Tokhtamysh, as an heir of two dynasties of Chingizids, after he came from Blue Horde to Saray he not only restored the might of the empire stopping the strives, but also joined to White (Golden) Horde the territory of Western Siberia (Blue Horde) along with Kypchak's steppe to the south.
However, he broke off with his old ally and south neighbor the Great and unconquerable Timur. In the result Timur set towards Saray and in 1395 there was three days battle next to the town. Because of the betrayal (Moscow duke Vasily I took away his army in the most crucial moment) Tokhtamysh suffered a defeat and ran to Lithuania to Lithuanian duke Vitovt. Timur returned to the Central Asia continuing expanding his empire, crushing Turk-Seldzhuks, and therefore leaving in Golden Horde his minion Idiki (Edigey).
Tokhtamysh died in exile in 1406. Many Tatars faithful to Tokhtamysh remained in Lithuania. One of them was Tash-Timur - Khadzhy Giray's grandfather (father), the first khan of the independent Crimean Khanate. By the way, in 1410 Tatar cavalry, headed by Tokhtamysh's son Dzhelal-ed-Din, took part in the Battle of Grunwald forming the part of united Polish - Lithuanian army thus contributing to the defeat of Teutonic order. In return, Vitovt helped Dzhelal-ed-Din to ascend the Golden Horde throne in 1412, after the defeat of Idiki who escaped in Moscow.
Though, it is very interesting to tell the very violent history of bloody fight for the power in Saray, but it takes too much time. Moreover, it's not our goal. Our goal is to tell about the collapse of the empire from which then, in other words, as a result of this collapse, were formed the new states. They kept on fighting and absorbing each other and formed again, but to be more precise restored the empire. However, this time it started referring itself as Russian Empire.
However, this story could take many pages. That is why we just sketchy tell about some stages of the history that leaded to the collapse of Golden Horde, and send those who like details to the historic works of V.D. Smirnov, V.V. Velyaminov-Zernov, L.N. Gumilev and other authors referred to in the list of reference literature. Here we'll pay our attention basically to two states separated from Golden Horde. These are Crimean Khanate that not only declared first its independence, but buried Golden Horde itself becoming its successor for a long period of time, and Muscovite state that gained its power after it became independent from Golden Horde without any efforts, because metropolis was conquered by the province.
So, let's have a look when and how Crimea managed gaining its sovereignty and independence?
After Tokhtamysh left his throne in Saray the reshuffle of the claimants around the throne started again. After Edigey's dethronement many Dzhuchy princes returned to Saray from Lithuania hopping to take the throne of the empire. Among then was Khodzha-Devlet Giray, the future khan of the independent Crimean Khanate who was born in Lithuania. However, the life in Saray for the young claimant appeared to be so dangerous that he kept his life by a miracle escaping from his persecutor back in Lithuania. In 1428 having in his disposal sixteen thousands army of nukers - Nogays with the help of the same Vitovt he came to Crimea.
The epopee with Khadzhy-Devlet Giray's accession to the throne in Crimea with subsequent gaining of power and recognition by all Crimean feudals, considering that the claimants to the Crimean throne from metropolis were more than enough is the special subject of study and maybe even the whole historic novel. So it is captivating and detective exciting. However, we here note as it was mentioned above only the milestone of the history.
Golden Horde didn't want to let Crimea go, that was the goal of Khadzhy - Giray (as against Mamai). In 1443 after proclaiming of the foundation of an independent (from Golden Horde) state Devlet-Giray didn't spare Crimea from the attempts of the governors of the empire to return the rebellious province back under the wing of the double-headed eagle - Golden Horde's emblem. Thus, the forming of the state from the empire's province, that was possible only because of the weakening of the central authority, Crimean Khan naturally was very interested not only in preserving of the weakness of Saray, but in complete collapse of the empire. That is why all his life Devlet-Giray had been fighting exceptionally against the khans of Golden Horde. For example, "when Seyid-Akhmet-khan (reigned 1445 - 1465) set from Saray to destroy Podoliya that was dependent to Lithuania, Khadzhy - Giray set towards him and crushed Golden Horde army". The same good turn he also rendered to Russians in 1465. Voskresenska chronicle tells the following story: "In the same summer (1465) the ungodly tsar Makhmut attacked Russian land with his Horde and settled down on Don. With the divine mercy and saint mother AziGiray (Khadzhy-Giray) came to fight against him and his horde, and they started fighting against each other, and thus, the God relieved Russian land from the nasty men". It was clear that Makhmut threatened intruding to Russian territory and didn't encroach on Crimean Khanate's territory. Nevertheless, Khadzhy-Devlet-Giray bared his compatriot's way defeating them and due to this fact was considered as the Russians' benefactor, regardless whether he sympathized or felt an aversion towards them - writes the historian V.D. Smirnov. He had to act this way because of the natural political considerations - not to let khan of Big Horde gain power, although on account of Russians: Khadzhy-Giray wouldn't have benefited from strengthening of Russians as well, because his aim was securing of his separatism (independence)".
Achieving for a certain period the weakening of Golden Horde the young and prosper states didn't remain independent for a long time. There was another expansion coming from the south - the Turkish one. It started in the first half of the 14th century and spread by the 15th almost around the whole Mediterranean region, overwhelming the hegemony of Genoese merchants who had complete domination over Mediterranean Sea in the 13th - 14th centuries. Blocking Bosporus Turks rendered Genoese trading posts in Crimea lifeless, closing the seaway of the Great Silk Way. It was the beginning of the end for the flourishing Crimea, because the ancient trading road that was under the control of Chingizid Tatariya on land, and Latinians (Venetians, later on Genoeses) on sea, now was closed by Turks. Located in the centre of the most intense trading road, Crimea enjoyed the economic flourishing, but now step by step was slipping into its edge. The western transit appeared to be closed, because Turk fleet blocked Bosporus. On top of it all in 1475 the Turkish fleet approached the Crimean coast and took all Genoese towns yielding great profit to Crimean State. Mengli-Giray who took part in the defense of the fortresses was captured by Turks and escaped death only because he agreed to accept the vassal dependence on Osman Empire. At that time the self-declared Crimean Khanate wasn't strong enough to strengthen oneself and resist both the internal enemies represented by Golden Horde khans, and external ones represented by sultans of Turkish Empire. Moreover, after Khadzhy-Giray's death in 1466 his sons started fighting against each other for the throne. First, the vacant Crimean throne was occupied by Nur-Devlet - Khadzhy Giray's elder son. However, in 1468 he was dethroned by his brother Mengli-Giray who before that time lived in Kafa under Genoeses' protection. However, he suffered the same fate: he was dethroned by the third brother Ayder. In 1475, when Turkish fleet approached the Crimean coast, Crimea was already governed by Golden Horde khan Akhmat whose aim was restoration of Golden Horde Empire (this very Akhmat who in 1480 resisted Moscow on river Ugra trying to clamp too much independent vassal).
Turks took not only Kafa, but all the coastal towns including Mangup located in the mountains. There they captured Mengli-Giray. Turkish Sultan Mohammed II first made the same proposition to Nur-Devlet, but he refused, reluctant to accept the vassal dependence on Turks, thus, in fact saved life to Mengli-Giray whom Sultan with the help of Turkish army made khan.
After Mengli-Giray in the same year forced out Akhmat from Crimea he had to stand up his right to Crimean throne more than once in the armed battles for the next 27 years. First, against Akhmat who returned to Crimea in the next year, then in 1477 from Dzhanibek - another claimant from Saray. In 1478 Nur-Devlet returned to Crimea again. Only in 1480 Mengli-Giray finally established firmly on the throne. Overthrown Nur-Devlet along with his brother ran to Lithuania and from there they both came to Muscovy.
In the letter addressed to Mengli-Giray Ivan III explained the reason of his invitation of the princes (in Russia it was customary to refer to all Chingizids as prince). As though the Grand Duke "due to special friendly attitude to him (Mengli-Giray) accepted not only Tsar Dzhanibek ousted from Saray, but also two brothers Mengli-Girays - Nordoulat and Ayder who lived in Lithuania, in order not to let them cause any harm to him". How do you like it? In 1483 and 1484 he repeated through his ambassadors Lykov and Nozdrevaty: "I vast no opportunity from my part to please you: I maintain your brothers Nordoulat and Ayder in Russia bearing quite big expenses" (V.V. Velyaminov - Zernov).
In fact, Russian Grand Dukes always needed these princes in political and particularly in military purposes. For example, when in 1480 Akhmat - Golden Horde khan approached the river Ugra, threatening Moscow, Ivan III sent Nur - Devlet with voevode Vasily Nozdrevaty attack Golden Horde in a roundabout way. Nur - Devlet succeeded with the entrusted mission - he reached Horde with his Cossacks on boats, and smashed it finding there only elderly people, wives and children. However, one noble oglan kept him from final destruction of "Urta Batyeva". He reminded Tsar that he himself originated from Big Horde and that it's a shame to destroy completely this land - their common fatherland.
Nevertheless, Nur Devlet's successful attack caused Akhmat to stop the confrontation on Ugra River and ran back to Horde.
The audacious raid of Nur-Devlet was highly appreciated by Grand Duke. In 1486 for this exploit he was given Kingdom of Qasim that at those times was called Gorodetskoe (because of the name of the town - Nizovoy Gorod). It's a common knowledge that the first governor of this subjected to Moscow dukes kingdom was prince Qasim - the son of the former Golden Horde khan and the founder of Kazan khanate Ulughghgh - Mohammed.
Thus, one could consider that starting from Nur-Devlet Crimean Tatars were started inviting to Moscow (though, for the sake of justice one had to mention first Crimean Tatar whose name was Naryshka, who went to Moscow back in 1463 and after conversion to Christianity became Moscow boyar Naryshkin, but in Crimea he wasn't so famous). That is why we paid so much attention to Mengli-Giray's brother. You see, starting right from Nur-Devlet, that is, since 1480 Moscow started widening en mass with immigrants from Crimea. However, saying so we mean only immigrants precisely from Crimea, because northern, in other words Muscovite Russia started widening with immigrants from Golden Horde long before the events mentioned above. This phenomenon acquired especially mass character in the period of "great zamyatnya". Here is how Velyaminov - Zernov wrote about it in his work specially dedicated to kingdom of Qasim. "As Russian power started strengthening the Tatar khans and princes often started coming to us. Some of them were invited by Russian government pursuing political goals; the others were looking for the asylum or help here themselves… Considering that situation Muscovite governors had to honor and maintain all these coming guests. In order to ease their tusk they decided giving them towns in usage or feeding. There were a lot of such towns: Serpukhov, Yuriev, Surozhik, Khatun, and others". Among them was also Nizovoy Gorod that was renamed later (in 1471) into Kasimov. One should also mention that such custom existed not only in Russia. Lithuania practiced the same policy receiving Golden Horde khans and grandees. In particular, Khadzhy-Giray not only lived in Lithuania for a long time, but was born there. Before his accession to Crimean throne he had Luda town in his principality (today's Lida in Byelorussia), the town that fed him and his big army.
By the way, as far as the army concerns, every prince, all the more khan came from Horde to Moscow accompanied with many thousands of warriors called Cossacks, in other words outcasts, adventurers, free men. All this army of newcomers gradually took roots in new places, for all that serving to Russian tsar. Being on state service these people took an active part in all major events undertaking by Muscovite governors. That is why Grand Dukes of Moscow eagerly took Tatar princes and other Golden Horde mercenaries among Cossacks to their service. Many of these immigrants from Golden Horde after they converted to Christianity were proclaimed Russians. At those times Muscovite Russia was literary flooded with such immigrants from the Horde. Tatar language was as widespread as Russian. All the state officials mastered it as their native language. It was a great honor to become related with such newly-converted Tatars. Here is how the well-known (abroad) historian and writer, white immigrant and creator of a series of historic novels and documentary stories wrote about the life of Russia and Horde Mikhail Dmitrievich Karateev (1904 - 1978).
"Due to various political and family reasons the representatives of Tatar aristocracy already since Alexander Newsky's reign started immigrating to Russia. Here they were always welcomed, converted to Orthodoxy, obtained land and service, married Russian ladies, joined the ranks of Russian nobility and served devotedly to their new fatherland. Each off them brought with him tens and hundreds of servants who also dissolved in Russian population soon. Thus, the mixing of Russian and Tatar blood occurred not only in the higher classes, but in the lover classes as well.
As the collapse of the Horde and the strengthening of Russia went by the immigration increased. After the fall of the last Tatar khanates - Kazan, Astrakhan, Siberian and Nogay it became very widespread and the majority of Tatar nobility appeared on Moscow governors' service, thus starting the numerous duke, boyar and noble families. Today Russian who is not experienced in genealogy issues wouldn't even suspect them of being of Tatar origin.
The whole Tatar detachments and Uluses after they came to serve to Moscow settled in its eastern territories, thus protecting it from the internal enemies. For example, Kasimov khanate that duke Vasily the Dark founded of submitted Tatars on the territory of Meshcher lands served Russia as an effective barrier against Kazan khanate. Later on, as it was mentioned in the Brockhaus and Efron Encyclopedia "it turned into the asylum for those Muslim immigrants who came to serve to Russian Government and who Russian Tsars always patronized. Here, these immigrants without meeting with any obstacles in exercising their religious ceremonies, step by step got used to Russians to such extent that turned into Russians themselves converting to their religion and feelings".
There is a well known saying: "scratch any Russian and you'll get Tatar"… This saying might be admitted as quite valid in direct "biological" sense of the word. It didn't damage us.
Without dealing purposefully with genealogy, but studying in details the epoque of Tatar dominion and being interested in Russian - Tatar relations in the past, I found and wrote out from various sources 92 duke, 50 boyar, 13 earl and more than three hundred old noble families started with Tatar ancestors… There is no doubt that it would be quite easy to found in the provincial birth books more few hundred noble families of Tatar origin. Unfortunately, non-noble families were not registered and it is impossible to count them, but there is no doubt that there were many thousands of them.
All these numerous descendants of Tatars already in the second - third generation turned to purely Russian people both on spirit and upbringing. They served their fatherland honestly and faithfully, not just fighting for it in the numerous wars, but in the peace life also giving it a lot of outstanding and even genius people who glorified the Russian culture. Let me provide the most famous examples.
In the field of science the descendants of Tatars were represented by such genius scientists as Mendeleyev, Mechnikov, Pavlov and Timiryazev, historians Kantemir and Karamzin, the explorers of North Cheluskin and Chirikov. In literature - Dostoevsky, Turgenev, Derzhavin, Yazykov, Denis Davydov, Zagoskin, K. Leontev, Ogarev, Kuprin, Arzybashev, Zamyatin, Bulgakov and the whole range of other talented writers and poets. In the field of art among the most brilliant its representatives one could mention such ballet dancers as Anna Pavlova, Ulanova and Spesivtseva, actresses Karatygina and Ermolova, composers Skryabina and Taneeva, painter Shishkin and others…
Tatars gave Russia two Emperors - Boris and Fyodor Godunov (before them there was also Semen Bekbulatovich - Erik Kudusov's note), and five queens: Solomoniya Saburova - the first wife of Vasily III, Helena Glinskaya - his second wife, Irina Godunova - the wife of Fyodor Ivanovich the "Blessed", Natalia Naryshkina - Peter the Great's mother and the second wife of Aleksey Mikhailovich and Marfa Apraksina - Emperor Romanov Fyodor Alekseyevich's wife. Moreover, Evdokiya Saburova was the wife of Prince Ivan who was murdered (in a temper) by his father Ivan the Terrible.
One should also note that some Tatars were canonized by Russian Orthodox Church. The most famous of them was St. Peter Ordynsky - khan Batu's nephew who was first converted to Orthodoxy then became monk. Another Tatar - St. Peter the martyr of Kazan.
One should also mention that Batu allowed his elder son and heir - khan Sartaq and his wife converting to Orthodoxy. This case shows Tatar toleration and once again denies the absolutely wrong, but firmly implanted idea that Tatars were religious fanatics and oppressor of Christianity. If it was not the early Sartaq's death who was poisoned by his rival - Batu's brother, the throne of the great khans could be taken by the person belonging to Orthodoxy".
In this long quotation of the most famous researcher of Golden Horde Mr. Karataev M.D. we could automatically observe the process of the development of Russian nation. One could only add one concluding sentence to all mentioned above: the nation of Great Russians was formed by means of association of feudal isolated Russian dukedoms, initiated by the idea of consolidation of Orthodox commonness of Golden Horde province based on the powerful people inflow from Golden Horde, in other words Tatars. As far as Crimean Tatar nation concerns its consolidation went on according to the same laws - the association of separate ethnic groups or feudal entities in the frameworks of new common state and under the common unifying idea. For Crimean Tatars such idea was to stop the governors of Saray's claims to Crimean throne, in other words liberating movement. For Muscovite Russia such consolidation idea became Orthodoxy in contrast to Islam firmly established in metropolis in time of Uzbek governance (1312 - 1341). The initiators of separation from metropolis and creation of the nation In Russia became the clergymen. Duke's civil authority just followed the Church's tastes. One couldn't say for sure what could be the future fate of Golden Horde and its northern province - Russia in case Orthodoxy became the dominating religion in Golden Horde. In any case Moscow wouldn't become the center of consolidation.
As far as Crimea concerns it gained independence regardless the religious bias of its population. Moreover, there were not religious biases in Crimea: Crimea was multi-religious state. When Khadzhy-Giray came to Crimea there were four religions equally practiced excluding heathens. There were Jews who took roots in Crimea in the period of domination of Khazar kaganate, Karaits whose religion made them a separate special ethnic group, Muslims and Christians. At that, Christians were represented by the most various persuasions: Nestorians, Orthodox, Iconoclasts, Catholics of various schools, in other words the most opposite marginal Christian schools found their asylum here living side by side with each other, because even during Islam domination in Crimea there was religious tolerance. It was the distinctive feature of Crimea at all times. It wasn't even possible to imagine oneself the implacable fight between Orthodox and Catholics of Crimea, though in other regions of Europe, for example in France where the massacre of St. Bartholomew sank in blood thousands of Huguenots - it was regarded as quite normal and usual thing. Russia from the very beginning was intolerant both to Catholics and Muslims, though to the last in the lesser extent. The most intolerant was Moscow eparchy. So it was in the past and it remained until now.
Before Giray's coming there were quite small number of Muslims, among the indigenous population of Crimea, in other words among the population mountains and coastal towns and territories. Though, there weren't representatives of other regions except Muslims among Tatars who seized steppe part of Crimea (Horders were referred to as Tatars). Starting from khan Uzbek Tatar and Muslim became synonyms.
The appearance of Devlet-Khadzhy-Giray in Crimea brought the cardinal changes not only to the state system of Crimea, but what is worth to note, to people's mentality. The fight of the province for independence rocked not only the upper ten. It didn't leave indifferent even the common people. The authority of the new governor of Crimea grew to such extent that converting to his religion was considered as a great honor for every vassal. Many feudals among the indigenous population of Crimea did so. The feudal's subjects followed their example. Thus, Islam conquered Crimea very soon. Because Muslim and Tatar were synonyms everybody who was converted to Islam automatically was referred to as Tatar, and it was quite convenient for the newly-converted. That is why all Cimmerians, Taurs, Scythians, Alans, Goths, Greeks, Armenians, Italians, Circassians, and others who were converted to Islam from Christianity or heathenism started referring to as Tatars. Taking into consideration that the population of Crimea spoke different dialects of Turk language for a long time (since the 6th century - Vozgrin, 1992), people were distinguished only by their religion. For example the service in Christian churches was conducted in Turk language that testified many witnesses of that epoque. By the way, the common language was one of the reasons of so quick association of Crimea into one single state. That is why after the declaration of independence of Crimea formation of the nation became an irreversible process.
Thus, by the end of the 15th century the new nations started forming within new states that appeared on the territory of the falling apart Golden Horde. They were Crimean Tatar and Great Russian nations. At that the distinctive feature of these two young developing nations wasn't the language, but religion. The north-west of the Golden Horde Empire became Orthodox, and the south-west province - Islam, and the multy-religious population of Crimea started converting to it en mass.
However, until Golden Horde Empire officially existed the destiny of the new states remained indefinite, because Saray's governor could put an end to this process at any time. Everything depended on his military-economic potential. The thing was that it varied all the time threatening to independence of both states. That is why Moscow and Crimea at that period invariably supported each other in the face of the common enemy. The personal relations between the governors of Crimea and Moscow were the friendliest. They referred to each other in lively correspondence as "my beloved brother".
As far as Saray khans concerned, they really couldn't watch coolly the strengthening of their formal vassals. Historian Velyaminov-Zernov cited the texts of two letters written in 1487 by Murtaza - the last khan of Golden Horde addressed to Ivan III and Nur-Devlet - the khan of Kasimov kingdom, where one could easily note the desire of Murtaza to restore his former domination over the provinces of the empire he had been loosing. In particular, he asked Grand Duke allowing Nur-Devlet to come to Golden Horde in order to make Crimean khan of him, but Nur-Devlet wrote: "We belong to one family with you; our fathers used to fight, but then made friendship. Mengli-Giray, your brother, broke his oath and started the war again".
It's quite interesting to compare these two Mustafa's letters. He writes yarlyk, decree to Ivan III quite briefly and shortly. Though, he writes to Nur-Devlet like to the equal to him Tsar, sending him the long document contained the honorable and flattering expressions. Though, he had one goal - to set two brothers against each other and then restore the metropolis' rule.
Murtaza's intrigue was so evident that it didn't have any response. The only thing that Duke Ivan did - he told Mengli-Giray in details about the plots prepared by Saray's governor. "Murtaza's proposal did not meet Ivan's interests, - writes Velyaminov-Zernov. - Union with Mengli-Giray was far more profitable for him: Mengli-Giray fought against the children Akhmatovs and assisted Ivan whose aim was, as well as Mengli-Giray's, to destroy Golden Horde. Horde was equally hateful to both governors…"
However, neither one nor another governor dared "destroying the hatful Horde" alone: they all had equal power. Mengli-Giray proposed Ivan joining the military forces of Moscow and Crimea, but for some reasons such alliance failed. Eventually, Mengli-Giray invented the genius plat. He just waited for an occasion to implement it.
Such occasion was in 1502 and was quite possibly provoked by Mengli-Giray himself.
Murtaza feeling hatred towards Mengli-Giray on that fatal for him year gathered a huge army and finally decided finishing even with the very memory of Girays in Crimea. Mengli-Giray set towards Murtaza, but didn't accept the fight. He started retreating as though imitating hesitation and unreadiness of his army to the final battle. Excited Murtaza rushed after the hateful enemy having no suspicions that he got into decoy. Making such maneuvers the fighting armies crossed the whole Crimea from north to south and came to the sea. Here Mengli-Giray's army suddenly scattered around the mountains and Murtaza decided to pitch a camp on the cost of Azure Sea. That was what Mengli-Giray wanted.
Suddenly Turkish fleet appeared from behind the cape. Murtaza didn't even suspect it. Before the eyes of surprised spectators the fleet fall in battle array and without long considerations opened the heavy fire against the Golden Horde camp.
The effect exceeded all Mengli-Giray's expectations. The fleet completely destroyed Golden Horde camp making people leaving it in panic. Here they were met nobody knows whom where appeared Crimean cavalry that made a real slaughter of the Horders who lost their military spirit. Only a small part of the former terrible army could escape from encircling. However, Mengli-Giray envisaged even this. He sent the cavalry prepared in advance that was designed for long term chasing that chased the recessive remnants of the army up to Saray. And it was also planed.
At the Battle of Kulikov Mamaians, defeated by the Russian-Tatar ambushed cavalry, were chased by them for around twenty versts. It was enough to complete the defeat. However, Mengli-Giray's aim was not just inflict the defeat to Golden Horde, but to destroy it for ever. That is why he used another tactics: he chased the receding enemy without spot up to the very heart of the empire. He rushed to Saray literally on the shoulders of the escaping in panic army. Nobody waited him there. Making use of the suddenness factor he took the town without facing any resistance and made a real massacre there killing the whole its population.
Such was the end of the empire. "Horde destroyed by Mengli-Giray never revived again and the very its name disappeared", - wrote the author of the Brief History of Russia V.V. Velyaminov-Zernov (1883).