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Reviewed by:
  • Moskva i Orda
  • Donald Ostrowski
Anton Anatol’evich Gorskii , Moskva i Orda [Moscow and the Horde]. Moscow: Nauka, 2000. 213 pp. ISBN 5-02-01-0202-4.

The interpretive paradigm, or framework, that has most influenced scholarly understanding of Russian-steppe relations has been the Russian nationalist one, which emphasizes the destructiveness of the steppe pastoralists in relation to sedentary Russians. In this paradigm, the Mongols/Tatars are seen as rapacious belligerents and foreign oppressors from whom the Russians, with their center in Moscow, needed to liberate themselves. This view is grounded in the earlier anti-Tatar ideology of the Russian Orthodox Church, which described a "Tatar yoke" as having descended on the Russian principalities from 1238 to 1480. The Russian nationalist paradigm denies any influence of the Mongols /Tatars on the Russians; or, if it does see any influence, it is a negative and destructive one as foreign oppressors of the Great Russian ethnos.

The author under review here comes from the Russian nationalist tradition, but he rejects the more extreme assertions of that paradigm. In this ambitious study, A. A. Gorskii focuses specifically on Moscow's relations with what he calls the Orda. He eschews the term "Golden Horde" as anachronistic and prefers the term that was used in the Russian sources of the time. This term might more properly be rendered into English as Ordu, the Turkic source word, which means camp, palace, or capital but was applied in Russian sources to the Qipchaq Khanate as a whole. Such attention to terminology is an improvement on the traditional Russian nationalist approach, which invariably calls the Qipchaq Khanate the "Golden Horde" (Zolotaia Orda) and pays little attention to the question of appropriateness of historical terms in relation to the primary sources.

Gorskii's justification for writing this book is the absence of any specialized study that deals with Moscow-Ordu political relations from the 13th through the 15th centuries. Instead, he asserts that previous specialized studies have dealt only with the Kulikovo battle in 1380 and the encounter with Akhmed at the Ugra River in 1480 (4-5). He distinguishes what he calls "specialized studies" from other works that cover the topic but do so within the context of (a) Russian history as a whole (such as Karamzin, Solov´ev, and Platonov); (b) the history of Northeastern Rus´ (Presniakov, Fennell, Nitsche, and Crummey); (c) the history of the Ordu (Spuler, Grekov and Iakubovskii, and Safargaliev); or (d) Russian-Ordu relations and international relations in Eastern Europe (Nasonov, [End Page 383] Vernadsky, Silfen, Halperin, Hartog, Kniaz´kii, and Kargalov). This last distinction may be an overly fine one, because in the Russian nationalist paradigm, "Russia" of this period is considered to be more or less equivalent to Moscow, with very little attention paid to the other Rus´ principalities.

It is to Gorskii's credit that he cites and actively engages in his text the works of non-"Russian" historians.1 Nonetheless, Gorskii's inability to free himself completely from the Russian nationalist framework is manifested in his treatment (or non-treatment) of certain topics. For example, he does not deal with the issue of possible cross-cultural political borrowings. The Russians are the Russians and the Tatars are the Tatars from the beginning of their interaction, so the possibility of one having any influence on the other or of the Rus´ princes seeing themselves as part of the Mongol empire is alien to his scheme. For him, the only question worth considering in this regard is why the Muscovite grand princes did not rebel against the Tatars sooner. He attributes the absence of rebellion to a "psychological barrier," a kind of blind spot, when it came to dealing with the Tatar khans. Gorskii resorts to a psychological explanation because the possibility that the Muscovite grand princes were not thinking in modern nationalist terms is not a consideration. But it is likely that the Muscovite grand princes identified less with the Russian peasants, townspeople, craftsmen, artisans, and merchants over whom they held sway than with their Tatar overlords. Their goal in getting out from under Tatar suzerainty was to emulate their suzerains more closely by becoming independent suzerains...


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pp. 383-385
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