The Effects of Mongol Rule in Rus

The articles by Halperin and Sakharov both pose opposite arguments regarding the Mongol’s effect on the development of Rus. Halperin claims that the view of the Mongols as “blood-sucking infidels” (106) was a result of the Orthodox Church’s so called “Ideology of Silence”. He argues that The Mongol’s actually did a lot to help advance Rus culture through integration of their own methods rather than only doing harm as the writings of the Church would have us believe. For example, many of the Princes were able to gain position with the hoard through marriage and then learn about and use the knowledge that they gain of the Mongol’s military and political techniques. The Church, Halperin states, could not accept the Mongols as having been in any way beneficial to Rus as they may have felt that acknowledging anything positive about a culture that followed a different religion undermined their own, and thus they simply refused to acknowledge the positive effects that the Mongols had.

Sakharov takes the opposing view, stating that any and all putting down of possible historical information was done by the Mongols themselves. He claims that all types of craftsmanship, from architecture and construction to art and literature, suffered under the rule of the Mongols (137) and that the growth of the nation was practically stunted because of it.  He says that the Mongols destroyed a great number of books, and therefore knowledge, which we now have no way of knowing what might have contained. Overall, he views the effect of the Mongol rule in Rus as one of profound negativity that in no way aided the nation in any way.

Sakharov talks about the Mongols using very general terms, applying them widely and without exception, saying that they “… enriched [Rus] with nothing whatever” and claiming that the negative effects of the invasion were an “indisputable historical fact” (138). Claims on such a dramatic scale are very difficult to back up, and I felt only went to make his argument read as more of a biased rant than a logical argument. Had he allowed for some movement and acknowledged even the possibility that any good might have come from the Mongols I may have found his argument to be more convincing. I certainly did find some of his points, such as the destruction of books, to be interesting, though even that idea is based on the absence of something rather than hard evidence. Although I was not convinced by Sakharov that the Mongols were an unarguable evil, neither was I convinced by Halperin that the Mongols aided Rus to the extent that he claimed they did. Although I agreed that they must have benefited Rus in several ways, I wonder how much that is weighed down by harm that they might have done. Is it possible that, had the Mongols not invaded,  and had Rus therefore not had to cover certain expenses and meet certain expectations because of that, Rus may have developed in an equally efficient yet distinctly different way? As many “what-if” questions, it’s impossible to know for certain. I do, however, believe that while Halperin’s claims were accurate, he does not consider enough how the harm they brought as well may have effected Rus’s growth.

One thought on “The Effects of Mongol Rule in Rus

  1. There are definitely a lot of “what-ifs” in this situation, but they will probably never be answered. One thing that stood out to me in the Halpern reading which may help is that he says the Russians did not borrow institutions from the Mongols that did not suit them. This seems to say that the Russians were not wholly dependent on the Mongols in the social/political/vacuum they created and were able to manipulate their situation to only make their situation better. In a way, this answers your question of whether the Rus could have developed efficiently on their own.

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