Berke Khan, the Khan of the Golden Horde was not very fond of his cousin, Helagu Khan, Khan of Ilkhanate primarily because of the latter's actions against the Abbasid Caliphate.

He wrote this to Batu Khan before the fall of Baghdad to garner support from influential Mongol leaders for the Caliph:

"We helped Möngke to enthrone. But he forgot who the enemy is or friend is. Now, he is starving the lands of our friend Caliph. It is abject"

Following the defeat of Abbasids and destruction of Baghdad at hand of Helagu Khan, Berke was consumed with rage and wrote the following letter to the Great Khan, Mongke Khan (Not knowing that the great Khan had already died):

"He (Hulagu) has sacked all the cities of the Muslims, and has brought about the death of the Caliph. With the help of God I will call him to account for so much innocent blood."
(see The Mongol Warlords, quoting Rashid al-Din's record of Berke Khan's pronouncement; this quote is also found in The Mamluk-Ilkhanid War)

So it was clear that Berke was already determined to wage war on Ilkhanate to avenge the fall of Baghdad.

It is also stated that Mamluks had developed secret ties with the Golden Horde when they learnt that the Khan was both a Muslim and hated his cousin Helagu for sack of Baghdad.

Also, it is reported that before the decisive battle of Ain Jalut, The Golden Horde provided much needed Cuman-Kipchak reinforcements to Mamluks which proved instrumental in defeating the Ilkhanate hordes.

During the Mongol attack on the Mamluks in the Middle East, most of the Mamluks were Kipchaks, and the Golden Horde's supply of Kipchaks replenished the Mamluk armies and helped them fight off the Mongols.

Halperin, Charles J. 2000. “The Kipchak Connection: The Ilkhans, the Mamluks and Ayn Jalut”. Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London 63 (2). Cambridge University Press: 229–45.

Afterwards when Helagu returned from Mongolia and decided to avenge the humiliating defeat, He was forced to face the powerful Khan of Golden Horde instead when the latter launched raids into Ilkhanate lands, forcing him to march north instead of west which essentially lead to disintegration of Mongol Empire.

Berke did not want Mongols to fight Mongols as he said:

Mongols are killed by Mongol swords. If we were united, then we would have conquered all of the world.

Johan Elverskog (6 June 2011). Buddhism and Islam on the Silk Road. University of Pennsylvania Press. pp. 186–. ISBN 0-8122-0531-6.

Yet when there was a prospect of a renewed and much larger assault on Mamluks, Berke changed his views and attacked Ilkhanate to save the Mamluks.

Why were the Golden Horde ties to Mamluks stronger than their tie of blood with the Ilkhanate? A simplistic reason would be religion but there has to be something more than that.

I found out some other reasons too for Golden Horde and Ilkhanate rivalry:

  1. Berke had grievances that Ilkhanate was granted wealthy lands of Persia.
  2. Berke did not like that Mongke Khan gave Jochi land of Azerbaijan to his brother Helagu.
  3. Berke was tired of Helagu trying to boss him around with demands of cessation of selling Cuman-Kipchak slaves to Mamluks.

He also took actions against Byzantine Empire through his vassal Bulgaria to force the release of Seljuq Sultan of Rum, Kaykaus II and Egyptian Mamluk envoys. Of course Byzantines were allies of Ilkhanate so naturally Golden Horde must have seen Seljuqs as a buffer between them and Byzantines and did what they could to counter Ilkhanate influence.

The question remains, what did Golden Horde get from this alliance? I can only see the Mamluks benefiting from the alliance with Berke Khan and Golden horde getting nothing out of it. Since bi-lateral relations of states are based on give and take rather than charity, there has to be something the Mamluks had to offer to the Golden Horde.

  • 1
    Well, they were a thorn in the Ilkhanate's side - that surely counts for something. Commented Jan 2, 2017 at 10:10
  • @FelixGoldberg So basically just proxy politics to create a nuisance for Ilkhanate to avoid possible concentrated attack on Golden Horde by Helagu, as Chagatai Khan did much later when he annexed Khwarzem from Golden Horde? But Mamluks didn't aid the Horde when the war finally broke out nor did Helagu show any intention of attacking the horde as it was Berke harboring ill-feelings towards Helagu, not the other way around?
    – NSNoob
    Commented Jan 2, 2017 at 10:24
  • @NSNoob - Still interested in this question?
    – J Asia
    Commented Jul 18, 2017 at 23:44
  • @JAsia Sure am. What have you got for me?
    – NSNoob
    Commented Jul 19, 2017 at 6:10
  • @NSNoob - Most likely tmrw. Let me summarise the main points before posting..
    – J Asia
    Commented Jul 19, 2017 at 6:18

2 Answers 2


(I saw your other question on Qutuz's mud-slinging with Hulagu. So, I hope I don't blow your bubble here).

Here goes:

What did the Golden Horde get out of the alliance with Mamluks?

Answer: They did not have one. The Mamluks claimed they had an alliance with the Golden Horde, but that's just it: a claim and a very long con by the Mamluks. Gives new (old?) meaning to the saying: Fake it till you make it!

Baybars was just full of it because he was trying to cover up his slave background with an invented 'alliance' with Berke (of the Golden Horde). Like Qutuz (the other question), Baybars was a Qipchak Turk who was sold into slavery.

Mamluk is Arabic for "property" or "slave" (depending on context).

SOURCE: Anne F. Broadbridge, Kingship and Ideology in the Islamic and Mongol Worlds (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008), p.58:

... despite delays, distances and lies, and despite Baybars's lowly origin and the tenuous ideological position, the Mamluk Sultan established an alliance with Berke based on Baybars's promotion of proper Islamic military values. Or did he? The historical record reflects Baybars' own point of view, distilled through his official biography and copied by later writers. Despite Baybars's presentation of an alliance of equals, Berke appears to have seen Baybars with the imperial Mongol world view: that is, as an obedient subject, in this case a Muslim. ... When Berke's ambassadors met with Baybars they informed the Mamluk sultan about Berke's laws, which were required knowledge for any vassal. (emphasis mine)

Berke's fights with Hulagu had nothing to do with the Mamluks. That's another totally different issue re Chinggisid dynastic issues. The Mamluks just took advantage of the situation/confusion when the giants collided.

p.s. Most of the Wikipedia entries on Mongol history are generally out-dated (or wilfully misleading in some cases)

  • @NSNoob -- I wanted to explain a bit more about the Qipchak Turks (ie. summarise how they became Mamluks) but I hope this is clear enough (... on the 'alliance').
    – J Asia
    Commented Jul 20, 2017 at 2:54
  • +1 for presenting an alternate view. But I can't help but notice a few inaccuracies. Mamluks were well known to be slaves, that is precisely what the world Mamluk means. Why pretend? Of course the Sultan's would try to present a better view of them, like Qutuz claiming descent from deposed imperial family of Khwarzem despite no tangible proof. Baybars comes into the screen much later, the Kipchak reinforcements were offered before Battle of Ain Jalut, when Qutuz reigned, not Baybars. Why did Berke bother to offer reinforcements to a vassal? Or use his clout to secure release of their envoys?
    – NSNoob
    Commented Jul 20, 2017 at 6:42
  • Not to mention, it doesn't answer why did Berke write what he wrote to Mongke Khan. If Berke viewed Mamluks as subjects, why didn't he view the Caliph as the same instead of a friend? If his fight had nothing to do with Mamluks, why did he time it when Helagu was on his way to Levant? Miss Broadbridge seems to be well-versed in the subject but her theory leaves many holes that Mamluks were subjects rather than allies. Not to mention, looking into it, she seems to be the only scholar of that view. I have already noted Berke-Hulagu rivalry in the question, it's not exactly some new revelation.
    – NSNoob
    Commented Jul 20, 2017 at 6:45
  • All good points.I know it sounds controversial but this whole period needs a deeper review/re-look.
    – J Asia
    Commented Jul 20, 2017 at 10:10
  • Here's a follow-up: Did Ketbugha - an experienced general - really fall for the feint at 'Ayn Jalut? Was is a single source or multiple? Do they all agree?
    – J Asia
    Commented Jul 20, 2017 at 11:15

Yeah Golden Horde had some benefit from this allies with the Mamluks

  1. Money from every slave sold to Mamluks
  2. With Hulegu fight on two front with Mamluks and Berke so Hulegu cant form full scale coordinate attack to golden horde with chaghatayid from central Asia
  3. Berke can deter chaghatayid with this action against Hulegu... golden horde greatest enemy was chagatayid and not Hulegu. Remember chagatayid take over jochid land in khawaresm before Berke accession in the bloody struggle...
  4. Legitimacy for Berke in the eye of his subject, Berke convert to Muslim. So he must prove that this convert would give to golden horde some of victorious battle. because Russia. Poland. and other had been defeated so he need new powerful enemies. i.e. Hulegu
  5. The most important. spoils of war from Hulegu was so impressive because Hulegu occupies wealthy land like Baghdad and Persia. That makes the Golden Horde very wealth. Every single soldier from golden horde received thousand gold dinar (one gold dinar equivalent with 200-250 usd)spoils of war with Hulegu

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