The Fate of Khan Kuchum and His Descendants during the Crisis of Nomadic Statehood
Keywords:Kuchum; Kuchumovichy; Siberian Tatars; Oirats; 16th- and 17th-century Russian state
The work by V. V. Trepavlov and A. V. Belyakov is the first complex and comprehensive study of the history of Khan Kuchum and his descendants’ steppe exile. It is also the first collective portrait of the representatives of the Kuchumovichy who found themselves in the Russian state. The first part of the book carries out a thorough analysis of the nomadic lifestyle of Kuchum and his descendants, and their armed raid of Yasaq and Russian settlements in Siberia in the late 16th and 17th centuries. The second part of the book considers the genealogy, everyday life, and services of the Kuchumovichy in the Russian state. The work done by the authors makes it possible to characterise the monograph as a fundamental study and an important stage in the historiography of the ethnopolitical history of Siberian Tatars. However, like any outstanding work, the monograph gives rise to a number of controversial questions related to further research strategies. The fact that the authors do not analyse Kuchum and his descendants’ foreign policy and armed raids through the prism of history and law makes it doubtful that the period in question can be characterised as a “guerilla war” or that the term “war” can be applied to the sporadic raids of steppe nomads at all. Additionally, the authors do not pay enough attention to the analysis of Kuchum and his descendants’ sovereign rights. Also, Belyakov’s characteristic of the Kuchumovichy as “superfluous men” is debatable. Indeed, his research testifies to the fact that Kuchum’s descendants were treated humanely in the Russian state. Finally, Belyakov maintains that the Genghisid automatically attracted Muslims to Russia, which allows researchers to presume that the high status and material support provided to them were a means to ensure the territorial unity of the multiethnic and multi-religious Russian state.