GOLDEN HORDE, name given to the Mongol Khanate ruled by the descendants of Joči (Juji; d. 624/1226-27), the eldest son of Čengiz (Genghis) Khan (q.v.). Its core was the steppelands north of the Black Sea and the Caspian conquered in 1236-40 by an army under Joči’s son Batu (Bātu), who ranks as its first khan and whose descendants reigned until about 1360; Batu’s older brother Orda (Urda) reigned over the territories of the so-called White Horde to the north-east. Possession of the wealthy and cosmopolitan region of Ḵᵛārazm brought the Golden Horde khans and their nomadic subjects, who were mainly Qepčaqs (Qepčāq), increasingly under Muslim cultural influences. Batu’s brother and succesor, Berke (Berkāy; 1257-1267), was a Muslim, as were all the khans from Özbeg (1312-1341) onwards. The administrative center of the Khanate was Sarai (from Pers. sarāy “palace”), the city built by Batu on the lower Volga; another city, New Sarai (Sarā-ye jadid, sometimes misleadingly called Sarā-ye baraka), was founded by Özbeg.
For purpose of this article, the most important aspect of the history of the Golden Horde is its wars from about 1261 onwards against the Il-khans. Jochid forces were encamped in northern Persia and in present-day Afghanistan prior to the great expedition of Hülegü (Hulāgu, q.v.), in which Jochid princes and their contingents also participated. When he established himmself as ruler of Persia, Hülegü executed these princes and slaughtered their troops (Rašid-al-Din, Baku, III, pp. 77, 86-88). The survivors either took refuge in the Mamluk empire or fled east to join the Jochid general Negüder (Negudar), who was operating in present-day Afghanistan and the Indian borderlands, and became known as the Negüderis (Neguderiān) or Qarāʾunās (Aubin, 1969). Hülegü was thereby able to appropriate lands south of the Caucasus (Arrān, Azerbaijan, and Hamadān), which the Golden Horde claimed on the grounds of Čengiz Khan’s division of territory among his sons (ʿOmari, p. 15; Tāriḵ-e Waṣṣāf, pp. 50, 398). It has been suggested that these territories were more important to the Golden Horde than were the tributary Russian lands (Halperin, 1983).
Despite launching a series of invasions south of the Caucasus (1261-63, 1265, 1266-67, 1279-80, 1288, 1290, 1301, 1319, 1335-36), the khans of the Golden Horde failed to make any real headway against the Il-khans for almost a century. The main significance of the conflict was that it helped to tie down Ilkhanid troops in the region and contributed to the encirclement of Mongol Persia, as from 1262-63 the Golden Horde was allied with the Mamluk sultans of Egypt, who were of Qepčaq origin and therefore of the same stock as the khans’ own subjects. The threat of joint action, never great, receded after the conclusion of peace between the Mamluks and Abu Saʿid (q.v.) in 1320-23. Taking advantage of the disintegration of the Ilkhanate after Abu Saʿid’s death, the khan Janibeg (Jāni Bēg, 1342-1358) invaded and occupied Azerbaijan, putting to death its Chobanid (q.v.) ruler, Malek Ašraf (1357). But his son and successor Berdibeg (Berdi Bēg) withdrew to Sarai and was murdered in 1359. Batu’s line shortly became extinct, and the Golden Horde slid into a lengthy civil war in which rival khans competed for the throne. In about 1378 the khan Toqtamiš (Toqtameš), aided by Timur (Temür, Tamerlane), united the Golden Horde and the White Horde. But in resentment at Timur’s annexation of Ḵᵛārazm he quarrelled with his benefactor and invaded Azerbaijan (1386). Timur’s invasion of the Qepčaq steppe put an end to incursions by the Golden Horde into Persia, and in the 15th century the Golden Horde dissolved into a number of smaller states.
Thomas T. Allsen, “The Princes of the Left Hand: An Introduction to the History of the ulus of Orda in the Thirteenth and Early Fourteenth Centuries,” Archivum Eurasiae Medii Aevi 5, 1985 , pp. 5-40.
David Ayalon, “The Wafidiya in the Mamluk Kingdom,” Islamic Culture 25, 1951, pp. 81-104.
Jean Aubin, “L’ethnogénèse des Qaraunas,” Turcica 1, 1969, pp. 65-94.
W. [Vasili V.] Barthold-[John Andrew Boyle], “Batu,” EI2 I, pp. 1105-106.
Vadim Leonidovich Egorov, Istoricheskaya geografiya Zolotoĭ Ordy v XIII-XIV vv. (Historical geography of the Golden Horde in the 13th-14th cents.), Moscow, 1985.
German Alekseevich Fedorov-Davydov, Obshchestvennyĭ stroĭ Zolotoĭ Ordy (The social structure of the Golden Horde), Moscow, 1973.
Charles J. Halperin, “Russia in the Mongol Empire in Comparative Perspective,” HJAS 43, 1983, pp. 239-61.
Peter Jackson, “The Dissolution of the Mongol Empire,” Central Asiatic Journal 22, 1978, pp. 186-244.
Ebn Fażl-Allāh ʿOmari, Masālek al-abṣār fi mamalek al-amṣār, partial ed. and tr. Klaus Lech as Das mongolische Weltreich, Wiesbaden, 1968.
Bertold Spuler, “Batuʾids” in EI2 I, pp. 1106-108.
Idem, Mongolen4, index. Idem, Die goldene Horde: Die Mongolen in Russland 1223-1502, 2nd ed., Wiesbaden, 1965.
Vladimir Gustovovich Tizengauzen (von Tiesenhausen), ed., Sbornik materialov otnosyashchikhsya k istorii Zolotoĭ Ordy (Collected materials on the history of the Golden Horde) I, St. Petersburg, 1884 (Arabic sources); II, Moscow and Leningrad, 1941 (Persian sources).
Salikh Zakirov, Diplomaticheskie otnosheniia Zolotoĭ Ordy s Egiptom XIII-XIV vv. (Diplomatic relations of the Golden Horde with Egypt 13th-14th cents.), Moscow, 1966.
Originally Published: December 15, 2001
Last Updated: February 14, 2012
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Vol. XI, Fasc. 1, pp. 75-76