When studying the history of the Golden Horde, Russian school textbooks, as a rule, do not see a special difference between Mongols and modern Tatars, and this in turn leads to such a widespread, but obviously erroneous view that the warriors of Khan Baty represented the Muslim army.
This opinion is formed as if by default. An in-depth approach to the coverage of this topic in the study of the Golden Horde period of Russian history is practically absent.
However, historical facts show us that the clashes with the conquerors did not follow the principle – Christians against Muslims, and even – not Slavs against the Turks. The battle on Kalka already makes one think about the obvious fallacy of this approach, as it is known that the army of Subede was confronted by the united army of Russians and Polovtsians, who, as it is known, were Turks.
Another historical fact, which makes it clear about the crept in error, is the defeat of Batu in the Muslim Volga Bulgaria, after which part of the Bulgars even find shelter in the Russian territory.
But what was the ethnic and religious background of the warriors of Genghis Khan? Obviously, the top of the army was the Mongols, although there were many Turks in the army. But were they Muslims? It can be said that if there were followers of Islam in the army, they were 0.01%, since the overwhelming number of soldiers were ordinary pagans.
But within a short period of time the Chingizids turned to Islam, which is undoubtedly a kind of miracle, since the conquerors actually accept the religion of the peoples they have conquered. Approximately from the mid-thirteenth to the mid-fifteenth centuries, the Islamic dogma, significantly expanding its borders, becomes the ideological basis for many tribes and peoples of Eastern Europe and Western Siberia. The first Muslim khan was Batu’s brother Khan Berke who accepted Islam from Sufi preachers.
Despite this, no religious harassment in the virtually independent state was followed. But the Muslim tribes and peoples that have entered the new state received additional impetus for their further development.
However, Chingizids almost never interfered in the internal way of life of the conquered peoples, as evidenced by the history of Orthodoxy in Russia. Even the notorious historian N. Karamzin, who did not experience much sympathy towards the Tatars, had to admit that Khan Berke “allowed the Russians … to freely send Christian worship, so that Metropolitan Kirill in 1261 established for them a special exarchy called Sarskaya.”
Under Khan Berke, close contacts were established with the state of Mamluks in Egypt, which, naturally, spiritually enriched the peoples of the Golden Horde. At the same time in the capital, named after Khan Saray-Berke, as well as in many other cities, the construction of mosques and madrassas was encouraged.
However, soon such a policy met with fierce resistance from the elite surrounding the khan, who demanded that he observe Yasa of Chingiz-khan. As a result, the spread of Islam has come up against tangible obstacles in the face, especially of the supreme shamans, who still had a certain weight in pagan circles, whose representatives made up a large part of the Horde elite.
After the death of the first Muslim khan, pagans rose to the throne, but many representatives of the elite were already subdued by the strength of the spirit of Islam, which eventually helped Khan Uzbek, who not only officially professed Islam, but also elevated it to the rank of state religion. The new ruler of the Golden Horde, unlike his ancestor, Khan Berke, did not tolerate the resistance of the shaman nobility and after their frank speeches he dealt with them according to the laws of wartime (especially since disagreeable khans often died under unclear circumstances, such as Khan Berke).
With the rise of Islam to the rank of official religion, an unprecedented flourishing of this powerful and vast state began. It is at this time marked by the violent construction of new cities, in which mosques and madrassas are almost everywhere erected.
Does this mean that non-Muslim nationals are oppressed and discriminated against? Some historians speak of the extreme intolerance of the Uzbek Khan, elevating him to the status of such “Islamic fundamentalists”, but citing the example of the destruction of the shaman elite, the reasons for which have already been said. But at the same time, the attitude of the Khan to Christians, and first of all to the Orthodox, is ignored.
What was it like? “It’s amazing,” writes the famous historian R.Landa, “but the strengthening of Islam in the Horde was accompanied by the strengthening of Orthodoxy in Russia.” Yes, for many it really seems amazing, but not for those who are familiar with the history of the spread of Islam.
As we know, it was on the territory of the Caliphate that numerous Christian (and not only) communities were preserved, which were constantly oppressed by the official Church, be it Roman or Byzantine. Thus, a tolerant attitude towards Orthodoxy was the usual continuation of a true Islamic policy towards the Gentiles. And if one or another ruler refused such a policy, it was just the result of his departure from the norms of the Islamic code of laws and regulations.
The reign of Khan Uzbek is considered to be the highest point in the history of the Golden Horde, because at this time military actions have become so subtle that many cities, including the capital itself, do not even have barriers and fortifications. Naturally, with such realities, science and trade are on the first row.
As already noted, educational institutions and libraries are being built everywhere, which were an integral part of any madrasah. In addition to religious, various social and social structures were built, from the chambers of justice to hospitals.
Despite the fact that at the level of mass consciousness in Russia the Golden Horde is perceived as a kind of barbaric “parasite state”, it is obvious that this absolutely does not correspond to the truth. After all, in such states, one could hardly expect the appearance of all that has been described. And one more example, testifying against such an unfair and biased approach, is the flowering of poetry and literature, which can not be expected from ignorant barbarians.
As for trade, the geographical position of the Golden Horde simply gave in hand all the necessary prerequisites for the successful development of this vitally important industry. The famous “Great Silk Road” ran practically through the entire territory of the state, which, of course, contributed to the prosperity of the superpower of that time. In fact, the “steppe” state was turned into a “merchant-trade” state, which, undoubtedly, is due to Uzbek Khan and his Islamic policy.
In addition to relations with the countries of Central and East Asia, relations with the Arab region, and especially with Mamluk Egypt, also strengthened. As already noted, for the first time such connections were established by the first Muslim Khan Berke, under the Uzbek khan, the relations reached a new level, which was connected with another interesting and remarkable historical fact.
The fact is that the Mamluks were in a very difficult situation, being in close proximity to other Chingizids. Khan Khulagu, being a pagan, went through the remnants of the Caliphate with fire and sword, almost reaching Egypt. And in this situation Khan Uzbek rendered his resolute support to his co-religionists, sending his troops to the rescue.
After the defeat of Khan Khulagu, the army of the Golden Horde defeated the army of his son, who inherited his father’s throne. Naturally, this contributed to the revival of Muslim lands, ruined and overturned by pagan invasions.
Unfortunately, the Khan did not find worthy successors, as a result of which, within two decades, the state enters a period of internal feuds. But even in these conditions, Islam still continues to rapidly conquer an increasing number of tribes and peoples.
For example, according to archaeological data from about the XIV-XV centuries in the steppes of Eastern Europe the pagan burial rite of burial disappears, which is replaced by the Muslim rite. All this once again proves the mighty potential of Islam, both the religion proper and the way of life.
The history of the Golden Horde, undoubtedly, still awaits its objective researchers, who would reveal to Russians much of what remains behind the scenes.