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Şahin Giray (the last Crimean Khan)

The Khan's destiny and his coinage system

    Şahin Giray (lifetime 17451787) is referred to in history as the last Crimean Khan. He ruled the Crimea at the end of the XVIII-th century just before the Crimea was annexed by the Russian Empire. The necessity for such accession was the Russian-Turkish war of 17681774.

    Khan Şahin Giray was a protégé of the Russian crown. Şahin is known to be one of the direct descendants of Genghis Khan. He had an excellent European education and was reputedly an extraordinary person: he spoke Italian, Greek, Arabic and Russian fluently, as well as wrote poems in Tatar and Arabic. During his reign he attempted to update the state of Crimea in the European style.

    The Crimean citizens disliked the reforms implemented in favor of the Russian Empire; thus there were a number of popular uprisings. Şahin Giray abdicated in 1783, he moved to Russia firstly and next to Turkey (the Ottoman Empire at that time) where he was executed. In her manifesto of February 8, 1783, Empress Catherine II proclaimed the annexing of the Crimean Khanate to Russia, and from then on it became known as the Tauride province of the Russian Empire.

    On September 13, 1953, Nikita Khrushchev became the leader of the USSR. 5 months later, on February 19, 1954, he issued a decree for the transfer of the Crimean Region from the RSFSR (nowadays known as Russia) to the Ukrainian SSR (nowadays known as Ukraine). Contemporaries consider this as one of the most thoughtless Khrushchev's actions, since in terms of geopolitics Crimea is a very important territory. Crimea is still part of Ukraine.

    P.S.: Crimea referendum on joining Russia will be held on March 16th, 2014.

    P.P.S. (March 17th, 2014): 96.6% pro, and only 3.4% contra, therefore as of today Crimea is Russian again!

    Scientists are still not in agreement on the system of denominations (values) and weights of the coins issued during the reign of Şahin Giray. Various numismatic catalogs name these denominations, especially the copper ones, after Russian coins, e.g. polushka, denga, kopeck, 5 kopecks and 10 kopecks. It is also believed that the silver coins were minted in accordance with the Turkish system, whereas the copper coins were minted according to the Russian system. Historians found that 2 mints operated in the Crimea at that time: the first one in the city of Kefe (aka Caffa, today called Feodosiya), and the other one in the city of Bakhchisaray. It is known to be of extreme importance for all Muslim rulers to launch their own coinage as the undisputed symbol of supreme power constituted in the state. Therefore, Şahin Giray decided to initiate machine coining, unlike his predecessors, who had been using manual coining facilities for centuries.

    Şahin started his reign in 1777 AD; however, machine coining started in the 4th year of his reign that is 1780 AD. A lot of coins were struck in Şahins 5th year of rule (1781 AD). The last large volume of coins were minted in Kefe city in 1782 AD (6th year of rule). The following Crimean coin denominations are known: kirmiz, mangir and chkhal. The same date, viz. 1191 Lunar Hejira (AH), was engraved on all of Şahins coins; 1191 AH, or 1777 AD, is the commencement of the Khan's reign. The number corresponding to the current year of rule was struck afterwards using puncheon technology.

How do I read his coins?

    Coins of Şahin Giray look as follows. On the one side the Khans title and name are specified:

    In the first two lines above we can see the following inscription:

this means: Khan Şahin Giray (written in Arabic and therefore should be read right-to-left).

    On the reverse of the coin there is a lot of interesting information:

Tamga, tughra and their practical significance

    As described above, at the bottom of the coin theres the year in the Lunar Hejira: 1191 (marked with a triangle pointing to the left on the picture above). On the righthand side of the coin is the current year of the Khans reign (i.e. the year when the coin was struck; marked with an up-pointing triangle). Finally, on the top of this side of the coin is a mark called the Tamga, belonging to the Giray dynasty. The Tamga is referred to as a tribal sign. Generally speaking, the Tamga is an abstract seal or device used by Altaic and Eurasian nomadic peoples and by cultures influenced by them; the Tamga was normally the emblem of a particular tribe, clan or family. This particular Tamga is called the Tarak Tamga, this means a comb.This sign first appeared on the Girays coins and banners in the middle of the XV-th century. Even these days the Tarak Tamga is still considered to be a part of the coat of arms as well as the flag of the Crimean Tatars.

Coat of arms of the Crimean Tatars

Flag of the Crimean Tatars

    The largest coin denomination issued by Şahin Giray was the chkhal. It looks a bit different from the smaller denominations. The image below shows the chkhal issued in the 6th year of Şahins reign:

    On the obverse side of the chkhal the special sign called the tughra is used instead of having to write the title and name in a number of lines. The Tughra is a calligraphic seal or signature of an Ottoman ruler that was affixed to all official documents and correspondence; it was also carved on his seal and stamped on the coins minted during his reign. The Tughra is a personal sign of the particular ruler (not the whole dynasty); it means that he was the only person capable of using it. Common tughra includes the rulers full name and title in the form of an ornamental Arabic ligature.

How do I know the date?

    Now let us finally get down to the rules of date conversion. Its been mentioned that Şahin Girays coins were dated using the Lunar Hejira. To convert the date from the Lunar Hejira to the Gregorian calendar we firstly have to calculate the absolute value of the Lunar Hejira year:

Date LH = 1191 + YrRgn 1 ,

where YrRgn is the ordinal value for the current year of the Khans reign, Date LH is absolute value of the Lunar Hejira year, and 1191 is the LH year when Şahin started his reign. Now we have to substitute this resulting value into the common formula for the conversion of the Lunar Hejira to the Gregorian calendar:

Date AD = Date LH (Date LH/33) + 622,

where Date AD is the desired date according to the Gregorian calendar. The rule of rounding to the nearest integer number is applied to the result.

    From the two formulae above we can now deduce one formula depending on the year of reign only. Computations omitted, as the readers can check it out on their own. This formula for Şahin Giray is as follows:

Date AD = Math.round((58606 + 32×YrRgn) / 33),

where Math.round() is a function of the programming language JavaScript meaning rounding to the nearest integer number.

    As an example, lets calculate the date corresponding to the 5th year of the Khans reign:

    Date AD = Math.round(58766 / 33) = Math.round(1780,(78)) = 1781.

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