How would Russian history differ if the Mongol invasion had not taken place?

When Mongold came along on their way to Eastern and Central Europe, they sacked several Rus’ cities: Ryazan, Vladimir, Suzdal, Chernigov, Kiev in the mid-13th century. These were situated within a day’s ride from the prairies. Likely much the same.

This is what we know from chronicles. However, there is no archaeological evidence of Mongol presence in heartland Russia. Which makes it reasonable to assume that the influence of the Mongol invasion is greatly overblown has been greatly overblown. Especially the “Mongol yoke” is a murky historical construct promoted by Karl Marx and his later adherents, seemingly in order to represent Imperial Russia a retrograde counter-revolutionary force, hostile to the cause of Communist revolution.

For example, during the era of Muscovy, serfdom became a dominant factor in the nation’s economy. Mongols had nothing to do with the transition to serfdom. However, no one talks about the “Muscovian yoke”, or “the Kremlin’s oppression”.

Among other factors that prove that the arrival of the Mongols was much less relevant than we are used to think:

  • There are next to none genetic traces of Mongol presence in heartland Russia.
  • Very few Mongol words in Russian language.
  • No Mongol names or ethnonyms.
  • No rational explanation for how a massive Mongol horseback expedition could move thousands of miles through Russian woods in the dead of Russian winter.

What is called Mongol yoke was most likely a gradual subjugation of Russian fiefdoms by Turkic monarchs after the Black Sea trade collapsed as a result of Byzantine sacking by Crusaders. The “Mongol” Empire of Jochi soon became a distinctly Turkic monarchy. And unlike the “Mongol yoke”, the Turkic presence and Turkic influence in our culture was long and profound.

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