During the 16th – 20th century when European empires dominated almost every civilization in the world, the only empires that could cause military destruction to European empires were the Turkic empires. In total there were 5 Turkic empires that posed threats to Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.
The Crimean-Nogai raids (1480-1774 AD) were slave raids carried out by the Khanate of Crimea and by the Nogai Horde into the region of Rus’ then controlled by the Grand Duchy of Moscow (until 1547), by the Tsardom of Russia (1547-1721), by the Russian Empire (1721 onwards) and by the Grand Duchy of Lithuania (part of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth from 1569). These raids began after Crimea became independent about 1441 and lasted until the peninsula came under Russian control in 1774.
Their main purpose was the capture of slaves, most of whom were exported to the Ottoman slave markets in Constantinople or elsewhere in the Middle East. The raids were an important drain of the human and economic resources of Eastern Europe. The raids also played an important role in the development of the Cossacks.
Estimates of the number of people deported from the Slavic lands during the 14th to 17th centuries was about 3 million. Most of the raids fell on territory of today’s Russia and Ukraine. Slaves were mostly sold to the Ottoman Empire, although some remained in Crimea. The main slave market was Caffa which after 1475 was part of the coastal strip of Crimea that belonged to the Ottomans.
The Crimean Khanate broke off from the Golden Horde in 1441. The Khans took advantage of the conflicts between Lithuania and Moscow to raid both sides. During the Russo-Lithuanian War of 1500–1506 the Tatar penetrated deep into Lithuania. Then Turkic raids on Muscovy began in 1507.
The numerous raids and abduction of captives left a deep imprint on popular culture. In Ukrainian ballads and tales, one of the main themes is Turkish slavery.
Vasily Klyuchevsky (1841-1911) a leading Russian historian said: “During the 16th century, year after year, thousands of people on the borderland vanished from their fatherland, and tens of thousands of the best people in the country set off for the southern border to protect the inhabitants of the central provinces from captivity and ruin. If you consider how much time and spiritual and material strength was wasted in the monotonous, brutal, toilsome and painful pursuit of these wily steppe predators, one need not ask what people in Eastern Europe were doing while those of Western Europe advanced in industry and commerce, in civil life and in the arts and sciences.”
The condition of the captives as they were being carried to the Crimea was very difficult. Held in bondage, divided into small groups, hands tied behind their backs with rawhide straps, tied to wooden poles with ropes around their necks. Held at the end of a rope, surrounded by and tied to horsemen, they were driven by whips across the steppe without stopping. The weak and infirm often had their throats cut so they would not delay the march. Reaching the lower Dnieper where they were relatively safe from Cossacks, the Tatars let their horses graze freely while they set about dividing the captives each of whom had been marked with a hot iron. Having received their slaves as inalienable property each Tatar could do with them as he wished.
In Crimea they were driven to the slave market and placed in single file, bound together by the neck. The buyers carefully inspected the slaves, starting with their exterior appearance and ending with intimate parts of their bodies, to be sure that there were no missing or blackened teeth, warts, bumps or other imperfections. Beautiful girls were especially valued.
Which of these empire were the most destructive to Europe? In fact, many of the imperial states in Western Europe were either Turkic vassals or allies for some time. Marriage, fighters, slaves, and money businesses with Turkic were common in European imperial houses.
Ottoman Empire (1299 – 1923)
During the 16th and 17th centuries, in particular at the height of its power under the reign of Suleiman the Magnificent, the Ottoman Empire was one of the most powerful states in the world – a multinational, multilingual empire that stretched from the southern borders of the Holy Roman Empire on the outskirts of Vienna, Royal Hungary (modern Slovakia) and the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth in the north to Yemen and Eritrea in the south; from Algeria in the west to Azerbaijan in the east; controlling much of southeast Europe, Western Asia and North Africa.
Kazakh Khanate (1456 – 1847)
Kazakh state that existed in 1456–1847, located roughly on the territory of present-day Republic of Kazakhstan. At its height the khanate have ruled from eastern Cumania ( modern day West Kazakhstan ) to most of Uzbekistan, Karakalpakstan and Syr Darya rivers with military confrontation as far as Astrakhan and modern day Iran city of Khorasan Province. Slaves were also captured by Kazakhs frequent raid on territory of Russia, Central Asia to Western Siberia ( Bashkortostan ) during the Kazakh Khanate. From the sixteenth through the early nineteenth century, the most powerful nomadic peoples were the Kazakhs and the Oyrats.
Nogai horde (1440s–1634)
The Nogais horde along with the Crimean Khanate have raided Slavic settlements from Russia, Ukraine, Moldova, and Poland. The slaves were captured in southern Russia, Poland-Lithuania, Moldavia, Wallachia, and Circassia by Tatar horsemen in a trade known as the “harvesting of the steppe”. In Podolia alone, about one-third of all the villages were destroyed or abandoned between 1578 and 1583. Some researchers estimate that altogether more than 3 million people were captured and enslaved during the time of the Crimean Khanate.
Crimean Khanate (1441–1783)
the Crimean Khanate most destructive, even though their empire only included a fraction of Ukraine they had sold more European slaves than anybody, plunder and raided more than the Ottoman. Many of the soldiers who raided, pillage, and captured people for slaves in Eastern Europe under the Crimean Khanate were Nogais soldiers.
Kazan Khanate (1438–1552)
The khanate covered contemporary Tatarstan, Mari El, Chuvashia, Mordovia, parts of Udmurtia and Bashkortostan; its capital was the city of Kazan. It was one of the successor states of the Golden Horde, and it came to an end when it was conquered by the Tsardom of Russia.