Reviews

The author, a Kalmyk historian, astutely remarks that to the question on the ethnic origin of his people, every Kalmyk of the Volga region with an average historical knowledge will reply without hesitation: “The Oirads [or, according to an obsolete form: The Oirats].” Who were the Oirads, and where were they coming from? Indeed it is difficult to summarise the author’s opinion, as he draws from wrong references and non-existing quotations. Since Paul Pelliot’s posthumous Notes critiques d’histoire kalmouke (Paris: Libraire d’Amérique et d’Orient, 1960: 5), it is well known that in 1207 Quduqa-beki and the Tümen (‘Ten Thousand’) Oirad, the “People of the Forest (‘oi-yin irgen)”, submitted to Genghis Khan and that his two sons married respectively a daughter and a grand-daughter of the Great Khan (The Secret History of the Mongols, translated by Igor de Rachewiltz, Leiden: Brill, 2004, 1: par. 239 p. 164, and commentary in 2: 849-56). V. Sh. Bembeev could have underlined that, during the Mongol period, Qutuqa’s lineage remained linked by the system of quda (marriage ally) to the various branches of Genghis Khan’s lineage, and that almost each of his descendants bore the title of kürgen (son-in-law of the imperial family). This was a system which enabled the dynasty to keep solid relations with the ruling families of the peoples surrounding them (cf. Christopher Atwood, Encyclopaedia of Mongolia and the Mongol Empire, New York: Facts On File, 2004: 419 & 460-1). However asserting as the author does that the ruler of the Oirads held the most exalted position under Genghis Khan, and that it is thanks to the Oirads that the whole adult population of the steppe was completely behind the Great Khan is a gross exaggeration. At the same time, putting such a heavy stress on Genghis Khan’s support of the first Oirads has for us at least the interest of showing that present-day Mongolian craze for everything linked with Genghis Khan has reached the Kalmyks of the Federation of Russia.

Françoise Aubin, National Centre for Scientific Research, Paris
CER: II-3.1.B-107