This article by Moscow-based historian I. V. Zaitsev addresses issues that have attracted scholarly attention since the nineteenth century, but lack yet a comprehensive treatment. This owes mostly to the great variety of the extant primary sources in terms of their provenance and language, as well as to the fact that the information that they offer about the families and marriage ties of the early Girayids is often fragmentary, confused, and contradictory. I. V. Zaitsev very appropriately sets out to tackle this difficulty by basing his study on a nearly exhaustive selection of primary sources ― an approach which also distinguishes his earlier works.
The article consists of a brief précis, a representative bibliography, and ten genealogical tables. The précis begins with the known cases of marital alliances between the Giray house and non-Chinggisid ruling dynasties, namely two dynastic marriages with the Ottoman ruling house in the early sixteenth century and a marriage with a female relative of the Kalmyk Khan Ayuki in ca. 1692. Afterwards, it explains the origin of the Choban branch of the Giray family from the alleged son of Khan Feth Giray II (1596) and a slave woman of Polish origin. It then proceeds to discuss the most common type of the Giray marriages, that with the members of the Crimean tribal aristocracy. Noted here are seven marriages with the Manghit clan, three with the Shirin, and one each with the Sejivüt and Qunghrat contracted in the late fifteenth–first half of the sixteenth century. One case of sayyid marriage, in the late fifteenth century, is pointed out. Thereafter the author addresses the tradition of levirate among Jöchids, with a number of examples from the ruling dynasties of the Khanates of Kazan, Kasimov, and the Crimea. The précis concludes with an observation that the number of Giray marriages with any given Crimean clan depended on that clan’s standing in the Khanate and in turn probably served to reinforce that standing further. The article is clearly a very preliminary report on a work in progress. The précis feels somewhat hasty and disjointed; along with the genealogical tables, it lacks bibliographical references thus making it difficult to trace the provenance of I. V. Zaitsev’s data. Dates, including those of life and reign, and the distinction between khans and royal princes are not provided consistently (and in case of the tables, not at all), which can confound even a specialist reader. Although the issues addressed in the précis are relevant to the subject, they do not exhaust it. Running the risk of appearing overly critical of the project-in-progress on the basis of a preliminary report, here are a few observations that come to mind upon the perusal of the article.
Despite their shortcomings, the genealogical tables are probably the article’s most valuable and original contribution. The tables sum up most of our present knowledge about the male and female issue of the Crimean khans from the eponymous founder of the dynasty, Hajji Giray I (ca. 1441–1466), to Sahib Giray I (1532–1550), with the exception of Ghazi Giray I (1523–1524), as well as of four royal princes, sons of khans Hajji Giray and Mengli Giray I (1466, 1469–1475, 1478–1515). Apart from their obvious value for research into the dynasty’s genealogy, the tables offer a rare glimpse into the historical Crimean onomasticon. Particularly worth noticing is the combination of Turkic, Arabic, and Persian elements in the names of the Girayids included, as well as the gradual increase of non-Turkic elements over time, which must be indicative of the acculturation of the dynasty to the more sophisticated Ottoman cultural milieu. It is to be hoped that in the future the tables may be augmented to include also the marital unions of the Girayids.
Perhaps inevitably, the précis does not offer much in terms of contextualisation and conceptualisation, yet the Girays’ dynastic politics of the fifteenth–sixteenth century can best be understood in the context of the Turko-Mongolian political culture, its interaction and fusion with Islam, and the important change that took place in and around the Northern Black Sea region during this period. In the political culture of the Steppe a marital alliance between a Chinggisid and a non-Chinggisid party had implications of suzerainty and vassalage. Thus, marrying out a female relative to a Chinggisid ruler or a member of his family implied subordination. This explains why Girayid males habitually chose their brides from among the tribal aristocracy within and outside the Khanate, viz. in the political space in which the Crimean khans claimed sovereignty or superiority. On the other hand, receiving a Chinggisid princess of the blood in marriage signified honour and could convey a degree of dynastic legitimacy, which must explain the apparent reluctance of the Girays to bestow princesses of the blood in marriage outside of the Crimea. Indeed, apart from Ayshe, the daughter of Mengli Giray and wife, in turn, of two Ottoman princes, and his other daughter and a granddaughter who were married to a mirza and a bey of the Noghai Horde respectively, all the other Girayid princesses of the blood seem to have been destined to marry members of the Crimean tribal aristocracy. It is noteworthy, and perhaps I. V. Zaitsev’s research will allow him to elucidate this question, that marriages between Girayids and other Jöchids of the blood occurred very rarely.
The issue of the Girays’ marriages with the Crimean tribal aristocracy must necessarily invoke the institution of four ruling clans, the mainstay of the political and social structure of all Jöchid, if not all Chinggisid, states. The list, provided by I. V. Zaitsev, of the Crimean clans with whom the Girayids are known to have contracted marital unions in the late fifteenth and first half of the sixteenth century, suggests that at the time this right belonged to one original Crimean ruling clan (Shirin) and three of the former ruling clans of the Great Horde inherited by the Khanate (Manghit, Sejivüt, and Qunghrat). Moreover, if, as is suggested by sources, the original Crimean ruling clans were those of the Shirin, Barin, Arghin, and Qipchaq, the composition of the Khanate’s “in-law” clans must have changed after 1502, when the Crimea’s aspirations to the dominant position among the Golden Horde’s successor states in Western Inner Eurasia were realised though the defeat of the Great Horde by Mengli Giray and a part of the Horde’s tribal population fell under Crimean control. In this connection, the article is hardly justified in considering the 1486 marriage between Mengli Giray and Nur Sultan, the widow, in succession, of two khans of Kazan, an example of a marriage between the Giray family and a Crimean clan. Nur Sultan was the daughter of the bey of the Manghits affiliated with the Great Horde. One probably cannot speak of the Manghits as a Crimean clan prior to 1502. It seems more fitting to view the incorporation of Nur Sultan into the Crimean royal harem as a case of inter-dynastic levirate marriage between the Kazan and Crimean Jöchids ― which marriage, by appropriating the prestige and legitimacy associated with Nur Sultan’s origin and previous marriages, offered substantial political capital to the Crimean khan vying for superiority in the post-Golden Horde political space.
Alternatively, though less plausibly, Mengli Giray’s marriage to Nur Sultan may be regarded as representative of yet another type of the male Girayids’ marital alliances, that with the members of non-Jöchid tribal aristocracy outside of the Crimean Khanate. Such marriages were contracted with the bey and mirza families of the Noghay Horde as well as with the Circassian nobility of the Northern Caucasus. It was indeed quite common among the Girays, although Muscovy’s conquests of the Kazan and Astrakhan Khanates in 1552 and 1556 respectively and the ensuing gravitation of the Great Noghais towards Muscovy limited the scope of the eligible clans and families. Finally, from 1478 onwards the Khanate found itself a vassal of the Ottoman Empire, whose ruling house was in the process of abandoning the dynastic marriage in favour of slave consorts for the male dynasts, and of the military-administrative élite of the devshirme origin as marital partners for the female ones. The two dynastic marriages between the Giray and Ottoman dynasties in the early sixteenth century were among the last dynastic unions contracted by the Ottomans. These marriages illustrate the high status the Chinggisid Girays were accorded by the non-Chinggisid Ottoman sultans in the early, still very nominal, stage of the Khanate’s vassalage, and also testify to the benefits that a marital alliance with the militarily powerful Crimean khan could (and did) afford an Ottoman prince facing a fierce struggle for succession.
A comprehensive treatment of the early dynastic history and marriage ties of the Giray dynasty is long overdue. The promise contained in this short article should make anyone familiar with I. V. Zaitsev’s work look forward to the completion of his project.