Batu was in charge of the Mongol invasion of Russia and much of Central Asia. The Mongols quickly gained control of the steppe regions incorporating the local Turkic peoples into their army. Batu then began campaigning in Russia in 1237. There he overran much of Kievan Rus', the Russian state. He sacked its capital Kiev in 1240, ending its prosperity. All of Kievan Rus except Novgorod was captured, and even Novgorod under Alexander Nevsky acknowledged the Khan's supremacy. Unlike the central Asian steppe Russia was not incorporated into the Golden Horde, but was an independent vassal state paying tribute to the Khan. The Horde regarded Russia as a peripheral area of little interest as long as it continued to pay tribute.
In 1242 Batu established the Golden Horde at Sarai. Sarai was made its capital. In 1255 Batu died and passed the Horde on to his heir. The Horde quickly lost its Mongol identity. Most of its population were Turks, Uzbecks and other indigenous nomads. It became a settled rather than nomadic culture, with Sarai becoming a large and prosperous metropolis. The Horde also quickly adopted Islam, abandoning the animist Mongol beliefs.
The Horde's Russian policy was one of constantly switching alliances in an attempt to keep Russia weak and divided. In the 14th century the rise of Lithuania in North East Europe posed a challenge to Mongol control over Russia. Thus the Khan began backing Moscow as the leading Russian state. Ivan I Kalita was granted the title of grand prince and given the right to collect taxes from the other Russian princes.
In 1357 the Khan was assassinated and the empire fell into a long civil war, averaging one new Khan per annum for the next few decades. During this time Dmitri Donskoy of Moscow attempted to break free of the Horde's power. Mamai, the Mongol general who held the throne, attempted to reassert Mongol authority over Russia. His army was defeated by Dmitri at the Battle of Kulikovo in the first Russian victory over the Mongols. Mamai soon fell from power and Toktamysh, a true heir of Genghis Khan, rebuilt the Horde's power. He sacked Moscow as punishment for its insubordination in 1382
In the 1440s the Horde was again racked by civil war. This time it broke up into five separate Khanates: the Siberia Khanante, the Khanate of Kazan, the Khanate of Astrakhan and the Khanate of the Crimea
None of these new Khanates were stronger than Muscovy, which finally broke free of Mongol control in 1480. Each Khanate was eventually annexed by Russia. Both Kazan and Astrakhan were annexed by Ivan the Terrible in 1550s. By the end of the century the Siberia Khanate was also part of Russia. The Khanate of the Crimea allied itself with the Ottoman Empire, however, and remained outside of Russia's control until the reign of Catherine the Great.