It seems like the Kievan Rus’ empire just dissolved under unfavorable circumstances. The general population became dissatisfied with their Grand Prince in Novgorod, and the Mongols’ invasion of the region further extinguished the flame of Rus’ society. Kievan Rus’ again proved to be highly religious in its political endeavors, and although a split between Prince Ivan and his people occurred – it arguably proved to be a step in the right direction for Rus’ society. Even Kaiser and Marker argue that the kingdom of Rus’ deserved the pummeling it received by the Mongols as punishment for the careless and selfish princes who ignored the wise words of Iaroslav (100).
In line with the ‘princes’ punishment,’ one thing that I questioned throughout the reading was – why was that the reason – the sole heavy hitting reason for the Mongol invasion? Even if Rus’ society was incredibly religious, were they in denial of the Mongols’ strength? Were they in denial of their situation? Was the Mongol invasion a ‘wake up call’ of sorts? The list of questions like this can go on and on, but that’s because the number of lacking answers to questions about this transitional period in Kievan Rus’ society goes on and on. Most of the explanatory language used by the authors is highly religious and ‘mythological’ to an extent, which leads me to assume they don’t know too much about these occurrences (they being the authors and members of Rus’ society).
In answer to you question about whether or not the Rus people were in denial about the Mongols’ strength…
I would conjecture that they were not oblivious, but probably unable to fight off the Mongols. With princes warring constantly, Rus didn’t have a cohesive, strong, centralized government. As seen by some of their plowing techniques, they were relatively behind the times. Did the even have the technology to be able to fight off the Mongols?
What I found interesting about “The Novgorod Chronicle on the Mongol Invasion” were the religious images throughout the text. Rather than admitting they were incapable of fighting off the Mongols, the author chose to paint the Mongols as a plight that Rus had coming to them–the Mongol Invasion was merely God’s way of telling the Rus people that he was displeased with their actions, and thus was punishing them.
I agree. Likely, the Chronicles’ retelling of the Mongol invasion, emphasizing that the Mongols were pagans sent because of Rus’ sins, wanted to have the effect of re-writing history. We have to remember that the Chronicles were written over two hundred years after the beginnings of the Mongol invasion. The Church wanted to perpetuate the story that the Mongols came as an act of God; this retelling of the story could be used to both emphasize God’s power and pacify later readers of the Chronicles. The purpose was not to describe factually the event, but to use it as a religious lesson, much like the story of St. Theodosius.
I don’t believe that the church’s view of the invasion as a punishment for the princes means that they were in denial of the Mongol’s strength. Rather, they see the Mongol’s strength in its entirety, and attribute that strength to God. I felt that the church may have understood the many technical reasons for the Mongol invasion, but also believed that all of these reasons came as part of the punishment. In a society that was a religious as Rus was I don’t think that they were necessarily ignorant of everything that they did not directly connect to God, but that they instead merely saw a higher cause controlling everything.
Like we discussed in class, the power of not acknowledging strength or the existence of something can have a huge effect. By saying that the Mongol invasion was an act of God, the church can rewrite history and discredit the Mongols. Not only could the survival of the church persuade people living at the time that this was punishment for their sins, but also serve as an example for generations to come.
It is entirely probable that the Rus had no idea that the Mongols existed. They had no real reason to head east along the great plains and all of the major trading routs moved north south. I am sure that some people knew of china and some of other Asian nations but i doubt that any knew of their strengths or location. Also my impression of the political structure of Novgorod is indeed fragmented but other cities like Moscow and Kiev were not and they still fell. So it may be that local politics were going to be wash away no mater what.