The article of an expert of "The Greater Altai" sheds light on the legal history of the medieval Mongols

24 May 2022 REC "The Greater Altai"
The article "Law of the Mongols in the view of John de Plano Carpini: historical and legal verification" by Professor of the Higher School of Economics, an expert of the REC "The Greater Altai" Roman Pochekaev was published in the highly rated Scopus journal "Golden Horde Review."

The article is devoted to the analysis of fragments of the notes of the medieval diplomat, Franciscan John de Plano Carpini "History of the Mongols, whom we call the Tatars" about the right of the Mongols and the Mongol Empire following the results of his diplomatic mission to the Mongol Khan. This was the first European who described in detail the realities of the Mongol Empire following his trip to the imperial capital of Karakoram. Professor Pochekaev compared the data on the legal traditions of the Mongols and checked the objectivity of the European diplomat's information.

For example, the notes provide the following information:

“Although the Tatars do not have a law that would administer justice or prevent sin, they still claim that certain actions are sins that they themselves or their ancestors established. One of them is sticking a knife into a fire, or any touching of a knife to a fire, or pulling meat out of a flame with a knife, or chopping wood with an ax next to the fire. They believe that in this way they can cut off the head of the fire. Also, one must not lean on a whip used to beat a horse (they do not use spurs), or touch an arrow with a whip, or kill or catch young birds, or beat a horse with a bridle, or strike one bone against another, or throw milk or other drinks or food on the ground."

As Professor Pochekaev argues, these prohibitions were not associated with the official legislation of the Mongol Empire (Yasa of Genghis Khan and the labels of his successors), but with customary law (yusun), which was respected by both Mongol rulers and their subjects. At the same time, there was no official legislation on the organization of court and justice in the Mongol Empire in the era of John de Plano Carpini.

The expert of "The Greater Altai" center studied a wide range of sources and gave a comparative legal analysis of the notes of John de Plano Carpini and medieval historical chronicles and annals ("The Secret History", the works of Kirakos Gandzaketsi, Khaiton, "Altan Tobchi" by Lubsan, including Lanzan and etc.), travel notes and historical writings of authors of the Middle Ages and Modern times (such as Wilhelm de Rubruck, Marco Polo, Ibn Battuty, G. Bellew, T. Forsyth, G.N. Potanin, P.K. Kozlov, etc. ), as well as materials of modern ethnographic research concerning the legal traditions of the Mongols and other nomadic peoples of Eurasia.

The scientist concluded that the legislation of Genghis Khan was not codified and included rules established at different times to regulate various areas of relations.

The author comes to the conclusion that the information of the papal ambassador about the Mongolian law of the middle of the XIII century reflected the real legal situation.

You can read the full article on the website of the Center for Altaistics and Turkology "The Greater Altai".

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