GOLDEN HORDE. Russian name for the Mongol domains of Russia and neighboring areas. The name derives from a nickname for the palace tent (Middle Mongolian hordo) of the Golden Horde ruler.
The Golden Horde, founded by CHINGGIS KHAN’s eldest son, Jochi, unified for the first time the lands around the Kazakh, Caspian, and Black Sea steppes. Successors to the Golden Horde ruled under Russian sovereignty into the 20th century. The name Golden Horde derives from the gold-hung palace-tent (horda or ORDO) at which ÖZBEG KHAN (1313-41) received visitors. When Russian chronicles mentioned “going to the Horde,” horde was being used in its proper sense of a nomadic palace, not the later European sense of a mass of people. As the realm disintegrated, the chroniclers referred to other ordos at the center of splinter regimes: the BLUE HORDE, the Volga Horde, the Great Horde, and so on. Implicitly, the palace-tent stood for the people gathered around their ruler. Not until the 16th century, however, did Russian chroniclers begin explicitly using Golden Horde to designate this Mongol successor state. Persian sources of the 13th and 14th centuries, undoubtedly reflecting Mongol usage, spoke either geographically of the Dasht-i Qifchaq, “Qipchaq Steppe” or dynastically of the “ulus (realm) of JOCHI,” Chinggis Khan’s eldest son and ancestor of its khans.
The Golden Horde army was the largest of the three western khanates but neither as battle worthy nor as well equipped as those of the CHAGHATAY KHANATE and the Il- Khanate. During the 1357 invasion of Azerbaijan, the conventional wisdom said the Horde’s vast army was “horsemen without weapons.” The bulk of the army must have been Mongol clans and their native Turkish subjects. Still, Rashid-ud-Din speaks of Russians, Hungarians, and Circassians being brought into both right- and left-hand armies, and they do figure occasionally in battle accounts. In 1277 the Russian prince of Rostov won distinction in the siege of an Ossetian fortress.
In 1269 the Golden Horde khan Mengü-Temür had fashioned a grand alliance of the Golden Horde, Qaidu, and the Chaghatay Khanate. By this alliance the perpetually aggressive Chaghatayids were directed south against the Il-Khans and east against QUBILAI KHAN’s Yuan dynasty. Unfortunately, Baraq’s 1270 invasion of Iran failed. In the east, however, there was unexpected success. In 1277 dissident princes rebelling against Qubilai Khan captured Qubilai’s son Nomuqan (d. 1301) and handed him over to Qaidu, who sent him on to Mengü-Temür. The Golden Horde had never had much quarrel with Qubilai Khan, and Mengü-Temür’s mother-in-law, Kelmish Aqa, was actually Qubilai’s niece. She ensured that Nomuqan was treated well and tried to have him returned.
After becoming khan Mengü-Temür’s brother Töde- Mengü (Töde-Möngke, 1280-87) converted to Islam and began neglecting state affairs for Sufi gatherings. As a result, collateral Jochid princes Q’onichi of the left hand and NOQAI (d. 1299) west of the Dnieper became effectively co-khans. In 1283-84 the three sent Nomuqan back as a gesture of peace to Qubilai Khan, yet in the Russian lands Töde-Mengü and Noqai could not agree on whom to appoint grand prince, sparking a decade-long conflict. In 1287 four of his nephews overthrew Töde- Mengü, calling him insane. The four nephews nominated their eldest, Töle-Bugha (1287-91), khan and ruled collectively, yet dissension increased. When Töle-Bugha reopened war against the Il-Khanate in 1288 and 1290, Noqai, by contrast, sent peace envoys to the Il-Khan. In 1291 one of the nephews, Toqto’a, Mengü-Temür’s fifth son, fell out with his brothers and fled to Noqai, who helped him seize the throne.
Noqai himself remained in his territory, and Toqto’a Khan’s (1291-1312) chief adviser became Salji’udai (d. 1301-02) of the Qonggirad, who was not only Toqto’a’s father-in-law but his grandmother Kelmish’s husband as well. A personal quarrel embittered Noqai’s relations with Salji’udai, and by 1296 Noqai was seeking alliance with the Il-Khans against Toqto’a. Finally, in 1299 Toqto’a defeated Noqai, reunifying the princes of the right hand. Meanwhile, Qaidu tried to restore his declining influence in the Horde by sponsoring his own candidate in a civil war against Qonichi’s successor, Bayan (fl. 1299-1304). Toqto’a abandoned Noqai’s aggressive policy in the Balkans, and after Qaidu’s death in 1301 he strongly supported the Mongol states’ general peace of 1304, sending two tümens to buttress the Yuan frontier. Around 1310 Toqto’a reunified the Horde’s coinage, closing down mints outside Saray.
Despite Toqto’a’s successes, his policies were largely reversed after this death. During the interregnum after his death in 1312 his nephew Özbeg marched from Khorazm and seized the throne. After his election Özbeg Islamized his titulature, taking the throne as Sultan Muhammad Özbeg and proscribing Buddhism among the Mongol elite. He thus reversed the spread of Yuan culture that had flourished under Toqto’a. The policy of Islamization was not applied, however, to non-Mongols. Özbeg also reversed Toqto’a’s peaceful foreign policy, menacing the young Il-Khan, Sultan Abu-Sa`id (1317-35), in 1318-19, 1324-25, and in 1335, but without success. Despite Egypt’s 1323 peace treaty with the Il-Khans, Özbeg also revived Noqai’s Balkan ambitions. In Özbeg’s time the left-hand princes recovered control of the Syr Dar’ya valley while also adopting Islam. Yuan envoys seem to have backed a rival candidate after Toqto’a’s death, but in 1326 Özbeg reopened friendly relations with the Yuan. From 1339 on Özbeg and his successors received annually 24,000 ding in Yuan paper currency from their Chinese appanages.
The Golden Horde played a formative role in the state formation and ethnogenesis of all the Turkic peoples of the Inner Asian steppe. The Crimean and Volga Tatars, while actually in dynastic and clan affiliation of Blue Horde origin, inherited what was left of the Golden Horde cities. Their very name, from the Russian term for the Mongols, marks them as, in Russian eyes, the descendants of the feared and reviled “lawless Tatars.” Debates among both peoples continue on whether they are the inheritors of the Golden Horde, as opposed to the classical civilizations of Crimea or early medieval Bulghar. In any case, the Golden Horde played an indisputable role in Islamizing Crimea and in forming the modern Volga Tatar language.
The Kazakh, Uzbek, Karakalpak, Nogay, and Bashkir (Bashkurt) all share a background in the early 15th-century Manghit and Blue Horde confederations, a background reflected in common CLAN NAMES and a common folklore. Until 1919, for example, the leaders of the liberal nationalist Alash-Orda Party in Kazakhstan proudly traced their descent either to Chinggis or to the Arghun clan of the Blue Horde. The Islamization of the steppe and the Turkicization of the Bashkirs were powerfully promoted by the prior Islamization and Turkicization of the Golden Horde’s Mongol elite. While the centralization and urbanization of the Golden Horde was a comparatively short-lived episode in premodern steppe history, it left a legacy of literacy, money economy, and larger political ambitions that did not wholly disappear in the crisis of the 14th and 15th centuries.