Ergenekon and the Gold Mountain

Ergenekon or Ergeneqon is a founding myth.

Some researchers claim the myth’s Turkic origins, citing similarities between Göktürks and the Ergenekon epic; the first to make the comparison was Joseph de Guignes. However, the relationship is contested.

In the Turkic mythology, the myth aims to explain the foundation of the Turkic Khaganate. The Ergenekon legend tells about a great crisis of the ancient Turks. Following a military defeat, the Turks took refuge in the legendary Ergenekon valley where they were trapped for four centuries. They were finally released when a blacksmith created a passage by melting rock, allowing the gray wolf Asena to lead them out. The people led out of the valley found the Turkic Khaganate, in which the valley functions as its capital. A New Year’s ceremony commemorates the legendary ancestral escape from Ergenekon. The capital referred to is assumed to be Ordu-Baliq.

In the Mongolian version, Ergenekon was the refuge of the progenitors of the Mongols, Nekuz and Qiyan, as told in the 14th-century literary history Jāmiʿ al-tawārīkh, written by Rashid-al-Din Hamadani. It is a common epic in Mongol mythologies.

Abulghazi Bahadur, khan of the Khanate of Khiva (1643–63), told of the Ergenekon Mongolian creation myth in his work, 17th-century “Shajara-i turk” (Genealogy of the Turks).

In the late Ottoman era, the Ergenekon epic enjoyed use in Turkish literature (especially by the Turkish nationalist movement), describing a mythical Turkic place of origin located in the inaccessible valleys of the Altay Mountains.

In 1864 Ahmed Vefik Pasha translated Shajara-i turk into the Ottoman language under the title Şecere-i Evşâl-i Türkiyye, published in Tasvir-i Efkâr newspaper. Ziya Gökalp’s poem put the Ergenekon epic in the context of Turkic history (Turkish text), published as “Türk An’anesi: Ergenekon” in Türk Duygusu magazine from May 8 to June 5, 1913, Altın Armağan in September 1913, and under the title of “Ergenekon” in Kızılelma, 1914. Ömer Seyfettin’s poem on the topic was published in Halka Doğru magazine, April 9, 1914. Rıza Nur translated Shajara-i turk into modern Turkish in 1925, and mentioned Ergenekon in Oğuznâme, published in Alexandria, 1928.

During the early republican era of Turkey (especially in the 1930s, when ethnic nationalism held its sway in Turkey), the tale of the Bozkurt, Asena and Ergenekon were promoted along with Turkish ethnocentrism, and included in history textbooks as the Göktürk creation myth.

In 1933, Şevket Süreyya Aydemir, a Turkish intellectual and a founder and key theorist of the Kadro movement, consubstantiated the Ergenekon epic with the Turkish revolution. In the new Turkish version of the Egenekon Legend, the motif of the gray wolf (Turkish: bozkurt) was added (Turkish text, version of Ministry of National Education of Turkey).

According to Ergun Candan, there are some similarities between the mythologies of other cultures in their symbolism. The she-wolf Asena showed the Turks the way through the labyrinth of valleys and mountain passes. According to Ergun Candan, the she-wolf may be seen as a symbol of the “dog star” Sirius.

The Altai Mountains; also spelled Altay Mountains; are a mountain range in Central and East Asia, where Russia, China, Mongolia, and Kazakhstan come together, and are where the rivers Irtysh and Ob have their headwaters. The northwest end of the range is at 52° N and between 84° and 90° E (where it merges with the Sayan Mountains to the east), and extends southeast from there to about 45° N and 99° E, where it gradually becomes lower and merges into the high plateau of the Gobi Desert. The name “Altai” means “Gold Mountain”, in Turkic languages altın means gold and dağ means mountain. The controversial Altaic language family takes its name from this mountain range.

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