Luftwaffe Torpedo Bombers

Deployment of Convoy PQ18

Despite howls of Soviet protest, British strength was required elsewhere for Operation Pedestal within the Mediterranean. Following the catastrophe of PQ17, the Royal Navy was determined that PQ18 would not sail until much greater escort strength could be provided. It would be September before the convoy finally departed for Russia.

On 2 September PQ18 departed Loch Ewe, Scotland. Comprised of forty merchant ships (twenty American, eleven British, six Soviet and three Panamanian) a heavy escort was laid on which included an aircraft carrier for the first time: HMS Avenger carrying ten Hurricane fighters and three Swordfish torpedo bombers. A combined Royal Air Force and Royal Australian Air Force task force of Hampden torpedo bombers, Catalina and Spitfire reconnaissance aircraft had also transferred to Vaenga airbase near Murmansk for potential operations against Tirpitz should she put to sea.

U-boat missions against PQ18 were planned, code-named Operation Eispalast. The outgoing QP14 was included, but deemed of secondary importance. Once again, large surface ships were readied for potential use against the convoy, although, as always, Hitler’s strict criteria would be used to determine their activation. They moved north to Altafjord on 10 September – Admiral Scheer narrowly missed by four torpedoes from HMS Tigris while in transit – and remained ready for sailing orders that never came. Hitler’s paranoia of losing his large ships rendered them once again useless.

Meanwhile PQ18 was detected briefly by Luftwaffe reconnaissance on 8 September. Oesten brought together a new U-boat group: Trägertod (Carrier killer). By 10 September U88, U403 and U405 were en route from the Spitsbergen and Bear Island area to a patrol line further west; U589, U377, U408 and U592 raced to join them. Additionally, U435 and U457 were scheduled operational by 12 September at Narvik, and U378 at Trondheim: and all would sail. U703 was refuelling at Harstadt, bringing the group number to eleven. Four others were earmarked for operations against QP14 following refuelling at Kirkenes: U255, U601, U456 and U251. At 1.20 p.m. on 12 September, Luftwaffe aircraft sighted PQ18 again, U405 making contact soon after and staying on station as beacon boat. The U-boats gathered, one of the next boats to begin shadowing was Kaptlt Bohmann’s U88; Bohmann was himself detected ahead of the convoy by HMS Faulknor of the ‘fighting escort’ – U88 accurately depth charged and sunk with all forty-six crewmen aboard.

The escorts and Avenger’s aircraft were kept busy attempting to force shadowing boats away from PQ18. However, at 9.52 a.m. on 13 September, Kaptlt Reinhard von Hymmen made the first torpedo hit on PQ18 when 3,559-ton Soviet steamer Stalingrad was sunk with one of three torpedoes, the ship going under in less than four minutes laden with ammunition, aircraft and tanks. Twenty-one of the eighty-seven crew were killed and the master, A. Sakharov, was last to leave the sinking ship, spending forty minutes in the water before being rescued and going on to act as pilot for the convoy. Von Hymmen had missed Stalingrad with two of his three torpedoes, but one had passed by the Soviet ship and hit 7,191-ton American Liberty Ship Oliver Ellsworth, the steamer executing a hard left turn to avoid the crippled Russian. The American ship was abandoned even before it had ceased moving, three of four lifeboats swamping and throwing their occupants into the water, though all except one US Navy armed guard were rescued. The wreck was finally sunk by shells from escorting ASW trawler HMT St Kenan.

At almost the same time as Von Hymmen, Kaptlt Hans-Joachim Horrer fired two torpedoes toward HMS Avenger from U589 claiming to have scored at least one hit, although his shots missed. It may have been the detonations from U408’s attack that were heard through the freezing water aboard the submerged boat. That same day Horrer pulled four Luftwaffe airmen from their escape dinghy after their aircraft had been shot down during He111 torpedo bomber attacks that destroyed eight ships for the loss of the same number of aircraft. The airmen did not have long to enjoy their good fortune as the following day U589 was sighted by one of Avenger’s Swordfish. Though the biplane was chased away by a Luftwaffe Bv138 flying boat, the sighting brought destroyer HMS Onslow to the scene, catching U589 on the surface. Crash-diving, U589 was depth charged relentlessly by the destroyer until fuel oil, green vegetables and pieces of U-boat casing floated to the surface marking the grave of all forty-four crew and their four Luftwaffe passengers.

That same day there remained only one other confirmed sinking from PQ18. At 4 a.m., Brandenburg’s U457 hit 8,939-ton motor tanker Atheltemplar whose cargo of 9,400 tons of Admiralty fuel oil immediately began to burn. The crew abandoned ship south-west of Bear Island while minesweeper HMS Harrier attempted to scuttle the burning ship with gunfire, the attempt failing and the ship was left burning fiercely, later found by U408 after she had capsized – the hulk sent to the bottom with gunfire. Brandenburg claimed another 4,000-ton steamer sunk and two hits on a Javelin-class destroyer, but in this he was mistaken. Korvettenkapitän Rolf-Heinrich Hopman later claimed another destroyer hit on 16 September after a torpedo from U405 was heard to detonate after a run of over seven minutes. This too remains unsubstantiated, although the Allies definitely found Brandenburg’s U457 at 3 a.m. on that day. The U-boat was diving through the port bow escort screen when spotted: depth charges from HMS Impulsive destroying the boat along with all forty-five hands as oil, wreckage, paper and a black leather glove floated to the surface to mark the spot. The British illuminated the scene with a calcium flare before one further depth charge set to explode at 500ft was dropped to ensure the boat was sunk.

Elsewhere QP14 came under successful U-boat attack. Seventeen merchant ships, under heavy escort, were attacked by a total of seven U-boats that sank six ships. Strelow’s U435 sank minesweeper HMS Leda and three merchant ships: 5,345-ton American freighter Bellingham; 7,174-ton British steamer Ocean Voice; and 3,313-ton British freighter Grey Ranger during a single devastating assault on 22 September. Reche’s U255 sank 4,937-ton American PQ17 survivor Silver Sword while the destroyer HMS Somali was badly damaged by Kaptlt Bielfeld’s U703 and later sank in gale force winds while under tow.

PQ18 was judged a relative success by the Allies. Although thirteen ships in total had been lost, twenty-eight had arrived safely in the Soviet Union. Furthermore, three U-boats and forty Luftwaffe aircraft – including many skilled veterans of maritime operations – had been destroyed; the Luftwaffe were never again able to mount such strong attacks on the Russian convoys, as aircraft were gradually transferred south to the Mediterranean. The severe losses accrued by both PQ17 and PQ18 combined, coupled with demands elsewhere for Allied naval craft such as supporting Operation Torch, led to the suspension of the Arctic convoys until December 1942. Instead, independently sailing merchantmen would be despatched in what was known as Operation FB.

Between 29 October and 2 November, thirteen ships sailed at approximately twelve-hour intervals from Scotland to Murmansk. Although unescorted, there were ASW trawlers stationed at intervals along the route and local escorts available from Murmansk. From the ships that sailed, three were forced to abort their voyages and five were sunk, the remaining five reaching the Soviet Union. On 2 November ObltzS Dietrich von der Esch in U586 had already been at sea for three weeks, sailing in bad weather and suffering mechanical problems with the boat’s exhaust valves. An initial order to reconnoitre Jan Mayen was carried out before the U-boat sighted Operation FB ship Empire Gilbert and began a two-hour chase. The 6,640-ton steamer was missed by an initial double torpedo shot but hit on the port side by a second pair of torpedoes at 1.18 a.m.. The ship sank rapidly and when U586 reached the scene she was gone. The Germans pulled deck boy Ralph Urwin and gunner Arthur Hopkins aboard U586 from a floating beam, the pair barely able to move after submersion in the freezing water, and next attempted to question six survivors found aboard a raft but received no answer. Taking one more man, gunner Douglas Meadows, prisoner aboard the U-boat, U586 left the scene and later landed the three survivors at Skjomenfjord. The other sixty-four men were never seen again.

Two days later unescorted Liberty Ship William Clark was hit by a torpedo in the engine room from Kaptlt Karl-Heinz Herbschleb’s U354. A coup-de-grâce torpedo broke the ship in two and sent her to the bottom, 31 of the 71 crew either killed in the sinking or lost at sea as their lifeboats drifted away.

The final ‘FB’ ships sunk by U-boat were both destroyed by ObltzS Hans Benker’s U625 engaged upon its maiden war patrol. The 5,445-ton British steamer Chulmleigh had been bombed by Ju88 aircraft and beached on Spitsbergen’s South Cape when Benker torpedoed the stranded wreck and finished it off with gunfire on 6 November. That night he sighted 7,455-ton British Empire Sky and hit her with two torpedoes. As the steamer settled into the water a coup de grâce ignited its ammunition cargo and she exploded, flinging debris over a wide area, one piece weighing a kilogram clattering down the conning tower hatch into the U-boat’s control room. All sixty men aboard the shattered freighter were lost.

Artwork by Simon Parry.

PQ18 – The First Air Support for the Convoys

PQ17’s fate could not be ignored. It was necessary to maintain the link between the Western Allies and the beleaguered Soviet Union. Four British destroyers were despatched to Archangel loaded with ammunition and replacement anti-aircraft gun barrels, as well as interpreters in an attempt to improve liaison with the Russians. The ships arrived on 24 July 1942. On 13 August the American cruiser USS Tuscaloosa sailed for Russia, escorted by a British destroyer and two American destroyers, carrying RAF ground crew and equipment as well as aircraft spares for two squadrons of Handley Page Hampden bombers destined to be based in northern Russia, as would be photo-reconnaissance Supermarine Spitfires and a squadron of RAF Coastal Command Consolidated Catalina flying boats. Also included in the cargo carried by these warships was a demountable medical centre with medical supplies, but while the Soviets took the medical supplies, they rejected the hospital that would have done so much to improve the lot of Allied seamen in need of medical attention on reaching a Russian port.

Survivors from PQ17 were brought home to the UK aboard the three American ships plus three British destroyers. Ultra intelligence led the three British destroyers to Bear Island where they discovered the German minelayer Ulm, and while two of the destroyers shelled the ship, the third, Onslaught, fired three torpedoes with the third penetrating the magazine, which exploded. Despite the massive explosion, the commanding officer and fifty-nine of the ship’s company survived to be taken prisoner.

Less successful were the Hampden bombers. Already obsolescent, several were shot down on their way to Russia by the Germans and, perhaps due to mistaken identity, by the Russians, who may have confused the aircraft with the Dornier Do 17. Unfortunately, one of those shot down by the Germans crashed in Norway and contained details of the defence of the next pair of convoys, PQ18 and the returning QP14. QP14 was to be the target for the Admiral Scheer, together with the cruisers Admiral Hipper and Köln and a supporting screen of destroyers. This surface force moved to the Altenfjord on 1 September.

PQ18 was the first Arctic convoy to have an escort carrier, the American-built Avenger. The ship had three radar-equipped Swordfish from No. 825 NAS for anti-submarine duties, as well as six Hawker Sea Hurricanes, with another six dismantled and stowed beneath the hangar deck in a hold, for fighter defence. These aircraft were drawn from 802 and 883 Squadrons. Another Sea Hurricane was aboard the CAM ship Empire Morn. Other ships in the convoy escort included the cruiser Scylla, 2 destroyers, 2 anti-aircraft ships converted from merchant vessels, 4 corvettes, 4 anti-submarine trawlers, 3 minesweepers and 2 submarines. There was a rescue ship so that the warships did not have to risk stopping to pick up survivors, and three minesweepers being delivered to the Soviet Union also took on this role.

The convoy had gained an escort carrier but the Home Fleet, which usually provided the distant escort – a much heavier force than that providing the close escort – had lost its fast armoured fleet carrier, Victorious , damaged while escorting the convoy Operation PEDESTAL to Malta and being refitted as a result. Also missing were the American ships, transferred to the Pacific. The C-in-C, Home Fleet, Admiral Sir John Tovey, also made other changes. This time he would remain aboard his flagship, the battleship King George V , at Scapa Flow where he would have constant telephone communication with the Admiralty, while his deputy, Vice Admiral Sir Bruce Fraser, went to sea in the battleship Anson . Both PQ18 and QP14 had a strong destroyer escort with the freedom of action to leave the close escort to the corvettes, armed trawlers, AA ships and minesweepers if the situation warranted it. To save fuel, the officer in command of the destroyers, Rear Admiral Robert Burnett aboard the light cruiser Scylla, ordered that no U-boat hunt was to exceed ninety minutes.

In addition, the convoy would have the support of Force Q and Force P, both comprising two fleet oilers, or tankers, and escorting destroyers, which were deployed ahead of the convoy to Spitzbergen, Norwegian territory not taken by the Germans but that had Russians ashore working on a mining concession dating from Tsarist times. A re-supply operation for the garrison in Spitzbergen was linked with Force P and Force Q.

Iceland was the main rendezvous, but getting there was difficult despite it being summer. Seas were so rough that a Sea Hurricane was swept off Avenger ’s deck, and the steel ropes securing aircraft in the hangars failed to stop them breaking loose and crashing into one another or the sides of the hangar. Fused 500lb bombs stored in the hangar lift-well broke loose and had to be captured by laying down duffel coats with rope ties, which were secured as soon as a bomb rolled onto one of the coats. Fuel contamination with sea water meant that the carrier suffered engine problems. It also seems that remote Iceland was not remote enough, or safe enough, for the carrier was discovered and bombed by a Focke-Wulf Fw 200 Condor long-range maritime-reconnaissance aircraft that dropped a stick of bombs close to Avenger but without causing any damage.

The engine problems meant that the convoy, already spotted by a U-boat while en passage to Iceland from Scotland, had to sail without the carrier and, on 8 September, the convoy was discovered by another Condor. Low cloud then protected the convoy from German aircraft until 12 September when a Blohm und Voss BV 138 flying boat dropped through the clouds. By this time, Avenger had caught up with the convoy and was able to launch a flight of four Sea Hurricanes, but not in time to catch the German aircraft before it disappeared.

Swordfish were extremely vulnerable on the Arctic convoys which, unlike those across the Atlantic, also had to face German fighters. As a result, the fighters from Avenger not only had to protect the ships in the convoy from aerial attack, they had to protect the Swordfish as well. At 0400 on 9 September, the Sea Hurricanes were scrambled after Swordfish on anti-submarine patrols were discovered by a BV 138 flying boat and a Junkers Ju 88 reconnaissance aircraft, but both disappeared into the clouds before the Hurricanes could catch them. Another Swordfish patrol discovered that the BV 138s were laying mines ahead of the convoy.

PQ18 was repeatedly attacked from the air, which meant that the ships had to make mass turns and put up heavy anti-aircraft fire, all of which made life for the returning Swordfish crews very interesting as aircraft recognition was not as good as it could be and the single-engined biplane Swordfish were often mistaken for twin-engined monoplane Ju 88s. Ditching in the sea was never something to be considered lightly but in Arctic waters, even in summer, survival time could be very short indeed.

The Sea Hurricanes attempted to keep a constant air patrol over the convoy with each aircraft spending twenty-five minutes in the air before landing to refuel, but with just six operational aircraft, keeping a constant watch over the Swordfish as well as the convoy was impossible.

On 14 September, the first Swordfish of the day found U-589 on the surface, but she dived leaving the Swordfish to mark the spot with a smoke flare. Once the aircraft had gone, the submarine surfaced and continued charging her batteries, but alerted by the Swordfish the destroyer Onslow raced to the scene. Once again U-589 dived, but the destroyer attacked with depth-charges and destroyed her. As a result the Germans, so far not accustomed to a convoy having its own air cover and aerial reconnaissance, were forced to change their tactics. Reconnaissance BV 138s and Ju 88s were sent to intimidate the Swordfish, forcing them back over the convoy until the Germans were so close to the ships that they were driven off by AA fire. The Swordfish would then venture out, only to be driven back again.

Later that day, another attack by Ju 88s was detected by the duty Swordfish. This time, Avenger herself was the target. Her maximum speed was just 17 knots, much slower than an ordinary aircraft carrier, but fortunately the Sea Hurricanes broke up the attack and no ships from the convoy were lost, while most of the eleven Ju 88s shot down had succumbed to anti-aircraft fire. Further attacks followed that day, again without any losses to the convoy, although another German aircraft was shot down. In a final attack, three of the four patrolling Hurricanes were shot down by friendly fire from the convoy’s ships but all three pilots were saved. In this last attack of the day, Avenger ’s commanding officer Commander Colthurst successfully combed torpedoes dropped by the Germans. A bomb dropped by a Ju 88 pilot, who flew exceptionally low to make sure he did not miss the target, hit the ammunition ship Mary Luckenbach, which blew up, taking her attacker with her. The sole survivor from the ship was a steward who had been taking the master a cup of coffee, was blown off the upper deck by the explosion and found himself in the sea half a mile down the convoy.

Not all rescues were left to the rescue ships. At the height of the battle for PQ18, the destroyer Offa saw a cargo ship, the Macbeth, hit by two torpedoes and beginning to sink with her cargo of tanks and other war matériel. Offa ’s commanding officer, Lieutenant Commander Alastair Ewing, took his ship alongside Macbeth and, at the cost of some guard rails and stanchions, took off all her ship’s company before she sank. One Sea Hurricane pilot had been very lucky to be snatched out of the sea within minutes of baling out by the destroyer Wheatland which was acting as close escort for Avenger , her role also being what became known as a ‘plane guard’, fishing unfortunate naval aviators out of the sea.

The next day, the remaining Sea Hurricanes and the Swordfish were again in the air, with the former breaking up further attacks. It was not until 16 September that the Swordfish were relieved of their patrolling by shore-based RAF Consolidated Catalina flying boats of No. 210 Squadron operating from Russia. However, the break was short-lived. Later that day the convoy passed the homeward convoy QP14 with the survivors of the ill-fated PQ17 and Avenger, with her aircraft and some of the other escorts transferred to this convoy. The interval had been used by the ship’s air engineering team to assemble five Sea Hurricanes, more than replacing the four lost on the outward voyage. In all, the Sea Hurricanes had accounted for a total of 5 enemy aircraft and damaged 17 others out of a total of 44 shot down. It was fortunate that the three Fairey Swordfish remained serviceable as no replacement aircraft were carried.

During the convoy, Avenger ’s commanding officer had changed the operational pattern for the Sea Hurricanes in order to get the maximum benefit from his small force, having a single aircraft in the air most of the time rather than having all of his aircraft, or none of them, airborne at once.

Once the Sea Hurricane flight had been so depleted, it fell to the CAM ship Empire Morn to launch her Hurricane, flown by Flying Officer Burr of the RAF. The launch was accompanied by friendly fire from other ships in the convoy until he was finally out of range. Despite problems with the barrage balloons flown by some of the merchantmen, he managed to break up a German attack, setting one aircraft on fire. Once out of ammunition, he saved his precious aircraft by flying it to Keg Ostrov airfield near Archangel. As previously mentioned, this ‘one-off’ use of aircraft from the CAM ships was a major drawback as convoy commanders were reluctant to use them in case a more desperate situation emerged later in the convoy’s passage. Cases of CAM ship fighters being saved were very rare.

Clearly, even an escort carrier with a mix of fighters and anti-submarine aircraft was hard-pressed to provide adequate air cover. It is hard to escape the conclusion that two escort carriers would have been needed, or a larger ship such as Nairana or Vindex with up to fourteen Swordfish and six Wildcat fighters, a much better aircraft than the Sea Hurricane. Again, even with these two ships one might suggest that the balance between fighters and anti-submarine aircraft was wrong for an Arctic convoy.

Inevitably, as the convoy approached its destination there was no sign of the promised Red Air Force air cover. This was typical of the experiences of those on the convoys to Russia, with neither Russia’s air forces nor her navy providing any support. Indeed, apart from some coastal bombardment as the Red armies swept westwards, the main achievement of the Russian navy was for its submarines to sink the merchantmen carrying German refugees away from the Russians and one of these attacks resulted in the greatest recorded loss of life at sea as the Germans struggled to evacuate more than 1.5 million civilians.

There were many more convoys to Russia still to come at this stage, but PQ17 and PQ18 were two of the most famous. The convoys were a demanding operation for both the Royal Navy and the Merchant Navy, one that Stalin never recognized and there was no Soviet contribution to the escorts. The convoys continued, despite German attacks and the weather, until the war’s end, with the exception of the period immediately before, during and after the Normandy landings when a massive effort was required that demanded the escorts and especially the larger ships. That finally gave Stalin the only battlefront that he would recognize as being a ‘second front’.

Hungarian Airforce WWII

On September 1, 1938, the Magyar Kirdlyi Honved Legiero, or Magyar Legiero, the Royal Hungarian Air Force, unfurled its red-white-green chevron insignia for the first time. Its crews did not have to wait very long for their baptism of fire, however. The following March, they flew cover for Hungarian troops occupying Ruthenia, formerly part of eastern Czechoslovakia, where clashes with elements of the Slovenske vzdusne zbrane, the Slovak Air Force, took place. Although the Slovaks’ Avia B.534 biplane was equal to Fiat CR.32s operated by the Magyar Legiero, Hungarian pilots benefited from superior training, shooting down 10 SVZ aircraft at no loss to themselves in what they referred to as the eight-day-long Kis haboru, or “Little War:”

By then, a much larger European conflagration seemed imminent, and Horthy ordered a radical strengthening of his entire armed forces. Impressed by close cooperation exhibited between the German Army and Luftwaffe in their Blitzkrieg conquests of Poland and France, he subordinated the formerly independent Royal Hungarian Air Force to the army high command. Most of the Magyar Legierd’s new aircraft were purchased from Italy. These included 69 Fiat CR.32s, 68 Fiat CR.42s (more antiquated biplanes), and 34 specimens of the Reggiane Re.2000, which Hungarian pilots referred to as the Heja, or “Hawk:” It was a poor copy of the American P-35 produced by the Seversky Aircraft Corporation, structurally deficient and plagued by a temperamental 870-hp Piaggio P.XI RC.40 radial engine.

The Magyar Legiero possessed just 3 examples of the German Heinkel He.112, its only relatively modern fighter, although 34 Junkers Ju86s rejected by the Luftwaffe made up a bomber wing, together with 36 Caproni Bergamaschi Ca.135s more yet substandard Italian aircraft. Hungary’s only indigenous warplanes were the Weiss WM 21 S6lyom and Repiilogepgyar Levente II.

A thoroughly obsolete, open-cockpit biplane design based on that of a 1928 Dutch Fokker, 48 Weiss Falcons equipped Magyar Legiero reconnaissance units, where they were joined by 38 no less doddering, if still rugged German Heinkel He.46 parasol monoplanes and 37 Italian Meridionali Ro.37 Lynxes, which had been already retired from production. These were supplemented by another 13 Luftwaffe castoffs, Heinkel He.111B medium-bombers.

The fragile Repiildgepgyar Levente II was never intended for anything more than the primary training duties for which it had been designed. But the growing exigencies of war on the Eastern Front pressed the spindly little biplane-with its 105-hp Hirth HM 504A-two four cylinder inverted inline piston engine and top speed of 112 mph-into service as a much-needed liaison and communications aircraft. The rest of the Hungarian Air Force was fleshed out by four Savoia-Marchetti SM.75 trimotors used as paratroop transports, plus a variety of German and Italian trainers, which brought Magyar Legiero strength up to 536 aircraft when Horthy permitted German forces to assemble on Hungarian territory for their invasion of Yugoslavia in March 1941.

He belatedly joined the fight on April 11 to recover the Banat and Batschka areas separated from Hungary more than 20 years earlier for the loss of six Fiat fighters and one S6lyom. Two months later, Operation Barbarossa exploded. Hitler had not invited the Hungarians to take part in his crusade against the Soviet Union, because their animosity for his oil-rich Romanian ally jeopardized the campaign. Hungarians themselves went wild for war with the USSR. They regarded the invasion as a historically unique opportunity to simultaneously destroy the Communist colossus towering over their eastern frontier and reclaim all those territories lost after World War I.

Horthy nonetheless hung back, as he had in Yugoslavia, until his hand was forced on June 26, when Red Air Force Tupolev SB-2 bombers struck Kaschau, Muncas, and Raho, towns in northern Hungary, where several dozen civilians were killed and injured. Magyar Legiero retribution was swift and far ahead of the Hungarian army, as a mixed formation of 51 Junkers and Caproni bombers protected by 9 Fiat CR.32s raided Stanislav, Strij, and other targets east of the Carpathian Mountains over the next three days. Seven Tupolevs returned on the 29th to strike the Csap railroad station, but three were shot down by Fiat CR.32s in this first aerial confrontation over Hungary.

By mid-summer, the German Xlth Army laid siege to Nikolayev, a strategic Black Sea port that received supplies across a mile-and-a-quarter-long bridge spanning the Bug River. The vital structure, heavily defended by massed anti-aircraft guns and a squadron of Polykarpov I-16s, was targeted on August 10 by six Hungarian Capronis escorted by as many Fiat CR.32s, plus five Hejas. One of the bombers scored repeated hits on the bridge, which collapsed along its entire length, and additionally claimed an attacking Rata. Although the formation commander’s Ca.135 lost its port engine to ground fire, Senior Lieutenant Istvan Szakonyi’s skilled gunners succeeded in shooting down three enemy interceptors. Another five were destroyed by the Fiats, for the loss of a single Reggiane.

Six days later, Nikolayev fell with the capture of 60,000 Soviet troops, and Luftwaffe Colonel-General Alexander Lohr presented the Hungarian flight crews with their decorations at Sutyska airfield. By the following month, however, after having flown 1,454 sorties, the Magyar Legier6 on the Eastern Front was exhausted and needed to be withdrawn. Most of its equipment was older and patently inferior to enemy aircraft, suffering disproportionate attrition. Thirty Soviet warplanes had been shot down, but the Hungarians lost 56 of their own. The aircrews would not return until July 13, 1942, after extensive training and re-equipping, with the arrival of the 1/1 Fighter Squadron at Ilovskoje airfield outside the Don River. An obvious change was replacement of the old tricolor chevron insignia on wings and fuselage with a white cross in a black square, while vertical stabilizers were covered in red, white, and green bands.

Although their Fiat biplanes had been left at home to more properly serve as trainers, MKHL pilots were still saddled with the disappointing Re.2000. Only a superior maneuverability enabled the Heja to overcome its deficiencies in speed and fire power against better Migs and Lavochkins. The Hungarians got off to a prestigious start on August 4, however, when their first success was achieved by the heir to the throne, now First Lieutenant Istvan Horthy. His Reggiane hit a LaGG-3 that caught fire and disappeared into a cloud. It was not a confirmed “kill;’ but seemed to foreshadow greater things to come. Indeed, that same day, two Polikarpov Ratas were downed by a single Heja pilot.

Over the next several days, misfortune dogged the 1/1 Fighter Squadron. Major Kalman Csukas mistook a German Heinkel bomber for a Russian Petlyakov and shot it down, injuring two crew members, to whom he later made a personal apology. Ongoing mechanical difficulties grounded all but three Reggianes, and one of these was forced to abort its mission shortly after take-off with engine trouble. The other two survived an unsuccessful attack against Soviet bombers. More Re.2000s arrived with 2/1 Fighter Squadron, but their machineguns jammed during another fruitless encounter, and the humiliated commander of the First Air Division admitted he was unable to protect Hungarian ground forces by asking the Germans for help. Mechanics, referred to by their pilots as “the black men” for their dirty job, worked furiously night and day to get six Hejas airborne on August 9.

The two lead pilots breezed passed a formation of Shturmoviks and LaGG-3s, assuming they were Luftwaffe fighters, and the remaining 4 Reggianes were left to confront more than 30 enemy warplanes. Outnumbered, the Hungarians destroyed four of the superior LaGG-3s for a single wounded Heja pilot, who survived by crash-landing behind his own lines.

Thanks to the untiring ministrations of the “black men;’ their Re.2000s were kept flying, mostly on patrols over the Don River, where Red armored vehicles were observed and reported to Wehrmacht headquarters. Luftwaffe dive-bombers obliterated the tanks, while the Hungarians provided cover.

On August 11, 1st Lieutenant Pal Iranyi shot his way out of an ambush by five LaGG-3s, downing one of them and escaping to Ilovskoje. Then, just when Magyar Legiero luck appeared to be changing for the better, Istvan Horthy died at the controls of his aircraft when it stalled and crashed shortly after takeoff on August 18, as he set out with a pair of fellow Hejas assigned to escort a reconnaissance mission. All Hungary went into mourning, and an elaborate state funeral for the royal heir attracted international attention.

Shortly thereafter, pilots of the Magyar Legierd on the Eastern Front began to make a name for themselves as effective hunters of the Red Air Force’s formidable ground-attack plane, the Ilyushin 11-2, by aiming for its vulnerable radiator mounted above the engine. While such an approach promised the best prospects for success, it was the most dangerous, exposing the attacker to concentrated fire from every rear gunner in a formation. An alternative tactic called for closing in on the target from beneath, as the Shturmovik’s oversized radiator was also vulnerable from this angle. Other Hungarian pilots followed the German preference for aiming directly at the enemy pilot during a steep dive.

The skilled Iranyi and his wingman, Sergeant Zoltan Raposa, each brought down a Shturmovik on September 2, when a 20-mm round tore off two fingers on the right hand of Cadet Lajos Molnar, who was flying cover for the attack. But the 11-2 “expert” was 1st Lieutenant Imre Panczel, who knocked out three “Flying Tanks” in the last three days of October. He and Ensign Kovas-Nagy shot down a pair of Ilyushins out of a flight of 22 on the 31st.

Earlier that same month, Panczel revealed himself as one the most aggressive airmen on the Eastern Front, when he and three other Heja pilots intercepted three times as many enemy bombers and fighters targeting the railway line between Podgarnoje and Kemenka. He promptly destroyed three warplanes, plus two more shot down by his comrades, all within 22 minutes, at no loss to themselves. The surviving Soviet pilots aborted their attack and fled back into the East.

In early fall 1942, the overworked, outdated Italian-made machines finally made way for the Magyar Legierd’s first modern aircraft. Goering had been impressed by the Hungarians’ achievements with substandard equipment, and believed they could do better with German aircraft. Accordingly, he replaced the Capronis with a squadron each of 51 Junkers Ju-88 medium-bombers and Junkers Ju-87 dive-bombers. He then ordered the formation of 1 Ungarishe Jabostaffel, the “1st Hungarian Fighter-Bomber Squadron;’ composed entirely of Messerschmitt Me109 F-4/13s, fitted with 550-pound bombs. These Friedrichs initially operated out of Urasovo, blasting Red Army tanks, supply convoys, and trains in the fighting against the Italian 8th Army. In fact, the Hungarians flew a joint mission with Italian and German fighter units hunting enemy armor concealed in forested regions between Buturlinovka and Koslovka on October 29, the 20th anniversary of the March on Rome that brought Benito Mussolini to power in 1922.

Adverse weather grounded most flights throughout the following month and into the first half of next, until the Shturmovik “expert;’ Lieutenant Panczel-now the 1 Ungarishe Jabostafel’s commanding officer single-handedly knocked out a Red Army flak battery, destroyed 17 trucks, and blew up 3 locomotives with cannon shells and bombs during just 4 days in early December. On the morning of the 16th, he shot down two IL-2s and another pair that afternoon to become World War II’s first Hungarian ace. Panczel was prevented from committing further mayhem only by the return of white-out conditions that rendered flying impossible for the rest of 1942.

The year concluded with 140 sorties undertaken by the 1st Hungarian Fighter-Bomber Squadron, mostly against ground targets. So far, remarkably, none of its crews had been lost to the enemy. All that was to change after the New Year, however. As the debacle at Stalingrad reached its climax, air combat intensified, and Imra Panczel, the Hungarians’ own Achilles, fell on January 11, 1943. Three days later, the Squadron’s base at Urasovo stood in the way of a Red Army offensive sweeping all before it. After every airplane that could fly was evacuated to Novy-Oskol, the airfield’s defense consisted only of several 40-mm flak guns, together with various small arms carried by 750 pilots and ground personnel. Lieutenant-Colonel Kalman Csukas ordered all cannons and machineguns stripped from the remaining aircraft and remounted on flatbed trucks or artillery stands to confront whatever was to come.

Not the enemy, but some 3,000 routed German, Italian, and Hungarian troops showed up with more than 800 wounded and frostbitten men on January 17. Their arrival had been preceded by the incessant thunder of heavy artillery growing ever louder in the East. Before nightfall, overcrowded Urasovo was completely surrounded by Soviet forces, and Csukas was ordered by radio to hold them off until outside relief could be dispatched. It appeared during the 19th in the form of the German 26th Westfalen Infantry Division, the rear guard of which broke through to Urasovo and rescued its haggard defenders, who trudged into Novy-Oskol four days later.

The 1 Ungarishe jabostafel, re-equipped with the latest Messerschmitt Me-109Gs, was now based in Kiev, with airfields at Ilovskoje and Poltava. After a brief period of recuperation, the Hungarians were patrolling over the battlefield again, carrying out numerous, low-level strafing runs against transport convoys and troop concentrations in support of Wehrmacht counter-attacks aimed at recapturing Kharkov. It was here that the unit was based in late February, when German forces took the city once more.

With spring 1943 came the first appearance in large numbers of American-made aircraft wearing Red Star insignia. Sergeant Tarnay made the first kill of a Douglas A-20 light-bomber on the morning of April 29, when six of the rugged, agile Bostons escorted by a much larger force of fighters attacked Kharkov-Osnava airfield. U.S. aid was also evident on the ground, as more Ford trucks and Grant tanks joined a growing inventory of enemy equipment destroyed by the 1st Hungarian Fighter-Bomber Squadron.

The greatest air armadas in military history clashed from early to late July over the pivotal struggle for Kursk, during which the “Pumas;’ as the Magyar Legier6 fighter pilots were now known, flew up to five missions each day. They shot down only 33 enemy aircraft, because the Hungarians were assigned mostly ground-attack duties, as one may gather from the 153 vehicles of all types they destroyed, unknown thousands of Red Army troops strafed, and eight pieces of field artillery knocked out. All to no avail. In early August, soon after the Soviets’ victory at Kursk, they over-ran all opposition, taking Belgorod and threatening Kharkov. Aerial encounters reached unparalleled levels of ferocity, as the Pumas flew in excess of 20 missions per day.

They were joined by 13 Hungarian-flown Stukas of the 102/2 Dive bomber Squadron, also known as the “Coconut Squadron:” More Ju.87 Doras, led by Captain Gyozo Levay, soon after arrived. Although both fighters and bombers excelled at their tasks, they were re-stationed at Poltava when Kharkov could no longer be held. They had by then established a particular reputation among their opponents, as Lieutenant Kalman Szeverenyi learned, when he was tailing a Lavochkin on October 7. Before Szeverenyi could open fire, the Russian pilot bailed out, parachuting near the wreckage of his own fighter.

The next day was an occasion for celebration at the 102/2nd, whose airmen had just completed their 1,000th mission. Before relocating back to Kolozsvar two weeks later, they would execute another 200 sorties, having dropped more than 800 tons of bombs on the enemy since their debut on the Eastern Front three months earlier. The Hungarian Stuka crews additionally accounted for a P-39 Aircobra.

“We form up and I set a homebound course;’ recalled Lieutenant Tibor Tobak. “Suddenly, a lone Cobra appears and heads toward the point of our formation. According to Russian custom, he tries to attack the leader. I am not excited a bit. As soon as he enters our field of fire, he is a dead man. When he comes into range, eight twin-barreled MGs open up on him. Sixteen tubes pour deadly eight-mm slugs at him. As I glance back, I can see that the tracers end up exactly in the Cobra’s fuselage. Sarkady pumps it right behind the cockpit, where the engine is. `Well done, Lali!’ I shout `I think you got him!”‘

“Ivan miscalculated his move. He came in too steep to get under our formation, but he had to pass through our field of fire … The Cobra is now ahead of me by some one hundred meters, and I can see its engine smoking. I can see the pilot bailing out. The abandoned aircraft topples and begins its final spiral descent towards the ground. The parachute blossoms into a big, white flower. We did it, we got the guy! I feel satisfied; we can finally paint our first Red Star on the tail of our airplane:’

According to Tobak, “The 37-mm gun of the Cobra is a killer. A single hit can disable the venerable Stuka. Our 151/twenty-mm is just a popgun compared to that, but my boys have practiced formation flying a bit in Kolozsvar. If jumped, German staffels usually break formation and disperse, but we keep a close formation to concentrate our firepower instead”‘

Two Lavochkin La-5 fighters were also shot down by Tobak’s men, remarkable achievements for the sluggish, under-defended dive-bomber they flew. In fact, no Coconut Squadron Stukas were lost to enemy interceptors. The Squadron had not gone unscathed, however, and its surviving machines-either four or six not claimed by flak-were transferred to the Luftwaffe after the Hungarians returned to their homeland for training new crews and rebuilding the unit.

Meanwhile, German counter-attacks failed to retake Kiev but did push the Soviets out of Zhitomir, where the 1 Ungarishe Jabostafel found a new base and celebrated its 100th kill in December 1943. Through long months of intense combat, it had suffered the loss of just 6 pilots (plus 2 missing) from an original 37 airmen, as proof of their great skill and good luck. After New Year’s 1944, they relocated yet again, this time to Khalinovka. During the transfer, Lieutenant Lasl6 Molnar and his wingman, Corporal Erno Kiss, encountered 30 Shturmoviks covered by 10 Lavochkins. Laughing at the 20-to-1 odds against them, the Hungarians dove amid the enemy bombers, shooting down four of them, plus two Red fighters, before completing their flight to Khalinovka.

While battles such as these showcased the Hungarians’ superb combat performance, they nonetheless demonstrated the awful numerical edge overshadowing the Eastern Front in lengthening shades of doom. The sheer mass of man power and materiel now at Stalin’s disposal was sufficient to usually drown any technological superiority the Axis might have possessed, as evidenced by the 2,600 warplanes he assembled for his conquest of Vinnitsa, the Wehrmacht’s own headquarters in Russia, defended by 1,460 Luftwaffe aircraft. The Soviets were nevertheless stymied for more than three months, during which the entire Eastern Front was stabilized, and the Pumas were in the thick of the fighting, scoring more than 50 “kills” in January and February alone.

On March 17,1944, the USAAF for the first time attacked Budapest with 70 B-24s. The Liberators were undeterred by just four Hungarian flown Messerschmitts, all of which were damaged and two shot down by the unescorted heavy-bombers’ defensive fire. The encounter illustrated not only the pitifully inadequate numbers of aircraft available for home defense but lack of proper pilot training. The Americans returned on April 3 to bomb a hospital and other civilian targets as punishment, it was generally believed, for the recent establishment of a new government closer aligned with Germany. In any case, the attack left 1,073 dead and 526 wounded.

During the 13-day interval between these raids, the 1/1 and 2/1 Fighter Squadrons had been reassigned to the capital, and its crews provided a crash course in interception tactics. Even so, 170 P-38 Lightnings and P-51 Mustangs prevented most of the two dozen Pumas from approaching their targets. A few that penetrated the escorts’ protective ring destroyed 11 heavy-bombers at the cost of 1 Hungarian flyer. Six more Liberators were brought down by Budapest flak. In another USAAF raid 10 days later, the Mustangs were replaced by Republic P-47s, which failed to score against the Messerschmitts. Instead, two Thunderbolts fell to ground fire, along with four B-17 Flying Fortresses.

Meanwhile, the Hungarian pilots were getting the hang of interception, suffering no casualties for downing eight B-24s and six Lightnings. These losses combined with the mistaken American belief that aircraft manufacturing throughout Hungary had been brought to a halt. In fact, just a small Experimental Institute lost its hangars and workshops, and a Messerschmitt factory was damaged, although soon after restored to full production capacity. USAAF warplanes continued to appear in Hungarian skies over the next two months, but only on their way to targets in Austria or ferrying supplies to the Soviet Union. The Magyar Legierd took full advantage of this lull in enemy raids to upgrade and re-train three, full-strength fighter squadrons, while Budapest’s already formidable anti-aircraft defenses were bolstered.

When the 101. Honi Legvedelmi Vadkszrepiild Osztkly, or 101st “Puma” Fighter Group, was formed on May 1, 1944, Cadet Dezsd Szentgyorgyi transferred to the 101/2 Retek, “Radish” Fighter Squadron, where he would soon become Flight Leader, then, on November 16, Ensign. These rapid promotions were generated by his rapidly rising number of enemy heavy-bombers shot down during the “American Season;’ as the period was referred to by his fellow pilots. Placed in charge of the Home Defense Fighter Wing was Major Aladar Heppes. At 40 years of age, he was the Magyar Legierd’s eldest pilot, known as “the Old Puma;’ a seasoned Eastern Front veteran. For practice, his airmen confronted several hundred USAAF heavy bombers and their escorts droning toward Vienna on May 24. Although four Liberators, a Flying Fortress and one Mustang were destroyed, Major Heppes lost one man killed, and six Messerschmitts were damaged. But the Home Defense Fighter Wing crews learned from their experience, and vowed to do better when the Yanks returned in earnest.

Meanwhile, in preparation for imminent Soviet invasion of their country, the “Coconut” Stuka crews were recalled from Eastern Front duty to serve on Hungarian soil. Their 102/2nd dive-bomber squadron was redesignated the 102/1st fighter-bomber squadron, indicating the transition training they undertook to Focke-Wulf FW-190F-8s at Borgond airfield.

On the morning of June 14, 600 USAAF heavy-bombers and 200 escorts went after nitrogen plants and oil refineries outside Budapest, while P-38 Lightnings made low-level strafing runs on a Luftwaffe squadron of Messerschmitt Me.323 Gigant transports at Kecskemet airfield. The defenders were joined by a quartet of German fighters, which made two “kills:’ Eight more were claimed by the 32 Hungarian pilots, who lost one of their own. The city’s anti-aircraft defenses once again proved their worth, shooting down 11 enemy intruders.

Only 28 Home Defense interceptors were serviceable 48 hours later to oppose 650 heavy-bombers ringed by 290 Lightnings and Mustangs that filled the skies over Lake Balaton. Despite the excessive odds confronting them, the Pumas broke through the thick ranks of protective American fighters, claiming a dozen of them to destroy four Liberators. A remarkable set of “kills” was accomplished by Corporal Matyas Lorincz during this, his first operational flight. Hot in pursuit of four P-38s, he was unable to prevent them from shooting down Lieutenant Kohalmy. A moment later, Lorincz was in firing range, and the two Lightnings he set afire collided with and brought down a third. Lieutenant Lajos Toth, Hungary’s third highest-ranking ace with 26 “kills, was forced to take to his parachute, landing not far from the U.S. pilot he had himself shot down a few minutes before. Aviation engineer Gyorgy Punka, recorded how “they chatted until the American was picked up by a Hungarian Army patrol”‘

Relations between opponents were not invariably cordial, however, “with the American pilots deliberately firing on Hungarian airmen who had saved themselves by parachute, or strafing crash-landed aircraft;’ according to Neulen. “One of the victims was Senior Lieutenant Jozef Bognar, who was killed by an American pilot while hanging helplessly beneath his parachute”‘

The June 16 air battle had cost the Home Defense Fighter Wing the lives of five pilots, including two more wounded. Six Gustav Messerschmitts were destroyed, and seven damaged. These losses were immediately made good by fresh recruits and replacement planes, as the struggle against the bombers began to reach a crescendo on the 30th. This time, the Pumas were aided by 12 Messerschmitt Me-110 Destroyers and Me-410 Hornets, plus 5 Gustavs from the Luftwaffe’s 8th Jagddivision. The Germans and Hungarians claimed 11 “kills” between them, while the ferocity of their interception forced a formation of 27 bombers to turn back short of the capital; the remaining 412 diverted into the northwest.

The next USAAF attempt to strike Budapest’s area oil refineries on July 2 was similarly spoiled by just 18 Pumas, together with a like number of Luftwaffe Messerschmitts. As their colleagues in Germany had already learned, it was not necessary to destroy an entire flight of enemy bombers to make them miss their target. Among the most successful interceptions undertaken by the Magyar Legier6 fighters was carried out against 800 U.S. warplanes on July 7. A mere 10 Messerschmitts led by Major Heppes, the Old Puma himself, accounted for as many Liberators falling in flames from the sky, together with another 15 brought down by flak. One Gustav was lost, its pilot parachuting safely to earth.

The American aerial offensive pressed on throughout the summer and into fall of 1944 on an almost daily basis and in growing numbers. The Home Defense Fighter Wing continued to score “kills” and deflect bomber missions, until its men and machines were withdrawn from around Budapest in mid-October on more immediately pressing business: the invasion of their country. The previous six months of stiff Axis resistance had slowed, but could not halt the Red Army juggernaut, which now reached the foot of the Carpathian Mountains at the Hungarian frontier.

In the midst of this crisis, Admiral Horthy lost his nerve and attempted to capitulate to the Soviets. But the Germans learned of it in time, and placed him in protective custody for the rest of the war. News of his dethronement was met with a mix of indifference and acclaim, because the Hungarian people, who remembered all too well the Communist tyranny and terror they experienced during the 1920s, preferred resistance to submission. The Red Army was stopped at the Eastern Carpathian Mountains by German-Hungarian forces, but they could not simultaneously contain a veritable deluge of Red Army troops that overran Transylvania.

Their attack on Budapest began in early December, although the capital was not easily taken. Russian losses over the previous three-and-a-half years were becoming apparent in the declining quality of personnel on the ground and in the air. When, for example, a formation of Heinkel He.111 medium-bombers escorted by Hungarian pilots of the 101/2 Fighter Squadron was about to sortie against Soviet troops crossing the Danube on December 21, an out-numbering group of Lavochkins scattered and fled without a fight. Clearly, Stalin was relying on the dead weight of numbers more than ever before to achieve his objectives.

On January 2,1945, a joint German-Hungarian effort known as Operation Konrad I was launched to break the siege of Budapest. Although significant gains were made early and the Pumas wracked up more “kills;’ high winds kept flying to a frustrating minimum and destroyed more of their aircraft than Soviet pilots. After three days, the attempt to liberate the capital bogged down. Undaunted, reserves pushed onward with Operation Konrad II. During a rare stretch of clear weather on the 8th, Hungarian crews of the 102 Fast Bomber Group celebrated their 2,000th sortie by pummeling Red Army positions. The return of dense fog grounded further flights, however, and Operation Konrad II was abandoned the next day, mostly for lack of air support.

A third and final Operation Konrad appeared to succeed where its predecessors had failed. The Vlth German Army kicked it off on January 18, and 35 miles of territory were recaptured in the first 48 hours of the attack. The mighty Soviet 17th Air Army stumbled backward across the Danube, which advancing Axis troops reached on the 20th. Two days later, the Russians evacuated Szakesfehervar. These successes on the ground were importantly aided by airmen such as Ensign Dezso Szentgyorgyi, the Magyar Legier’s leading ace, who scored 14 victories alone in the fighting for Budapest. His and the rest of the Pumas’s chief targets were Shturmovik ground-attack planes, together with enemy armored vehicles and troops.

A few survivors of the 102/2 Dive-bomber “Coconut” Squadron most of its Ju-87Ds had been destroyed on the ground at Bdrgond the previous October 12 by low-flying P-51s of the American 15th Air Force-pounded Red Army positions and knocked out T-34 tanks. Their vital sorties were abruptly curtailed from January 23 by heavy snowfall, just when Soviet reserves began entering the battle area, and more than 300 German tanks were destroyed. Three days later, Operation Konrad III had to be canceled. During these repeated, all-out efforts to liberate Budapest, the three participating Magyar Legiero squadrons had flown some 150 combined missions to win 69 aerial victories for the loss of 6 pilots during 20 days of flight allowed by the weather. The “Coconut” Squadron was finished, having flown 1,500 sorties, dropped 750 tons of bombs, for the loss of half of their commissioned officer pilots and 40 percent of noncommissioned pilots.

An even-more ambitious attempt than Operation Konrad to regain the initiative got underway on March 6 with Operation Fruhlingserwachsen (“Spring Awakening”) in the Lake Balaton area of Transdanubia. Forces included the German 6th SS Panzer Army, the 1.SS Division Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler, German 2nd Panzer Army, Army Group Balck, elements of German Army Group E, and the Hungarian Third Army. Objectives included saving the last oil reserves still available to the Axis and routing the Red Army long enough to recapture Budapest. Combined Luftwaffe and Magyar Legiero forces amounted to 850 aircraft opposed by 965 Soviet warplanes.

Odds against the Axis on the ground were far more loaded in their opponents’ favor, with seven infantry armies and a tank army. The combined 101/1 and 101/3 Fighter Squadrons strove to stave off massed flights of Bostons and Shturmoviks savaging Axis armored units and troop concentrations. High numbers of either type were shot down, together with several Yak-9s, on March 9, when the Pumas completed 56 sorties, to gain temporary air superiority above the German 6th SS Panzer Army, enabling it to advance. Despite early, impressive gains such as these, Germany’s last offensive could not prevail against the enemy’s overwhelming numerical advantage, and Axis troops were compelled to fall back to their prepared positions in Hungary, where they were soon overrun.

Great Game of Central-Asian Dominance I

In the 1860s, Russian expeditionary forces entered Uzbekistan and captured the key trading cities of Tashkent and Samarkand. In the 1870s the Russians turned their attention to Khiva, capital of the Turkomans, lying to the south of the Aral Sea on the border between Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. By the end of these campaigns, the empire had been expanded by 210,000 sq km (80,000 sq miles) and the Russian frontier had advanced 500km (300 miles) southwards. The Turkomans had not been wholly beaten, however, and merely retreated into the wilderness. It was then that the Russians found themselves in trouble.

Mikhail Dmitriyevich Skobelev (29 September 1843 – 7 July 1882) was a Russian general famous for his conquest of Central Asia and heroism during the Russo-Turkish War of 1877–1878. Dressed in white uniform and mounted on a white horse, and always in the thickest of the fray, he was known and adored by his soldiers as the “White General” (and by the Turks as the “White Pasha”). During a campaign in Khiva, his Turkmen opponents called him goz zanli or “Bloody Eyes”. British Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery wrote that Skobelev was the world’s “ablest single commander” between 1870 and 1914 and called him a “skilful and inspiring” leader.

In 1839, Arthur Connolly, an intelligence officer with the East India Company, described the competition between Great Britain and Russia for control of Central Asia as “the grand game,” and the phrase became widely popular as “the great game” after writer Rudyard Kipling used it in Kim, a novel published in 1901. The rivalry dated from 1813, when (after a lengthy conflict) the Russians forced Persia to accept their control of much territory in the Caucasus Mountains region, including the area covered by modern Azerbaijan, Dagestan, and eastern Georgia. British politicians feared that the tsars’ expansionist ambitions would carry them further south and threaten the commercially and strategically important imperial possessions in India so the government attempted to make Afghanistan a buffer state that would prevent Russian armies from attacking through the Bolan and Khyber Passes in the Himalayas. In the early 20th century, the struggle extended to Persia and Tibet, but by then both powers considered Germany a growing threat so on 31 August 1907, in St. Petersburg, they signed an entente that circumscribed their areas of influence in Persia and ended Russian contacts with the Afghans.

The Great Game

The name attributed to the nineteenth- and early twentieth-century competition for colonial territory in Central Eurasia. Tsarist Russia and Great Britain were the primary actors in this ongoing diplomatic, political, and military rivalry. The term Great Game was first widely popularized in Rudyard Kipling’s novel Kim, first published in 1901. British Captain Arthur Connolly, however, was believed to have coined the phrase in his Narrative of an Overland Journey to the North of India in 1835. Since then, it has been the subject of countless historical studies. It should be noted that Russian speakers did not refer to this period of colonial rivalry as the Great Game, but certainly acknowledged this important period of its own historical record. Among Russian speakers, the Great Game competition is referred to as the “Tournament of Shadows.”

The Great Game is generally accepted to date from the early nineteenth century until the 1907 Anglo-Russian Convention, although some scholars date its conclusion to later in the twentieth century. The Anglo-Russian Convention is also referred to as the Convention of Mutual Cordiality or the Anglo-Russian Agreement and was signed on August 31, 1907. The convention gave formal unity to the Triple Entente powers, consisting of France, Great Britain, and Russia, who would soon engage in future diplomatic and military struggles against the earlier-formed Triple Alliance, consisting of Austria-Hungary, Germany, and Italy. The agreement also confirmed existing colonial borders. Great Britain and Russia agreed not to invade Afghanistan, Persia, or Tibet, but were allowed certain areas of economic or political influence within those regions.

In contemporary history, popular media often speak of many new “Great Games.” This term has become customary for discussing any sort of diplomatic or stateorganized conflicts or competitions in the Central Eurasian region. These new Great Games are often mentioned in disputes over oil or natural resources, diplomatic influence or alliances, economic competition, the opening or closing of military bases, the outcomes and maneuvering for political elections and offices, or any number of other contemporary issues in Central Eurasia. Russia, the United States, China, Turkey, the European Union countries, East Asian states, and various Islamic-influenced countries are often portrayed as the major competitors of these contemporary Great Games.

The historical roots of the Great Game are planted in a period of sustained mutual fear and mistrust on the part of Britain and Russia throughout most of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Both British and Russian leaders feared that the other side would encroach on their territorial holdings and would establish preeminent colonial control in the Central Eurasian region. It was widely believed that this would escalate into a war between the two powers at some point, but this never happened. Russia and Britain, however, did engage in a considerable amount of military ventures against various peoples of Central Eurasia. The conflicts ranged from diplomatic squabbles to shows of military force to full-blown wars.

During the early nineteenth century, Russia became increasingly interested in solidifying its southern borders. The Russians gained allegiance from various Kazakh hordes during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. They still faced opposition from many Kazakhs, however, including Kenesary Kasimov, who led a sustained rebellion of Kazakhs against Russia from 1837-1846. Much of the early nineteenth-century Russian attention in Central Eurasia was directed toward quelling Kazakh resistance and ensuring secure southern borders for the empire. By 1847, the Russians finally succeeded in bringing the Greater, Middle, and Lesser Kazakh hordes under Russian control. In response to its defeat in the Crimean War (1854-1856), Russia turned its military attention away from the Ottoman Empire and the Caucasus and instead toward eastward and southward expansion in Central Eurasia. The terms of the 1856 Treaty of Paris effectively forced Russia to relinquish its interests in Southwest Asia, spurring a new round of imperial interest in Central Eurasia. Russian advances in Central Eurasia were both offensive and defensive moves, as they conquered the only areas left to them and hoped to position themselves against future British encroachment in the region.

The British government became increasingly alarmed over the southward movement of the Russian armies throughout the nineteenth century. Russian conquest of the Kazakh steppe was followed by mid-century attacks on the Central Eurasian oasis empires of Khokand, Khiva, and Bukhara. The Russians began a new wave of conquest in 1864 by conquering the cities of Chimkent and Aulie Ata. Khokand was defeated in 1865 and with the unexpected Russian attack and conquest of Tashkent in 1865 by General Mikhail Cherniaev, tsarist Russia was in a position to launch a string of attacks in the latter 1860s and throughout the 1870s that struck fear in the hearts of the British. The Russians then conquered the Bukhara state in 1868 and the Khiva khanate in 1873. Both Bukhara and Khiva were granted the status of Russian protectorates in 1873. The Turkmen of Central Eurasia put up particularly strong resistance to Russian conquest during a long period of fighting between 1869 and 1885. As with most of the other areas, the Russians considered controlling the Turkmen and their territory as essential for resisting possible British incursions. The Russian victory over the Turkmen at the Battle of Göktepe in 1881 was crucial. The final Russian territorial acquisition in Central Eurasia was at the oasis of Merv in 1884. The Russians considered this conquest especially important because of its proximity to Afghanistan. As the Russian southward advance continued, British colonial officials became increasingly concerned that Russia may attempt to continue southward and attempt to take the jewel in the British colonial crown, India. The British had maintained economic and political influence over South Asia since the early seventeenth century, initially through the British East India Company’s economic ventures. Although India was not a formal British colony until 1858, with the suppression of the Sepoy rebellion, Britain enjoyed strong commercial and political influence over the area throughout the nineteenth century. Russians feared British interest in areas they considered to be in their own colonial backyard-especially Afghanistan, Persia, and Tibet.

The Great Game included two major wars between the British and the leaders of Afghanistan, with disastrous results for the British. The British hoped that Afghanistan could serve as a buffer state in defense of Russian advances toward India. The First Anglo-Afghan war lasted from 1839 until 1842. In this war, the British attempted to replace current Afghan leader Dost Muhammad Khan with a leader more amenable to British control, Shuja Shah. The Second AngloAfghan War was fought from 1878-1880, again over issues of British political and diplomatic influence in Afghanistan. In both conflicts the British faced harsh opposition in Afghanistan; however, after the second conflict, they were able to establish considerable control over Afghan politics by placing Abdur Rahman Khan in power. Abdur Rahman Khan ruled Afghanistan until 1901, largely in service of British interests in the region. He was able to quell opposition to the idea of a unified Afghanistan during this period. Perhaps his biggest test of political leadership came in 1885 in Panjdeh, in northern Afghanistan. Panjdeh was an oasis area, which the Russians wished to claim. After much diplomatic wrangling, the dispute was resolved and the Russians and Afghanis agreed to a border at the Amu Darya River, ceding Panjdeh to the Russian Empire. During the early 1890s, the Russians attempted to continue a southward push through the Pamir Mountains to India’s frontier of Kashmir. At this point mutual fears had reached a crisis situation, but they were temporarily resolved through the work of the Pamir Boundary Commission in 1895. This agreement paved the way for the formal acknowledgment of Russian and British colonial possessions in Central Eurasia through the 1907 Anglo-Russian Convention. The Pamir Boundary Commission of 1895 set the definitive boundaries for the Russian Empire in Central Eurasia.

The Russians faced two major setbacks in the early twentieth century, the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905, and the Revolution of 1905. As a result of these two reversals and amidst the backdrop of an emerging alliance system among the major European powers, the Russians became interested in resolving their disputes with Great Britain. In 1907, both sides agreed to a cessation of the Great Game competition by agreeing to the Anglo-Russian Convention on August 31. Under the terms of this agreement, both sides settled their disputes over territories in Central Eurasia-including Afghanistan, Persia, and Tibet-and forged a military and diplomatic alliance that they would carry into World War I.

Great Game of Central-Asian Dominance II

In a 19th century picture, the Russians attack the Uzbek city of Khiva.

Warrior Uzbek An archer of Bukhara, with a national costume Uzbekistan of the second half century.

Khiva Khanate

Also known historically as Khorezm or Khwarezm, an Islamic state in Central Eurasia, the Khiva Khanate was centered at the city of Khiva, in modern-day Uzbekistan. The khanate established its capital at Khiva as early as 1619 and was under Chinggisid rule for most of that time. In the early nineteenth century, the Inakids took power, removing the Chinggisid element. The new rulers delegated more power to city-dwellers, called Sarts. In 1717-1718, Peter the Great sent a delegation of approximately 300 men to Khiva, who were killed at the hands of the Khivan Khan Shirghazi. Russian imperial interest in the khanate increased during the middle of the nineteenth century. The Russians attacked Khiva following their earlier conquest of Bukhara (1868) and annexed the state as a protectorate in 1873. The khanate faced difficult struggles during the war of 1917-1920. In 1920, the Khivan khanate was ended and replaced by the People’s Soviet Republic of Khorezm.

Bukhara Emirate

One of the substantial Islamic states of Central Eurasia during the age of Russian imperialism. The Bukharan Emirate’s capital, the city of Bukhara, was a very old city that had long been a center of Islamic cultural and intellectual achievement. The emirate was a major political contender and ally of Russia during the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries. It was ruled according to Islamic law and under the leadership of an emir. In 1868, Bukhara formally recognized the superiority of the Russian Empire and, in 1873, was made a Russian protectorate but maintained its sovereignty until Bolshevik conquest in 1920. The last emir of Bukhara was Emir Muhammad Alim Khan, who continued the legacy of traditional Islamic rule. From 1800 until 1920, Bukhara was formally led by the Mangit dynasty, who took over rule from the Chinggisid rulers in the middle of the eighteenth century. See also Great Game; Russian Empire.

Russian expeditionary forces

Numerous internecine conflicts devastated the economies of the Central Asian tribal confederation and of the Bukhara, Khiva and Kokand khanates. In this environment many tribal leaders turned to outside powers for support. In the eighteenth century several Kazakh and Turkoman clans negotiated trade and political treaties with the Russian Empire. In the meantime, some Kyrgyz tribes sent a number of delegations to the British, Chinese and Russian emperors asking for their help or protection. Yet, the Russian and British were initially slow to move into the region.

The situation changed, however, by the mid-nineteenth century. St. Petersburg became increasingly interested in reaching the Central Asian market with their goods, securing land trade routes to Persia and India and halting the British advance toward Central Asia. This British-Russian race for influence in Central Asia became known as the Great Game (Hopkirk 1992). British strategists argued that the Russians might advance to Afghanistan and Persia, thereby threatening British trade and economic interests in the Middle East and in the Indian colonies. Russian strategists in turn saw great economic and military benefits in advancing into Central Asia and protecting Russia’s southern flanks from hostile British moves in case Russian-British relations turned sour. The first actions in the Central Asian region were, however, unsuccessful for both Russia and Britain. In 1840 the Russians tried to march from Orenburg to Khiva and lost nearly half their expeditionary army to severe blizzards and abnormally cold winter weather. In 1842 the British lost their entire Kabul garrison who were slaughtered on the outskirts of the city.

Yet, the Russians decided to continue their push into the region. In preparation for this further expansion, they built a new line of fortresses, establishing Akmolinsk, Kokchetav and Karkaralinsk in 1824, and Aralsk, Kazalinsk and Vernyi between 1847 and 1854.

After Russia’s defeat in the Crimean War (1853-1856), Tsar Alexander II (ruled 1855-1881) decided to boost morale among the general population by waging a “just” war in Central Asia. To do this, the Russian ministers started a propaganda campaign, emphasizing the need to save Russian subjects from the horrible fate of being sold in large numbers as slaves in the bazaars of Central Asia. In the early nineteenth century, a rumor was spread that between 8,000 and 60,000 slaves of Russian origin were to be found in Central Asia. Relying on massive public support, the Russian Empire made a series of decisive moves into Transoxiana between the mid-1850s and mid-1870s.

Kyrgyz tribes.

Between 1855 and 1864 the Kyrgyz tribes in the Lake Ysyk Kol valley, Chatkal River basin and some other areas negotiated a special treaty with the Russian authorities to bring them under Russian protection, a step directly counter to the interests of the Kokand Khanate. This action helped Russia establish control over significant parts of the eastern areas of Central Asia and check any further Chinese move into the region.

Kokand Khanate.

Kokand collided with the imperial Russian authorities in the early 1860s. The khan of Kokand was angered by the fact that the Kyrgyzs tribes of the Chui and Ysyk Kol valleys, whom Kokand had subjugated decades earlier, had become subjects of the Russian Empire. Kokand’s ruler, Khudoyar Khan, overestimated his military potential and waged a futile war against Russian troops. A small expeditionary Russian army led by Generals Cherniaev, Konstantin von Kaufman and Mikhail Skobelev conquered the cities of Ak-Masjid, Turkistan and Chimkent in 1864, Tashkent in 1865, and Khojand in 1866. The khan of Kokand, having experienced defeat after defeat and mass desertions by his troops, signed a peace treaty in 1869.

Bukhara Emirate.

The Emir of Bukhara, Muzzafar Khan, was alarmed by the Russian actions against the Kokand Khanate. He demanded the return of the city of Tashkent to Bukharan authorities and mobilized his troops. In response, the Russian expeditionary army attacked the Bukharan cities of Jizak and Ura Tube in 1866 and of Samarqand in 1868. The Bukharan army, untrained and equipped with outdated cannons and muskets, was defeated. Another Bukharan army, led by Muzzafar Khan himself, lost another battle before the city of Katta Qurgan. Muzzafar Khan signed a peace treaty with the Russian authorities that legitimized the Russian annexation of the territories of the Kokand and brought the Bukhara Khanate under the indirect control of the Russian Empire.

Khiva Khanate.

The Khiva Khanate witnessed the fate of the other khanates and did not present any significant resistance. In 1869 Russian troops landed on the eastern shore of the Caspian Sea and organized several expeditions deep into the Karakum Desert, threatening the western frontier of the khanate. In 1873 they marched simultaneously from Orenburg and Tashkent and after short skirmishes captured the city of Khiva. In 1873 Khiva’s ruler, Muhammad Rahim Khan, signed a capitulation and peace treaty. Turkoman tribes. The independent-minded Turkoman tribes resisted and even had some success against Russian regiments below the Geok Tepe fortress in 1879, but the Russian expeditionary army defeated the Turkoman army at the Geok Tepe fortress in 1881. Peaceful treaties between the Russians and Turkomans followed, and the territory controlled by the various Turkoman tribes came under Russian control.

FURTHER READING: Hopkirk, Peter. The Great Game: The Struggle for Empire in Central Asia. New York: Kodansha International, 1994; Morgan, Gerald. Anglo-Russian Rivalry in Central Asia: 1810-1895. London: Frank Cass, 1981; Siegel, Jennifer. Endgame: Britain, Russia, and the Final Struggle for Central Asia. London: I. B. Tauris Publishers, 2002; Soucek, Svat. A History of Inner Asia. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000.

Curtiss XP-55 Ascender

A rare colour image of the first XP-55 during an early test flight. On 15 November 1943, test pilot Harvey Gray was carrying out high level stall tests, when the aircraft suddenly entered an inverted spin from which he was unable to recover. He exited the aircraft safely before it crashed. A special feature of the XP-55 was a propeller jettison lever located inside the cockpit to prevent the pilot from hitting the propeller during bailout.

Experimental fighter of canard configuration with a pusher engine, designed in repsonse to the R-40C specification. The XP-55 had unimpressive performance. Three built.

Canard-equipped, swept-wing and rear-engined. Today this might be the configuration of choice for a jet fighter, but in the 1940s it was unheard of. But that did not stop the engineers from Curtiss-Wright producing the XP-55 Ascender, a futuristic-looking aircraft that sadly did not live up to the hype.

With the prospect of the US being drawn into World War 2 becoming ever more likely, in 1941 the US Army Air Corps sought to `jump-start’ fighter designers and spur them to depart from accepted, low-risk, aircraft design practices and embrace radical new technology. It sponsored three unorthodox fighter aircraft designs by Vultee (a twin-boom pusher called the XP-54), Northrop (a bobbed-tail lying wing called the XP-56 Black Bullet) and Curtiss-Wright (XP-55 Ascender). With shackles released, the Curtiss-Wright designers let their imaginations run riot and configured a short wing, or canard, near the nose, added two vertical tails to the swept wings and mounted an engine in the tail with pusher propeller.

Initially all three designs were to be powered by a unique liquid-cooled Pratt & Whitney 28-cylinder `H’ engine. However, development problems arose and the engine fell short of projected power ratings, forcing the US Army Air Corps to turn to less powerful but more conventional powerplants. Exhaustive windtunnel tests on the unorthodox Curtiss-Wright design produced disappointing results, but this did not prevent a contract being issued for three prototypes equipped with the new Allison V-1710 engine under the designation XP-55 Ascender.

The aircraft made its ­ first test ‑ flight on 19 July 1943 from the Army’s Scott Field near the Curtiss-Wright plant in St Louis, Missouri, in the hands of company test pilot J. Harvey Gray. Initial testing revealed that the take-off run was excessively long. To solve this problem, the nose elevator size was increased and the aileron up trim was interconnected with the ‑ aps so that it operated when the ‑ flaps were lowered. The test schedule progressed satisfactorily until 15 November 1943. Harvey Gray was testing the aircraft’s stall performance at altitude when the XP-55 suddenly ‑ flipped over on its back and fell in an uncontrolled, inverted descent. The aircraft fell out of control for 16,000ft (4,900m) before Gray was able to parachute to safety. The aircraft was destroyed.

Ascender number 2 ‑ flew for the ­ first time on 9 January 1944, with major restrictions on in-flight manoeuvring. The third prototype ‑ flew late in April. After much testing, it looked as though Curtiss engineers had cured the deadly stall situation that doomed the ­ first XP-55. Curtiss retro­fitted the stall ­ fixes into prototype number 2 and resumed testing in September 1944. The US Army Air Forces (USAAF) carried out some armament testing with Ascender number 3 but the end was near for the whole project. Pilots feared the Ascender’s vicious stall characteristics, and it was slow compared to most ­ fighters already in production. The programme ended after the third prototype crashed at Wright Field during an air show. Ultimately, the Ascender’s performance and handling were too poor for an effective combat ­ fighter. Fast-forward to today, and the Curtiss-Wright engineers have the right to feel vindicated in their unorthodox design con­figuration. Many would argue that, as such, it really was an aircraft ahead of its time.

Type: XP-55

Type: Experimental fighter

Year: 1943

Crew: 1  

Wingspan: 40ft 7in (12.37m)

Length: 29ft 7in (9.02m)

Height: 10ft 0in (3.05m)

Max Take-Off weight: 7,930lb (3,597kg)

Powerplant: 1 x Allison V-1710-95 of 1,275hp

Max Speed: 390mph (628km/h)

Armament: 4 x 0.50in (12.7mm) machine guns in nose

Ceiling: 34600 ft   

Max. Range:  1440 miles

The Era of Inter-Mongol Warfare I

The Toluid Civil War was a war of succession fought between Kublai Khan and his younger brother, Ariq Böke, from 1260 to 1264. Möngke Khan died in 1259 with no declared successor, precipitating infighting between members of the Tolui family line for the title of Great Khan that escalated to a civil war. The Toluid Civil War, and the wars that followed it (such as the Berke–Hulagu war and the Kaidu–Kublai war), weakened the authority of the Great Khan over the Mongol Empire and split the empire into autonomous khanates.

The ‘four uluses’: construct and reality

The conflict between Qubilai and Arigh Böke in the Far East in 1260–4, combined with the outbreak of war between Hülegü and Berke in the Caucasus in the winter of 1261–2, had momentous consequences. The Mongol empire fragmented into a number of virtually independent states, each a considerable power in its own right. They are usually listed as follows: (1) the dominions of the ‘Great Khan’ (qaghan) in China and Mongolia proper, known within China as the Yuan empire; (2) the Ilkhanate in Iran, Iraq and Anatolia; (3) the ulus of Chaghadai in Central Asia; and (4) the ulus of Jochi in the western steppes, sometimes called the ulus of Batu or of Berke (and still often termed by historians the ‘Golden Horde’). The conquered Muslims of the empire were now divided among these states. In the first, they represented only a small minority of the subject population; in the second and third, a majority; and in the fourth, at the very least a large and burgeoning minority.

To speak of four khanates, however, is to ignore the other polities termed ulus in our sources, notably the ‘left wing’ of the Jochid realm, the so-called Blue (or, in some sources, White) Horde in western Siberia, presided over by the line of Batu’s brother Orda (see p. 105); Rashīd al-Dīn tells us that although its khans headed their every command (yarligh) with the name of Batu’s successor, they nevertheless enjoyed complete autonomy and did not attend his court. The conventional taxonomy discounts also the extensive domain of Qaidu (d. 702/1303) and his son and successor Chapar, which for over forty years incorporated the Chaghadayid ulus (p. 150). We occasionally encounter the phrase ‘the ulus of Qaidu and Du’a’, as if they ruled jointly over a single state; and this usage is also reflected, anachronistically, in Western European writings. A further anomaly was the existence of the independent Negüderi Mongols or ‘Qara’unas’, former Jochid contingents who had escaped slaughter at Hülegü’s hands in c. 1261, had coalesced in present-day Afghanistan under the local Jochid commander Negüder, and dominated the borderlands between India, Transoxiana and Iran (see p. 148). Until the Negüderis’ subjection by the Central Asian Mongols in the 1290s, and even in some measure thereafter, this territory was no man’s land. Marco Polo describes Negüder as making war on ‘all the Tartars who dwell round about his kingdom’.

On occasions, moreover, one of the ‘four khanates’ splintered. For the last decade of the thirteenth century the western Jochid lands were effectively divided between the khan Toqto’a (690–712/1291–1312), who ruled east of the Dnieper, and his distant cousin and rival, Noghai, whose sway extended from the Dnieper to the Danube; their conflict ended only with Noghai’s defeat and death in 699/1299. In the 1340s the ulus of Chaghadai fractured permanently into a western half, centred on urban Transoxiana, and an eastern half, known as Mughalistān (‘Mongol territory’) and characterized by nomadic culture. Arguably, the Ilkhanate had likewise split into two rival states in 737/1336 with the election of Togha (or Taghai) Temür in Khurāsān.

Insofar as it corresponds to reality, the quadripartite division of the Chinggisid dominions belongs more comfortably in the fourteenth century. This was how Ibn Faḍl-Allāh al-‛Umarī, for instance, saw the Mongol world in c. 1338. The concept would have a long life, into and beyond the Timurid era. The history of the Chinggisids at one time attributed to Temür’s grandson Ulugh Beg (d. 853/1449), and utilized by Khwānd-Amīr in the sixteenth century, bore the title Ta’rīkh-i arba‛a ulūs-i chingīzī (‘History of the Four Chinggisid Uluses’). A hundred years after Ulugh Beg, Mīrzā Ḥaydar Dughlāt could write as if the four major khanates originated with Chinggis Khan’s own conferment of large appanages on his four sons by his chief wife. But the political map that emerged from the events of the early 1260s bore only a limited relation to the system that had evolved out of the conqueror’s distribution of lands. Any apparent parallel amounts to no more than coincidence.

The qaghan and Mongol unity

Had the break-up of the empire occurred by design, historians would no doubt have viewed it as a rational development. By 1260 Mongol expansion had virtually reached the limits of the steppe. The distances between the constituent parts of the empire, moreover, were enormous; it was hardly practicable to dominate them from the old centre at Qaraqorum, still less from Qubilai’s summer capital in the Mongolian-Chinese borderlands, Kaiping (renamed Shangdu and better known as ‘Xanadu’), or his winter residence in Khanbaligh (Dadu, founded between 1266 and 1275 close to the former Jin capital of Zhongdu). But from 1259 until 1304 there was no longer a qaghan who commanded universal recognition throughout the Mongol dominions, and Hülegü’s successors were the only Chinggisids consistently to acknowledge Qubilai and his line. The qaghans continued to despatch to Iran a patent of authority on the accession of each Ilkhan, with the possible exceptions of Tegüder Aḥmad (r. 681–3/1282–4), of whose election Qubilai may have disapproved, and of Baidu, whose reign (694/1295) was too brief. It has been suggested that the reigns of Gaikhatu and Baidu witnessed a loosening of the ties of overlordship, since although both monarchs struck coins in the qaghan’s name (apart from certain of Gaikhatu’s issues) they ceased to employ the title Il-khan. The removal of the qaghan’s name and title from the coinage soon after Ghazan’s conversion to Islam and his enthronement (and a matter of months after Qubilai’s death) did not imply any formal breach with the Yuan. On the contrary: regular diplomatic contacts and cultural exchanges bespeak a relationship between trusted allies, and the qaghans were still conferring exalted titles on certain of the Ilkhan’s chief ministers as late as Abū Sa‛īd’s reign. This allows us to speak of a ‘Toluid axis’ spanning the Asian continent throughout the period down to the 1330s.

Two other expressions of dynastic unity had disappeared soon after 1260. One was the presence within a region of troops owing allegiance to different branches of the imperial family. The other was the possession by the khan and princes of one ulus of rights, property and personnel within the territory of another, as such enclaves inevitably became a target for rulers determined to deprive their rivals of valuable assets and appropriate them for their own purposes. We saw earlier how Hülegü’s assault on the Jochid forces in Iran, followed a few years later by the absorption of Tegüder’s Chaghadayid contingent, terminated the existence of such discrete military forces in the Ilkhanate; how Jochid pasturelands and revenues in Iran passed into Ilkhanid possession; and how Alughu massacred Berke’s dependants in Bukhārā. According to al-‛Umarī, Abagha destroyed workshops in Tabrīz that belonged to Berke. When he turned against the qaghan, Baraq in turn seized the dependants of Qubilai and Abagha in his territory and appropriated their possessions. Late in 666/in the spring or summer of 1268, prior to his invasion of Khurāsān, Baraq despatched Mas‛ūd Beg to the Ilkhan’s court for the purpose of espionage, but with the ostensible mission of conducting an audit of the personal property (inchü) of Baraq and Qaidu in Iran; what became of this property following Baraq’s attack and defeat, we never learn.

The overall result of these changes was the transition from the ulus to the more self-contained khanate, through a consolidation and concentration of resources in the hands of regional khans. On balance, the shift favoured those who ruled over a great many wealthy towns and cities, at the expense of those whose territories for the most part comprised steppe. Princes in Central or Western Asia were still technically entitled to the revenues of certain districts in China, and the Ilkhans, as dutiful subordinates, continued to receive their share, at intervals, down into the fourteenth century. In relation to other, ‘rebel’ Mongol rulers, Qubilai tried to use the rights that they held within his dominions as leverage, to secure their acquiescence in his sovereignty. Marco Polo could perhaps be forgiven for blaming the conflict between Qubilai and Qaidu on the Qaghan’s refusal to send Qaidu what was his due from China; but it has to be said that here the policy was completely ineffective.

The attitude of the khans of the Golden Horde towards the Qaghan shifted. Having backed Arigh Böke in the civil war of 1260–4, Berke withheld recognition from Qubilai following the latter’s victory. His successor Mengü Temür (r. 665–79/1267–80) aligned himself with Qaidu. In 1275, when Qubilai’s son Nomoghan was arrested in Central Asia by a group of mutinous princes in his army, he was packed off as a prisoner to Mengü Temür. Qonichi, the ruler of Orda’s ulus, likewise supported Qaidu. The unwillingness of the Jochids for some decades to collaborate with the Qaghan as they had done in Möngke’s reign may have been as crucial in undermining Qubilai’s efforts to extend his control over Central Asia as were his preoccupations in the Far East. But in 1283 Mengü Temür’s brother and successor Töde Mengü (r. 680–6/1281–7), in consultation with Qonichi, released Nomoghan, sending him back to the Qaghan and acknowledging Qubilai’s supremacy; the prince rejoined his father in Khanbaligh in March 1284. Any rapprochement at this juncture may have been merely temporary, since the Yuan shi indicates that friendship was not restored until the reign of Qubilai’s grandson, the Qaghan Temür (1294–1307). According to Rashīd al-Dīn, a niece of Qubilai named Kelmish Aqa, who was married to a leading Jochid noyan and was the grandmother or mother-in-law (or both?) of Mengü Temür’s son, the khan Toqto’a (r. 690–712/1291–1312), was influential in restoring good relations with the Toluids. Toqto’a may also have been drawn into closer relations with Khanbaligh by the predicament of his ally Bayan, Qonichi’s son and successor, whose rival for the throne of Orda’s ulus was supported by Qaidu and Du’a. In 702/1303 Bayan sent envoys both to the Qaghan Temür and to the Ilkhan Ghazan to propose a grand coalition against the Central Asian Mongols, who in turn strove to prevent a junction between the forces of the Jochids and the Qaghan.

In 1304 Du’a persuaded Chapar to propose a general reconciliation within the Mongol world and to acknowledge the authority of the Qaghan Temür. Chapar’s approach met with a prompt and positive response, and the Ilkhan Öljeitü received an embassy from Temür, accompanied by envoys from Chapar, Du’a, Toqto’a, Orda’s ulus and other princes, and announcing the establishment of peace. But the new-found harmony rapidly dissolved, as we shall see, and no general peace was ever achieved again; even regional peace agreements tended to be short-lived. In 709/1309, following a succession struggle, the Chaghadayids renewed their submission to the qaghan. Yet an exchange in 713/1313 between representatives of the Chaghadayid khan Esen Buqa and one of the qaghan’s frontier commanders illustrates the self-confidence bred in the Chaghadayids’ officers by decades of resistance to the Yuan and by their dynasty’s role in destroying Chapar’s realm. The qaghan’s general reacted violently to the use of the term yarligh by Esen Buqa’s envoys to denote their master’s orders; it could apply, he shouted, to no order but the qaghan’s own; the princes’ orders were styled linkajī (Ch. lingzhi). ‘For us,’ the envoys retorted, ‘Esen Buqa stands in the qaghan’s place.’ Clearly the relationship between the qaghan and regional khans could not be expected to revert to where it had stood in 1259. This altercation heralded a decade-long war between the Chaghadayids and the Yuan, and on occasion also with their Ilkhanid allies. It was not until 723/1323 that Esen Buqa’s successor Köpek (c. 720–6/c. 1320–6) finally made peace with the qaghan and recognized his nominal authority.

Professor Kim has argued that the empire continued to be viewed as a unity even after 1260 and that the constituent khanates were not regarded, and did not see themselves, as independent. The Chinggisids indeed retained – or affected to retain – an undiminished sense of their common ancestry and political heritage. But whereas the two Toluid regimes observed consistently amicable relations, the attitude of the other regional khans ranged from outright opposition to the qaghan to a merely nominal recognition of his seniority. In the late 1330s al-‛Umarī, embarking on his account of the qaghan’s territories, felt obliged to emphasize that the dominions of his kinsmen lay outside his authority. He likened the qaghan’s position to that of a caliph, and commented that if confronted by any important matter they informed him but did not require his sanction.

The ‘Middle Empire’

It is worth pausing to reflect in particular on the situation and distinctive role of the Central Asian Mongol polity. Lying at the heart of the Mongol world, Chaghadai’s ulus came to be known as Dumdadu mongghol ulus, ‘the Middle Mongolian people/state’, a designation that Western European observers had perhaps picked up when they christened it the Medium Imperium (sometimes corrupted to the incongruous Imperium Medorum, ‘the Empire of the Medes’). Following the emergence of the Ilkhanate after 1260, the Chaghadayid state was potentially the greatest source of disruption, since it was now almost totally deprived of access to outside frontiers with non-Mongol powers. In his account of the quriltai convened by Qaidu in 1269, Rashīd al-Dīn makes the khan Baraq refer bitterly to ‘this shrunken ulus (hamīn mukhtaṣar ūlūs)’ and complain that it was both hemmed in by the more extensive lands of his kinsmen and under Qaidu’s thumb; by these means he secured Qaidu’s support for his bid to expand into Ilkhanid territory. Over forty years later, we find Baraq’s grandson, the khan Esen Buqa, apprehensive of being crushed between the Yuan and Ilkhanid forces and considering a pre-emptive attack on Ilkhanid Khurāsān as his only recourse.

The language of our sources suggests that internally, moreover, Chaghadai’s ulus was the least stable and the most volatile. Significantly, both Alughu, in the early 1260s, and Du’a, two decades later, are described as ‘gathering together’ the armies of Chaghadai. We should imagine Central Asia as a veritable reservoir of footloose princes and their followers, alert for new confederates and richer spoils: they included the numerous posterity of both Chaghadai and Ögödei, together with some descendants of both Möngke and Arigh Böke and others belonging to the line of Chinggis Khan’s brother Jochi Qasar. In the wake of Baraq’s failed invasion of Khurāsān and his death in 670/1271, the ulus of Chaghadai went through a period of crisis, and several princes abandoned it to enter the service of Qubilai or the Ilkhan Abagha. Notable among the former group were Alughu’s sons Chübei and Qaban, who spent the rest of their lives fighting for the Yuan; those who joined Abagha included the former khan Mubārak Shāh, a prince named Böjei and certain of Jochi Qasar’s descendants. It must be significant that apart from Baba no princes from the far less constricted Jochid territories are known to have taken refuge in the Ilkhanate (had they done so, Ilkhanid sources would assuredly have told us).

The activities of Qaidu, who according to Waṣṣāf fought as many as forty-one battles, whether with the qaghan’s forces or with others, and his sponsorship of the Chaghadayid Du’a (c. 681–706/1282 or 3–1307), Baraq’s son, who cooperated closely with him, introduced a more forward policy and the recovery of lost territory. But the state he had forged survived him by only a few years. His death and the succession of the weaker Chapar put an end to the alliance. In 705/1305, Du’a treacherously turned against Chapar in the name of his new overlord, the Qaghan Temür, inaugurating a war in Central Asia in which Du’a was supported by several Ögödeyid princes as well as by other members of Chaghadai’s line. The result was the dismemberment of Qaidu’s ulus to the advantage of both the Chaghadayid khan and the Qaghan. A number of princes, headed by Qaidu’s son Sarban, migrated into Ilkhanid Khurāsān and sought refuge under the Ilkhan Öljeitü.

Du’a has a claim to be regarded as the second founder of the Chaghadayid state. From his death until c. 1340 the succession was monopolized by his sons and grandsons, apart from a distant kinsman, Naliqo’a (c. 707–8/c. 1308–9), possibly a grandson of Chaghadai himself, who was regarded as a usurper by the adherents of Du’a’s line and was soon overthrown by Du’a’s son Köpek. When Köpek’s eldest surviving brother Esen Buqa was enthroned as khan (709–c. 720/1309–c. 1320), he united under his rule, in Waṣṣāf’s words, ‘the greater part of the empires of Qaidu and Du’a’; Talas, at one time Qaidu’s chief residence, was now Esen Buqa’s summer quarters. Yet although Waṣṣāf hails Esen Buqa’s accession as introducing a period of peace and repose in the ulus of Chaghadai, fresh tensions arose. Already Chapar, seeking to retrieve his position, had been worsted by Du’a’s sons (708/1309) and had taken refuge in China, where Temür’s successor Qaishan (reigned as Wuzong, 1307–11) granted him and his descendants land and an honorific title. Esen Buqa entrusted Köpek with an enormous territory in the west, namely Farghāna and Transoxiana, possibly in order to concentrate his own energies on the conflict with the qaghan’s forces. But a distant cousin and ally, Naliqo’a’s great-nephew Yasa’ur, whose encampment (yurt) lay near Samarqand and who no doubt resented Köpek’s new-found authority in Transoxiana, quarrelled violently with him, and an armed struggle ensued before Yasa’ur abandoned Transoxiana for Khurāsān in 716/1316 to throw himself on Öljeitü’s mercy.

A glance at the frontier with Orda’s ulus, to the north, brings home vividly how far the territory of these steppe polities shifted. The outcome of the early fourteenth-century civil war among Orda’s progeny, which was still raging in 712/1313, is uncertain.52 But in 705/1305 Chapar was able to make his headquarters in the vicinity of the Irtysh and the Altai; the former region, at least, had at one time been the kernel of Orda’s territory and may have been recently acquired. On the other hand, Rashīd al-Dīn had spoken of the territory of Talas and ‘Old Sayrām’ (formerly Isfījāb) as belonging to Qaidu but adjacent to the realm of Orda’s grandson Qonichi. By the middle decades of the fourteenth century the khans of Orda’s line had extended their authority over Jand, Barchinlighkent, Sighnāq and Sawrān; Bayan’s son, the khan Sasi Buqa, was buried in Sawrān in 720/1320–1 and his grandson, Īrazān, in 745/1344–5 at Sighnāq, where the rulers of this branch were striking coins by 768/1366–7. This marked shift in the centre of gravity of the Blue Horde may have begun in the era of Chaghadayid weakness in the 1270s and have accelerated during the struggle between Chapar and Du’a in the early fourteenth century.

Inter-Mongol conflicts and the imperial enterprise

The rivalries between Mongol powers effectively halted the growth of the empire in the west. Imperial expansion between 1229 and 1260 had focused the resources of the Chinggisids on the task of realizing the work begun by their revered ancestor – namely, bringing the known world into the yeke mongghol ulus. That period had not been free of tension, as is clear from the succession dispute of 1241–6 and, more conspicuously, that of 1250–1; but the more violent and more prolonged confrontations from 1260–1 onwards inaugurated a period of stasis. Berke’s invasion of Poland in 1259 and Hülegü’s invasion of Syria and Palestine in 1259–60 marked the last major attacks on independent powers by forces representing the entire Chinggisid dynasty. The growth of Hülegü’s fledgling Ilkhanate was effectively at an end following the defeats at Mamlūk hands late in 1260. Of the invasions of Syria launched by the Ilkhans, in 1281, 1299, 1300 and 1303, the second alone was successful, when Ghazan inflicted a humiliating defeat on the Mamlūk army and overran the country; but even then the Mongol forces withdrew after a matter of weeks.

The Ilkhanid pasturelands south of the Caucasus were vulnerable to the Jochid forces; those of Khurāsān (notably the meadows of Shabūrghān and the Bādghīs) and Māzandarān, to the Mongols of Central Asia. Not for nothing did Hülegü and his successors spend more time in both regions than in any other part of their dominions; and even when the Ilkhan in person was not in the east, his son or future successor tended to be stationed there as viceroy of Khurāsān and Māzandarān – Abagha on Hülegü’s behalf, Arghun for the latter part of Abagha’s reign and under his uncle Tegüder Aḥmad, Ghazan from 683/1284 under Arghun and Gaikhatu, Öljeitü throughout the reign of his brother Ghazan, and Öljeitü’s son, the young Abū Sa‛īd, for a few years prior to his accession.

Abagha’s envoys at the Second Council of Lyons (1274), seeking Western cooperation against the Mamlūks, blamed his previous failure to move against Egypt on the fact that his empire was surrounded by the mightiest enemies. Those enemies chose their moment with care. When Chaghadayid forces raided Fārs in 700/1301, they were exploiting Ghazan’s absence on campaign in Syria. In pursuit of their policy of containing the Ilkhanate, the Mamlūk Sultans were in frequent contact with the khans of the Golden Horde, and sometimes with Qaidu and the Chaghadayids also. On occasions the Ilkhans must have experienced the same sense of constriction as did the Chaghadayids. An informant from Transoxiana in 715/1315 told Öljeitü that Esen Buqa and Köpek, Özbeg of the Golden Horde and the Mamlūk Sultan al-Nāṣir Muḥammad b. Qalāwūn had formed a coalition against him, with a view to partitioning Iran among themselves; though in the event the man was denounced as a liar and a spy and imprisoned in Tabrīz gaol.

Only in the Far East, under Qubilai, was the momentum of expansion maintained for a time against external powers. But apart from those princes who had entered the Qaghan’s service or those who, like the Ilkhans, maintained cordial relations with him from a distance, the other Chinggisid lines had no share in these triumphs or the resulting access of fresh spoils. As the imperial dynasty turned in upon itself, conflict between the uluses over frontier territories threatened to absorb the energies that had hitherto been directed against unsubdued and defiant states. The external advances dried up that would have yielded new appanages for the next generation. Prior to 1259, admittedly, not every prince had received an appanage; but thereafter the pool of grazing-lands, revenues and human capital dwindled in relation to the number of aspiring Chinggisids. Princes and noyans, with their followers, might accordingly be readier to desert their khan for the prospect of greater rewards from one of his hostile neighbours, and in the act of doing so they sometimes perpetrated considerable damage as a parting shot. When relatively long-distance movements of this sort had occurred in the era of the unitary empire, it was in response to the decision of a quriltai and the qaghan’s fiat; now they were unpredictable and unregulated.

The Era of Inter-Mongol Warfare II

The Toluid Civil War was a war of succession fought between Kublai Khan and his younger brother, Ariq Böke, from 1260 to 1264. Möngke Khan died in 1259 with no declared successor, precipitating infighting between members of the Tolui family line for the title of Great Khan that escalated to a civil war. The Toluid Civil War, and the wars that followed it (such as the Berke–Hulagu war and the Kaidu–Kublai war), weakened the authority of the Great Khan over the Mongol Empire and split the empire into autonomous khanates.

Compounding the problems of warfare between different Mongol khanates, and of the curtailment of resources, were contests for the throne of one ulus or another, as a khan or his henchmen tried to confine the succession within the segmentary lineage of his immediate family while a rival party upheld the principle of seniority. The sources highlight discord of this sort within the Ilkhanate in 1282–4 (between uncle and nephew), within the ulus of Orda at the turn of the thirteenth century, over the succession to Qaidu in 1303 (when his throne was claimed by a grandson or great-grandson of Güyüg), and within Chaghadai’s ulus in c. 707–8/c. 1308–9 (when Naliqo’a, a descendant of Büri, displaced Du’a’s line). In 1284 and 1295, Ilkhanid Iran, commonly viewed today as the most stable of the three westernmost Mongol states, was the scene of an armed struggle for the throne.

Admittedly, the Chinggisids had not lost sight of the goal of world-conquest even after 1260. In the very context of Berke’s diplomatic exchanges with Sultan Baybars, a Mamlūk author makes him deprecate the fact that Mongols were now falling to the swords of fellow Mongols and add – somewhat ingenuously – ‘had we remained united, we could have conquered the world’. Indeed, Anne Broadbridge adduces evidence that Berke viewed his ally Baybars as a subject ruler. The Ilkhans, smarting from the reverse at ‛Ayn Jālūt and nursing the conviction that their Mamlūk antagonists were nothing more than the Mongols’ runaway Qipchaq slaves, appear no less committed to expansion. In a letter to Baybars in 667/1268 Abagha employed the traditional expressions il/el (‘peace’) for the Sultan’s submission and yaghi (‘rebellion’) in the event that Baybars continued to reject Mongol imperial authority. Abagha also made the dubious statement that a quriltai of Chinggisid princes (‘all of us older and younger brothers’) had recognized the qaghan’s authority. This seemingly formed part of Ilkhanid diplomatic stock-in-trade. Abagha’s envoys at Lyons in 1274 spoke of a recent peace (otherwise unrecorded) between the Ilkhan and his Mongol neighbours. And his successor, Tegüder Aḥmad, in his second letter requiring the submission of the Mamlūk Qalāwūn in 682/1283, reinforced the message by alleging that the Mongol rulers were once more at peace. Ghazan would make the same claim in a proclamation to the Mamlūk military in Syria in 699/1299–1300. On these latter two occasions, a spurious Mongol consensus was being used as a covert threat that the Ilkhans were now free to turn against their external enemies.

Peace proved, at best, ephemeral. In 699/1299–1300 an observer in Mamlūk Egypt commented that all the monarchs in the east and the west alike were at war; and the Mongol dominions were no exception. In a letter of 1305 to the French King Philip IV, Öljeitü hailed the reconciliation of 1304 as laying to rest quarrels that had raged for forty-five years. He concluded with veiled threats against those who persisted in their hostility towards either the Mongols or the Franks, and the idea of Mongol world-rule was understandably muted. His fellow Chinggisids, when making peace in the previous year, and Özbeg, the khan of the Golden Horde, in relation to Western European monarchs during the 1330s, had fewer inhibitions about using the rhetoric of world-domination. But during the decades following Möngke’s death, that rhetoric more often than not had evoked an ideal to which Mongol princes could only pay lip-service.

Jochid ambitions and Ilkhanid territory

The khans of Jochi’s line never relinquished their claims on the rich grazing-grounds in Azerbaijan and Arrān, which had been appropriated by Hülegü. Not that the Jochids were consistently aggressive. Rashīd al-Dīn assures us that after Mengü Temür made peace with Abagha (doubtless in 669/1270, when he sent envoys to congratulate the Ilkhan on his victory over the Chaghadayid khan Baraq), there were no hostilities until 687/1288; he is mistaken, since we know from other sources of a large-scale attack in 678/1279–80. Again, the same author tells us that since the invasion of 687/1288 peace had reigned down to the time that he wrote, though he ascribes it to the Jochids’ weakness and speaks of their friendship as merely an outward display; and elsewhere, in any case, he reports yet another attack in 689/1290. Toqto’a sent envoys to make a truce with Gaikhatu in 693/1294, but since they also made ‘all sorts of requests’ it is possible that the purpose was merely to renew Jochid demands for the return of territory south of the Caucasus. On the other hand, Waṣṣāf evidently regarded Gaikhatu’s reign as something of a watershed, since he associates it with a resumption of diplomatic contacts between the two powers. The lack of incursions south of the Caucasus and the absence of any recorded embassies from Toqto’a to the Mamlūk Sultan prior to 1304 are perhaps due to the conflict with Noghai and hence a need to avoid provoking the Ilkhan. During the latter stages of the struggle, both sides courted Ghazan, but – so Rashīd al-Dīn smugly informs us – the Ilkhan nevertheless resolutely refrained from intervening for his own advantage. A Mamlūk author claims that Toqto’a had made peace with Ghazan, presumably to cover his flank.

Charles Halperin argued vigorously that conquests beyond the Caucasus were the primary concern of the khans of the Golden Horde, far outstripping, that is, the attractions of the economically less desirable Rus´ principalities. If anything, Jochid diplomacy and military activity would grow more menacing in the fourteenth century. Toqto’a reiterated the habitual Jochid demands in 702/1302–3, and they were revived on Özbeg’s accession in 712/1312.85 The latter would personally head two major incursions into Azerbaijan, in 719/1319, during Abū Sa‛īd’s minority, and in 736/1336, following that monarch’s death; in 722/1322 we find him allied with the Chaghadayid khan Köpek, who was then attacking the Ilkhanate. In 758/1357, some years after the demise of the Ilkhanate, Özbeg’s son Janibeg invaded Azerbaijan, and as late as the 1380s the khan Toqtamish was still staking the time-honoured Jochid claim to this region.

In an incomplete list of those borderlands that were wasted and whose populations were killed or fled elsewhere, Rashīd al-Dīn mentions the region between Darband and Shīrwān. We are told very little, in fact, about the damage that Jochid-Ilkhanid warfare inflicted on this territory, though it is worth noting that, during the first few decades of the Ilkhanate, command of the incursions from Darband tended to be entrusted to Jochid princes whose fathers’ deaths at the hands of Hülegü’s forces gave them a particularly strong personal motive for vengeance: Noghai, the son of Tutar, in 660–1/1262 and 663/1265, and Tama Toqta, a son of Balagha (Balaqan), in 687/1288. On the other hand, Abagha’s construction of a barrier (sibe, sübe) and deep ditch north of the Kur river in 663/1265 possibly limited the Jochid forces’ access to Azerbaijan and Arrān, further south, and reduced their capacity to inflict damage.

The borderlands between the Central Asian Mongols and the Yuan

For twenty years or so Qaidu and Du’a proved capable of stemming the advance of the Yuan. Almaligh itself, lost in 1271 to the army commanded by the Qaghan’s son Nomoghan, was recovered a few years later. The Uighur iduq-qut, who owed allegiance to Qubilai, was forced to abandon Beshbaligh and take up residence first at Qaraqocho, at Qāmul (Qomul; Hami) and then at Yongchang in Gansu; he was only briefly restored at Qaraqocho in 1313. Qaidu and the Chaghadayids appear to have appointed their own clients as iduq-quts. In passages that seemingly relate to his overland journey to China (c. 1274), Marco Polo describes Kāshghar and Khotan as still subject to the qaghan (whereas Yārkand was already in Qaidu’s power). At any rate, Qubilai’s garrisons evacuated both towns in the late 1280s. Qaidu did not, it seems, go so far as to occupy them (although Waṣṣāf includes Kāshghar among his territories), but these regions were in Chaghadayid possession by the second decade of the fourteenth century. Qubilai had thus forfeited control over important Muslim settlements in Central Asia. The seemingly inaccessible Muslim kingdom of Badakhshān, too, which recognized the qaghan’s suzerainty, was being repeatedly harassed by Qaidu’s forces by the turn of the century. In 716/1316, when we find a contingent from Badakhshān collaborating with a Chaghadayid invasion of Khurāsān, it was evidently under Chaghadayid overlordship.

Uighūristān and other lands between Qaidu’s dominions and those of the qaghan are the second region that Rashīd al-Dīn singles out as subject to devastation in the inter-Mongol wars. The Muslim populations of these territories undoubtedly suffered in the course of repeated fighting. In 1266 Baraq plundered Khotan, then governed by one of Qubilai’s lieutenants, and Du’a maintained the pressure. The anonymous life of Mar Yahballāhā claims that Hoqu (a younger son of Güyüg) had slaughtered thousands of people in Khotan just before the Catholicos passed through the region in c. 1274 and that the caravan routes had been interrupted; Yahballāhā and Rabban Ṣawma found Kāshghar, which had been recently sacked by Qubilai’s enemies (doubtless Hoqu again), bereft of inhabitants. The Yuan government took measures in 1274 to provide comfort and assistance to Khotan, Yārkand and Kāshghar. Hoqu had been pushed into the camp of Qubilai’s enemies by an unprovoked attack on the part of Nomoghan’s colleague, the general Hantum Noyan.

The labile frontiers in eastern Iran

Rashīd al-Dīn’s list of devastated territories omits the long frontier between Iran and the Chaghadayids. Here there was no sibe to hamper invading forces, which may well be the reason why one of al-‛Umarī’s informants assured him that a single Chaghadayid trooper was worth a hundred from the Qipchaq steppe and that attacks from beyond the Caucasus provoked less alarm in the Ilkhanate than did those by the Chaghadayids in the east. As on their eastern frontier, so also did Qaidu and his allies make notable advances to the south, chiefly at the expense of the Ilkhans.

In Hülegü’s time, the Oxus had divided the Chaghadayid dominions from the Ilkhanate. Although Baraq’s invasion of Khurāsān in 668/1270 failed, the Ilkhan Abagha was dissuaded from sending a force to apprehend the recalcitrant malik of Herat in 674/1275–6, on the grounds that Khurāsān was still a wasteland as a consequence of Baraq’s attack and was in no state to support such a campaign. The Ilkhanate’s eastern territories were also open to attacks by the Negüderis or Qara’unas, based in present-day Afghanistan. The Persian sources testify to their turbulence; for Sayfī their depredations were proverbial. Abagha attempted to exert indirect authority over them through refugee Chaghadayids such as the former khan Mubārak Shāh. The policy failed: Mubārak Shāh proved a fickle subordinate, meeting his death in an attack on Kirmān in 674/1275–6; and when Böjei’s son ‛Abd-Allāh, who commanded the Negüderi bands in the Ghazna region a few years later, responded to an overture from the rebel Sultan Ḥajjāj of Kirmān, he was acting on behalf of Qaidu and the Chaghadayids. An audacious Negüderi raid on Fārs and Kirmān in the winter of 677/1278–9, doubtless provoked by this appeal, in turn prompted Abagha’s expedition to Khurāsān and Sīstān in the following year. Abagha drafted certain Qara’unas bands into Ilkhanid service and transported them to central and western Iran. But their confrères in eastern Iran and Afghanistan continued to pose a threat to the territories of the Ilkhan’s clients, raiding Kirmān again three years later; Waṣṣāf says that the people of Shīrāz lived in fear of their attacks every winter until the end of Arghun’s reign (690/1291). When one of Abū l-Fidā’s informants told him that Hurmuz was ruined as a result of Tatar incursions, he must have been referring to the Negüderis.

According to Waṣṣāf, Qaidu stationed his son Sarban south of the upper Oxus. No date is given, but already in c. 1290 we find Sarban based near Shabūrghān and Du’a’s noyan Yasa’ur in the regions of Balkh and Bādghīs. A bid by the Central Asian Mongols to control the Negüderis of the Ghazna region through the renegade Ilkhanid noyan Nawrūz failed when he turned against Qaidu and then in 694/1295 submitted to Ghazan. They succeeded, even so, in bringing the majority of the Negüderis within their orbit. In the mid-to-late 1290s Du’a summoned the Negüderi leader ‛Abd-Allāh, himself a Chaghadayid prince, and replaced him with his own eldest son Qutlugh Qocha. Rashīd al-Dīn speaks of Qutlugh Qocha in terms that suggest he virtually ruled the ulus jointly with his father. He enjoyed overall command of various princes at the head of forces totalling five tümens and was master of a considerable tract between the Oxus and the Arghandāb, including, if Waṣṣāf is to be believed, even Merv.

From their advance bases, the Central Asian Mongols launched frequent attacks on the Ilkhan’s territories and inflicted greater damage. Waṣṣāf hints that Qutlugh Qocha benefited from the defection of Ilkhanid troops, possibly attracted by the prospect of rich plunder from his raids on India. When the forces of Du’a and Qaidu, guided by the rebel noyan Nawrūz, entered the province in 690/1291, says Rashīd al-Dīn, the killing, pillage and destruction they perpetrated defied description. Although Nīshāpūr successfully resisted a siege, the villages were raided and many captives carried off; the shrine at Ṭūs (Mashhad) was also plundered. In 695/1295–6 Du’a and Sarban profited from Ghazan’s departure from Khurāsān to subject that province and Māzandarān to a campaign of devastation lasting for eight months. Malik Fakhr al-Dīn of Herat offered the depredations of Qutlugh Qocha’s forces as a reason for failing to send the Ilkhan the stipulated tribute. During Ghazan’s absence on campaign in Syria in 700/1301, they ravaged Kirmān and Fārs, penetrating as far west as Tustar (Shustar). The winter of 702/1302–3 witnessed an attack on Khurāsān by Sarban and his lieutenants, whose attempt to effect a junction with Qutlugh Qocha’s army, however, miscarried badly. Such incursions must have been responsible for slowing any recovery from the campaigns of Chinggis Khan. According to Ḥamd-Allāh Mustawfī, the town of Jurjān was still ruined and sparsely populated in his own day; and it was surely Chaghadayid attacks that Marco Polo had in mind when he observed that Balkh had been ravaged many times by ‘the Tartars and other peoples’ and that its fine mansions still lay in ruins. Significant recovery may have been delayed until the early fourteenth century, when the wazir ‛Alā’ al-Dīn Hindū Faryūmadī is said to have restored Khurāsān to its former splendour.

Although Qutlugh Qocha was mortally wounded during his return from an invasion of India in 699/1299–1300, his command remained in Chaghadayid hands: the Negüderis were ruled first by his lieutenant Taraghai until 705/1305 and then in turn by two other sons of Du’a, Esen Buqa and (after the latter’s accession as khan of Chaghadai’s ulus in 709/1309) It-qul. It-qul was apparently succeeded by Qutlugh Qocha’s son Dā’ūd Qocha, who was expelled by Öljeitü’s forces in 712/1312 at the instigation of some Negüderi chiefs. Whether the retaliatory expedition sent by Esen Buqa reinstated the prince, we never learn. But in 724/1324 Du’a’s youngest son, the future khan Tarmashirin, crossed the Oxus and seized the Ghazna-Kābul region, only to be defeated in 726/1326 by the Ilkhan Abū Sa‘īd’s forces under Ḥasan b. Choban. Ḥamd-Allāh Mustawfī paints a grim picture of the outrages committed in the city of Ghazna by these Ilkhanid troops, acting though they did on behalf of a Muslim monarch: they destroyed the tomb of Maḥmūd of Ghazna and made no distinction between the citizens and the military. According to Ibn Baṭṭūṭa, Ghazna was again in the hands of Tarmashirin, now himself khan and a Muslim, in the 1330s, but was mostly in ruins. It may be that the devastated condition of the territory extending for twenty days’ journey in the vicinity of Ghazna was in part the work of this Ilkhanid campaign, although al-‛Umarī attributes it to the conflict between the Chaghadayids and the Delhi Sultan.

Transoxiana, Turkestan and Khwārazm

Nor had the Chaghadayids’ other lands been immune from savage attack. Writing in (or at least of) the period prior to the death of the Qaghan Möngke, Juwaynī had contrasted the restoration of Transoxiana to a flourishing condition with the dismal fate of Khurāsān. This happy state of affairs did not last. Rashīd al-Dīn says that the territory of ‘Turkestan’ was devastated successively by Alughu, by his sons Chübei and Qaban, by Baraq (in all probability, Baraq’s sons are intended) and, most recently, by Bayan of the Blue Horde. In the course of the civil wars of 1260–4, as we have seen, Alughu’s troops slaughtered elements representing Berke’s interests in Samarqand and Bukhārā; among other victims was a son of the celebrated Shaykh Sayf al-Dīn Bākharzī. Then in 671/1272–3, on the advice of his chief minister, the Ṣāḥib-dīwān Shams al-Dīn Juwaynī, and in order to profit from the upheavals north of the Oxus as Qaidu tried to assert his control over the sons of Baraq and of Alughu, the Ilkhan Abagha’s forces invaded Transoxiana. They made several attacks on Kish and Nakhshab. When the people of Bukhārā rejected the option of accompanying them back to Khurāsān, the city was subjected to a slaughter, beginning on 7 Rajab/28 January 1273 and lasting for seven days; the number of those killed is given as 10,000, and the prisoners – boys and girls – carried off are put at 50,000. In reprisal for Mas‛ūd Beg’s disdainful attitude towards the Ṣāḥib-dīwān during his embassy to Iran some years before, the college he had built was burned down. Chübei and Qaban, in pursuit of the Ilkhan’s retreating troops, recovered half the captives, though whether they were returned to their homes we are not told. Only three years later, in 674/1275–6, Chübei and Qaban, possibly acting on Qubilai’s behalf, themselves subjected the region of Bukhārā and Samarqand to an orgy of killing and looting, with the result that it lay desolate for seven years.

According to Mīrzā Ḥaydar Dughlāt, the nomads of Mughalistān were known to their more sedentarized western neighbours as Jata/Chete – usually translated as ‘bandits’ and perhaps bearing the connotation of ‘freebooters’, like the word qazaq (whence ‘Kazakh’), which surfaces as the name of a new and powerful grouping around Ḥaydar’s own time. We first encounter the term Jata in Jamāl al-Qarshī’s account of a raid on Kāshghar by ‘the accursed Jatā’iyya’. This episode is undated but must have occurred at a time when the town was in theory under Qaidu’s protection; it may have been the above-mentioned attack by Hoqu. At any rate, the marauders killed a good many people, including members of the ‛ālim class, and drove off 5,000 more as slaves. These Mughal nomads were presumably the ‘infidels’ whose repeated attacks on the villages of Transoxiana, says Ḥamd-Allāh Mustawfī, obliged the local inhabitants to go about armed.

The Era of Inter-Mongol Warfare III

The Toluid Civil War was a war of succession fought between Kublai Khan and his younger brother, Ariq Böke, from 1260 to 1264. Möngke Khan died in 1259 with no declared successor, precipitating infighting between members of the Tolui family line for the title of Great Khan that escalated to a civil war. The Toluid Civil War, and the wars that followed it (such as the Berke–Hulagu war and the Kaidu–Kublai war), weakened the authority of the Great Khan over the Mongol Empire and split the empire into autonomous khanates.

The dominions of Qaidu and the Chaghadayids

The conflict in Central Asia between the supporters of Du’a and of Chapar in 705/1305–6 was a brutal affair. Usually the details in our sources relate to the plundering and slaughter of nomadic armies – actions that in themselves, of course, had grave consequences for the economic prosperity of a region. But occasionally we are given a glimpse of unbridled attacks upon a sedentary population, as when, following a victory over Chapar’s brother Shāh Oghul in 705/1305–6, Du’a’s supporters, headed by the Chaghadayid prince Yasa’ur, laid waste the districts of Talas, Yangī, Kenjek and Chigil, tormenting the inhabitants, driving off livestock and setting light to anything they could not take with them. Waṣṣāf wrote that the whole of Turkestan and Transoxiana had been rendered desolate by the warring of the princes, the concentration and movement of troops, and the destruction of dwellings. Merchants ceased to travel, while headmen and cultivators were ground down by the requisitioning of provisions and levies of grain, and many folk had emigrated.

With the outbreak of conflict between Esen Buqa and Köpek, on the one hand, and their kinsman Yasa’ur, on the other, Transoxiana was once again subjected to a harrying. In 713–14/1314, prior to Yasa’ur’s submission to the Ilkhan Öljeitü, his troops sacked Samarqand, Sāghraj, Kish, Nakhshab, Kūfīn and other towns; Bukhārā and Khujand avoided the same fate only through the good offices of Shaykh Badr al-Dīn Mandānī. The notables from the stricken cities contrived to escape to Khwārazm, but Yasa’ur’s forces drove a vast number of the populace across the Oxus (rendering it hard to share Qāshānī’s confidence that the devastation occurred without the prince’s knowledge or consent). In Khurāsān their sufferings were considerable. Continued hostilities with Köpek obliged Yasa’ur to move them southwards from an initial camping-ground in the Murghāb region into the territory of Herat, with the result that as many as 100,000 souls allegedly perished from the cold or from starvation. Unsurprisingly, Yasa’ur has been characterized as a champion of nomadic interests and one impervious to the needs of the sedentary population.

Khwārazm also suffered periodic devastation. At the time of Alughu’s assault on Jochid Transoxiana in the early 1260s, some of his forces carried the war into Khwārazm. And when Abagha’s army invaded Transoxiana in 671/1273, a number of his commanders were sent against Khwārazm, conducting a general massacre (qatl-i ‛āmm) in Gurgānj (Ürgench), Khiva and Qarāqash. In Jumādā I 715/August 1315, Baba Oghul (a descendant of Chinggis Khan’s brother Jochi Qasar), who had earlier abandoned Chapar for the Jochids, deserted them in turn for the Ilkhan Öljeitü. Having repelled an attack by the governor of Khwārazm, Qutlugh Temür, he subjected the entire province to a campaign of devastation that is graphically described by Qāshānī, plundering several major towns, notably Hazārasp, Kāt and Khiva, committing numerous atrocities and carrying off 50,000 captives. Although he was relieved of his prisoners in a surprise attack by Yasa’ur, they arrived back home in a wretched state. Öljeitü responded to Özbeg’s incensed protests by executing Baba in the presence of the Jochid envoy, but – understandably, given that Baba had acted without his authority – offered no other form of reparation.

The impact of internecine conflict

Instances of devastation, then, during the numerous wars within the Mongols’ ranks, are not far to seek. To assess the magnitude of the damage is a different matter; nor is it easy to determine how far these conflicts prolonged the economic instability inflicted by the earlier campaigns of conquest. We are too often confronted by generalization – and suspect generalization at that. Rashīd al-Dīn tells us that on account of Qaidu’s ‘rebellion’ many Mongols and Tājīks had been killed and flourishing regions laid waste; he further claims that through the assistance given to Qaidu and Du’a by the renegade Nawrūz much damage was done to Khurāsān and innocent Muslims were killed. But as an Ilkhanid minister he had every reason to stress the adverse consequences of Qaidu’s activities (or, following the downfall of Nawrūz, of that noyan’s earlier disloyalty) for the Toluid cause. And how many times did a town have to be sacked, or an entire region devastated, before recovery became an impossibility? It is difficult to repress a nagging scepticism.

The numbers involved in the attacks by Mongol potentates on their neighbours and rivals are an inadequate gauge of destructive capacity. Often suspiciously large, they doubtless represent the total strength notionally available to a ruler (bearing in mind that all males over fourteen, at the very least, were warriors) rather than an army on a particular campaign. Thus one version of Marco Polo’s book has Hülegü and Berke do battle in 1262 with 300,000 men each. The figure recalls Rashīd al-Dīn’s epic narrative concerning ‛Ayn Jālūt, in which Kedbuqa defiantly tells his Mamlūk captors that Hülegü has 300,000 horsemen and could therefore afford to lose him, and al-‛Umarī’s statement that in its heyday the Ilkhanate could field thirty tümens. The same reservation applies to the figures that have come down to us for the Golden Horde armies. Insofar as they have any value, it can only be as a reliable indication that the Jochid ulus could draw on larger reserves of manpower than its neighbours. Al-‛Umarī indeed confirms that the Golden Horde’s forces greatly outnumbered those of the Chaghadayids, while Hayton of Gorighos attributes 400,000 and 600,000 men to Chapar and Toqto’a respectively. All these totals pale alongside the incredible claim by an informant of al-‛Umarī’s that when Toqto’a mustered one man in ten for a campaign against Esen Buqa, this produced an army of 250,000. Whether the Jochid totals include the auxiliary forces of client princes, we cannot know; Toqto’a was certainly accompanied on campaign by Rus´ soldiers.

We seem to have more modest, and hence more likely, figures for the campaigns by the Central Asian Mongols. Baraq is said to have entered Khurāsān with 150,000 men in 668/1270, and Du’a with 100,000 men in 695/1295; Sarban and his confederates moved on Ṭūs with 50,000 men seven years later; the force with which Köpek and his Chaghadayid colleagues invaded Khurāsān in 713/1313 is variously set at 40,000, 50,000 or 60,000 horse (although at one point Sayfī gives a more precise figure of 56,000); and on the eve of his downfall Chapar allegedly planned to face the Yuan army at the head of twenty tümens (doubtless including the troops of his supposed ally Du’a). Conceivably all the figures cited above were originally expressed in tümens. We should therefore remember that, as noted earlier, the tümen only notionally comprised 10,000 men and such a unit at any given time would have been reduced by campaigning.

Too much uncertainty attaches to the circumstances in which towns were deserted. In the early seventeenth century it was believed that Balāsāghūn had been covered by sand since soon after Chinggis Khan’s time. The fact that Ḥamd-Allāh Mustawfī has nothing to say about the town and describes the region’s inhabitants as predominantly nomads in his own day157 may mean that it was among the places cleared in advance of Hülegü’s passage. Yet Rashīd al-Dīn’s statement that in his time there were a great many villages in the region between the Ili and the Chu rivers, where Qaidu was buried, suggests that not far away agriculture was still flourishing after 1300. Supposedly eyewitness Muslim travellers, too, afford us scant help. Ibn Baṭṭūṭa describes Samarqand and Bukhārā as largely in ruins. Travelling through the Chaghadayid-Ilkhanid borderlands, he notices evidence of considerable destruction, but attributes it to Chinggis Khan’s forces over a century earlier. One wonders whether it resulted, in reality, from more recent strife. In any case, the fact that Ibn Baṭṭūṭa describes Balkh as in ruins when, according to the Timurid author Sharaf al-Dīn ‛Alī Yazdī, the city had been restored by the Chaghadayid khan Köpek, aggravates the doubts surrounding his true itinerary.

Ibn Faḍl-Allāh al-‛Umarī, drawing, in all likelihood, on information obtained in the 1330s, sketches another picture of desolation:

I was told by someone who passed through its [sc. Turkestan’s] countryside and travelled through its villages, ‘There remain of its settlements nothing but traces of their location and dilapidated ruins. You see in the distance a settlement with impressive buildings and verdant surroundings, and are cheered by the expectation of finding there congenial inhabitants. But when you arrive, you find the said buildings empty of people and inhabitants other than tent-dwellers and herdsmen. There is no sowing or tillage. Its greenery is that of pastures which God created. The vegetation there is of the steppe: no sower has sown it nor cultivator planted it.’

Impressions of this kind defy evaluation. Which parts of Turkestan did al-‛Umarī’s informant see? Was this wilderness a direct consequence of the conflicts of Chapar’s era, or of the warfare between Qaidu and Qubilai? Or did it date back several decades, to a time when agricultural land was converted to pasturage? The simple answer is that we cannot know.

Nomadic khans, their military and their sedentary subjects

The foregoing section has been concerned with the way in which Mongol princes treated the subjects and territories of their enemies. Let us now consider the policies they adopted towards their own, which we might reasonably expect to have been more restrained. There was undeniably a marked variation in social and economic conditions between the two Mongol polities centred on the major regions of sedentary culture, namely Yuan China and Ilkhanid Iran, and those dominated by a pastoralist nomad economy. Yet two qualifications should be made. In the first place, throughout the Mongol world Chinggisid rulers and their military continued to follow a nomadic lifestyle well into the fourteenth century, and it was not merely invading armies that inflicted devastation on the agricultural regions. The Ilkhans themselves still adhered to the customary seasonal movements, following, as Charles Melville has demonstrated, a rhythm of migration between summer and winter quarters right down to Öljeitü’s reign. And secondly, in many cases Mongol rulers whose territories were predominantly steppelands were by no means hostile towards urban culture.

The needs and aspirations of nomadic cavalry forces certainly conflicted with agrarian interests.164 In the spring of 1264, Arigh Böke’s troops, quartered in the Almaligh region, were obliged to feed their mounts with wheat instead of barley; in consequence, many of the townsfolk of Almaligh starved to death.165 During Mubārak Shāh’s brief reign over Chaghadai’s ulus, Rashīd al-Dīn tells us, the military continued to pillage and harass the populace, though the khan – a Muslim – reportedly prevented them from oppressing the peasants. His successor Baraq twice hatched the design of plundering Transoxiana, but was prevented by Qaidu on the first occasion and dissuaded by Mas‛ūd Beg on the second. He nevertheless caused a serious dearth by requisitioning wheat as well as barley to fatten up his horses in preparation for his invasion of Khurāsān.

In Iran the Ilkhans’ own forces, perhaps on the move to repulse an enemy, damaged sedentary land. Anecdotes in the Ṣafwat al-ṣafā of Tawakkulī Ibn Bazzāz, an account of the life of Shaykh Ṣafī’ al-Dīn Ardabīlī (d. 735/1334), testify to the damage done to agrarian districts and the peasantry by the passage of troops. It seems to have been important to Rashīd al-Dīn that on the long journey from Azerbaijan to Khurāsān to do battle with Baraq, Abagha had forbidden his men to damage a single stalk, and that during their return march they refrained from injuring a single creature; but Egyptian authors (not necessarily a dispassionate source either, in this context) insist that his cavalry grazed their mounts in cultivated fields. So too, it was the Ilkhan’s troops who on occasions allowed their zeal to carry them away when conducting a punitive campaign against unruly subjects, like the Türkmen groups in the Konya region of Anatolia in the early 1280s, since which time, says an anonymous author writing over eight decades later, it had remained ‘virtually uninhabited (hamchunīn kharāb)’. During his operations as governor of Khurāsān against the rebel Nawrūz, according to Rashīd al-Dīn, Ghazan forbade his soldiery to allow their livestock into fields or orchards, or consume the grain, or treat the peasants with violence, which (whether true or not) suggests that these abuses were common. His decree for the allocation of iqṭā‛s (land-grants) to the Mongol soldiery referred to their habit of damaging the provinces when setting out on campaign.

There was also periodic conflict between the Ilkhan’s sedentary subjects and nomadic groups introduced by the Mongols at the time of the conquest. This category includes the tamma forces that had been quartered within the regions since Hülegü’s era, or even earlier, and had virtually acquired a title to their pasturelands through long usage. By the early fourteenth century some of these provincial Mongol armies had been transmuted into artificial tribal formations that took their name from their original commander (much as the residue of the Jochid troops had regrouped in eastern Iran at an earlier date to form the Negüderis): the Jurma’īs of Fārs and Kirmān, for example, whose nucleus was the force led by a certain Jurma, or the Ūghānīs, initially a thousand on the frontier of Kirmān commanded by Ughan of the Jalayir. Although Jurma’īs, having intermingled with the local village population, were caught up and enslaved in the Negüderi raid of 677/1278–9, and although they and the Ūghānīs for some days put up a spirited defence against a Chaghadayid invasion in 700/1301 (above, pp. 197–8), friction also readily arose between these nomadic troops and the sedentary population. A local chronicler speaks of the iniquities that the Ūghānīs perpetrated against ‘the warm regions and the cold’ in the 1280s, and they and the Jurma’īs were still plaguing Kirmān in the post-Ilkhanid period, when the new Muzaffarid rulers were called on to check their depredations. A fifteenth-century poet preserves the laments of the people of Abīward, in Khurāsān, regarding their oppression by the Mongols of the Ja’ūn-i Qurbān.

Responsibility for damage to agricultural land in Iran also lies with outside pastoralist groups technically subject to the Ilkhans’ own authority. Waṣṣāf describes the Qara’unas/Negüderi bands who submitted to Abagha in Khurāsān in 677–8/1278–9 and entered his service as ‘like demons rather than humans and the most brazen of the Mongols’, and says that plundering was their customary activity. These Ilkhanid Qara’unas wrought havoc in the civil war between Tegüder Aḥmad and Arghun, when they devastated the Dāmghān region, and again in the upheavals towards the end of Arghun’s reign. A band led by Dānishmand Bahādur laid waste the Juwayn district in 689/1290. In 698/1299 another Qara’unas thousand, under a certain Buqa, abandoned its quarters near Ṭārum and headed east to rejoin the Negüderis, ravaging the borders of Yazd and Kirmān.

Further nomadic groups accompanied fugitive Chinggisids seeking fresh pasturelands and offering their services as auxiliaries. Following Chapar’s defeat by Du’a, several princes abandoned Central Asia. Chapar himself, as we saw, sought asylum in the Yuan dominions. Others took refuge in the territories of the Ilkhan Öljeitü. First was a group numbering 30,000 and headed by Chapar’s brother Sarban, Mingqan, a grandson of Arigh Böke, and Temür, of Jochi Qasar’s line, who entered Khurāsān together early in 706/the summer of 1306. Later, in the summer of 708/1308, the Chaghadayid Dhū l-Qarnayn too entered Khurāsān to seek fresh camping-grounds from the Ilkhan. Supervising this influx of successive nomadic groups, and their absorption, cannot have been easy. Since Sarban, Temür and Dhū l-Qarnayn all died shortly after crossing the Oxus, the province was possibly spared a problem of the scale that it would experience in the next decade. This was the responsibility of Yasa’ur, who, accompanied by various Ögödeyid princes, had been settled in Khurāsān by Öljeitü but who then fomented trouble during Abū Sa‛īd’s minority, trying to subject to himself local dynasts, including the maliks of Herat and Sīstān. In the course of these struggles, Khurāsān and Māzandarān suffered considerable devastation. Yasa’ur was overthrown in 720/1320 by his old enemy Köpek, to whom the ruler of Herat had appealed for assistance.

The second qualification that must be made to the time-honoured view of the Mongol states is that even those khans who have been cast as proponents of the nomadic lifestyle and customs made efforts to remedy the damage inflicted by the campaigns of conquest or by more recent warfare. The quriltai that Qaidu summoned in 1269 voiced a concern to preserve the flourishing towns of Transoxiana, under threat from the rapacious Baraq; it was agreed that the princes would live in the mountains and plains, avoiding the urban centres, and would not pasture their livestock on cultivated land. After Transoxiana had lain desolate for seven years as a result of the depredations of the sons of Baraq and of Alughu, Mas‛ūd Beg, on Qaidu’s orders, reassembled the scattered populations of Samarqand and Bukhārā and took steps to revive economic activity (c. 681/1282). Waṣṣāf, writing in 699/1299–1300 (and thus before the conflicts that began in 1305), heard that it was once more a thriving region. According to an early fifteenth-century author, Du’a (probably with Qaidu’s backing) restored a number of towns in Turkestan and Farghāna, notably Andijān, where the development of a flourishing commercial entrepôt is implicit in the reference to separate quarters for each of the various ethnic groups. Some decades later, as we saw above, Du’a’s son Köpek would restore Balkh. Old Tirmidh, reduced to a ruin by Chinggis Khan, had evidently been refortified by 716/1316, when Köpek’s forces were able to hold out there against Yasa’ur’s troops. Khwārazm, where the irrigation network had suffered during the Mongol attack of 1221, was again a prosperous agricultural region by the early fourteenth century. Sighnāq and Sawrān, on the lower Sīr-daryā river, revived when the region became the centre of the ulus of Orda around the same time. The Jochids are known to have founded many small towns as craft and supply centres.

Much of this princely solicitude was directed towards towns and trade. We know that in the Ilkhanate, at least, taxes on commerce and crafts yielded larger sums than did those on the land. The monarchs, their families and the upper echelons of the bureaucracy and the military were maintained by these taxes; the costs of administering the empire were met chiefly from agricultural revenues. Philip Remler argues that this explains the relative neglect of the agrarian sector prior to Ghazan’s reign and the fact that the pastoralists were allowed to live off the countryside. Such information is lacking for the other two western khanates; but here too the rulers often made their seasonal quarters in the vicinity of towns, which served as centres of revenue collection and craft production and in some cases as mints. Qaidu’s principal residence, as we saw, was near Talas. From 696/1296–7 the town of Ṣāqchī (Isaccea, in present-day Rumania), on the lower Danube, was an important centre in Noghai’s steppe domain; coins were minted here in his name, and it is described by the Mamlūk author Baybars al-Manṣūrī as one of his halting-places (manāzil). Some of these walled centres had even been constructed by Mongol qaghans or other princes: Emil, on the river of that name, by Ögödei, for instance. The Chaghadayid khan Köpek built Qarshī, a few miles from the town of Nakhshab in Transoxiana, though whether as Esen Buqa’s viceroy (when the Nakhshab-Kish region is known to have been his summer quarters) or during his own reign, we are not told. These were tent cities. Qarshī was still a royal residence over a decade later, Ibn Faḍl-Allāh al-‛Umarī tells us, confirming, however, that the khans otherwise eschewed living behind walls. The most celebrated example is the city-encampment of Sarai (Pers. sarāī, ‘palace’) that Batu had constructed by c. 1250 in the Volga delta, not far from the site of the one-time Khazar capital of Itil. At some subsequent date another city may have been built upstream, possibly by Özbeg, and known as Sarāī-yi jadīd (‘New Sarai’), though it has been argued that this was merely another name for Batu’s foundation. Even if far from implying the abandonment of the nomadic life, activities of this kind must have fostered (and even, at times, expressed) a certain sensitivity to the needs of town-dwellers.

On the other hand, the Ilkhans could no more afford to be unmindful of the exigencies of ruling over nomads than were their counterparts in the Pontic-Caspian steppes or in Central Asia. Rashīd al-Dīn makes Ghazan assure the Mongol military of his readiness to fleece the agriculturalists of his realm, should that prove the most profitable means of governance in the longer term:

I am not on the side of the Tāzīk [Tājīk, i.e. Persian] peasants (ra‘iyyat). If there is a purpose in pillaging them all, there is no one with more power to do this than I: let us rob them together …

But Ghazan goes on to advocate restraint. His opening words (no doubt inspired by Rashīd al-Dīn) are admittedly designed to ‘sell’ his reforms by pointing to a community of interests; but otherwise the sentiments are almost worthy of a Baraq. Yet the crucial distinction, for our purposes, is not a geographical or ecological one. It separates, rather, rulers who failed to rise above the short-term view, extracting from their sedentary subjects the maximum possible, from others who perceived their own long-term advantage in nurturing the same subjects’ prosperity and hence their potential as a source of revenue. This exercise in delayed gratification was more pressing, perhaps, for Mongol khans who embraced Islam – or at least for Muslim authors who wrote about them.

* * *

Just like the sources that describe the campaigns of Chinggis Khan’s armies against the Khwārazmshāh’s empire and lesser Muslim kingdoms, those for the inter-Mongol conflicts of the later thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries are prone to exaggerate and to avoid the specific; but there is one marked difference. Only rarely, as on the occasion of the Ilkhanid assault on Khwārazm in 671/1273 (the work, we might note, of troops from a regime often credited with a greater sympathy for sedentary culture), do they give the impression of the wholesale massacre of an urban population. In general the damage and its consequences were of the kind normally associated with medieval warfare. We have no way of knowing whether the harmful impact on agrarian or urban societies exceeded that of the late Saljuq and Khwarazmian periods. Nor is it possible to judge whether the influx of pastoral nomads created greater dislocation than that caused by, say, the Ghuzz during and for some decades after the collapse of Sanjar’s empire in the mid-to-late twelfth century. The most we can say with some degree of certainty is that these conflicts impeded or reversed the work of reconstruction which various Mongol rulers and their ministers had undertaken in the aftermath of the initial conquest.