How much did Tatar-Mongols influence Russian culture?

A Mongol influence on Russia in the era of the Golden Horde was close to non-existent. A Turkic impact, both from the east and south was profound.

The Mongol rule was Mongol only during the first decades of their dominance over the eastern Russian principalities. The rest of the time it was the period of Turkic rule.

Russian territories enjoyed a great degree of autonomy because they were not very interesting for the Empire of Jochi economically. A combined annual tax used to be between 1–2 ton of silver, or grain enough to feed a force a 10–20 thousand men for a year. Much more important for “Mongols” were Russian troops for military expeditions to Europe and against their own Turkic neighbors.

Russian principalities, on their part, had a powerful ally in their wars against Germans, Lithuanians, and Poles. The centralized tax collection, introduced by Mongols, meant an end to internecine wars between Russians themselves. Russian merchants had permission to trade along the Volga river and its tributaries.

From the end of the 14th century, Muscovy took increasing control of the northern part of the Baltic-Caspian trade route and managed to turn the tables on their former masters in the Kazan. They remained, however, in the vassal relationship to the Crimean Khanate, and managed to achieve full independence first in 1700, thanks to Czar Peter the Great (Treaty of Constantinople). The total duration of the “Tatar yoke”, as Karl Marx called it, lasted, therefore, more than 450 years.

The Turkic influence was profound. It included:

  • The highly centralized absolutist government, pinned around the tributary taxation. Poll tax in Russia is a Mongol innovation. Census became neglected toward the end of their rule: rulers in Moscow didn’t lacked the government bureaucracy that could take care of that.
  • Turkic weapon systems and battleground tactics
  • The wide use of mercenaries as expeditionary troops and tax collectors (Cossacks)
  • Food. The plethora of Russian recipes for meat wrapped in dough, from pelmeni to pirogi comes from our Turkic neighbors (meat was an exclusive feast in the old Russia).
  • Interiors and clothes. The trademark padded jacket of Russian troops is a descendant from the fabric armor of Turkic warriors. Turks also brought to us the elaborate and colorful floral designs from Iran. Tapochki (light heelless footwear) as something you need inside your home and shapka (warm headgear) you almost always need outside, including sauna.
  • Female ring dance.
  • A great many Russian nouns concerning trade, clothes, tools, household items, and military came from Turkic languages.
  • Bows and sabers as a weapon of choice for military expeditions
  • Light cavalry armed with sabers and spikes as mounted shock units for forward- and rearguard military action
  • The battleground tactics of feigned retreat, pincer movements and concealed ambush.

 Russians aristocrats pre-imperial Russia
Picture: Polish impression of Russians aristocrats. Old Russian clothes looked like Turkic portraits, because they were inspired by what guests from Muscovy saw in Crimea and Constantinople. High fur hats for noblemen and a high headgear underneath a large shawl for noblewomen were a Turkic import. Pointy boots with upward-turned noses were added from the Mongol wardrobe, as were the knee-long sleeves—these marked that their wearer always delegated manual work to their lesser associates.

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