This article is devoted to törü—law of the ancient Turks, which later became one of the sources of medieval Mongol law and, eventually, integral to the legal system of the Mongol Empire ruled by Chinggis Khan and his descendants. The post-imperial Chinggisids used törü as a means to reinforce their legitimacy among their Turkic subjects as a ‘privatised’ right to interpret and even create törü regulations. At the same time their Mongolian neighbours used törü mostly as a political (rather than legal) category and did not obtain a monopoly for it, as törü in Mongolia was interpreted as an attribute of supreme power, even when it spread beyond the descendants of Chinggis Khan.
Mikhail Speranskiy, an outstanding Russian statesman and legislator of the first half of the 19th century, was Governor-General of Siberia from 1819 to 1821. The main result of this moment in his career was the government reform in Asiatic Russia as well as the formulation in 1822 of a set of codes – rules and regulations – for Siberia and its peoples. Speranskiy tried to incorporate his theories on state and law into these codifications. One of these codes was the Rules on the Siberian Kirghiz which provided for a reform of the government system of the Kazakhs (‘Kirghiz’ in the Russian pre-revolutionary tradition) of the Middle Horde, who were under the control of Siberian regional authorities. The Middle Horde became a place where Speranskiy could experiment with his ideas. Previous researchers have paid more attention to the consequences of the promulgation of the ‘Rules on the Siberian Kirghiz’ for the later history of Kazakhstan. This paper clarifies which specific ideas of Speranskiy on state and law the Rules on the Siberian Kirghiz reflect, and answers the question of whether they had practical importance. A substantial part of the ‘Rules on the Siberian Kirghiz’ was, in fact, ineffective and would not be used in practice because of Speranskiy’s lack of knowledge of the Kazakhs, and his underrating of their political and legal level. At the same time, the authority of Speranskiy in 19th century Russia as legislator and reformer was so high that his Rules on the Siberian Kirghiz remained in force until the 1860’s, when the next substantial administrative reforms of the Kazakh steppe took place.