Ethnogenesis: clan, tribe and state organization in Inner Asia
In Inner Asia, the nomads were organized hierarchically in lineages, clans and tribes defined by descent, real or fictive, from a common patrilineal ancestor. Although sharing a common name, territory, culture, language and political interests, tribes were fractious and prone to internal power struggles. The indigenous terminology for these entities was fluid and as a consequence often appears less than precise in the Arabic, Persian and even native sources that describe them. Expanding clans could become tribe-like in power and authority. Tribes often formed loose, polyethnic unions, potential states depending on their response to interaction with neighbouring sedentary states.
In nomad-based empires, the ruling clan, having achieved power by conquest, exercised a collective sovereignty over the realm. This gave rise to a succession system based on tanistry, which produced frequent throne struggles as any member of the ever-growing imperial house could claim supreme power. Attempts to regulate the ever-present possibility of internecine strife by establishing systems based on variants of collateral fraternal succession ultimately failed. Among some peoples, electoral councils (e.g. Mongol quriltais) confirmed power. Within the ruling clan, favour was usually given to princes born of noble mothers.