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The Tatar Khanate of Crimea
By TJK, 2004; Revised
Category: Steppes and Central Asia: 1200 AD
| The Crimean Khanate was one of the many remnants of the Golden Horde, the north-western division of the seprated Mongol Empire. Located north of the Black Sea, the Crimean Khanate also proved to be the most lasting remnant. The term "Tatar" derives from an old Mongolian tribe. It eventually came to be a term used by Europeans for the inhabitants and warriors of Mongol Empire as a whole, especially the Golden Horde division. A similar and interchangeable term is"Tartar," which probably came from the corruption of the word "Tatar" with Tartarus.|
Foundation of the Khanate
"Crimea" was a part of the Golden Horde Khanate right from its founding in the 13th century. Eventually it became a separate administrative unit and its rulers (emirs) achieved great significance in the Golden Horde's political structures in the beginning of XV centuries. Hajji Giray, a ninth generation descendant of Gengis Khan rose to power in 1420. He took advantage of the disintegration of Golden Horde and in 1449 proclaimed himself to be an independent ruler.
The Khans of Golden Horde had been trying to force the Crimea khans to recognize their supervision but Hajji Giray not only successfully resisted these attempts but also managed to expand his power to the territory located between Dniepr and Don, thanks to the alliance with Moscowy and the Polish-Lithuanian state.
He then defeated the Genoese and imposed his power on Kaffa, a rich Genoese-built colony in Crimea. Due to his appearance, Hajji Giray was called by his people as Melek (an Angel). He has died in 1466.Two eldest sons Haci Giray Mengli and Nur Dewlet struggled for power. Initially Nur Dewlet defeated his brother with assistance from Ahmed - the khan of Grand Horde (The Grand Horde considered itself a successor of Golden Orde). But shortly after (1473), with the support of the Crimea aristocracy, Mengli Giray overthrew his brother and took power. Nevertheless the struggles went on. In a second intervention the Ottoman Turks joined the dispute.
In May 1475 a huge Ottoman army commanded by vizier Gedlik Ahmed Pasha reached the Crimea. Using his strong artillery the Ottomans seized many seaside towns (including Kaffa) and left there garrisons. Mengli Giray was captured and for the next 3 years he was kept in a Turkish prison. In 1478 upon a request by the Crimean aristocracy Sultan Mehmed II agreed to restore Mengli Giray to his status of khan. Later an Ottoman army invaded the Crimea again and removed all pretenders, solidifying Megli Giray on a throne as a vassal of sultan Osmans.
As a vassal, domestic power remained in the Khan's hands. However a foreign policy as well as the appointing of Muslim clerical dignitaries lay in Sultan hands. Moreover the Khan was obliged to take part in war campaigns waged by the Ottomans. The southern part of Crimea was directly annexed into the Ottoman Empire and become an Eylat of Kaffa ruled by an Ottoman Beylerbey. The main issue for Mengli Giray's reign was war with Grand Horde which claimed a right to supervise the Crimea Khanate. In this war Mengli won a valuable ally: Moscow's Prince Ivan III. As a consequence of this alliance the Polish-Lithuanian state which at this time suported the Khan of Grand Horde, was invaded.
Until 1506, invasions by Crimeans ravaged the territory of Polish Ukraine almost every year. In 1487 polish prince Jan Olbracht routed a Tatar tsambul (unit) in a battle near Kopstrzyn. During the next years Polish armies achieved many others victories. On the other hand the invasions continued onto the Polish territory and in some occassions the Polish-Lithuanian army suffered bitter defeats, such as the one in 1494 near Wisniowiec.
In 1502 a struggle between the Crimean Khanate and the Grand Horde came to an end. In June 10, the Crimean Khan achieved a crucial victory near Worskla. The Grand Horde began to disintegrate into many smaller khanates: Kazan, Astrakhan, Kazachs and many others. After a Tatar invasion of Poland in 1506 near Kleck, Mengli Giray decided to change the alliance and attacked the Moscow Empire. This expedition was not successful since the Nogai Horde gave aid to Moscow.
During following years the Khanate took advantage of a war between Lithuania and Moscow to stage devastating invasions against both states. Almost every year Crimean Tatars plundered Polish and Lithuanian territories most notably in 1511 and 1512. In 1512 a big Crimean Tatar expedition ended insevere defeat near Lopusz. This defeat, as well as growing tension with Moscow resulted in a negative policy towards Moscow. Another main reason for hostility towards Moscow was competition for the nearby Kazan Khanate.
Fight with Moscow for the succession of the Golden Horde
Mengli Giray died in 1515 and his eldest son Mehmed was appointed as his successor. The new Khan began a massive war operations against Moscow. For many years his invasions ravaged the lands of southern Russia. In 1521 an official alliance of Poland and Crimea was signed.
Moreover, Mehmed Giray decided to intervene in the Kazan Khanate where a friend to Moscow, Shah Ali has risen to power. The expedition set off in 1521. The Crimea army took Kazan very easily and placed the brother of Mehmed Giray, Sahib on the throne. The very next expedition was set out against Moscow itself. The army of the Crimean Khan, supported by Lithuanians, defeated the Moscow army and camped at a gate of the city. However Moscow was not captured: they paid a ransom to the Khan and decided to withdraw. This decision also caused sabotage action by the ruler of the Astrakhan Khanate, who entered into alliance with Moscow. In 1523 Mehmed decided to solve this problem by invading Astrakhan. He won a victory swiftly and easily overthrew Khan Hussain. Thus, Mehmed Giray became overlord of all Tatars Khanates. Soon, however, (Autumn 1523) he was murdered by Nogais, who probably schemed with Moscow.
Chaos came into the Crimean Khanate. Finally the aristocracy chose Gazi, a son of Mehmed, as Khan. This choice was not favored by the Ottoman Sultan, who thenplaced Saadat Giray, a son of Mengli Giray, as Khan (1524). There was another person, a brother of Gazi, who contended for the throne. He was later appointed as a Kalga sultan. The Astrakhan Khanate took advantage of the chaos in Crimea and broke free from its dominance.
Soon Sahib was forced to give back the throne to his nephew Safa Giray and had to leave the Khanate. He took shelter at Suleyman and he served the Sultan well during the campaign in Hungary in 1532. In the meantime, in order to strengthen his rule, Safa Giray called the Crimea army for two expeditions against Moscow (in 1525 and 1527). However both of them failed due to massive Moscow artillery fire.
Unsuccessful expeditions caused a revolt in the aristocracy, which rose in opposition towards the Khan. In the spring of 1532, Saadat Giray was forced to abdicate. Suleyman the Magnificient decided to hand back the throne to his faithful ally Sahib. This decision was not supported by the Crimean Tatars. Going with the traditional rights derived from the time of Jenghiz Khan, they chose Islam Giray as their ruler.
Sahib did not reconcile to this defeat and continued the fight for the throne. With support of the Nogai Horde, he forced Islam Giray to abdicate (September 1532) and took the throne for himself. Meanwhile Moscow tried to take advantage of these domestic problems of Crimea Khanate. In 1532 Moscow succeeded in removing Safa Giray from his remaining throne in Kazan.
Can Ali, a protégé of Moscow was appointed as successor to Safa Giray. However in 1534 Sahib invaded Kazan and put his nephew on the throne again. One year earlier in 1533, Astrakhan had also come under power of the Crimea Khan.
Expansion towards Caucasus was successful as well. After subjugating of Circassians, the Crimea controlled almost the entire basin of Volga. The Nogai Horde became the next purpose of Sahib Giray. He defeated the Nogais and displaced part of them to the steppes of Bucak and Dobrujja. The Nogai broke up into the Bucak, Dobrujja, Bielogrod and Otchakov Hordes.
As a result of competition with Moscow for lands of the former Golden Horde, Poland and Lithuania made an agreement with the Khanate. In 1532 an anti-Moscow alliance was formed between the three and Ottoman Empire. In the expeditions in 1533, 1535 and 1536 Crimean Tatars ravaged the southern borders of Moscow's lands in order to pull their forces away from the Lithuanian border. (Thanks to this, expeditions by Polish and Lithuanian forces won victories in Siewierz). In 1541 the Crimea prepared a crucial attack. Sahib Giray himself set off on an expedition. In the letter to the juvenile Tsar Iwan IV he wrote: "Be acknowledge that we want to seize your lands, captured you, harness you to plough and told you to plant ashes"
However the Russians successfully blocked the crossing of the Oka river and the expedition of Sahib Giray failed. As a consequence of this defeat power in Kazan was lost to an ally of Moscow, Shah Ali. However a later intervention by Crimea returned the throne to Safa, who ruled Kazan untill 1549.
Sahib did not concentrate only on war expeditions. During his reign profound domestic reforms were introduced. He limited the power of aristocratic houses and strengthened the central government run directly by himself, his administration and infantry guards (sebgans, similar to jannisaries), composed of Circassians and commanded by Turkish officers. The capital was moved from Kyrkier to Bakcesaray where a new palace was being constructed. Many mosques and public baths were built at this time and in order to be more independent from the trade agency of Kaffa a harbour in Gozlew was extended as well. The Khan also carried out intensive culture activity - under his patronage the first historical chronicle of the Tatars was written - theTahiri Sahib Giray Khan (the history of Khan Sahib Giray). Poetry flourished as well.
Sahib Giray's independent policy alarmed Sultan Suleyman, even though the Khan tried to meet the wishes of his sovereign (for example he took part in a campaign in Moldavia in 1538, sent reinforcements to the Ottomans in Hungary in 1543 and following the will of sultan he invaded Poland in 1549). Suleyman decided to get rid of this vassal. In 1551 while Sahib was invading revolting Circassians, the ottomans army appeared in Crimea and consequently put on the throne Devlet Giray. Sahib and his family were murdered.
His predecessor, Devlet Giray, was an advocate of strong central rule. However he was able to achieve this purpose in agreement with the oppostion.
Tsar Ivan IV twice (in 1545 and 1550) conducted expeditions against the Kazan Khanate. Although the Kazan Khanate defended valiantly, the Tsar was able to seize the lands in the west side of the Volga, settled mostly by Chuvash and Cirmis (non-Tatar tribes). The Tsar was also succeeded in putting his ally Shah Ali on the throne. Fortunately for Delwet Giray the successes of the Tsar did not last, when in 1551 Yediger, a descendent from Nogai came to the power in Kazan. In response, the Tsar organized the next expedition. Receiving news about this, Devlet Giray decided to strike first. He set off towards Moscow with all his subordinated Hordes reinforced with Janissary units from Kaffa and strong artillery. The Crimean army reached the Tula. However it failed to conquer the city and additionally one of the Crimea column was crushed by the army of the Kurbski Duke, who was sent by the Tsar to relief the Tula. Devlet Giray was forced to retreat and thus the fate of Kazan was settled. In the end of 1552 Ivan IV begun the siege of Kazan with a with strong army and artillery (50.000 soldiers and 150 cannons) . Kazan rejected resolutions for surrended and defended valiantly. However, the continual bombardment and water blockade sealed its fate. On the 2nd of October, an especially stormy day, the city was captured. In accordance with Mongol tradition everybody captured with an arm in a hand was killed. The rest of the Tatar population was displaced.
The next objective of Ivan the Terrible was the Astrakhan Khanate which at that time was ruled by Khan Yamgurtsy, vassal of Crimea. At that time Astrakhan remained in conflict with Nogai Horde, which asked the Russians for assistance. In 1554 a Russian army seized Astrakhan practically without a fight and it placed the Tsar's ally Derwish Ali on the throne (ultimately, in 1566 Astrakhan was annexed to the state of Tsars).
Generally speaking, the rivalry for the old lands of Golden Horde ended in a failure to the Crimean Khanate. Although the Khanate would deal heavy blows to Moscow, it would never be able to restore the Tatar states by Volga river. In 1557 - 1557 another Moscow expeditions (with participation of Cossaks) ravaged Tatar settlements near the estuary of the Dniepr. It seemed that conquest of the Crimea by Moscow could near. However, fear of conflict with the Ottoman Empire as well as a potential war with Livonia, Poland and Lithuania saved Khanate from being conquered.
In this situation the alliance between the Crimea, Poland, and the Lithuanian state was renewed in a treaty signed in 1560. Although the main Russian forces were engaged in Livonia, Russia was able to prepare defenses at home. Defensive lines composed of many fortified locations, wire entanglements and field fortifications, which were all reinforced. Thus all expeditions conducted by Crimeans in 1564 - 1565 failed. In 1569 the Ottomans got mixed up in this conflict and the Sultan Selim II decided to annex the near-volga lands to his empire. The Sultan sent Kasin Pasha with an army 12,000 strongly equipped with artillery, which together with 40 thousand of Crimean, set off towards Astrakhan.
Transport for heavy siege cannons turned out to be impossible. Kasyn Pasha decided to build a canal between Don river and Volga river whereby the cannon would be transported on ships. The works proceeded very slowly and finally the army decided to approached Astrakhan without heavy artillery. The siege overran until the winter and consequently the Khan decided to leave the field together with his army, under a shortage of food and water. Because Devlelt Giray considered Astrakhan and Kazan as a part of his heritage, he was not satisfied with the Sultan's plans.
Following the Tatars the army of Kasin Pasha withdrew as well and the Sultan decided to make a peace treaty with Ivan the Terrible. This peace treaty did not cover the Crimea Khanate. In 1570 a large Tatar's expedition reached Riazan and in the next year, Devlet Giray set off towards Moscow with 40 thousands warriors with strong infantry and artillery.
Meanwhile the Tsar was involved in struggle another opponent and was able to field only small divisions. They were quickly routed by Tula and Ivan IV escaped to Jaroslawiec, located in northern Russia. In 24 march 1571 the Tatars army approached the gate of the Capital. The Tatars plundered and burned nearby villages. Soon Moscow burst into flames too and in a couple of hours the city outside the Kremlin was completely burnt - there were only few stone buildings and fortified walls that were undamaged. Although dozens of thousands people died in the flames the Tatars failed to the Kremlin gates. Finally the Crimea army withdrew and since then Devlet Giray was called The Algan (the Conqueror of the Capital). This victory shook the power of Russia over the Volga lands. Consequently it seemed viable to the Crimeans to restore both Kazan and Astrakhan. An expedition conducted in 1572 turned out to be decisive.
Meanwhile the Russian managed to prepare for a better defense. The Tsar gathered about 20 thousands soldiers supported by strong artillery. Opposing him was Devlet Giray with 50 thousand Crimea Tatars, Nogais, infantry of Sebgan and artillery. Initially successful in by the Oka river, Devlet Giray moved on to Molodie (28 July - 4 August). The Russian made use of the so called "hulaj - gorody" (movable wooden towers used as a type of field fortification behind which they could fire with firearms effectively). In spite of ferocious attacks, the Tatars was beaten back with very severe losses (a description of this battle may be found on the site:
On the 2nd August the Russian army started to counterattack, forcing Devlet Giray to flee. This sever defeat of the Khanate ended the plans to restore Kazan and Astrakhan in failure. Subsequent Tatar expeditions against Russia conducted in following years (1573,1574,1576) turned into regular plundering invasions that only brought destruction of many villages and were not beneficial for the Tatars. The Khan Devlet Giray died of plague in June 1577.
Serving the Sultans
Mehmed Giray II, the son and successor of Dewlet Giray, was called Semiz (the Obese). Mehmed Giray II became Khan only upon the will of his father, and without the Sultan's acceptance. But in 1578 he led an enormous Crimean army that amounted almost to 50 thousands men against the Persian Shah, who at the same time was involved in a struggle with the Ottomans. The expedition succeeded and the Tatars returned to Crimea with great spoils. Soon the anti-Moscow alliance with Poland was renewed. In 1580 and 1581 Russia suffered with devastating Tatar invasions in which significant Moscow forces were diverted by the Polish in the north. However the Khan Mehmed was too ambitious to only be a vassal to the Sultans of Stambul, even as its most important vassal. Taking advantages of the Ottomans' war against Persia and Austria he began to make an effort to becoem independent. Consequently he established relations with the Polish king Stefan Batory, promising to be on his side in midst of an approaching conflict with the Ottoman Empire. In 1583 he refused to help the Sultan in his next expedition against Persia and attacked the Turkish garrison in Kaffa. Thus he openly turned against Ottomans.
Ultimately the Turkish army commanded by Osman Pasza landed in Crimea in 1584, overthrew the Khan and placed the loyal Islam Giray II on the throne. Mehmed was murdered. However the struggles for the Crimea throne did not end - Saadat Giray supported by Nogais raised claims to the throne. Finally with the help of the Turkish army Islam Giray II succeeded in defeating Saadat Giray. Giray II was a very weak ruler and his reign did not last long - two unsuccessful expeditions against Moscow (1584, 1587) should be noted.
In 1588, a new energetic ruler, Gazi Giray II "Bora" (the Storm) came to the throne. As a former captive in the Persian court, Gazi Giray received an excellent education - he knew Persian and Arabic languages well and turned out to be a capable administrator and a good commander. Although he was a loyal vassal of the Ottomans he was able to achieve partial independence, and thus enjoyed respect among the Crimea aristocracy.
In 1589 and 1590 Tatar invasions disturbed Ukraine which was then under the Polish power. These invasions were staged both in retaliation for an assault against the Khanate by Cossacks and as a response - partially inspired by the Sultan - to the Polish's attempts to establish a new alliance with the Habsburgs. In 1591 Gazi Giray led a huge Tatar expedition against Moscow. After initial successes they were held off by Borys Godunow near Kolomiejskoje village. Once more, the Russians' advantage of having the firearms decided a battle to be defeat for the Tatars.
After negotiations in 1593 the Khanate concluded a peace treaty with Moscow, in which it obliged itself to cease attacking, in return for regular payments of "the gifts." In 1593 a war between the Habsburgs and Ottomans broken out and the Sultan Murad III demanded help from his vassal. The great Crimea army commanded by the Khan himself set off to Hungary, passing through Moldavia and Ukraine. The Tatars avoided the Polish army commanded by the Hetman Zamoyski and plundered many Polish villages before marching into Hungarian Lowlands. The Crimeans served the Sultan's interests well during this campaign by defeating the Habsburgs at Raba river and plundering many Hungarian lands.
In 1595 a confrontation with the Polish army occurred- this time in Moldavia. The Polish placed Jeremy Mohyla, who was very loyal towards Poland, to the Moldavia throne. Since the Ottomans were involved in a struggle with tge Hospodar of Vallachia Michael the Brave, Gazi Giray staged an intervention on the Suntan's behalf. A Crimea army composed of more than 20 thousand men marched into Moldavia and besieged the Polish Camp at Cecora. Although the Tatars outnumbered the Polish army almost by three times, they were not be able to captured the Polish positions. During the battle the Khan himself was badly injured (by a bowshot wound). After long negotiations Gazi Giray agreed to recognize Jeremy Mohyla and Polish influences in Moldavia.
Next year there was a new summon from the Sultan to join expeditions to Hungary. This time Gazi Giray refused to follow the Sultan's will. He paid for this disobedience with loss of the throne to Feth Giray. After several moths he managed to regain the throne, but for the price of total submission to Ottomans (in 1599 the Tatars returned their support to the Sultans, in the conflict Siedmiogrod).
Since in the very beginning of the XVII century the Turkish more frequently used the aid of their vassal. in 1602 the Tatars units fought the rebel of Jelals (the soldiers of subsidiaries formations who have not received the soldier's pay) in Anatolia. They also participated in wars in Hungary in 1604 and 1605. In 1605 and 1606 the Tatar expeditions were also staged against Poland. Nogais of the Budiak Horde under a command of the brilliant leader Kantemir Murza conducted these expeditions.
(the Budiak Horde was formed form the Nogais who migrated in west after their old khanate was conqured by Muscovites (Russians). Nogais formed 4 ordes in the Danube mouth: Budiak, Bielogrod Dobruca and partly Otchakov. The first 3 Hordes were often called as just Budiak Horde. The rest of Nogais which did not migrate west formed the Great Nogai Horde subordinte to Muscowy.)
In 1607 peace between Poland and Ottomans Turkey was reestablished and alliance between Poland and the Crimea against Russia was signed once again. Since at this time, Russia was heavily affected by a crisis it stopped being a threat to the Khanate.
During the reign of Khan Selamet Giray (Gazi Giray died in the beginning of 1608) a big expedition was set in 1609. The Tatars passed across Oka river nearby Sierpuchov and reached Moscow. The Russians' defense system of the south borderlands that worked so well in preceding decades was now disintegrated. Therefore Tatars acted with impunity and returned to the Crimea with many captives . Then, another change on the Crimea throne occurred. In 1610 after the death of the Khan Selamet the Kalga Sultan Dzanibeg II Giray (a grand son of the Khan Dewlet) accended the throne. His name derives from Turkish "Canberk" which means "a warrior." The reign of Dzanibeg II Giray can be characterized by many wars. waged not only against external enemies, but also against some within.
Continuing Tatar attacks into Russia during the next years left the south borderlands of Russia completely depopulated and devastated. A peace treaty concluded with Tsar Michael Romanow in 1617 finally put an end to these destructive assaults. The peace with Russia was also encouraged by both potential war with Poland as of 1608 and the fact that the Khan received a summon from the Ottomans to join an expedition against Persia.
The main trouble with Poland were plundering invasions by Ukraine Cossacks. In 1608 the Cossacks looted Perekop; next year they attacked Kilia and Bialogrod. Involved in a war with Moscow, Poland was not able to control the actions of its tributaries in the south borderlands. Likewise the Budiak Horde did not obey orders of the Crimea rulers to refrain from attacking: it invaded Ukrainian lands many times, even in 1607 - 1612 when the Crimea was allied to Poland.
The expeditions to Polish borderland magnates to Moldavia and the alliance established in 1613 between Poland and Habsburgs tiped the scales in favor of Poland. The small but bothersome expeditions of the BudiakOrda gave way to great expeditions organized by the Crimean Khan at the Ottomans' suggestion.
In 1613 - 1617 the Ukraine was invaded by the Tatars dozens of times. Most of them were successful for the attackers since the Hetman Zolkiewski, who guarded the borderlands had too few men, while the Cossacks concentrated all their efforts in plundering expeditions to the Turkish coast and supporting the invasion of the royal prince W³adys³aw against Moscow.
In 1617, upon a summon of the Tultan, a Crimean army numbering almost 40 thousand men joined an expedition against Persia. This expedition was a failure - the Turkish and Tatars armies were beaten at Serav and forced to withdraw. In 1618 an army under a command of Kalga Sultan Dewlet Giray and a leader of Budiak Nogais, Kantemir one, marched in Ukraine. Once again, Zolkiewski failed to stop the Tatars - insubordination of private magnates in the Hetman's command resulted in defeat at Orynia which enabled the Tatars to plunder Podolia and Volyn. Some accounts say that the number of captives amounted to 30.000 people.
Struggle with Poland
Tense relationships between Poland and the Ottomans steadily worsened as the Polish King Sigismund III came into friendlier terms with Habsburg. It was likely that an invasion of 10.000 lisovski Cossaks (irregular units of the Polish light cavalry) in 1619 saved Vienna which was besieged by the prince of Transylvania, Bethlen Gabor, vassal to the Ottomans. But at the same time it disrupted relations between Poland and the Ottoman Turks. Thus, when 10,000 men commanded by the Hetman Zolkiewski marched into Moldavia, open conflict broke out. The expedition of Zolkiewski to Moldavia was aimed at supporting Hospodar Grazziany who was deprived of the throne by the Sultan. The Turkish beg of Silistiria (Isekender Pasza) who ruled the region could only field a small force and was disposed by Zolkiewski.
Unfortunately, the Tatars supported Iskender. The Crimea army commanded by Dewlet Giray and Nogais from the Budiak Horde of Kantymir, numbering approximately 12,000 men constituted nearly two-thirds an Ottoman/Tatar army about to counterattack.
The battle took place at Cecora in 19 September 1620 .
Zolkiewski's cavalry positioned at the center of the Polish formation, protected on its flanks by camp carts (tabor), infantry and artillery. Iskender Pasza aimed for the Turkish units in the center leaving, the flanks vulerable to the Tatars. In the initial stage of the battle the Polish drove back the Ottoman units in the center but unfortunately the right flanktabor s was not aware of a gorge and thus the flank had a vulerable gap. Dewlet Giray who commanded on the left flank took advantage of this excellent occasion. By a determined attack he defeated the cavalry unit protecting thetabor and forced his way in the rear of the right Polish flank. Many Polish divisions withdrew to the camp, leaving the infantry with thetabor to their own fate. Although the losses of both sides of the battle were more or less comparable, this defeat completely broke the morale of the Polish army.
During a night some riots broke out and some units left the Polish camp. Zolkiewski managed to bring the situation under control in the next few days, but now with a much smaller army he began to retreat under a protection oftabor s. Iskender tried to attacks the withdrawing army but was fought off; he gave up the pursuit. However Kantemir with his Nogais also pursued the Polish army. Near Mohylew another riots broke out in the Polish army. Thetabor were dispersed and part of the army broke in complete disorder. Kantemir took advantage of this occasion and attacked, nearly completely destroying the Polish units. Zolkiewski was killed in one of the many skirmishes. Many Polish commanders such as Field Hetman Stanis³aw Koniecpolski were taken captive.
However, the whole consequence of the defeat at Cecora were much more serious. The young Turkish Sultan Osman II saw the weakness of Poland and decided to take advantage. In May 1621 an enormous Ottoman army of almost 100,000 men set off towards Polish borders. Armies of their vassal joined the Sultan?s army, including Khan Dzanibeg himself with 10,000 men and Nogais commanded by Kantemir with 5000 men arrived in the Turkish camp.
Poland mobilized a strong force as well: almost 60,000 soldiers including Poles, Lithuanians, and Cossacks marched under the command of the Great Lithuanian Hetman Jan Karol Chodkiewicz. The battle at Chocim (in September and October 1621) was one marked by positional warfare. Therefore the light Tatar cavalry, sensitive to fire from firearms, could not demonstrate its real skills. Initially the Tatar provided some reconnaissance. After that, according to khan Dzanibeg's suggestion, theorda was sent to the rear of the Polish army cutting off supplies and communication from the Polish camp effectively. This tactic turned out to be very effective. By the end of September the Polish army, even though it had initially warded off the Ottoman attacks quite easily, was in the brink of exhaustion for the lack of ammunition and food. However the much bigger Ottoman army was afflicted with he same problems.
In the beginning of October negotiations took place. After many bargains the two sides returned to status quo.
The Sultan agreed to hold off Tatar invasions while Poland had to keep a tight a rein on the Cossacks. Moreover Poland obliged itself to pay tribute to the Tatar Khan and to not interfere in internal affirairs of Moldavia and Vallachia, recognizing these lands as areas of Ottoman influence.
This treatty, acknowledged by both parties in 1623, did not totally remove the threat of Tatar invasions. Kantemir who was called "Bloody Sword" by the Poles and was appointed as Beilerbeg of Otchakov for services during this war and did not want to be subordinate to Crimea's power. Not respecting the treaty signed by both the Khan and the Sultan at all, he proceeded with the Nogais to wage his private war with Poland. The first invasion took place in may 1622 in which the Tatars ravaged Pokucie and reached city Przemysl. The invasion was repeated in the summer 1623, where once again the Polish resistance was very weak, which allowed the attackers to reach as far as city Sandomierz. Successes of the invasions in 1622 and 1623 encouraged the intruders to stage the next invasion in 1624. Here, the Tatars acted in two groups: the bigger one was commanded by two sons of Kantymir: Dzantymir and Mehmed, while the smaller one was commanded by Ali Murza. This time however, the Tatars were taken by an unpleasant surprise. Hetman Koniecpolski, who had just returned from Turkish captivity, managed to concentrate his units in against the disorganized invaders that were dispersed in search for loots. He caught the division of Kantymir's sons near Szmankowice and smashed them a first battle. The Tatars took huge losses and both of Bloody Sword's sons of were killed.
Upon hearing the news of the defeat the division of Ali Murza returned and managed to escape from Polish pursuit. This failure did not discourage theOrda: on 5 June 1624 a big army of Nogais that amounted up to 6000 warriors marched in Pokucie. Kantemir himself commanded this expedition. The Orda set up at city Medyka and a kosz (a Tatar base set up during an invasion from where smaller raiding parties leave and return with prisoners and booty) the devastating army was sent in all directions. Moreover Kantemir also prepared a very offensive letter to the Polish King Sigismund III in which he wrote "With the help of God I will put up our flag in your capitol and I wish to spread our patches out to White Sea (Baltic)". The Tatars plundered and destroyed many villages and small towns, but in many places they experienced unexpected strong resistance from the inhabitants. Significantly symbolic was a defense of Nowosielce village. The peasants gathered in a fortified church commanded by administrator Michal Pyrz managed to not only fight off the attacks of Tatars tsambuls (units) but also abducted their horses to put an end to the siege. This and other cases of self - defense by the inhabitants gave enough time to Koniecpolski to concentrate his forces. Regular units (Kwarciani) strengthened by levies and private armies of magnates amounting to approximately 4.500 thousand men.
Taking into consideration that this army had an absolute superiority in firearms it had sufficient power to beat the Orda. The only problem was how to force Tatars into battle, as they were returning home with many captives. Koniecpolski decided to use a trick. He concentrated his forces at the path of the Tatars' retreat near a ford on Dniestr river at Martynow but he did not reveal the number of his men. Most of the divisions remained hidden in squeezedtabor and only very few banners of light cavalry stood out into the open. They met the Tatars in 19 June but Kantemir was vary cautious in not provoking to fight. On the next day, Koniecpolski pretended that he was withdrawing to simulate an escape. Kantemir was trusting. He directed his superb Tatars divisions against the Polish camp and in the same time he began crossing the kosz with loots and captives. The attack against thetabor was fought back with firearms and Polish light cavalry moved towards the confused Tatars and drove them back to the river. The Tatars gave up their counterattack and finally the Polish cavalry started to chase the Tatars. After a couple of kilometers the Polish cavalry caught up the kosz, easily crushed the enemy and rescued the captives. The chase was continued untill the night 21 June when most of the Tatars forces were crushed. The losses of the Tatars were huge and Kantemir bared managed to escape injured in a small group of warriors. Cecora had been avenged.
Civil wars in the Khanate
Increasing political pressure from then Ottomans and competition between the Crimean Khan and the ambitious ruler of Budiak Horde, Kantymir, caused high discontent in Crimea aristocracy. A rebellion occurred in 1623 led by the brothers Mehmed and Shahin Girey, resulting in the overthrow of the Khan Dzanibeg. Mehmed (Mehmed III) ascended the throne and his brother Shahin became the Kalga Sultan (as well as the "main player" in foreign policy of Khanate). Dzanibeg found a shelter at a place controlled by Ottomans and became a "trump card" in Sultan's hand. However, the brothers were threatened by Turkish intervention and decided to take radical steps. They called on the Cossacks for help which turned to be effective. When the Ottoman army, commanded by the Kapudan Redzeb Pasha (chief of the navy) attacked Crimea, a Cossack unit of a few hundred men greatly contributed to the defense. At the same time a few thousand Cossacks from more then 150 "tshaikas" (a type of boat) prowled the vicinity of Istanbul, leaving behind fire and destruction.
(This part of Khanate history is quite controversial among polish historian - the version given above is based on researches of Zbigniew Wójcik and W³adys³aw Serczyk, whereas another standpoint - denying relations of the Cossack expedition of 1624 with support for Mehmed and Shahin - is presented by Janusz Kaczmarczyk and partially by Leszek Podhorecki).
Shahin decided now to play with a stronger card. In August 1624 he offered the Polish King Sigismud III an alliance against the Ottomans. He asked the king for permission for Cossacks to rise up against the Turkish and return the cities Bialogrod, Kiljie and Techinii to Poland. Although Shahin's offer aroused some interest among Polish authorities, Poland decided to refuse. Conflict with powerful Ottoman Empire, even though it suffered some temporal crisis, did not arouse much enthusiasm, especially since the principle aims of the Polish court were concentrated on the issues pertaining to the Swedish throne. Because of this negative attitude from Poland, Shahin desperately looking for allies. He decided to conclude an alliance directly with Cossacks, formally signing the treaty in early 1625. This alliance proved its strength in the same year, in which the intervention of a Cossack army of about 4 thousands men stopped another attempt to enthrone of Dzanibeg (with support of). This failure led the Sultan to finally recognize of the power of Mehmed III. However, Mehmed saw that it was still advantageous to recognize the Ottomans as overlord. The price and the evidence of subjection to the Sultan was supposed to be a new expedition against recent ally - Poland. In January 1626 a great Tatar force, amounting between 20 to 25 thousand warriors commanded by Khan Mehmed III himself invaded Ukraine. The invasion took the Polish army totally by surprise. The Hetman Koniecpolski managed to beat only the rearguard of the invaders at Ujscie. About 30 cities and more than 250 villages were ravaged and thousands of inhabitants were killed or abducted.
The next big invasion took place in September, when the main Polish forces commanded by Koniecpolski set out to Prussia to campaign against Swedes. The Tatars expected to achieve a success easily. However they were very much disappointed when, unexpectedly, Cossacks of the Ataman Michail Doroshenko supported a small Polish "Quaters" forces commanded by Stefan Chmielecki. First, Chmielecki crushed the "Kosh" settled near White Cerkiev. Then he routed the Tsambuls, spread out in search for loots, one by one. The losses of Tatars are estimated to be about 10000 warriors. Meanwhile, rivalry developed between Kantemir (of the Budiak Horde) and Shahin Gireys, even though Mehmed's recognition by Ottomans helped ease such tension. With silent support from the Sultan, Kantemir managed to assemble all hordes of the territories from Perekot to the estuary of Dunaj and create a separate khanate independent from the rule of Crimea.
the Budiak Horde was formed form the Nogais who migrated in west after their old khanate was conqured by Muscovians (Russians). Nogais formed 4 ordes in the Danube mouth: Budiak, Bielogrod Dobruca and partly Otchakov. The first 3 ordes were often called as just Budiak Orde. The rest of Nogais which vahe not migrated west have formed great Nogai orde subordinte to Muscowy.
Mehmed and Shahin could count on their subjects for support, but there were also some supporters of the old Khan Dzanibeg among their members, which would later prove consequential. The brothers decided on military action and in April 1628, Shahin set out with strong army to Dobrudja against Katemir. They suffered defeat and soon found themselves in a critical situation - besieged by Kantemir army in Bakcesaray. As always, Shahin found a solution: he once again called upon the Cossacks for help and at the same time sent an envoy with promises of concession to Warsaw.
This time Cossacks set off for the expedition, with a "blessing" from Poland. The strong Cossacks army broke through the fortification of Perekop and released the brothers besieged in Bakcesaray. Kantemir hid behind the walls of Kaffa. At this moment Ottomans who were anxious about the progress of this situation decided to intervene. The powerful Turkish navy approached the coast of Crimea with Dzanibeg on board. Tired of constant civil war, many Tatars began to take Dzanibeg's side. Therefore the brothers decided to retreat with Cossacks to Ukraine. For the third time, Dzanibeg the loyal vassal of the Sultan became the ruler of Crimea.
However Shahin did not give up. In November 1628 he led to a new expedition supported by Cossacks. The only result of this expedition was seizure of big herd of horses by "Molojce" Cossacks nearby Perekop.
The next expedition by the brothers took place after making a promise to pay vassal homage to Poland. The brothers obtained the assistance of Stefan Chmielecki who convinced the Cossacks to mobilize a great army. At the end of May 1629, 23 thousand Cossacks supported by about 1500 Tatars moved towards Perekop. In face of this threat the Khan Dzanibeg reached an agreement with Kantemir to create a joint Crimean and Nogai army of 25000 warriors.
During the two-day battle waged nearby the fortifications of Perekop. Most Tatars took khan Mehmed's side and the Cossacks barely managed to defend already broken "tabor". Mehmed Khan was suspected by the Cossacks for betrayal and was thus killed by the Cossacks, while Shahin escaped under the protection of the Persian Shah to Kaukaz.
Victorious, Khan Dzanibeg organized in retaliation an expedition against Giray Shahin in Ukraine in 1629, but Chmielecki crushed the Tatars at Kobylnica. However, Dzanibeg also had to take into consideration his long-lasting conflict with Kantemir, which first began during his last reign. Furthermore, various events in 1628 strengthened the position of the leader of Kantemir's Nogai Horde, making him quite a significant obstacle with some political power.
In autumn 1631, the Crimean Khanate was forced by Ottomans to ride against Persia. A great Crimea army of 30 to 40 thousands of warriors took part in a war between Turkey and Persia in Anatolia. Soon after this expedition, conflict with Kantemir appeared again. Dzanibeg started to look for some aid and decided to follow Shahin's footsteps as to make the agreement with Poland.
Therefore, during a new war between Poland and Moscow (1631 - 34), the southlands of the Muscovite Empire suffered some sabotaging Tatar expeditions, some led by the heir to the Crimean throne, Murabek. As a result of these actions a big part of the Great Nogai Horde acknowleged the supremecy of the Crimean Khanate.
Meantime the Nogai Hordes ruled by Kantemir took a completely different stand on Poland. They actively participated in a sabotaging expedition led by the Turk Oczakowski Bejlerbej Abazi Pasha who upon silent consent of the Sultan attacked the Polish forces at Kamieniec Podolski in October 1633. But this expedition resulted in a failure, forcing Turkish aggression to ease and lowering Kantemir's significance in the Sultan's eyes. Khan Dzanibeg, however, did not play a big role in Polish-Turkish war. He considered (correctly) that Moscow was the biggest threat to the Khanate, and he refused to allow the Khanate to be weakened by war. Later, when called upon by the Turks to participate in another campaign against Persia, he refused and was overthrown by Ottomans in April 1635. Inayet Girey - the son of Gazi Girey became Dzanibeg's successor.
Soon the traditional rivalry between Crimea Khans and Kantemir continued. Struggle for power came in 1635 - 37, in which once again the Crimea Khan, following his predecessors, took advantages of aid from the Cossacks. In March 1637 Kantemir's army was crushed at Bialogrod. Kantemir escaped to Turkey did not receive any help there. His sons tried to fight for Budiak independency by asking Poland for help. However Poland at the time was occupied with other matters and was reluctant to have an open conflict with Ottoman. The victorious Inayet Girey maintained the alliance with Cossacks and even felt that he was independent from Turkey - for example he refused to help Turkey in another expedition against Persia. However his hopes on Cossack's help turned out to be illusory: the Cossacks commanded by Pawluk rose up in revolt against Poland and were completely crushed at Kumejki and Borowica. Having had no allies Inayet decided to "go to Canossa" and then upon the call of the Sultan he went to Istanbul. He did not manage to please Sultan who chose a radical solution that he planned to end further rivalry between Crimea and the Nogais. Both Kantemir and Inayet were killed upon an order of the Sultan. In June 1637 the Crimean throne was offered to Bahadur Girey and all Tatars Hordes were subjected to the Khan's power. However the Sultan's hopes that the death of both rivals would settle the conflict were shortsighted. Immediately the new Khan even offered the Polish king an anti-Ottoman alliance. Poland rejected this offer. Therefore Bahadur had to please the Sultan and sent many reinforcements to the next campaign against Persia. Meanwhile the Don Cossacks took advantage of the Turks' engagement in another front and dared to seize a huge Turkish fortress located nearby the mouth of Don at Azov.
Getting back the fortress became the main purpose of both Ottomans and the Khanate as well after the Persia campaign. The great forces were mobilized for the campaign of 1641 - the Khanate itself sent about 40 thousand warriors supported by the Turkish army of Deli Hussien and a navy commanded by the Kapudan Siyawush Pasha.
The siege of the fortress was carried out for 4 months and was a failure. In spite of many attempts to take the fortress by storm and the use of heavy artillery, the Cossacks managed to defend the fortress. The Cossacks left the city at the end of April 1642 only after a decision by Sobor Ziemskij to avoid full confrontation with the Sultan. But Bahadur did not live to these days - the Khan died in October 1641. The hitherto Kalga, Mehmed IV Girey, became his successor.
To be completed...