Crimean Khanate / Crimean Tatars
Many different people inhabited the Crimea over time including the Tauri, Scythians, Sarmatians, Alans, Greeks, Goths, Bulgars, Khazars, Pechenegs, Italians, Circassians, and Cumans (Western Kipchaks). The Cumans started entering the Crimea in the late 11th century and under Cuman influence the population adopted the Cuman-Kipchak (Turkic) language and Turkish culture. In the 13th century the Golden Horde took over the Crimea and overlordship of the Crimean Tatars. The Mongol conquest of the Kipchaks led to a two tier society with a Mongol ruling class over a Kipchak speaking population which came to be dubbed Tatar. Most Crimean Tatars adopted Islam in the 14th century, following the conversion of Ozbeg Khan of the Golden Horde, but retained a Crimean identity. The inhabitants usually referred to their state as “Qırım yurtu“, literally meaning the “Crimean Yurt”, but more accurately “the country of Crimea” or “Crimean country”.
In 1420 the Crimean Tatars invited Hacı Giray to rule them. The founder of the Giray dynasty was a Jochid descendant of Genghis Khan and of his grandson Batu Khan of the Golden Horde. At the time he was in exile in Lithuania. It took until 1441 before the Crimea was independent of the Golden Horde and until 1449 before Hacı could ascend the throne of the khanate. The khanate included most the Crimean Peninsula and the adjacent steppe (the Republic of Genoa & Trebizond Empire controlled the south and southwest coast and ports of the Crimea). The Crimean Khanate was the longest lived Turkic khanate to succeed the empire of the Golden Horde, existing from 1449 to 1783.
The khanate became an Ottoman protectorate in 1475 when the Ottomans installed Hacı’s son, Meñli I Giray, as khan. In that year the Crimean Khanate also defeated the rump of the Golden Horde (by then called the Great Horde). As a result the Crimean Khanate considered itself the successor of the Golden Horde, and the rulers called themselves khans of “the Great Horde, the Great State and the Throne of the Crimea.” From then until the 18th century the Crimean Khanate was among the strongest powers in Eastern Europe and a centre of Islamic learning.
The settled Crimean Tatars were engaged in trade (the silk route reached the Crimean ports), agriculture (wine, tobacco, silk, fruit, honey), and crafts for export (rugs, knives). However, the majority of the population remained nomadic.
The slave trade with the Ottoman Empire and the Middle East was a massive driver of the Crimean Khanate economy. For over three centuries, the Crimean Khanate and their vassals the Nogai Horde launched frequent, often annual, slave raids into Russia, Ukraine, Moldova, Romania, Poland-Lithuania, Moldavia, Wallachia, and Circassia. A considerable part of the male population of Crimea took part in these slave raids. Most of the raids fell on the “Wild Fields” – the steppe and forest-steppe land which extends from a 150 kilometres south of Moscow to the Black Sea. The Crimean Khanate and the Nogai Horde captured and enslaved more than 3 million people during the existence of the khanate.
The slaving raids ranged from small, with a few hundred warriors, to major invasions with up to 20,000 men under the khan or another member of the Giray family. When “harvesting of the steppe” the Tatar horsemen traveled for hundreds of kilometres across the steppe looking for potential slaves. The could move quickly, more quickly than their sedentary opponents, but were only vulnerable to attack they had set up a camp as a base for raiding and later when they marched their slaves south.
The mounted Tatar warriors were armed with a mix of spears, bows and arrows, and sabres. They relied on archery and were not keen on melee. The Tatar horsemen were shy of enemy strong in firepower (infantry, dragoons, artillery) but were willing to take on enemy cavalry. They were at their best when they could reach their opponent’s flank or rear, and their extraordinary mobility made this likely. Once in the flank or rear they could even break the elite Polish Winged Hussars. When defending Crimean territory, the horse archers could be supplemented by infantry and artillery.
The Crimean Khanate sometimes allied with some of the neighbouring nations. As a vassal, Crimean Tatars were often seen in the armies of the Ottoman Turks operating against the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and Russia. However, They also allied with their bitter enemies the Zaporozhian Cossacks during Bohdan Khmelnytsky’s rebellion (1648-57) against the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Later they allied with the with the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, during the “Deluge”. It has to be said that allying with the Tartars did not safeguard the allies from the Tatar appetite for taking prisoners. Any sedentary population, whether allied or enemy, was seen as an acceptable target for slaving. The Cossacks suffered from this during Khmelnytsky’s rebellion and to counter this behaviour the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth assigned officers and cavalry units to “accompany” the allied Tartar forces and try to limit their depredations.
In the Ukraine the Registered Cossacks were paid to defend the steppe frontier against these Tatar raids. The Zaporozhian Cossacks, Don Cossacks and Kalmyk Mongols also retaliated and launched their own raids into the khanate.
Russia annexed the Crimea in 1783 bringing the Crimean Khanate to an end. The Crimean Tatars continued to be the dominant ethnic group in the Crimea until 1944 when the Soviets recaptured the peninsular from the Germans and deported the entire Tatar population (including the families of Tatars fighting in the Red Army) to other parts of the Soviet Union. Some subsequently returned in the decades that followed, but the Crimean Tatars now comprise only 15% of the population of the Crimea.
Note: All Turkic peoples living within what became the Russian Empire were named “Tatar”. Now days Tatar is usually used to refer to the people, but Tartar is still almost always used for derived terms such as tartar sauce, steak tartare, and the Tartar missile.
A Crimean Tatar player must create two army lists: one for attacking and one for defending. They use which ever army list is appropriate for a particular battle.
An Tatar army of the Crimean Khanate:
Must have one Commander for each command in the army (wing or battle)
Can have up to four Ordinary Horse [at most one Circassian Petyhorcy; remainder Oghlan “Sons of the Nobles”]
Can have up to two Ordinary Dragoons [Segban “Mercenaries”]
Can have up to eight Inferior Light Horse [Kazindji “Poor Tribesmen”]
Must fill rest of army with Ordinary Light Horse [Tribesmen]
Can upgrade up to two Ordinary units to Superior
Only when attacking …
Can have up to six Raw Rabble [Jesir “Prisoners”]
Only when defending …
Must have at least one Raw Rabble [Jesir “Prisoners”] per command in the army (wing or battle) and can have up to six Raw Rabble [Jesir “Prisoners”]
Can have up to three Field Fortifications [Linear earthworks]
Can have up to two Ordinary Shot [Tufekci (“Riflemen”)]
Can have up to one Ordinary Cannon
Commanders: The senior army commanders were all from the ruling Giray family. The khan was the overall commander and led the centre of the army. The second-in-command was the khan’s heir (kalga sultan), either his brother or son, and commanded the stronger right wing. The second heir (nureddin) commanded the weaker left wing. Below the Giray were the beys, the leaders of the four (later six) great clans of the khanate. The lowest level of leadership were the mirza. The kalga sultan, nureddin, beys, and mirza could have independent leadership of raids, with the larger raids requiring more senior leadership.
Oghlan (“Sons of the Nobles”): The Oghlan (“Sons of Nobles”) carried a light lance and inspired the later “uhlan” lancers of Later Polish armies. They wore chainmail and/or lighter padded cotton jackets. The most common head protection was a mail coif. Rich nobles wore coloured and embroidered silk garments of Turkish or Persian style like their armour.
Petyhortsy: Petyhortsy were a Circasssian people from the caucasus armed with lance and bow and wearing mail, red and grey caftans and shaggy cloaks. They were much prized for their scouting ability. They were more inclined to charge than most steppe-style cavalry.
Tribesmen: The bulk of the Tatar army were the nomadic tribesmen. These were horse archers who made a living by conducting slave raids into the neighbouring states. Officially the Tatars used a decimal organisation but in reality it was all about clan affiliations. The smallest independent unit was the torhak of a few dozen men. The next higher formation was the chambul, which could have a few hundred men through to several thousand. To maximise the area covered by a raiding force, the army would set up a camp, then each chambul would ride out separately and send its own torhaks out further to raid independently. In open battle the Tatars attempted to outflank the enemy, to attack the flank or rear, so fought in a wide and relatively open formation. Most did not wear armour, but some had padded jackets, mail coifs, and/or vambraces. The preferred mode of operation was shooting from a distance, however, the Tatars were willing to close if necessary and individuals carried sabres, spears and/or javelins. Being horse archers they preferred to attack the enemy’s left flank as it was easier to shoot bows to their own left. They also favoured generally rapid movement and using surprise, ambushes, feigned flights, and quick withdrawals. Against the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth they had good success against the Pancerni and light cavalry but avoided the elite Hussars. Apparently lances increasingly replaced bows in the 17th century, however, they remained skirmishing cavalry and I have kept the unit type unchanged as Light Horse.
Kazindji (Poor Tribesmen): Not all tribesmen were equipped equally and one foreign account mentions a Crimean army where half the tribesmen had bows and the rest were armed only with “sheep bones” tied to sticks. The poorer tribesmen (kazindji) would have had poor quality horses, and cheaper (bows, flails, maces, spears) or improvised weapons (like the sheep bone thing), and no armour. Personally I think it would be okay to include in the poorer fighters into the general mass of tribesmen, but I have allowed an option to model them explicitly.
Tufekci (“Riflemen”): Starting with Sahib I Giray in 1534, the khan maintained a small infantry guard unit, equipped and trained in the Ottoman janissary style, with firearms. As far as I can tell they were variously called Tufekci (“riflemen”), Kapikulu (“slaves of the khan”), or Janissaries (“new soldiers”) and these terms are interchangeable. They were probably from Cherkess and Georgian tribes. Up to three thousand are recorded. They operated as a guard or to garrison fortresses. In the field they had horses available for the march but fought on foot as shot.
Segban (“Mercenaries”): The settled tribes of the Crimea provided 20 organised companies of “segban” mounted arquebusiers. I classify the mounted arquebusiers as Dragoons. Like many of the settled units the Segban were probably copied from the Ottomans. Segban is actually a Persian word literally meaning “dog keeper” i.e. keeper of the hounds. This was sometimes Arabized as seyman (singular) and seymaniya (plural). The Ottoman corp of Segban were initially separate from the Janissaries but from 1451 became the 56th Janissary division. Unusually for Janissaries they included both infantry and cavalry. In the 16th century Segban became a term used for mercenaries in Ottoman employee, equipped with firearms.
Jesir (“Prisoners”): Historically Tatar armies were most interested in collecting prisoners (Turkish jesir; Polish jasyr) to sell as slaves. The Tatar troops were highly mobile but the captives were not. A rabble stand represents captives with Tatar guards. Of course the captives wouldn’t fight but arguably rabble are pretty bad at fighting anyway. A defending army must take one rabble stand for each command in the army, although all of these can be grouped into one command for the battle. Jesir are optional in an attacking army.
If you want to add a bit more flavour for jesir, then consider using these optional rules:
- You can base your captives facing towards the short end
- Enemy units that rout a jesir unit in melee is assumed to be simulating overcoming the guards and recapturing the prisoners; the successful enemy unit gets the normal unit heroics recovery of a resolve and in addition any one enemy unit in the same enemy command can recover a resolve
- Tatar units can attack friendly jesir, reflecting slaughtering the slaves to prevent recapture; if a Tatar unit successfully routs a jesir unit, the jesir are not counted as loses to the Tatars (but nor are they counted as loses to the enemy); two jesir can try to slaughter each other
Artillery: The Crimean Tatars used artillery in the defence of Crimean fortresses but cannon very rarely appeared on campaign as the guns would slow the army down. Lack of firepower meant the Tatars struggled against entrenched opponents, including the Cossacks and Poles fighting from their tabor.
Painting hint: Historically the majority of Crimean Tatars wore sheepskins turned fleece-in in winter, but fleece-out in summer, so they were described as looking like white bears on horseback. However, other Tatars differed by wearing mostly black sheep skins turned fleece-out in winter and white cloth kaftans in summer. This might explain why most Tatar wargaming figures seem to be wearing a kaftan and relatively few are wearing sheepskins. For Crimean Tatar armies I recommend you paint both the sheep skin and kaftans white. That will get close to “white bear” territory.
Tatars and scouting
As my first light horse dominated army I’ve re-looked at the scouting rules and think there is something missing. So I’ve added a new scouting benefit (#5) to 10.5. Scouting (Step 1.5):
Light Horse and Dragoons conduct pre-battle scouting. If you achieve scouting advantage you receive scouting benefits.
Scouting Score: Each side rolls 1d6 for each Dragoon unit, and 2d6 for each Light Horse unit. All units hit on a 5-6. Count up the hits.
Scouting Advantage: The side with the higher scouting score has the scouting advantage. The scale of the scouting advantage is the difference between the higher and lower scouting score. If they are equal neither side has the scouting advantage.
The side with scouting advantage has out scouted the enemy and gets to choose one Scouting Benefit for each point of scouting advantage they have. Repeats are allowed. The possible scouting benefits are:
1. Organise own army into commands after seeing how the enemy player organises their commands
2. Swap two medium terrain cards, if using terrain cards (in addition to any other swaps that might have occurred)
3. Delay deploying a command: Pass instead of deploying a particular command and deploy the command later in the command deployment sequence
4. Delay deploying a Cannon unit: Pass instead of deploying a particular Cannon unit and deploy the Cannon unit later in the Cannon deployment sequence
5. Add 1 to the Determine attacker roll, making the more mobile force more likely to be the attacker. This does mean the sequence of play must change with scouting (Step 1.5) before determining the attacker (Step 1.3).
It is possible, because of the option to delay deployment of commands/Cannon, that an entire army might deploy after their opponent. Assuming, of course, the army has sufficient scouting units.
Example Crimean Khanate (Tatar) Army
I’ve included an example army so you get an idea of what a Crimean Tatar army might have looked like. It is suitable for both attacking and aefending.
Example: Crimean Tatar Army – Attacking and Defending
- Right Wing (5 Units; 20 Coins)
- 1 x Commander [kalga sultan]
- 4 x Light Horse [Tribesmen]
- Centre (8 Units; 26 Coins)
- 1 x Commander [khan]
- 2 x Horse [Oghlan (“Sons of the Nobles”)]
- 2 x Light Horse [Tribesmen]
- 3 x Rabble [Jesir (“prisoners”)]
- Left Wing (6 Units; 20 Coins )
- 1 x Commander [nureddin]
- 3 x Light Horse [Tribesmen]
- 1 x Dragoons [Segban]
- 18 Units; 66 Coins; 6 break point
- Scouting Dice: Light Horse (9 x 2) + Dragoons (1 x 1) = 19d6
With 19d6 Scouting dice this army is likely to out scout any opponent and get the scouting advantage.