Torks (торки; torky). The name given in chronicles to the Turkic tribes of Oghuz. In the late 9th and early 10th centuries they lived as nomads in the northern steppes between the Aral and Caspian seas, ranging all the way to the Volga Delta. In the late 10th century they migrated closer to the Sea of Azov. In one chronicle Torks are said to have participated in Volodymyr the Great’s campaign of 985 against the Bulgars. In the 11th century, when they were pressed by the Cumans (Polovtsians) from the east, larger waves of Torks swept over the Black Sea steppes and sent the Pechenegs westward. In 1054 Torks attacked the Pereiaslav land but were defeated by the army of the prince of Pereiaslav, Vsevolod Yaroslavych. They continued to invade Rus’, however, and only in 1060 were they decisively defeated by a coalition of Iziaslav Yaroslavych of Kyiv, Vsevolod Yaroslavych of Pereiaslav, Sviatoslav II Yaroslavych of Chernihiv, and Vseslav Briachyslavych of Polatsk. In 1116 an army of Torks and Pechenegs was annihilated by the Cumans, and the defeat caused some Torks to resettle in the Balkans. Others obtained the permission of Ukrainian princes to settle on the right bank of the Dnipro River, in the Ros River and the Rosava River basins, and in southern Pereiaslav principality along the Sula River. There they mixed with the remaining Pechenegs and Berendeys and became known as the Chorni Klobuky. The duties imposed on them by the Ukrainian princes included defending the southern borders of Rus’ against Cuman attacks and participating in offensive military campaigns, in which they proved to be loyal allies. During the raids of Batu Khan in 1240, particularly during the siege of Kyiv, many Torks were killed, and the Mongols resettled many others in the Volga region. The rest assimilated completely with the local inhabitants. Torks introduced a Turkic element into the anthropological features of the population along the banks of the Dnipro. They also contributed to the toponymy of Ukraine, in the names of the rivers Torets and Torch, the Torskyi route along the Tetliha River, and the towns Torets, Torky, Torkiv, Toretske, and Torchyn.

Mykhailo Zhdan

[This article originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 5 (1993).]

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