Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Empire of Russia: Facing the Horde

The period of two and a half centuries that the Russians faced the Tatars and Mongolians is something that I vaguely know happened, but there are few details.  Listening to the story in more detail is something that makes for a transformation in thinking.  It is a bit like growing up in America and learning only about Patton, D-Day and the Battle of the Bulge, thinking that these were the key events of World War II in Europe, only to learn that more Russians died in the Battle of Moscow than all the American casualties during the entire war.

So there were these trivial skirmishes called the Crusades, but they were as nothing compared to what the Russians experienced from the Horde.  Even the 30 Years War seems tame compared to what Russia went through.  During this time, the Papists were as helpful as could be expected:

"The grand duchy of Lithuania, bordering on Poland, was spread over a region of sixty thousand square miles.  The grand duke, Jaghellon, a burly pagan, had married Hedwige, Queen of Poland, promising, as one of the conditions of this marriage which would unite Lithuania and Poland, to embrace Christianity.  He was married and baptized at Cracow, receiving the Christian name of Ladislaus.  He then ordered the adoption of Christianity throughout Lithuania, and the universal baptism of his subjects.   ...   These converts were received, not into the Greek church, which was dominant in Russia, but to the Romish church, which prevailed in Poland.  Jaghellon became immediately the inveterate foe of the Russians whom he called heretics, ..."  - The Empire of Russia, by John Abbott

Dr. Wiki says that Jaghellon introduced Christianity gradually, which is not what this history says.  Perhaps it would be good to read first sources, but this will need to wait.  After reading listening through 5 centuries of Russian history, it seems that the only constructive dealing with a foreign country was with the Greeks in Constantinople, but Constantinople was conquered by the Turks in 1453, so they are all alone now.  The reign of Ivan III (Ivan the Great) is next.

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