Academic journal article Kritika

Bulat Raimovich Rakhimzianov, the Khanate of Kasimov [1445-1552]: Essays in History/Kasimovskoe Khanstvo (1445-1552 Gg.): Ocherki Istorii

Academic journal article Kritika

Bulat Raimovich Rakhimzianov, the Khanate of Kasimov [1445-1552]: Essays in History/Kasimovskoe Khanstvo (1445-1552 Gg.): Ocherki Istorii

Article excerpt

Bulat Raimovich Rakhimzianov, Kasimovskoe khanstvo (1445-1552 gg.): Ocherki istorii (The Khanate of Kasimov [1445-1552]: Essays in History). 206 pp., illus. Kazan: Tatarskoe knizhnoe izdatel'stvo, 2009. ISBN-13 978-5298017213.

Vadim Vintserovich Trepavlov, Zolotaia orda v XIV stoletii (The Golden Horde in the 14th Century). 78 pp., maps. Moscow: Kvadriga, 2010. ISBN-13 978-5917910291.

Russia's long subordination (1237-1480) to the Mongols--both the main empire under the great khan and the Juchid ulus, commonly if inaccurately known as the Golden Horde--has not lacked for scholarly attention. In the West, specialists have generally endorsed some version of the idea that the Mongol invasion represented an onslaught of death and destruction, a crisis from which Russia recovered within a century--in part because the princes of Moscow, in particular, did not hesitate to exploit and eventually adopted certain techniques of rule used by the country's Mongol/Tatar overlords. (1) Scholars such as Brian Davies, John Fennell, Charles Halperin, Edward Keenan, Craig Kennedy, Michael Khodarkovsky, Janet Martin, Donald Ostrowski, and Jaroslaw Pelenski have explored the pragmatic approach taken by the Russian princes toward the fissiparous Tatar khanates, medieval Russians' religiously based reluctance to acknowledge the Mongol victory, and possible points of connection between Muscovite and Tatar government and military organization. (2)

The view inside Russia, as Vadim Trepavlov notes in his introduction to Zolotaia orda v XIV stoletii, has traditionally been different. The lessons taught to schoolchildren regarding the "Mongol-Tatar Yoke," itself a telling term, have emphasized the "harsh enslavement of the Russian land by conquerors" bent on "sucking the juice from long-suffering Russia," a national tragedy of epic proportions (5). In this small book Trepavlov--a leading research fellow at the Institute of Russian History, Russian Academy of Sciences, who has spent most of the last two decades studying Russia and the Tatars--attempts to set the record straight? He takes issue with arguments that Moscow was a successor state to the Horde: although he agrees that Russian practices of the 14th-16th centuries may, in specific instances, have resembled those of the Tatars, he insists that "in and of themselves" these similarities "are not an argument for a Golden Horde 'inheritance' or some kind of historical continuity between Russia and the Golden Horde" (7). In this respect, he disagrees with the work not only of Donald Ostrowski and Jaroslaw Pelenski, whom he cites, but also of Russian imperial historians such as N. M. Karamzin and the emigre historian George Vernadsky, whose works inspired much of the Western historiographical tradition on this topic,a Although I do not find Trepavlov's noncontinuity argument convincing, his separation of Muscovy and the Mongols allows him to focus on the Juchid ulus as a sociopolitical and cultural entity that had its own independent concerns, among which the subjugation of Russia occupied a minor place. Compared with the traditional "Mongol-Tatar Yoke" approach, Trepavlov's is refreshingly free of ideology.

This is not a book for specialists. With only 65 pages of text, Trepavlov has little space for the fine points of academic debate. He does provide a brief overview of the literature, footnotes citing printed sources and secondary works, and a bibliography that lists titles in English, French, and German-impressive in a book aimed at a general Russian-speaking audience. But the book ignores most major studies (including Trepavlov's own); and the literature survey is necessarily cursory, dismissing complex historical arguments in a paragraph or two.

Nevertheless, Trepavlov fulfills the task he sets for himself. Short chapters survey the Horde's territory and population, its state structure, its economy, and its military organization. These model essays reveal how the Juchid ulus operated and how Russia functioned within it as an integral part. …

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