Barsbek – Kyrgyz people kagan

The “nobles” of the Kyrgyz state were called “bek” – or “beg” – and “Bars Bek” (Bek the snow leopard) was an honorific title which seems to have been applied to the leaders of the nation.

One leader in particular was called Barsbek, it is claimed that this ruler of the Yenesie Kyrgyz, and by some people to have been their first true ruler, and he is thought to have been part of the inspiration behind the epic hero Manas. He is also known by the honorific title “Umai Beg“, a reference to the claim that his family were descended from Umai – Mother Earth.

He was a real historical figure, he is mentioned in ancient runic chronicles.

He lived at the end of the 7th century, through the beginning of the eighth century.

He was born in one of the ruling dynasties and had three, (or four), brothers, both older and younger. The family were followers of Umai Ene – the mother earth goddess, who was especially the protector of women and children. He lost his father early in his life and although not the oldest son, he rose to become the leader of the Kyrgyz.

According to some sources he was elected leader of the Turgesh Kaganate – a Turkic confederacy of nomadic tribes which came together in response to a rebellion against the local Chinese vassal. It was headed by a military commander from the Talas region, and they quickly captured the Silk Road city of Suyab, (which is near to Tokmak in present day Kyrgyzstan), from the rebels and made it their capital city. Shortly afterwards, the capital was relocated to the nearby city of Balasugin, the only city in Central Asia to escape destruction at the hands of Genghis Khan’s Mongol invasion centuries later. Today, all that remains of Balasugin is the Burana Tower and a mound where a citadel once stood.

Barsbek was granted the title ajo which was reserved for the Grand Khan of all the Kyrgyz, a post which was rarely filled as, at that time, the nomadic nations such as the Kyrgyz were really just bands of small nomadic communities rather than unified “nations”.

In order to protect his people, he entered into a union with a number of local tribes and the Chinese Tang empire. He also set about fortifying the region. Although his works were aimed at defence, the Kyrgyz rose in influence, such that their presence not only impeded the expansion of the Turkic Kagan Khanate, they even rivalled the Khanate for power over the region. In 707, 709 and 711 he sent embassies to the Chinese Court and he even sent ambassadors the Tyurgesh Khanate and Tibet.

Matters came to a head in the winter of 711. Over the previous years the Turkic Khanate had successfully conducted a number of campaigns against local tribes to the south – preparing a route that pointed to the Kyrgyz heartland. Barsbek’s preparations included fortifications designed to prevent penetration from this direction. The Turkic army, however, found their way to the Yenesei over mountain passes to the North, which had been thought to be unassailable. A local guide undertook to show them a path over the mountains and although he was killed for failing to do so, (apparently he led them into a marsh and many of the soldiers drowned – it’s not clear if it was deliberate or not), the army did manage to negotiate a path across the treacherous mountain passes.

The Kyrgyz were taken by surprise, (it is said that they were attacked in their sleep), were routed before their powerful allies could be summoned to their assistance. Barsbek died in the battle.

Kyrgyzstan 2014 Barsbek – Kyrgyz people kagan
The main element of the front side is the image of the Kyrgyz soldier dressed in a military armor, mounted on a horse. The soldier is a generalized image of the Kyrgyz kagan Barsbek, who contributed to formation and strengthening of the national identity. His numerous armies are on the background, and there is the cloud in the sky in the form of the head of a leopard - kagan allegorical image. All composition is framed by an inscription “Barsbek - Kyrgyz people’s kagan” and the fragment of a solar disk symbolizing the period of blossom and glory of Barsbek. 
The national emblem of the Kyrgyz Republic is on the reverse side in the center of the ornamental disks. Ornamental disks symbolize the sun and movement, are unifying elements for the front and reverse sides of the coin.


Kyrgyzstan 2014 Barsbek – Kyrgyz people kagan
Kyrgyzstan 2014 Barsbek – Kyrgyz people kagan
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