Early Russian History. Key Issues. Гончарова Л.Ю. - 15 стр.



Chapter 3
Read the text:
If the Byzantine heritage has had an important influence on the development of
Russian history and culture, so has another heritage, coming from another direction
and leaving behind more uncertain benefits. The destinies of nations, like the fates of
individuals, are sometimes profoundly affected by events over which they have no
control. The conquest by the Mongols, in the thirteenth century, of a large portion of
the then known world, including Russia, is a good example of the decisive part which
the contingent and the unforeseen play in human affairs.
How it all Began
The Mongols were a mixed group of peoples who first enter upon the world
state in the area of North China and Eastern Siberia. They were nomads who raised
cattle and moved about on fleet horses. They were fierce warriors who had perfected
the art of horseback Blitzkrieg. They were always on the move, looking for better
grazing pastures and sedentary settlements to plunder. According to tradition the
various Mongol chiefs held a council in 1206 which decided to establish an empire
under the leadership of Ghingis Khan. So they embarked on a vast program of
conquest. In 1207 they took southern Siberia, followed by long wars in China and
Turkestan. By the time of Ghingis Khan's death in 1227 they had conquered China,
Siberia, central Asia and Trans-Caucasia.
Although a flying detachment of Mongol horsemen invaded Russia and
defeated her armies in 1223, giving the Russians a taste of what was to come, nothing
happened until 13 years later. In 1236, however, Batu, the grandson of the great
Khan, decided it was time to go on the warpath again. A large Mongol army under
Batu crossed the Urals and wiped out the Volga Bulgars. This time it was more than
fun and games. The Mongols brought wagons, wives, children and cattle with them.
Although the Russians did not at first realize it, the Mongols apparently planned to
stay for a while. But they made themselves rather unwelcome by destroying cities,
towns and settlements. Yet the Russian princes made no effort to unite and organize
for the defense.
The princes of Riazan, the first Russian land to be invaded, pleaded vainly for
assistance from the grand duke of Vladimir. The city of Riazan was captured in
December 1237, pillaged and burned. A similar fate befell Kalomma, Moscow,
Suzdal, Vladimir, Rostov, Yaroslav and Tver. The next spring 14 more Russian cities
fell to the conqueror. By 1239 most of Russia except Novgorod and the northwest
had been subdued. In 1241 Batu crossed the Carpathians and invaded Hungary,
Silesia, Moravia, Croatia and the Dalmatian coast of the Adriatic. Batu was about to