The Golden Horde in a Global Perspective: Imperial strategies (International workshop: 7-8 May 2015)

For the first time in Europe, a workshop is dedicated to the study of the Golden Horde. The gathering will take place at Leiden the 7th and 8th May 2015. As a result of this joint initiative of the LIAS, the Institute for History and the European University at St Petersburg, researchers in archeology, history and numismatics will convene to debate and exchange. Granted: €4000 (May 2015).

This workshop is part of the overarching project At the hinge of the nomadic and sedentary worlds: a multi-disciplinary approach which intends to challenge the conventional way of considering the nomadic state organizations. The Golden Horde has been chosen as the first case to be explored: theoretical issues about nomadism, empire and Islam, recent archaeological results, as well as the modern perception of the Tatar imperial legacy shall be the major research tracks of the workshop.

Recent researches about empires have shaken the common view of the “predatory nomads”. They show that the opposition between nomadic rulers and sedentary populations was not so clear-cut and that the traditional antagonism between the conquered inhabitants and the exploiting military elite has to be challenged. The social integration of the sedentary populations in a nomadic context was deeper than we used to think and their interaction with their rulers exceeded the frame of the central administration where conquerors and conquered, warriors and civilians, nomadic and sedentary office holders collaborated. In many cases the sedentary elites were the active supporters of the nomadic rulers. They agreed on being part of a larger political structure beyond the pressure of its coercive potential because they shared common interests.

The Golden Horde is a case in point. In the thirteenth century, the Mongols created a vast transcontinental empire. It emerged from the unification of the Mongol and Turkic nomadic populations through the leadership of Chinggis-khan. The yeke mongghol ulus lasted as a unified structure until the 1260s. The westernmost part of the empire was then under the domination of the Jöchids, members of a dynasty that goes back to the eldest son of Chinggis-khan: Jöchi (d.1227). At its height, the ulus of Jöchi, known later as the Golden Horde, was stretching from the Aral Sea to the Black Sea and from the Ural River to the Danube River. It covered great parts of modern Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Tatarstan, Russia and Ukraine. This workshop aims at examining the imperial structures of the Golden Horde. We intend to show through concrete examples that statecraft and centralized administration were not exclusively produced within sedentary cultures. Under the Jöchid dynasty many regions and populations were unified for the first time. The nomadic khans were able to rule an empire for three hundred years over territories which had never experienced such a politico-economical development in the past. The legacy of the Golden Horde in Russia and Central Asia was very deep in terms of legal practices, religion and culture. Still in the nineteenth century, while the main Jöchid lands were part of the Russian empire, people would keep in their family archives documents issued under the khans for legal reason – often as proof of property – or in connection with their Islamic beliefs.

Project coordinators:
Gabrielle van den Berg (LIAS)
Marie Favereau (Oxford University – Leiden University, Institute for History)
Alfrid Bustanov (European University at St Petersburg)

Grant awarded October 2014

Last Modified: 25-09-2015