Cultural Changes due to Mongol Invasion

It is clear that the Mongol’s conquest of Russia was the cause of huge amounts of destruction in Russia as they are consistently described as “cruel and evil infidels”1.  However, Halperin’s view on the Mongolian influence was particularly interesting as he does not focus on the negative contributions from the Mongols but the positive  influences the Rus people borrowed from them in order to better their society.  In order to fully understand the influence of the Mongol’s in Rus’ society, It is important to recognize the different perspectives taken when analyzing this historical event.

Both documents clearly state that the Mongol’s were the cause of serious destruction in Rus and they can even be blamed for our present lack of knowledge of early Rus societies due to the mass burnings of hundreds of written texts.  But both documents also claim that the Mongols had a prominent impact on multiple aspects of the Rus culture.  Sakharov states that the art in Rus suffered greatly as this job “rested upon manual tools and involved many years of practice,” and he continues to blame the Mongols and their mass slaughter for the decline of Rus art and architecture2.  Halperin argues another view point, provoking the thought that “Mongols influenced Russia, but the Russians did not influence the Tatars,” essentially saying that Russia did not have anything to offer the Mongols to better their society3.  This same thought is carried on throughout Halperin’s piece as he stresses the point that the Russian’s were the ones borrowing military, political, and administrative ideas from the Mongols.  Interesting to note is the fact that religion, a key aspect to culture, is one of the only things that remains untouched by the Mongols.

Why did the Mongols believe it was so important to keep Russian Orthodoxy prominent in Rus?

How big of an impact do the Mongols have in affecting our knowledge of early Rus today?  Would we have more knowledge of the culture had the Mongols not invaded?

 

Works Cited

Kaiser, Daniel H. and Gary Marker. Reinterpreting Russian History: Readings, 860-1860s. New York: Oxford University Press, 1994

  1. Kaiser and Marker 105 []
  2. Kaiser and Marker 137 []
  3. Kaiser and Marker 105 []

3 thoughts on “Cultural Changes due to Mongol Invasion

  1. To answer your first question, I have two theories, one of which is supported by the readings and one of which is just a personal hypothesis. My first theory is that it was just the normal practice of many empires back then to demonstrate some sort of religious tolerance (Charles Halperin’s Interpreting the Mongol Yoke: The Ideology of Silence said that religious toleration was “a practice of most inner Asian empires”). My second theory was that this religious tolerance gave the Mongols the best chance of staying in power.

    -Brendan

  2. The Mongols reasoning for their conquest of not only for Russia, but for other empires, was their religious pursuit to spread Shamanism. The Mongols were not concerned with attacking Russian Orthodoxy for their great tolerance and overall vision of having only one religion in all of their conquered lands. The Mongols understood that just like their religion was important to them, so was Russian Orthodoxy to the people of Rus’.
    Both perspectives are argued as to the positive and negatives of the Mongol invasion. The word “destruction” is however prominent in both pieces. The Mongols destroyed many Russian documents and cultural works through constant attacks. The Mongols were also an illiterate people, therefore not seeing the importance of writing down their history. This view also added to the destruction of records in Russia being that even the chronicle is not added to, or rarely added to, in these two centuries of Mongol conquest.

  3. I don’t necessarily agree that Halperin did not recognize the negative effects of the Mongol invasion. He recognizes that the economic repercussions must have challenged different areas of the Rus economy. I think what is important to remember about Halperin’s article is that he is trying to introduce a largely new narrative. Countless works have argued that the Mongols only negatively affected Rus society – he would largely be reiterating the popular narrative if he focused primarily on the negative effects. However, I think your observation about cultural exchange between the Mongol empire and the Russian people is very important. I wonder if his assertion that the Mongol empire took nothing cultural or political from the Russian example is agreed upon by other historians or if there is another narrative that would counter his assertion, as he appears to counter Sakharov’s.

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