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[1235-1462 A.D.]

IN the thirteenth century the steppes of central Asia sent forth a new conquering horde, constituting the last wave of that migration of peoples which had commenced in remote antiquity.' This Mongol-Tatar horde dominated Russia for 240 years and left enduring traces of its domination. It definitively broke the bond between western and eastern Russia, and thus contributed to the formation of the principality of Lithuania in the west; while in the east it promoted the rise of the principality of Moscow, which finally absorbed all the other Russian principalities, threw off their Tatar yoke, recoiled in its turn upon the steppe, and finally, by turning Russia into an empire, made forever impossible another invasion from the steppe.

The cradle of the Mongolian race was in all probability the country lying at the foot of the Altai Mountains. At the time of the appearance of Jenghiz Khan the Mongols were divided into numerous tribes, which were governed by their elders and lived in mutual enmity. An unpleasing description of the exterior and life of the Mongols is given by a Chinese writer, a contemporary of Jenghiz Khan, and also by Mussulman writers:

"Their faces are wide, flat, and square, with prominent cheek-bones, their eyes have no upper lashes, their beard and moustaches are of scanty growth, their general appearance is repulsive. But the present Tatar sovereign, Temuchin (Jenghiz Khan) is of enormous stature, with broad forehead and long beard, and distinguished for his valour. They reckon the year

[This is, of course, meant only in a limited sense. The migration of peoples still continues with unabated force, but its centre has moved from Asia to Europe. Thence it moves in a twofold direction: on the one hand, from western Europe to America and Australia; and on the other hand, from eastern Europe to the remotest confines of Asia.]


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[1223 A.D.]

according to the growth of grass. When one of them is asked for his age, he replies so many grasses. When asked for the number of the month, they laugh and reply that they do not know. The Tatars are born in the saddle and grow up on horseback. They learn to fight almost by instinct, for they hunt the whole year round. They have no infantry, but only cavalry, of which they can raise several hundred thousand. They hardly ever resort to writing, but all, from the commander-in-chief to the commander of ten, give their orders in person. When they want to take a big town, they first attack the small places in the vicinity, take all the inhabitants prisoners, and drive them forward to the attack. For this purpose a command is issued that every man on horseback should capture ten prisoners, and when this number is completed they are compelled to collect a certain amount of grass or wood, earth or stones. The Tatars urge them on night and day, killing those who become exhausted. Having reached the town, they are compelled to dig trenches or fill up fosses. In a siege the Tatars reck not of the loss of tens of thousands: hence they are invariably successful. When they capture a city they kill all without sparing either young or old, the beautiful or the ugly, rich or poor, those who submit or those who resist. No person, however distinguished, escapes this unrevokable penalty of death. The spoil is divided in proportionate shares among high and low. This people have

no need of baggage or provision wagons; their herds of sheep, cows, horses, and other animals follow them on their marches, and they eat meat and nothing else. Their horses do not know barley, but they tear up the ground with their hoofs and live on the roots. As to their faith, the Tatars worship the sun at the time of its rising. They do not regard anything as forbidden, and eat all animals, even dogs and pigs. Marriage is unknown to them, but many men come to a woman, and when a child is born it does not know its father."

Similar descriptions are met with in the narratives of Europeans who knew the Mongols in the days of their power.


It was among this rude nomad people that Jenghiz Khan was born in 1162. The son of the chief of a tribe dwelling at the mouths of the Onon and the Ingoda, affluents of the Amur, Jenghiz was far removed from the focus of central Asian political life, and his power was originally very small. The first forty years of his life were spent in struggles with the surrounding peoples; it is even said that for ten years he was in captivity with the Nyuché, or Chûrché (the Manchurian rulers of northern China known under the name of the dynasty of Kin), during which time he became acquainted with Chinese customs and manners, and also with the weakness of the rulers of China. Having conquered various Mongolian tribes, he proclaimed himself emperor at a general assembly of the princes, which was held at the sources of the river Onon (1206).

"By thus taking the imperial title," says V. P. Vasiliev, "he gave perfect expression to the purely Chinese conception that, as there is only one sun in the heavens, so there must be only one emperor on earth; and all others bearing this title, all states having any pretensions to independent existence thereby offend the will of heaven and invite chastisement." His successes in Mongolia are explained by his surpassing military talent, the system of purely military organisation adopted by him, and by the fact that he gave places in his service to all those who were gifted, of whatever race they might

[1223-1228 A.D.] be. Jenghiz Khan's conquests advanced rapidly; in 1206 he devastated the kingdom of Tangut (in southern Mongolia) and in 1210 he commenced a war with the Nyûché, ruling in northern China. The war dragged on, and meanwhile the shah of Khuarezm (Bokhara) gave offence to Jenghiz Khan by slaying the Mongolian ambassadors. Leaving his captains in China, the Mongolian khan marched to Bokhara (1219), whence, partly in pursuit of the shah and partly led on by the passion for pillage, the Mongolian troops directed their way to the west, doubled the southern shore of the Caspian Sea, crossed the Caucasus, and penetrated into the steppes of the Polovtsi.

The leaders of these troops were Chépé and Subutai Bahadar. The Polovtsi applied for help to the Russian prince Mstislav Mstislavitch, and he called together the princes of southern Russia, amongst whom the most important were Mstislav Romanovitch of Kiev and Mstislav Sviatoslavitch of Tchernigov. The armies of the princes moved to the help of the Polovtsi, and although the Tatars sent ambassadors saying, "God has permitted us to come on our steeds with our slaves against the accursed Polovtsi; come and make peace with us, for we have no quarrel with you," the princes decided upon a battle which took place by the river Kalka in the government of Iekaterinoslav. The Russian princes, who did not act in unison, were beaten (1223), and many were killed, amongst others Mstislav of Kiev. The Tatars did not penetrate far into Russia, but turned back and were soon forgotten.2 Meanwhile the Tatar captains returned to Jenghiz Khan, who, having definitively subdued Tangut and northern China, died in 1227. He had during his lifetime divided his possessions amongst his four sons: to the descendants of Juji (then already dead) was allotted Kiptchak (that is the steppe extending from central Asia into southern Russia); to Jagatai, Turkestan; to Okkodai (Ogdai) China; to Tuli, the nomad camps adjoining the share of Okkodai. Over these princes was to be exalted the great khan, chosen in a solemn assembly of all the princes. In 1228 Okkodai was proclaimed great khan.

At first the question of succession, then the final consolidation of the empire in northern China, and then again the commencement of the war with the south kept the princes around the great khan, and it was only in 1235 that Okkodai sent his nephew Batu, son of Juji, together with Manku, son of Tuli, and his own son Kuiuk, to conquer the western lands; to their number was added Sabutai, famous for his Kiptchak campaign. First of all they conquered the Bulgarians on the Volga, and then came to the land of Riazan. Here they exacted from the princes a tribute of a tenth of all their possessions

['A modern army inevitably loses in numbers and its difficulties increase as it advances from its base of operations into the enemy's country. The very reverse was the situation of the Tatars. They needed no base of operations, for they took along with them their flocks, their tents, and all their belongings, and while their flocks fed upon the grassy steppes, they in turn fed upon their flocks. And the nomadic and predatory tribes whom they encountered on their march led the same kind of life as themselves, and were easily induced to join in the certain expectation of plunder. Thus the tide kept on ever increasing and gaining in force. In fact, the Tatars can hardly be styled an army, but a people in motion."]

[At first the Russians had only very vague notions as to who this terrible enemy was. The old chronicler remarks briefly: "For our sins unknown people have appeared. No one knows who they are or whence they have come, or to what race and faith they belong. They are commonly called Tatars, but some call them Tauermen, and others Petchenegs. Who they really are is known only to God, and perhaps to wise men deeply read in books." Some of these "wise men deeply read in books" supposed them to be the idolatrous Moabites who had in Old Testament times harassed God's chosen people; whilst others thought that they must be the descendants of the men whom Gideon had driven out, of whom a reverent saint had prophesied that they would come in the latter days and conquer the whole earth, from the East even unto the Euphrates, and from the Tigris even unto the Black Sea.c]

[1237–1241 A.D.] both in lands and in men; the courageous resistance of the Riazan princes proved unsuccessful, chiefly because the princes of northern Russia did not unite, but decided on defending themselves separately. After the devastation of Riazan and the slaughter of her princes (1237), followed that of Suzdal. Having taken Moscow, the Tatars marched to Vladimir, where they slew the family of the grand prince, while he himself was defeated and killed on the banks of the Sit (1238). Thence they were apparently going to Novgorod, but returned probably to avoid the marshes. On their way back, Kozelsk detained them for a long time, but it was finally taken and pillaged.

The tactics of the Tatars in this war consisted in first encompassing each region as hunters do, and then joining forces at one centre, thus devastating all. In the years 1239-1240 the Tatars ravaged southern Russia, and in 1240 they took and laid waste Kiev. All Europe trembled at the horrors of the Tatar invasion; the emperor Frederick II called for a general arming, but his calls were in vain. Meanwhile the Tatars advanced to Hungary (1241) and Poland, and defeated the Polish princes at Liegnitz in Silesia; and it was only the courageous defence of Olmütz in Moravia, by the Czech voyevode Iaroslav, and the gathering of armies under the command of the Czech king and the dukes of Austria and Carinthia, that finally caused the Tatars to turn back. They then founded their chief dwelling place on the Volga, where near the present town of Tsareva (government of Astrakhan) they established a wintering place for the horde-Sarai. There the Russian princes began to arrive with tribute. At first, however, they were obliged to go to the great khan in Mongolia; for the first khans, Okkodai, Kuiuk, and Mangku, were lawfully chosen by the princes, and maintained their authority over all the empire of Jenghiz Khan; and it was only from the time of Kublai (1260), who arbitrarily took possession of the throne and removed the seat of government to China, that the bond was definitively severed.


The domination of the Tatars over Russia is regarded by historians from various points of view: some (such as Karamzin and especially N. I. Kostomarov) ascribe a decided influence to the Tatars in the development of Russian life. S. M. Soloviov, on the contrary, is of the opinion that the influence of the Tatars was not greater than that of the Polovtsi. Both these opinions are extreme: it is senseless to deny the influence of the Tatars, for the reason that Russia was long associated with them, and that, since in her intercourse with the east, Moscow employed Tatar services, much that was eastern entered into the administration, notably the financial system; traces of eastern custom may also be found in the military organisation. These are direct consequences; the indirect ones are hardly less important, because a considerable share in the interruption of civilisation and the roughening of the manners and customs of the people may be ascribed to the separation of eastern Russia from western. On the other hand, it is impossible to regard the corporal punishments as entirely Tatar, for they were known in Byzantium, and came to Russia in the manuals of church statutes; they were known also in the west, and are to be met with in places which were but little under Tatar domination, such as Pskov. The opinion that the autocratic power had its origin in the domination of the Tatars must, it would seem, be entirely rejected, especially when we call to mind the constant preaching of the clergy, and the fact that John the Terrible directly appeals to the authority of the Bible and the example of the Roman emperors.

[1237-1241 A.D.]

Civilisation and letters were almost unknown to the Tatars. The writers in their chanceries were for the greater part taken from the nations they had conquered, as were also the artists who embellished the wintering places of their khans. Much luxury was to be met with amongst them, but neither elegance nor cleanliness: in this respect they kept to the very end the customs of the Mongolian steppes. Also in moral respects they showed themselves dwellers of the steppes even to the end of their career in history. Cruel and coarse though they were, they possessed, however, some good qualities. They were temperate in their lives, and their cupidity was not so great as that of other Asiatic nations; they were far less given to deceit in tradein general, with them, violence predominated over deceit.b

Throughout all of their conquests in Russia, they obviously acted upon a principle which was well calculated to facilitate their own complete ascendency. At first they destroyed the walled places that stood in the way of their projects, and afforded a means of defence to the people; they destroyed the population wherever they went, in order that the remnant which survived should feel the more surely the weight of their power; and, at length, as their advance became the more safe and certain, they relaxed slightly in their cruelties, enrolling under their standard the slaves they captured, thus turning their conquests into armaments. But the climate of Russia rendered it an unsuitable place for their location. As they could not remain upon the soil which they had vanquished, they established themselves on the frontiers to watch over their new possessions, leaving nominal Russian princes to fight for them against the invading tribes that continually rushed in. Those very invasions served also to strengthen the Tatar yoke, by weakening the resisting power of the natives.d

In conquering Russia they had no wish to take possession of the soil, or to take into their own hands the local administration. What they wanted was not land, of which they had enough and to spare, but movable property which they might enjoy without giving up their pastoral, nomadic life. They applied, therefore, to Russia the same method of extracting supplies as they had used in other countries. As soon as their authority had been formally acknowledged they sent officials into the country to number the inhabitants and to collect an amount of tribute proportionate to the population. This was a severe burden for the people, not only on account of the sum demanded, but also on account of the manner in which it was raised. The exactions and cruelty of the tax-gatherers led to local insurrections, and the insurrectionists were of course always severely punished. But there was never any general military occupation nor any wholesale confiscations of land, and the existing political organisation was left undisturbed. The modern method of dealing with annexed provinces was wholly unknown to the Tatars. The khans never for a moment dreamed of attempting to Tatarise their Russian subjects. They demanded simply an oath of allegiance from the princes, and a certain sum of tribute from the people. The vanquished were allowed to retain their land, their religion, their language, their courts of justice, and all their other institutions.

The nature of the Tatar domination is well illustrated by the policy which the conquerors adopted towards the Russian church. For more than half a century after the conquest the religion of the Tatars was a mixture of Buddhism and paganism, with traces of sabaism or fire-worship. During this period Christianity was more than simply tolerated. The grand khan Kuiuk caused a Christian chapel to be erected near his domicile, and one of his successors, Khubilai, was in the habit of publicly taking part in the

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