Eurasian Avars

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The Eurasian Avars or Ancient Avars, were a highly organized nomadic confederacy of mixed origins. They were ruled by a khagan, who was surrounded by a tight-knit retinue of nomad warriors, an organization characteristic of Turkic groups. Although the name Avar first appeared in the mid fifth century, the Avars of Europe enter the historical scene in the mid sixth century AD, when they established a pax spanning considerable areas of Central and Eastern Europe. Avar rule persisted over much of the Pannonian Plain up to the early 9th century.

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Origins

The origin of the Eurasian Avars is unclear. Information about origins is derived primarily from the works of Byzantine historians Menander Protector and Theophylact Simocatta. The confusion is compounded by the fact that many clans carried a particular name because they believed it to be prestigious, or it was attributed to them by outsiders describing their common characteristics, believed place of origin or reputation.[citation needed] Such a case has been seen repeatedly for many nomadic confederacies.

According to the research of historian András Róna-Tas[1], the ethnic Avars formed in central Asia in the classical age through a fusion of several tribal elements. Róna-Tas suggests that Turkic Oghurs migrated to the Kazakh steppe, possibly moving south to inhabit the lands vacated by the Huns. Here they interacted with a body of Indo-European-speaking Persians, forming the Xionites (Hunas). In the 460s, they were subordinated by the Rouran tribe. The Rourans imposed their own rulers, referred to as Uar, at the head of the confederacy. Eventually the Oghurs rose to prominence within the tribal confederacy.

The 6th century historian Menander Protector noted that the language of the Avars (which he called Ouarkhonitai "Vakonites") was the same as (possibly meaning similar to) that of the Huns. If language is an indicator of origin, this supports the theory that they might have been an Oghuric Turkic people[2]. Recently some scholars have proposed that they were an Iranic-speaking group[3]. The discovery of Mongolic skulls in Avar graves has prompted some scholars to suggest that the European Avars' ruling core was Mongolic, although this has been disputed by others.[4]

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