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Ages of Conquest: a Kings and Generals Podcast

Apr 4, 2022

After two decades of anarchy, one man appeared from the darkness to restore the Golden Horde to its might: this was Toqtamish. Just as the candle may spark up just before it goes out,  Toqtamish seemed poised to right the wrongs of the previous decades, and reaffirm the power of the Golden Horde over its subjects, and thus bring about further centuries of greatness. But then came Temür, Toqtamish’s former patron, turned greatest enemy. I’m your host David, and this is Kings and Generals: Age of Conquest.


While our series on the Golden Horde has so far focused on the descendants of Batu Khan, the khans of the Golden Horde until the start of 1360s, the other descendants of Jochi’s many other sons had their own appanages within the khanate. Of the fourteen named sons of Jochi,  by the late fourteenth century  there were two of these lineages left who held any might. These were the lines of Shiban, Jochi’s fifth son, and Toqa-Temür, Jochi’s youngest son. As the house of Batu and Orda went extinct in the middle of the fourteenth century, the torch of rulership was passed between these lineages. It seems both lineages were largely based in the eastern part of the khanate, in the Blue Horde or the ulus of Orda. The Shibanids held lands in what was to become the Khanate of Sibir, named for the fortress of the same name. The heart of this territory was the upper Irtysh River, and if the name of Sibir sounds familiar, that’s because in time it gave its name to Siberia. The Toqa-Temürids meanwhile seem to have generally ranged east of the Ural river, across the Kazakh steppes.


In the chaos that followed Berdi Beğ Khan’s death in 1359, it was representatives of the Shibanids who first moved west to claim the throne in Sarai. When Orda’s line died out in the 1360s, the Toqa-Temürids were the ones on the scene to usurp the ulus in the Blue Horde lands, though it was not a secure power base. The order of khans is a matter of great contention: reigns were brief, and various sources often offer contradictory information, which is often further contradicted with the dates given on coinage in the period. What is clear is that the Blue Horde contenders quickly, if not immediately, saw their conflict and their state as independent of the wars for Sarai ongoing at the same time. The Blue Horde was now separate, once more, from the Golden.


One of the earliest figures to seize the vacant throne of the Ordaids was Qara-Nogai, a Toqa-Temürid. In the early 1360s he was elected khan in Sighnaq, the Blue Horde administrative capital, located on the lower reaches of Syr Darya River near the Aral Sea. His reign was brief, but after some years of conflict members of his family continued to claim the throne; the most notable of these was Urus Khan, whose reign is usually dated to beginning in 1368. 


Urus Khan was a real strong man— and not a descendant of Orda, as newer research has demonstrated. In the decade of his reign Urus established a firm hold on power and firm military backing. Rivals for the throne were violently killed or exiled, and around 1372 he even led an army to take Sarai and declare himself Khan of the Golden Horde, though he soon abandoned the city. Nonetheless he exercised a monopoly on power in the Blue Horde which made it considerably more stable than the ongoing troubles in the Golden Horde, which was too much even for Urus to exert control over. But such was his influence that his sons and descendants continued to be prominent players for decades. Two sons, Quyurchuq and Ulugh Muhammad, later became khans of the Golden Horde, while the latter established the Khanate of Kazan; a grandson of Urus, Baraq, also became Khan of the Golden Horde, while Urus’ great-grandchildren established the Kazakh Khanate. It should not be a surprise then that some historians suggest that Urus should be identified with Alash Khan, the legendary founder of the Kazakhs from whom all khans were descended.  Descent from Urus, in effect, became a new form of legitimacy after the fourteenth century.


As mentioned, Urus took to killing and exiling his rivals to power. These were often fellow Toqa-Temürids. One such fellow who he had killed was his cousin, Toy-Khwaja. In the aftermath, Toy-Khwaja’s son was forced to flee; this is our first introduction to Toqtamish. Toy-Khwaja must have been quite the rival and had some following, for Toqtamish never had much trouble finding supporters for himself. One source indicates Toqtamish’s mother was a high ranking lady of the Sufi-Qonggirads, a dynasty which had recently established its quasi-independence from the Blue Horde at Urgench and now ruled Khwarezm. A young and courageous warrior, if not the most tactically skilled, Prince Toqtamish deeply desired both revenge and power. Urus Khan’s horsemen pursued him, and Toqtamish fled for his life right out of the steppe, crossing the Syr Darya River to seek shelter with a new rising power: Aksak Temür as the Turks of the time knew him; he’d prefer to be known as Emir Temür Güregen, son-in-law to the house of Chinggis and sahib-i qiran, “lord of the Auspicious Conjunction.” Persians knew him as Temür-i Lang, and today we know him best as Tamerlane. Since half the people in this period are named some variation of Temür, to help make it easier to tell everyone apart we’ll stick with his popular moniker of Tamerlane.


Since the beginning of the 1360s, Tamerlane had fought for power in the ruins of the western half of the Chagatai Khanate. By spring 1370 he had succeeded in becoming master of Transoxania. As a non-Chinggisid, Tamerlane could not bear the title of khan or rule in his own right over nomads. Thus his official title was Emir, presenting himself as the protector of his new puppet khan, a descendant of Ögedai. From this basis the Timürid empire began to expand. 


When Toqtamish fled to the domains of Tamerlane around 1375, the Emir’s attention was still mostly local. His campaigns into Iran had not yet begun, and instead he alternated between attacking the Sufi-Qonggirads in Khwarezm, and Qamar al-Din, the ruler of the eastern Chagatai lands, or Moghulistan as it was commonly known at the time.  Undoubtedly, Tamerlane held a wary eye to his northern border; Urus Khan and his horsemen posed a real threat to Tamerlane, in a way none of his other neighbours did. Thus when a young, pliable claimant to the throne of Urus arrived in his court, Tamerlane was more than willing to oblige. Should Toqtamish control the Blue Horde, then Tamerlane needn’t worry over that border and could turn his attention elsewhere. Toqtamish was received in Tamerlane’s court with high honours and respect, and granted Otrar and other lands along the Syr Darya as patrimony, in addition to troops, horses and supplies. Not coincidentally, Otrar was within spitting distance of Sighnaq. Tamerlane had given Toqtamish a platform to seize the Blue Horde.


Toqtamish quickly began raiding the lands of Urus, building his reputation as a warrior and charismatic leader. But Urus was no fool and quickly had an army sent after Toqtamish, under the command of a son, Qutlugh Buqa. Despite fierce effort on Toqtamish’s part, and the death of Qutlugh Buqa in the fighting, Toqtamish was defeated and sent back to Tamerlane. The Emir provided Toqtamish another army, only for Toqtamish to again be defeated when another of Urus’ armies came seeking to avenge Qutlugh Buqa. This time, according to the Timurid historian Yazdi, Toqtamish was so thoroughly beaten down that he ditched his armour and swam across the Syr Darya River to save his life, and returned to Tamerlane naked and humbled. Not long after came a representative of Urus, named Edigü, a powerful bey within the Blue Horde and head of the Manghit people. Edigü bore Urus’ message demanding Tamerlane handover Toqtamish; was it not right for the father to avenge the son? What right did Tamerlane have to hold such a fugitive?


Tamerlane refused to handover Toqtamish— whatever Tamerlaner’s faults, and there were many, he had given his word as overlord to protect the young prince. Some authors go as far as to present an almost father/son dynamic between them. It’s not impossible; Tamerlane had gone through his own period of qazaqliq,  the Turkic term for when a prince was reduced to a state of near brigandage, a freebooter fighting for every scrap. It’s the etymological basis, by the way, for both the Turkic Kazakh and the Cossacks of the Pontic steppes.  Tamerlane may have sympathized with the fierce, proud Toqtamish, in contrast with his own sons who tended to range from lazy to unreliable. Tamerlane’s own favoured son and heir, his second son Jahangir Mirza, died about this time in 1376 or 7, leaving his father stricken with grief. Toqtamish may have filled in the gap, and as Toqtamish himself had lost his father, it’s not difficult to imagine Toqtamish valuing Tamerlane's presence greatly.  Of course, it may simply have been convenience on the part of both parties. 


With Tamerlane’s refusal to hand over Toqtamish, Urus Khan led an army against them. Tamerlane raised one in response, with Toqtamish in the vanguard. Skirmishing ensued, and nearly did the full forces clash, had not, according to Yazdi, a vicious rainstorm kept the armies apart. They returned to their respective realms. The dramatic confrontation between the two great warlords of Central Asia was averted when, likely in 1378, Urus Khan suddenly died, followed in quick succession by the chief of his sons, Toqta Caya.


    In a mad dash, Tamerlane sent Toqtamish with an army to Sighnaq, and had him finally declared khan. Tamerlane returned comfortably to his capital of Samarkand, only to learn that Toqtamish had again been ousted, when another of Urus Khan’s sons, Temür Malik, had declared himself khan and raised an army. Once more Tamerlane reinforced Toqtamish, though now Toqtamish was able to gather more support of his own. Finally Temür Malik Khan was overcome, and Toqtamish firmly emplaced as Khan of the Blue Horde. Not coincidentally, from this point onwards Tamerlane was able to secure his frontiers and begin his southern conquests into Iran, which would hold his attention for the rest of the 1380s.


    The new Khan, Toqtamish,  set about confirming the support of the pillars of his new realm. The Shibanids of Sibir, and the Sufi-Qonggirads of Khwarezm, despite their capital of Urgench being sacked by Tamerlane in 1379, were important suppliers of troops for Toqtamish. Numerous beys and princes came over to pledge allegiance to him. Toqtamish either convinced them of his divine support, or richly rewarded them, and succeeded in breaking even some factions. The Manghit leader Edigü, for instance, found that his brother ‘Isa Beğ became a staunch ally of Toqtamish Khan. Edigü’s sister had been married to Urus Khan’s son, the late Temür Malik Khan, and despite the latter’s defeat Edigü remained a powerful and prominent figure within the Horde, controlling a great swath of pasture east of the Ural and Emba Rivers. To bring him over, or at least stop his active resistance, Toqtamish provided Edigü tarkhan, or tax-exempt, status and granted him more lands.


    With his rear secured, Toqtamish had not a moment to lose. His intentions were clear. Toqtamish was not aiming to just succeed his father, or Urus Khan, or be merely Khan of the Blue Horde. He had much bigger dreams. He idolized Öz Beg Khan and the glory days of the united ulus. Beyond that though, outside of Mongolia proper, Toqtamish was effectively the only Chinggisid monarch who held power in his own name. The Yuan Khans had been pushed from China, and their power restricted to the Mongol homeland, and their attention focused on battling Ming Dynasty incursions into the steppe. In the west, all other Chinggisids were puppets or minor princelings. Toqtamish therefore presented himself not just as heir to Özbeg and Jani Beg, or of Batu and Jochi, but as the heir to Chinggis Khan. For the rest of his life Toqtamish remained the most powerful single member of the house of Chinggis, and styled himself not as khan, but as khagan, Great Khan. And for that, he needed Sarai. 


     Quickly, but carefully, he made his way onto the Jochid capital, winning over allies or defeating foes as he went, before taking the city in 1380. Only one great enemy remained, and that was the western beylerbeyi, Mamai. There was not a moment to waste once Mamai suffered defeat at Kulikovo against the Prince of Moscow in September 1380. As Mamai retreated to his base in the steppes north of Crima, Toqtamish granted yarliqs to the Italians in the Crimea to confirm and expand their privileges, trapping Mamai between them. Toqtamish unleashed a full assault on Mamai and crushed his power in a decisive engagement along the Kalka River. In the aftermath Toqtamish took Mamai’s camp, his treasury, his wives and beys, and the rest of his troops. Mamai fled for his life, making his way to Caffa, where the Genoese took him captive and executed him in the name of Toqtamish Khaan. 


    By 1381 Toqtamish was master of the Golden Horde, and set about reminding everyone of the order of things. The Rus’ princes reaffirmed their submission, with even Dmitri Donskoi, the victor of Kulikovo, promptly sending gifts for Toqtamish, his wives and his princes. But their tardiness in submitting in person brought Toqtamish to shorten the leash. The Rus’ had grown too haughty over the last two decades, and Toqtamish surprised them with a sudden and horrific onslaught.  The Prince of Ryazan’ saved his city with a last moment surrender. Other cities were not so lucky. Dmitri Donskoi had hoped to raise an army, but losses after Kulikovo were too great, the princes unwilling to follow Dmitri to such certain doom. In the end Dmitri was forced to flee Moscow before Toqtamish encircled the city. After three days, on the 26th of August 1382,  the city was stormed, sacked and burned. Numerous others followed suit. 


    Dmitri Donskoi was forced to send his son Vasili as hostage to the Horde, and paid heavy tribute. Once more Moscow minted coins in the name of the Khan, and once more Dmitri collected taxes for him too. Though Dmitri had his revenge on the Prince of Ryazan’ with a vicious attack, the victor of Kulikovo died in 1389, only thirty years old. 


    Now master of the lands of Jochi, Toqtamish set about re-strengthening the Horde. The internal stability, as the Horde enjoyed 10 years of relative peace after Toqtamish took Sarai, did wonders for internal trade and movement, coupled with the lessening of the plague impact. He enacted monetary reforms, expanding the centres which minted coins and a lighter standard for silver dirhams, which in the opinion of researchers like Nedashkovsky, was a recognition and response to inflation.  When the bey Bekbulat tried to declare himself khan in Crimea, Toqtamish was able to come to agreement with him and reach a peaceable solution.  Khwarezm and its Sufi-Qonggirad Dynasty, which Tamerlane had considered his subjects, now recognized Toqtamish as overlord and minted coins in his name from 1381 onwards. On the western frontier, the loss of lands to Lithuania was halted when Toqtamish won a victory over the Lithuanians at Poltava in 1382, and forced them to continue paying tribute for the lands they had already taken from the Horde. From Toqtamish’s point-of-view, this was essentially making them his vassals, though the Lithuanians did not quite see it like this. Nonetheless, the Khan retained generally stable relations with the states along his border.


Toqtamish also looked abroad. In distant Moghulistan Toqtamish established relations with Qamar al-Din, the effective ruler of the eastern Chagatai lands. In 1385 he opened contact with the Mamluks of Egypt, the first time in ten years diplomatic contact was made. He did not make the mistake of invading Azerbaijan, but instead formed a treaty of friendship with its ruler, Sultan Ahmad Jalayir. And this became quite the issue, for shortly after this treatment was made, Tamerlane invaded Azerbaijan and forced Ahmad Jalayir to flee Tabriz. 


Perhaps Tamerlane had been unaware of the treaty between Toqtamish and Sultan Ahmad, but it seems to have been the evolution of the ever-more fraught relationship between the two. Toqtamish Khan and Emir Tamerlane were already on roads to argument with both claiming the lands of Khwarezm. Tamerlane, now with a puppet Il-Khan, made a show of restoring the former lands of the Ilkhanate; just as Toqtamish was making a claim to restoring former Jochid lands in the Caucasus. But there was another ideological aspect at play. As we’ve emphasized already, Toqtamish was very proud of his Chinggisid ancestry, and appears to have a particular disgust for pretensions of non-Chinggisids to rule. Tamerlane’s presentation of himself as a supreme lord, while also walking around with a bundle of Chinggisid puppets, was an insult Toqtamish could not idly abide. The Golden Horde and Timurid empire lay beside each other like two sharks, in a tank too tight for the both of them. Both rulers simply may have seen confrontation as inevitable, the presentations of both stretching past what the other anticipated, and both expected antagonism. 


It was Toqtamish who launched the first blow. After Timurid forces withdrew from Azerbaijan, Toqtamish attacked in late 1386, taking Baku, Tabriz, and Nakhchivan. Then in 1387, Toqtamish spun around the Caspian and Aral Seas, and in conjunction with Qamar al-Din of Moghulistan, Toqtamish took Tashkent and Qarshi before besieging Bukhara and Tamerlane’s capital of Samarkand.  


Once Toqtamish withdrew, Tamerlane quickly retook Khwarezm, sacking Urgench in 1388 with a massacre to invoke those of Chinggis Khan. Immediate reprisals against Toqtamish were halted by rebellions in Khurasan and a retaliatory campaign in Moghulistan against Qamar al-Din. Once dealt with, Tamerlane could begin extensive preparations for an invasion of the Golden Horde, spending months assembling a large army and supplies collected from across his empire. After a series of feints, Tamerlane set out unexpectedly early in January 1391. Eyeing Tamerlane after several months of marching, Toqtamish felt he knew Tamerlane’s plan. Anticipating that the Emir would cross the Ural River at Kurk-qul, Toqtamish ordered his army to gather there. In one of the surprise maneuvers he so loved, Tamerlane darted in a different direction; before Toqtamish’s full force had even gathered, he learned Tamerlane had crossed further upriver. Toqtamish retreated lest he be outflanked, and his forces who arrived late were set upon by the Timurids.


But despite this, Tamerlane was playing in Toqtamish’s lands, and was no man of the steppe. Toqtamish drew Tamerlane deeper into the steppe, and in the process began to starve his large army. Parties sent out to forage were ambushed by Toqtamish’s warriors, and the Khan tried to burn the grasslands before the Timurids, though the wet spring hampered this. Knowing his starving men would soon be at their limit, Tamerlane rallied with men with  a large hunting expedition and glamourous review of the troops, while sending his son, Omar-Sheikh Mirza with 20,000 swift riders to overtake Toqtamish and force him to battle, allowing the main force to catch up to the Khan. The ploy worked, and Toqtamish was forced to draw up at the Kondurcha River on June 18th, 1391. 


The two massive armies arrayed themselves in large, crescent formations. Both forces were largely horse archers, light and heavy cavalry, with Tamerlane bringing infantry from his Central Asian cities and as far as Badakhshan, and Toqtamish infantry from the Horde’s urban centers. Tamerlane strengthened his wings with units staggered behind them to protect against encirclement, and commanded the rearguard behind the centre. The Golden Horde struck first, attacking across the entire front, Toqtamish himself leading repeated charges. However, some of Toqtamish’s flank commanders retreated, either due to treachery or miscommunication. With the Horde now stretched thin,  Tamerlane ordered a counter charge against Toqtamish’s left and centre, which broke and the rest retreated. Though the field was won, Toqtamish and much of his army had escaped. Deprived of a total victory, Tamerlane withdrew, but not before appointing another Toqa-Temürid Temür Qutlugh, as khan, with the wily Edigü empowered too.


With Tamerlane spending the next few years darting hither and yon across Iran, Toqtamish recoupled his strength, and planned the next bout. When the Prince of Moscow, Dmitri Donskoi’s son Vasili, wished to annex the city of Nizhnii Novgorod, he delivered a large bribe to Toqtamish which the khan was happy to put to use. Gifts and messengers went across the world as Toqtamish built an anti-Timurid alliance. Old allies like the Mamluks and Jalayirids, but also other Turkic states with whom the Horde had had no ties with before, such as the Ottomans and Qaraqoyunlu, the so-called Black Sheep Turkomans.  Tamerlane was hardly blind to it, and engaged in his own diplomacy to dissuade such a coalition from forming. But Tamerlane’s political capital was spent. Watching Tamerlane’s movement, Toqtamish placed his own army north of the Caucasus. The two sent envoys to one another in a final diplomatic effort, to no avail, and Tamerlane marched into the steppe in the first months of 1395.


This time he caught Toqtamish along the Terek River in April 1395, near Grozny in Chechnya. The Golden Horde controlled the north bank of the closest ford and unwilling to storm it, Tamerlane marched upstream, with Toqtamish mirroring him for three days. According to a Spanish envoy to Tamerlane’s court, Ruy Gonzalez de Clavijo, on the third night, the women and servants in Temur’s camp donned armour and continued on, while the main force swiftly doubled back in the darkness and crossed the now unguarded ford. It didn’t take Toqtamish long to discover the ruse, but it was too late: Tamerlane’s army deployed on their side late on April 14th. Anticipating a night attack, Tamerlane ordered a moat dug around his camp. Toqtamish’s forces skirmished along the edges of the moat, playing instruments and shouting, keeping Temur’s army up with expectations of an assault. But Toqtamish held the main army back, resting them.


On the morning of the 15th, they formed up. Again they brought massive armies, and Tamerlane increased the size of his rearguard in expectation of encirclement. Toqtamish opened the battle, his right falling upon Temur’s left rearguard. Tamerlane ordered the left wing to assist, and the Golden Horde’s right retreated. Eager to press the assault, Tamerlane’s left  pursued, leaving the security of the main army and were drawn into a feigned retreat. Surrounded, the Timurid left was decimated, the survivors colliding with Tamerlane’s lines as a Jochid charge followed up. Battle order was lost. Tamerlane retreated to the fortified camp, Toqtamish’s troops in hot pursuit and nearly captured the emir. With Tamerlane himself now under threat, his commanders acted promptly, forcing wagons together in an impromptu stockade. They held off the Horde long enough for the remainder of the army to form back up, and by evening counterattacked and forced back the Jochids, until nightfall separated them. So ended the first day of battle.


Discipline and composure were reestablished that night and the armies drew up early on the 16th. Toqtamish’s army again began the battle, his left flank forcing back Tamerlane’s vanguard, and soon Temur’s right was nearly overcome as well. One commander ordered large shields forced into the ground, and from behind this barricade Tamerlane’s archers dismounted and shot at the approaching Tatars, halting their advance. Temur reinforced them with several units from his bodyguard, repulsing the Jochids under this volley of arrows.


The second day ended better than the first for Tamerlane, but the old emir knew Toqtamish had him matched. That evening he made overtures to a discontented emir in Toqtamish’s camp, Aktau, promising him rewards for promoting intrigue. By morning Aktau had abandoned the battlefield, making his way in time to Anatolia. Toqtamish was disheartened but determined, and formed up again, his left wing weaker with Aktau’s absence. Toqtamish’s centre and flanks all attacked Tamerlane, but Tamerlane had built up his forces on the right, and broke through the weakened Jochid left. Hard fighting continued until evening, Toqtamish valiantly trying to save the left and prevent encirclement, but Temur had the better of the day. Defeated, Toqtamish had an orderly retreat planned, sending one commander to the Caucasus in an effort to harass Tamerlane’s rear. This gave Toqtamish enough time to escape while Temur crushed this army. However, Toqtamish could not rally another army, leaving his cities isolated before the might of Tamerlane.


Tamerlane pursued Toqtamish, but upon losing him decided to prevent Toqtamish from ever having strength to raise another army again. He then set about systematically dismantling the economy of the Golden Horde, thoroughly sacking every single one of the major cities of the steppe; from the Crimea trade cities, where only Caffa, due to a timely bribe escaped judgment. Tana, Ukek, Sarai to Hajji Tarkhan and more all were brought to ruin on Tamerlane’s order, left smoldering husks as his army moved past. Despite some popular claims, Moscow was not attacked; the Rus’ chronicles indicate only the town of ‘Elets suffered the wrath of the Emir. He declared another of Urus Khan’s sons, Quyurchuq as Khan, and was convinced by Edigü to grant him yarliq to collect and summon his peoples; but realized too late that Edigü had tricked him, and used Tamerlane’s patent and the vacuum of power to carve out his own lands.


By the summer of 1396, the steppe environment and some sort of epidemic was wreaking havoc on Tamerlane’s troops, and he ordered the withdrawal to Samarkand, carrying with it the loot and treasures of the Golden Horde. The Horde’s cities and trade had struggled through the upheavals of the fourteenth century, but Tamerlane had just delivered a death blow from which they would not recover.


Toqtamish was not done yet. For the next ten years he continued to seek to reclaim his throne, but now faced a stiff opponent in the form of Edigü. Ridding himself of Tamerlane’s puppet, Edigü reenthroned Temür Qutlugh, in time followed by a host of other puppets, and directed the effort to crush Toqtamish once and for all. But as a man well accustomed to defeat and bouncing back from it, Toqtamish proved remarkably hard to kill, and simply would not take “no” for an answer. The most notable effort came in 1399. After allying with Vytautas the Great, Grand Duke of Lithuania, the two launched a joint-invasion of the Golden Horde. At the Vorskla River in 1399, Edigü and Temür Qutlugh inflicted a crushing defeat on the army of Vytautas and Toqtamish. Many Lithuanian princes were killed, and the fleeing Duke was chased as far as Kyiv, where only after hefty ransom was the city and its refugees spared. The Toqtamish-Lithuanian alliance continued though, and Toqtamish’s son Jalal al-Din fought alongside Vytautas at the famous battle of Grünwald, or Tannenburg, against the Teutonic Order in 1410. Today, the Lipka Tatars in Lithuania and Poland are their distant descendants.


By 1405, the humbled Toqtamish was in Siberia, and reached out to his former mentor, Tamerlane. Tamerlane was then in the midst of a march on China, wintering in Otrar, and it seems his old heart was warmed by Toqtamish’s offer of cooperation against Edigü. But nothing was to come of it; the old emir died that winter, and the next year Toqtamish fell in a skirmish against the forces of Edigü.


So ended the life of Toqtamish Khan, the final powerful khan over the whole of the Golden Horde. Though not a truly transformative or administrative monarch, the fact he instilled any sort of stability over the Horde, and led a remarkable effort at unifying it before its final disintegration, left him a powerful legacy.  In later Turkic histories Toqtamish is one of the most popular Jochid khans, and over the next century he was benchmark for others who wished to unify the Horde. In 1509, the Crimean Khan Mengli Giray, when sending a large army against Astrakhan during his own bid to reunify the Horde, is reported to have said “I shall be a Toqtamish.”

And perhaps Toqtamish would have been successful, had he not faced Tamerlane in battle, perhaps the only man at the time with the strength to overcome the might of the Golden Horde. And for that, the Golden Horde paid dearly. Our next, and final episode on the Golden Horde, deals with its final disintegration, so be sure to subscribe to the Kings and Generals Podcast to follow. If you enjoyed this and would like to help us continue bringing you great content, consider supporting us on patreon at This episode was researched and written by our series historian, Jack Wilson. I’m your host David, and we’ll catch you on the next one.