Learn more about Khagan
- For other titles related to and uses of Khan, see that article
Khagan or Great Khan (Mongolian хаан; Chinese 可汗), alternatively spelled Chagan, Qaqan, Khakhan, Khaghan, Kagan, Khaqan, Hakan etc., is a title of imperial rank in the Mongolian and Turkic languages equal to the status of emperor and someone who rules a Khaganate (empire, greater than an ordinary Khanate, but often referred to as such in western languages). It may also be translated as Khan of Khans, equivalent to King of Kings. The Great Khans in world history were Genghis Khan, Ogedei Khan, Kublai Khan, Mongke Khan and Guyuk Khan of the Mongol Empire.
In modern Mongolian, the title became Khaan with the 'g' sound becoming almost silent or non-existent [i.e., a very light voiceless velar fricative]. The common western rendering as Great Khan or Grand Khan, notably in the case of the Mongol Empire, is technically not correct, but it has been well established by long-standing convention and is reasonably clear in suggesting paramount status.
 Mongolian Khagans
The Avars, who may have included Juan Juan elements after the Turks crushed the Juan Juan who ruled Mongolia, also used this title. The Avars invaded Europe, and for over a century ruled the Hungarian region. Westerners Latinized the title "Khagan" into "Gaganus".
By far the most famous incumbents were from the dynasty of the Mongol conqueror Genghis Khan, who united all Mongol nomad tribes and welded them into such an efficient military machine that he outdid Alexander the Great's conquests greatly in founding the Mongol Empire. His grandson Kublai Khan founded the Yuan Dynasty in China.
The Secret History of the Mongols, written for that very dynasty, clearly distinguishes Khaghan and Khan: only Genghis and his descendants are called Khaghan, while other rulers are referred to as Khan. Over time, though, the distinction became blurred by the large number of rulers who claimed it.
The gh sound in "Khaghan" later weakened and disappeared becoming Khaan in Modern Mongolian.
See also List of Mongol Khans.
 Among Turkic peoples
The title became associated with the Ashina rulers of the Gokturks and their dynastic successors among such peoples as the Khazars (confer the compound military title Khagan Bek). Minor rulers were rather relegated to the lower title of Khan.
Interestingly, both Khakhan as such and the Turkish form Hakan, with the specification in Arabic al-Barrayn wa al-Bahrayn (meaning literally "of both lands and both seas"), or rather fully in Turkish Hakan ül-Berreyn vel-Bahreyn, were among the titles in the official full style of the Great Sultan (and later Caliph) of the Ottoman Empire (Sultan Hân N.N., Padishah, Hünkar, Sovereign of the House of Osman, Sultan of Sultans, Khan of Khans, Commander of the Faithful and Successor of the Prophet of the Lord of the Universe; next followed a series of specifical 'regional' titles, starting with Protector of the Holy Cities of Mecca, Medina and Jerusalem), reflecting the historical legitimation of the dynasty's rule as political successor to various conquered (often islamised) states.
 Among the Slavs
In the early 10th century, princes of Eastern Slavs employed the title of kagan (or qaghan), reported by the Arab geographer Ibn Rusta writing between 903 and 913. This tradition endured in the eleventh century, as the metropolitan of Russia Hilarion calls both grand prince Vladimir (978–1015) and grand prince Iaroslav (1019–1054) by the title of kagan, while a graffito on the walls of the Cathedral of St. Sophia in Kiev gives the same title to the son of Iaroslav, grand prince Sviatoslav II (1073–1076).
 Sources and references
- Mark Whittow, The Making of Byzantium, 600–1025, University of California Press, Berkeley, Los Angeles, 1996.bg:Каган