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From Mongol Prince to Russian Saint: A Neglected 15th-Century Russian Source on the Mongol Land Consecration Ritual

From Mongol Prince to Russian Saint: A Neglected 15th-Century Russian Source on the Mongol Land Consecration Ritual
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  Access Provided by New York University at 08/14/11 2:49AM GMT  Kritika: Explorations in Russian and Eurasian History 12, 3 (Summer 2011): 647–73. Article From Mongol Prince to Russian Saint A Neglected 15th-Century Russian Source on theMongol Land Consecration Ritual L yuba G rinberG Hagiographical literature has long been acknowledged by historians o themedieval West as an important source or understanding the past. 1 Yet itspotential — and this is especially true in the case o medieval Russian sources — remains little explored by historians o Eurasia. 2 Russian sources, with theirlargely parochial outlook and inrequent reerences to the outside world,cannot compete with the eloquence o contemporary Persian chroniclers or with the meticulousness o Chinese imperial scribes. 3 In this respect, the ale  I would like to thank the anonymous reviewers or their valuable comments as well as Zvi BenDor, Jane Burbank, Devin DeWeese, and Donald Ostrowski or their help and suggestions.   1 For some o the more recent studies, see Elizabeth M. yler and Ross Balzaretti, eds., Narrative and History in the Early Medieval West  (urnhout, Belgium: Brepols, 2006). 2 Te most notable exception to this is Devin DeWeese, who has been working on Central Asian Su accounts or some time now. For his most recent work, see “ ‘Stuck in the Troato Chingiz Khan’: Envisioning the Mongol Conquests in Some Su Accounts rom the14th to 17th Centuries,” in History and Historiography o Post-Mongol Central Asia and the  Middle East, ed.    Judith Peier and Sholeh A. Quinn (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2006),23–60. Hagiography, however, remains largely neglected by the Russian medievalists as well. V. O. Kliuchevskii’s Drevnerusskie zhitiia sviatykh kak istoricheskii istochnik  (Moscow:K. Soldatenkov, 1872) and the second volume o F. I. Buslaev’s Sochineniia (St. Petersburg:Imperatorskaia akademiia nauk, 1910), remain the point o departure or anyone interested inmedieval Russian hagiography. One notable exception is N. A. Okhotina-Lindt, although heruse o hagiographic sources is limited to the Valaamskii Monastery: see Skazanie o Valaamskommonastyre  (St. Petersburg: Glagol, 1996).   3 Tis is also the opinion o Tomas Allsen — perhaps the only Mongolist to haveincorporated Russian medieval sources —  who concludes that “As regards the Rus chronicles,they are, on the whole, relatively uninormative or the period that concerns us [1251–59].On the basis o these sources alone, it is not at all apparent that the Rus principalities were parto a much larger political entity. … Mongol policies in Rus are not ully intelligible withoutreerences to non-Slavic sources and without knowledge o Mongol practices elsewhere in  648 LYUBA GRINBERG o the Venerable Peter, Prince rom the Horde  (Povest´ o Blazhennom Petre,tsareviche ordynskom) — a 15th-century  vita that describes the conversiono a Mongol prince to Christianity, his move to the Russian principality o Rostov, and the building o a church there — constitutes an exceptionalsource. Te ritual that consecrated the land and the church betrays, in my opinion, the existence o a Mongol layer buried within the medieval Russianhagiographical text. It thereby oers a unique glimpse not only o Mongolreligious practices but also o the process o conversion and convergingreligious belies. At the core o the tale lies a legal dispute over shing rights in LakeNero between the ruling (Riurikid) amily o Rostov and the descendants o aMongol whom we know only by his Christian name, Peter. 4 According to thetext, Peter was a Mongol prince (  porody khanska ) who happened to witnessthe miraculous healing o his relative by Kirill, bishop o Rostov (d. 1262), while the latter was visiting the Golden Horde. Impressed by the power o Christian prayer, Peter began to question the Mongol worship o “the sun,the moon, the stars, and re” and ollowed Kirill to Rostov. 5 Tere, aterseeing the church “adorned with gold and pearls” and hearing the liturgy, theyoung Mongol decided to convert to Christianity. Kirill, araid to provokethe anger o the Horde, cautiously waited; and only ater Berke Khan’s death(1267), which was later ollowed by civil war within the Golden Horde,did he nally agree to baptize his protégé. Some time passed; and one day, while hunting, the Mongol prince ell asleep and had a vision o the apostlesPeter and Paul ordering him to build a church on this spot. He petitionedthe prince ( kniaz´  ) o Rostov to sell him the plot o land where the visionhad occurred. Te Russian prince, at rst suspicious o Peter’s intentions(mostly due to the latter’s Mongol background), eventually agreed and latereven beriended the young Mongol and granted him many lands rom his the empire” (  Mongol Imperialism: Te Policies o the Grand Qan Mongke in China, Russia, and the Islamic Lands, 1251–1259  [Berkeley: University o Caliornia Press, 1987], 16). A similarconclusion was reached by Peter Jackson, Te Mongols and the West, 1221–1410  (Harlow, UK:Pearson Longman, 2005). For more on medieval Russian chronicles and sources, see DonaldOstrowski,  Muscovy and the Mongols  (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998); andCharles Halperin, Russia and the Golden Horde: Te Mongol Impact on Medieval Russian History   (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1985).   4 I am using the 16th-century version o the text published in Pravoslavnyi sobesednik  1(1859): 360–75. Te ale  , to my knowledge, has never been published in English, but anabridged translation is included in Charles Halperin, “A Chingissid Saint o the RussianOrthodox Church: Te ‘Lie o Peter, sarevich o the Horde,’ ” Canadian–American Slavic Studies  9, 3 (1975): 324–35.   5 “Veruiut´ tsari nashi solntsu semu, i mesiatsu i zvezdam i ognevi …” ( Pravoslavnyi sobesednik  , 361).  FROM MONGOL PRINCE O RUSSIAN SAIN 649 patrimony ( votchina ). Te two princes eventually became sworn brothers;and Peter, ater permanently settling in Rostov and marrying a girl romRostov’s “atar” (i.e., Mongol) quarter, lived a long and happy lie. 6 He alsoounded a monastery, adjacent to the church he had built years earlier, to which he retired ater the death o his wie.Te ale  then continues to describe a legal dispute between thegrandchildren o the two princes about the ownership o the lake next toPeter’s monastery. Te Russian side claimed that although their grandatherhad sold the land to his sworn brother, the lake had not been mentioned inthe agreement. Tereore, the lake belonged to them. Peter’s grandchildrenappealed directly to the Horde, evoking their Chinggisid ancestry and theirrelationship to the Horde’s ruler, whom they addressed as “uncle.” Te khansent an ambassador to investigate the matter, and it was settled in avor o Peter’s amily. Te same issue arose in the next generation, however, and theentire process was repeated, with Peter’s descendants gaining the upper handonce again.Te text ends with Ignat, Peter’s great-grandson, who saved the city o Rostov rom destruction at the hands o a Mongol raiding expedition.Coming out beore the Mongol troops and again invoking his Mongol blood,Ignat explained that since his great-grandather had bought the land romthe prince o Rostov, it now belonged to his descendants and thereore to theHorde. o attack the city, he argued, would be to destroy Mongol property. Akhmyl, the Mongol military commander in charge o the expedition, wasswayed by Ignat’s words and spared the city.Te text may be roughly divided into two parts. Te rst describes eventsthat occurred during the second hal o the 13th century  — Peter’s move toRostov rom the Golden Horde and his conversion to Christianity. Tesecond deals with the legal dispute and the genealogy o Peter’s amily andends in 1322, the date o Akhmyl’s raiding expedition, which is recorded inseveral chronicles. 7 While the latter part is interesting or the questions it raisesabout the Mongols in medieval Russia, which range rom landownership tothe legal authority to settle property disputes, the exceptionality o the textlies in the passage that describes land measurement and church consecration. 6 “atar” was a generic term used by medieval Russian chroniclers to denote Mongols as wellas anyone else who came rom, or resided in, the Golden Horde.   7 According to the Novgorod chronicle, Akhmyl’s raid took place in 1322 ( Polnoe sobranie russkikh letopisei  3 [Moscow: Iazyki slavianskoi kul´tury, 2000], 339).   I Ignat, who managedto prevent the destruction o Rostov, was Peter’s great-grandson, then it must be assumed thatPeter moved to Rostov in the rst hal or early in the second hal o the 13th century. Moreover,since Bishop Kirill died in 1262, Peter’s conversion must have taken place beore then.  650 LYUBA GRINBERG  Ater experiencing the vision, Peter asked the prince o Rostov or a parcelo land on which to build the church. Te kniaz´  grudgingly conceded anddemanded that Peter cover the site o the uture church with coins as payment.Peter agreed, and they set out to measure the space in the ollowing manner:  And the prince ordered his people to spread a rope around the place,rom the lake to the gate, rom the gate to the corner, and then again tothe lake. Peter then says, “Prince, order your people to dig a ditch aroundthis space, as we do in the Horde, so that aterwards no one may take thechurch land.” So the townspeople, who were marching around the sitein a procession carrying icons, dug the ditch… . Ten Peter began to lay coins on the ground, one next to another. At rst, nine silver coins romone purse, then a tenth, golden one, rom another purse. And when hehad laid the coins along the entire border [ mezha ] o the site, the prince’speople collected them. 8 Tis peculiar description o the triple encirclement o the church site by a rope, a ditch, and nally, coins laid on the ground in a specic sequence,betrays, in my opinion, the elements o a Mongolian ritual o designatingsacred space. Moreover, I would like to suggest that its complexity points to ano less complicated system o belies and sheds some light on the pre-Islamicreligious practices o the Mongols o the Golden Horde. Beore placing theritual in its “Mongol” context and associating it with specic meanings, I would like to oer a ew remarks about the text and its provenance.In 1547, during the  Makar´evskie sobory  (church assemblies named aterMetropolitan Makarii), a number o saints were canonized. Among these wasVenerable Peter, Prince o the Horde ( Blazhennyi Petr, tsarevich ordynskii  ), who had ounded the Petrovskaia Obitel´ Monastery in Rostov. Accordingto Russian canon law, saints could be recognized as such i they had beenknown to perorm miracles, either during their lietime or posthumously,usually at the gravesite. Once these miraculous deeds had been appropriately documented in a vita, the assembly would conrm the new saint’s divine 8 Tis passage is translated rom Skripil´’s modern Russian edition o the text (M. O.Skripil´, Russkie povesti XV–XVI vekov  [Moscow and Leningrad: Nauka, 1958], 270–71) andcorresponds to 568–69 o the Pravoslavnyi sobesednik  text. For the reader’s convenience, Iquote this segment in Skripil´’s modern Russian version: “I prikazal kniaz´ okinut´ mernoiverevkoi mesto pod tserkov´: ot ozera do vorot chasovni, ot vorot do ugla, a potom opiat´ doozera, — mesto prostornoe. Petr i govorit, ‘Prikazhi, kniaz´, chtoby vse eto mesto rvom okopali,kak my v Orde vsegda delaem, chtoby potom ne urezyvali uchastok tserkovnyi.’ ak i sdelali.Gorozhane, chto s krestnym khodom prishli, provozhaia ikony, prinialis´ za delo… . ogda Petrnachal vykladyvat´ monety odnu k drugoi — ot samogo ozera, snachala deviat´ serebrianykh izodnogo koshelia, potom desiatuiu zolotuiu — iz drugogo. I kogda vylozhil on po vsei mezhedeviat´ griven serebra i desiatuiu zolota, to kniazh´i slugi, sobrav ikh, napolnili voz.”
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