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Nogai Horde

Capital Saray-Jük
Language(s) Kypchak languages
Government Monarchy
Historical era Renaissance
 - Established 1440s
 - Conquered by the Tsardom of Russia 1634

The Nogai Horde was a confederation of Turkic nomads that occupied the Pontic-Caspian steppe from about 1500 until they were pushed south by the Russians in the 17th century. 'Nogai' is more of an ethnonym than an ethnic group. The Nogais as well as the people of the Golden Horde, the Cumans and the Kipchaks, and possibly Petchenegs, Avars and Khazars were largely the same population with a different ruling group and slightly different dominant language and therefore a different name. For their remnant in Dagestan and elsewhere, see Nogai (people). They are named after Nogai Khan.



Sigismund von Herberstein places 'Nagayske Tartare (the "Nogai Tatars") on the lower Volga in his 1549 map

There were two groups of Nogais: those north of the Caspian Sea under their own Beg (leader), and those north of the Black Sea nominally subject to the Crimean Khan. The first group was broken up circa 1632 by the Kalmycks. The second shared the fate of the Khanate of Crimea.

Nogai language was a form of Kypchak Turkic, the same language group as that of the neighboring Kazakhs, Bashkirs and Crimean and Kazan Tatars. Their religion was Muslim, but religious institutions were weakly developed.

They were pastoral nomads grazing sheep, horses, and camels. Outside goods were obtained by trade (mostly horses and slaves), raiding and tribute. There were some subject peasants along the Yaik river. One of the main sources of income for the Nogais was raiding for slaves, who were sold in Crimea and Bukhara. Hunting, fishing, caravan taxation and seasonal agricultural migration also played a role although it is poorly documented.

The basic social unit was the semi-autonomous 'ulus' or band. There may have been some more complicated clan structure. Aristocrats were called mirza. The ruler of the Nogais was the Beg (not Khan since the rulers generally did not claim descent from Ghenghis Khan). The capital or winter camp was at Saraychik, a decayed caravan town on the lower Yaik. From 1537 the second in rank was the Nureddin, usually the Beg's son or younger brother and expected successor. The Nureddin held the right bank along the Volga. From the 1560s there was a second Nureddin, a sort of a war chief. Third in rank was the Keikuvat, who held the Emba. Political organization was fluid and much depended on personal prestige since as nomads, the Nogai subjects could simply move away from a leader who was disliked. Ambassadors and merchants were regularly beaten and robbed. 'Horse thief', a looked down upon lifestyle in many cultures, was, on the steppe, a badge of honor and an important part of social and economic life. Begs and Mirzas would often declare themselves vassals of some outside power, but such declarations had little meaning.

Circa 1557 Kazy Mirza quarreled with Ismael Beg and founded the Small Nogai Horde on the Kuban. The Nogais north of the Caspian were thereafter called the Great Nogai Horde.

The Nogais north of the Black Sea were nominally subject to the Crimean Khan rather than the Nogai Beg. They were divided into the following groups: Budjak (from the Danube to the Dniester), Yedisan (from the Dniester to the Bug), Jamboyluk (Bug to Crimea), Yedickul (north of Crimea) and Kuban. Sources are poor here, but some of these groups appear to have been something like clans or tribes. In particular, the Yedisans are mentioned as a distinct group, and in various locations.



Decline of the Golden Horde

  • 1299 Nogai Khan, the Mongol ruler whom the Nogais were named after.
  • 1406-1419 Edigu, another subject and king-maker, founds Nogai dynasty
  • 1438 Kazan Khanate founded
  • 1441 Crimean Khanate founded
  • 1452 Kasimov 'khanate' founded (on Oka, vassal to Moscow). Beginning of Russian rule over Turkic Muslims.
  • 1465 Kazakh Khanate founded (or 1480. debatable)
  • 1466 Astrakhan Khanate founded
  • 1466 At this point the Golden Horde was left with only the steppe nomads, Sarai and some control over the caravan trade. Name Great Horde appears some time after this.
  • 1470s Nogais hostile to Great Horde
  • 1475 Ottomans take Kaffa from Genoese. Possible increase in slave trade.
  • 1480-1519 Moscow and Crimea allied against Horde and Lithuania
  • 1480 Ugra standoff: Horde fails in attack on Moscow. Approximate start of Russian independence from Tatars.
  • 1481 Nogais kill Khan of the Great Horde in battle.
  • 1502 Crimeans destroy remnant of Golden Horde(as an organization). Sarai destroyed.


  • c1509 Nogais move into lands vacated by Great Horde
  • 1519 end of Moscow-Crimean alliance
  • 1521 Nogais, driven west by the Kazakhs, cross Volga and attack Astrakhan
  • 1521 Crimea(50-60,000 horsemen) and Kazan attack Muscovy. Moscow besieged. Much booty.
  • 1522 Kazakhs capture Nogai capital ???
  • 1523 Crimea briefly takes Astrakhan, but its army and Khan are destroyed by the Nogais.
  • 1547-1584 Ivan the Terrible Czar
  • 1552 KAZAN annexed by Russia. Nogais loose tribute.
  • c1550-60 Disorder. Moscow backs unpopular Ismael Beg. Ataulskaya Horde formed on the Emba
  • 1556 Famine
  • 1556 ASTRAKHAN annexed by Russia. Nogais loose tribute.
  • 1557 Mirza Kazy crosses Volga and founds SMALL HORDE along the Kuban
  • 1567-1571 Russian fort on the on Terek, south of Nogais. Turks alarmed.
  • 1569 Ottomans and Crimeans with Small Horde fail to take Astrakhan
  • 1570s Kazakh pressure shifts Nogai trade away from Central Asia toward Moscow.
  • 1571 Major Crimean-Nogai attack on Moscow. 100,000 horsemen. Moscow burned.
  • 1572 second raid fails.
  • 1580/81: Saraichick destroyed by renegade Cossacks (or 1577:taken by Russians - sources unclear).
  • 1582/83 Russian peace with Sweden and Lithuania
  • 1580s New Russian forts on the Volga.
  • 1588 many Nogais move to Don. Very destructive fighting between Big and Small Hordes.
  • 1592 Crimean raid on Moscow frontier. Many captives
  • 1598 Moscow pushes fortifications south.
  • 1600 Moscow 'appoints' a Nogai beg for the first time. Civil war among Nogais


  • 1500-1850 Russian population expands southward and occupies forest-steppe and steppe. This is poorly documented.
  • 1613-1643 Kalmyks, warlike Buddhist Mongols, move west from Dzungaria and occupy area from the Don to the Emba. Some eastern Nogais join Kazakhs and Karakalpaks. Others stay as Kalmyck subjects. Others cross the Volga southwest to the Kuban or west across Don, both groups becoming subjects of Crimea.
  • 1619 Isterek Beg dies. Civil war. Status of Begship uncertain after this.
  • 1633 last Crimean-Nogai raid to reach the Oka[1]
  • 1634 major defeat of Nogais by Kalmyks.
  • 1643 Kalmyks pushed back from Astrakhan
  • 1672 Kalmyks, Russians and Cossacks besiege Azov
  • 1693 Kalmyks attack Nogais - as agent of Russia
  • 1711 20474 Kalmycks and 4100 Russians attack Kuban. They kill 11460 Nogais, drown 5060 others and return with 2000 camels, 39200 horses, 190000 cattle, 220000 sheep and 22100 human captives, of whom only 700 were adult males. On the way home they meet and defeat a returning Nogai war party and free 2000 Russian captives.[2]
  • 1720s 15000 Nogai 'tents' flee Kalmycks for Kuban. Also other years. Also reverse movement.
  • 1736-39 Russians temporarily hold Azov
  • 1770 Yedisans ally with Russia, blocking land route from Balkans to Crimea
  • 1771 Trans-Volga Kalmycks exodus back to Dzungaria
  • 1772 many Crimean Nogais accept Russian protection.
  • 1774 CRIMEA a Russian vassal.
  • 1783 CRIMEA annexed by Russia, many Nogais move from lower Dnieper to Kuban

In the next 150 years, Black Sea grain ports assist massive southward expansion or Russian agriculture and population.

  • c1860 Several hundred thousand Muslims migrate from Russian to Ottoman empire.
  • 19?? Nogai Raion in Daghestan
  • 2002 Nogai population: 90,700
  • 2007 Nogai Raion formed in Karachayevo-Cherkessia

Partial List of Begs and Mirzas

This is from Khodarkovsky (2004). Lists on Turkish, Russian and German wikis are slightly different. Some dates look odd. There is probably no good source.

  • TEMIR Beg 1480: at Ugra standoff, 1481: assassinated Ahmed Khan.
  • Musa Mirza (-1506) said to have 17 sons
  • MUSA Beg (same person?) * are his sons. Other sons: Kuchum Mirza
  • SHEIDIAK Beg* anti-Moscow. 1521: defeated Astrakhan Khanate 1551: near Urgench
  • MAMAY Beg* -1549. 1523 murdered Crimean khan. 1530s: near Yaik, then near Kazan.
  • YOSUF Beg* 1549-55 (on Yaik, anti-Moscow) circa 1535: near Kazan. 1549: helped Moscow against Kazan. 1551: near Yaik, broke with Moscow, claimed to have 300,000 horsemen and 8 sons. circa 1552: dissuaded from raid on Moscow. 1555: murdered by Araslan Mirza.
  • ISMAEL Beg* 1555-64 (on Volga, pro-Moscow) 1551: near Astrakhan. 1554: helped to take Astrakhan. 1555: sent 20,000 horses to Moscow 1555: Beg. 1556-57: Yosuf's sons (especially Yunus) seized his property. 1558: abandoned and starved, sent across Volga to buy food. 1560: tried to attack Crimea, blocked by Kazy Mirza
  • SÜÜNBIKE, daughter of Yosuf, widow of Kazan Khan, Moscow's captive
  • ARSLAN Mirza, son of Kuchum, killed Yosuf, Keikuvat under Ismael
  • KAZY Mirza -1577, son of Mamay. 1551: near Jaxartes. 1555: Nureddin under Ismael. circa 1557: broke with Ismael when Ismael appoints Tin Ahmed his successor. Fled to Kuban, founding Small Horde. 1577: killed in war with Kabardians
  • TIN AHMED Beg (1564-79) 1577 said to support raids on Moscow.(# are sons of Ismael)
  • URUS Beg (1579-90) 1581 with Crimean Tatars attacked Moscow's frontiers. Killed in battle against the Small Horde
  • UR MAMED Beg (1590-97)
  • TIN MAMED Beg (1597-1600)
  • ISTEREK Beg (1600-18) 1600: was installed by Russians at Astrakhan. 1613: was attacked by Kalmycks, fleed to Caucasus, then Azov Sea region. Swear allegiance to both Russians and Turks, then made alliance with Poland, and received ambassadors from Persia, refused to be vassal of Crimea. 1616: was attacked by Crimea, sought Russian protection at Astrakhan. 1618: died under questionable circumstances
  • KANAY Beg (1622-1634)

See also


  1. ^ Sunderland, p26
  2. ^ Khodarkovsky, Where Two Worlds Meet, p149


  • Khodarkovsky, Michael "Russia's Steppe Frontier', 2004
  • Related books by Willard Sunderland (Taming the Wild Field), Alan W Fisher (Crimean Tatars), Martha Brill Olcott (Volga Tatars) and Khodarkovsky (1987 'Where Two Worlds Met", on Kalmucks) can be found on and elsewhere.


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