Mongol Effect on China and Russia
January 3, 2014
For many years the Mongols influenced the Eurasian world in more ways than one. This nomadic people, though few in number when compared to those they “conquered”, was highly successful in gaining power and facilitating trade across the European and Asian continents. Russia and China are two particular regions that experienced the effects of Mongol rule both politically and economically. Yet while both regions benefitted economically, China saw greater benefit in its political system because of direct Mongol influence. Economically, the two regions saw much similarity under Mongol authority. In both, the Silk Road was maintained and the Mongols played a major role in facilitating trade across the two continents. The benefits of safe travel in both regions also helped to develop a sort of international economy that shared goods and ideas.
The differences in the political policies of China and Russia came forth in their relationship with the Mongols and whether they were subjected to direct or proxy rule. Russia was isolated from the Byzantines and Western Europe under Mongol control but aside from that, Russians were generally free to govern themselves so long as the princes that purchased the right to be “Grand Prince” collected tribute and recognized the Mongols as the great khans. Under the Mongols, both regions were granted religious toleration so it wasn’t particularly hard for the Mongols to consolidate their rule. In fact, most of the Russian princes continued to practice Russian Orthodoxy as their religion under the Mongols. The Mongols, who had gained a rather ruthless and barbaric reputation, were generally benevolent in their rule of the two regions so long as there was no resistance.
While Russia enjoyed a proxy rule under the Mongols, China reaped the benefits of direct rule under the Yuan Dynasty. In China, Kublai Khan continued to appoint officials by merit, similar to his grandfather Genghis’s methods but on his own terms. Those who held the highest positions had to be of Mongol descent --- probably to avoid treason. But on regional and local levels, Chinese Confucians and Daoists generally held positions of authority and answered to the khan similar to how the Grand Princes in Russia operated. On these local and regional levels, the modified civil service exams were permitted. In contrast to the Russians however, Kublai Khan encouraged modernization and trade with the western world. He even went as far as to welcome Marco Polo into his court to serve for twenty years.
In conclusion, the political and economic systems of China and Russia were affected in many ways by Mongol influence. The extent to which each system was affected was greatly due to the type of rule they were subjected to whether proxy or direct. While both regions benefitted economically, China saw greater influence in its political system because of direct Mongol influence.