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The Mongol Connection: Russia’s Asian Entry into European Politics

The Mongol Connection: Russia’s Asian Entry into European Politics

By Iver B. Neumann

Published Online (2008)

Abstract: The end of the 15th Century saw what was beginning to be known as Europeans coming into first contact with the ‘new world’ to their West, and driving the Moor out of Europe to their South. In what contemporaneity thought of as ‘the North’, i.e. what we would now call the East, a less conspicuous but nonetheless highly consequential development took place. Beyond Poland, a new political entity was making itself felt in such a degree that diplomatic relations had to be sought with it. This was Muscovy, led by Ivan III. Russians shared an experience with Christians in the South Balkans and the South Iberians; they had fresh experience with being ruled by non-Christians, more specifically, by the Mongols who were based in their tent capital Saray at the Volga. I start with a presentation of Mongol and Rus’ political organization at the time of the invasion in 1240, and discuss Rus’ as a suzeraign system which was part of the Golden Horde empire (which was itself in the early decades part of the Mongol empire). I then ask how, once the Golden Horde fell apart and Muscovy emerged as a separate polity, Muscovy’s Mongol connection coloured its entry into the European states system. My conclusion is that, since Muscovy itself chose to seek recognition among other things as successors to the Mongol Golden Horde and since it did so by dint of a number of practices that were taken directly from the Mongols, European powers were warranted in seeing Russia as a partly Asian polity. The argument is framed as a critique of the English School’s proclivity for treating sequences such as these as cases of ‘expansion of international society’. I attempt to demonstrate that such a perspective cannot account adequately for what should rather be treated as rela-tions between cultures.

Click here to read this article from the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs

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