16 Great Turkic Empires

Erdoğan and Abbas with actors representing the 16 Great Turkic Empires (2015) [1]
Flags of the 16 Great Turkish Empires displayed in the Istanbul Military Museum

The 16 Great Turkic Empires (Turkish: 16 Büyük Türk Devleti, which translates as "16 Great Turkish States") is a concept in Turkish ethnic nationalism, introduced in 1969 by Akib Özbek, map officer[2] and widely invoked by Turkish authorities during the 1980s, under the government of Kenan Evren. Prior to this assertion, the 16 stars had been taken as representing sixteen medieval beyliks which succeeded the Seljuk Empire.[3]

The list

According to the concept the "16 Great Turkic Empires" are the following:[Note 1]

Name Turkish name Leader[5] Dates (Gregorian)[6]
Great Hunnic Empire Büyük Hun İmparatorluğu Mete Han 220 BC-46 BC
Western Hunnic Empire flag.jpg Western Hunnic Empire Batı Hun İmparatorluğu Panu 48-216
European Hunnic Empire Avrupa Hun İmparatorluğu Attila 375-469
White Hunnic Empire Akhun İmparatorluğu Aksunvar 390-577
Gok1.png Göktürk Empire Göktürk İmparatorluğu Bumin Kağan 552-745
Avar devleti.png Avar Khaganate Avar İmparatorluğu Bayan Kağan 565-835
Khazar Khaganate Hazar İmparatorluğu Tun Yabgu Kağan 651-983
Uyghur Khaganate Uygur Devleti Kutluğ Kül Bilge Kağan 745-1369
Qaraxanlı bayrağı.jpg Kara-Khanids Karahanlılar Kül Bilge Kadir Han 840-1212
GhaznavidFlag attributed.svg Ghaznavids Gazneliler Alp Tekin 962-1186
Flag of Sultanate of Rum.svg Great Seljuq Empire Büyük Selçuklu İmparatorluğu Selçuk Bey 1040–1157
Flag of the Khwarezmian Empire.png Khwarazmids Harzemşahlar Muhammed Harzem Şah 1097–1231
Флаг Золотой Орды.png Golden Horde Altınordu Devleti Batu Han 1236–1502
TimuridFlag attributed.svg Timurid Empire Büyük Timur İmparatorluğu Timur 1368–1501
Fictional flag of the Mughal Empire.svg Mughal Empire Babür İmparatorluğu Babür Şah 1526-1858
Fictitious Ottoman flag 7.svg Ottoman Empire Osmanlı İmparatorluğu Osman Bey 1299-1922


16 stars in the Presidential Seal of Turkey represents each empire

Turkish nationalist writer, novelist, poet and philosopher, Hüseyin Nihâl Atsız, supporter of the pan-Turkist or Turanism ideology, had noted that while some states with questionable Turkic identity were included in the list (like Mungal), some ostensibly Turkic states (such as Akkoyunlu) were left out, and labeled the list a "fabrication."[7]

In spite of Atsız' criticism, the concept was made a mainstream topos in Turkish national symbolism in the wake of the 1980 Turkish coup d'état, under the presidency of Kenan Evren, when "Turkish-Islamic synthesis" was declared the official nature of Turkish national identity. The Turkish Postal administration issued a series of stamps dedicated to the 16 Empires in 1984, showing portraits of their respective founders as well as attributed flags.[4] In 1985, Özbek's 16 Empires were invoked as a retrospective explanation of the 16 stars in the presidential seal of Turkey (introduced in 1936).[8]

Several municipal buildings and public parks in Turkey have collections of busts or statues of the founders of the "16 Empires" alongside a statue of Kemal Atatürk, including the municipal buildings of Keçiören (Ankara), Mamak, Ankara, Etimesgut, Niğde, Nevşehir, Pınarbaşı, Kayseri, etc.[5]

In 2000, Türk Telekom produced a series of smart cards dedicated to the topic.[9]

In January 2015, Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan received Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas in the Turkish Presidential Palace with a guard of 16 "warriors", actors wearing loosely historical armour and costume, intended to symbolise the 16 empires.[10] The costumes were ridiculed in secular Turkish media outlets, and one of the costumes in particular was mocked as a "bathrobe", becoming a trend on social media under the name of Duşakabinoğulları (as it were "son of the shower cabin").[11]

See also