Yabgu (Old Turkic: , yabγu,[1] Traditional Chinese: 葉護, Simplified Chinese: 叶护, Jabgu, Djabgu, literally, "pioneer", "guide") was a state office in the early Turkic states, roughly equivalent to viceroy. The title carried autonomy in different degrees, and its links with the central authority of Khagan varied from economical and political subordination to superficial political deference. The title had also been borne by Turkic princes in the upper Oxus region in post-Hephthalite times.[2]

The position of Yabgu was traditionally given to the second highest member of a ruling clan (Ashina), with the first member being the Kagan himself. Frequently, Yabgu was a younger brother of the ruling Kagan, or a representative of the next generation, called Shad (blood prince). Mahmud Kashgari defined the title Yabgu as "position two steps below Kagan", listing heir apparent Shad a step above Yabgu.[3]

As the Khaganate decentralized, the Yabgu gained more autonomous power within the suzerainty, and historical records name a number of independent states with "Yabgu" being the title of the supreme ruler. One prominent example was the Oguz Yabgu state in Middle Asia, which was formed after the fragmentation of the Second Türkic Kaganate in the 840es. Another prominent example was the Karluk Yabgu, the head of the Karluk confederation which in the 766 occupied Suyab in the Jeti-su area, and eventually grew into a powerful Karakhanid state.[4]


There are at least five different theories among recent literature regarding the origin of yabgu.

In 11 BCE the Han Chinese state captured a Kushan subject of the Xiongnu Empire (Hunnu shanyu), who was a "chancellor" (Chinese sijan), and also carried the title of yabgu (sihou). After four years the Kushan was returned to the Xiongnu, who restored him to him his titles and post of "second person in the empire". It is clear that this man did not belong to the Xiongnu dynastic line, and was likely a member of a Kushan autonomous state within the Xiongnu confederation. (Another implication of these events is that a possibly mythic Wusun leader, known as Butszü-sihou, who saved the life of a baby called Gunmo, also was a yabgu.)[11]

See Also

Oghuz Yabgu State


  1. Ethno Cultural Dictionary, TÜRIK BITIG
  2. Encyclopaedia Iranica, 2007, p.316
  3. 1 2 Golgen P.B., "Khazar studies", Budapest, Vol. 2, 1980, pp. 188-190, ISBN 963-05-1548-2
  4. W. Barthold, "Four Studies In History Of Central Asia", Leiden, E. J. Brill, 1962, Vol.1 p.87
  5. Klyashtorny S.G., Sultanov T.I., "States and peoples of Eurasian steppe", PB, SPb, 2004, ISBN 5-85803-255-9
  6. Temporini, Hildegard; Haase, Wolfgang; "Aufstieg und Niedergang der römischen Welt", 1972, ISBN 3-11-001885-3.
  7. The Western Regions according to the Hou Hanshu, Section 13 Translated by John E. Hill.
  8. Hirth F. Nachworte zur Inschrift des Tonjukuk // ATIM, 2. Folge. StPb. 1899, pp. 48-50.
  9. W. Barthold, "Four Studies In History Of Central Asia", Leiden, E. J. Brill, 1962, Vol.1 p.10
  10. Zuev Yu.A., Early Türks: Essays of history and ideology"', Almaty, Daik-Press, 2002, p.31, OCLC 52662897
  11. Zuev Yu.A., "Early Türks: Essays of history and ideology", Almaty, Daik-Press, 2002, p.32, OCLC 52662897
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