Perhaps this will be an overly and overtly charged blog; however, the two readings from Reinterpreting Russian History: Reading 860s-1860s present an excellent example of how historians can use the same sources but generate two very different narratives. In his article, “Interpreting the Mongol Yoke: The Ideology of Silence” Charles Halperin examines the variety of influences that the Mongol empire had on Russian society: its culture, politics, and economy. He challenges the popular notion that Mongol control only resulted in negative impacts on Russian culture.1 While he does not deny that the invasion and occupation had its set of drawbacks – mainly economic – he also highlights some of the militaristic, political, and economic gains.2 Furthermore, he argues against the popular historical narrative on the Mongol empire, a narrative upheld by A.M. Sakharov in his article “The Mongols and Cultural Change.” Drawing from the chronicles, Sakharov argues that the Mongol invasion crippled Russian culture and set it back hundreds of years.3 However, Sakharov makes exceptionally broad an sweeping statements that at many points seem to contradict themselves. In any article, one should be healthily skeptical when an author writes that something “is an indisputable historical fact” as Sakharov does in his argument that “The Mongol-Tartar invasion was a terrible calamity for Russian culture.” ((Kaiser, Reinterpreting, 138.)) Very few historical facts exist outside of the date and place of an event, and discrepancies often surround those as well. Furthermore, Sakharov recognizes the continued prosperity of northern cities such as Novgorod while arguing that all of Russian culture suffered under Mongolian rule. ((Kaiser, Reinterpreting, 139.)) His mention of the development of Russian culture and its apparent refinement (i.e. actually gaining a collective identity) at the end of the 14th century also contradicts his argument that the Mongol rule was entire detrimental to Russian culture.
How and why do you think historians – these two in particular – draw create such different narratives on the same event?