RAMBAUD ON THE THE MONGOL YOKE AND THE INFLUENCE OF THE TATARS ON THE RUSSIAN DEVELOPMENT

[excerpted from Alfred Rambaud, Russia, Leonora B. Lang, tr., vol. 1 (New York: Collier, 1900), pp. 123-129]

The Mongol khans, after having devastated and abased Rus. sia, did not introduce any direct political change. They left to each country her laws, her courts of justice, her natural chiefs. The house of Andrew Bogolioubski continued to reign in Souz.dal, that of Daniel Romanovitch in Galitch and Volhynia, the Olgovitches in Tchernigof, and the descendants of Rogvolod the Varangian at Polotsk. Novgorod might continue to expel and recall her princes, and the dynasties of the South to dispute the throne of Kief. The Russian States found themselves under the Mongol yoke, in much the same situation as that of the Christians of the Greco-Slav peninsula three centuries later, under the Ottomans. The Russians remained in possession of all their lands, which their nomad conquerors, encamped on the steppes of the East and South, disdained. They were, like their Danubian kinsmen, a sort of rayahs, over whom the authority of the khans was exerted with more or less rigor, but whom their conquerors never tried in any way to Tatarize. Let us see exactly in what consisted the obligations of the vanquished, and their relations with their conquerors, during the period of the Mongol yoke or Tatarshtchina.

1. The Russian princes were forced to visit the Horde, either as evidence of their submission, or to give the Khan op. portunity of judging their disputes. We have seen how they had to go not only to the Khan of the Golden Horde, but often also to the Grand Khan at the extremity of Asia, on the borders of the Sakhalian or Amour. They met there the chiefs of the Mongol, Tatar, Thibetian and Bokharian hordes, and sometimes the ambassador of the Caliph of Bagdad, of the Pope, or of the King of France. The Grand Khans tried to play off against each other these ambassadors, who were astonished to meet at his court. Mangou Khan desired Saint Louis to recognize him as the master of the world, "for," said he, "when the universe has saluted me as sovereign, a happy tranquillity will reign on the earth." In the case of refusal, "neither deep seas nor inaccessible mountains " would place the King of France beyond the power of his wrath. To the princes of Asia and Russia he displayed the presents of the King of France, affecting to consider them as tributes and signs of submission. " We will send to seek him to confound you," he said to them, and Joinville assures us that this threat, and "the fear of the King of France," decided many to throw themselves on his mercy. This journey to the Grand Horde was terrible. The road went through des. erts, or countries once rich, but changed by the Tatars into vast wastes. Few who went returned. Planus Carpinus, envoy of Innocent IV., saw in the steppes of the Kirghiz the dry bones of the boyards of the unhappy Iaroslaf, who had died of thirst in the sand. Planus Carpinus thus describes the Court of Bati on the Volga:-" It is crowded and brilliant. His army consists of 600,000 men, 150,000 Of whom are Tatars, and 450,000 strangers, Christians as well as infidels. On Good Friday we were conducted to his tent, between two fires, because the Tatars pretend that a fire purifies everything, and robs even poison of its danger. We had to make many prostrations, and enter the tent without touching the threshold. Bati was on his throne with one of his wives; his brothers, his children, and the Tatar lords were seated on benches; the rest of the assembly were on the ground, the men on the right, the women on the left. . . . . The Khan and the lords of the Court emptied from time to time cups of gold and silver, while the musicians made the air ring with their melodies. Bad has a bright complexion; he is affable with his men, but inspires general terror." The Court of the Grand Khan was still more magnificent. Planus Carpinus found there a Russian named Koum, who was the favorite and special goldsmith of Gaïouk or Kouïouk, and Rubruquis discovered a Parisian goldsmith, named Guillaume. Much money was needed for success, either at the Court of the Grand Khan or of Bati. Presents had to be distributed to the Tatar princes, to the favorites; above all to the wives and the mother of the Khan. At this terrible tribunal the Russian princes had to struggle with intrigues and corruption ; the heads of the pleaders were often the stakes of these dreadful trials. The most dan. gerous enemies they encountered at the Tatar Court were not the barbarians, but the Russians, their rivals. The history of the Russian princes at the Horde is very tragic. Thus Michael of Tchernigof perished at the Horde of Saraï in 1246, and Michael of Tver in 1319, the one assassinated by the renegade Doman, the other by the renegade Romanetz, at the instigation and under the eyes of the Grand Prince of Moscow.

2. The conquered people were obliged to pay a capitation tax, which weighed as heavily on the poor as on the rich. The tribute was paid either in money or in furs ; those who were unable to furnish it became slaves. The Khans had for some time farmed out this revenue to some Khiva merchants, who collected it with the utmost rigor, and whom they protected by appointing superior agents called baskaks, with strong guards to support them. The excesses of these tax-gatherers excited many revolts: in 1262, that of Souzdal ; in 1284, that of Koursk; in 1318, that of Kolomna ; in 1327, that of Tver, where the in. habitants slew the baskak Chevkal, and brought down on themselves frightful reprisals. Later, the princes of Moscow them selves farmed not only the tax from their own subjects, but also from neighboring countries. They became the farmers-general of the invaders. This was the origin of their riches and their power.

3. Besides the tribute, the Russians had to furnish to their master the blood-tax, a military contingent. Already at the time of the Huns and Avars, we have seen Slavs and Goths accompany the Asiatic hordes, form their vanguards, and be as it were the hounds of Baïan. In the 13th century, the Russian princes furnished to the Tatars select troops, especially a solid infantry, and marched in their armies at the head of their droujinas. It was thus that in 1276 Boris of Rostof, Gleb of Biélozersk, Feodor of Iaroslavl, and Andrew of Gorodetz followed Mangou Khan in a war against the tribes of the Caucasus, and sacked Dediakof in Daghestan, the capital of the lasses. The Mongols scrupulously reserved to them their part of the booty. The same Russian princes took part in an expedition against an adventurer named Lachan by the Greek historians, formerly a keeper of pigs, who had raised Bulgaria. The descendants of Monomachus behaved still more dishonorably in the troubles in the interior of Russia. They excited the Mongols against their countrymen and aided the invaders. Prince Andrew, son of Alexander Nevski, pillaged in 1281, in concert with the Tatars, the provinces of Vladimir, Souzdal, Mourom, Moscow, and Peréiaslavl, which he was disputing with Dmitri, his elder brother. He helped the barbarians to profane churches and convents. In 1327 it was the princes of Moscow and Souzdal who directed the military execution against Tver. In 1284, two Olgovitches reigned in the land of Koursk ; one of them, Oleg, put the other to death in the name of the Khan. Servitude had so much abased all characters, that even the annalists share the general degradation. They blame, not Oleg the murderer, but Sviatoslaf the victim. Was it not his unbridled conduct that caused the anger of the Khan ?

4. No prince could ascend the throne without having received the investiture and the iarlikh, or letters patent, from the Khan. The proud Novgorodians themselves rejected Michael, their prince, saying, "It is true we have chosen Michael, but on the condition that he should show us the iarlikh."

4. No Russian State dared to make war without being authorized to do so. In 1269 the Novgorodians asked leave to march against Revel. In 1303, in an assembly of princes, and in the presence of the Metropolitan Maximus, a decree of the Khan Tokhta was read, enjoining the princes to put an end to their dissensions, and to content themselves with their appanages, it being the will of the Grand Khan that the Grand Principality should enjoy peace. When the Mongol ambassadors brought a letter from their sovereign, the Russian princes were obliged to meet them on foot, prostrate themselves, spread precious carpets under their feet, present them with a cup filled with gold pieces, and listen, kneeling, while the iarlikh was read.

Even while the Tatars conquered the Russians, they respected their bravery. Matrimonial alliances were contracted between their princes. About 1272, Gleb, prince of Biélozersk, took a wife out the Khan's family, which already professed Christianity, and Feodor of Riazan became the son-in-law of the Khan of the Nogaïs, who assigned to the young couple a palace in Saraï. In 1318 the Grand Prince George married Kontchaka, sister of Uzbeck Khan, who was baptized by the name of Agatha. Towards the end of the 14th century, the Tatars were no longer the rude shepherds of the steppes. Mingled with sedentary and more cultivated races, they rebuilt fresh cities on the ruins of those they had destroyed ; Krym in the Crimea, Kazan, Astrakhan, and Saraï. They had acquired a taste for luxury and magnificence, honored the national poets who sang their ex. ploits, piqued themselves on their chivalry and even on their gallantry. Notwithstanding the difference of religion, a reconciliation was taking place between the aristocracy of the two countries, between the Russian kniazes and the Tatar mourzas.

The Russian historians are not entirely agreed as to the nature and degree of influence exerted by the Mongol yoke on the Russian development. Karamsin and M. Kostomarof believe it to have been considerable. " Perhaps," says the former " our national character still presents some blots which are derived from the Mongol barbarism." M. Solovief, on the contrary, affirms that the Tatars hardly influenced it more than the Patzinaks or Polovtsi. M. Bestoujef-Rioumine estimates the influence to have been specially exerted on the financial ad. ministration and military organization. On one side the Tatars established the capitation-tax, which has remained in the financial system of Russia ; on the other, the conquered race had a natural tendency to adopt the military system of the victors. The Russian or Mongol princes formed a caste of soldiers hence. forth quite distinct from Western chivalry, to which the Russian heroes of the 12th century belonged. The warriors of Daniel of Galitch, it is said, astounded the Poles and Hungarians by the Oriental character of their equipment. Short stirrups, very high saddles, a long caftan or floating dress, a sort of turban surmounted by an aigret, sabres and poniards in their belts, a bow and arrows-such was the military costume of a Russian prince of the '5th century.

On the other side, many of the peculiarities in which the Mongol influence is thought traceable may be attributed as well or better to purely Slav traditions, or imitations of Byzantine manners. If the Muscovite princes inclined to autocracy, it was not that they formed themselves on the model of the Grand Khan, but that they naturally adopted imperial ideas of absolutism imported from Constantinople. It is always the Roman Emperor of Tzargrad, and not the leader of Asiatic shepherds, who is their typical monarch. If from this time the Russian penal law makes more frequent use of the pain of death and corporal punishment, it is not only the result of imitation of the Tatars, but of the evergrowing influence of Byzantine laws, and the progressive triumph of their principles over those of the ancient code of Iaroslaf. Now these laws so very easily admitted torture, flogging, mutilation, the stake, etc., that there is no need to explain anything by Mongol usages. The habit of prostration, of beating the forehead, of affecting the servile submission, is certainly Oriental, but it is also Byzantine. The seclusion of women was customary in ancient Russia, moulded by Greek missionaries, and the Russian terem proceeds more certainly from the Hellenic gynaeceum than from the Oriental harem; all the more because the Tatar women, before the conversion of the Mongols to Islamism, do not appear to have been secluded. If the Russians of the 17th century seem strange to us in their long robes and Oriental fashions, we must remember that the French and Italians of the 15th century, dressed by Venetian merchants, displayed the same taste. Only in France fashions made advances, while in Russia, isolated from the rest of Europe they remained stationary.

From a social point of view, two Russian expressions seem to date from the Tatar invasion : tcherne, or the black people, to designate the lower orders ; and krestianine, signifying the peasant, that is, the Christian par excellence, who was always a stranger to the Mongol customs adopted for a short time by the aristocracy. As to the amount of Mongol or Tatar blood mixed with the blood of the Russians, it must have been very small : the aristocracy of the two countries may have contracted marriages, a certain number of mourzas may have become Russian princes by their conversion to orthodoxy, but the two races, as a whole, remained strangers. Even to-day, while the autochthonous Finns continue to be Russified, the Tatar cantons, even though converted to Christianity, are still Tatar.

If the Mongol yoke has influenced the Russian development, it is very indirectly. 1. In separating Russia from the West, in making her a political dependency of Asia, it perpetuated in the country that Byzantine half civilization whose inferiority to European civilization became daily more obvious. If the Russians of the 17th century differ so much from Western nations, it is above all because they have remained at the point whence all set out. 2. The Tatar conquest also favored indirectly the establishment of absolute power. The Muscovite princes, responsible to the Khan for the public tranquillity and the collection of the tax, being all the while watched and supported by the baskaks, could the more easily annihilate the independence of the towns, the resistance of the second order of princes, the turbulence of the boyards, and the privileges of the free peasants. The Grand Prince of Moscow had no consideration for his subjects because no man had any consideration for him, and because his life was always at stake. The Mongol tyranny bore with a frightful weight on all the Russian hierarchy, and subjected more closely the nobles to the princes, and the peasants to the nobles. "The princes of Moscow," says Karamsin, " took the humble title of servants of the khans, and it was by this means that they became powerful monarchs." No doubt the Russian principalities would always have ended by losing themselves in the same dominion, but Russian unity would have been made, like French unity, without the entire destruction of local autonomies, the privileges of the towns, and the rights of the subjects. It was the crushing weight of the Mongol domination that stifled all the germs of political liberty. We may say with Mr. Wallace, that " the first Tzars of Muscovy were the political descendants, not of the Russian princes, but of the Tatar khans." 3. A third indirect result of the conquest was the growth of the power and riches of the Church. In spite of the saintly legends about the martyrdom of certain princes, the Tatars were a tolerant nation. Rubruquis saw in the presence of the Grand Khan Mangou, Nestorians, Mussulmans, and Shamans celebrating their own particular worships.

Kouïouk had a Christian chapel near his palace; Khoubilaï regularly took part in the feast of Easter. In 1261, the Khan of Saraï authorized the erection of a church and orthodox bishopric in his capital. The Mongols had no sectarian hatred against bishops and priests. With a sure political instinct, the Tatars, like the Sultans of Stamboul, understood that these men could agitate or calm the people. After the first fury of the conquest was passed, they applied themselves to gaining them over. They excepted priests and monks from the capitation-tax; they received them well at the Horde, and gave pardons at their intercession. They settled disputes of orthodox prelates, and established the peace in the Church that they imposed on the State. In 11313 the Khan Uzbeck, at the prayer of Peter, Metropolitan of Moscow, confirmed the privileges of the Church and forbade her being deprived of her goods, "for," says the edict, "these possessions are sacred, because they belong to men whose prayers preserve our lives and strengthen our armies." The right of justice in the Church was formally recognized. Sacrilege was punished by death.

The convents also increased in numbers and riches. They filled enormously: were they not the safest asylums? Their peasants and servants multiplied: was not the protection of the Church the surest ? Gifts of land were showered on them, as in France in the year 1000 It was thus that the great ecclesiastical patrimony of Russia, a wealthy reservoir of revenues and capital, was constituted, on which more than once in national crises the Russian sovereigns were glad to draw. The Church, which, even in her weakness, had steadily tended to unity and autocracy, was to place at the service of the crown a power which bad become enormous. The Metropolitans of Moscow were nearly always the faithful allies of the Grand Princes.