Reviews

The works considered here, which span more than a century and have contributed to shape the Russian national consciousness, are those of widely read historians of the first half of the nineteenth century (such as Nikolai Karamzin, Nikolai Polevoi, Mikhail Pogodin, Nikolai Ustriakov) and of the second half of the century (Sergei Solov’ev or Konstantin Bestuzhev-Riumin).  The vexed question for them was to judge correctly the horror and shame of the submission of Russia to the “Tatar yoke” during almost one fourth of her history (about two and a half centuries)—the term “Tatar yoke” (Russian igo), first used in the 1660s, became widespread after its inclusion into M. M. Shcherbatov’s “History” in the last decades of the eighteenth century.  Each author adopts his own approach, but there is a general agreement on the point demonstrated by Karamzin:  “Moscow is obliged to the khans for her greatness”—Moscow, i.e. the north-eastern part of Russia which split off from its south-western part due to the submission to the Ulus of Jöchi (Golden Horde).  Finally the Mongol rule played the same role in the Russian march toward political unity and greatness as did the Crusades in the history of the West.   For educated Russians, ‘barbarian’ Asia was the opposite of ‘civilised’ Europe, so that Russia saved Europe not merely from the Mongols but from Asia as well.  Moreover, Moscow manipulated the Horde and was in control of it.  What has been the Mongols’ impact on Russian culture?  All the historians did agree on several points, that Russia’s language and religion did survive undamaged, but that the moral attitudes and behaviour had been spoiled and that a cultural backwardness resulted from isolation from Europe (there was a discussion about the level of the Mongol influence on cruel corporal punishments and of seclusion of upper-class women.)  The victory over the Ulus of Jöchi at Kulikovo in 1380 was a way to reintegrate the European community and the conquest of the two Khanates of Kazan and of Astrakhan by Ivan iv in the 1550s was the retrieval of honour lost when Batu had conquered Russia.  Finally, Russia has a proud history, equivalent to that of any European state. (The targeted readership is obviously that of Slavists and practitioners of Russian language, as no title of historical works used there has been translated.)

Françoise Aubin, National Centre for Scientific Research, Paris
CER: I-1.2.A-29