Discuss the Historical Significance of the 1552-6 Annexation of the khanates of Kazan and Astrakhan by Ivan IV (the Terrible)

This essay achieved a low 1st in the second year of my undergraduate.

Discuss the historical significance of the 1552-1556 annexation of the khanates of Kazan and Astrakhan by Ivan IV (Ivan the Terrible).

The years 1552-1556 arguably marked a significant turning point in the history of the Muscovite state; the events which took place had an impact beyond the borders of the newfound Muscovite empire, and throughout Eurasia. [1] [2] While it is possible to draw an argument together that the annexations themselves were not important, due to the fact that Muscovy essentially controlled Kazan prior to 1552, Pelenski has strongly discredited this conjecture.[3] The significance of the conquest of the two khanates can be broadly divided into topics: the strategic-military impacts, the religious significance, the economy, as well as the growth in the prestige of the Muscovite state and monarch, the imperialist connotations, and the important legacy of this initial expansion. What can be drawn from all of these is that the annexation of certainly the khanate of Kazan but also to an extent Astrakhan must be considered historically significant in not just the history of Muscovy and Russia, but also that of Eurasia.

The argument against the significance of the annexation itself is based on the fact that Muscovy already considered itself the ‘kingmaker’ in Kazan,[4] although when this realisation came about is the subject of some debate. Most historians point to 1487, when Ivan III successfully intervened in a succession struggle in Kazan,[5] but Pritsak challenges this, stating that 1512 and the conferences between Vasilii III and Queen Dowager Nur Sultan in which the khanate of Kasimov was relinquished were a more important turning point in relations.[6] Bartlett also points out this fact; that Muscovy already had Tatar servitors.[7] From this evidence, one could argue that the annexation was not in fact too significant, because Muscovy essentially already controlled what happened in Kazan, so the annexation was only a confirmation of what was already a reality.

To this argument however, there are two major counters. The first is put forward by Pelenski, who argues that in the first half of the sixteenth century, there were nearly forty years when the khanate of Kazan functioned as an independent country, and substantiates this with the fact that the titles ‘Tsar of Kazan’ and ‘Tsar of Astrakhan’ were not among Ivan IV’s prior to the final subjugation in 1552 and 1556 respectively.[8] As well as this, one must question the significance of even a confirmatory annexation in terms of the  international prestige it garnered for both the Muscovite monarch, and the state in general, a question which will be explored later.

The significance the annexations had militarily may probably be considered the simplest, but this by no means diminishes their importance. Perhaps less important, the fall of the khanates put a halt by and large to the incessant Tatar raiding, something made possible only by the complete conquest of the khanates.[9] Raiding had been one of the primary supports for the Tatar economy, so simply controlling who was Khan would not have been enough to halt raids.[10] More significantly, the conquest of the khanates provided a measure of defence against the southern Crimean Khanate, and Lithuania, as it meant that the entire eastern flank of the Muscovite territory was secured.[11] The position that Astrakhan in particular occupied meant also that the Crimean Tatars were cut off from the steppe,[12] and the fact that Muscovy came to control the Volga waterway made it difficult for the Crimean Khanate to invade.[13]

Many historians have also identified the religious importance of the conquest of the two khanates. Contemporaries, such as Metropolitan Macarius, presented the struggle as that between Orthodox Christianity and Islam rather than anything else, considering it more of a crusade.[14] This meant that, when Muscovy was eventually victorious, it added a religious dimension to the conquest: it was considered a great victory of Orthodoxy over Islam.[15] Platonov and Andreyev even go so far as to say that it was the first victory of Christianity over Islam, of Europe over Asia.[16] While this may be a stretch, it does emphasize just how significant the victory was considered by contemporaries. The successful conquest also contributed to the legitimisation of Moscow being considered a ‘third Rome,’ when compared to the first and second Romes, which had not really been treated seriously prior.[17] With the annexation of the khanates, Muscovy was able to legitimately consider itself the centre of the Orthodox world.[18] Religious significance was something clearly taken very seriously given the comparisons to Rome and Constantinople, and while important, it should also be considered a contributory factor to the prestige of both the Muscovite monarch and state, which will be addressed later on.

The impact of the annexation of both Kazan and Astrakhan on the Muscovite economy was immeasurable. The massive swathes of fertile land that accompanied the control of the Volga basin obviously made the Muscovite state a good deal more autarkic,[19] and they also meant that the population increased considerably due to the established agricultural, pagan communities of the Mordva, Chuvash, Mari and Udmurts.[20] Alongside this, the Muscovite state gained enormous material wealth in both the short term, and the longer term. With the control of the territories of Kazan and Astrakhan came the control of the Volga fisheries and the Astrakhan salt lakes.[21] Salt in particular at the time was considered a valuable commodity, as shown by the Stroganovs’ pursuit of it later on.[22] In the longer term, the eastward expansion arguably triggered by the conquest led to the gaining of the vast natural wealth of Siberia,[23] something exploited in large part by the fur trade: just over a century after the conquest of the khanates, the state revenues from the fur trade had increased eightfold, to constitute ten per cent of the total.[24]

Perhaps the most significant impact the victories had on the economy was that it had on Muscovite trade. The capture of Kazan and Astrakhan gave Muscovy access to the middle and mouth of the Volga respectively, and combined to give complete control over the entire Volga trade route; and a very lucrative one at that.[25] As well as this, the capture of Astrakhan provided access to the Caspian Sea and the markets of Iran, the North Caucasus and even south Asia.[26] In short, the security of the Volga waterway was crucial in the expansion of Muscovite trade, and this security would not have been possible without the subjugation of both Kazan and Astrakhan.

Potentially the most profound effects of the conquest of the khanates were felt in terms of the international prestige of the Muscovite state and monarch. While ‘prestige’ is seemingly vague, this section will concern only the image of the Muscovite state and that of the office of the monarch. The main way in which the victories aided the monarch of Muscovy was the addition of the two titles: ‘Tsar of Kazan’ and ‘Tsar of Astrakhan,’ which both added a certain degree of status.[27] One other serious effect of these additions was the legitimisation of the new title itself -as a justification for his power- due to the fact that the rulers of the khanates were considered on a level with a tsar.[28] Accompanying these shifts in perception was the fact that the sudden growth from a distinctly Slavic state into a multi-ethnic, diverse empire, causing Muscovites to view themselves differently.[29]

The most important aspect of Muscovite prestige however was the change in how the state was perceived internationally. Pritsak talks about a certain quality that Muscovy needed before it was to be taken seriously in international politics, which he refers to as ‘charisma,’ a quality which the Kazan and Astrakhan, as successor states of the Mongol Empire had.[30] Other historians hint at the same thing, and assert that by conquering the khanates, Muscovy gained a certain measure of their accumulated ‘charisma.’[31] A by-product of this is that the nascent Muscovite Empire came to be considered the successor of the Mongol Empire, by taking over much of the old heartlands of the Golden Horde – Astrakhan was situated not far from the old capital at Sarai.[32]

The possession of this ‘charisma’ as well allowed Moscow to capitalise on the church-led literature which presented Moscow as the natural successor of Vladimir and Kiev.[33] Coupled with the ability to support its claim to be a ‘third Rome’ and the centre of the Orthodox church,[34] this meant that the international perception of Muscovy was significantly strengthened. In short the Muscovite right to rule was established by the conquest of Kazan and Astrakhan, something which provided the confidence required for further expansion.[35] The fact that this changed perception only came about following the annexation would seem to answer the prior argument that it was only confirmatory: even if it was, the conquest shows that the perception of legitimate power was probably more important than actual power.

Potentially the most significant consequence of the subjugation of the khanates were the connotations it had for Muscovy’s imperial development. In the first instance, it gave the Muscovite state practice at integrating a separate, diverse sovereign state, and experience at colonial administration.[36] Kazan in particular proved to be a good model for other largely non-Russian areas, with its large Muslim and pagan populations.[37] As well as being important for the sake of imperialist experience, the acquisition of the land itself was also key,[38] and not just for its economic or prestige value. The fact is that the territories acquired by Muscovy at least in theory with the fall of Kazan and Astrakhan were vast, held significant strategic value, and contained a geopolitically significant network of waterways.[39] It is also important to note that Kazan was an advanced, sovereign state, no longer comprised of nomads, and its defeat was an achievement.[40]

Shortly after the successful conquests, Muscovy began to enjoy control of a certain sphere of influence, within which ‘lesser’ powers acknowledged its supremacy.[41] The most notable of these included the Khan of Siberia, among other lesser Tatar rulers,[42] and the Kabardian Princes of the Caucasus.[43] As well as this, the occupation of Astrakhan and its implications for the Crimean Khanate, noted above, meant that they were forced to acknowledge Muscovite power, even the effect was not quite as cowing as elsewhere.[44]

The area where the conquests had the most significant impact on Muscovite imperial development was undoubtedly in the east. Kazan particularly has been described as the ‘gateway to empire,’[45] with other historians echoing similar sentiments.[46] The general consensus is that this was the most significant consequence of the fall of Kazan and Astrakhan, and one feels compelled to agree. The subjugation of the two khanates meant that no real power remained in the east, and that the way was thus opened for further expansion in that direction.[47] Hosking expands on the argument stating that Muscovite expansion was only halted when it reached the geographical boundary formed by the Pacific Ocean, and the political one formed by China, and that it was simply expansion for the sake of it.[48]

As has been shown then, the annexation of the khanates of Kazan and Astrakhan was indeed historically significant for a whole range of reasons, from military, to religious, economic, prestige and most importantly imperialist. The argument against the significance of the victory is far too simplistic, and seems invalid. While military and religious factors may have been considered crucial by contemporaries, in the larger scheme they in fact paled when compared with the sheer amount of political power, land and resources that were essentially gained with the conquest of Kazan and Astrakhan. Perhaps the best indication of this is that most historians mention the material wealth potential of Siberia, and the change in the perception of the Muscovite state as the most significant consequence of the subjugation of the khanates.[49] When combined with the fact that it took mere decades for the Muscovite state to grow into the largest empire on earth, in the midst of the Time of Troubles,[50] it seems impossible to ignore the crucial significance of the annexation of the khanates of Kazan and Astrakhan between 1552 and 1556 not just for Muscovy and later Russia, but the whole of Eurasia.

Word count (including title): 2,979

[1] A. Kappeler, The Russian Empire: A Multiethnic History (Harlow, 2001), p.21.

[2] H.R. Huttenbach, ‘Muscovy’s Conquest of Muslim Kazan and Astrakhan, 1552-56,’ in ed. M. Rywkin, Russian Colonial Expansion to 1917 (London & New York, 1988), p.45.

[3] J. Pelenski, Russia and Kazan: Conquest and Imperial Ideology (1438-1560s) (The Hague, 1974) p.285.

[4] R. Bartlett, A History of Russia (Basingstoke, 2005), p.54.

[5] D. Miller, ‘Review of Russia and Kazan: Conquest and Imperial Ideology (1438-1560s) by Jaroslaw Pelenski,’ Russian Review 34 (1975), pp.92-3, Pelenski, see O. Pritsak, ‘Moscow, the Golden Horde and the Kazan Khanate from a Polycultural Point of View,’ Slavic Review 26 (1967), p.579, also cited in J. Pelenski, ‘Muscovite Imperial Claims to the Kazan Khanate,’ Slavic Review 26 (1967) pp.559-76: S.M. Solov’ev, Istoriia Rossii s drevneishkikh vremen, III (Moscow, 1960), p.71; K.V. Basilevich, Vneshniaia politika russkogo tsentralizovannogo gosudarstva (Moscow, 1962), p.205; G. Vernadsky, Russia at the Dawn of the Modern Age (New Haven, 1959), p.82.

[6] O. Pritsak, ‘Moscow, the Golden Horde and the Kazan Khanate,’ p.579.

[7] R. Bartlett, A History of Russia, p.54.

[8] J. Pelenski, Russia and Kazan, p.285

[9] E.L. Keenan Jr., ‘Muscovy and Kazan: Some Introductory Remarks on the Patterns of Steppe Diplomacy,’ Slavic Review 26 (1967), p.555, V. Tschebotarioff-Bill, ‘The Circular Frontier of Muscovy,’ Russian Review 9 (1950), pp.50-1, S.F. Platonov, History of Russia (London, 1925), p.128, N. Andreyev, ‘Appanage and Muscovite Russia,’ in eds. R. Auty and D. Obolensky, Companion to Russian Studies vol.1: An Introduction to Russian History (Cambridge, 1976), p.101.

[10] I. Ševčenko, ‘Muscovy’s Conquest of Kazan: Two Views Reconciled,’ Slavic Review 26 (1967), p.543.

[11] H.R. Huttenbach, ‘Muscovy’s Conquest of Muslim Kazan,’ p.62

[12] A. Kappeler, The Russian Empire, p.26

[13] C. Evtuhov, D. Goldfrank, L. Hughes, R. Stites, A History of Russia: Peoples, Legends, Events, Forces (Boston & New York, 2004), p.126.

[14] J. Pelenski, ‘Muscovite Imperial Claims,’ p.571, E. L. Keenan Jr., ‘Muscovy and Kazan,’ p.549, H.R. Huttenbach, ‘Muscovy’s Conquest of Muslim Kazan,’ pp.46-7, I. Ševčenko, ‘Muscovy’s Conquest of Kazan,’ p.544, E.L. Keenan Jr., ‘Muscovy and Kazan,’ p.549.

[15] S. Bogatryev, ‘Reinventing the Russian Monarchy in the 1550s: Ivan the Terrible, the Dynasty and the Church,’ The Slavonic and East European Review 85 (2007), p.279, H.R. Huttenbach, ‘Muscovy’s Conquest of Muslim Kazan,’ p.66.

[16] S.F. Platonov, History of Russia, p.128, N. Andreyev, ‘Appanage and Muscovite Russia,’p.101.

[17] Giles Fletcher (1591), Of the Russe Commonwealth (Cambridge, 1966), p.19, see O. Pritsak, ‘Moscow, the Golden Horde, and the Kazan Khanate,’ p.582.

[18] M. Khodarkovsky, ‘The non-Christian peoples on the Muscovite frontiers,’ in ed. M. Perrie, The Cambridge History of Russia vol.1: From Early Rus to 1689 (Cambridge, 2006), p.319.

[19] See I. Ševčenko, ‘Muscovy’s Conquest of Kazan,’ p.544: Peresvotov in ed. A.A. Zimin, Sochineriia I. Peresvetova (Moscow and Leningrad, 1956), pp.162, 182, 196, 208, S.F. Platonov, History of Russia, p.128, N. Andreyev, ‘Appanage and Muscovite Russia,’ p.101, A. Kappeler, The Russian Empire, p.53, H.R. Huttenbach, ‘Muscovy’s Conquest of Muslim Kazan,’ p.45.

[20] See M. Khodarkovsky, ‘The non-Christian peoples,’ p.320.

[21] A. Kappeler, The Russian Empire, pp.29, 53.

[22] V. Tschebotarioff-Bill, ‘The Circular Frontier,’ p.49.

[23] A. Kappeler, The Russian Empire, pp.34-5, M. Khodarkovsky, ‘The non-Christian peoples,’ p.319, G.A. Hosking, Russia and the Russians: A History (London, 2001), p.147, J. Channion, R. Hudson, The Penguin Historical Atlas of Russia (London and New York, 1995), p.42.

[24] G.A. Hosking, Russia and the Russians, p.146.

[25] O. Pritsak, ‘Moscow, the Golden Horde and the Kazan Khanate,’ p.582, J. Forsyth, A History of the Peoples of Siberia: Russia’s North Asian Colony 1581-1990 (Cambridge, 1992), p.2, C. Evtuhov et al., A History of Russia, p.128.

[26] S. Bogatryev, ‘Ivan IV (1533-1584),’ in ed. M. Perrie, The Cambridge History of Russia vol.1: From Early Rus to 1689 (Cambridge, 2006), p.256, M. Khodarkovsky, ‘The non-Christian peoples,’ p.319, A. Kappeler, The Russian Empire, p.26, H.R. Huttenbach, ‘Muscovy’s Conquest of Muslim Kazan,’ pp.61, 62, 66.

[27] J. Pelenski, Russia and Kazan, pp.298, 300; ‘Muscovite Imperial Claims,’ p.576.

[28] M.P. Romaniello, The Elusive Empire: Kazan and the Creation of Russia 1552-1671 (Madison, 2012), p.6, S. Bogatryev, ‘Ivan IV,’ p.256.

[29] J. Pelenski, Russia and Kazan, pp.298, 304.

[30] O. Pritsak, ‘Moscow, the Golden Horde and the Kazan Khanate,’ p.582.

[31] J. Pelenski, Russia and Kazan, p.298, A. Kappeler, The Russian Empire, p.24.

[32] H.R. Huttenbach, ‘Muscovy’s Conquest of Muslim Kazan,’ p.47, A. Kappeler, The Russian Empire, pp.22, 26.

[33] See Velikiia minei chetii and Kniga stepennaia, cited in J. Pelenski, ‘Muscovite Imperial Claims,’ pp.560-1.

[34] O. Pritsak, ‘Moscow, the Golden Horde, and the Kazan Khanate,’ p.582.

[35] M.P. Romaniello, The Elusive Empire, p.5, M. Khodarkovsky, ‘The non-Christian peoples,’ p.319.

[36] R. Bartlett, A History of Russia, p.55, G.A. Hosking, Russia and the Russians, p.142.

[37] A. Kappeler, The Russian Empire, pp.25, 53.

[38] R. Bartlett, A History of Russia, p.54.

[39] J. Forsyth, A History of the Peoples of Siberia, p.2, S. Bogatryev, ‘Ivan IV,’ pp.255-6, A. Kappeler, The Russian Empire, p.26, H.R. Huttenbach, ‘Muscovy’s Conquest of Muslim Kazan,’ p.45.

[40] J. Pelenski, Russia and Kazan, p.8.

[41] R. Bartlett, A History of Russia, p.54

[42] S. Bogatryev, ‘Ivan IV,’ p.256, J. Channion, R. Hudson, Historical Atlas of Russia, p.38, R. Bartlett, A History of Russia, p.54, C. Evtuhov et al., A History of Russia, p.128.

[43]M. Khordarkovsky, ‘The non-Christian peoples,’ p.324, C. Evtuhov et al., A History of Russia, p.128, J. Channion, R. Hudson, Historical Atlas of Russia, p.38.

[44] M. Khodarkovsky, ‘The non-Christian peoples,’ p.322.

[45] M.P. Romaniello, The Elusive Empire, p.5.

[46] M. Khodarkovsky, ‘The non-Christian peoples,’ p.319.

[47] R. Bartlett, A History of Russia, pp.54-5, J. Channion, R. Hudson, Historical Atlas of Russia, p.32, S. Bogatryev, ‘Ivan IV,’ p.256, M. Khodarkovsky, ‘The non-Christian peoples,’ p.319, S.F. Platonov, History of Russia, p.128, N. Andreyev, ‘Appanage and Muscovite Russia,’ p.101.

[48] G.A. Hosking, Russia and the Russians, p.147.

[49] See Pelenski, Romaniello, Bogatryev, Pritsak, Kappeler, Huttenbach, Khodarkovsky, Bartlett, Hosking, Forsyth, Channion, Hudson, Evtuhov et al., Platonov and Andreyev above.

[50] G.A. Hosking, Russia and the Russians, p.147.

Bibliography

Primary Sources

Kniga stepennaia, cited in Pelenski, J., ‘Muscovite Imperial Claims to the Kazan Khanate,’ Slavic Review 26 (1967), pp.560-1.

Velikiia minei chetii, cited in Pelenski, J., ‘Muscovite Imperial Claims to the Kazan Khanate,’ Slavic Review 26 (1967), pp.560-1.

Secondary Sources

Andreyev, N., ‘Appanage and Muscovite Russia,’ in R. Auty and D. Obolensky (eds.) Companion to Russian Studies vol.1: An Introduction to Russian History (Cambridge, 1976), pp.78-120.

Bartlett, R., A History of Russia (Basingstoke, 2005).

Bogatryev, S., ‘Ivan IV (1533-1584),’ in M. Perrie (ed.), The Cambridge History of Russia vol.1: From Early Rus to 1689 (Cambridge, 2006), pp.240-63.

Bogatryev, S., ‘Reinventing the Russian Monarchy in the 1550s: Ivan the Terrible, the Dynasty and the Church,’ The Slavonic and East European Review, 85 (2007), pp.271-93.

Channion, J. and Hudson, R., The Penguin Historical Atlas of Russia (London & New York, 1995).

Evtuhov, C., Goldfrank, D., Hughes, L., and Stites, R., A History of Russia: Peoples, Legends, Events, Forces (Boston & New York, 2004).

Forsyth, J., A History of the Peoples of Siberia: Russia’s North Asian Colony 1581-1990 (Cambridge, 1992).

Hosking, G. A., Russia and the Russians: A History (London, 2001).

Huttenbach, H. R., ‘Muscovy’s Conquest of Muslim Kazan and Astrakhan, 1552-56,’ in M. Rywkin (ed.) Russian Colonial Expansion to 1917 (London & New York, 1988), pp.45-69.

Kappeler, A., The Russian Empire: A Multiethnic History (Harlow, 2001).

Keenan Jr., E. L., ‘Muscovy and Kazan: Some Introductory Remarks on the Patterns of Steppe Diplomacy,’ Slavic Review 26 (1967), pp.548-58.

Khodarkovsky, M., ‘The non-Christian peoples on the Muscovite frontiers,’ in M. Perrie (ed.), The Cambridge History of Russia vol.1: From Early Rus to 1689 (Cambridge, 2006), pp.317-37.

Kotilaine, J., Russia’s Foreign Trade and Economic Expansion in the Seventeenth Century (Boston, 2004).

Matuszewski, D. C., ‘Review of Russia and Kazan: Conquest and Ideology (1438-1560s) by Jaroslaw Pelenski,’ The American Historical Review 81 (1976) p.183.

Miller, D. B., ‘Review of Russia and Kazan: Conquest and Ideology (1438-1560s) by Jaroslaw Pelenski,’ Russian Review 34 (1975), pp.92-3.

Pelenski, J., ‘Muscovite Imperial Claims to the Kazan Khanate,’ Slavic Review 26 (1967), pp.559-76.

Pelenski, J., Russia and Kazan: Conquest and Imperial Ideology (1438-1560s) (The Hague, 1974).

Platonov, S. F., History of Russia (London, 1925).

Pritsak, O., ‘Moscow, the Golden Horde, and the Kazan Khanate from a Polycultural Point of View,’ Slavic Reivew 26 (1967), pp.577-83.

Romaniello, M. P., The Elusive Empire: Kazan and the Creation of Russia 1552-1671 (Madison, 2012).

Ševčenko, I., ‘Muscovy’s Conquest of Kazan: Two Views Reconciled,’ Slavic Review 26 (1967), pp.541-7.

Taagepera, R., ‘An Overview of the Growth of the Russian Empire,’ in M. Rywkin (ed.) Russian Colonial Expansion to 1917 (London & New York, 1988), pp.1-7.

Tschebotarioff-Bill, V., ‘The Circular Frontier of Muscovy,’ Russian Review 9 (1950), pp.45-52.

Feedback:

70%

All the following feedback is rated on the following scale: Outstanding-Excellent-Good-Competent-Pass-Fail.

Breadth of Reading: Outstanding

Critical approach to historiography: Good

Focus on question: Outstanding-Excellent

Organization of the material: Good

Depth of understanding and insight: Excellent

Use of examples: Excellent

Introduction and Conclusion: Good

Factual accuracy: Excellent

Comprehensiveness of coverage: Excellent

Fluent and correct English: Excellent

Accurate spelling/proof reading: Excellent

Sources cited correctly: Good

General Comments and Advice: An impressively good effort. The introduction is a little stilted, and a brief section that follows, in which the candidate surveys the historiography that denies the Volga conquests any especial historical significance would have worked better elsewhere in the text. Nonetheless, the essay offers a very lucid and concise analysis of both short- and long-term consequences of the Russian annexation of the two Tataric khanates. Based on an admirably broad range of bibliographic reference, the essay covers a lot of ground, while also paying sufficient attention to the point of (correct) detail. Although I am happy with such a comprehensive approach, I feel the material could have been arranged here to an even better effect, so as to read less like a list of points and more like a coherent argument. Finally, unless they were consulted at first hand in the original Russian, sources in Russian should not be cited directly in the footnotes of the Bibliography.

 

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