Reviews

The author expertly discusses the manipulation of the myth of the White Tsar in late Imperial Russia by the explorer Nikolai Przhevalskii, by two Buriats, the Buddhist Agvan Lobsand Dordje (Dorzhiev) and the Orthodox convert Petr Badmaev, and especially by the essayist and political schemer Prince Esper Ukhtomskii, who all promoted Russian expansion into Manchuria, Xinjiang, Mongolia and Tibet. M. Laruelle sees the mythology of Aryanism as the key intellectual nexus linking India and Russia, Buddhism and Orthodox Christianity, autocracy, anti-Western Slavophilism and Orientalism. M. Laruelle mistakenly accepted the information of an anonymous reviewer that “White Tsar” was used in diplomatic correspondence during the reign of Vasilii III but had fallen into disuse by the time of Ivan IV. In fact, it was invoked actively under Ivan IV and sporadically long thereafter: cf. Charles J. Halperin, “Ivan IV and Chinggis Khan,” Jahrbücher für Geschichte Osteuropas 51/4 (2003): 487-96, and more recently Vadim V. Trepavlov, “Belyi Tsar”: Obraz monarkha i predstavleniia o poddanstve u narodov Rossii xv-xviii vv. [The “White Tsar”: The Image of the Monarch and Representations on Citizenship among the Peoples of Russia, Fifteenth to Eighteenth Centuries], Moscow, 2007: 3-56, 198 ― and infra the review No. 140. Buddhism had nothing to do with its origin, which was Mongol: “White” meant “western,” not Caucasian. The ambiguities in the writings of its later Russian advocates, particularly their obfuscation of the distinction between its employment by Muslims and Buddhists, merit further analysis. M. Laruelle’s article adds another dimension to the history of the myth of the White Tsar among Russia’s élite and its relevance for Russian foreign policy toward Asia, especially under Tsar Nicholas II.

Charles J. Halperin, Indiana University, Bloomington
CER: II-3.1.C-132