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.” ((RS 68)) 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,” ((RS 67) and they greatly evolved the Russian Calvary forces. They also brought the Russians a crude postal system. ((RS 70))
Discussion question: How is the role of Mongol involvement in Russia treated in by historians today?