Mongol-Tatar Yoke

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Mongol-Tatar Yoke


in Rus’, the rule of the MongolTatar feudal lords over Russian lands from the 13th to the 15th century, which aimed at the systematic exploitation of the conquered country through obligatory payments and predatory raids. The Mongol-Tatar yoke was established as a result of the Mongol conquests of the 13th century.

The Russian principalities were not directly incorporated into the Mongol feudal empire. They preserved their local princely administration, which was controlled by the baskaks (officials) and other representatives of the Mongol-Tatar khans. The Russian princes were tributaries of the Mongol-Tatar khans and received from them yarlyks (investitures) granting them principalities. There were no permanent Mongol-Tatar troops on the territory of Rus’. The yoke was maintained by punitive campaigns and repressions against recalcitrant princes. Rus’ was ruled by the great Mongol khans until the early 1260’s, later coming under the domination of the khans of the Golden Horde.

The Mongol-Tatar yoke was formally established in 1243, when the father of Alexander Nevsky, Prince laroslav Vsevolodovich, received from the Mongol-Tatars ayarlyk for the Grand Principality of Vladimir and was recognized by them as “elder prince in the Russian land.” Systematic exploitation of the Russian lands through the collection of tribute began after the census of 1257–59 taken by the Mongol chislenniki (census men) under the direction of Kitat, a relative of the great khan. The taxable units were the household (dvor) in towns and the farm (derevnia, sokha, plug) in rural areas. Only the clergy, whom the conquerors tried to use to strengthen their rule, was exempt from tribute.

There were 14 types of “horde burdens,” the main ones being the vykhod, or “tsar’s tribute,” a tax paid directly to the Mongol khan; commercial levies (the myt and tamka) the obligatory supplying of carts, horses, and drivers for transport; maintenance of the khan’s officials (korm); and various dary (gifts) and pochesria (donations) to the khan and his relatives and retainers. An enormous quantity of silver was paid in tribute each year. The Moscow vykhod was 5,000–7,000 rubles of silver, and the Novgorod vykhod, 1,500 rubles. Large zaprosy(extraordinary taxes) for military and other purposes were collected periodically. When ordered by the khan, the Russian princes were obliged to send recruits to take part in campaigns and raids (lovitvy). The horde burdens exhausted the economy and hindered the development of commodity and money relations. The Mongol-Tatar yoke was gradually weakened by the heroic resistance of the Russian people and other peoples of Eastern Europe.

In the late 1250’s and early 1260’s, the tribute was collected from the Russian principalities by Muslim merchants, called besermeny, who bought this right from the great Mongol khan. Most of the tribute was sent to the great khan in Mongolia. The besermeny were driven out in 1262 as a result of popular uprisings in the Russian cities, and the duty of collecting the tribute passed to the local princes. The khans of the Golden Horde frequently invaded the Russian lands in order to maintain their rule, organizing as many as 14 campaigns between about 1270 and 1300. However, the struggle for independence continued. In 1285, Grand Prince Dmitrii, the son of Alexander Nevsky, defeated and drove off the punitive force of the “horde tsarevich.” In the late 13th and first quarter of the 14th centuries frequent uprisings inspired by the veche (popular assemblies) in Russian cities (in Rostov in 1289 and 1320 and in Tver’ in 1293 and 1327) led to the abolition of the baskak system.

With the strengthening of the principality of Muscovy, Mongol-Tatar domination gradually “weakened. The Muscovite prince Ivan I Kalita (reigned 1325–40) was entrusted with collecting the vykhod from all the Russian principalities. From the middle of the 14th century the orders of the khans of the Golden Horde, without the backing of a sufficiently strong military force, were no longer carried out by the Russian princes. The Muscovite prince Dmitrii Donskoi (1359–89) did not submit to the yarlyks issued to his rivals and took the Grand Principality of Vladimir by force. In 1378 he defeated a Mongol-Tatar punitive force on the Vozha River in the Riazan’ lands, and in 1380 he won a victory over Mamai, the ruler of the Golden Horde, at the battle of Kulikovo. However, after Toktamish’s campaign and the capture of Moscow in 1382, Rus’ was again obliged to recognize the rule of the Mongol-Tatar khans and pay tribute.

The Muscovite prince Vasilii I Dmitrievich (1389–1425) received his grand princely domain as his patrimony, without the yarlyk of the khan. During his reign Mongol-Tatar authority was merely nominal. Tribute was paid irregularly, and the Russian princes to a large extent pursued independent policies. The attempt of Edigei, the head of the Golden Horde, to restore complete domination over Rus’ failed, for he was unable to capture Moscow. The internecine struggles that broke out in the Golden Horde made the preservation of the Mongol-Tatar yoke more problematic.

During the mid-15th century, when feudal wars had weakened the armies of the Russian principalities, the Mongol-Tatar feudal lords organized a series of devastating invasions (1439, 1445, 1448, 1450, 1451, 1455, 1459). But by this time they were unable to reestablish their domination over Rus’. The political unification of the Russian lands around Moscow created the conditions for the overthrow of Mongol-Tatar rule. The Muscovite grand prince Ivan III the Great (1462–1505) refused to pay tribute in 1476. Four years later, after the unsuccessful campaign of Ahmad, khan of the Great Horde, and the “stand at the Ugra River” the Mongol-Tatar yoke was overthrown.

The Mongol-Tatar yoke had a profoundly regressive effect on the economic, political, and cultural development of the Russian lands. It hindered the growth of the productive forces of Rus’, which were at a higher socioeconomic level than those of the Mongol-Tatars, and for a long time artificially preserved a feudal subsistence economy. Politically, the Mongol-Tatar yoke disrupted the state consolidation of the Russian lands and artificially maintained feudal fragmentation. The Mongol-Tatar yoke intensified the feudal exploitation of the Russian people, who were subject to the oppression of both their own and the MongolTatar lords. Lasting for about 240 years, the Mongol-Tatar yoke was one of the main reasons why Rus’ lagged behind some Western European countries.


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Grekov, B. D., and A. lu. lakubovskii. Zolotaia Orda i ee padenie. Moscow-Leningrad, 1950.
Kargalov, V. V. “Osvoboditel’naia bor’ba Rusi protiv mongolo-tatarskogo iga.” Voprosy istorii, 1969, no. 2–4.