The Collapse of Mongol Rule in Russia

Instructor: Kevin Newton

Kevin has edited encyclopedias, taught middle and high school history, and has a master's degree in Islamic law.

For more than 200 years, the Mongolian Golden Horde ruled much of the lands of the Rus. This lesson looks at how the Rus slowly and methodically expelled them from their lands.

Mongol Rule of Russia

The Golden Horde was one of four Mongol khanates, or sections, of the overall Mongol Empire. The Golden Horde's territory was in the Northwestern section of the empire--the land of the Rus. Since the arrival of the Mongolian Golden Horde in the land of the Rus in the early part of the thirteenth century, few things had gone well for the local people. At first, Kievan rulers resisted Mongol rule, even killing Mongol messengers. As a result, the Mongols laid waste to much of the countryside. One of the many cities burned was the small trading post of Moscow.

However, within a few decades, the Rus realized that Mongolian rule was not such a terrible thing. The Mongolian Empire was so vast, that many of the people and cultures that were conquered were allowed to maintain their identities, practices, and religions. The Mongols simply couldn't control everyone! As a result, the most important cultural fabric of the Rus, the Church, was left largely to its own devices. Also, given the Mongolian practice of allowing locals to prove their loyalty and gain more independence and power, the Rus people were able to slowly gain Mongol trust and power within the empire.

Map of the Mongol Empire
Map of Mongol Empire

Trusting Moscow

This policy of gaining the trust of the Mongolian Empire began under one of the most important Russian heroes, Alexander Nevsky, but it really flourished under his son Daniel, commonly referred to as Daniel of Moscow. Daniel had received Moscow as his inheritance from his father, and was committed to building the city into something to be proud of. In the 1280s, he began negotiating for extra power from the Mongols, and proved his loyalty on the battlefield against the Germans and other European invaders. This trend continued with Daniel's successors until Moscow was considered a Grand Duchy, still subservient to the Golden Horde, but very independent all the same. The Mongols ignored Moscow as it slowly conquered the other Russian states, building itself up into a real force to be reckoned with.

Falling Apart

Meanwhile the Golden Horde itself was overstretched. Reaching from the lands of the Grand Duchy to the border of China, the Mongolian talents that had made conquering such a massive empire possible did not lend themselves to governing such an expansive piece of land. Soon, elements of the realm began to revolt, with siblings fighting other siblings. Simply put, it was not a good time to be a Mongol.

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