The Cumans originally lived east of the Yellow River, in China, making them the only Caucasian people in eastern Asia at the time.
A genetic study was done on Cuman burials within Hungary and it was determined that they had substantially more western Eurasian mitochondrial DNA lineages : see source here and more description here !
It is rather confusing to know who historians from the past referred to when the name Kipchak was used – they either referred to the Kumans only, the Kipchaks only, or both; this is due to the two nations joining and living together (and possibly exchanging weaponry, culture and with possible fusion of languages). This confederation and them living together might have made it tricky at times for historians to write exclusively about either nation.
WHO WERE THEY
The Cumans (Turkish: kuman / plural kumanlar, Hungarian: kun / plural kunok; Greek: Κο(υ)μάνοι, Ko(u)manoi; Romanian: cuman / plural cumani, Russian: Половцы – Polovtsi, Ukrainian: Половці, Bulgarian: Кумани) were a Turkic nomadic people comprising the western branch of the Cuman-Kipchak confederation until the Mongol invasion (1237) forced them to seek asylum in Hungary, and consequently to Bulgaria, although there were Cumans there before the Mongol invasion. Being related to the Pechenegs, they have inhabited a shifting area north of the Black Sea known as Cumania along the Volga River. They eventually settled to the west of the Black Sea, influencing the politics of Kievan Rus’, Bulgaria, Serbia, Hungary, Moldavia, Georgia and Wallachia (Romania today). Cuman and Kipchak tribes joined politically to create a confederation known as the Cuman-Kipchak confederation. The Cuman language is attested in some medieval documents and is the best-known of the early Turkic languages. The Codex Cumanicus was a linguistic manual which was written to help Catholic missionaries communicate with Cumans.
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.
They played an active role in Byzantium, Hungary, Bulgaria, Serbia and in the Basarab dynasties in Wallachia with Cuman immigrants being integrated into each country’s elite
BACK IN TIME
The Cumans entered the grassland of Eastern Europe in the 11th century, from where they continued to assault the Byzantine Empire, the Kingdom of Hungary, and Rus – they became arch enemies.
The vast territory of this Cuman-Kipchak realm, consisting of loosely connected tribal units who were the military dominating force, was never politically united by a strong central power. Cumania was neither a state nor an empire, but different groups under independent rulers, or khans, who acted on their own initiative, meddling in the political life of the surrounding states: the Russian principalities, Bulgaria, Byzantium and the Romanian (Wallachian) states in the Balkans, Armenia and Georgia (see Kipchaks in Georgia-but here we do not know if it was just Kipchaks, just Cumans, or Kipchaks and Cumans, discussed earlier) in the Caucasus, and Khwarezm, having reached as far as to create a powerful caste of warriors, the Mamluks.
In 1091 the Pechenegs, a semi-nomadic Turkic people of the prairies of southwestern Eurasia, were decisively defeated as an independent force at the Battle of Levounion by the combined forces of a Byzantine army under Byzantine Emperor Alexios I Komnenos and a Cuman army under Togortok and Bunaq. Attacked again in 1094 by the Cumans, many Pechenegs were again slain. The remnants of the Pechenegs fled to Hungary, as the Cumans themselves would do a few decades later: fearing the Mongol invasion, in 1229, they asked asylum from Béla IV of Hungary.
Like most other peoples of medieval Eastern Europe, they put up resistance against the relentlessly advancing Mongols, led by Jebe and Subutai. The Mongols crossed the Caucasus mountains in pursuit of Muhammad II, the shah of Khwarazm, and met and defeated the Cumans in Subcaucasia in 1220. The Cumans made allience with the Rus but at the Battle of Kalka River, due to confusion from mistakes, they lost – the Cumans and Rus were defeated (1223) by the Mongols. The Cumans were finally crushed in 1238. Most of them surrendered to the Mongols, while the others followed Koten to Hungary and Bulgaria, where they became part of the local population; they were integrated into the elite and became nobles and rulers. Although the Cumans were defeated by the Mongols, their (the Cumans that remained in the Rus steppe, those who didnt move to Hungary and Bulgaria) cultural heritage was transferred on to them (the Mongols). The Mongol elite adopted from the Cumans and Kipchaks a lot of their traits, customs and language.and the Cumans, kipchaks and Mongols finally became assimilated through intermarriage and became the Golden Horde. The Cumans, together with the Turko-Mongols, adopted Islam, in these cond half of the 13th and the first half of the 14th century.
Asia 1200 A.D.
Previously, in 1229, they had asked for asylum from King Béla IV of Hungary, who in 1238 finally offered refuge to the remainder of the Cuman people under their leader Kuthen (Hungarians spelled his name Kötöny). Kuthen in turn vowed to convert his 40,000 families to Christianity. King Béla hoped to use the new subjects as auxiliary troops against the Mongols, who were already threatening Hungary. The king assigned various parts of central Hungary to the Cuman tribes. A tense situation erupted when Mongol troops burst into Hungary. The Hungarians, frustrated by their own helplessness, took revenge on the Cumans, whom they accused of being Mongol spies. After a bloody fight the Hungarians killed Kuthen and his bodygards, and the remaining Cumans fled to the Balkans. After the Mongol invasion Béla IV of Hungary recalled the Cumans to Hungary to populate settlements devastated by war. The nomads subsequently settled throughout the Great Hungarian Plain. Throughout the following centuries the Cumans in Hungary were granted various rights, the extent of which depended on the prevailing political situation. Some of these rights survived until the end of the 19th century, although the Cumans had long since assimilated with Hungarians.
Great Hungarian Plain
The Cumans who remained scattered in the prairie of what is now southwest Russia joined the Golden Horde khanate and their descendants became assimilated with local Tatar populations. Many of them were incorporated into other Turkic peoples including the Crimean Tatars, Karachays, and Kumyks.
Basarab I, son of the Wallachian prince Tihomir of Wallachia obtained independence from Hungary at the beginning of the 14th century. The name Basarab is considered by some authors as being of Cuman origin, and meaning “Father King”. It is generally believed by Bulgarian historians that the Bulgarian mediaеval dynasties Asen, Shishman and Terter were Cumanian.
The Caucasian mummies found in China a while ago could have been Cumans, as it is stated that the Cumans originally came from eastern China before migrating to Europe.
Robert de Clari described Cumans as nomadic warriors, who did not use houses, or farm, but rather lived 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 days of walking (Mansio), they go on campaign without any baggage, and when they return they take everything they can carry, they wear sheepskin and were armed with composite bows and arrows. They pray to the first animal they see in the morning. The Cumans, like the Bulgars, were also known to drink blood from their horse (they would cut a vein) when they ran out of water and were far from an available source. Another interesting feature of the Cumans was their elaborate masks which they used in battle – they were shaped like and worn over the face. A typical feature were mustaches.
The main activity of the Cumans was animal husbandry. They raised horses, sheep, goats, camels, and cattle. In summer they moved north with their herds; in winter, south. Some of the Cumans led a semi settled life and took part in trading and farming. They mainly sold and exported animals, mostly horses, and animal products. The Cumans also played the role of middlemen in the trade between Byzantium and the East, which passed through the Cuman-controlled ports of Surozh, Oziv, and Saksyn. Several land routes between Europe and the Near East ran through Cuman territories: the Zaloznyi route, the Solianyi route, and the Varangian route. Cuman towns—Sharukan, Suhrov, and Balin—appeared in the Donets River Basin; they were inhabited, however, by other peoples besides the Cumans. Stone figures called Stone babas, which are found throughout southern Ukraine, were closely connected with the Cuman religious cult of shamanism. The Cumans tolerated all religions and Islam and Christianity spread quickly among them. As they were close to the Kyivan Rus’ principalities, the Cuman khans and important families began to Slavicize their names, for example, Yaroslav Tomzakovych, Hlib Tyriievych, Yurii Konchakovych, and Danylo Kobiakovych. Ukrainian princely families were often connected by marriage with Cuman khans; this lessened wars and conflicts. Sometimes the princes and khans waged joint campaigns; for example, in 1221 they attacked the trading town of Sudak on the Black Sea, which was held by the Seljuk Turks and which interfered with Rus’-Cuman trade.
The main religion was Tengriism centered around Tengri and Umay. The Kuman people were baptised in 1227 by Róbert Archbishop of Esztergom in a mass baptism in Moldavia on the orders of Bortz Khan, who swore allegiance to King Andrew II of Hungary.
In the 13th century, the Western Cumans adopted Roman Catholicism (in Hungary they all later became Calvinist) and the Gagauzes Eastern Orthodoxy, while the Eastern Cumans converted to Islam. The Catholic Diocese of Cumania founded in Milcov in 1227 and including what is now Romania and Moldova, retained its title until 1523. It was a suffragan of the Archdiocese of Esztergom in Hungary.
While the Cumans were gradually absorbed into eastern European populations, their trace can still be found in place names as widespread as the city of Kumanovo in the Northeastern part of the Republic of Macedonia; a Slavic village named Kumanichevo in the Kostur (Kastoria) district of Greece, which was changed to Lithia after Greece obtained this territory in the 1913 Treaty of Bucharest, Comăneşti in Romania, Comana in Dobrogea (also Romania) and the small village of Kumanite in Bulgaria.
As the Mongols pushed westwards and devastated their state, most of the Cumans fled to the Bulgarian Empire as they were major military allies. The Bulgarian Tsar Ivan-Asen II (who was descended from Cumans) settled them in the southern parts of the country, bordering the Latin Empire and the Thessallonikan Despotate. Those territories are in present-day Turkish Europe and the Republic of Macedonia.
The Komi Peoples
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. Traces of the Cumans are the Bulgarian surnames Kunev or Kumanov (feminine Kuneva, Kumanova), its Macedonian variants Kunevski, Kumanovski (feminine Kumanovska), and the widespread Hungarian surname Kun. The names “Coman” in Romania and its derivatives however do not appear to have any connection to the medieval Cumans, as it was unrecorded until very recent times and the places with the highest frequency of such names has not produced any archaeological evidence of Cuman settlement. The name Cuman is still the name of several villages in different parts of Turkey, such as Kumanlar, including the Black Sea region. A branch of the Cumans – the Kumandins still exists up to this day, located in Siberia. The Komi peoples in Russia could also be descendents of the Cumans or related to them, as their name – Komi is similar to the name Cuman, and a lot of them are also blond.
The Rus fighting the Cumans
The Cumans also settled in Hungary and 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-Kiskun and Jász-Nagykun-Szolnok and town names such as Kiskunhalas and Kunszentmiklós.
The Cumans were organized into four tribes in Hungary: Kolbasz/Olas in upper Cumania around Karcag (my grand parents were living there, so my Cuman grand father and I still have family from this city !), and the other three in lower Cumania.
Unfortunately, the Cuman language disappeared from Hungary in the 17th or 18th century (1770?), possibly following the Turkish occupation.
When some of the Cumans moved to Hungary, they brought with them their dogs – the Komondor dogs, which has become one of the national dogs of Hungary.
FAMOUS OR NOTABLE CUMANS,
OR PEOPLE OF CUMAN DESCENT, IN HISTORY
- Khan Köten(or Sutoiovych) – Mstyslav Mstyslavych’s father-in-law, fought in the war against the Mongols (allied with the Russians); led 40000 “huts” (families) to Hungary, to escape from the Mongols, where he was later assassinated. The Cumans then emigrated to the Second Bulgarian Empire. Some of the Cumans were later called back to Hungary. He was possibly the most notable of Cumans (together with Baibars). Allegedly descended from the Cuman Terteroba clan.
- Kemenche, Hungary – assassination attempt on the king of Hungary; he was caught and executed.
- Bartz, Hungary – chief of Cumans
- Membrok, Hungary – chief of Cumans
- Elizabeth the Cuman
- Ladislaus IV of Hungary
- Mary of Hungary, Queen of Naples
- Anna of Hungary (1260–1281)
- Béla IV of Hungary
- Stephen V of Hungary
- Elizabeth of Sicily, Queen of Hungary (Trouble with Cumans)
- Elizabeth of Hungary, Queen of Serbia -one of the older children of King Stephen V of Hungary and his wife Elizabeth the Cuman.
- John Hunyadi – From one point of view he had supposedly Tatar-Cuman origin, because the second part of his name is derived from a Cuman dignity name.
Cuman (also Kuman) was a Kipchak Turkic language spoken by the Kipchaks, also known in the Greek annals as Cumans, in the west as Kumans, undiscriminative Polovetses in the Slavic and Rus annals, and Kuns in the Hungarian annals, the language was similar to the today’s Crimean Tatar language. The Kipchak language is documented in medieval works, including the Codex Cumanicus, and it was a literary language in the Central and Eastern Europe that left a rich literary inheritance.
The Turkic Cuman language was still spoken at the time of the Ottoman occupation and during the Protestant Reformation. The Cuman language became extinct in early 17th century in the region of Cumania in Hungary, which was its last stronghold. Today, Gagauz people of modern Moldavia speak a close variation of Cuman Turkish. Turks of Turkey can also read and understand old Cuman texts. From Codex Cumanicus book :