Political chronicle of Bulgar period
Mongolian invasion, that influenced the fates of many countries and nations of Europe and Asia in the first half of the XIII century, didn’t go by the Volga Bulgary. The first Mongolian invasion in 1223 the Bulgars managed to repulse, in fact they defeated the best military leaders of Chingis-khan. But the forces were unequal and in 1236 a huge army headed by Batu-khan conquered Bulgary. The destructions were especially severe in the lands of Transkama, where lots of towns and settlements were reduced to ashes. Their population was partly turned into slaves and part of these people moved to the north. The Bulgar state splitted into separate feudal estates that later became vassals of the Ulus Dzhuchy (the Golden Horde).
As time passed the country began to rise from the ashes. Destroyed towns like Bolgar, Dzhuketau were restored and there appeared new towns, such as Kermenchuk and Tubulgatau. There began to appear new political and trade relations. Here of great help was the favorable position of the Bulgar lands – right on the crossroads of the trade ways from Northern Europe and Russia to the Lower Volga region and Central Asia. Also the Ulus Dzhuchy khans supported trade relations and faith toleration, which contributed much to this process. Especially prosperous became the towns on the banks of the rivers Volga and Kama; actually they became the main trade through-passage of Ulus Dzhuchy. The end of the XIII – the first half of the XIV centuries was the period when the empire of Dzhuchids reached its highest political and economic power. During this period, when the national economy and trade flourished, the central authorities gained more power, there came into being the united control system, the borders became more stable and the internal wars ceased. Tens of big cities developed quickly; there was elaborated the common literary language and splendid imperial culture. Islam became the official religion of the state. At the same time there took place formation of the Golden Horde military aristocracy, which included not only Tatar-Mongolian families but also Bulgar and Kipchak aristocracy. The perception of the new “tatar” community was elaborated exactly in their environment. The Bulgar lands were also steadily developing. Agriculture, stabling cattle-raisin and different handicrafts, such as blacksmith’s work, pottery, bone carving and jeweller’s art traditionally remained the basis of the national economy. Originality of Bulgar culture in this period could be explained by combination of Golden Horde general tendencies with pre-Mongolian traditions. Despite results of the wars, there was no serious migration of nomads into Bulgary. As a rule, only Tatar grandees with their military detachments chose to move there. Still they managed to occupy the leading posts in Bulgary and gradually assimilated Bulgar aristocracy by including these people into Tatar system of clans. In this period people unceasingly developed the outskirts of Bulgar lands, and the number of agricultural, trade and handicraft settlements there increased sharply. Already by the end of the XIV century their economic position had improved, as a result the centers of these lands – Kazan, Kashan and Chally in Predkamje, and Tetesh and Yapancha in Predvolzhje – also became more prominent.
Dramatic changes in political life of Bulgar sultanates took place in 1360-s, when Ulus Dzhuchy was crisis-ridden. As the central authorities grew weaker, the owners of vassal estates became more independent. Their help could mean either success of failure to this or that pretender to the khan’s throne. So they started to participate in the internal wars of the Golden Horde. The Bulgar sultanates, among which the regents of Bolgar and Dzhuketau were especially powerful, belonged to such “key” regions. That’s why they were involved into internal wars more than others. In 1361 emir Bulat-Timur who tried to strengthen his position in the Golden Horde conquered Bolgar. In 1376 this town was besieged by Muscovy armies by emir Mamay’s order, and soon it was placed under Muscovy protectorate. The pirates from Nizhny Novgorod, so-called “ushkuiniks” regularly ravaged this region. Thus, after all these wars and invasions Bolgar was loosing gradually its top position, while the power of Kazan was growing.
The new Kazan princedom with the center in Kazan came into being. The eminent Tatar scientist Sh.Mardhzany wrote: “Because of numerous disasters and disorders the former prosperity of Bolgary declined; gradually all this passed to Kazan and this city inherited all the past greatness of Bolgary”.
The Kazan princedom was mainly ruled by native princes, but favorable location and rich lands attracted princes of the Golden Horde as well. For example, Ulug-Muhammed, one of the Golden Horde khans seriously pretended to the Kazan throne. His son Mahmud attacked Kazan in 1445 and occupied its throne after he had killed Bulgar prince Alimbek. He started the new dynasty of the city regents. So, in 1445 (or in 1438, according to some annals) in the Middle Volga region there appeared a new feudal state – the Kazan Khanate. Its organization reminded of that of the Golden Horde. The main questions of public life were discussed at the kurultays.
As the time passed this state occupied former territories of the Volga Bulgary.