Sakharov and Halperin’s Conflicting Viewpoints

When reading Charles Halperin’s and A. M. Sakharov’s one can clearly see two very opposing viewpoints on what the Mongols brought to Russian society. Halperin’s point of view illustrates that despite the fact the Mongol’s did significant damage, their culture was an integral part of society and would influence Russia for many years to come. He states that the invasion did not impact the governmental system in place beforehand much: “The Mongols restructured the social and political order of the steppe, the mainstay of international commerce and nomadism, but they left the political infrastructure of Russia alone because of its lesser importance to their economy and polity.” Russian princes remained to rule under the close watch of the Mongols. In addition to this, the Orthodox Church was never interfered with. The Mongol’s leader Genghis Khan tolerated all religions in his empire.

Contrasting Halperin’s outlook, Sakharov believes that Mongol’s were detrimental to Rus’ in most ways and did not positively influence society. He points out that the Mongol-Tatars took craftsmen captive and destroyed Russian architecture. By exterminating or exiling craftsmen, many construction techniques disappeared and things like masonry construction ceased completely. He also boldly claims that the Mongols did not enrich Russian society in any way and only a few Eastern words are retained in the Russian language.

I personally think Sakharov’s viewpoint is much too extreme and that the Mongols influence the way Russia formed in many ways. I think they showed Princes how to properly rule, and created a more centralized Rus. They also were not persecuted for their religion and were allowed to practice their own customs. It’s interesting to see how efficient and smart the Mongols were with their rule. By not destroying people’s lives around their empire, they were able to control a huge area of the world for a long time.

4 thoughts on “Sakharov and Halperin’s Conflicting Viewpoints

  1. From the reading, it’s clear neither writer is particularly fond of the Mongols. However, it is hard to understand how they could have come to two completely different views on Mongol influence. What sources did these writers use and how, if they used any of the same ones, would they be able to come to these different conclusions?

  2. I think it is clear that Sakharov’s point of view is extreme, but I think the same could be said about Harpelin. In fact I think they are both equally right and wrong. They are simply looking at two different sides of the same coin. The arguments advanced by Harpelin are completely disregarding the issues brought by Sakharov and vice versa. The Mongols came, and just like any other external influence they brought some positive things, but they also brought some negative aspects. The question regarding which one weighed more is probably a matter of interpretation. The questions in the previous comment are also valid.

  3. I found it really interesting how you mentioned at the end that the Mongols helped the princes to become more centralized. While few Russian historians (especially those brought up in Russia) would admit to the Mongols having a positive influence on them, I agree with you. By choosing one prince to have the title of Grand Prince, the Mongols essentially silenced any dissenting voices that would potentially rise up and challenge the prince normally. This created a relatively simple (although controlled) process for succession, and eliminated a lot of potential fighting among princes.

  4. I think that these two authors make a subtle distinction between their areas of focus. While Halperin concentrates on social, political, and economic factors of the Rus following the Mongols, Sakharov focuses on cultural developments. By emphasizing different aspects of Russian life, it seems natural that these two authors would come to different opinions on the effect of Mongols. While the Mongols may have devastated things like literature and architecture, they did make improvements to the political character of Rus. Both of these essays need to be taken with a grain of salt, and it may be better to emphasize their differences in method than their differences in conclusions.

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