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Introduction Once, while analyzing the contributions to early Muscovite ideology of a variety of Old Russian literary works, I made an interesting discovery. All scholarship on the subject notwithstanding, the works recounting the Battle of Kulikovo Field (in which, in 1380, Grand Prince Dmitrii Donskoi of Moscow defeated Emir Mamai of the Golden Horde) did not celebrate the occasion as Russia’s liberation from the Tatar Yoke. The sources hailed the military victory without mentioning its consequences for the suzerainty of Russia. I also encountered a further curiosity in the course of my research. The Russian chronicles often defended Muscovite political actions in terms of Chingissid legitimacy. They appeared both to endorse and exploit the principle that only Chingis Khan’s direct descendants were entitled to the throne of the Golden Horde.1 This latter observation was simply an extension of Michael Cherniavsky ’s insight concerning the Russian sources’ use of the same word, tsar´, to translate both the Byzantine basileus and the Mongol khan. Cherniavsky pointed out that this was ideologically significant, since the term tsar´ implicitly accorded Russia’s Mongol ruler the same legitimacy as the Byzantine emperor.2 This research suggested that close textual reading would reveal two things. First, it would show that students of the Mongol period have allowed anachronistic modern concepts to embellish their reading of the medieval sources, an example being the widespread assumption that the Kulikovo Cycle applauds the demise of the Tatar Yoke. Second, it would reveal that at the same time scholars have overlooked much information that the sources do contain concerning Russia’s relationship with the Mongols, such as the implications of Muscovite respect for the Chingissid principle. It seemed necessary to reassess the entire corpus of medieval Russian source material on the 1 Charles J. Halperin, “The Russian Land and the Russian Tsar. The Emergence of Muscovite Ideology, 1380–1408,” dissertation, Columbia University, 1973, revised and published under the same title in the Forschungen zur osteuropäischen Gcschichte, 23 (1976), pp. 7–103. 2 Michael Cherniavsky, “Khan or Basileus: An Aspect of Russian Medieval Political Theory,” Journal of the History of Ideas, XX (1959), pp. 459–76, reprinted in Cherniavsky , ed., The Structure of Russian History (New York, 1970), pp. 65–79. 2 THE TATAR YOKE Tatars with greater concern for literal meaning, but also with increased sensitivity to the kind of information about Russo-Tatar relations that was masked behind the relentlessly religious and patriotic stance of the contemporary literature. These concerns animated some of my subsequent research. I found proof of a detailed appreciation of Chingissid genealogy in a provincial Rostov monastery.3 Travelers’ descriptions of sixteenth-century Muscovy as “Asiatic” I dismissed as prejudiced.4 I began to focus on the problem of Russia and the Mongols. Not only did accounts of the events of 1380 not proclaim Russia’s freedom, but the tales of the Tatar conquest turned out not to express the concept of conquest. This was difficult to reconcile with Russia’s later ideological exaltation of the conquering Chingissid dynasty.5 I found suggestive the complicated pattern of interaction between the Inner Asian Turkic Bulgars and the Slavic population of the Balkans during the First Bulgarian Empire.6 And I started to argue against a Eurocentric approach to the Mongol period of Russian history as a whole.7 At this point I resolved to undertake a comprehensive analysis of the Mongol problem. My object in this book is to analyze precisely how the medieval Russian sources present the Tatars. My methodology is explication de texte, neither novel nor controversial. There are, however, two absolute prerequisites to a meaningful interpretation of a text. We must study the origin, evolution, and reliability of the text itself, and we must explore the political, economic, social , and cultural contexts which give meaning to the intellectual content. The former task is rightfully the province of textology. Soviet scholars in particular have devoted their considerable energies and erudition to tracing the literary histories of those medieval Russian chronicles and monuments of Old Russian literature which are the source base for any analysis of Russo-Tatar relations. There is a continuing debate within Soviet scholarship concerning the methodological legacy of A. A. Shakhmatov, whose comparative method 3 Halperin, “A Chingissid Saint of the Russian Orthodox Church: The ‘Life of Peter, tsarevich of the Horde,’” Canadian-American Slavic Studies, 9:3 (Fall, 1975), pp. 324–35. 4 Halperin, “Sixteenth-Century Foreign Travel Accounts to Muscovy: A Methodological Excursus,” The Sixteenth...


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