I just discovered that*, in 1554, when the Russians finally conquered the city, they put a weak Khan on the throne, in order to control the place. Two years later Ivan The Terrible annexed it after a rebellion, a Crimean invasion and stuff like that. The thing is, why would they put a "fake" Khan there instead of giving Astrakhan to a neighbouring noble? Vassalising Astrakhan was a smart move, but I really don't get why they thought a Khan would do a better job than say, a duke.

Was there a will to annex slowly? I can't find no proof anywhere of Ivan the Terrible beeing compassionate enough to accept another culture in his land, with another kind of leadership...

  • 8
    Hazarding a guess here, because a Khan would be more readily acceptable for the local population as it would be seen as continuation of the regime they had grown up with. It's not a sole event, many great powers have done that, installing a puppet in a newly-conquered territory to placate the locals
    – NSNoob
    Feb 24, 2017 at 9:49
  • @NSNoob I'm quite surprised a brutal ruler like Ivan would care actually, and 2 years later he did annex it remorselessly...
    – LamaDelRay
    Feb 24, 2017 at 9:52
  • 5
    Well, Nobody ever said that a Brutal ruler can't be good at politics. 2 years should have been enough to stabilize the situation which would be pretty volatile immediately after the conquest. If after 2 years it seems that your fears were unfounded and coast was clear for total annexation, Why not go for it?
    – NSNoob
    Feb 24, 2017 at 9:59
  • 3
    In addition, I guess a neighbouring nobleman would gain too much power if given additional lands to rule, whereas the puppet Khan would depend on whoever put him in charge to retain his throne.
    – JMVanPelt
    Feb 24, 2017 at 15:09
  • @CGCampbell updated the question with the sources!
    – LamaDelRay
    Feb 27, 2017 at 8:15

1 Answer 1


The whole event was a bit more complex than a simple annexation. In XVI century Astrakhan Khanate was a point where clashed interests of Turkey and Crimean Khanate on one side, and Russia and Nogai Horde on the other, due to the importance of the city as a trading hub. The rulers changed often (basically, if a ruler leaned to one side - the other side raided the khanate and installed their marionette).

Russia only came into the picture after conquering Kazan - it came in contact with, and consequently became an ally to the Nogais. In fact, the expedition of 1554 was planned by a request from Nogay Horde ruler (well, one of the rulers - by then it was already falling to internal power struggle), and Dervish-Ali was a Nogai proponent - who actually was Astrakhanian Khan before Crimeans raided the city in 1547 and installed their own ruler. So, the goal of the expedition wasn't the conquest of the city - it was reinstallment of an allied ruler. Nogai forces failed to join the Russians for some reason, and thus Dervish-Ali became a vassal to Moscow after the victory. He almost immediately switched allegiance, though, and tried to achieve independence with Osman backing - but that, as we know, did not end well for him, and, as it was normal for Russia back then, rebel's lands were confiscated by the Tzar. After that, most of the Nogai Horde became vassals of Russian tzar, and the rest broke away and allied with Crimea and Turkey.

Source (russian language)

  • Really a great answer ! That's weird that there is like no equivalents in other languages for this peculiar moment, thanks a lot tho !
    – LamaDelRay
    Dec 19, 2017 at 9:58
  • 1
    @LamaDelRay I would expect at least some literature on the matter to exist in Turkish, but sadly I can't read it. As for English: for example, English traveller Anthony Jenkinson, who passed through Astrakhan in 1558 (only two years after the events) on his way to Bukhara mentions that Astrakhan was conquered not long ago, and notes the desperate conditions of the Nogais (who were in the middle of a civil war), but pays little attention to the history of the place, and I know of no modern research on the subject. Dec 19, 2017 at 10:18

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