My motivation here is a growing connection to the SCA, a group fond of historical fencing, archery, brewing, and crafts. These hobbyists develop a personal connection to European history, although they’re more active in America than Europe. As one participant mused, “We [in America] have a connection with [European historical] culture, but not direct contact with it… In Europe it’s a little different when you can go down the street and there’s a castle.”
Researching Period Names
One of the big things people do in the SCA is choose a persona, complete with costume, a period name (documented in historical records as appropriate to the date and place), and a backstory. There are many tips on names and costumes for western Europe. But English-speakers interested in reenacting Asian (e.g. Japanese or Mongolian) culture have more limited sources.
I wasn’t even sure that Central Asian tribes would ‘count’ for the imaginary medieval word of SCA, but I believe they do. Given their extensive trade via the Silk Road, contact with early Chinese and European travelers, and the Mongol invasions which swept Eurasian artisans into the Mongol courts and may have conscripted war captives west into European battles, there is plausible pre-1600 contact between Central Asia and European communities.
Just as a review, I’ve found a few SCA folks with Mongol, Uighur, or Turkic personas in the Silver Horde and Dark Horde Moritu groups. There are Eurasian enthusiasts in the Mongols and Russians and Scythians Facebook group. And there are related blogs, including Jadi Fatima’s writing on Persian textiles at Silk Road Conjectures and Aritê gunê Akasa’s research on Scythian-era Sarmatians in the SCA. Let me know if you learn of more sources.
I’ve found it hard to locate lists of Central Asian names prior to 1600, but related lists include Aritê’s early Scythian and Sarmatian names, as well as SCA website links to Iranian (Scytho-Sarmatian, Old Perisan, or Zorastrian), Turkish and Persian, Mongol, and Khazarian names.
Researching Medieval Central Asian Names
The first challenge in researching Central Asian names is the diversity of groups who moved across steppe, forests, mountains, and river valleys in the vast heart of Asia. This means plenty of contact with the outside world, but a challenge in determining which group we’re talking about.
With my focus on the Kazakh khanate, my understanding is that Kazakh leadership and ethnic identity was formed in the mid-1400s, and that the ethnic identity lasts until the present day. Early Persian historians mention the earliest Kazakh leaders Karai Khan and Janibek Khan, but quickly move on to other topics (Reference 1/Dughlat).
An additional challenge is that women are often simply not named in historical sources. I checked libraries for print books, searched older English and Russian books online at HathiTrust, and looked for other web and print sources in multiple languages. I found good translations of medieval Persian or Arabic sources, but nothing that mentions women in the Kazakh khanate by name. Even contemporary academic articles in English list only a few scattered male leaders.
The only source that named women involved with the Kazakh khanate prior to 1600 is Kazakh-language Wikipedia, which has details the English version does not have. I realize this isn’t reputable nor is it documentation. I’m also curious who’s writing this, and drawing on what sources—Kazakh genealogies, or shezhire, which typically only list men? Older historical or oral sources? Imagination? If you have any ideas, let me know.
I’m not a historian. But I’m sharing the list I’ve developed as a starting point, in case you’re interested in trying to learn more about early Kazakh women or their names. Below is my Latin transliteration, the name in Cyrillic Kazakh, and links to the source (Kazakh wikipedia):
Names of women in the Kazakh Khanate (c. 1400-1600 AD)
The dates here are generally the lifespan of their partners or parents, not the woman herself.
Suyimbike Сүйімбике Ханым, Zhanibek Khan’s daughter.
Amanbike Аманбике Ханым, Zhanibek Khan’s daughter.
Kutlyk Құтлық Ханым, Ханық сұлтан Ханым’s daughter.
Buldur Бұлдұр Ханым, Ханық сұлтан Ханым’s daughter.
Aisha Айша Ханым, Ханық сұлтан Ханым’s co-wife.
Chuchuq Chuchuq Sultan Hanym, Сұлтан Нігар Ханым’s daughter.
Mahim Махим Ханым, Buidash Khan’s wife.
Eigerim Әйгерім сұлтан-ханша, Haqnazar Khan (1535-1580)’s wife.
Aktorgyn Акторғын Ханым, Teuekel Khan’s wife (Same person?).
Baiym Байым бегім, Shygai Khan (1500-1582)’s wife.
Yahshim Яхшым бегім, Shygai Khan’s wife.
Yahshim-Bigim Яхшим-бигим Ханым, Teuekel Khan’s wife (Same?).
Nastuma Настума Ханым, Teuekel Khan (?-1598)’s wife.
Dadim Дадым бегім, Shygai Khan’s wife.
Altun Алтун Ханым, Shygai Khan’s daughter.
Lyalya Ляля Ханым, Shygai Khan’s daughter.
Abaikhan Абайқан бегім, Shygai Khan’s mother.
Dilyashah Дильшах Ханым, Esim Khan (1565-1628)’s wife.
Ailin Айлин Ханым, Esim Khan’s wife.
Padshah Падшах Ханым, Esim Khan’s wife.
Reihan Рейхан ханым, Esim Khan’s daughter.
Ai Ай ханым, Esim Khan’s daughter.
Gulsim Гүлсім ханым, Jenibek Khan Esimuli (1598-1643)’s wife.
Dilfuza Ханша Ділфуза ханым, Jenibek Khan Esimuli’s wife.
Names of Women in the Kazakh Khanate (c. 1600+ AD)
For convenience, these are later women related to khans/leaders and batyrs/heroes.
Banu Бану Ханым, Salgam Jenkir Khan (1610-1652)’s wife.
Suyim Hanim Tauke Khan (1680-1718)’s mother.
Zuleiha Зүлейха Ханым, Бопай Бәтима’s daughter.
Saiman Сайман ханым, Ueli Khan (1741-1821)’s mother.
Karashash Қарашаш ханым, Abilai Khan (1711-1781)’s wife.
Aitolkyn Айтолқын, Abilai Khan’s daughter.
Esenbike Есенбике, Karatai batyr (1700s)’s daughter.
Aibike Айбике, Bulanbay Batyr (1700s)’s daughter.
Nazym Назым, Gaukhar’s daughter.
Aisha Musa’s daughter, Sayfullah (-1834)’s wife. (4/Khalidi)
Fatima Фатима ханша, Jengir Khan (1801-1841)’s wife.
Juzym Жүзім, Jengir Khan’s wife.
A note on titles:
I believe these elite women are referred to by personal names and a title equivalent to queen (Khanim / Ханым / Khanum / Khansha) or lady (Bike / бике / Begim / бегім). The names do seem to differ from current Kazakh and Kyrgyz women’s names, which now tend to vivid words such as diamond, honey, star, or apple (2/Hvoslef).
- Dughlat. A history of the Moghuls of Central Asia: being the Tarikh-I-Rashidi of Mirza Muhammad Haidar, Dughlat. Ed. N. Elias, trans. E Dennison Ross. London: Sampson Low, 1898. P. 92, 118.
- Hvoslev, Erlend H. 2001. “The social use of personal names among the Kyrgyz.” Contemporary South Asia 20(1), 85-95. P. 91 for contemporary naems
- Qasymbaev Zh. Abylai Khan, tarih, tulgha, uaqyt. Almaty: Aruna Press, 2007, p. 23.
- Khalidi, Qurban-‘Ali. An Islamic Biographical Dictionary of the Eastern Kazakh Steppe 1770-1912. Ed. Allen J. Frank and Mirkasyim A. Usmanov. Brill: London, 2005, p. 7.
- Women that left traces in the history of Kazakhstan, in Kazakh at Қазақстанның мақтан тұтар ұлы әйелдері.
- Scientists have announced the names of the eight most famous mothers of the Kazakh Khanate (Russian).
- Image linking from main page to this post is of the Persian leader Hulagu Khan and wife Dokuz Kathun, in the Rachid Ad-Din (1300s). Not Kazakh.
- An accessible English introduction to Kazakh history, culture, foods, and dwellings in the 15th and 16th centuries can be found in: Baipakov, K. M. and B. E. Kumekov. “The Kazakhs,” in History of Civilizations of Central Asia, Volume V. Development in contrast: from the sixteenth to the mid-nineteenth century. Ed. Chahryar Adle and Irfan Habib. UNESCO Publishing, 2003, p. 89-108.