Conquest of the Khanate of Sibir
The Khanate of Sibir was a Muslim state located just east of the middle Ural Mountains
Ural Mountains
The Ural Mountains , or simply the Urals, are a mountain range that runs approximately from north to south through western Russia, from the coast of the Arctic Ocean to the Ural River and northwestern Kazakhstan. Their eastern side is usually considered the natural boundary between Europe and Asia...

. Its conquest by Ermak in 1582 was the first event in the Russian conquest of Siberia
Russian conquest of Siberia
The Russian conquest of Siberia took place in the 16th and 17th centuries, when the Siberian Khanate had become a loose political structure of vassalages which were becoming undermined by the activities of Russian explorers who, though numerically outnumbered, pressured the various family-based...



The republic of Novgorod developed a fur-trading empire across northern Russia as far as the northern Urals and somewhat beyond. East of Novgorod the land was gradually falling under the control of Moscow. Between Moscow and the Urals was the Khanate of Kazan
Khanate of Kazan
The Khanate of Kazan was a medieval Tatar state which occupied the territory of former Volga Bulgaria between 1438 and 1552. Its khans were the patrilineal descendants of Toqa Temür, the thirteenth son of Jochi and grandson of Genghis Khan. The khanate covered contemporary Tatarstan, Mari El,...

 which broke off from the Golden Horde
Golden Horde
The Golden Horde was a Mongol and later Turkicized khanate that formed the north-western sector of the Mongol Empire...

 about 1438. In 1478 Moscow captured Novgorod and in 1552, Kazan. This opened up the Perm
Perm is a city and the administrative center of Perm Krai, Russia, located on the banks of the Kama River, in the European part of Russia near the Ural Mountains. From 1940 to 1957 it was named Molotov ....

 and Kama River
Kama River
Kama is a major river in Russia, the longest left tributary of the Volga and the largest one in discharge; in fact, it is larger than the Volga before junction....

 area northeast of Kazan. In 1558 the Stroganovs
The Stroganovs or Strogonovs , also spelled in French manner as Stroganoffs, were a family of highly successful Russian merchants, industrialists, landowners, and statesmen of the 16th – 20th centuries who eventually earned nobility.-Origins:...

 were given a large fief in the area and began to develop it. There was scattered native resistance. In 1573 the Khan of Sibir sent his nephew to raid the Stroganov lands. Moscow responded with a charter that effectively authorized the Stroganovs to launch a private war against the Khan, but this was not acted on.


The middle Urals at the latitude of Perm are fairly low and easy to cross. The area was inhabited by the Voguls (Mansi) and, north of Tobolsk, the Ostyaks (Khanty people
Khanty people
Khanty / Hanti are an indigenous people calling themselves Khanti, Khande, Kantek , living in Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Okrug, a region historically known as "Yugra" in Russia, together with the Mansi. In the autonomous okrug, the Khanty and Mansi languages are given co-official status with Russian...

). At some date a group of Siberian Tatars
Siberian Tatars
Siberian Tatars refers to the indigenous Siberian population of the forests and steppes of South Siberia stretching from somewhat east of the Ural Mountains to the Yenisey river...

 established the Khanate of Sibir and formed a military ruling class over a non-Muslim population. These 'Tatars' were partly Turko-Mongol Muslims from further south and partly local converts to Islam. Two clans contended for power. The Shaybanids
The Shaybanids were a Persianized dynasty of Mongolian origin in central Asia. They were the patrilineal descendants of Shiban, the fifth son of Jochi and grandson of Genghis Khan. Until the mid-14th century, they acknowledged the authority of the descendants of Batu Khan and Orda Khan, such as...

 were descendents of Genghis Khan
Genghis Khan
Genghis Khan , born Temujin and occasionally known by his temple name Taizu , was the founder and Great Khan of the Mongol Empire, which became the largest contiguous empire in history after his death....

. The Taibugids
Taibuga was the first Khan of the Khanate of Siber. He came to power as a result of the power vacuum caused by the breakup of the Mongolian Empire....

 were probably of local origin. In 1563 Kuchum
Kuchum khan Kuchum khan (Tatar: Küçüm, Күчүм, Russian: Кучум; in Sybyr Küçüm is pronounced approximately as /kytsym/ - Күцүм, English name comes from standard Tatar pronunciation)Kuchum khan (Tatar: Küçüm, Күчүм, Russian: Кучум; in Sybyr Küçüm is pronounced approximately as /kytsym/ - Күцүм,...

, a Shaybanid, defeated his the Taibugid opponent and seized the throne. Before 1571 the Khanate paid limited tribute to Moscow.

The Siberian Chronicles
Siberian Chronicles
The Siberian Chronicles are the Russian chronicles of the late 16th - 18th centuries on the history of Siberia. They include the Yesipov Chronicle, Kungur Chronicle, Remezov Chronicle, Stroganov Chronicle, and others. These chronicles represent a valuable source on the early history of the Russian...

 are incomplete and contradictory as are the secondary sources in English. This account follows Lantzeff which seems to be the fullest account in English. Lantzeff follows S. V. Bakhruskin. The main problems are the year the expedition started, details of the route and the location of the battle at Sibir.

The Capture of Sibir

Yermak Timofeyevich
Yermak Timofeyevich , Cossack leader, Russian folk hero and explorer of Siberia. His exploration of Siberia marked the beginning of the expansion of Russia towards this region and its colonization...

 began his career as a river pirate somewhere on the Volga. About 1577 these pirates were dispersed by Muscovy. Ermak arrived at Perm some time later (possibly 1579). His purpose in invading Siberia is not clear. It seems to have been a sort of reconnaissance-in-force that evolved into a conquest when the Khanate proved weak. It is not clear whether Ermak went on his own initiative, or whether he was sent by the Stroganovs, or whether the Stroganovs encouraged him to go to get rid of a dangerous body of armed men. Ermak had 540 Cossacks. The Stroganovs provided most of the supplies and another 300 men, mostly so-called 'Litva' or prisoners-of-war held by the Stroganovs.

Ermak left Perm probably in the summer of 1581. (Fisher has him start in September 1579 and take Sibir in October 1581. Lincoln has Ermak leave on September 1, 1582 and conquer Sibir three months later. Naumov says that late twentieth century historians established 1582 as the starting date, but this leaves little time for boat-building on the Tura if Sibir was captured in 1582, a date which Naumov accepts.) He sailed south down the Chusovaya River. When the river grew shallow and the weather turned cold he built winter quarters in the mountains. Here he raided the local Mansi, news of which provoked native opposition later on. In the spring he crossed the Urals to the Barancha River
Tagil River
Tagil is a river in Sverdlovsk Oblast, Russia. It is 414 km long, with a drainage basin of 10 100 km². The average discharge is 40 m³/s. The river has its sources on the eastern slopes of the Ural Mountains, east of Verkhny Tagil...

 (according to Lantzeff, but the Barancha is somewhat north of the latitude of Perm). He built rafts, sailed down the river and converted them to boats when the river grew deep enough. Entering the Tura River
Tura River
Tura River , also known as Dolgaya River ) is a historically important Siberian river which flows eastward from the central Ural Mountains into the Tobol River, a part of the Ob River basin. The main town is Tyumen....

 he sailed downstream (southeast) and defeated a native prince named Epancha at the later site of Turinsk
Turinsk is a town and the administrative center of Turinsky District of Sverdlovsk Oblast, Russia, located on the right bank of the Tura River midway between Verkhoturye and Tyumen, near its confluence with the Yarlynka, northeast of Yekaterinburg...

. (Naumov has Ivan Koltso and 300 men, probably Stroganov's 300, join Ermak at this point, but other sources do not mention this). Continuing down the Tura, he captured Tyumen
Tyumen is the largest city and the administrative center of Tyumen Oblast, Russia, located on the Tura River east of Moscow. Population: Tyumen is the oldest Russian settlement in Siberia. Founded in 16th century to support Russia's eastward expansion, the city has remained one of the most...

 (according to the Remizov chronicle, but Bakhruskin thinks that the fort here had been abandoned). On reaching the Tobol River
Tobol River
Tobol is a river in Kurgan and Tyumen Oblasts in Russia and Kazakhstan, left tributary of the Irtysh. The length of the Tobol River is 1591 km. The area of its drainage basin is 426,000 km². Average discharge at mouth is 805 m³/s. The lower reaches of the river freeze up in late October -...

 they defeated a native force, sailed downstream (north) and later won two other battles before reaching the mouth of the Tavda River
Tavda River
The Tavda River is a Siberian river that drains part of the central Ural mountains into the Tobol River. It is north of the Tura River and south of the Konda River. It is located in Sverdlovsk Oblast and Tyumen Oblast. It is formed by the confluence of the Lozva and Sosva Rivers. The length of...

. Twenty miles below the Tavda they fought another battle and then captured a native village where they rested for a month. (this delay so close to the enemy, if it happened, seems very strange.)

Leaving camp, they sailed 12 miles down the Tobol to its junction with the Irtysh River at the modern Tobolsk
Tobolsk is a town in Tyumen Oblast, Russia, located at the confluence of the Tobol and Irtysh Rivers. It is a historic capital of Siberia. Population: -History:...

. 12 miles east up the Irtysh was Sibir
Qashliq, Isker or Sibir was a medieval Siberian Tatar fortress, in the 16th century the capital of the Khanate of Sibir, located on the right bank of the Irtysh River at its confluence with the Sibirka rivulet, some 17 km from the modern city of Tobolsk.The fortress is first mentioned in...

 . The Russians captured the village of Atik-Murza for a base and unsuccessfully attacked Sibir. Several days later they attacked again. The commander, Mamet-Kul, was wounded which led to disorganization. The Ostyaks
Khanty people
Khanty / Hanti are an indigenous people calling themselves Khanti, Khande, Kantek , living in Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Okrug, a region historically known as "Yugra" in Russia, together with the Mansi. In the autonomous okrug, the Khanty and Mansi languages are given co-official status with Russian...

 broke first, and then the Voguls, leaving only the Tatars. Kuchum
Kuchum khan Kuchum khan (Tatar: Küçüm, Күчүм, Russian: Кучум; in Sybyr Küçüm is pronounced approximately as /kytsym/ - Күцүм, English name comes from standard Tatar pronunciation)Kuchum khan (Tatar: Küçüm, Күчүм, Russian: Кучум; in Sybyr Küçüm is pronounced approximately as /kytsym/ - Күцүм,...

 fled during the night and the Russians entered his capital the next morning. This was probably in October of 1582. The Russians had lost 107 men. {Battle of Chuvash Cape
Battle of Chuvash Cape
The Battle of Chuvash Cape led to the victory of a Russian expedition under Yermak Timofeyevich and the fall of Siberia Khanate and the end of Khan Kuchum's power. The battle took place near Qashliq .-Context:...

 gives a slightly different account. Grousset has the battle at 'a fortified camp at the mouth of the Tobol to protect the approaches to Sibir'. Naumov has it 'not far from Sibir'. A fort may have guarded the town further upriver, but the matter is not clear.}

The Occupation

Over the next several months various native chieftains offered their submission. Ermak, perhaps unexpectedly, found himself the ruler of a Khanate. He sent Ivan Koltso, 50 men and 5,200 furs to the Moscow to announce his conquest. Meanwhile the Ostyaks and Voguls had been raiding the Perm territories. Ivan thought that Ermak had provoked this and sent an angry letter to the Stroganovs demanding that Ermak be recalled to protect Perm. A few days later Ermak's envoys reached Moscow. The Tsar immediately changed his mind and promised to send a Voyevoda and troops. He sent Ermak gifts including the famous suit of armor.

The Cossacks sent out raiding parties to collect Yasak
Yasak or yasaq, sometimes iasak, is a Turkic word for "tribute" that was used in Imperial Russia to designate fur tribute exacted from the indigenous peoples of Siberia.- Origin :...

. Bogdan Bryazga went north down the Irtysh as far as its junction with the Ob. Ermak himself explored the Tavda. Kuchum's whereabouts at this time is uncertain. His nephew, Mamet-Kul, attacked the Russians several times, was captured on the Vagai River and sent to Moscow where he later had an honorable career. Seid Akhmat, Kuchum's Taibugid rival, returned to the area and gained some supporters. 'The Karacha'
Qarachi was the highest level of noble within Turkic khanates of 14-16 centuries, such as Siberia Khanate and Kazan Khanate. The name could be applied to the member of the four extended families: Shirin , Barghen , Arghen , Qepchaq ....

 (one of Kuchum's former officials) sent a request to Ermak for help in fighting the steppe nomads. When the forty Cossacks under Ivan Koltso arrived they were murdered. A punitive expedition was defeated. This seems to have set off a general uprising and it became unsafe to leave the fort at Sibir. About this time (November 1584) 500 reinforcements, including Streltsy
Streltsy were the units of Russian guardsmen in the 16th - early 18th centuries, armed with firearms. They are also collectively known as Marksman Troops .- Origins and organization :...

 arrived from Russia. Food was inadequate and there were many deaths over the winter. In March the Karacha besieged Sibir. Two months later it was broken by a sortie (Naumov has the sortie in March).

In August of 1585 Ermak heard that at caravan was arriving from the south and that Kuchum was waiting to plunder it. He went up the Irtysh to capture either the caravan or Kuchum, but found that there was no caravan. Returning, he camped at the mouth of the Vagai River about 25 miles upstream from Tobolsk. The night was stormy and the watch inadequate. Kuchum's men attacked and most of the Russians were killed in their sleep, The story, which may be true, is that Ermak tried to flee to a river boat and was drowned by the weight of the armor that the Tsar had sent him.

Siberia Abandoned

Command passed to Ivan Glukhov. With only 150 surviving men, he thought it was impossible to hold out, so he sailed down the Irtysh and Ob and crossed into Russia over the northern Urals. Ali, Kuchum's son, reoccupied the town, but was driven out by Seid Akhmat (Naumov calls him Seidiak). Reinforcements under Mansurov arrived, but they were not strong enough to do anything. They wintered somewhere on the Ob and crossed the Urals the following spring (1586) (Naumov has Glukhov and Mansurov meeting and returning to Russia together).

Siberia Reoccupied

Ermak had failed, but the Khanate of Sibir had been destroyed and Seid Akhmat could not reconstitute it. The area was left to native chiefs who had few firearms. Russian policy was based on systematic fort-building, a method they were also using to expand south of Moscow. In 1586 300 Russians built an Ostrog
Ostrog (fortress)
Ostrog was a Russian term for a small fort, typically wooden and often non-permanently manned. Ostrogs were encircled by 4-6 metres high palisade walls made from sharpened trunks. The name derives from the Russian word строгать , "to shave the wood". Ostrogs were smaller and exclusively military...

 at Tyumen. In 1587 another fort was built at Tobolsk. In 1588 Seid Akhmat and the Karacha were invited to Tobolsk and were captured and sent to Moscow. In 1594 Tara
Tara, Russia
Tara is a town in Omsk Oblast, Russia, located about north of Omsk, at the confluence of the Tara and Irtysh Rivers at a point where the forested country merges into the steppe. It serves as the administrative center of Tarsky District, although it is not administratively a part of it...

 was built on the middle Irtysh to guard the caravan route. In 1591 the Konda River
Konda River
Konda is a river in the Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Okrug of Russia. The town of Uray and the Shaimskoye oil field is situated by the Konda....

 Mansi were annexed. Surgut
Surgut is a city in Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Okrug, Russia, located on the Ob River near its junction with the Irtysh River, the largest in the autonomous okrug and the second largest in Tyumen Oblast. Population:...

 at the Ob-Irtysh junction was founded in 1594. In 1594 the Prince of Pelym was defeated. Kuchum made a number of attacks but was defea`ted on the Barabinsk Steppe in, probably, 1598. In 1598 Verkhoturye
Verkhoturye is a historic town and the administrative center of Verkhotursky District of Sverdlovsk Oblast, Russia, located in the middle Ural Mountains on the left bank of the Tura River north of Yekaterinburg. Population: 7,815 Verkhoturye is a historic town and the administrative center of...

 was built to secure the route over the Urals. In the 1590s Russians crossed the northern Urals into the lower Ob basin. Ketsk was founded in 1602, opening the route to the Yenisei River
Yenisei River
Yenisei , also written as Yenisey, is the largest river system flowing to the Arctic Ocean. It is the central of the three great Siberian rivers that flow into the Arctic Ocean...

. For the rest, see Siberian River Routes
Siberian River Routes
Siberian River Routes were the main ways of communication in the Russian Siberia before the 1730s, when roads began to be built. The rivers also were of primary importance in the process of Russian exploration and colonisation of vast Siberian territories...

 and History of Siberia
History of Siberia
The early history of Siberia is greatly influenced by the sophisticated nomadic civilizations of the Scythians and Xiongnu , both flourishing before the Christian era. The steppes of South Siberia saw a succession of nomadic empires, including the Turkic Empire and the Mongol Empire...

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