Sites & cities that bear the name of Sarai Berke

Sarai Berke

Today in : Russian Federation
First trace of activity : 1261 C.E
Last trace of activity : ca. 17th century C.E
Recorded names : Sarai-al-Jadid, New Sarai

Description : Sarai (also transcribed as Saraj or Saray, from Persian sarāi, "palace" or "court") was the name of two cities, which were successively capital cities of the Golden Horde, the Mongol kingdom which ruled much of Central Asia and Eastern Europe, in the 13th and 14th centuries. "New Sarai" or "Sarai Berke" (called Sarai-al-Jadid on coins) is believed to have been either at what is now Kolobovka (formerly Tsarev), an archeological site also on the Akhtuba channel 55 km east-southeast of Volzhsky, and about 180 km northwest of Old Sarai; or possibly on the site of Saqsin (which may itself have stood on the site of the Khazar capital, Atil). The bishops of Krutitsy resided in Tsarev from 1261 to 1454. It had probably succeeded Sarai Batu as the capital of the Golden Horde by the mid-14th century. Sarai was described by the famous traveller Ibn Battuta as "one of the most beautiful cities ... full of people, with the beautiful bazaars and wide streets", and having 13 congregational mosques along with "plenty of lesser mosques". Another contemporary source describes it as "a grand city accommodating markets, baths and religious institutions". An astrolabe was discovered during excavations at the site and the city was home to many poets, most of whom are known only by name. Both cities were sacked several times. Timur sacked New Sarai around 1395, and Meñli I Giray of the Crimean Khanate sacked New Sarai around 1502. The forces of Ivan IV of Russia finally destroyed Sarai after conquering the Astrakhan Khanate in 1556. In 1623–1624, a Russian merchant, Fedot Kotov, travelled to Persia via the lower Volga. He described the site of Sarai: Here by the river Akhtuba stands the Golden Horde. The khan's court, palaces, and courts, and mosques are all made of stone. But now all these buildings are being dismantled and the stone is being taken to Astrakhan. Since Old Sarai lies at 120 km from Astrakhan and New Sarai at 300 km, it is difficult to decide to which of these two cities this description applies. After the destruction of New Sarai, Russia established the fortress city of Tsaritsyn (later Stalingrad, now Volgograd) to control the area.

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