The greater territory that is home today to the Nogays has been inhabited by sedentary and nomadic peoples since prehistoric times. Prior to the Mongol invasions, the Nogay steppe was home to the Iranian Alans (also known as the As) and a series of Turkic groups, the last of which before the thirteenth century were the Kipchak Turks (also known as Polovtsians, Cumans, and Kanglï). Although elements of these groups can be found among the Nogays, the later arrival of various Turkic and Mongol tribes in the thirteenth century played a more important role in the later formation of this people. The Nogay Horde was formed in the wake of the disintegration of the Golden Horde in the second half of the fourteenth century, and later Nogay rulers ( murzas ) of the sixteenth century claimed descent from Edigiü, leader of the Mangït tribe (d. 1419). The ethnonym of the Nogays is usually connected with the Golden Horde commander or tribal leader Nogay (d. 1299), although the Nogays' link to the Mangïts cannot be established satisfactorily on the basis of contemporary sources. The first references to the Nogay date from the fifteenth century, and from the sixteenth century on, various branches of the Nogay Horde controlled vast portions of the steppe region extending from the Crimea and the Black Sea littoral in the south to Kazan in the northern forest-steppe zone, and from the Prut River in the west to as far as the Irtïsh River in the east.
In the seventeenth century, the Great Horde of the Nogays, which had controlled the lower Volga region, migrated west and south under pressure from the recently arrived Kalmyk Mongols. The Nogays became subjects of Russia in the 1780s. Toward the middle of the nineteenth century, the Nogays consisted of the Kara (Tümen) Nogays, inhabiting most of the present-day Nogay steppe; the Jemboyluk, Yedisan, and Yedishkul Nogays of the western part of the Nogay steppe in the present-day Neftekumskiy District of the Stavropol Krai (also known as the "Achikulak Nogays"); the Aksay (Yakhsay), Kostek, and Tarki (Targu) Nogays of the plain between the Terek and Sulak rivers (also known as the "Kumyk Nogays"); the Beshtav-Kum (Beshtav, Kum, Kara murza) Nogays of the present-day Mineralovodskiy and Kochubeevskiy districts; and the Kuban Nogays along the Kuban (Kuban') and Maliy Zelenchuk rivers of the present-day Adïge-Khabl'skiy District of the Karachay-Cherkess AO. In the Astrakhan steppes lived the Astrakhan (Hajitarkhan) Nogays, divided into the Kundura (Karakash or Karaagash) and Yurt (Kara üyli) Nogays. Other groups included the Khazlar (Kaz) Nogays of recent Kalmyk Mongol origin who nomadized with the Jemboyluk; the Crimean Nogays; and the Bujak Nogays of Moldavia, Wallachia, and the Black Sea littoral. (Other classifications also include local territorial groups such as the Kasay, Kaspulat, Mansur, Novruz, Tokhtamïsh, and Ishterek.) Following the czarist period, the Nogays of the northern Caucasus and the adjacent steppe came under the short-lived United Mountain Republic in 1918, but it was soon incorporated into the USSR, at which time the first of the modern administrative units were formed.