Part 1 of 4
Тюрьма Народа. Русский взгляд на Россию 
[Alexiey Shiropayev, Prison of the Nation: The Russian Perspective on Russia (Moscow, 2001).]
There are different approaches to telling the history of Russia and the Russian people. There is the patriotic Orthodox version of the tale, the Communist one, as well as liberal and democratic narratives. There are, of course, some important alternatives. The one that seems to be currently the most popular among European nationalists is the Eurasianist imperialist version as promoted by Alexander Dugin but actually created by Lev Gumilyov. However, there is also an explicitly white nationalist telling of the history of Russia. The most important presentation of this vision is Tyurma Naroda (Prison of the People or Prison of the Nation) by Aleksiey Shiropayev. As you can see from the title alone, Shiropayev’s view of the Russian state is extremely critical.
As the book is available only in Russian, and it is rather unlikely that it will ever be translated into English (or any other language), I will first present a detailed synopsis of Shiropayev’s argument and then I will present a critique of the book.
Rus’ protiv Rossiyi: Rus’ versus Russia
One issue that must be clarified right away is the matter of terminology. Two completely different realities are made one by the English terms “Russia” and “Russian.” In the Russian language two distinct words exist as the name of the country: “Rus’” and “Rossiya.” Rus’ stands for the lands originally inhabited by Eastern Slavs, whereas Rossiya means the larger Russian state: the tsarist Russian empire, the Soviet union, or the contemporary Russian Federation. And both those terms are often translated into English using one word: “Russia,” thus causing some confusion.
In Russian there are two distinct terms: “Russkiy” and “Rossiyskiy.” “Russkiy” (both an adjective and a noun) means an ethnic Russian, a person of East Slavic origin who speaks the Russian language. “Rossiyskiy” (as an adjective) or “Rossiyanin” (as a noun) stands for a person, who speaks Russian or who considers himself a part of Russian (“Rossiyskiy”) culture, and who might be a citizen of the Russian state – but who can be of any ethnic origin. Again, both are often translated into English as one word: “Russian.”
Thus, a Muslim Chechen whose mother tongue is Chechen, who knows basic Russian, and who considers himself a loyal citizen of the Russian Federation is without a doubt “Rossiyanin” and without any doubt is not a “Russkiy.” A pagan Russian, whose mother tongue is Russian and whose family has lived on Russian soil and worked it for countless generations, who abandons the Russian Federation and joins Ukrainian volunteer forces to fight against the separatists of Novorossiya, is no longer a “Rossiyanin” but he surely is a “Russkiy.”
Many Russian politicians and theoreticians (including Putin and Dugin) have made it clear that they support the imperial, statist, patriotic “Rossiyskaya” identity instead of the ethnic, racial, nationalist “Russkaya” identity. On the other hand, certain Ukrainian nationalists have stated that they are fighting for Ukraine, Rus’, and Europe (the slogan of Azovian “Reconquista”: “Today Ukraine, tomorrow Rus’ and the whole of Europe!”).
“Rossiyanin” is also a pejorative term used by Russian nationalists to describe someone fooled by the government propaganda, similar to American use of “patriotard” or “lemming.”
Thus, it can be stated that Shiropayev sees the history of Russia as a story of a struggle of Rus’ against Rossiya (Rus’ against Russia), Ruskiye against Rossiyanie (Rus’ people against Russians), or rather of a thousand-year fight for the liberation of the Russkiy nation from the prison of Rossiya. Hence the subtitle of the book: Russkiy vzglyad na Rossiyu: The Russian (Russkiy) Perspective on Russia (Rossiya). And hence the opening quotation of the book: “IM nuzhna Vyelikaya Rossiya, a NAM nuzhna Velikaya Rus’”: “THEY need a great Rossiya, and WE need a Great Rus’.”
Shiropayev names the source as “from the pre-death thoughts of Stolypin?.” The question mark clearly shows that this is an educated guess made by the author. Pyotr Stolypin, tsarist minister, is widely considered to be one of the greatest Russians (or even the greatest) of all time. He was a liberal patriot who aimed at reforming the Russian Empire according to the modern democratic Western model which he saw as the only way to save his fatherland. He was assassinated in Kiev on September 14, 1911, by a Jewish revolutionist, Dmitriy Bogrov. Many Russian authors, politicians, and ordinary citizens believed and still believe that if only Stolypin had lived longer and finished his reforms, there would have been no collapse and no communist revolution.
In one of his speeches in the Russian Duma (Parliament) Stolypin stated that, “We need a great Russia (Rossiya).” Shiropaiev suggests that in his final moments Stolypin might have understood the true state of affairs: that Rossiya and Rus’ are two opposing forces, and reforming Russia means actually replacing it with Rus’. It is quite an irony that this actual quote of Stolypin is now one of the slogans of the so-called “Russian Spring,” the propaganda campaign of Putin’s regime aimed at reviving the imperialist policies of the Federation.
Origins of Rus’ and the Rus’ people
Shiropaiev adopts the modern historical view of the origins of Russia: Eastern Slavic peoples inhabiting modern day Ukraine and the European parts of Russia were united by Vikings (Varyags also known as Varangians) under the leadership of Rurik. This new culture and society have ever since been known as Rus’, and the people as the Rus’ people. Thus, Shiropayev considers Rus’ to be a Germanic-Slavic and truly Nordic entity, the natural orientation of which is North and West.
Many Slavophiles reject this view and see Rus’ as a completely autochthonic and Slavic entity, whereas Eurasianists consider the German influence as something unnecessary and unwanted, which has rightly been replaced by Mongol (thus Islamic) and Khazar (thus Jewish) components.
In Shiropayev’s perspective, the identity of the Rus’ people already transcends the tribal Slavic and Germanic division, and due to the presence of non-Aryan neighbors (Ugro-Finns and later Mongols) naturally had an ethnonationalist, racial, and white component. Shiropayev points to the many similarities and common elements of Russian language, culture, and symbols with those of Western European peoples of Germanic or Celtic origin. The Rus’ people (and narrowly understood Russians) are thus a Western, European nation living in the easternmost European territory. They are not an Asian, Eurasian, or eastern people.
The center of the Rus’ was at first Novgorod — the northern Russian city, oriented to the North and to the Sea, maintaining trade and cultural relationships with other Northern and Western European states and nations. The other cities of Rus’ were the locations of Varangian settlements: Ladoga, Beloozero, Pskov, Polotsk, Gnezdovo-Smolensk, etc. (current North-Western Russia). Cities such as Kiev and Chernigov were the results of further southward expansion of this Nordic state, with Moscow being one of the latest, lying on the eastern periphery of Rus’.
The political culture of the Rus’ people was based on tribal organic democracy (embodied by the Vyeche — the gathering of all free people which has made all political decisions, analogous to the Scandinavian Thing) linked with warrior aristocracy. The Rus’ people highly valued freedom — but it was a harsh freedom, associated with the European Faustian spirit that sought fulfillment among the cold landscapes of the North.
Anti-Rus’: The Eurasian Project
According to Shiropayev, Rus’ since the very beginning has faced something he calls “the Project.” The Project is the plan of different groups (ethnic, cultural, religious, political, etc.) to change this originally homogeneous Nordic, North-oriented, and European culture, based on the ideals of freedom, honor, and ethnic identity, into a multiracial, despotic Empire, based on tyranny, slavery and terror, where the original population is turned into slaves of different ethnic and cultural minorities.
The first incarnation of the Project was Saint Vladimir the Great: the grand prince who baptized himself and Kievan Rus’. Vladimir was the son of Svyatoslav I Igorevich: the great pagan ruler and leader, who destroyed the Khazar Empire (a nomadic, Asian state which had adopted Judaism as the state religion) and moved the capital of Rus’ to Kiev — a more fitting center of future expansions. However, Shiropayev focuses more on Vladimir’s maternal ancestry. Vladimir was an illegitimate son of Svyatoslav and one of his servants: Malusha. While some of historians argue that Malusha could have been of Nordic origin (daughter of one of Varangian warriors) or Slavic origin (daughter of one tribal rulers), Shiropayev takes the side of other historians, who claim that Malusha (actual name: Malka or Mala) was of Khazar and Jewish origin. This Jewish ancestry would explain much of the life of Vladimir who was despised by people around him. While it is usually said that the cause was his illegitimate and low origin (his mother was a servant), Shiropayev claims that the real cause was his mixed-race origin. While Rus’ leaders and people did not scorn Germanic-Slavic interbreeding, they frowned upon mixing with aliens such as Jews and Khazars. The mixed race of Vladimir was also the reason he was rejected by Rogneda (Ragnhild), daughter of Rogvolod (Ragnvald) of Polotsk. Vladimir later raped Rogneda in front of her family, which he then ordered to be killed in the presence of Rogneda.
It is in Vladimir that the multicultural despotic Rossiya finds its progenitor. Vladimir chose universalist Christianity as the official religion of his state, as it moved the focus from blood to culture. It was he who laid foundations for the religious-statist-cultural-linguistic understanding of a Russian, no longer someone of Nordic or Slavic blood, but now any baptized Russian-speaker, who accepted the rule of the Prince. Christianity also made possible the introduction of people of other races into Russian community: Khazars and Jews, Vladimir’s half-brothers, could become Russians by the touch of holy water. The now embodied Project right away showed its genocidal character: a large part of the population of Rus’ died in the religious conflict of bloody Christianization.
The adoption of Byzantine Christianity introduced a new element into the racial constituency of Rus’, namely all non-white elements (Khazars, Ugro-Finns, and later Mongols) who could now become part of the community through baptism. The Project consisted now of two elements: Byzantium and the steppe. Shiropayev identifies a new champion of the Project: prince Yuriy I Vladimirovich, known as Yuriy Dolgorukiy, who was a ruler of a new Russian center – Moscow. Dolgorukiy aimed at uniting all Rus’ under his rule. Moscow, on the easternmost borders of Rus’ with many contacts with non-white populations, became a new center of the Project, the Nyerus’: Non-Rus’ or Anti-Rus’. The level of alienation of Asianized Muscovite princes was so high that the son of Dolgorukiy, Saint Andriy Bogolyubskiy, considered Kiev to be an alien, “German” city. Bogolyubskiy, whose mother was a Cuman princess, sacked and plundered Kiev in a truly Asiatic, steppe-fashion. Andriy’s brother, Vsevolod the Big Nest, punished Ryazan and Belgorod by burning them to the ground.
The Tatar Yoke
According to Shiropayev, Nordic-Slavic Rus’ was still alive and struggling against this despotic Muscovite tyranny of the Steppe, this Anti-Rus’ or proto-Rossiya. The center of the white Russian tradition was the oldest city of Rus’, Northern Novgorod with its aristocratic republican rule and traditions, trade routes as well as cultural contacts with Northern and Western European states and cities.
Shiropayev glorifies one of the anti-heroes of Russian historiography (and a hero of Ukrainian historiography): Prince Daniel of Galicia, who was crowned the first king of Rus’ by a papal archbishop, for the promise of bringing Russian lands under papal authority (a promise never fulfilled). Shiropayev considers this westward turn of Daniel as the reaction of a conscious Aryan, who was seeking a union with Western Europe against the expansion of Muscovite princes (whom he considered alien Asians) and then against the openly Asian Golden Horde.
On the other hand, Shiropayev condemns one of the heroes of Russian history: Alexander Nevsky (a saint of the Orthodox church). Nevsky was a loyal servant of the Horde, who always fulfilled the will of his Mongol overlords, while viciously fighting the Western powers intervening in Rus’. For Shiropayev this is a treason against the Nordic blood and traditions of Rus’.
One of the turning points of Russian history is the battle of the Kalka River in 1223 in which the united armies of Russian princes suffered a great defeat at the hand of the Mongol armies of the Golden Horde (who are called “Tatars” in Slavic countries). The cruelty of the Mongols was much greater than that of the Western world. A good example is the fate of the Russian princes, who surrendered on the condition that they and their soldiers would be spared. Mongols exterminated the soldiers, then the princes were bound and a platform was placed on them, on which the Mongols celebrated their victory, suffocating the princes and nobles underneath.
After this defeat, all Rus’ was under foreign rule, the so-called “Tatar yoke.” Tatars had a specific way of ruling the conquered nations. They didn’t occupy the lands or place army garrisons there. They forced the local rulers to rule themselves and pay huge tributes to the Mongol overlords. In cases of lack of subordination by the local populations or rulers, Mongols organized punitive expeditions, or joined local princes in suppressing rebellions, during which they burned cities to the ground and exterminated the populations. Mongols also encouraged miscegenation by marrying local princes to the daughters of khans and Mongol nobility, as well as practicing sexual slavery and forced marriages of Mongols with local women. They also supported Tatar settlements in the conquered territories. The princes not only had to pay tributes to the khans, there was also a lot of symbolical violence. They had to visit the khans regularly and pay their respects by prostration or even placing their heads under the foot of the khans, or licking up drops of kumys (fermented mare’s milk) which were spilled by the khan on the ground.
Shiropayev straightforwardly calls Golden Horde the USSR of the medieval world: an Asiatic multicultural tyranny. It is during this time that Russian princes “went full Asia” and adopted the despotic customs of the Horde. The great freedom-loving Nordic Rus’ was replaced with the Asian tyranny of Anti-Rus’. All of the worst practices of Russian states, including the genocidal policies against conquered populations, rule by minorities, bloody expansionism, and miscegenation can be traced back to the Golden Horde.
Shiropayev and his Eurasian adversaries agree in this matter: Mongol rule was the beginning of Russia as we know it. However, Shiropayev considers it the great victory of the Project against which the true Russia has struggled ever since. On the other hand, Eurasianists consider this the true beginning of Russian (or rather Russian-Mongol) culture, the Russian empire, and Russian might. The Golden Horde forced the unification of Russia, and many of the administrative rules and divisions survive to this day. Eurasianists even go as far as naming the eras of Slavic-Nordic princes and then the tsars as periods of the “German yoke.”
The attitude of the Russian Orthodox Church under the Mongol yoke is a very important and telling aspect of the development of the Project. The Church did to some extent resist Tatar rule, not on racial or national but on religious and political grounds. The Orthodox priesthood did not have a problem with baptizing Mongols, accepting them not only as members of the Christian-Russian community, but also as priests or monks, even making them high-ranking officials of the church and proclaiming them saints. This was in line with the policies of the multicultural Byzantine imperial tradition, which had always supported full-blown miscegenation on the condition that all parties involved are baptized.
However, what the Church did not like was that the Mongol overlords, presiding over loyal Orthodox local princes, were not Christian and did not respect the authority of Orthodox clergy. Thus, the Church always fully supported the Russian princes — whether they were loyal to the Horde, tried to gain local autonomy, or attempted to overthrow the Tatar yoke. Had the khan himself become an Orthodox Christian, the Church would have proclaimed him the highest authority on earth, recognized the sacred right of khans to rule over the Nordic population of Rus’, considered any act of resistance to the Tatar rule both a crime and a blasphemy, and (most probably) would have proclaimed the Orthodox khan a saint after his death.
The Orthodox Church since its very beginning has been loyal to the imperial tradition of supporting the state — as long as it remained Orthodox. The Orthodox clergy have always been to some extent considered representatives (or defenders) of the state, and state officials have always been to some extent considered representatives (or defenders) of the Church. The whole Orthodox theology was quite different than the Western Christian tradition. The members of the Orthodox Church are not considered God’s children or even servants of God — they are named “ryaby Bozhe”: the slaves of God. Orthodox ritual is full of prostrations and bowing to the priests as well as sacred objects. The Mongol system in which people are not citizens of a state but slaves of the khan, which demands total obedience and ritualistic self-abasement before the khan and his officials, was much in line with the teachings, practices, and rituals of the Orthodox Church. The Mongol yoke emphasized and developed those elements already present in the Byzantine Church.
The Moscow Ulus
The Mongol empire was divided into provinces: uluses. Khans preferred every ulus to have one local ruler who would answer directly to the khan, gather taxes and tributes from all other local rulers and entities, and put them back in line in the case of disobedience. The Mongols did not intervene in local customs, administration, or religion, as long as the ulus remained loyal and payed tributes. Thus, the khans supported the unification of Russian lands under one ruler, who would either dominate other princes as the local hegemon or simply replace them as the sole king. Moscow, with its rulers and culture (mongrel in blood and spirit), seemed to be the most fitting new center of the ulus. And thus began the next phase of the project: unification of Rus’ under Muscovite domination.
According to Shiropayev Mongols did not view Muscovite princes as just their servants. They saw them as fellow Asians, who helped the colonization and exploitation of the white population of Rus’. Even the Russian hero Alexander Nevsky did not perceive Mongols as aliens but as his noble compatriots. Prince Yury of Moscow married a khan’s wife, which proves that the khans considered them to be among the highest of Tatar nobility – subject to the khan, but nevertheless of common blood. Moscow was an Orthodox ulus of the Horde. It was the Muscovite princes who presided over all Rus’ and answered directly to the khan. To all naive Russians asking: “How could the Muscovite princes wage punitive expeditions with the Tatars against their own Russian brothers?,” Shiropayev answers: “Muscovite princes were attacking alien Russians, hand in hand with their Tatar brothers.” Shiropayev states boldly: Moscow is not Rus’ but anti-Rus’. Rulers of Moscow were not Russian, but Muscovite princes. Rus’ remained only in its first major center – in Novgorod.
Shiropayev crushes the myth of the Battle of Kulikove Field in 1380. According to the official and popular story, during the battle united Russian princes defeated the Mongols and tore down the Tatar yoke. This is one of the archetypical triumphs of the light forces of Europe over the dark forces of Asia. However, Shiropayev claims that this is completely wrong. In reality it was a rebellion of the local Asian rulers, Muscovite princes, against their former overlords. It was not a triumph of Rus’ over the Horde and the local ulus. It was a mutiny of the Muscovite ulus, which decided to become an independent state (a new Horde) and colonize Rus’ by itself. It was not an European-Asian conflict — it was an internal conflict within the Horde. Shiropayev explains the origins of the Russian myth of Kulikove Field as the voice of racial archetypes of the Russian folk. Russians were white and wanted to remain white. They always dreamed of overthrowing the Mongol tyranny, and once the ulus had overthrown the Horde, they re-imagined it as a racial victory, commemorating it as such in folk songs and poetry.
In the 14th century the Golden Horde was experiencing a deep political crisis. Prince Dmitriy Donskoy decided to take advantage of this situation and become a khan himself — thus he lead united Muscovite ulus forces against khan Mamai’s army in the Battle of Kulikove Field. This conflict did not have an anti-Tatar character, the proof of which may be Serkiz, a famous Tatar leader who had accepted Orthodox Christianity and was one of the most loyal and powerful comrades of Dmitriy Donskoy. Serkiz was later accepted as a full-time Russian and founded a village Serkizovo (now a district of Moscow).
Dmitriy Donskoy did not succeed in creating a new Horde of the Muscovite ulus. The defeated khan Mamai was overthrown by one of his generals, Tokhtamysh, who has then organized a punitive expedition which sacked Moscow. Dmitriy Donskoy accepted the rule of Tokhtamysh and tried to gain some independence from the khans. For his achievements he was made the Mongol principal tax collector and Grand Duke of Vladimir by the khan and proclaimed a saint after his death by the Orthodox Church. (The endless canonizations of successful princes are quite similar to the Soviet posthumous awards and honors for leading Party officials.)
The Orthodox Church supported the struggle for the independence of the Muscovite ulus. It was the embodiment of the vision of the perfect Orthodox state, in which the oriental despotism of the Byzantine and Mongol traditions as well as imperial multiculturalism were official doctrines. The state and church could finally become one, this time under the auspices of an Orthodox ruler: a baptized khan.
After the Battle of Kulikove Field, the Muscovite ulus sank in almost a century of infighting between princes and factions, but the dream of a united Russian land, an independent Orthodox Horde, a new embodiment of the anti-Russian Project, was alive. It was with the Grand Prince of Moscow, Ivan III, later known as Ivan the Great, that the Project found its new champion. Ivan attempted to achieve two main goals: to gather all Russian lands under his rule (that is – under the rule of the Muscovite ulus and later the independent Orthodox Horde) and to become the supreme leader, the new khan. His main opponents in achieving this were the Golden Horde, the Novgorod Republic, and the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.
The Novgorod Republic was the last land of Rus’ which had stayed true to its Nordic roots: a northern state with a European style government (prince and strong vyeche, council of most prominent citizens) and a tradition of maintaining trade and cultural ties with Western and Northern Europe. Although it has never been conquered by the Golden Horde, Novgorod paid tribute to the khans but managed to remain a truly European state. There was also a truly inspiring tradition of Ushkuiniks – Viking-style Northern Slavic pirates who sacked the Horde and often were in alliance with the Republic.
On the other hand, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth was a new power in Europe: a union of the Polish kingdom and the Lithuanian state (Lithuania was actually a merging of the pagan Lithuanian state and parts of the Orthodox Kievan Rus’). While the rulers of Lithuania had been baptized in the Catholic church, much of the nobility remained Orthodox. The Commonwealth defeated forces of the Teutonic Order (supported by many Western European knights) in one of the larger medieval battles in 1410 (the Battle of Grunwald, or the First Battle of Tannenberg) and managed to become one of the major European powers with an original vision of state and culture. Due to its ties with Kievan Rus’, the Commonwealth could also aspire to “gather” some of the Russian lands.
The alienation between the Mongolized Muscovite ulus and the Nordic Republic of Novgorod was enormous, and Novgordians looked with hope to the Commonwealth, with which they had much in common. The only obstacle was the faith, as the Commonwealth was united under the rule of the Polish king, who was Catholic.
Ivan III could not let that happen. If Novgorod entered the Commonwealth, this would create a true alternative: a European Rus’ which would able to fight the Project embodied by Muscovy. Thus, Ivan III decided to invade Novgorod. In 1471, Ivan III organized his first expedition against Novgorod, which Shiropayev calls simply an invasion of a foreign country aimed at the genocide of the citizens. Muscovite forces were ordered to exterminate the people, including women and children. The Mongols supported Ivan III and provided him with Tatar horsemen.
Ivan III took partial control of Novgorod and began the process of subjugating the republic under the rule of Moscow. Punishing the pro-Commonwealth nobles, exterminating the population, robbing Novgorod’s riches, stripping the Republic of its land — the actions were the same as the Mongol treatment of Russians right after the defeat at Kalka River. Novgorodians tried to rebel and throw off the Muscovite yoke, but Ivan III punished them terribly. In 1478 he seized the city and massacred the inhabitants. This was the fulfillment of a long-time dream of the Muscovite princes and a great leap forward for the Project: the last center of the Nordic tradition of Rus’ was finally destroyed.
As Shiropayev points out this was not an inter-Russian conflict. Forces of the Horde, represented by the Moscow ulus, attacked an independent state: the last land still loyal to the Nordic-Slavic tradition. The aim of Ivan III was total destruction of Rus’: he ordered extermination of the people, burning the city, destruction of the Vyeche (Council) and the nobility, burning of books and artifacts. The blood and spirit of Rus’ were to be annihilated by the Horde. But the freedom-loving Aryan spirit of Novgorod could not be quenched, and even after the destruction of the city, people would rise against the Muscovite despots, who retaliated ever more violently, in a truly Asiatic fashion.
With Novgorod subjugated and the threat of Commonwealth-Rus’ alliance prevented, Ivan III continued the process of “gathering Russian lands,” which in reality meant brutal incorporation of autonomous and semi-autonomous principalities into the Muscovite ulus.
In 1476 Ivan III decided to gain independence of the ulus from the Horde and refused to pay the annual tribute. Khan Akhmat organized a punitive expedition which resulted in one of the strangest battles in history: the Great Standoff on the Ugra River in 1480. The armies of Ivan III stood on one bank of the Ugra facing the armies of the khan occupying the other bank. Both sides waited, and waited . . . and then both of them retreated! This was of course a victory for Ivan III, who had demonstrated his power over Russian lands, and a defeat for the khan, who displayed weakness and was soon murdered by his compatriots.
The Ugra River Standoff is often perceived as the “end of the yoke” and Ivan III as the liberator of Russia. This is far from the truth. The yoke did not end. Ivan III maintained Mongol despotism and treated his subjects with the same cruelty as the Tatar overlords. Mongolized in blood and spirit, Muscovite princes became the new khans. The independent Moscow ulus, the Grand Duchy of Muscovy, was now the incarnation of the anti-Russian project supported by two pillars: Mongol despotism and the Byzantine-Orthodox church, both equally imperialistic and multi-cultural – both equally alien and hostile to the Nordic-Slavic tradition.
To strengthen the Byzantine pillar of the Project, Ivan III married Sophia Spalaeologue, daughter of Thomas Palaeologus, brother of Constantine IX, the last emperor of Byzantium. This marriage introduced much Byzantine symbolism into the Muscovite culture, including the double-headed eagle. A good example of the Byzantine-Mongol marriage is the Cap of Monomakh , the crown of Russian Grand Princes and later tsars, which was of Tatar origin, probably a gift of the khans who used it to designate the chief of the ulus. With a cross added on top, it became now the symbol of Muscovite sovereignty and was claimed to be of Byzantine origin. The other Russian crown, the Kazan Cap , was simply a crown of the local Kazan khans.