Academic journal article Kritika

Muscovy's Conquest of Kazan

Academic journal article Kritika

Muscovy's Conquest of Kazan

Article excerpt

Matthew P. Romaniello, The Elusive Empire: Kazan and the Creation of Russia, 1552-1671. xiii + 297 pp., maps, illus. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2012. ISBN-13 978-0299285142. $29.95.

Non-Orthodox and non-Slavic populations initially predominated in certain of the territories annexed to the Grand Duchy and Tsardom of Moscow over the 14th through 16th centuries. Fully integrating them into the Muscovite state as tax-bearing subjects under the authority of Muscovite law and the Orthodox Church was a long process requiring their dilution through Russian colonization and their subjection to "Russifying" institutions and policies. Just how Russian colonization and administration engaged and transformed the original native culture and economy varied. The mix of non-Orthodox and non-Slavic peoples brought under Tsar Ivan IV's sovereignty with the conquest of the Kazan Khanate in 1552 could be considered as already more "prepared" for life as imperial subjects. Kazan's population consisted of Finno-Ugric peoples, some hunters and gatherers but others agriculturalists, living under the hegemony of a Muslim Tatar ruling class holding service-conditional land grants from a khan legitimated as a Chingisid; the Muslim religion of the ruling class was articulated by a literate ulema, and Kazan's economy was already well integrated into the Asian luxury trade. (1)

Matthew Romaniello's The Elusive Empire deals with the incorporation of the former Kazan Khanate into the Muscovite state over the period 1552-1671 --Tsar Ivan IV's conquest of the Kazan Khanate in 1552 is traditionally considered one of the great achievements of his reign and a mark of Muscovy's emergence as a multinational empire. It has also been recognized as an important event in world history, for by annexing Kazan and the neighboring Astrakhan Khanate (1556), Muscovy took control of the entire course of the Volga and drove a wedge between the Ottomans and their Sunni co-religionists beyond the Caspian. From this point on, Orthodox Christian Russia began in earnest the campaign of rolling back Muslim Turkic nomad power from the Inner Eurasian steppe. The Kazan region later played an important role in Russian history as the theater of the 1671 Razin Revolt. Matthew Romaniello therefore takes 1552-1671 as the time frame for his study of the incorporation and final pacification of the Kazan territory-"the bookends of the story of Muscovy's absorption of the Middle Volga Region" (5).

Military conflict between the Grand Principality of Moscow and the Khanate of Kazan began soon after the khanate's founding in 1438 by Ulug Muhammad. Kazan was politically brittle, in that there were cultural and religious divisions between its Finno-Ugric rural population (Chuvash, Mordvin, Cheremis, Votiaks) and its Muslim Tatar nobility, as well as factional polarizations within the latter. This allowed the Moscow grand princes to place puppet rulers on Kazan's throne three times (Muhammad-amin and Shah Ali, in 1487, 1518, 1521) and to claim Kazan as their protectorate. But protectorate or direct sovereignty over Kazan was also sought by the Girei khans of Crimea, and the danger to Moscow from Kazan increased significantly in 1532-51, when Crimean Khan Sahib Girei established a closer alliance with the Ottoman sultan and consolidated his nephew Safa Girei's hold on the Kazan throne. Kazan forces undertook major campaigns against Muscovy in 1536-37 and 1545, convincing Tsar Ivan IV to find a lasting resolution of the Kazan problem. (2) The tsar's resumed efforts to place Shah Ali, the tsarevich of Kasimov, on Kazan's throne provoked a civil war between Kazan's pro-Moscow and pro-Crimean noble factions, and this was followed by the dispatch of a large Muscovite army to the Middle Volga in 1552.

Romaniello treats the Muscovite conquest of Kazan as an incremental process occurring over four decades. In contrast to the preceding Muscovite campaigns against Kazan, Ivan IV's campaign of "conquest" in 1552 brought quick and decisive victory in the sense that the military overthrow of the Kazan Khanate was achieved in just a few weeks, the noble faction supporting Girei candidates for the Kazan throne was soundly defeated, and the tsar's sovereignty was politically cemented as well as symbolically asserted by the installation of a Muscovite vicegerent. …

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