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Far East Kingdoms

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Crimea

This region lay immediately below the Pontic-Caspian steppe (the vast open lands to the north of the Black Sea and Caspian Sea). Much of the steppe territory that leads eastwards from modern Hungary to far beyond the eastern side of the Ural Mountains in modern Russia had long been a breeding ground for pastoral horse-borne warrior groups. This was a process that had developed over a millennium or so, but which had exploded outwards with the Yamnaya Horizon of the mid-fourth millennium BC which saw the sudden expansion and migration of the Indo-European tribes. Those tribes which did not migrate outwards dominated the Crimea for a good three thousand years afterwards.

It is generally agreed that one of those non-migrating groups, the Cimmerians, originated on the Pontic-Caspian steppe. Herodotus provided a very clear perspective of the peoples whom he said lived to the north of the Black Sea, and he also placed the Cimmerians on the Pontic steppe. More specifically in relation to the Crimea, though, it was suggested by Isaac Asimov in his massive historical work that 'Cimmerium', the homeland of the Cimmerians, gave rise to the Turkic toponym, Qırım. Through the spread of Turkic tribes into the Pontic-Caspian steppe after the sixth century AD and the arrival of the Göktürk empire, this became the basis of the name 'Crimea'. Whether this was the core of the Cimmerian homeland is doubtful, but it probably fell within their sphere of influence before they were expelled from the region by the Scythians.

(Additional information from Asimov's Chronology of the World, Isaac Asimov.)

c.121 - 88 BC

Mithradates of Pontus proves to be a resourceful and powerful regional authority. Over the course of the first thirty years of his reign, he methodically captures and adds neighbouring kingdoms to his own realm, including Crimea, Paphlagonia, and Cappadocia, and makes Armenia an ally. Though opposed by the Romans in theory, little is done due mainly to Roman wars in Africa (Jugurtha), continuing social disorder, and the crisis of the Germanic invasions by the Cimbri and Teutones.

576

The desire of İstemi, viceroy of the Göktürk empire, to expand the empire ever further westwards now leads him across the Kerch Strait and into the Crimea.

581

The death of Göktürk Khagan Tapo effectively ends the first dynasty of Göktürk khagans. However, the Western Göktürks continue to push westwards and now lay siege to the former Greek colony city of Chersonesus on the south-western tip of the Crimea. Their cavalry continues to roam the steppes of the Crimea until 590.

1238

Batu Khan of the Golden Horde and Subedei devastate the already-subjugated Crimea and subdue Mordovia and the Kipchaks on the steppes.

1282 - 1283

The power struggle between Toqta of the Golden Horde and Nogai Khan of the Nogai Horde flares up into open conflict, and Toqta is the eventual victor. Nogai's territories, which reach from the Crimea and the southern Rus principalities to Wallachia, are divided by Toqta between Nogai's brother, Sareibugha, and his sons.

1299 - 1300

The ongoing conflict between Pisa and Genoa reaches a head. Genoa has recently gained additional influence and power by extending its maritime empire to parts of the Crimea (with the permission of the Golden Horde), allowing it to establish the colony of Caffa there. It has also made a highly-profitable alliance with the resurgent Byzantine empire which directly impacts upon the ability of Pisa and Venice to compete commercially. In 1282, Pisa attempts to gain administrative and commercial control of Corsica when the giudice of Cinarca, Sinucello, revolts against Genoese dominance and requests support from Pisa. The situation quickly escalates from a Genoese blockade of Pisan trade on the island to full-scale war.

1343 - 1345

Jani Beg leads a massive Crimean Tartar force against the Crimean port city of Kaffa. The assault turns into a siege which is lifted by a Genoese relief force. Two years later, Jani Beg returns, but the second attack against Kaffa is defeated by an outbreak of Black Plague. There is a possibility that Jani Beg's army catapult their infected fellow troops into Kaffa so that the defenders will become infected. The ploy fails to bring the city to its knees, but infected Genoese sailors subsequently take the Black Death with them back to Italy.

c.1355/60 - 1380

Mamai

Governor of Crimea. Military general & de facto Blue Horde ruler.

1367

Descended from the same Borjigin clan as Chingiz Khan, Mamai is a powerful military leader in the Golden Horde and also governor of the Crimean peninsula. During the khanate of Berdi Beg, Mamai had gained the office of beylerbay, making him head of the supreme court along with giving him the offices of military general and minister of foreign affairs. Since then he has been playing power politics with the shifting allegiances and claims for power. Now he supports the claim by Abdullah Khan to rule the Blue Horde and firmly establishes himself as the true power behind the weakened throne.

1378 - 1380

The Blue Horde is heavily defeated by the Muscovites under Demetrius Donski at the Battle of the River Vozha. Two years later the horde is defeated again by the Rus, at the Battle of Kulikovo. Mamai begins putting together a retaliatory force but is defeated by Toqtamish Khan of the White Horde in a battle on the banks of the River Kalka. Mamai flees to his base in the Crimea where he is assassinated in Kaffa in the same year by the Genoese, who are still upset that a unit of Genoese crossbowmen had been totally annihilated by the Rus while in the service of the Blue Horde. The horde itself is fully reunited with the White Horde to form a greater Golden Horde and the Crimea is swiftly drawn back under its control.

1427

Following the assassination of Baraq of the Golden Horde, his rival Dawlat Berdi establishes a base in the Crimea, which he is able to defend even against an attempted invasion by Ulugh Muhammad in 1430. This defeat is claimed as the reason for the otherwise mysterious death of Vytautas the Great of Lithuania in his role as Ulugh's main supporter. However, despite the best attempts by Dawlat, he is never entirely able to defeat Hajji Giray, a powerful local khan who goes onto establish his own independence as the first khan of the Crimea.

1427 - 1432

Dawlat Berdi / Devlet

Restored. Reduced to the Crimea only. Assassinated.

Khans of the Crimea (Tartars)

The khanate was a splinter state of the disintegrating Golden Horde. It occupied territory stretching from the west of the Caspian Sea, with the Astrakhan khanate between it and the Caspian Sea itself, over to areas of central Ukraine. Centred on the Crimean peninsula, the territory had previously fallen under the control of the Blue Horde, and was governed for quite some time by Mamai, the military leader and de facto power behind the throne in the mid-fourteenth century.

During the early fifteenth century, the Golden Horde became increasingly weakened, as one would-be usurper after another claimed power. While one of those claimants, Dawlat Berdi, established himself in the Crimea in 1427, he was constantly troubled by Hajji Giray.

Along with its sometime ally, the Nogay Horde or khanate, the Crimean khanate raided Slavic settlements across what is now Russia, Ukraine, Moldova, and Belarus. Slaves were captured from southern Muscovy, Poland, Moldavia, Wallachia, and Circassia by Tartar horsemen in a trade known as the 'harvesting of the steppe'. In Podolia alone, about one-third of all villages were destroyed or abandoned between 1578 and 1583. Some researchers estimate that altogether more than three million people were captured and enslaved during the existence of the Crimean khanate.

(Additional information from Josafa Barbaro & Ambrogio Contarini: Travels to Tana and Persia, Henry E J Stanley (Ed, Hakluyt Society Series No 49, 1873), from An Introduction to the History of the Turkic Peoples, Peter B Golden (1992), from the Encyclopaedia Britannica: Or, A Dictionary of Arts, Sciences, and Miscellaneous Literature, Enlarged and Improved, Volume 3, from The Encyclopaedia of Islam (New Edition), C E Bosworth, E van Donzel, B Lewis, & Ch Pellat (Eds), and from External Link: Encyclopaedia.com.)

1449 - 1456

Hajji Giray I

First rule.

1456

Haydar Giray

1456 - 1466

Hajji Giray I

Second rule.

1466 - 1467

Nur Dawlat Giray

First rule.

1467 - 1474

Mengli Giray

First rule.

1474 - 1475

Nur Dawlat Giray

Second rule.

1474 - 1475

Ambrogio Contarini is a Venetian diplomat and merchant who, during his travels, records his adventures throughout the east as a form of travelogue. As the envoy of Venice, he has been visiting the royal court at Isfahan in 1474 in pursuit of a military alliance with the dominant White Sheep emirate against the mutually hostile Ottomans. The talks are largely fruitless so in 1475 Contarini begins a circuitous return that must by necessity avoid the Ottomans. The task is even more difficult because, at the start of 1475, they conquer Caffa and the Crimean khanate. The latter remains an Ottoman vassal to its very end.

1475 - 1476

Mengli Giray

Second rule.

1476 - 1478

Nur Dawlat Giray

Third rule.

1478 - 1514

Mengli Giray

Third rule.

1480

In alliance with Mengli Giray, Moscow's Ivan III refuses tribute to the Great Horde. The latter, now allied to Lithuania, attempts an invasion of Moscow's territory but this fails. The independence of Moscow is confirmed.

1491

The Crimean khanate apparently seizes all of the Great Horde's horses, and encourages Moscow to deliver the death blow as a result. Both Moscow and the Ottomans dispatch forces which include Russian cavalry, Tartars, and Janissaries. This causes part of the horde to secede in November 1491, while the remainder is routed by its enemies.

Map of the Tartar Khanates AD 1500
The Mongol empire created by Chingiz Khan gradually broke up over the course of three hundred years until, by around AD 1500, it had fragmented into several more-or-less stable khanates that each vied with the others for power and influence, while having to fend off the growing power of the Ottoman empire to the south and Moscow Sate (Muscovy) to the north - in the end it was an unwinnable fight (click on map to show full sized)

1502

Much of the Great Horde's people and horses are captured by Mengli Giray and forcibly relocated to the Crimea, while Shaykh Ahmad flees with about 4,000 horsemen. It is not clear whether this is a repetition of the events of 1491 or a separate event. However, this time Shaykh Ahmad days are numbered, and the Great Horde is unable to reform. The Mongol heartland continues to survive farther east as the Northern Yuan whilst a remnant of the Great Horde succeeds it as the Astrakhan khanate.

1515 - 1522

Muhammad Giray I / Mehmed Giray

Son. Murdered.

1521

Shah Alî of the Kazan khanate is driven out by Sahib Giray I, Muhammad's son, due to the former's friendly relations with Moscow. Kazan's territory is incorporated back into that of the Crimea under the rule of Muhammad Giray.

1523 - 1524

Ghazî Giray I

1524 - 1532

Sa'adat Giray I

1532

Islam Giray I

Deposed.

1532 - 1551

Sahib Giray I

Son of Muhammad Giray I.

1541

The Crimean khanate is defeated by Moscow at the Battle of the Oka, which lies to the east of Moscow.

1547

The city of Astrakhan is briefly seized by Sahib Giray, but it would seem that Khan Yaghmurchi is able to recover and return to restore his own rule on the city.

1551 - 1577

Dawlat Giray I

1577 - 1584

Muhammad Giray II

1584 - 1588

Islam Giray II

1588 - 1596

Ghazi Giray II

First rule.

1596

Fath. Giray I

1596 - 1608

Ghazi Giray II

Second rule.

1608

Toqtamish Giray

1608 - 1610

Salamat Giray I

1610

Muhammad Giray III

First rule.

1610 - 1623

Jani Beg Giray

First rule.

1623 - 1624

Muhammad Giray III

Second rule.

1624

Jani Beg Giray

Second rule.

1624 - 1627

Muhammad Giray III

Third rule.

1627 - 1635

Jani Beg Giray

Third rule.

1635 - 1637

Inayat Giray

1637 - 1641

Bahadur Giray I

1641 - 1644

Muhammad Giray IV

First rule.

1644 - 1654

Islam Giray III

1654 - 1666

Muhammad Giray IV

Second rule.

1666 - 1671

Âdil Giray

1671 - 1678

Salim Giray I

First rule.

1678 - 1683

Murad Giray

1683 - 1684

Hajji Giray II

1684 - 1691

Salim Giray I

Second rule.

1691

Sa'adat Giray II

1691 - 1692

Safa Giray

1692 - 1699

Salim Giray I

Third rule.

1699 - 1702

Dawlat Giray II

First rule.

1702 - 1704

Salim Giray I

Fourth rule.

1704 - 1707

Ghazi Giray III

1707 - 1708

Qaplan Giray I

First rule.

1708 - 1713

Dawlat Giray II

Second rule.

1713 - 1716

Qaplan Giray I

Second rule.

1716 - 1717

Dawlat Giray III

1717 - 1724

Sa'adat Giray III

1724 - 1730

Mengli Giray II

First rule.

1730 - 1736

Qaplan Giray I

Third rule.

1736 - 1737

Fath. Giray II

1737 - 1740

Mengli Giray II

Second rule.

1740 - 1743

Salamat Giray II

1743 - 1748

Salim Giray II

1748 - 1756

Arslan Giray

First rule.

1756 - 1758

Halim Giray

1758 - 1764

Qirim Giray

First rule.

1764 - 1767

Salim Giray III

First rule.

1767

Arslan Giray

Second rule.

1767 - 1768

Maqsud Giray

First rule.

1768 - 1769

Qirim Giray

Second rule.

1768 - 1774

The Russo-Turkish War is part of Catherine the Great's move to secure the conquest of territory on Russia's southern borders. Following the repression of revolts in Poland-Lithuania, Russia becomes involved in chasing rebels across the southern border into Ottoman territory. The Ottomans imprison captured Russian forces, effectively declaring war. Despite being slow to mobilise, in 1774 Russia wins Kabardia (in the North Caucuses), part of the Yedisan between the Bug and Dnieper (now covering south-western Ukraine and south-eastern Moldova (southern Transnistria), and the Crimea. Georgia also joins the Russian empire as a client kingdom while the khanate of Crimea is granted nominal independence.

1769

Dawlat Giray IV

First rule.

1769 - 1770

Qaplan Giray II

1770 - 1771

Salim Giray III

Second rule.

1771 - 1772

Maqsud Giray

Second rule.

1772 - 1775

Sahib Giray II

1775 - 1777

Dawlat Giray IV

Second rule.

1777 - 1782

Shahin Giray

First rule.

1782 - 1783

Bahadur II Giray

1783 - 1787

Shahin Giray

Second rule. Russian vassal

1783 - 1786

Despite having guaranteed its independence in 1774, the Russians under Catherine the Great now formally annexe the khanate of Crimea. This removes any possibility of Ottoman influence or domination. In 1786 Catherine takes part in a procession in the Crimea to celebrate the event, which itself sparks the Second Russo-Turkish War.

1854 - 1856

Britain and France join the Ottoman empire in the Crimean War to halt Russian expansion. The war ends with the signing of the Treaty of Paris, a severe setback to Russian ambitions, although the Prime Minister of Great Britain is blamed for British failings in the war.

French Zouaves in the Crimea
French Zouaves in the Crimea, as published in The Charleston Mercury, 21 November 1861

2013 - 2014

Mass protests in Kiev over Ukraine's pro-Russian policy eventually force the collapse and flight of the Yanukovych government after four months of violent chaos. Moscow reacts to Ukraine's domestic turmoil by sending troops to annexe the former Russian territory of Crimea while stoking separatist sentiment in eastern Ukraine. The pro-Russian separatist eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk form their own republican governments and, with military aid from Russia, manage to hold onto a core territory in the face of Ukrainian attempts to end the rebellion. The USA and the European Union impose sanctions that are targeted at individuals rather than the state, but they still hit hard, especially when oil and gas prices suffer a dramatic fall at the end of 2014.