In 1237, Batu, one of the grandson’s of the founder of the Mongol Empire, Genghis Khan, led 150,000 and 200,000 troops into Russia, destroying many villages, destroying churches and killing thousands of people. Kiev, one of the largest cities in Russia at the time, was completely destroyed by the Mongols, making Russia part of the Mongol Empire. The Mongols also captured many Russian Princes. Princes that survived the destruction were forced to pledge allegiance to the Golden Horde, people of the Western Mongol Empire. When Russians weren’t loyal to the Mongols, soldiers would be sent to towns to destroy everything and kill everyone. This often frightened many people, making them obey the Mongols in fear for their life.
The Mongols however never interfered with the way of life. They were only interested in collecting taxes as well as maintaining their power over the Russians. The Mongols were very tolerant of religion in Russia, as they didn’t force anyone to convert, even after the Mongols adopted the Islam faith. The soldiers told the Russians they were sent to conquer Russia by God, making Russians believe they were being punished for their sins they had committed. The Orthodox Church became a major aspect in everyday life and was often looked toward for support and guidance. Art also changed during the time period of the Mongol Empire. Artists focused their attention toward the Orthodox Church. Artists such as Theophanes the Greek decorated many churches throughout Russia such as the iconostasis for the Church of the Annunciation in Moscow. The Mongols were tolerant of the Catholic faith, but left a lot of destruction and turmoil in Russia.
In 1318, Prince Yuri of Moscow was appointed the Russian Grand Prince. The Mongols used Yuri to collect taxes in Russia. Ivan I, succeed Yuri and in 1328 was the Russian Grand Prince. Ivan also collected taxes and kept some of the money. He bought land and greatly expanded his territory. Ivan asked the chief bishop of the Russian Orthodox Church to stay in Moscow, making Moscow by the end of the 1400’s the largest Russian city as well as the center of religion. Ivan III, often called Ivan The Great. The Mongols became less powerful 15th Century and in 1480, Ivan III broke free of Mongol control in Moscow by not paying taxes to the Golden Horde.
In the 15th Century, the Grand Prince became known as a czar. In 1547, Ivan IV became the first ruler to be crowned czar. Ivan was nasty, at times suspicious, and was considered insane. Ivan formed a police force that he used to arrest or sometimes kill aristocrats. Ivan used the estates of the people he arrested or killed as a payment to landowners serving in the military. He established strict laws about the number of warriors and horses each landowner had to supply to the army and often killed church officials and burned down towns that didn’t agree with his policies or laws. Ivan burned many towns and villages, and he killed church leaders who opposed him. Ivan IV was known as Ivan The Terrible.
Peter I, or Peter the Great was czar of Russia from 1682 to 1725. Peter I is credited with modernizing Russia and by his death in 1725, Russia was considered one of the more powerful eastern European states. Peter I created a more modern army, formed a navy and centralized the government. Peter executed an aggressive foreign policy and reformed the church, education and areas of Russia's economy. Peter I wanted to reform the church because it was rich, it refused to be modernized, and it owned a vast amount of land. Education also had to be modernized so Russia could survive as a European power. Peter I wanted a modern army and navy that would be feared throughout Europe. Officers in the military had to be educated and believed the knowledge of science and math was important for the success of the military. Peter I reformed the economy and even implemented a newspaper for the public’s general knowledge.
Peter The Great is considered one the most loved czars in Russia in history. After Mongol rule over Russia, Peter I managed to clean up the destruction from past rulers, Ivan IV and reform many aspects of Russia. Russia’s development from the Mongol conquest to Peter I was remarkably different in that Russia was a more centralized European State and it’s citizens were more happy than in past centuries. Society was greatly changed by the increase in education, freedom of religion, an army and navy, a centralized government and finally a better economy. By the mid 18th century, Russia was a modern European State and was considered one of the most powerful nations in Eastern Europe.