The Mongols and Russian Progress

What struck me in tonight’s reading was the Mongols responsibility for effectively severing Russia’s historical and cultural ties to the West. We can only place so much stock in historians’ projections for what could have been, as Riasanovsky and Steinberg write, “it has been suggested that, but for the Mongols, Russia might well have participated in such epochal European developments as the Renaissance and the Reformation.”1  The Mongols imposed exacting financial punishments on the Russians, divesting an already poor society assets and property. As a result, the Kievan standards of living went into a sharp decline and the society saw its development stunted “by some 150 or 200 years.”  ((RS 68))

The Mongols made a limited number of constructive contributions to Russian society, but in many ways these contributions anticipate modes of population management and infrastructure that wouldn’t arise in other societies until the Modern Era: they took a census of the Russian population and created roads that helped centralize their empire. Their superior military organization “resembled a modern general staff,”2


Discussion question: How is the role of Mongol involvement in Russia treated in by historians today?

  1. RS 68 []
  2. RS 67)  and they greatly evolved the Russian Calvary forces. They also brought the Russians a crude postal system. ((RS 70 []

1 thought on “The Mongols and Russian Progress

  1. I really enjoy your last question and I think it’s an important one. At the end of chapter 8 of “A History and Russia” Nicholas Riasanovsky provides a small historiography. He identifies some of the different schools (traditional Russian and the new Eurasian) of historical narrative for examining the Mongol influence on Russian history. ((Riasanovsky, Nicholas and Mark Steinberg. A History of Russia, v. 1. New York: Oxford University Press, 1993. 72)) He notes the growing popularity of the Eurasian school but ultimately strips it of its merit and power. From this, one might think that modern historians tend to view the Mongol influence as predominantly degenerative for Russian history; however, since 1993 – the year of the Fifth Edition’s publication – historical narratives can change significantly.

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