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  • To the Editors
  • Charles J. Halperin and Donald Ostrowski

There is a good deal I could say about Donald Ostrowski's 30-page reply to my 20-page critique of some of his conclusions concerning Muscovite borrowing of Mongol institutions in Kritika 1: 2 ("Forum: Muscovy and the Mongols": Charles J. Halperin, "Muscovite Political Institutions in the 14th Century," 237–57; Donald Ostrowski, "Muscovite Adaptation of Mongol/Tatar Political Institutions: A Reply to Halperin's Objections," 267–97), most of which will have to await a suitable venue; I still remain, need I say, skeptical. For now I believe that it would be more productive for the readers of Kritika for me to supplement David Goldfrank's enumeration in that same Forum (David Goldfrank, "Muscovy and the Mongols: What's What and What's Maybe," 269, n. 1) of reviews of Ostrowski's Muscovy and the Mongols: Cross-Cultural Influences on the Steppe Frontier (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1998). Additional reviews appeared by Roger Collins, History 85: 277 (2000), 129–30; Peter Jackson, Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies 62: 3 (1999), 588–89; David O. Morgan, English Historical Review 114: 459 (1999), 1295–96; Thomas T. Allsen, Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society 9: 2 (1999), 301–03; Jean Richard, Le moyen age 105: 1 (219–20); Maria V. Unkovskaya, Slavonic and East European Review 77: 2 (1999), 337–38; and, on-line, by Daniel C. Waugh on The Medieval Review (, 15 March 1999, 1–7. Significantly, the three specialists on the history of the Mongol empire all criticize Ostrowki's claim that the Mongol empire had a "dual administration" separating military and civilian functions. Jackson points out that the roots of the Turkic term basqaq, bas-, and of the Mongol term darugachi, daru-, both mean "to press," which he describes as "inconvenient" for Ostrowski's argument that they are not simply different words for the same office, but two different offices, one military, the other civilian. Morgan moderately observes that "not everyone is persuaded" of the existence of the "dual administation." Allsen begins by insisting that the Mongol appanages in North China derive from nomadic practice, not, as Ostrowski asserts, from imitation of the Islamic iqta. Allsen goes on to declare that the Mongols did not copy the Chinese "dual-administrative" organization because they avoided clear-cut separation of power, invoking the same etymological objection about the words basqaq and darugachi as Jackson. Allsen clinches his objections by noting that Chinese scholar-officials complained that the Mongols did not distinguish between civilian and military affairs. Applying Ostrowski's "principle of uniformity," if the Mongol empire did not segregate military and civilian [End Page 830] functions, then neither did the Qipchaq Khanate, and the Muscovites could not possibly have imitated a practice unknown to the Horde. But then again, I already thought that Ostrowski had successfully refuted his own theory on this point. Finally, Ostrowski concentrates so much on his "principle of uniformity" that he neglects the equally significant unique aspects of each successor state of the Mongol empire, especially those which resulted from their differing ecological requirements. Thus, he dismisses the notion that the Qipchaq Khanate did not garrison the East Slavic forest zone – as the Yuan did China or the Ilkhanate Iran – because it could maintain troops in the Pontic and Caspian steppe with easy access to their East Slavic subjects, opining that "such an arrangement hardly seems likely," to my knowledge his first direct statement on this salient feature of Tatar rule. Yet in every case of East Slavic opposition to the Tatars, Tatar officials either relied upon East Slavic princes or summoned punitive troops from the steppe. Until Ostrowski finds a single piece of written or acheological evidence to substanstiate the presence of Mongol garrisons in Rus', his a priori theorizing will remain unconvincing.

Donald Ostrowski replies:

Charles Halperin has been giving my work a thorough critique, and I am genuinely appreciative of that, for he has certainly pointed out a number of improvements for me to make. Like a good coach and exacting taskmaster, Halperin has spurred me on to explore further the...


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