Russia and the Horde

Herzen said that Nicholas I was “Genghis Khan with a telegraph”. As a continuation of this tradition, Stalin was compared to Genghis Khan with a telephone. Putin now carries the torch as spiritual successor to Genghis Khan.

The Mongol impact on Russian history is huge. Uncontroversially, the staggering devastation and massacre that the Mongol invaders brought to Russian lands were unprecedented. Russia, if not conquered by the Mongols in the 13th century, could have followed a similar path to that of the west. Instead, following the destruction of Kyiv, it was isolated from Europe for 250 years. While the ideas of freedom and justice were gaining strength in Europe, Russia was institutionalizing serfdom, which was another direct result of the Mongol rule.

Was this profound discontinuity in Russian history a tragedy, or something to celebrate? Historians fall into two main camps: Westernizers lament Russia's backwardness and wish it was more like Europe. Eurasianists argue that Russia owes a lot to the Mongol tradition, and in many ways Russia in its various historical incarnations (Imperial, Soviet, and now Putinist) is the spiritual successor of the Mongol Empire.

The Westernizer perspective is well known westerners by default. The Eurasianist position, however, is interesting and generative, and helps gain a better perspective on Russia's uniqueness and self-image.

Eurasianists celebrate the Mongol legacy

The Tatar-Mongols unified many Russian princedoms into a single country:

They isolated Russia from the ills of the West for 250 years:

They extended the practice of serfdom in Russia, making the people more malleable.

They fostered Russian commerce with the east.

Their rule quashed commoners ambitions for upward mobility.

Isolation from the west strengthened Christian Orthodoxy

Russia borrowed administrative practices from the Mongols.

Mostly cribbed from The Legacy of Genghis Khan - The Mongol Impact on Russian History, Politics, Economy, and Culture notes

Last edited on Aug 2022