For the Horde? Russian History and the Mongol Empire

My latest podcast takes a look at the influence of the Mongol Empire on Russian history, and indeed on world history.

It is the 10th in my series on The Black Legend in Russian History.

For 250 years from the 1220’s Russia and Ukraine were both controlled by the Mongol Empire, the successors to Genghis Khan, the Golden Horde. Traditionally, this period has been described by the term coined by nationalist historians, the Mongol or Tatar Yoke. But, in truth, this period did not subject Russia to a benighted warrior empire. It connected Russia to the greatest Eurasian power of the time. And it led to a creative, prosperous, civilised time of successful institution-building. The Mongol Yoke is now seen as the period of the Mongol Exchange – perhaps a precursor to the growing Eurasian cooperation of today.

The story of how the Horde changed the world, and was decisive for the development of a multi-ethnic Russian empire centred on Muscovy (Moscow) is told in Marie Favereau, The Horde: how the Mongols Changed the World (2021). It is well worth a read, and you can buy at the Amazon affiliate link.

Favereau’s book will flip your understanding of the Mongols and of Russian history. For starters, she explained that the ‘Horde’ is the term that the Mongol khanates used to describe themselves, and strips it of negative associations. They were good fighters, but they were exceptionally skilled diplomats, traders, and rulers with a talent for synthesising and adapting to diversity. She wrote that:

“If historians have so far failed to appreciate the influence of the Horde on the development of Russian power, they have also misunderstood the political relatiuonship between the Horde and Russians. Scholars have perceived the Russians as members of a ‘steppe frontier,’ at the periphery of Jochid [another term for Mongol ruling family] power, whereas in fact Russians were deeply enmeshed in the nomadic state…. The Jochids in many ways created Moscow’s authority, fundamentally altering the course of Russian history.”

Favereau, The Horde, p. 16.

I learned so much making this episode and reading Marie Favereau’s brilliant book. I hope you enjoy listening to this podcast that will change your understanding of the role of the Mongols and Russians in world history and geopolitics.

Image: Wikimedia Commons. Tulsi , Madhu Toda Mongke and His Mongol Horde, Folio from a Chingiznama (History of Genghis Khan), 1596 Painting; Watercolor, Opaque watercolor, gold, and ink on paper, Sheet: 15 x 10 in. (38.1 x 25.4 cm); Image: 12 3/8 x 8 in. (31.4 x 20.3 cm) From the Nasli and Alice Heeramaneck Collection, Museum Associates Purchase (M.78.9.8) South and Southeast Asian Art Department.

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