans as nomadic warriors, which don't use houses, or perform farming, but live 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 Mansio, they go on campaign without any baggage, and when they return the take everything they can carry, they wear sheepskinand were armed with composite bows and arrows. They pray to the first animal they see in the morning. [As mention in the Robert de ClariChronicle] [Ovidiu Pecican Troia Venetia Roma]
The Cumans defeated the Great Prince
Vladimir Monomakhof Kievan Rus in the 12th century (at the Battle of the Stugna River) but were crushed by the Mongols in 1238, after which most of them fled Wallachia and Moldova and took refuge in Hungary, Bulgaria, and the Byzantine Empire. After many clashes with the Hungarians, the Cumans were eventually evicted from Hungary to join their kin who lived in Bulgaria. Later, however, a large segment of them were re-invited back to Hungary. The Cumans who remained scattered in the steppe of what is now Russia joined the Golden Hordekhanate.In the 11th century the Cumans established their own country named Cumania, in an area consisting of Moldaviaand Walachia.
In the 13th century, the Western Cumans adopted
Roman Catholicism(in Hungary they all later became Calvinist) and the GagauzesPravoslav/Orthodox, while the Eastern Cumans converted to Islam. The Catholic Diocese of Cumaniafounded in Milcovin 1227 and including what is now Romaniaand Moldova, retained its title until 1523. It was a suffragan of the Archdiocese of Esztergom.
The Cuman influence in the region of
Wallachiaand Moldavia was so strong that the earliest Wallachian rulers bore Cuman names. Given that the rulers Tihomir and Bassarab I governed territories formerly ruled by Romanian leaders (mentioned in the Diploma of the Joannitesof 1247), and given that there is no archaeological evidence to sustain the continuous presence of a Cuman population (only Hungarian documents mentioning a toll-paying Wallachian population), the ruling elite was gradually assimilated such as in Bulgaria's case by the majority population they governed, which became Romanian. Basarab I, son of the Wallachian prince Tihomir of Wallachiaobtained independence from Hungary at the beginning of the 14th century. The name Basarab is considered as being of Cuman origin, meaning "Father King".
Cuman influence also persisted in the Kingdom of Hungary with the Cuman language and customs persisting in autonomous Cuman territories (
Kunság) until the 17th century.
It is generally believed that the Bulgarian mediaеval dynasties Asen,
Shishmanand Terterhad some Cuman roots.
While the Cumans were gradually absorbed into eastern European populations, their trace can still be found in placenames as widespread as the city of
Kumanovoin the Northeastern part of the Republic of Macedonia, Comăneştiin Romania, and Comanain Dobruja(also Romania).
The Cumans settled in Hungary 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-Kiskunand Jász-Nagykun-Szolnokand town names such as Kiskunhalasand 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. The other Cuman group in Hungary is the
Palócgroup, the name deriving from the Slav Polovetz. They live in the Northern Hungary and current Slovakia and have a specific dialect. Their Cuman origin is not documented as the other two Cuman territory but their name derives from the above word. They have a very special "a" sound close to Turkish "a", unlike Hungarian pronunciation.
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 speak Hungarian together with the
Iazygespopulation. Despite this mistake, he has the best overview on the subject concerning details of material used. [http://vfek.vfmk.hu/gyarfas_istvan/jaszkunok/]
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. Among the people that have such a name are Romanian gymnast
Nadia Comăneci, Romanian poet Otilia Coman (Ana Blandiana), contemporary painter [http://bercsenyi.blogspot.com/ Nicolai Comănescu] , and Romanian football player Gigel Coman.
Traces of the Cumans are also the Bulgarian surname Kumanov (feminine Kumanova), its Macedonian variant 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
The Cumans appear in Russian culture in the "
The Tale of Igor's Campaign" and are the Russians' military enemies in Alexander Borodin's opera" Prince Igor" which features a set of " Polovtsian Dances".
Battle of the Kalka River
Mongol invasion of Rus
Crimean Karaites, an ethnic group possibly with Cuman origins
Battle of the Stugna River
Battle of Levounion
* István Vásáry (2005) "Cumans and Tatars", Cambridge University Press.
* Gyárfás István: A Jászkunok Története: [http://vfek.vfmk.hu/00000097/toc/index.html] http://vfek.vfmk.hu/00000097/toc/index.html
* Györffy György: A Codex Cumanicus mai kérdései
* Györffy György: A magyarság keleti elemei
* Hunfalvy: Etnographia
* [http://www.eliznik.org.uk/RomaniaHistory/csango_cumman.htm Catholics and Cumans] [DEAD LINK]
* [http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?db=pubmed&cmd=Retrieve&dopt=AbstractPlus&list_uids=16596944&query_hl=10&itool=pubmed_docsum Mitochondrial DNA of ancient Cumanians: culturally Asian steppe nomadic immigrants with substantially more western Eurasian mitochondrial DNA lineages]
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