This highly useful and interesting book is a distillation and summary of Iskhakov’s very numerous works on the ethnic and political history of the Golden Horde’s successor states in western Inner Eurasia. Specifically, he examines the khanates of Crimea, Qasimov, Kazan, Astrakhan, and Siberia, the Great Horde, the Noghai Horde, and the nomadic Uzbek state founded by Abu’l-Khayr Khan. In five chapters, he examines the formation of these successor states, their territory and the creation of an ethnic ‘community (obshchnost’)’, the economy and political constitutions of the separate states, cultural life, with an emphasis on Islam, and the different political fates of the states.
One aspect of Iskhakov’s approach is to closely link the ethnic history of the Tatars with the process of state formation. In other works, he has argued that the Golden Horde should be considered an ethnic Tatar state, that is, an early Tatar nation-state. When the Golden Horde, or Ulus of Jöchi broke part early in the fifteenth century, the successor states then evolved into separate ethnic states, but retaining essentially the same ethnic and political features as the Golden Horde. One weakness in Iskhakov’s argument is the issue of Islam. He depicts the Islamic religion as one of the bonds that melded the ethnic and political communities in the Golden Horde and its successor states. To a certain extent religion may have acted as a unifying factor. However, if Islam was a status, it could also be an argument. The argument of Islamic legitimacy was in fact used against Chingisid dynasts quite effectively by non-Chingisid dynasties, including the Noghai Horde, and the Taybughid Yurt in Siberia. Following the Russian conquest many Muslims couched critiques of the legitimacy of Russian-supported Chingisid elites in the same anti-Chingisid arguments. This is evident not only among Tatars and Bashkirs, but among Kazakhs as well. However, it would be unfair to expect the author to address all of these points within this small volume, which undoubtedly will serve for a long time as a highly useful and welcome reference.