The whole world knows about the runes used by the ancient Germanic tribes. This system of writing originated in Europe in the 1st and 2nd centuries AD and existed until the 15th century in Scandinavia. The term "rune" comes from the Old German word run. It is also related to the Gothic word runa, which means "secret". Originally, the word run meant something secret, hidden, passed in a whisper. The original meaning of this word tells us about the function of the Germanic system of writing. Initially, it was an esoteric system used only by the initiated ones.
The word "runes" is also applied to various similar though unrelated writing systems. Most often this word is used in relation to the Old Turkic writings. This system was used as an official writing system from the 7th to the 12th centuries AD in such medieval states as the Eastern Turkic Khaganate, the Uyghur Khaganate, and in the state of the Yenissei Kyrgyz.
The ancient Turkic runic writings were discovered in 1721 by a German scholar D.H. Messerschmidt. He was sent by Peter the Great to research Siberia. In Khakassia, he found a stele with an unfamiliar inscription which resembled Germanic runes. Up until 1891 nobody knew what tribes wrote this inscription. The Turkic runic alphabet was deciphered by the Danish scholar Thomsen, and Russian scholar Radloff thanks to a discovery of bilingual inscriptions in the Orkhon valley in Mongolia. Thomsen was the first scholar to decipher the signs of the Old Turkic runic alphabet. He sent his data to Radloff. The first word Thomsen was able to read was (Täŋri), a Turkic word for God or Heaven. After that Thomsen was able to decipher a few more words, and soon he was translating the entire sentences. Radloff was the first scholar who translated an entire text, the inscription devoted to Kül Tegin. This is how the world found out that the ancient Turks had their own developed alphabet. Later on, Old Turkic inscriptions were found on rocks, on burial monuments, on statutes, coins, dishes, and weapons.
The Orkhon Turkic alphabet had 37 characters. All in all, there are more than 50 runic signs used for writing Old Turkic, depending on different regions and different times. The characters were written from bottom to top, or from right to left. Every sign was carved separately, without being connected to the next one. This alphabet had vowels, but they were not always written. The vowels "a" and "ӓ" were never written in the beginning of a word, though other vowels were written in this position. Sometimes vowels in the middle of a word were omitted.
The Turkic runic writings of the 7th to 12th centuries have a very important linguistic and historical value for the cultural heritage of the Turkic world. Hundreds of inscriptions were discovered in Mongolia, throughout all of Southern Siberia, in China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, near the Aral Sea, and in Eastern Europe. The world famous Orkhon inscriptions in Mongolia have been studied the best, as well as the Yenissei runic writing in Tuva and Khakassia (in Southern Siberia). The Orkhon inscriptions were devoted to great ancient Turkic rulers of the Eastern Turkic Khaganate, Bilge Khagan, Kül Tegin, and Tonyukuk. Farther to the west, in the steppes of Eurasia all the way to Hungary, hundreds further inscriptions were found. These inscriptions were made in a similar style, but they are still to be deciphered. There is a huge interest toward so-called Khazar and Bulgar runic inscriptions which were written on city walls and on coins of the Khazar Empire. Similar inscriptions were discovered on the ruins of the town of Khumara, in the upper reaches of the Kuban River in the mountains of Karachay, and on the ruins of Mayatsk on the Don. These inscriptions represent another runic tradition called the Western, or the Don-Kuban system.