Following the westward push of the Mongols led by Genghis Khan in the beginning of the 13th century and the conquering of Kievan Rus’, the lands of the Mongol Horde were divided up into several smaller hordes each administered by one of Genghis Khan’s sons or deputies. The area administered by what came to be known in more recent history as the Golden Horde [Zolotaia orda] was given to Genghis Khan’s eldest son, Jochi, and consisted of only a small part of what would later become the full domain of the Golden Horde (Waugh, 173).
The Golden Horde quickly passed to Jochi’s son Batu, who was the primary force for expansion and the conqueror of both Riazan and Moscow (Waugh, 174). Administration of these Rus’ territories was conducted in more of a vassal state than direct empire system in the later years of what is referred to in Russian history as “The Mongol Yoke” or “Tatar Yoke”. The princes of Kievan Rus’ were often retained power – provided that they agreed to collect taxes for the Mongol overlords (Waugh, 177).
At its largest, the territory of the Golden Horde stretched up north of Moscow, east into what is now Ukraine and Belarus, and south into present-day Kazakhstan. As the system of succession both within the Golden Horde and between the several Hordes which succeeded Genghis Khan’s rule began to break down, the Mongol Yoke weakened and began to lose its hold on the Russian principalities (de Hartog, 95-96). The first step toward Russian freedom from the Mongols came when Dmitri Ivanovitch defeated an army led by Mamai, leader of the Blue Horde in Crimea, on the banks of the River Don (de Hartog, 96). He and his descendants became known by the name “Donskoi”, commemorating the battle, and he later became the uniter of the lands of Muscovy and established the line of “grand-princes” which led the principality following the decline of the Mongol empire (de Hartog, 102).
- Daniel C. Waugh, “The Golden Horde and Russia,” in Genghis Khan and the Mongol Empire, ed. William W. Fitzhugh et al. (Santa Barbara: Perpetua Press, 2009), 172-179.
- Leo de Hartog, Russia and the Mongol Yoke. (London: British Academic Press, 1996).