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Central Asia had long been the home of various nomadic tribes based on the practice of animal herding and horses. Humans had inhabited the region ever since the prehistoric period. In the centuries before Genghis Khan's conquests, various Turkic and Mongol-Tungusic tribes inhabited the steppes of Mongolia. These various ethnic groups alternatively ruled each other during this time, one group would gain power and subdue the others until another group formed to topple the previously superior power.

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One of the first politically organized groups were the Hsiung-nu (the Chinese name for a tribe called the Hunnu) had for a time been dominant in the region. They throughout this time, posed a constant threat to ancient China, and were the cause for China to build the Great Wall. In fact, one of the splinter groups from this nation that had moved north and westward would eventually arrive at the gates of the Romans in the 4th century to be known to the western world as the Huns. So it is no coincidence that some of the most successful conquerors and invaders came from this region of the world. The land lends itself to breed a people who were used to harsh living conditions, mobility and war — elements that make for an ideal military force.


The Turks Embrace Islam[edit]

Ever since Islam began making inroads into the heart of the continent, it began to assimilate the fierce horse-riding tribes who haunted the steppes, eventually converting many of them to Islam and recruiting them as mercenaries and then civil servants, much as in the same way the Romans towards the end of their empire tried to employ the Goths in the same fashion — with more or less similar results. In Iran, increasing dependence on this class in the Samanid empire would soon result in the decline of the same and the rise of the Turkic-born but Persian-influenced Ghaznavid Empire, centred around Ghazna in Iran and later ruled from Lahore in present-day Pakistan.

Ruling houses of the Turks[edit]

The first independent Islamic Turkic empire was the Kara Khanid empire in the 9th century. Centred around Kashgar in present-day western China near the border with Kirghistan, it would annex Samanid possessions in Central Asia, before it fell apart, and was divided again by the Mongols and the Khwarezmid and Selcuk sultans.

Next in line were the Selcuks. Originally in the service of the Kara Khanids, Selcuk warriors defeated in battle against the Turco-Iranian Ghaznavids in 1025 would eventually return back with a vengeance, taking the whole of Iran from the Ghaznavids (who would hold out in India until cut down by the Ghorids, another noble family descended from Turkic tribesmen), and would go on to expand their influence into Anatolia, Palestine and Iraq as vassals to the Abbasid caliph who then ruled in Baghdad. While the Selcuk made great contributions to Persian culture by perpetuating the cultural preservation policies of the Samanids, they however are better known for their depredations of the Byzantine empire, which eventually resulted in the Crusades. Nonetheless, Persian culture not only thrived and survived, but was even dispersed far and wide throughout the Islamic world: until the late modern period, the Persian language occupied a niche in Turkic society not dissimilar to that of the French language in early modern Europe.

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Meanwhile, other Turkic clans were also carving out fiefdoms for themselves throughout the Caliph's lands and beyond, often ruling as so-called mamluks, or "slaves" of Baghdad. As with the Selcuks, they too were subservient but only formally so. The Tulunids were the first independent dynasty in Islamic Egypt, ruling from 868 to 905. The Abbasids ousted them and transferred custodianship of Egypt to another group of Turkic Saracens, the Ikhshidids, who would rule for roughly three decades before being deposed by the Fatimid sultanate. Another group of Turkic-descended mamluks would arise in Egypt again, under the Bahrids in 1250. This whole process repeated itself again in 1382 when the Burji mamluks arose under their emir Barquq. Turkic rule also extended into India under a series of Turkic dynasties from the 13th to the 16th centuries, before a descendant of Genghis Khan, Zahir ud-din Muhammad Babur, would then invade and establish a new dynasty, the so-called "Mongol" or Mughal empire in India.


Rise of the Ottomans[edit]

Despite the depredations and usurpation of power by the Turks, and the depredations of the Crusaders and the Mongols, the Caliphate managed to hold out over the centuries, albeit as a political figurehead. Yet, for all purposes, the Caliphate's days were numbered.

By the 1300s, the Selcuk colonies of the Middle East had all but disintegrated into several small petty kingdoms throughout the Middle East and Turkey. There then emerged in the sultanate of Rum, or the so-called "Roman sultanate" in central Turkey, a ruling family known as the Osmanoglu, later known as the Ottomans to Westerners. Under their scion Osman I Etogrul, the Osmanoglu would unite the territories of the other petty rulers of the Rum sultanate under their rule. By 1453, this state had captured Byzantium, ending almost a thousand years of Christian rule in Asia Minor, and the conquerors even staked their claim to the throne of Rome itself. The Middle East soon was next, with the local populations welcoming the Ottomans as liberators from hated mamluk rulers. Ottoman forces reached Egypt in 1517, whose ruler, Mutawakkil III, was deported to Constantinople (now renamed Istanbul) where he surrendered the title of caliph to the Ottoman Turks.

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