Dedicated Russian thread

An upcoming book potentially worth the read on Russia's relationship with the Mongols.

'In Russian nationalist scholarship, the Horde is an alien entity with disruptive effects on the formation of the Russian nation. In the Soviet Union, the Russian experience of vassalage to the Horde was distorted, marginalized, and often simply erased from textbooks. Historians and archaeologists were not allowed to use the terms “Horde” or “Golden Horde.” Instead, the Mongol regime that conquered the medieval Russian principalities was called the “Tatar yoke.” But Tatars—a group often conflated with Mongols—and other Muslim peoples now living in the Russian Federation see the Horde’s rule as a formative period in their history. Indeed, the Islamization of the Eurasian steppes, Crimea, and Eastern Europe is one of the Horde’s most important legacies. Islam, as practiced in the Horde after the mid-13th century, was a unifying force in Central Asia.

'Some of the most significant beneficiaries of Jochid protections were Russian Orthodox clergy and institutions, which blossomed under Mongol rule. Russian scholars—whose work dominates historical writing about the Horde—have lately paid more attention to this process of development, moving beyond nationalist biases by asking questions that do not presuppose the oppressiveness of the supposed Tatar yoke. These scholars are reconciling Russia with the Islamic dimension of its past: their question is not how Russia survived the Horde, but how the Horde helped to create modern Russia.

'English-language scholarship has been more likely to take for granted the Horde’s contributions to Russia’s development. In particular, the question of the Horde’s legacy has often been linked to the rise of Muscovy, the Grand Duchy of Moscow. The goal of this scholarship is to understand how the Horde influenced the institutions of Muscovite power and therefore of Moscow’s successor, imperial Russia.

'The Russian principalities experienced extraordinary economic vitality during their vassalage to the Horde. New cities were built—as many as 40 in north-eastern Russia during the 14th century. Artisanal production grew dramatically and trade developed rapidly, bringing Eurasian long-distance commerce to the Baltic sphere, the far north, and small towns such as Moscow itself, which burgeoned only after the Jochids bestowed favor on Moscow’s leading family.

'In Russian scholarship, the “Stand on the Ugra River” is often presented as the event that ended the Tatar yoke in the Russian principalities. Yet, interestingly, in 1480 no Russian source claimed to be freed from the Tatar yoke. In the 15th century, the Grand Duchy of Moscow did not reject the political legacy of the Mongols. Quite the opposite: Moscow was an expanding state that looked to the Horde as a source of its legitimacy and its power. It would be another three-quarters of a century before the Stand on the Ugra River was perceived as a significant date in Muscovite history. Only in distant hindsight, after much political change in Russia, did Russians come to see the stand as the moment when their nation at last turned back the Mongols’ supposedly damaging and ideologically suspect form of rule. Later historians even understood the stand as the end of the Horde.

'Whatever date we choose to mark the end of the Horde, its lingering influence was clear even among the Muscovites. As historian Thomas Allsen puts it, “The Moscovite embrace of the Mongol legacy … was fraught with contradiction.” On the one hand, Russians learned to disdain the Tatar yoke. On the other hand, Russian rulers never hesitated to call upon the Horde as its predecessor under the rubric of translatio imperii—the idea that the legitimacy of one empire may be passed to the next. Much as German kings saw their Holy Roman Empire as a successor to Rome and Byzantium, the Muscovites claimed to inherit the Horde’s imperial right of conquest. Thus it was only when Ivan IV conquered the Volga Valley that he began to call himself an emperor. Specifically, he took the title of tsar, which Russians had hitherto used to describe and address the Horde’s khans. Indeed, to further Moscow’s claim as successor of the Jochid empire, Ivan IV always asked European rulers to include among his titles “tsar of Kazan and Astrakhan.” In the burgeoning Russian Empire, the Horde lived on as an important political force.'


 
An upcoming book potentially worth the read on Russia's relationship with the Mongols.

'In Russian nationalist scholarship, the Horde is an alien entity with disruptive effects on the formation of the Russian nation. In the Soviet Union, the Russian experience of vassalage to the Horde was distorted, marginalized, and often simply erased from textbooks. Historians and archaeologists were not allowed to use the terms “Horde” or “Golden Horde.” Instead, the Mongol regime that conquered the medieval Russian principalities was called the “Tatar yoke.” But Tatars—a group often conflated with Mongols—and other Muslim peoples now living in the Russian Federation see the Horde’s rule as a formative period in their history. Indeed, the Islamization of the Eurasian steppes, Crimea, and Eastern Europe is one of the Horde’s most important legacies. Islam, as practiced in the Horde after the mid-13th century, was a unifying force in Central Asia.

'Some of the most significant beneficiaries of Jochid protections were Russian Orthodox clergy and institutions, which blossomed under Mongol rule. Russian scholars—whose work dominates historical writing about the Horde—have lately paid more attention to this process of development, moving beyond nationalist biases by asking questions that do not presuppose the oppressiveness of the supposed Tatar yoke. These scholars are reconciling Russia with the Islamic dimension of its past: their question is not how Russia survived the Horde, but how the Horde helped to create modern Russia.

'English-language scholarship has been more likely to take for granted the Horde’s contributions to Russia’s development. In particular, the question of the Horde’s legacy has often been linked to the rise of Muscovy, the Grand Duchy of Moscow. The goal of this scholarship is to understand how the Horde influenced the institutions of Muscovite power and therefore of Moscow’s successor, imperial Russia.

'The Russian principalities experienced extraordinary economic vitality during their vassalage to the Horde. New cities were built—as many as 40 in north-eastern Russia during the 14th century. Artisanal production grew dramatically and trade developed rapidly, bringing Eurasian long-distance commerce to the Baltic sphere, the far north, and small towns such as Moscow itself, which burgeoned only after the Jochids bestowed favor on Moscow’s leading family.

'In Russian scholarship, the “Stand on the Ugra River” is often presented as the event that ended the Tatar yoke in the Russian principalities. Yet, interestingly, in 1480 no Russian source claimed to be freed from the Tatar yoke. In the 15th century, the Grand Duchy of Moscow did not reject the political legacy of the Mongols. Quite the opposite: Moscow was an expanding state that looked to the Horde as a source of its legitimacy and its power. It would be another three-quarters of a century before the Stand on the Ugra River was perceived as a significant date in Muscovite history. Only in distant hindsight, after much political change in Russia, did Russians come to see the stand as the moment when their nation at last turned back the Mongols’ supposedly damaging and ideologically suspect form of rule. Later historians even understood the stand as the end of the Horde.

'Whatever date we choose to mark the end of the Horde, its lingering influence was clear even among the Muscovites. As historian Thomas Allsen puts it, “The Moscovite embrace of the Mongol legacy … was fraught with contradiction.” On the one hand, Russians learned to disdain the Tatar yoke. On the other hand, Russian rulers never hesitated to call upon the Horde as its predecessor under the rubric of translatio imperii—the idea that the legitimacy of one empire may be passed to the next. Much as German kings saw their Holy Roman Empire as a successor to Rome and Byzantium, the Muscovites claimed to inherit the Horde’s imperial right of conquest. Thus it was only when Ivan IV conquered the Volga Valley that he began to call himself an emperor. Specifically, he took the title of tsar, which Russians had hitherto used to describe and address the Horde’s khans. Indeed, to further Moscow’s claim as successor of the Jochid empire, Ivan IV always asked European rulers to include among his titles “tsar of Kazan and Astrakhan.” In the burgeoning Russian Empire, the Horde lived on as an important political force.'


Here's a few points to consider:

The majority of the "Mongol army" weren't Mongols. A large proportion were Turkic people from Central Asia.

Key historical turning points are often not recognised at the time, but rather only in retrospective. This should not be surprising, as current actions are often driven by current problems, and their long term consequences often cannot be foreseen in advance.

Conflict with the successor states of the Mongol Empire didn't really end until the late 19th century with the Russian conquest of Central Asia. The lack of natural geographic barriers and the nature of Turkic society meant that Russia was constantly under attack by raiding parties from surrounding states who would penetrate deep into Russia on looting and slave raiding expeditions. I understand that public concern over the plight of Russian slaves in Central Asia was a particularly sensitive political issue for Russian rulers. Security for Russia therefore meant continually pushing their borders further out, which drew in land hungry settlers to the newly pacified areas, which in turn created the need to push the security frontier still further out, etc. This only really ended when they finally reached the Black Sea and the mountain barriers along the southern edge of the Caucasus and Central Asia, which provided natural frontiers. The expansion across Siberia was largely driven by other factors, so that's another story.

While the Russians were expanding south and east, the Western European kingdoms were conducting their own expansions, first by swallowing up their smaller neighbours, and then through overseas conquest. Russian expansionism wasn't the exception, it was the norm. What would have been unusual is if a stronger state didn't expand at the expense of its neighbours.

Spain might make an interesting parallel, as they too were conquered (by the "Arabs"), and then faced a long slow process of expelling them over the course of centuries. They then followed this up with imperial expansion, which while successful at first eventually decayed and collapsed.
 

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