RUSSIA UNDER THE MONGOL YOKE
 THE Tartars did not interfere with the people, their institutions, or religion, but they demanded tribute in the
form of an annual poll-tax. Officers called baskaks went from house to house to collect it, either in money or
in furs, and those who could not pay were sold as slaves. Sometimes this collection caused disturbances. It
was some time before the people of Novgorod would submit. When Bati sent his collectors to the Republic, the
question was brought before the vetché where the possadnik urged the wisdom of paying the tax, but the people
would not hear of it and promptly murdered the unfortunate burgomaster. Alexander, too, advised to avoid
trouble, but the people refused and several boyards, including Alexander's son Vassili urged resistance. The
duke acted vigorously. He ordered the arrest of his son, and had the boyards punished; but it was not before
the people heard of the approach of a Tartar army, that they submitted. Still such was their resentment that
Alexander had the baskaks guarded night and day. At last Alexander threatened to leave Novgorod with his
drujina; then the people offered no further opposition to the collection of the hated poll-tax (1260). Two
years later the people of Souzdal, Vladimir, and Rostof
 rose against the baskaks and killed one of them, a Russian who had become a Mahomedan. Alexander, who had
succeeded his brother Andrew as Grand Duke, decided to attempt to appease the khan by going himself to Saraï
with presents; he also wished to be excused from furnishing a body of Russians to serve in the Tartar army. He
succeeded, but was kept at the court of the khan for a year. His health broke down and he died on his return
journey in 1263. The news of his death was brought to Novgorod, as mass was being said in the cathedral. The
Metropolitan who was reading the service, interrupted it, and said, "Learn, my clear children, that the Sun of
Russia has set,—is dead," and the people cried, "We are lost." The death of Alexander Nevski was a heavy
blow to Russia.
The Russians, that is the people of Russia whose story we are reading, did not mingle with any Tartar except
the tax collector whom they did not like. The victors were nomads, who did not care to occupy the land they
had conquered. When they did settle at Saraï on the Lower Volga, they absorbed the tribes who had lived there
before the invasion, and who were not Russians, but nomads. The Russian people did not associate
with the conquerors. It was at this time that the word Krestianine or "true Christian" was
applied to the peasant, instead of the contemptuous term moujik.
Whatever Asiatic characteristics were grafted upon the Russians, came to them through their kniazes and
boyards. The dukes soon showed that all they cared for, was to hold their positions. After Alexander Nevski,
there is not a single instance of a desire to relieve the
 people; and the victors on their part never interfered so long as the tribute was paid regularly. The
descendants of Andrew Bogolioubski were not disturbed in Souzdal; those of Roman continued to hold Galitch and
Volhynia, and Oleg's house remained in possession of Tchernigof. The dukes might fight about Kief; Novgorod
might appoint or expel its dukes,—the Tartars did not mind. But the khan did insist that the dukes
should visit him and pay him homage. He also reserved the right of approving the succession of a duke, who was
compelled to apply for a written consent, called an iarlikh. On one occasion when the people of
Novgorod elected Duke Michael, they afterwards refused to recognize him, asserting that "it is true we have
chosen Michael, but on condition that he should show us the iarlikh."
The dukes, holding their possessions by favor of the khan, tried to gain his good-will and favor. Gleb, duke
of Biélozersk married in the khan's family about 1272; Feodor of Riazan was the son-in-law of the khan of the
Nogaïs. In 1318, the Grand Duke George married Kontchaka, sister of the Khan Uzbeck. It was the rulers, and
not the people of Russia, that quietly submitted to the Tartartchina or Mongol yoke.
The khans, while they did not care about the people took care that the dukes should show them slavish respect.
In 1303, the dukes were convoked, and when they were assembled a letter from the khan was read, in which they
were commanded to stop fighting because the great khan desired to see peace established. Whenever such a
letter was brought, the dukes were directed to meet the envoys on foot, prostrate themselves, spread fine
 under their feet, present them with a cup filled with gold pieces, and listen, kneeling, while the letter was
Children of the prairie and the desert, the Tartars had neither a religion nor a civilization to impose upon
the Russian people. The khans were tolerant because they did not care. Koïyuk had a Christian chapel near his
residence. In 1261, the Khan of Saraï gave permission for the erection of a Greek church in his capital, and
he allowed a bishop to reside there. Mangou gave equal privileges to Christians, Jews, and Mahomedans.
The dukes and boyards, paying court to the Tartars, gradually adopted their mode of dressing and, as they
became Asiatic in appearance, they came under the influence of Asiatic thought. They dressed in a long caftan
or flowing robe, wore a sort of turban on the head, swords and daggers in their belts, and when on horseback,
sat in very high saddles with short stirrups. Dukes and boyards thus became semi-Asiatic, and drifted away
from the people among whom the national principle was kept alive.
Every succeeding visit to the khan served to increase the intimacy of the dukes and their Asiatic masters. It
was not many years before the relation with the great khan was severed, but that with the Golden Horde was
kept alive. A writer
living at that time, who visited Saraï during Bati's life, gives the following description: "It (the court) is
crowded and brilliant. His army consists of 600,000 men, 150,000 of whom are Tartars, and 450,000 strangers,
Christians as well as infidels. On Good Friday we were conducted to his tent, between two
 fires, because the Tartars believe 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 Tartar 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. Bati has a bright complexion; he is affable with his men, but inspires general terror." The same
writer visited the court of the great khan, and in his description dwells upon the fact that it was not the
Tartars who were most terrible, but the Russian dukes and nobles who accused one another and who sought to
destroy their own countrymen by bribing the favorites. It was thus that Duke Michael of Tchernigof was
murdered in 1246, and Duke Michael of Tver in 1319, by a Russian hireling of the Grand Duke of Moscow who was
present when the foul deed was committed. Servile submission to the khans, a haughty demeanor towards their
own people, became the characteristics of the dukes. "The dukes of Moscow," says a Russian author,
"took the humble title of servants of the khan, and it was by this means that they became powerful monarchs."
An English writer
comes to the following evident conclusion: "The first czars of Muscovy were the political descendants, not of
the Russian dukes, but of the Tartar khans."
A gradual change came over the Golden Horde after
 the Tartars departed from their nomadic life and settled in and about Saraï. They lost their warlike habits,
and with them much of their vigor. They began to farm out the poll-tax, that is, they sold the right to
collect the tax to merchants of Khiva, whose oppression was so great that the people of Souzdal revolted in
1262, Koursk in 1284, Kolomna in 1318, and Tver in 1327. But the oppression was greater when the dukes of
Moscow farmed this tax, not only from their own subjects, but also from neighboring dukedoms. They were
absolutely pitiless in collecting from the poor people as much as they could extort, and this was the
disgraceful foundation of their wealth and power. The poll-tax, thereafter, was always a favorite source of
revenue in Russia.
Besides this tribute, the dukes were compelled to furnish soldiers to their masters. Soon after the conquest,
we read of Russian dukes marching with the Tartars at the head of their drujinas, and of supplying them with
infantry. In 1276 Boris of Rostof and others, followed Mangou Khan in the war against the tribes of the
Caucasus, and helped to sack the town of Dediakof in Daghestan. This was excusable, because the enemy was an
alien; but what can be thought of Prince Andrew, the unworthy son of Alexander Nevski, who, in 1281, induced
the Tartars to aid him in pillaging Vladimir, Souzdal, Mourom, Moscow, and Peréiaslaf, and led in profaning
churches and convents? In 1284, when two descendants of Oleg were dukes of Koursk, one of them put his brother
to death for having insulted the khan, and Russian historians blame not the murderer, but the victim, because
he had aroused the khan's anger! In
 1327, the dukes of Moscow and Souzdal marched against Tver at the command of their Asiatic master. Such was
the influence of the Tartar yoke.
The Russian dukes and their nobles lost not only the principle of patriotism, but also that of personal honor.
The unfortunate Russians henceforth were to them, not fellow-countrymen but "tcherné" "black
people." The khans, with true political instinct looking to the perpetuation of this condition, gained the
friendship of the Church, as they had that of the dukes. In 1313, the Khan Uzbeck, at the request of the
Metropolitan or head of the Church of Moscow, ordered that the Church should retain its privileges, and that
it should not be deprived of its property, because, he says, "these possessions are sacred, as they belong to
men whose prayers preserve our lives and strengthen our armies." The churches and convents grew enormously
rich. They received gifts of land, and the priests, so bribed, allied themselves with the heathen masters, and
aided further in oppressing the people.
The descendants of the dukes and drujinas lost the large and generous impulses of the old Norsemen, to make
way for the Asiatic deformities of treachery, cruelly, cunning, and disregard of honor. Whatever came in the
way of their own interests, was trampled under foot by fair means or foul. The boyards, too, were tainted by
the example of the chiefs. The vast extent of the country, the sparsity of the population, the difficulties in
the way of communication, and above all the general ignorance, prevented the appearance of a patriot who might
have raised a truly national banner, and shaken off the yoke of the servile lackeys of the Tartars.