Simeon Bekbulatovich and Mongol Influence on Ivan IV’s Muscovy

in Russian History
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Donald Ostrowski’s article “Simeon Bekbulatovich’s Remarkable Career as Tatar Khan, Grand Prince of Rus’, and Monastic Elder” is a masterful summary of the sources and scholarly works which discuss Simeon’s career. However, Ostrowski does not consistently apply the principles of source criticism to his sources, mention sources which we would expect to refer to Simeon but do not, discuss popular views of Simeon, or put scholarly theories of Ivan’s motives in abdicating and elevating Simeon to the throne into the context of their author’s views of Ivan or Mongol influence on Russia. Ostrowski’s theory that Ivan, according to Imperial envoy Daniel Printz’s assertion, was responding to a boyar plot to replace him with Devlet-Girei, Khan of the Crimea, fails to take into account such facts as that Devlet-Girei was a Muslim. Nor does Ostrowski integrate his theory of Simeon’s installation into his own theory of Mongol influence on Russia or his diverse observations on the conception of the Muscovite tsar’ as a khan, by Ivan and the Muscovite elite. In fact Ostrowski’s conclusions on Mongol institutional and social influence can be contested. It may be more likely that by his role-reversal with Simeon, Ivan was just satirizing his own autocratic pretensions, as epitomized in his famous “petition” to Simeon that he be granted the right to establish his own appanage.

Simeon Bekbulatovich and Mongol Influence on Ivan IV’s Muscovy

in Russian History



Donald Ostrowski“The Extraordinary Career of Tsarevich Kudai Kul/Peter in the Context of Relations between Muscovy and Kazan’,” in States Societies Cultures: East and West: Essays in Honor of Jaroslaw Pelenskiedited by Janusz Duzinkiewicz Myroslav Popovych Vladyslav Verstiuk and Natalia Yakovenko (New York: Ross Publishing2004) 697–719.


Nikolai Mikhailovich RogozhinPosol’skie knigi Rossii kontsa XV—nachala XVII vv. (Moscow: Rossiiskaia Akademiia Nauk, Institut Rossiisskoi Istorii1994) 131; Boris Nikolaevich Floria Russko-pol’skie otnosheniia i politicheskoe razvitie Vostochnoi Evropy vo vtoroi polovine XVI—nachale XVII v. (Moscow: Nauka 1978) 93-119.


Dmitrii Mikhailovich VolodikhinIvan Groznyi. Bich Bozhii (Moscow: Veche2006) 176 which Ostrowski quotes notes Simeon’s absence in the diplomatic books.


Iurii Moiseevich EskinMestnichestvo v Rossii XVI-XVII vv. Khronologicheskii reestr (Moscow: Arkheograficheskii tsentr1994) 61-62 no. 220-32.


For exampleRazriadnaia kniga 1474-1598 gg. (Moscow: Nauka1966) 259-71 for 7084 (1 September 1575 to 31 August 1576). I infer that the references to decisions by Ivan and Tsarevich Ivan predated Simeon’s appointment.


 For example ibid. 258 (7083) 277 (7085).


Nancy Shields Kollmann“Muscovite Russia, 1450-1598,” in Russia: A Historyed. Gregory Freeze (Oxford: Oxford University Press2009) 31-62. Simeon’s term as Grand Prince of All Rus’ is however included in the “Chronology” 541.


Charles J. Halperin“Ivan IV’s Insanity,” Russian History34 no. 1-4 (2007): 207-18. In private correspondence Professor de Madariaga expressed the opinion that I had misrepresented her conclusions. She does not believe homosexuality or sadism are symptoms of mental illness; because mental illness is real she does not accept the notion that it is a social construct; and even if Ivan’s actions were caused by involuntary mental illness he was still morally responsible because during his intermittent moments of lucidity he did not admit his crimes.


Isabel de MadariagaIvan the Terrible. First Tsar of Russia (New Haven: Yale University Press2005) 300.


Ostrowski“The Extraordinary Career of Tsarevich Kudai Kul/Peter” 709.


OstrowskiMuscovy and the Mongols182; idem “Muscovite Adaptation of Mongol/Tatar Political Institutions: A Reply to Halperin’s Objections” [hereafter Ostrowski “Reply”] Kritika 1 no. 2 (2000): 267-304 here 274.


Aleksei Vladimirovich VinogradovRussko-Krymskie otnosheniia 50-e—vtoraia polovina 70-kh godov XVI vekav. I-II (Moscow: Institut Rossiiskoi istorii RAN 2007).


 See Donald Ostrowski“The Mongol Origin of Muscovite Political Institutions,” Slavic Review 49 no. 4 (Winter 1990): 525-42 here 537-39; idem “Muscovite Adaptation of Mongol/Tatar Political Institutions”; idem “The Military Land Grant Along the Muslim-Christian Frontier” Russian History 19 (1992): 327-59; idem Muscovy and the Mongols; idem “Reply”; idem “Early Pomest’e Grants as a Historical Source” Oxford Slavonic Papers 32 (2000): 36-63; idem “The Extraordinary Career of Tsarevich Kudai Kul/Peter”; idem “The Façade of Legitimacy: Exchange of Power & Authority in Early Modern Russia” Comparative Studies in Society and History 44 no. 3 (July 2002): 534-63; and idem “The Assembly of the Land (Zemskii sobor) as a Representative Institution” in Modernizing Muscovy: Reform and Social Change in Seventeenth-Century Russia ed. Jarmo Kotilaine and Marshall Poe (London: Routledge Curzon 2004) 117-41.


Charles J. Halperin“Muscovite Political Institutions in the Fourteenth Century,” Kritika 1 no. 2 (Spring 2000): 237-57 and “Letter to the Editors” ibid 1 no. 4 (Fall 2000): 831; idem “Ivan IV and Chinggis Khan” Jahrbücher für Geschichte Osteuropas 51 no. 4 (2003): 481-97; idem “Vymyshlennoe rodstvo: 68-71 [an abbreviated Russian translation of an unpublished article in English “Muscovy as a Successor State of the Golden Horde.” The translation lent the article a distinctly Great Russian chauvinist tone for which it was justly criticized by István Vásáry “Halperin on Russia and the Golden Horde” (review article of Halperin Russia and the Mongols and Halperin The Tatar Yoke: The Image of the Mongols in Medieval Russia. Corrected Edition. Bloomington IN: Slavica Publishers Inc. 2009) Archivum Eurasiae Medii Aevi 17 (2010): 285-93 here 291].


Ostrowski“Muscovite Adaptation of Mongol/Tatar Political Institutions” 289-91.


Thomas T. Allsen“Technologies of Governance in the Mongolian Empire: A Geographic Review,” in Imperial Statecraft: Political Forms and Techniques of Governance in Inner Asia Sixth to Twentieth Centuriesed. David Sneath assistant ed. Libby Peachey (Bellingham, Washington: Center for East Asian Studies, Western Washington University, for the Mongolia and Inner Asia Studies Unit, University of Cambridge2006) 117-40 argues that geographically Rus’ should be likened to other peoples conquered by the Mongols north of the steppe characterized by scattered population poor agriculture and extracted forest products such as the Peoples of the Forest the Qirghiz Buryats Jurchens and Bulgars.


Thomas T. AllsenMongol Imperialism: The Policies of the Grand Qan Mongke in China Russia and the Islamic Lands 1251-1259 (Berkeley: University of California Press1987); Elizabeth Endicott-West Mongolian Rule in China: Local Administration in the Yuan Empire (Cambridge: Council on East Asian Studies Harvard University and Harvard-Yenching Institute 1989); and Michael C. Brose Subjects and Masters: Uyghurs in the Mongol Empire (Bellingham: Western Washington University Press 2007) . See also two papers presented at a panel “Political Elites in the Mongol Empire” at the Central Eurasian Studies Conference 18 September 2011 Columbus OH Ruth Dunnell “Tangut Martial Families in Gansu under the Yuan Dynasty 13th-14th Centuries” and Anne Broadbridge “Imperial Women in the Mongol Empire” both cited with the kind permission of the authors.


Ostrowski“The Mongol Origin of Muscovite Political Institutions” 538-39.


OstrowskiMuscovy and the Mongols47-48 104 192-97. I think Ostrowski exaggerates the importance of Prince Mikhail Cherkasskii’s Tatar mother; Cherkasskii was a Circassian and Ivan’s brother-in-law. Ostrowski does not provide a reference for the assertion that the Nagoi clan was of Tatar descent. The Nagoi clan is not mentioned in the partial list of Muscovite clans of Tatar descent in Nikolai Aleksandrovich Baskakov “Russkie familii tiurskogo proiskhozhdeniia” in Onomastika (Moscow: Nauka 1969) 5-26. In his comprehensive Russkie familii tiurskogo proiskhozhdeniia 2nd ed. (Moscow: Mishel’ 1993) “Nagoi” is listed among nicknames of Russian linguistic origin (36) and not included in the catalogue of “Russian family names / families” of Turkic origin. However Baskakov derives the patronymic Nagaev from the Turco-Mongol name “Nagai” from the Mongol “noxaj” for dog (158) which confuses his distinction between the Russian nagoi and the Mongol nogai (the name of myriarch Nogai (122)). István Vásáry “Clans of Tatar descent in the Muscovite elite of the 14th –16th centuries” in Gyula Szvák ed. The Place of Russia in Eurasia (Budapest: Magyar Ruszisztikai Intézet 2001) 101-13 reprinted in Vásáry Turks Tatars and Russians Thirteenth to Seventeenth Centuries (Ashgate: Variorum 2007) XX does not mention the Nagoi clan and his monograph on the subject has not yet appeared. V. N. Bochkov “‘Legend’ o vyezde dvorianskikh rodov” Arkheograficheskii ezhegodnik za 1969 (1971) 73-93 here 81 citing Letopis’ Istoriko-rodoslovnogo obshchestva v Moskve 1915 317 treats as credible a “legend” (his quotation marks) ascribing Danish origin to the Nagoi clan.


OstrowskiMuscovy and the Mongols21 185-86.


Ostrowski“The Extraordinary Career of Tsarevich Kudai Kul/Peter” 709.


Ostrowski“The Façade of Legitimacy” 553-54.


Charles J. HalperinRussia and the Golden Horde: The Mongol Impact on Medieval Russian History (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press1985) 110-14. On the Glinskii genealogy see Halperin “Ivan IV and Chinggis Khan” 482 n. 7.


Charles J. Halperin“The Culture of Ivan IV’s Court: The Religious Beliefs of Bureaucrats,” in The New Muscovite Cultural History: A Collection in Honor of Daniel B. Rowlanded. Valerie Kivelson Karen Petrone Nancy Kollmann and Michael Flier (Bloomington, IN: Slavica Publishers, Inc.2009) 93-105.


HalperinRussia and the Golden Horde93.


Ostrowski“The Assembly of the Land” 132-33.


Charles J. Halperin“The Concept of the Russian Land from the Ninth to the Fourteenth Century,” Russian History 2 no. 1 (1975): 29-38; idem “Tverian Political Thought in the Fifteenth Century” Cahiers du monde russe et soviétique 18 no. 3 (July-September 1977): 267-73; idem “The Concept of the ruskaia zemlia and Medieval National Consciousness from the Tenth to the Fifteenth Centuries” Nationalities Papers 8 no. 1 (Spring 1980): 75-86; and idem“Novgorod and the ‘Novgorodian Land’” Cahiers du monde russe 40 no. 3 (July-Sept 1999): 345-64.


Charles J. Halperin“The Missing Golden Horde Chronicles and Historiography in the Mongol Empire,” Mongolian Studies 23 (2000): 1-15as reprinted in Halperin Russia and the Mongols 264-76 [the pagination in the “Table of Contents” is in error] here 270-71; Vásáry “Halperin on Russia and the Golden Horde” 289-90.


Cherniavsky Michael“Khan or Basileus” in The Structure of Russian History74.


OstrowskiMuscovy and the Mongols189.

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