Monday, March 05, 2007

What's "Tatars," Precious? (pt. 1)

Genghis Khan’s Mongol empire is rather difficult to comprehend. Maps can only give an idea of the immensity. A slice of land that stretched from Europe to China was all under one man, and the fastest way to cross that land was on horseback. Even under ideal conditions it would take a hell of a lot of time to traverse it.

As with all great conquerors, Genghis’ Khanate broke up into fragments after his death, divided between his sons. He was a tough act to follow, and the fragmented khanates stayed that way for a while.

Now, the Tatars (or incorrectly, “Tartars”) were a tribe of Turkic speaking Steppe horsemen similar to the Mongols, and indeed, seemed to be part of the great Golden Horde after Genghis brought them to heel. In Europe, they had a profound impact on Eastern Europe and Central Asia, and had a tremendous impact on the region of Bulgaria, and the name Tatar became synonymous with any Turkic speaking Mongols. They inherited a significant part of Genghis’ empire as the White Horde, and this is where things get interesting.

In the late-1300s, a descendant of Orda Khan named Tokhtamysh, gained control of the White Horde with the help of another Mongol general, Tamerlane. Tokhtamysh went on to conquer the Blue Horde (the other half of the Golden Horde) and reunited them under one banner in 1380. Good times for the Horde, right? Well...

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