The steppe empire of Turks
Before the Turkic kaganat was formed the word "Turk" had meant just a union of ten (later -twelve) tribes that emerged shortly after the year of 460 A.D. in Altai. The term retained its meaning also during the ages of kaganats. This was reflected in the oldest Turkic texts by the expression: Turk bodun (where bodun stands for a union of tribes). It was as early as in mid VIII century when written sources mentioned "the 12-tribal Turkic nation". The same word was also used to denote the state established by the Turk-el (The Turkic country, nation)- Turkic tribal unions. Both the meanings were reflected in the ancient Turkic epigraphic monuments and Chinese written sources. In a wider sense the term came to mean membership of various nomadic tribes in the state established by the Turks. In this sense in was used by Byzantine, Iranians and sometimes by the Turks themselves.
During the first millenium A.D. the ethnical environment in the Eurasian steppes gradually began changing. Step by step Turkic-speaking tribes became predominant. Acceleration of the social development processes and processes of territorial and political consolidation brought about formation of several major state unions (so called kaganats) by the Turkic-speaking tribes during the 2nd half of the I millenium. Their territorial possessions spread over the South Siberia, Central and Middle Asia, lower part of the Volga region and the Northern Caucasus. Their listing included: the First Turkic kaganat, East Turkic kaganat, West Turkic kaganat, Teurgesh kaganat, Uigur kaganat and also the country of Yenisei Kirghizes, Karluks, Kimaks and Aral Oguzes. Historians are used to call this time the ancient Turkic age.
In 551 A.D. Mutan-kagan (kagan is the title of the top governor in a kaganat) after having subjugated Mongol tribes of the Kidani in the South-West Manchuria and the Yenisei Kirghiz tribes finally established the power of the Turk-el in Central Asia and South Siberia. This kaganat called the First Turkic Kaganat managed to survive till 630 A.D.
The growth of the country and the influence of the Turkic nobility who were striving to their autonomous governing of the conquered territories, consolidation of the rank and file nomads who had been bearing all the hardships of the continuous wars by themselves and lost their living means due to the introduced jut (tax paid by rank nomads to their nobility, usually in the form of giving out livestock). Between 581-583 a new political situation that prevented the Turkic kaganats from seeking a way out in military raids caused the kaganat's severest crisis and intestine strife.
All that had lasted for more than 20 years and ended in the final collapse of the First Turkic Kaganat and its breaking into two parts: the West Turkic Kaganat (covering Central Asia, Jungaria and a part of the Eastern Turkestan) and the Eastern Turkic Kaganat in Mongolia. A temporary flourishing of the West Turkic Kaganat between 619-630 during the reign of the kagans Shegui and Tonyagbu became the period of the new country's maximal territorial expansion. It was self-named as On-Ok-Eli which stands for a country of ten arrows. The West Turkic Kaganat differed much from its Eastern counterpart. Whereas in the Eastern Turkic Kaganat there predominated nomadic way of life, in the West Turkic Kaganat majority of the population were settled and engaged in plowing agriculture, handicraft and trading. The social structure of the West Turkic was incomparably more complex. It can be fairly regarded as a state with comparatively developed feudal relations than those of its Eastern neighbor. Earlier medieval culture of urban life and agriculture of the West Turkic Kaganat was established with participation of the Sogd nation. Noticeable here was a very early establishment of agricultural and trade colonies along the Great Silk Road - in Semirechie, Jungaria, Eastern Turkestan, North China. A very intensive Sogd colonization in the valleys of the Talas and Shu rivers brought about establishment of dozens of towns and fortified villages.
Later on, on the territory of Kazakhstan and its adjacent lands the Teurgesh Kaganat (675-715 A.D.) was gradually established. This process was preceded by a military campaign against the North China, defeat of the Kidani tribes, subjugation of Tuvinians and defeat of the Yenisei Kirghiz state. Besides, the Teurgesh Kaganat establishes its power all across the territory from the town of Chacha (modern Tashkent) up to Turfan and Beshbalyk.
The downfall and collapse of the Second Turkic Kaganat brought about a political vacuum in the steppes. The winner-tribes of Basmyls, Uigurs and Karluks engage themselves into the campaign for governing the Turkic tribes and getting the title of the kagan. They accomplished the defeat of the Turkic empire. Uigurs proved to be the strongest ones in the battle and after expropriated the crown from the Basmyls they established the Uigur Kaganat (647 A.D.) in the basin of the Tola and Orchon rivers.
Karluks finally established their power in Semirechie in 766 A.D. after having conquered the towns of Taraz and Suyab. Since then the Karluks started their fight with Uigurs for the East Turkestan.
Despite their failures in the wars (early IX c.), the position of the Karluk nation that was supported by the rich towns of Semirechie, retained its strength. The beneficial a successful slave-trade where Turkic war-prisoners became a merchandise sold to Abbas caliphs at Syrdaria slave markets contributed to further enrichment of the Karluks. Besides, for Karluks it was very much beneficial to control the transit trade routes on the section between Taraz and the Issyk-Kul lake. The Karluks also strengthened their positions in Fergana despite several attempts taken by the Arabs to dislodge the former ones from there.
This was the establishment of a new Turkic empire called the State of Karakhanides in Central Asia and Kashgaria.