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” ((Kaiser and Marker 105)).  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 architecture ((Kaiser and Marker 137)).  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 society ((Kaiser and Marker 105)).  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

Sakharov and Halperin’s Conflicting Viewpoints

When reading Charles Halperin’s and A. M. Sakharov’s one can clearly see two very opposing viewpoints on what the Mongols brought to Russian society. Halperin’s point of view illustrates that despite the fact the Mongol’s did significant damage, their culture was an integral part of society and would influence Russia for many years to come. He states that the invasion did not impact the governmental system in place beforehand much: “The Mongols restructured the social and political order of the steppe, the mainstay of international commerce and nomadism, but they left the political infrastructure of Russia alone because of its lesser importance to their economy and polity.” Russian princes remained to rule under the close watch of the Mongols. In addition to this, the Orthodox Church was never interfered with. The Mongol’s leader Genghis Khan tolerated all religions in his empire.

Contrasting Halperin’s outlook, Sakharov believes that Mongol’s were detrimental to Rus’ in most ways and did not positively influence society. He points out that the Mongol-Tatars took craftsmen captive and destroyed Russian architecture. By exterminating or exiling craftsmen, many construction techniques disappeared and things like masonry construction ceased completely. He also boldly claims that the Mongols did not enrich Russian society in any way and only a few Eastern words are retained in the Russian language.

I personally think Sakharov’s viewpoint is much too extreme and that the Mongols influence the way Russia formed in many ways. I think they showed Princes how to properly rule, and created a more centralized Rus. They also were not persecuted for their religion and were allowed to practice their own customs. It’s interesting to see how efficient and smart the Mongols were with their rule. By not destroying people’s lives around their empire, they were able to control a huge area of the world for a long time.