Thursday, October 10, 2013

Window on Eurasia: Putin’s Russia a Descendent of Mongol Khans, Khakass Historian Argues

Paul Goble

            Staunton, October 10 – Russian statehood today is the direct and logical successor of the political system set up by the Mongol khans, according to a new book by a Khakass historian that systematizes arguments others have made on this point earlier but in a way that has sparked a sharp debate in the Russian blogosphere.

            A major reason for that is that its author is a member of a Turkic nationality which descends from the Golden Horde. In that, he resembles the Kazakh Olzhas Suleymanov, whose 1976 volume “Az i Ya,” a study of the Mongol conquest from the Mongol rather than the Russian perspective, generated so much controversy earlier

            Last spring, Gennady Tyundeshev (Kharlamoos), a scholar at the Institute of History and Law at Khakhas State University, published a  book entitled The Great Khan Baty – Founder of Russian Statehood (in Russian; Minusinsk, 2013; ISBN 978-5-9903950; 1000 copies; partial text available at

            Tyundeshev argues, according to the Tolkovatel blog, that “the administration of Russia up to now is carried out according to a System set up in the Golden Horde” and that this involves a combination of the values of “Confucian legality” and “submission to the Boss” (

            At one level, the Khakass historian only “systematizes” a perspective that has been popularized in recent decades by the Eurasianists, but his downplaying of the Kiyevan Rus elements in the Russian state and his assertion that the Golden “exists to this day” in the form of the Russian state has angered many.

            Like Suleymanov but far more explicitly, Tyundshev says that this Mongol background of the Russian state is reflected in a variety of government-related terms – deng’i being only the most prominent and political arrangements – such as a denigration of law -- that remain prominent aspects of Russian reality.

            “The Russian (Muscovite) proto-state was only part of the Horde,” he suggests, and it existed alongside the Crimean, Kazan, and Astrakhan khanate and the Uzbek ulus, “on the ruins of which arose the Nogay Horde, the Kazakh and Siberian states on the Tobol and the Khivan khanate.”

            De jure,” Tyundeshev points out, “Russia finally came out from under the control of the Horde only at the beginning of the 18th century” when Peter I stopped paying tribute to the Crimean khanate, a matter of historical record but something that few Russian nationalist historians choose to stress.

            Moreover, he continues, Moscow for centuries relied on the Golden Horde for spiritual and military support in its wars with various European states, including Sweden, Germany’s Teutonic knights, Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, Hungary, Galician Rus, Volhynia, and other states.

            Thus, Aleksandr Nevsky’s alliance with the Mongols against the Teutonic knights was not something forced and exceptional as Russian historians insist but rather a step that was consistent with Moscow’s policy in favor of “a symbiosis with the Golden Horde,” a reality highlighted by popular support for his choice and veneration of him as a Russian saint.

            Viewed from this perspective, it is clear, Tyundeshev argues, “present-day Russia was formed not on the basis of Kievan Rus … not in competition within the hordes … but as an organic part of the Golden Horde” and its traditions, a sharp contrast to the state formations around Suzdal, Vladimir and Novgorod.

            Commenting on Tyundeshev’s book, Tolkovatel says that the Khakass writer makes it clear that “elements of statehood typical of the horde not only have survived down to Putin’s ‘power vertical’ and ‘sovereign statehood’ but even have become its foundation” and a major reason for its vitality.

            Tyundeshev stresses that the horde in contrast to European states denigrated law as a basis of political organization, and it is from this that has emerged “the principle distinction between Russia and the West,” one in which the West has sought “to organize life on legal foundations” while “Russia has preferred to those order based on moral principles.”

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