Simeon Bekbulatovich and Steppe Politics: Some Thoughts on Donald Ostrowski’s Interpretation of the Tsar’s Remarkable Career

in Russian History
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Donald Ostrowski proposes that Ivan IV made Simeon Bekbulatovich the grand prince of all Rus’ in order to thwart a conspiracy aimed at replacing Ivan with the Crimean khan. Ostrowski invokes the theory of steppe politics, which includes the principle that only Chinggisids could hold the title of tsar, to explain and support his hypothesis. A review of the practice of steppe politics in the decades preceding 1575, however, reveals that the rivalries among competing branches of the Chinggisid dynasty and the bases for Crimean hostility toward Muscovy make it unlikely that Ivan could have effectively preempted the presumed coup by yielding his throne to Simeon Bekbulatovich. This observation suggests that the theory of steppe politics does not offer a satisfactory explanation for the appointment of Simeon to the position of grand prince of all Rus’.

Simeon Bekbulatovich and Steppe Politics: Some Thoughts on Donald Ostrowski’s Interpretation of the Tsar’s Remarkable Career

in Russian History



Donald Ostrowski“The Mongol Origins of Muscovite Political Institutions,” Slavic Review 49 no. 4 (Winter 1990) 525-42 and Muscovy and the Mongols. Cross-Cultural Influences on the Steppe Frontier 1304-1589 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1998) 36-63 178-87.


Keenan“Muscovy and Kazan” 556.


Martin“Muscovite Relations” 444-45; Khodarkovsky “Taming” 249 253.


Bulat RakhimzianovKasimovskoe khanstvo (1445-1552 gg.). Ocherki istorii (Kazan’: Tatarskoe knizhnoe izdatel’stvo2009) 139 194 196; V. V. Veliaminov-Zernov Izsledovanie o Kasimovskikh tsariakh i tsarevichakh 2 vols. (St. Petersburg: Imperatorskaia Akademiia Nauk 1863 1864) 1: 217-46.


Khodarkovsky“Taming” 264; Rakhimzianov Kasimovskoe khanstvo 139.


Martin“Muscovite Relations” 449-50; Khodarkovsky “Taming” 266-67; Rakhimzianov Kasimovskoe khanstvo 142-143.


Vel’iaminov-ZernovIzsledovanie2:10-11; A. A. Zimin “Ivan Groznyi i Simeon Bekbulatovich v 1575 g.” Iz istorii Tatarii vol 4 in Uchenye zapiski Kazanskogo gosudarstvennogo pedagogicheskogo instituta 80 (1970): 149; Vernadsky “Ivan Groznyi i Simeon Bekbulatovich” 2141.


Zimin“Ivan Groznyi i Simeon Bekbulatovich” 144.


V. I. Buganov“Dokumenty o srazhenii pri Molodiakh v 1572 g.,” Istoricheskii arkhiv no.4 (1959): 182; N. M. Rogozhin Posol’skie knigi Rossii kontsa XV-nachala XVII vv. (Moscow: Rossiiskaia akademiia nauk 1994) 41.

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