Novgorod Chronicle and Mongol Invasion

The Novgorod Chronicle presents the Mongol invasion as a punishment sent by God. The Mongols invaded because the princes were selfish and fought against one another, disobeying both their father and God. The Chroniclers write that the Devil himself is responsible for inciting this discord among the princes.

The Chronicle lessens the importance of the Mongol’s role in the invasion because God is named as the one pulling all of the strings. God allowed the Mongols attack as punishment for the people’s sins. If God had not intervened, then the Mongols would never have invaded; therefore, God plays the central role in this story, not the Mongols.

Did the Mongols practice Paganism? Was there religious tolerance under Mongol rule? If God is the one responsible for this devastation, then shouldn’t the people of Rus direct their anger towards God and not towards the Mongols? If the princes had behaved more righteously, does that mean the Mongol invasion would never have happened? What is the point of being a Christian if God offers no protections from such horrors?

Power Shifts in Post- Kievan Rus’

In post- Kievan Rus’, the power dynamics shifted significantly because of the changing sources of the power. There were two specific ways that the power in the area shifted: through dispersing power from the prince to other officials in the area, and to give the elite citizens more power. The first type describes a system where officials had to be elected to power, but once in office had authority to limit the prince’s power and to govern the area (mainly found in the northwestern region). The second type mainly took place in the southwest and consisted of the princes power being reduced once again, but this time the authority went to the elite who only placed people in power who would aid their personal goals. Of course, many places saw no change, but in general this era marks a shift from entirely princely rule to a, somewhat, more open system.

The Start of Moscow’s Rise

The documents ascertaining to different regions of Rus’ in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries depict rather well how power was viewed and exacted.  The most important thing to note is since the different regions of Rus’ were ruled differently, the expansion eastward and away from Kiev is logical.

Firstly, we can tell how the mentality of the Northwest, Southwest, and Northeast parts of the Rus’ were different in the types of the documents given.  The document for Northwest Rus’ is a treaty between boyars and the prince.  In this document, it lays out ground rules for the prince to abide by.  The aristocrats in Novgorod clearly write in a tone of authority, but in the document itself they state more or less that power is to be shared between the people of Novgorod (the aristocrats) and the prince.

The document for the Southwestern Rus’ is an extraction from a chronicle, which tells a tale of boyars conspiring against the prince in this region.  When their first conspiracy plan is foiled, many boyars flee to Hungary, convince the king of Hungary to overtake Prince Danilo’s lands, and eventually the boyars end up making princely decisions over the land without the knowledge or permission of Prince Danilo.  Of course, as this document is a chronicle, it carries a religious tone, especially when Prince Danilo finds out about how his Boyar’s betray him, but acts meekly in seeking favor from God, and how he “[prays] to God for his native land, which [is] held by these godless [boyars] and ruled by them” (KM, pg. 87).  Here we can see that the prince is merely a figurehead with no authority over his lands, while the aristocracy holds any real power.

The third document, coming from Moscow, is Prince Dmitrii Donskoi’s will and testament.  This document are the prince’s own words, and were recorded in witness by members of the Church and aristocracy.  However, these witnesses are mentioned penultimately, and Prince Dmitrii is clearly in control over his lands and its profits.  In this document, there are two important aspects to note about how he divvies up his property.  Firstly, he gives his wife shares of property from each of the shares of his sons, and gives her authority over her sons about how in any circumstances that are not outlined in the will, she can change each son’s share (though this is still outlined rather carefully in the will how she is supposed to distribute the land).  He also states several times throughout the document how his sons must obey the princess, or they lose his blessing, and therefore, their shares of his lands and property.  Secondly, Prince Dmitrii divides the land unevenly.  He gives the largest share of inheritance and his princeship to his eldest son, and the following sons receive less than their older brother(s).  In the lands he gives each of his sons, he mentions how they are to inherit the lands that his father had obtained, meaning before Prince Dmitrii’s rule, Moscow had greatly expanded.

As each Moscow heir receives an uneven amount of inheritance, this exhibits how eventually over time, Moscow heirs would inherit close to nothing.  However, since there is evidence of a previous Moscow expansion, what this does in turn is encourage the Muscovite royalty to further expand, making there more lands to inherit.  What this leads to is a novel expansionist attitude in Muscovite princes that is not seen in the other regions of Rus’.

With that said, this is exactly how true power began to gravitate toward Moscow:

  1. In the western parts of the Rus’, the princes lost most if not all of their princely power in government, while in Moscow, the rule of the prince was absolute.
  2. Moscow was beginning to express a need to expand their lands.  In the expansion of their lands, it would in turn result in Rus’ expanding in general.