The Mongol Yoke

The excerpts from Halperin and Sakharov are drastically different. Halperin’s article, Interpreting the Mongol Yoke: The Ideology of Silence, sheds a harsh light on the church, and those who seek to discredit any innovation the Mongols might have brought to Rus. Evidence demonstrates that the Rus people borrowed from nearly all aspects of Mongol life, with the one exception being religious culture. Rus princes married Mongol princesses, and the conquered peoples borrowed Mongol political and military institutions, as well as adopting the postal network of the Mongols. On the other hand, Sakharov’s article suggests that he blames Mongols for a lack of craftsmanship during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. He claims that the Mongols destroyed a “vast number of artifacts of the written world” (137). Sakharov goes on to blame the Church for blocking Moscow’s connections with the Western world during the second half of the fifteenth century, which he perceived to be the time period of a ‘pre-Renaissance.’

Upon closer reading, Sakharov seems as if he’s grasping at straws while simultaneously making sweeping generalizations. He takes the Chronicles as complete fact, citing a few stories about destroyed books as an indicator of “how seriously Russian writings suffered from the onslaughts of the Mongol-Tatars” (137). His entire excerpt completely slams the Mongols, deciding that nothing good could have come from the Mongol-Tatar Yoke.

Upon closer inspection, it becomes evident that his article, entitled The Mongols and Cultural Change, comes from a larger book entitled Soviet Studies in History. Most likely, Sakharov wrote his article with a tremendous bias. It seems unlikely that the Soviet Union would admit that anything good came from the Mongol Invasion, let alone a political system or military institutions (which would have been pivotal to society during the thirteenth century).

What kind of bias was Sakharov writing with? Is there more evidence of his bias? Was he even biased at all?

4 thoughts on “The Mongol Yoke

  1. Reading Sakharov’s article it definitely would appear that his is biased against Mongol influence in Russia. However, given his political views, it’s understandable that he would dislike anything that is shown to be ‘anti-Russian’. The idea that Russians needed help to create a longer lasting culture and society would be considered extremely anti-Russian. In my opinion that is where most of his bias is stemming from.

  2. I agree with Floode, Sakharov is actually adopting a position that I encountered a lot while I was in Russia. Even though this type of behavior is not exclusive to the Russians- pretty much any other country tends to do the same- the Russians always tend to be keen on generalization and over exaggeration of events in history… Especially when during the Soviet Period. But if looking passed the undeniable bias, I still find many of Sakharov’s facts to be interesting, or at least they are a nice counter balance to Halperin’s version.

  3. I think that a lot of Sakharov’s bias stems from his political views, as well as how he was educated. In the introduction paragraph prior to his essay, its noted that Sakharov was educated in the last years of tsarism. If educated during that time, it can certainly be argued that national Russian pride was emphasized, and that any inference that the Mongols made positive contributions to Russian society would be seen as wrong. I do agree with bouvet as well though, pairing Sakharov and Halperin’s accounts creates a good debate. Reading just one of the sources would mean missing out on information that the other has to offer.

  4. What I found really interesting, and reflective of Sakharov’s political views, is that he continually tried to impress words like “nationalism” on Russia in this period because the first signs of unity were appearing. I think that by juxtaposing the Russians against the Mongols so harshly he overlooked the character diversity of the various Russian states in search of some bigger “Russian” culture. It seems unfair to impress such staunch political views on these historical people when they had no concept of a nation at that point in time.

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