During the reign of the successor of Genghis Khan, Ogodei Khan (d.1240/41), the Jochid Ulus or realm greatly expanded in size. In 1237, Jochi's son Batu (1227-1255), assisted by the famous Mongol general Subedei, led a large army westward. In route they destroyed the Bulgar khanate on the Volga River, pacified the numerous Turkic tribes of the steppes, and conquered the Russian cities. Then in 1240, Mongol armies invaded Hungary and Poland, winning victories over the knights of Europe at Mohi in Hungary and Liegnitz in Poland. As news spread of the ferocity of the Mongols, Europe trembled in anticipation of an attack that never came. In 1241 Ogodei Khan died, which forced the Mongol armies to withdraw to Russia in order to elect a new khan.
Despite an intense rivalry with Güyük Khan, Ogodei's son, Batu established the Golden Horde as a semi-independent part of the Mongol Empire. The origins of the name Golden Horde are uncertain. Some scholars believe that it refers to the camp of Batu and the later rulers of the Horde. In Mongolian, Altan Orda refers to the golden camp or palace. Altan (golden) was also the color connoting imperial status. Other sources mention that Batu had a golden tent, and it is from this that the Golden Horde received its name. While this legend is persistent, no one is positive of the origin of the term. In most contemporary sources, the Golden Horde was referred to as the Khanate of the Qipchaq as the Qipchaq Turks comprised the majority of the nomadic population in the region (the Ulus Jochid).
Batu died in 1255, and the next significant ruler was his brother Berke (1255-1267) who had converted to Islam and focused most of his energies against the Il-Khans of Persia. His conversion marked the first time an important leader among the Mongols abandoned the traditional shamanistic religion. Hulegu, the founder of the Mongol Il-Khanate, had sacked Baghdad in 1258 and killed the Caliph of Islam. Berke forged an alliance with the Mamluks of Egypt who were also enemies of the Il-Khans. The war with the Il-Khans lasted until the final collapse of the Il-Khanate in 1334.
The third ruler was Mongke Temur (1266-1279), who continued much as his predecessors did: warring against the Il-Khans. In addition, the Golden Horde increasingly dominated trade and was the most powerful state in Europe, often exerting its influence with threats of invasion into Poland and Hungary, or through its vassal, Bulgaria. After Mongke Temur's death, many of the khans became puppets controlled by generals, such as Nogai (d. 1299).
Between 1313 and 1341 during the rule of Uzbek Khan, the Golden Horde reached its pinnacle in terms of wealth, trade, influence, and military might. Uzbek Khan also forced the conversion of the Golden Horde to Islam, thus the cities of Sarai and New Sarai emerged as major Muslim centers. During the middle of the fourteenth century, however, the Golden Horde weakened as it suffered-like much of the world-from bubonic plague, civil wars, and ineffectual rulers (between 1357 and 1370, eight khans ruled). It is even thought that bubonic plague spread to Europe after the Mongols laid siege to the port of Kaffa on the Crimean peninsula in 1346. After their own forces were stricken with plague, the Mongols catapulted their corpses over the walls into Kaffa. The ships that left Kaffa and returned to Italy carried the disease.
In addition to their wars with the Il-Khanate, the Golden Horde dominated the Russian principalities. Although much has been written about an oppressive Mongol Yoke, the Russians also reaped numerous advantages in terms of trade and protection, and eventually supplanted the Golden Horde as the dominant power in the steppes of Asia. Indeed, even after the initial invasion in the thirteenth century, the Russians viewed the Mongols as a preferred alternative to the Swedish or German crusaders existing on their western border. While the Mongols sometimes exacted onerous demands, they more or less left the Russians to their own devices. The German crusaders, surely would have forced conversion to Catholicism upon the Russians had they prevailed. The Russians' first victory was against Mamai, a general who usurped the throne of the Golden Horde. Although he sacked Moscow in 1380, he was later defeated at the battle of Kulikovo. The Russians claimed it as a major victory; but, in reality, it accomplished little as Toqtamish (1383-1391) also defeated Mamai in 1383, and then proceeded to sack Moscow again.
Toqtamish may have been able to restore the Golden Horde to its former glory-he did reunite it-but he became embroiled in a series of wars with Tamerlane (1369-1404) who emerged victorious and sacked Sarai and New Sarai. The trade routes never recovered from these disruptions, and Toqtamish died in obscurity in 1391. With the death of Toqtamish, the Golden Horde went into a downward spiral and eventually fragmented. By the middle of the 15th century, the Golden Horde had shattered into the Crimean Khanate, the Astrakhanate, the Sibir Khanate, Kazan Khanate, the Nogai Horde and the Great Horde. The final death knell came in 1480 when the Muscovites on the Ugra River defeated the Great Horde. Although the Golden Horde ended, several inner Asian nations still trace their origins to it. The Uzbeks, the Kazakhs, and, of course, the numerous Tatars of Kazan and Crimea perceive themselves as descendents of the Golden Horde. Indeed, some scholars view the rise of Moscow and the Russian Empire as an heir to the legacy of the Golden Horde.
The Western domains of Chingisid empire, known as Golden Horde was bequeathed to his (Genghis Khan's) son Jochi(1184-1225), but it was Jochi’s son, Batu(1227-1255) who expanded it from the Northern China to the Carpathians, including Ural-Idil region, Muscovy, Kiev and the Crimea. Batu Khan’s invasion of Hungary and Germany in 1240 constituted the last of the Mongolian invasions. Batu Khan established the Golden Horde Khanate with its capital at Sarai, on lower Volga, under the suzerainty of Great Khan in Karakorum. The Golden Horde seems to be the Russian name for the empire, in Turkic sources it was called the White Horde(Aq Orda). In some sources, it is referred as the “Khanate of Qipchak” as the Qipchak Turks were predominant in numbers, and the Mongols constituting the ruling minority. The Golden Horde did not remain as a nomadic empire, soon after it was founded it developed a complex bureaucracy to rule over settled societies. It became the most powerful state in Europe and dominated trade.
Although Russian principalities and Muscovy had paid tribute to Golden Horde for 240 years, the Russians have had numerous advantages such as trade and protection under the Golden Horde, and eventually replaced it in the northern steppes inheriting its economic and political structures. The Golden Horde approach to rule was pragmatic: They did not seek to impose their view of the world over their subjects, interfere in their religions and cultural life, and preferred indirect rule through local dynasties where possible.The predominant religion of the Qipchaks in the Golden Horde was largely Shamanism although there were some Turkic groups who practiced Judaism or Christianity. Berkei Khan(1255-1267) is the first khan who converted to Islam, but Islam was widely established only under the reign of Ozbeg Khan(1313-1340). Its acceptance by all Tatars was completed in the beginning of 15 th century.
Under the Golden Horde, the peoples of northern steppes have molded into a Turkic-Islamic identity which crystallized in the 14 th century. The Turkic-Islamic identity underlied the Crimean and other khanates descending from Golden Horde, and it stimulated the development of closer relations with the Ottomans.
The Golden Horde began to weaken in 1430s because of the internal struggles for power, and dissolved in 1490s after the defeat of Toktamish Khan by Timur(Tamerlane). With the death of Toqtamish, the Golden Horde declined and eventually fragmented. By the middle of the 15th century, the Golden Horde had shattered into the Crimean Khanate, the Astrakhan Khanate, the Sibir Khanate, the Kazan Khanate, the Nogai Horde, Kasim Khanate.
After the Volga Boulgaria and Russian principalities were included into common administrative system of the Golden Horde, the role of Kazan as a frontier fortress was lost. It kept developing as a centre of crafts and trade, but at the same time, as the saying goes, slowly but steadily it was turning into politico-administrative centre of the region. This was supported by large-scale migration of the Bouigarsfrom central trans-Kama lands northwards, where they occupied basins of rivers Mesha, Kazanka, and Vyatka. The population of settlements near Kazan has grown. Among the migrants also were the Boulgar princes who were dissatisfied with the policy of the Juchids. It was by that time, when, according to available data, the Kaban settlement was founded on a high projection of the hilly eastern bank of the Middle Kaban Lake. There, there is a cemetery with a stone gravestone installed on the grave of a Boulgar princess. The inscription on the stone runs: Altyn Bertek [Golden Grain], daughter of Yaidash, son of Ba+. May God grant his grace to her. She came back from the unstable world to the world of eternity the year six hundred ninety six in the month of Zulhija on the eighth day in the morning [27 September 1297]. Death is a door, and all will enter it. Oh, I wish I knew of my abode after death.
The second half of the 14th century was marked by deep political crisis in Ulus Juchi, which started the process of the setting apart of the Boulgar lands.
Already in 1361 the Golden Horde prince Boulat-Timur attempted to establish his own, independent of Sarai, ulus in Bolgar. Some time later the power in it was seized by prince Khasan. The Horde temnik (commander of 10,000 warriors) Mamai decided to take back the Boulgar Ulus by enthroning his protegee with the help of Russian princes. For this he sent his ambassador to Suzdal prince Dmitry Konstantinovich in 1370, who «having gathered many warriors, hurried up to Buigar. Emir Khasan met them with many gifts, and they, having taken the gifts, have enthroned Saltan, the son of Bak». The new prince, however, preferred not to conflict with Khasan and allocated to him the vast lands with the centre in Kazan. Khasan has become the first ruler of the new Kazan principality. It is believed that the name of the town, which originated as late as in the period of the Golden Horde only, i.e. in the second half of the 14th century, is connected with the name of the Boulgar emir Khasan. With all the attractiveness and soundness, this hypothesis, in our opinion, is far from reality. By the 14th century the town already had three-hundred-year-old history and, of course, had its own name, which was used for many years of its existence. Its origin is most probably connected to hyrdonym Kazan(su).
The grave of Khasan is located in the Kaban settlement mentioned above. On the prince's gravestone there is an inscription: «He is alive that does not die [everyone who lives will die]. This is the place of burying a great and noble ruler, aide to rulers, honoured and victorious emir + pride of the family + and faith, the shadow of God of the worlds. Khasan-bek, son of Mir-Makhmoud».
Starting from the time of emir Khasan, Kazan becomes an active participant of historic events in Eastern Europe, Its name appeared in Russian chronicles, it became a target for assaults of ushkuiniks (river pirates), etc.
Approximately at the same time, in the second half of the 14th century, the name of the town appears on West-European maps. On the famous map of brothers Francisco and Dominico Pizigani constructed in 1367 in Italy, a large town with a fluttering flag on a tower is shown on the place of Kazan, though its name is not given. Many other medieval maps of the 14th and 15th centuries (the earliest of them being the so-called Catalan map drawn by Abraham Cresques in 1375) have the skyline of a similarly large town on the place of Kazan, to the north of the junction of the Volga and Kama, with the Latin name Castrum (variants: Castrama, Castarma), which means a fortress, fortified locality. If we take into account that medieval maps indicated, first of all, capital cities and large trading centres, then Kazan indicated on these maps, as we can assume, had already been quite well-known in the world of that time.
Thus, at the time of the Golden Horde, Kazan was vigorously making itself known on the historical arena. Once a border town, it turned into one of the important economic and political centres in the Middle Volga region. This is reflected in the pace of the town's development. By the late 13th century it was still within the limits of a small pre-Mongol settlement, which consisted, as the majority of medieval towns, of two topographic parts: a fortified fortress and a trading quarter adjoining its walls. Gradually the town was expanding southwards along the top of the Kremlin hill. Unfortified trading quarter by the early 15th century reached the crossroads of the present-day Kremlevskaya and Chernyshevsky Streets. To the east of the Kremlin, in the area of the Bogoroditsky Monastery, appeared a fortified settlement, known from the copyists' books (cadastres) and other sources of the 16th century as the Old Settlement.
The centre of the town was still the city on the Kremlin hill with the ruler's residence. As before, it was within the same limits, and did not expand over the entire period of principality's existence. It was there where the treasures containing the Juchid coins of the late 14th century (found in 1909] and early 15th century (found in 1893) were located. The town walls kept functioning without significant changes. Probably, they were not seriously destroyed or reconstructed. The traces of local destruction and repair were only found on its small sections.
The growth of the town was connected with the growth of its inhabitants. This fact has, after all, determined the formation of the building system. By the end of the Golden Horde period, a town pattern has shaped inside the fortified settlement, which existed without radical change practically until the end of the 17th century. Dwelling houses were built along narrow wood paved streets, which were archaeologically revealed.
The town had a socially and ethnically motley population. The nature of the abundant material from the Golden Horde layer is different from finds of the earlier and later deposits. Ceramic dishware has the closest analogue in the materials of the Lower- and Middle Volga towns of the Golden Horde. Such dishware take roots in the developed and highly technological pottery of the previous times. The fact that representatives of Russian principalities also lived in Kazan can be proved by specific white clay dishware produced in potteries of towns of the North-East Rus. The ceramic material testifies also to the presence in the territory of the town of the local Finnish (Cheremiss) population.
Describing the lifestyle of the town's inhabitants, we would like to note that even at that time it was connected with trade, traditional for Kazan. Because of the change in the political situation of the region and the activity of merchants themselves, Kazan was gradually acquiring the status of an international trading centre to substitute Bulgar. To this testify the finds from excavations in the Kremlin: imported glazed ceramics with polychrome painting from the Lower Volga region and Central Asia, fragments of ceiadon bowls from China, and some Golden Horde coins.
Renewal of stone construction after the pre-Mongol period began probably in the early 15th century. The fragments of glazed facing tiles of light blue and ultramarine colours are quite often found in the territory of Kazan Kremlin in the Golden Horde layers. They were used to decorate facades of mosques, rich palaces and other public places.
The whole body of the available sources on the history of Kazan of the late 14th and early 15th centuries testifies to considerable achievements of the town's population in economic, political, and cultural life. By the time when the Horde of Ulug Moukhammad emerged on the Middle Volga, Kazan already subjugated other principalities of the Boulgar uius. The town of Bulgar completely lost its former power and role of the centre of Boulgar lands. Shigaboutdin Marjani, an outstanding Tatar historian and public figure of the 19th century wrote: «Because of numerous distempers and misfortunes that fell upon Boulgaria, its former well-being began declining and gradually was transferred onto Kazan, which inherited the former glories of the Boulgars. In the early 15th century Kazan was called the New Bulgar (Bolgar al-Jadid). The prevailing circumstances made its turning into the capital of the Kazan Khanate inevitable».