The Eurasian Steppe, also called the Great Steppe or the steppes, is the vast steppe ecoregion of Eurasia in the temperate grasslands, savannas, and shrublands biome. It stretches from Bulgaria, Romania and Moldova through Ukraine, Russia, Kazakhstan, Xinjiang, and Mongolia to Manchuria, with one major exclave, the Pannonian steppe or Puszta, located mostly in Hungary and partially in Serbia and Croatia.
Since the Paleolithic age, the Steppe route has connected Eastern Europe, Central Asia, China, South Asia, and the Middle East economically, politically, and culturally through overland trade routes. The Steppe route is a predecessor not only of the Silk Road which developed during antiquity and the Middle Ages, but also of the Eurasian Land Bridge in the modern era. It has been home to nomadic empires and many large tribal confederations and ancient states throughout history, such as the Xiongnu, Scythia, Cimmeria, Sarmatia, Hunnic Empire, Chorasmia, Transoxiana, Sogdiana, Xianbei, Mongols, and Göktürk Khaganate.
The Eurasian Steppe extends thousands of miles from near the mouth of the Danube almost to the Pacific Ocean. It is bounded on the north by the forests of European Russia, Siberia and Asian Russia. There is no clear southern boundary although the land becomes increasingly dry as one moves south. The steppe narrows at two points, dividing it into three major parts.
On the east side of the former Sino-Soviet border mountains extend north almost to the forest zone with only limited grassland in Dzungaria.
Big mammals of the Eurasian steppe were the Przewalski's horse, the saiga antelope, the Mongolian gazelle, the goitered gazelle, the wild Bactrian camel and the onager. The gray wolf and the corsac fox and occasionally the brown bear are predators roaming the steppe. Smaller mammal species are the Mongolian gerbil, the little souslik and the bobak marmot.
Furthermore, the Eurasian steppe is home to a great variety of bird species. Threatened bird species living there are for example the imperial eagle, the lesser kestrel, the great bustard, the pale-back pigeon and the white-throated bushchat.
The primary domesticated animals raised were sheep and goats with fewer cattle than one might expect. Camels were used in the drier areas for transport as far west as Astrakhan. There were some yaks along the edge of Tibet. The horse was used for transportation and warfare. The horse was first domesticated on the Pontic–Caspian or Kazakh steppe sometime before 3000 BC, but it took a long time for mounted archery to develop and the process is not fully understood. The stirrup does not seem to have been completely developed until 300 AD (see Stirrup, Saddle, Composite bow, Domestication of the horse and related articles).
The World Wide Fund for Nature divides the Eurasian steppe's temperate grasslands, savannas, and shrublands into a number of ecoregions, distinguished by elevation, climate, rainfall, and other characteristics, and home to distinct animal and plant communities and species, and distinct habitat ecosystems.
The major centers of population and high culture in Eurasia are Europe,the Middle East, India and China. For some purposes it is useful to treat Greater Iran as a separate region. All these regions are connected by the Eurasian Steppe route which was an active predecessor of the Silk Road. The latter started in the Guanzhong region of China and ran west along the Hexi Corridor to the Tarim Basin. From there it went southwest to Greater Iran and turned southeast to India or west to the Middle East and Europe. A minor branch went northwest along the great rivers and north of the Caspian Sea to the Black Sea. When faced with a rich caravan the steppe nomads could either rob it, or tax it, or hire themselves out as guards. Economically these three forms of taxation or parasitism amounted to the same thing. Trade was usually most vigorous when a strong empire controlled the steppe and reduced the number of petty chieftains preying on trade. The silk road first became significant and Chinese silk began reaching the Roman Empire about the time that the Emperor of Han pushed Chinese power west to the Tarim Basin.
The nomads would occasionally tolerate colonies of peasants on the steppe in the few areas where farming was possible. These were often captives who grew grain for their nomadic masters. Along the fringes there were areas that could be used for either plowland or grassland. These alternated between one and the other depending on the relative strength of the nomadic and agrarian heartlands. Over the last few hundred years, the Russian steppe and much of Inner Mongolia has been cultivated. The fact that most of the Russian steppe is not irrigated implies that it was maintained as grasslands as a result of the military strength of the nomads.
According to the most widely held hypothesis of the origin of the Indo-European languages, the Kurgan hypothesis, their common ancestor is thought to have originated on the Pontic-Caspian steppe. The Tocharians were an early Indo-European branch in the Tarim Basin. At the beginning of written history the entire steppe population west of Dzungaria spoke Iranian languages. From about 500 AD the Turkic languages replaced the Iranian languages first on the steppe, and later in the oases north of Iran (the reasons for this are poorly understood). Additionally, Hungarian speakers, a branch of the Uralic language family, who previously lived in the steppe in what is now Southern Russia, settled in the Carpathian basin in year 895. Mongolic languages are in Mongolia. In Manchuria one finds Tungusic languages and some others.
Tengriism was introduced by Turko-Mongol nomads. Nestorianism and Manichaeism spread to the Tarim Basin and into China, but they never became established majority religions. Buddhism spread from the north of India to the Tarim Basin and found a new home in China. By about 1400 AD, the entire steppe west of Dzungaria had adopted Islam. By about 1600 AD, Islam was established in the Tarim Basin while Dzungaria and Mongolia had adopted Tibetan Buddhism.
Raids between tribes were prevalent throughout the region's history. This is connected to the ease with which a defeated enemy's flocks can be driven away, making raiding profitable. In terms of warfare and raiding, in relation to sedentary societies, the horse gave the nomads an advantage of mobility. Horsemen could raid a village and retreat with their loot before an infantry-based army could be mustered and deployed. When confronted with superior infantry, horsemen could simply ride away and retreat and regroup. Outside of Europe and parts of the Middle East, agrarian societies had difficulty raising a sufficient number of war horses, and often had to enlist them from their nomadic enemies(as mercenaries). Nomads could not easily be pursued onto the steppe since the steppe could not easily support a land army. If the Chinese sent an army into Mongolia, the nomads would flee and come back when the Chinese ran out of supplies. But the steppe nomads were relatively few and their rulers had difficulty holding together enough clans and tribes to field a large army. If they conquered an agricultural area they often lacked the skills to administer it. If they tried to hold agrarian land they gradually absorbed the civilization of their subjects, lost their nomadic skills and were either assimilated or driven out.
Along the northern fringe the nomads would collect tribute from and blend with the forest tribes (see Khanate of Sibir, Buryats). From about 1240 to 1480 Russia paid tribute to the Golden Horde. South of the Kazakh steppe the nomads blended with the sedentary population, partly because the Middle East has significant areas of steppe (taken by force in past invasions) and pastoralism. There was a sharp cultural divide between Mongolia and China and almost constant warfare from the dawn of history until 1757. The nomads collected large amounts of tribute from the Chinese and several Chinese dynasties were of steppe origin. Perhaps because of the mixture of agriculture and pastoralism in Manchuria its inhabitants, the Manchu, knew how to deal with both nomads and the settled populations, and therefore were able to conquer much of northern China when both Chinese and Mongols were weak.
Russian Slavic tribes and culture were much influenced by the Asian nomads in the Russian steppe and the adjoining steppes and deserts. The steppe culture of Russia was shaped in Russia through cross-cultural contact mostly by Tatar-Turkic, Mongolian and Iranian people. In addition to ethnicity, also instruments such as the domra, traditional costumes such as kaftan, sarafan and Russia's tea culture were influenced by the culture of nomadic peoples.
The Cernavodă culture, ca. 4000–3200 BC, was a late Copper Age archaeological culture. It was along the lower Eastern Bug River and Danube and along the coast of the Black Sea and somewhat inland, generally in present-day Romania and Bulgaria. It is named after the Romanian town of Cernavodă.
It is a successor to and occupies much the same area as the earlier neolithic Karanovo culture, for which a destruction horizon seems to be evident. It is part of the "Balkan-Danubian complex" that stretches up the entire length of the river and into northern Germany via the Elbe and the Baden culture; its northeastern portion is thought to be ancestral to the Usatovo culture.
It is characterized by defensive hilltop settlements. The pottery shares traits with that found further east, in the Sredny Stog culture on the south-west Eurasian steppe; burials similarly bear a resemblance to those further east.
Together with Sredny Stog culture its spread from east resulted in development of the Anatolian language complex.Dzungarian Gate
The Dzungarian Gate is a geographically and historically significant mountain pass between China and Central Asia. It has been described as the "one and only gateway in the mountain-wall which stretches from Manchuria to Afghanistan, over a distance of three thousand miles." Given its association with details in a story related by Herodotus, it has been linked to the location of legendary Hyperborea.The Dzungarian Gate (Chinese: 阿拉山口; pinyin: Ālā Shānkǒu; Kazakh: Жетісу қақпасы Jetisý qaqpasy or Жоңғар қақпасы Jońǵar qaqpasy) is a straight valley which penetrates the Dzungarian Alatau mountain range along the border between Kazakhstan and the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. It currently serves as a railway corridor between China and the west. Historically, it has been noted as a convenient pass suitable for riders on horseback between the western Eurasian steppe and lands further east, and for its fierce and almost constant winds.In his Histories, Herodotus relates travelers' reports of a land in the northeast where griffins guard gold and where the North Wind issues from a mountain cave. Given the parallels between Herodotus' story and modern reports, scholars such as Carl Ruck, J.D.P. Bolton and Ildikó Lehtinen have speculated on a connection between the Dzungarian Gate and the home of Boreas, the North Wind of Greek mythology. With legend describing the people who live on the other side of this home of the North Wind as a peaceful, civilized people who eat grain and live by the sea, the Hyperboreans have been identified by some as the Chinese.Its gateway status is now supplanted by the new gateway city of Khorgas.Emin Valley
The Emin Valley (Chinese: 额敏谷地; pinyin: Émǐn gǔdì) is located on the China-Kazakhstan border, in Central Asia. It has an area of about 65,000 square kilometres (25,000 sq mi). Its main waterway is the Emil River.
Administratively, the Emin Valley occupies areas of Tacheng Prefecture in the Xinjiang Region of north-western China; and in East Kazakhstan Province of eastern Kazakhstan.Great Hungarian Plain
The Great Hungarian Plain (also known as Alföld or Great Alföld, Hungarian: Alföld or Nagy Alföld) is a plain occupying the majority of Hungary. It is the largest part of the wider Pannonian Plain.
In Hungarian, the plain is known as Alföld [ˈɒlføld].Hit-and-run tactics
Hit-and-run tactics is a tactical doctrine where the purpose of the combat involved is not to seize control of territory; instead, flexible noncommittal attacks are used to inflict damage on a target and immediately exit the area to avoid the enemy's defense and/or retaliation. Such raids can also expose enemy defensive weaknesses and achieve a psychological effect on the enemy's morale.Hit-and-run tactics are used in guerrilla warfare, militant resistance movements, and terrorism where the enemy typically overmatches the attacking force to the point where sustained combat is to be avoided. However, the tactics can also be used as part of more conventional warfare. Examples of the latter include commando or other special forces attacks or sorties from a besieged castle. Hit-and-run tactics were also where the lightly armed and nearly unarmored horse archers typical of the Eurasian steppe peoples excelled. This holds especially true for such troops that were not part of a large army (such as scouting parties), but it was not unusual to see them employed in such a way even as part of a major force.Kazakh Steppe
The Kazakh Steppe (Kazakh: Qazaq dalasy, Қазақ даласы, also Uly dala, Ұлы дала "Great Steppe"), also called the Great Dala, ecoregion, of the Palearctic temperate grasslands, savannas, and shrublands biome, is a vast region of open grassland in northern Kazakhstan and adjacent portions of Russia, extending to the east of the Pontic steppe and to the west of the Emin Valley steppe, with which it forms part of the Eurasian steppe. Before the mid-nineteenth century it was called the Kirghiz steppe, 'Kirghiz' being an old name for the Kazakhs.Kazakh Uplands
The Kazakh Uplands (Kazakh: Сарыарқа, Saryarqa - "Yellow Ridge", Russian: Казахский мелкосопочник, Kazakhskiy Melkosopochnik), also known as the Kazakh Hummocks, is a large peneplain formation extending throughout the central and eastern regions of Kazakhstan. It consists of low mountain oases (Karkaraly, Kent, Kyzylarai, Ulytau, etc.) and elevated plains, and contains large deposits of coal in the north and copper in the south. Rare species, such as the Asiatic cheetah, may still live in the region. Several notable cities, including the country's capital, Nur-Sultan, are located there.
Part of the Kazakh Uplands are included in the Saryarka — Steppe and Lakes of Northern Kazakhstan world heritage site. It is of the Palearctic temperate grasslands, savannas, and shrublands ecoregion of the temperate grasslands, savannas, and shrublands biome.Khanate
A khanate or khaganate is a political entity ruled by a khan or khagan. This political entity is typical for people from the Eurasian Steppe and it can be equivalent to tribal chiefdom, principality, kingdom or empire.List of political entities in the 6th century BC
Political entities in the 7th century BC – Political entities in the 5th century BC – Political entities by century
This is a list of sovereign states or polities that existed in the 6th century BC.List of political entities in the 7th century BC
Political entities in the 8th century BC – Political entities in the 6th century BC – Political entities by century
This is a list of states or polities that existed in the 7th century BC.List of political entities in the 8th century BC
Political entities in the 9th century BC – Political entities in the 7th century BC – Political entities by century
This is a list of states or polities that existed in the 8th century BC.Orda (organization)
An orda (also orda, ordu, ordo, or ordon) or horde was a historical sociopolitical and military structure found on the Eurasian Steppe, usually associated with the Turkic people and Mongols. This entity can be seen as the regional equivalent of a clan or a tribe. Some successful ordas gave rise to khanates.
While the Slavic term ordo and the western term horde were in origin borrowings from the Turkic term ordo for "camp, headquarters", the original term did not carry the meaning of a large khanate such as the Golden Horde. These structures were contemporarily referred to as ulus ("nation" or "tribe").
It was only in the Late Middle Ages that the Slavic usage of orda was borrowed back into the Turkic languages.Pannonian Steppe
The Pannonian Steppe is a variety of grassland ecosystems found in the Pannonian Basin.Pontic–Caspian steppe
The Pontic–Caspian steppe, or Pontic steppe is the vast steppeland stretching from the northern shores of the Black Sea (called Euxeinos Pontos [Εὔξεινος Πόντος] in antiquity) as far east as the Caspian Sea, from Moldova and eastern Ukraine across the North Caucasus Federal District, Southern Federal District and the Volga Federal District of Russia to western Kazakhstan, forming part of the larger Eurasian steppe, adjacent to the Kazakh steppe to the east. It is a part of the Palearctic temperate grasslands, savannas, and shrublands ecoregion of the temperate grasslands, savannas, and shrublands biome.
The area corresponds to Cimmeria, Scythia, and Sarmatia of classical antiquity. Across several millennia the steppe was used by numerous tribes of nomadic horsemen, many of which went on to conquer lands in the settled regions of Europe and in western and southern Asia.
The term Ponto-Caspian region is used in biogeography for plants and animals of these steppes, and animals from the Black, Caspian, and Azov seas. Genetic research has identified this region as the most probable place where horses were first domesticated.According to a theory, called Kurgan hypothesis in Indo-European studies, the Pontic–Caspian steppe was the homeland of the speakers of the Proto-Indo-European language, and these same speakers were the original domesticators of the horse.Sagaris
The sagaris is an ancient Iranian shafted weapon used by the horse-riding ancient North-Iranian Saka and Scythian peoples of the great Eurasian steppe. It was used also by Western and Central Asian peoples: the Medes, Persians, Parthians, Indo-Saka, Kushans, Mossynoeci, and others living within the milieu of Iranian peoples. According to Aristarchus of Samothrace, the legendary Amazons used the sagaris, as well. In The Histories, Herodotus attributes the sagaris to the Sacae Scythians in the army-list of Xerxes the Great.The sagaris was a kind of battle-axe, or sometimes war hammer. Examples have been collected from Eurasian steppe archeological excavations, and are depicted on the Achaemenid cylinders and ancient Greek pottery and other surviving iconographic material. It is a long-shafted weapon with a metal head, with an either sharp (axe-like) or blunt (hammer-like) edge on one side and a sharp (straight or curving) 'ice-pick'-like point on the other. It may have been the sagaris that led medieval and Renaissance authors (such as Johannes Aventinus) to attribute the invention of the battle-axe weapon to the Amazons – as some Scythian women seen hunting and along warrior riders gave legend to the Amazons selves – and to the modern association of the Amazons with the labrys.
A shorter form, as depicted in the hand of Spalirises on his coins, was labelled klevets by Russian archaeologist and ancient military historian V.P. Nikonorov.Silver mountain vole
The silver mountain vole (Alticola argentatus) is a species of rodent in the family Cricetidae. They are distinguished by their silver-grey pelage, long vibrissae, rootless hypsodont molars and angular skull shape. Like many mammals of the Eurasian Steppe eco-region, they are well adapted to life in high altitudes, and can be found in mountain areas of Central and North Asia from the Chukchi Peninsula in the north-east to Kugitang Range in the west, and to Tibet and the Himalayas in the south.Squat Dance
The Squat Dance or Russian Squat Dance (Russian: присядка or русская присядка, prisyadka or russkaya preesyadka) is a Russian folk dance. It has been an important characteristic of Russian culture since ancient times. Russian culture arose from Slavic, Finno-Ugric, Tatar, Viking and Turkic peoples and was influenced by eastern and western cultures from Asia and Europe, mainly from Scandinavia and Baltic regions, as well as from nomadic Eurasian steppe cultures. The Squat dance originated in Russian lands, where Eastern Slavic people lived (and later where Russian states appeared in Europe, also known as Rus').The Russian squat dance is a feature of Russian culture. With kicks in the air, turns, and stomping movements, it is one of the main elements in Russian fast dances. The squat dance appears in Russian dances such as Barynya, Leto, Gopak, Kalinka, Yablochko, Trepak, Kozachok and others. The squat dance is performed only by males.While dancers squat with folded arms, they kick their legs, alternating between high and low kicks. Accelerating the legs and walking while squatting is common. Some dancers squat with their feet on the ground while others stay on their toes. The dance demands tight muscles and good balance.Steppe Route
The Steppe Route was an ancient overland route through the Eurasian Steppe that was an active precursor of the Silk Road. Silk and horses were traded as key commodities; secondary trade included furs, weapons, musical instruments, precious stones (turquoise, lapis lazuli, agate, nephrite) and jewels. This route extended for approximately 10,000 km (6,200 mi). Trans-Eurasian trade through the Steppe Route precedes the conventional date for the origins of the Silk Road by at least two millennia.West Siberian Plain
The West Siberian Plain, also known as Zapadno-sibirskaya Ravnina, (Russian: За́падно-Сиби́рская равни́на) is a large plain that occupies the western portion of Siberia, between the Ural Mountains in the west and the Yenisei River in the east, and by the Altay Mountains on the southeast. Much of the plain is poorly drained and consists of some of the world's largest swamps and floodplains. Important cities include Omsk, Novosibirsk, Tomsk and Chelyabinsk.