The Cumans, also known as Kipchaks and Polovcians, flourished during the 11th–13th centuries in the territory of the East European steppe. At the beginning of the 13th century the Hungarian Kingdom turned its attention to the Cumans. As a consequence, in 1227 Bortz, the fourth chieftain of the Cumans, sent his son, along with a retinue, to Esztergom, the seat of the Hungarian Archbishop, to embrace Christianity. The Dominican missionaries baptised Bortz and his people. This act was motivated by political considerations on both the Cuman and Hungarian sides.The aim of this paper is threefold. First, it analyses Bortz’s name and his position occupied among the Cuman leaders. Secondly, the complicated problem of the habitat of the Cuman group led by Bortz is investigated. Finally, the motives for his conversion to Christianity are discussed.
From the second half of the 13th century, the Franciscan Order had played an important role in missionary activities in the Mongol Empire. The present paper investigates the Franciscans’ role based on a letter written in 1287 by a Franciscan friar from the Crimea (frater Ladizlaus custos de Gazma) in which he described the events of recent years. For example, he reported on the baptism of a certain “Yaylaq”, identified as a wife of Noghay, in the Crimea. In this paper, the historical background of this letter will be analysed with an emphasis on the relationship between the Franciscan order and the Golden Horde and the role of Yaylak Khatun’s conversion in this process.