Turkish Journal of History
The Political and Diplomatic Relations of the Mamluks and Golden Horde After the Third Enthronement of Sultan al-Nasir MuhammadKazım Uzun
The relations between the states of the Mamluks and the Golden Horde aimed at common interests were shaped and developed around the discourse of the common enemy. Accordingly, the parties had drawn the image of allies until the third reign of Sultan al-Nasir Muhammad. However, with the effects from differing conjunctures, Sultan al-Nasir made a policy change and tried to pursue a policy of balance between the Golden Horde and Ilkhanate states. In the post-Ilkhanid period, the attempt was made to revive Mamluk–Golden Horde relations, this time around another common enemy discourse. This study aims to determine these aforementioned relations, examine them in all their aspects, and also provide a new interpretation regarding their general nature.
Sultan en-Nâsır Muhammed’in Üçüncü Cülûsundan Sonra Memlûk-Altın Orda Siyasi ve Diplomatik İlişkileriKazım Uzun
Memlûk ve Altın Orda devletlerinin müşterek çıkarları hedefleyen ilişkileri ortak düşman söylemi etrafında şekillenmiş ve gelişmiştir. Buna bağlı olarak Sultan en-Nâsır Muhammed’in üçüncü saltanat dönemine kadar taraflar bir müttefik görüntüsü çizmişlerdir. Ancak farklılaşan konjonktürün tesiriyle Sultan en-Nâsır politika değişikliğine giderek Altın Orda ve İlhanlı devletleri arasında bir denge siyaseti gütmeye çalışmıştır. İlhanlı sonrası dönemde ise Memlûk-Altın Orda ilişkileri bu defa başka bir ortak düşman söylemi etrafında yeniden canlandırılmaya çalışılmıştır. Bu çalışmada söz konusu münasebetler tüm yönleriyle tespit ve tetkike gayret edilmiş ve ayrıca bunların genelinin mahiyetine dair yeni bir yorum getirilmiştir.
Mamluk and Golden Horde relations began and developed toward common interests by virtue of the initiatives of Sultan Baibars. The Ilkhanid were pivotal to these relations as a common enemy, and the diplomatic agenda of the parties was shaped by a prospective joint operation against the Ilkhanid. The joint operation against the Ilkhanate remained and could even be claimed to have been exclusively kept on the agenda for nearly half a century. However, this study reveals no such operation was ever launched due to what beclouded the relationship between the parties and the policy the Mamluks adopted. Nevertheless, preserving the discourse on a possible joint expedition had well suppressed the Ilkhanate.
Until the third reign of Sultan al-Nasir Muhammad, Mamluk–Golden Horde political and diplomatic relations remained within the above-mentioned framework, and the parties showed complete alliance, at least diplomatically. However, Sultan al-Nasir Muhammad’s ascension to the throne for a third time was a milestone in the course of this relationship and may be closely associated with Abu Said Bahadur Khan’s ascension to the Ilkhanid throne in 1317 and adoption of a different policy than the previous Ilkhanid rulers. The Ilkhanid abandoned their aggressive policies against the Mamluks and took a pro-peace stance, one which the Mamluks reciprocated. A peace treaty was signed in 1323 pursuant to negotiations. This treaty shifted the course of Mamluk–Golden Horde relations. Sultan al-Nasir had abandoned the traditional policy in which the Mamluks were fully allied with the Golden Horde and began following a policy of balance between the Golden Horde and the Ilkhanid states. This attitude fell far below the expectations of the Golden Horde and caused diplomatic problems between the two states. Despite these above-mentioned problems, the Mamluks and Golden Horde preserved their diplomatic relations.
The death of Sultan al-Nasir and Uzbek Khan and the end of the political existence of the Ilkhanate during this period also altered Mamluk–Golden Horde relations after the 1340s. Both parties leaned toward reestablishing and developing friendly relations and made diplomatic initiatives accordingly. However, the internal conflicts in both states and the absence of the threat of a common enemy hampered this construction for a while.
Akin to the Ilkhanid case, Timur’s rise and influence in the Iranian region grew into a new threat for both the Mamluk and Golden Horde states. As a common enemy, Timur encouraged a renewed alliance between the Mamluks and the Golden Horde. The measures and prospective joint operation against this new common enemy was at the core of the diplomatic contacts that had started becoming more frequent after 1385. However, Timur managed to be effective in the domain of the Golden Horde through his campaigns against Tokhtamysh Khan in the 1390s.
Timur was also a threat to political elements in Anatolia as well. Thus, diplomatic contacts were established among the Ottomans, Mamluks, and Kadi Burhan al-Din in order to form an anti-Timur front, with an alliance being established accordingly. Later, the scope of the alliance was expanded with the participation of the Golden Horde. These above-mentioned efforts suppressed Timur for a short period. However, Timur would later on enter Anatolia and Syria, which was under Mamluk domination.
Limited diplomatic contact is known to have occurred between the Mamluk and Golden Horde states in the first quarter of the 15th century. However, the collapse of the Golden Horde’s central authority after Tokhtamysh Khan hindered diplomatic relations and a strong alliance discourse from being reestablished. Eventually, Mamluk–Golden Horde political and diplomatic relations came to an end with few weak contacts in the late 1420s.
The diplomatic relations between the Mamluk and Golden Horde states had important consequences. The alliance established through these relations had through suppression prevented the Ilkhanid from concentrating all their power on the Mamluks or the Golden Horde. Therefore, this alliance in question in fact had significant results for both states. However, no joint operation against the Ilkhanate and later on against Timur was ever launched, despite being kept on the agenda in diplomatic correspondence. At this point, discussing the Mamluks’ political stance would be useful.
Despite their common origin, certain historical enmities had existed between the Golden Horde and the Ilkhanate. Both states claimed rights over the Azerbaijan region in particular, and these problems also frequently brought the two states into conflict. Thus, a permanent resolution could not be claimed to be achievable unless the Golden Horde or the Ilkhanid state renounced their claims and interests in the Azerbaijan region. The khans of the Golden Horde saw the suppression of the Ilkhanate as a political gain by virtue of the alliance established with the Mamluks, and they wanted to strengthen this alliance. However, the ultimate goal of the Golden Horde State was to completely get rid of the Ilkhanate by organizing a joint campaign against this enemy.
In their correspondence, the Mamluk and Golden Horde states had agreed on a strategy to launch a campaign against the Ilkhanate where one of these two states would advance from the north and the other from the south. As stated by other researchers, the long distance between these states and the dominance of Byzantium in a significant part of this distance had nevertheless made the communication and organization necessary for a joint operation against the Ilkhanate very difficult. However, whether the Mamluks could even have organized an expedition into the central lands of the Ilkhanate in practice should also be questioned.
The Euphrates River represented the eastern border of the Mamluk State, and the Mamluks’ sphere of influence and activity never exceeded Mesopotamia. Unlike the Golden Horde, the Mamluks claimed no dominance over Azerbaijan or Iran. Under these circumstances, organizing a campaign on the central lands or domination area of a strong state and leader like the Ilkhanid or Timur would not have been a very realistic goal for the Mamluks, nor would it have sounded easy or beneficial. What was essential for the Mamluks to protect their area of rule and interests from both the Ilkhanid and Timur. Instead of embarking on a common campaign, which would have been very difficult with uncertain results, the Mamluks developed a common operation discourse by virtue of the relations established with the Golden Horde. They tried to suppress the Ilkhanid and Timur by keeping this discourse on the agenda. Therefore, unlike the Golden Horde, the Mamluks attempted to protect their rule and interests by maintaining the discourse on a prospective expedition rather than directly organize a very difficult joint campaign. During the third reign of Sultan al-Nasir Muhammad, the Ilkhanate had to abandon their claims and actions in Mamluk Syria as a result of a peace treaty. Thus, Sultan al-Nasir changed his traditional Mamluk policy as he no longer needed an anti-Ilkhanid rhetoric by virtue of the peace treaty that had been signed. With this peace treaty, the sultan managed to protect Mamluk dominance and interests and began to follow a policy of balance between the Golden Horde and the Ilkhanid states. Although Uzbek Khan negatively reacted to this policy, Sultan al-Nasir did not abandon it. The Ilkhanid state, which had already been weakened, would come to an end shortly after. By reviving their relations, the Mamluk and Golden Horde states tried to establish a new alliance against Timur and to revive the discourse of a common operation. This discourse had a certain degree of diplomatic effect. However, carrying out a joint expedition was just as difficult as it had been in the time of the Ilkhanid and appeared just as useless and unrealistic for the Mamluks. Ultimately, it never happened.