SURIKOV Vasily Ivanovich (1848-1916): A Portrait of a Minusin Tatar. 1909.
Canvas, oils. 38x27 cm. From the permanent collection of the Novosibirsk State Art museum.
The Minusin Tatars are now known as Khakas or Hakass. They are an ethnic minority of Southern Siberia of disputed origins (who isn't?). The Minusin basin was one of the earliest inhabited areas of the region. There are some interesting archaeological finds and inscriptions from this area.
The artist Vasily Surikov was himself born in Siberia. His grandson, famous film director Nikita Mikhalkov, has recently opened a memorial for him in Krasnoyarsk. Some of Surikov's most famous works deal with crucial events in Siberian history, such as the battle between the Cossack hetman Yermak and Kuchum, the last Khan of Sibir.
The situation was a bit more complicated than a simple battle between the fledgling Russian empire and the dwindling rest of the Golden Horde. The descendants of the Khan were later assimilated into Russian nobility under the name Sibirsky. Some claim that Yermak himself was partly of Tatar descent, which might be said of many a Cossack, in spite of the centuries-old animosity between different Cossack and Tatar groups all over the steppe lands. The history of the ethnic minority groups of Russia is a complicated weave of love-hate-relationships...