Economy of the Golden Horde (1240-1480)

_ Yuri Kofner, economist, MIWI Institute. Munich, 26 November 2023.

The Tatar-Mongolian “yoke” left an indisputable imprint on the subsequent development of Russia’s socio-economic system. At the same time, the position of historians-economists on the assessment of this influence is far from unambiguous.  Since the introduction of the Petrine-Marxist school of history, Western scientists claim that the Batu invasion (1237-1241) and the subsequent 240 years of the Horde “yoke” threw Vladimir Rus back in its economic development and became the cause of the eternal lag of Russia from the developed economies of the world. Eurasianists, on the other hand, note the favourable aspects of Mongol power over the Russian lands (Mong. Ulus-Orus): Firstly, by saving Russia from the cultural annexation of Western Catholicism. Secondly, in the socio-economic sphere they emphasize the developed financial system and centralized administrative apparatus adopted by the Rus from the Mongols.

Russian historians-economists in their studies of Russian-Horde economic relations often fixate on the economic system of only one of the parties of these relations, namely princely Russia. However, in the author’s opinion, it is impossible to give an objective assessment of this phenomenon without a preliminary study of the specifics of the economy of the other side – the Golden Horde in the period of the early XIII – late XV centuries, which is the purpose of this research paper.

The Golden Horde

Before proceeding to the study of the economic system of the Golden Horde, it is important to give a few explanations about its geographic position [1] and the peculiarities of its national composition. This is necessary in order to move away from false stereotypes that the reader may have and, subsequently, to reveal to him the full complexity of the Horde’s economic system.

First, the Golden Horde [2] (Mong. Ulus Dzhuchi) was originally an administrative entity (Mong. ulus) within the Mongol Empire founded by Genghis Khan (1155-1227). Politically, it was subordinate to the central authority in Karakorum, which in economic terms meant that the Kagan collected a certain part of the income from all the territories conquered by the Mongols. He also personally owned certain lands in all of these areas.[3] However, soon, under the rule of Khan Mengu-Timur (1266-1280), the Golden Horde gained independence,[4] while maintaining close economic relations with the other states of the “Mongolosphere”.[5]

Secondly, the population of the Horde was far from being a homogeneous mixture of wild and unorganized nomads. The Mongol invaders themselves made up the smallest part of it – the ruling class, which was soon assimilated into the environment conquered by them. The main mass of the population was made up of Cumans (Kipchak Polovtsians) who lived before the Mongol conquests in the northern Black Sea region, the southern Volga region and the northern Caucasus. It is noteworthy that the Mongol culture was characterized by the possibility of “career growth” for any subject, regardless of national and confessional belonging. We would like to note that the ethnonym “Tatars” is a collective one, derived from the Chinese name of all steppe peoples, and given, in turn, in the XIII century by the Russians to the Horde invaders. The modern Russian Tatars are descendants of the Bulgars of the middle Volga region, who were the second largest ethnic group in the Golden Horde.

We see heterogeneity not only in ethnic terms, but also a great stratification of the Horde society by its everyday life and economic way of life.

[1] For the sake of concreteness this work will concentrate on the economy of the European part of the Golden Horde (the right wing of Ulus-Dzhuchi), leaving without attention its eastern part – south-western Siberia, Kazakhstan, Semirechye (left wing), as it, de facto, was a separate state.

[2] The name “Golden Horde” is recorded relatively late in Russian historiography, only in 1656, in the historical-publicistic work “Kazan history”, when the state itself did not exist anymore.

[3] Belyaev A. (2011). Building Power in the Golden Horde”. Simferopol.

[4] Pochekaev R. (2010). Legal status of Ulus Dzhuchi in the Mongol Empire 1224-1269. Moscow.

[5] “Mongolosphere” – a term introduced by the Eurasianist historian Georgy Verdnadsky to designate the territory of the former Mongol Empire. | Vernadsky G. (2005). Experience of Eurasian history. Moscow.

Nomadic way of life

The inhabitants of the vast Kypchak steppe (Turk. Desht-i Kipchak), the main territory of the Golden Horde, continued for the most part to lead the habitual nomadic way of life, which had developed long before the appearance of the Mongols. Every spring, huge masses of people, in the early period of the Horde not excluding the khan’s family, went to the summer pastures of the northern part of the “Wild Field” and of the former Volga Bulgaria. Winter camps were in the south – in the lower reaches of the Volga and in the northern Caucasus. The horse was the main object and at the same time the tool of cattle breeding of the nomadic population. To a lesser extent, sheep and goat cattle were grazed.

It would be desirable to note that in the technological-economic sphere it was the horse-iron civilization [6] that gave rise to several important inventions. For example, Mongols for the first time invented a special technology for obtaining “milk powder” – a convenient and long preserved food. And, the Mongols bred a special breed of horses that easily endured the harshest climatic conditions. It is worth saying that in the Middle Ages, the breeding of a new, more enduring, kind of horses, is comparable in our time to the production of a new, more perfect model of tank or tractor.[7].

Hunting on horseback using a golden eagle or a dog (Kaz. taza) was considered the nomad’s favourite occupation. Hares, foxes, lynxes, deer and pardus (leopards) were hunted. A significant role in the economy of the Golden Horde played and fishing, both along the Volga, the mouth of the Kama, the lower reaches of the Amu Darya, the Yaik, and along the shores of the Caspian and Black Seas.

[6] The term was first introduced by the Eurasianist geographer Peter Savitsky in his work: On the Tasks of Nomadic Studies (1928). Prague.

[7] Vakhitov R. (2011). Were nomads backward and wild? Gumilev Center. URL:

Urban culture

Contrary to all stereotypes that have their origin in European Mongolophobia, the Golden Horde society was characterized by a developed urban culture.

Khan Batyi (c. 1209-1255/56) conquered a territory where there were already areas of traditional sedentary agricultural culture: Moldavia, Crimea, Volga Bulgaria, and the eastern Caucasus. The cities destroyed during the Western campaign (1236-1242) quickly recovered, and the local urban civilization continued to develop, but already under Mongol domination. The most important role in this process was played by ancient caravan routes.

Over time, the cities of the Golden Horde became major centres of culture, trade and handicrafts in Eurasia.[8] Merchants, craftsmen, poets, and scientists began to come here en masse from Russia, Khorezm (the left wing of the Ulus Dzhuchi), Iran, Egypt, and Italy. They came for different reasons: some at the invitation of khans, some in search of prosperity, some in captivity. Palaces, mosques, madrasahs [9], rich mansions of nobility and merchants, caravanserais [10] were erected, crowded craft quarters grew, private and common baths were built.

Already under its second ruler – Khan Berke (1257-1266) – urban development reached a significant scale. First of all, the capital centres should be singled out: Sarai-Berke (near modern Volgograd), Astrakhan (Turk. Haji-Tarkhan), Bulgar (near modern Kazan), as well as trading cities of Crimea – Sudak, Feodosia (Crimean Kaffa), Azov (Turk. Azak-Tana) and of the eastern Caucasus – Derbent.

Under the khans Uzbek (1312-1342) and Janibek (1342-1357), the cities of the Golden Horde experienced the peak of their development and became centres of economic and cultural life. There were more than a hundred of them.

It is noteworthy that the capital Sarai belonged among the largest cities of the medieval world. Not only the reports of European and Arab travellers of that time [11], but also archaeological excavations confirm its impressive size, the existence of whole quarters dotted with workshops of different professions: jewellers, architects, ceramics, saltworks, furriers, tanners, and others. Even the presence of sewage systems and central heating has been proven.[12]

An important phenomenon of the urbanization process was the rise of the Muslim urban nobility – bureaucracy and merchants, and its merger with the Mongol upper class. This, in turn, contributed to the formation of the Horde state in the direction of a sedentary trading power, although, of course, the bulk of the population continued a nomadic way of life.

[8] According to the evidence of the Vatican nuncio Plano Carpini (1182-1252), who travelled in 1246-1247 the whole Golden Horde from west to east and back, reported that there was not a single city or settlement in the steppes. However, already in 1253, another foreign witness, the Flemish traveler Rubruk (1220-1293), found in these very places newly built settlements.

[9] A madrasa (Arabic مدرسة, lit. “place of learning”) is a Muslim educational institution that serves as a secondary school and a Muslim religious seminary.

[10] Caravanserai (Persian: کاروان سرا) – a large public building in the Near and Middle East and Central Asia, in cities, on roads and in unpopulated places, serving as “motel” for travellers, usually for trade caravans.

[11] For example, in 1333 Sarai was visited by the Arab traveller Ibn Battuta (1304-1377) and passed on his impressions: “The city of Sarai is one of the most beautiful, reached extraordinary size, on flat land, crowded with people, beautiful bazaars and wide streets.” | Timofeev I. (1983). Ibn Battuta.  Moscow.

[12] Yavorskaya L. (2011). Lecture course “History and culture of the Golden Horde cities”. URL:


Slave labour was an important component of the economic system of the Golden Horde, which, nevertheless, was inherent primarily in the urban environment.  Many of the slaves worked in peculiar slave manufactories (Pers. karkhana), widely spread at that time in the Muslim East. The most industrious craftsmen were allowed to have a family and build their own house, remaining in the position of a semi-free worker in the rich man’s household. The lowest class of slaves (Mong. bools) was used in the construction of the Horde’s cities. They lived, as archaeological excavations confirm, in simple dugouts.

There were two ways a person could become a slave in the Golden Horde:

First, of course, by becoming prey during one of the military or punitive campaigns of the Horde cavalry. Depending on the former profession, mental and physical abilities, the fate of the captive was determined. The short period of erection and rapid economic growth of the Golden Horde cities was partially ensured by the labour of deported craftsmen from the subordinate settled regions, including Russia. However, their role should not be exaggerated.

Secondly, contrary to all the stereotypes of the Petrine and Marxist historical schools, slaves in Ulus Dzhuchi could become not only foreign prisoners of war, but actually all its subjects, including ethnic Turks and Mongols.[13] Just as in princely Russia, the impoverishment of the rural population contributed to the serfdom of peasants by feudal lords, so the accumulation of debts by an indebted person in the Golden Horde forced him to give himself or a family member into slavery to the creditor. [14]

[13] For example, from 1366 to 1397 in Florence alone, 389 transactions for the sale of slave girls were recorded, 250 of which were Tartars (64 percent).  | Yavorskaya L. (2011).

[14] Reports of foreign observers of the XIV-XV centuries testify to how ordinary Horde people sold to slave traders even their children, wives, sisters to pay off the khan’s treasury or some rich man.

Foreign trade

International trade was central to the economic development of the Horde. Since custom duties were the most important revenue source the khan’s treasury, the ruling aristocracy encouraged trade relations in every possible way. A whole branch of rich merchants, formalized in merchant cooperatives (Turkic ortak), aimed at foreign and transit trade was formed. Several factors contributed to such an integral position of trade:

First, it was through the Golden Horde that the thousand-kilometre caravan highways of the Eurasian continent stretched, through which the main medieval movement of resources between East and West took place. The Horde was the last link of the Great Silk Road before sending goods to Europe. It should be noted that the mass use of the northern branch of the Great Silk Road in the 13th century was facilitated by the defeat of the Crusaders in the Middle East and the aggravation of Persian-Egyptian relations, thus minimizing intercontinental trade through this region.

Secondly, the Mongol Empire’s trade routes were among the most organized and safe in all of Eurasia of that period.[15] As part of the “yam system”, caravanserais stood along the entire length of the caravan roads, where merchants could stop, safely store their goods, corral animals, and in cities, even use financial services, take a bath, and eat (Persian teahouse).  But even more important was that all Mongolian policy, including economic policy, was based on the Yasa of Genghis Khan,[16] a kind of code of laws that ensured the functioning of the Mongol empire. Any illegal encroachment on a merchant, whether by private individuals or from local authorities, was punishable by death.

An important role in trade mediation between the Golden Horde and Western Europe was played by Italian trading towns in the Crimea and on the Taman Peninsula. It is connected with the fact that in the second half of the XIII century Khan Mengu-Timur allowed merchants from Genoa and Venice to establish their representative offices here: Feodosia, Sudak, Balaklava (Italian: Cembalo) and Azov, respectively. It is worth adding that the Genoese lobby had a huge political influence on the khan’s policy.

The greatest contribution to the economic formation of the Golden Horde was made by income from transit trade, the main goods of which were: Bread, furs, honey, wax – from Russia and Lithuania; carpets – from Persia and Turkestan; iron ores, gold – from Altai, silver – from southern Siberia and the Urals, silk goods, porcelain and precious stones – from China; spices, pearls, paints [17] – from India and Hindu Kush (north-western Afghanistan).

But the Golden Horde society was not only a consumer and transshipment point of commodity masses. It also offered its goods on the world markets: furs, leather, grain, salt, olive oil, horses and camels. The craft centres of Khorezm and the North Caucasus under the Horde supplied silk, brocade and cotton fabrics, precious stones, dyes, and wines. Crimea and the Azov region were important centres of wheat cultivation and export.

As mentioned above, slaves were one of the most valuable export items. In the Muslim East strong men were especially valued, and in Europe – slave women. I would like to repeat that by ethnic origin, it was not only Eastern Slavs, extracted during military punitive campaigns, but, to a greater extent – Cumans (Polovtsians), Bulgars, Mongols, Circassians, Adjarians, etc.; i.e., all subjects of the Golden Horde, in one way or another sold into slavery.

[15] For example, the Florentine banker Francesco B. Pegolotti (1310-1347) in his “Description of Various Countries” (1340) testifies to the following: “The way from Tana to China, according to the merchants who made this journey, is quite safe both day and night; only if a merchant dies on the way there and back, all his property is handed over to the sovereign of the country in which he died and will be taken by his officials…, but if along with him there happens to be his brother or a close friend who says that he is the brother of the deceased, the property of the deceased will be given to him, and it will thus be preserved.” | (2011). Trade in the Golden Horde. Socio-Economic Structure of the Juchiye Ulus. URL:

[16] Yasa (Mong. ich zasag huul – law of great power) – the name of Genghis Khan’s legislative code, which he, according to legend, issued at the great all-Mongol kurultai, and which was constantly confirmed by his successors. | Khara-Davan E. (1929). Genghis Khan as a military leader and his legacy. Belgrade.

[17] By the way, the amazing blue colour on the icons and frescoes of the Russian icon painter Dionisy (1440-1502) is precious lazurite imported through the Golden Horde from a deposit in the Hindu Kush. / From the report given by Gennady Popov, Director of the Andrei Rublyov Central Museum in St. Petersburg, at the Lev Gumilev Centre in 2010 in Moscow.


In the political-economic sphere it can be established that by the time it gained independence in the second half of the XIII century, an extensive bureaucratic apparatus of military-autocratic type had developed in the Golden Horde. It was based on the army decimal division (Mong. tumen) of the entire population of the country, introduced by Genghis Khan for the management of the Mongol Empire. Later Ulus Dzhuchi was divided into four districts (sub-uluses) headed by Ulusbeks: Saray, Desht-i Kipchak, Crimea, as well as Khorezm, which belonged to the left wing [18]. According to this “ulus system” nomadic feudal lords had the right to receive from the khan himself or from another large steppe aristocrat a certain appanage – the ulus. In return, the owner of the ulus was obliged to provide, if necessary, a certain number of fully armed warriors (depending on the size of the ulus), as well as to fulfil various other tax and economic duties.

At the head of the administrative pyramid stood an elected khan-chingizid [19] who determined the policies of the state, including economic policy. He appointed the main administrative posts by means of decrees (Turk. yarlyk), distributed land to aristocrats and dignitaries, ordered the issue of money, and managed trade relations. According to Mongolian custom (Mong. yarkhu), the khan shared power and property with his closest relatives.[20]

An interesting fact is that the Italian merchant lobby, due to the size of the income that their trade missions brought to the khan’s treasury, had a significant influence on the politics of the Golden Horde. Often, they bribed influential representatives of ruling clans, for example Ulusbek Mamai (1335-1381), acting not only in the interests of their own or Italian city-states, but also in the interests of the Pope. [21]

Execution of khan’s policy was ensured by a large staff of officials, which can be conditionally divided into three levels. The first: four ulusbeks, who were the closest advisers of the khan, even replacing the assembly of nobles (Mong. kurultai). It is noteworthy that this was a specific feature of the Golden Horde. They were engaged in military affairs, as well as legal proceedings and international diplomacy. Second: the Turkic military-service aristocracy subordinated to them, which was due to the fact that they were of lower origin (Turk. barukhachi). Third: the main part of the administrative machine was made up of representatives of local nationalities (Turk. baskak), coming from the craft and merchant castes. They monitored the collection of taxes in the Golden Horde cities, and initially, also in the territories vassal to the Horde, i.e. in Rus.

Against all canons about the socio-economic “backwardness of the Tatars”, the Mongol Empire had developed the yam system (from Turk. yam, lit. post station), which provided a significant trade, administrative and informational value. In yam stations, civil servants of the Golden Horde could quickly change their horses, thus significantly reducing the period of delivery of messages, for example, the khan’s order.

By the middle of the XIV century the administrative institutions of Muslim Persia were also borrowed: the vizier and the office subordinate to him (Pers. divan) began to manage financial issues.

[18] See footnote Nr. 1.

[19] Only the direct descendants of Genghis Khan (Turk. altan urugu, lit. golden lineage) had the right to hold the post of khan in the ulus of the Mongol Empire. Nevertheless, he had to be first approved as such at the kurultai of representatives of Mongol and Turkic ruling clans (Turk. karachi-beg).

[20] Persian chronicler Juwayni (1226-1283) recorded the following on this subject: “Although it seems that power and estates are transferred (by inheritance – author’s note) to one person, all children, grandchildren and uncles have their share of power and property”. | Bartold V. (1973). Ala ad-Din Juwayni. Moscow.

[21] Baimukhametov S. (2009). Alexander Nevsky. Savior of the Russian land. Moscow.

Financial system

The complex state-administrative apparatus of the Golden Horde, and the Mongol Empire as a whole, allowed the creation of a developed financial system. As mentioned above, it absorbed elements of nomadic and Muslim-urban cultures.

The whole sum of tax dues (Turkic yasak) collected from any territorial unit was divided into: 1. The tax levied on nomadic farms (Turkic: kopchur, lit. pasture). 2. “Exit” (Turk. chykysh; Pers. kharaj). 3. Numerous levies and duties. 4. Military duty.

“Kopchur” was the main tax for the nomadic population and is considered to have been the payment of 1 percent of the livestock and livestock products.

“Exit” is interpreted by historians as a land tax from the sedentary population, the rate of which did not exceed 10 percent of the income of the economic entity. It would be desirable to emphasize, that this tax was charged equally, as from own population, and from vassal to Horde Russian princedoms in the form of “tribute”, only later becoming notorious. [22],[23]

As in all ulus of the Mongol Empire, in the Golden Horde for systematization of taxation the practice of population census was established. By order of the ruler Batyi, his viceroys-baskaks conducted in 1245 a census and collection of “output” in the lands of southwestern Russia, which became the first large census in the history of Russia.[24] In the late 50s – early 60s of the XIII century, tribute from the northeastern Russian principalities began to be collected by Muslim merchants who bought this right from the Mongol khagan Munkhe (1209-1259). Historians believe that he wanted to deprive the Golden Horde Khan of a part of its income, and, thus, to hinder the strengthening of the Golden Horde. However, not long before its independence (1266), Khan Berke cancelled the practice of “payoffs”, and, in 1257, conducted the second major census of the population in the territory of Rus, sending for this purpose already special numerators. From the first half of the XIV century this role was assumed by the Russian princes themselves under the responsibility of the Russian Grand Duke.

The most important article of revenue to the khan’s treasury were trade duties (Turkic tamga), and the “yam duty”, which meant that the population of the Golden Horde and vassal Vladimir Russia was obliged to provide the passing Horde officials and ambassadors with fresh horses.

Under the “tumensky” (decimal) system the uluses of Golden Horde were divided into tumen-districts, which by necessity were capable to put out militia in 10 thousand capable men. During the aforementioned population censuses, the Rus territory was similarly subdivided.[25]

A distinctive feature of Mongolian culture was the extraordinary ethnic and confessional tolerance prescribed as early as in the Yasa of Genghis Khan. In this regard, all religious institutions in the Horde’s subject lands, including the Russian Orthodox Church, were completely exempt from taxation.

In the Golden Horde there were parallel barter exchange, which was common among the nomadic population, and exchange on the basis of metal coins, which served international trade and economic activity of the settled population. Initially, the Horde used Byzantine and Arabic coins, but the inflow of silver received through trade and tax revenues, including from Russian lands, allowed the monetary reform of Khan Tokhta (1270-1312/13) in 1310-1311. For the first time he introduced his own coin – the Sarai dirham, stable in weight and rate. And by the reign of Uzbek Khan, a stable monetary system had been formed.[26] In more than 20 mints in different parts of the Golden Horde, copper coins were minted – pools, and in Khorezm (left wing) gold dinars (Turk. altyn, lit. gold) were issued.

[22] It is noteworthy that in Russian annals the term “yoke” regarding the Golden Hordes suzerainty did not occur. It appeared only much later: at the junction of XV-XVI centuries in the Polish historical literature. First it was used by chronicler Jan Dlugosz in 1479 and professor at Cracow University Matvey Mechowski in 1517. And the very word formation “Mongol-Tatar yoke” was used first in 1817 by H. Kruse, whose book was translated into Russian and published in St. Petersburg only in the middle of the XIX century. | Malov N. et al. (2011). Religion in the Golden Horde. URL:

[23] In the XI-XIV centuries, the word “tribute” primarily meant tax or feudal rent. | Sukharev V. (2003). Big Legal Dictionary. URL:

[24] Ivakin G. (1996). Historical development of Kiev. XIII-mid XVI centuries. Kiev.

[25] It is known that northeastern Rus was divided into 15, southwestern – into 14 tumens. | See footnote Nr. 5.

[26] It is remarkable that in Rus, because of lack of silver, minting of own coins was not carried out, since the XII century, i.e., before Horde’s rule, and was resumed only by the Grand Prince Dmitry Donskoy (1350-1389).


Summing up the analysis of the main aspects of the economy of the Golden Horde, we are obliged to draw three surprising conclusions:

Firstly, in terms of its level of socio-economic development the Golden Horde society, if not superior to other regional powers of that period, was certainly not behind them. The stone cities of the Golden Horde flourished, many of them were built from scratch, they were equipped with entire quarters of artisans, architectural landmarks, wide avenues, they often had public baths, central heating, and sewage systems.[27] A developed and relatively safe transcontinental network of communications ensured rapid growth in trade in transit and domestic goods in the Eurasian space. Dzhuchiev ulus combined Mongolian, Turkic, Chinese, Persian and Arab management technologies together, and created a powerful centralized state apparatus that was able to economically integrate subjects of different ethnicities, religions and economic structures (from nomadic to urban). This was also consistent with an effective centralized financial system, which had analogues only in other uluses of the Mongol Empire.

Only slavery, for reasons of efficiency (and modern morality), can be attributed to a backward factor in the Golden Horde economy. However, we should not forget that in feudal England, Germany or Rus, the lack of rights of serfs differed little from the bondage of slaves in the Golden Horde.[28]

As we see, the Golden Horde was not a primitive “barbarian” society, as the Petrine and Marxist historical schools portray it, but rather a prosperous trade and craft power. In this regard, it should be emphasized that Moscow Russia at the end of the 14th century could not inherit economic backwardness from it, for the simple reason that the Horde had a higher, or at least the same level of economic development.[29]

Secondly, of course, one can object to the previous argument that the economic development of the Golden Horde, and the subsequent imaginary backwardness of Russia, was due to the “oppressive extraction” of material and human resources from it in favour of Sarai. However, the “tribute” collected from the Russian vassals, given its size and character, could not be as great and heavy as some historian claim: Firstly: The greatest debate is around the volume of the “exit” levy paid by the Russian principalities. For example, according to some estimates, the annual “tribute” of the Grand Duchy of Moscow was only 0.1 kopecks per person.[30] And even if it is only reliable that the “exit” rate was 10 percent of the income of the settled population, then this is also not much, taking into account the size of modern-day taxes. Secondly: Rus was obliged to pay the “exit” levy only 20 years after Batu’s invasion.[31] 3. The “exit” levy was not a “tribute” in the literal sense of the word but was a land tax levied in equal amounts and in the same manner from all uluses, both from their own and from “Ulus-Orus” (Rus). And therefore, the assertion that the Horde purposefully oppressed the Russian lands is unfounded. On the contrary, considering the Russian ulus an organic part of their power, and including it in the general economic space of the Mongol Empire, the khans of the Golden Horde even granted it the administrative status of an “autonomous district”.[32]

There is no doubt that during the military punitive campaigns the enslavement of captured Russians took place. But at the same time, it must be stated that the deportation of Russian artisans, warriors and young women and their sale into slavery could not reach such monstrous volumes as promoted by certain historians: Firstly: Sources tell us about the predominance of Tatar, rather than Slavic slaves sold in the Golden slave markets. Secondly: Modern archaeological studies of Horde cities show that in large craft quarters inhabited by Russian craftsmen, not only prisoners lived, but, above all, free and wealthy people.[33]

As we can see, the statement that the economic development of the Golden Horde was carried out through the exploitation of Russian vassals is, to say the least, an exaggeration. The author of this work puts forward the opinion that the economic prosperity of the Horde state was due, first of all, to its favourable geographical position within the common Mongol-Eurasian space, and the presence of a developed administrative and financial system.

Thirdly, having considered the level of economic development of the Golden Horde and the reasons for this development, the main question remains the long-term consequences of the Horde’s influence on the Russian social and economic structure. And here it is necessary to come to a more balanced view, emphasizing both the negative and positive aspects of Horde-Russian interaction:

Firstly: It is necessary to recognize the destruction and devastation caused by numerous expeditions of the “Tatar” cavalry, the largest of which was the campaign of Batu’s temnik at the very beginning of Horde rule, and during which up to 49 of the 74 existing Rus were destroyed. However, the Eurasianist historian Lev Gumilev in his research proved that the cultural and economic decline of Rus began before the Tatar-Mongol invasion. Moreover, if we count the number of Orthodox churches that have survived to this day, it turns out that in the regions of Rus that were under the protectorate of the Golden Horde, 21 Orthodox churches from the XI-XIII centuries have survived, i.e., from pre-Mongol period, against only two reliably destroyed by the Mongols. In comparison, in the ancient Slavic lands that fell under the rule of the Catholic West, not a single Orthodox church from the XI-XVI centuries has survived! [34]

Secondly: The most controversial aspect of the Golden Horde rule is its influence on the business culture of Russia. The values of obedient service and authoritarian centralized power (the basis of a planned economy) took precedence over the concepts of personal initiative and democracy (the basis of a market economy). [35] This was certainly a negative process. All the while, it should not be forgotten, that the Horde’s example of administrative centralization was a major factor for the unification and subsequent rise of modern Russia.

Thirdly: From the very beginning of the Horde’s supremacy of power, the Russian princes willingly adopted Tatar-Mongol weapons and technologies for their armies, in modern parlance – they “modernized their armed forces based on more effective foreign models”. [36]

Fourth: The developed and centralized financial system of the Golden Horde served as an example for Muscovite Russia long after its collapse, which is reflected not only in the imitation of Russian coins of the late XIV – early XIV centuries of the Sarai dirham, but is also confirmed by the presence in the Russian language of many economic terms of Turkic origin: “money” (dengy), “customs” (tamozhnya), “treasury” (kazna), “chest” (sunduk), “waystation” (yam), “gold” (altyn), “profit” (barysh), “household” (khozaystvo), etc.

Fith: Finally, Western economists argue that the Golden Horde rule led to the external economic closure of Vladimir Rus and a significant reduction in its international trade. The truth, on the contrary, is that trade flows were rather redirected and its trade turnover not only did not decrease, but indeed increased. Thanks to Rus’ location in the Mongol Empire, with its safe and developed network of communications, with its unified “customs legislation”, Russian merchants could import and export goods to various regions of the common Eurasian space (Mongolosphere). [37],[38]

Having completed our brief analysis of the economy of the Golden Horde, we can once again state its main features: a comparatively high socio-economic development, inclusion in a single economic space of the Mongolosphere, fairer economic relations with Vladimir Russia than were previously assumed. And, most importantly, the influence of the Golden Horde had more positive than negative consequences for the subsequent socio-economic development of Russia.

[27] By comparison: In London the construction of a sewage system did not begin until 1859. | Goodman D., Chant C. (1999). European cities and technology. London.

[28] It is known that even in the “Russian Truth”, written in the first half of the XI century, the position of merchants, servants and serfs was actually equated to the status of slaves. | Zimin A. (1973). Slaves in Rus. Moscow.

[29] Additional confirmation of this argument is that in all spheres of the Golden Horde society, for example in architecture, there is no influence of Russian culture; although the Mongols willingly adopted elements of Chinese, Arab, Iranian and Turkic cultures. This probably indicates that the Horde, which established an administrative system based on the Mongol Empire and knew the more developed cultures of the Persian East, “did not find useful and rational phenomena for themselves in the Russian environment.”

[30] According to the purchasing power parity of the late XIV century, this corresponds to one and a half loaves of bread. | Baimukhametov S. (2009).

[31] It is interesting during this time period the Catholic Church increased its eastward expansion both against the Christian Orthodox Rus and on the Golden Horde, without making any distinction between “heretics and pagans.” Popes Honorius III (1148-1227) and Gregory IX (1170-1241) declared an economic blockade of Rus, and in 1256 a “crusade against schismatics and Tatars”.

[32] In this regard, it is quite natural that the Russian vassals had to pay “exit”, customs and yam taxes. The essence of these relations was that Rus was included in the general financial, trade and transport system of the Mongolosphere.

[33] Most likely, economic prosperity and ethno-religious tolerance of the Golden Horde, and not coercion, “forced” many artisans of Rus to flock to the fast-growing cities of Ulus-Juchi.

[34] Baimukhametov S. (2009).

[35] Since the Russian veche (city council) often became a rebellious gathering against the power of Sarai, the Horde took all necessary measures to eliminate it as a political institution.

[36] A few examples: The armour of the Christian Russian warriors from the late XIII – XIV centuries shocks attentive observers by the presence of Arabic script on them. This is due to the fact that they were imported from the Golden Horde. Numerous Horde immigrants contributed to the fact that the Russian armies quickly mastered the tactics of Tatar equestrian combat. Moreover, in Vladimir Rus, long before Western Europe, gunpowder was used in warfare. This technology was obtained from China through the caravan routes of the Mongol Empire. Finally, the word “Kremlin” is of Turkic origin (Turkic kyrym, lit. fortress).

[37] For example, Egyptian ambassadors who arrived at the headquarters of Khan Berke in 1263 noted that “Russian (trading – author’s note) ships were constantly visible on the Lower Volga.”

[38] In the capital of the Mongol Empire – in Karakorum, located 4425 km from Moscow, there was the largest Russian merchant settlement at that time. Later, it was moved, along with the capital, by the great Khagan Kublai even further – to Beijing (Mongolian Khanbalyk), which is 5840 km from Moscow.


  1. Bergan M. (2007). The Mongol Empire. Moscow.
  2. Vernadsky G. (2005). Experience of the History of Eurasia. Moscow.
  3. Vernadsky G. (1939). On the composition of the Great Yasa of Genghis Khan. Brussels.
  4. Timoshina T. (2009). Economic History of Russia. Moscow.
  5. Trepavlov V. (2004). The emergence and disappearance of the Golden Horde. Moscow.
  6. Trepavlov V. (2010). The Golden Horde in the XIV century. Moscow.
  7. Gumilev L. (2009). From Rus to Russia. Moscow.
  8. Khairetdinov M. (2009). Economy of the Golden Horde. URL:

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