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Nogai (died 1299), also called Isa Nogai[1], was a general and de facto ruler of the Golden Horde and a great-great-grandson of Genghis Khan. His grandfather was Baul/Teval Khan, the 7th son of Jochi. His name is also spelled Nogay and Nogaj.

Pelliot wrote that Nogay meant a "dog." In fact, in the Mongolian language, "nokhoi" literally means a "dog"; however it doesn't necessarily mean a particularly negative and insulting name in its context, since people were called "dogs" among the Mongols at the time and sometimes presently as "nokhduud" as in "you dogs (guys/men/people)." Genghis Khan also called his capable generals "dogs of war" or "men of war." This probably came about because Mongols had a lot of dogs, and dogs were very useful for people's lives in hunting and warnings.

Contents

Early life under Batu and Berke

Nogai was born to Tatar (Tutar), a son of Teval who was a son of Jochi. He would rule his grandfather's appanage after his father died. After the Mongol invasion of Europe, Batu Khan left Nogai with a tumen (10,000 warriors) in modern-day Moldavia and Romania as a frontier guard. He was a nephew of Berke Khan as well as Batu Khan and Orda Khan, and under his uncle, he became a powerful and ambitious warlord.

In his later years, Berke began to delegate more and more responsibility to his promising nephew. Nogai's leading role first appears , along with Talabuga, under famous Mongol general Burundai as a battle commander in 1259/1260, leading the second Mongol raid against Poland and plundering Sandomierz, Kraków and other cities.

Nogai converted to Islam, just like his uncle, Berke Khan, but it is not known exactly when his conversion occurred, probably soon after Berke converted, in the 1250s. His name was included on the list of new converts sent by Berke to the Mameluke Sultan al-Malik az-Zahir in 1262/1263. Almost a decade later, in 1270/1271, Nogai himself indicated that he embraced Islam in a letter to the Sultan of Egypt.[2]

Rise to power in Golden Horde and Europe

Nogai's father Tatar died when he was serving under Hulegu. In 1262, during the civil war between Berke and Hulegu Khan, Nogai's army surprised the invading forces of Hulegu at the Terek river. Many thousands were drowned, and the survivors fled back into Azerbaijan. In 1265, Nogai led his army across the Danube, sending the Byzantine forces fleeing before him, and devastated the cities of Thrace. In 1266, the Emperor Michael VIII Palaeologus, anxious to make an alliance, gave his illegitimate daughter Euphrosyne Palaeologina to Nogai as a wife. That same year, Nogai lost an eye fighting his relative, Abaqa Khan, in Tiflis. But he lived on terms with Abagha and his successor Arghun after the death of Berke.

Nogai ruled Russians of Galicia-Volhynia, Ossetes and Vlachs (ancestors of Romanians) directly. He attacked Lithuania with the northern Russian princes in 1275. Unlike the successful invasion of Europe under General Subutai during the reign of Ogedei Khan over forty years earlier, Nogai led an unsuccessful attack against Hungary in 1285 alongside with Tulabuga and Cuman troops. After ravaging Transylvania, he was beaten off by the Hungarian royal army under Ladislaus IV in an area near Pest and subsequently ambushed by the Szekely in the return[1]. He also participated in the third raid against Poland in 1287/1288 along with Tulabuga. But sources mentioned nothing about the result of their campaign. Some source claim that they returned with 20,000 captives. A group of 4,000 Mongol soldiers were dispatched by Nogai to Constantinople in 1282, to help his father in law emperor Michael to suppress the rebels headed by John I Doukas of Thessaly. But Michael died and Andronikos II used the allied troops to fight against Serbia.

In 1286, he compelled the Serbian king Stephen Uros II Milutin to recognize his suzerainty. He also reasserted Mongol interference in Bulgaria's internal affairs. In 1277 the Mongols were defeated by Ivaylo, leader of a popular movement but in 1278-79 he managed to defeat the Bulgarians and Ivaylo was besieged in Silistra. Later he sought the help of Nogai but he had him murdered and made the new Bulgarian Emperor George Terter (1280-1302) his vassal and, after George's flight to Byzantium, set his close associate Smilets on the throne.

Despite his power and prowess in battle, Nogai never attempted to seize the khanate for himself, preferring to act as a sort of kingmaker, like Ricimer in the Late Western Roman Empire several centuries before. He served under Berke, Mengu-Timur, Tuda-Mengu, Tulabuga, and Tokhta. This last khan proved to be more headstrong than the others, and he and Nogai began a deadly rivalry. By this time, Nogai effectively had control of the western-most sections of the Golden Horde. He overthrew Tuda-Mengu and killed Tulabuga. He was unable to enthrone himself because his great grandmother was a concubine.

Decline

When he helped the young Tokhta to assume power, Nogai no doubt hoped to find in him a puppet to be manipulated or ignored as the case might be. Things turned out differently, for Tokhta (1291-1312), a man of exceptional ability, took in hands the reins of government with a marked will to rule. He won the first battle between Tokhta Khan and him. But He didn't want to chase Tokhta, because Nogai's grandson Agtji was murdered by Genoese in Crimea while collecting tributes from them. Then Nogai's Tatars plundered Italian ports in Crimea that was given to him by the khan.

Nogai was killed in battle in 1299 at the Kagamlik, near the Dnieper, against Mongols under legitimate khan. Because of his feud with Tokhta Khan, he was too dangerous to be kept alive. His head was brought to Tokhta Khan, who was offended that a mere Russian soldier had slain the mighty khan. He had the Russian put to death since "a commoner is unfit to kill a noble." Chini, one of Nogai's wives, with his son Turi, fled to Ghazan, who received them well and treated them with honour.

His son by his chief khatun Alagh (Алаг), Chaka, became tsar of Bulgaria for a few months before being deposed by Theodore Svetoslav, and Nogai's name was borne by the Nogai Horde, who ruled east of the Ural mountains.

Nogai is remembered by Russian chronicles as fat tsar.

Notes

  1. ^ G>V.Vernadsky - The Mongols and Rus
  2. ^ Vásáry, p.71

References

  • Saunders, J.J. The History of the Mongol Conquests, 2001
  • Ж.Бор Монгол хийгээд евроазийн дипломат шаштир Боть 2, 2003
  • Э.Энэрэлт "Юаны Асууд" 2007
  • István Vásáry, Cumans and Tatars, Cambridge University Press 2005
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