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  • Hi, I’m John Green;

  • this is Crash Course: World History

  • and today were going to talk about Russia,

  • which means we get to talk about this guy again!

  • We haven’t talked about Russia much so far because

  • 1. It’s complicated, and

  • 2. Ya actually gavarou pa russki a little bit,

  • because I had some Russian in college and that makes it difficult to mispronounce things,

  • which is my thing!

  • Mr. Green, Mr. Green!

  • Why’d you take Russian?

  • Well, because I had this big crush on a Russian major.

  • But, anyway,

  • I’m sure I’ll still mispronounce everything.

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  • So,

  • today were going to talk about persistent stereotypes about Russia,

  • and how Russia came to take its current shape,

  • a turn of events we owe largely

  • to the Mongols.

  • [Savage, brassy swarm of Mongol-tage doom calls…]

  • But before we discuss the Mongol conquest of Russia,

  • let’s discuss exactly what got conquered.

  • So before there was a Russian empire,

  • or even a Russian kingdom,

  • there was the Kievan Rus.

  • We know Kiev was a powerful city-state, but who exactly founded it is a subject of debate.

  • Most historians now believe that the settlers of Kiev were Slavic people who migrated from

  • around the Black Sea. But there’s an older theory that the settlers of Kiev were actually,

  • like, Vikings.

  • That theory goes that Vikings came down to Kiev from rivers like the Dnieper and founded

  • a trading outpost similar to ones they’d founded in Iceland and Greenland.

  • Which is an awesome idea and everything,

  • but Russian,

  • the language that developed from what the Rus spoke, sounds a lot more Slavic than it

  • sounds,

  • you know, Swedish.

  • To illustrate,

  • here is a Swede fighting with a Russian

  • over who founded Kiev.

  • [Russian: Kiev was founded by the slavic ancestors of the Rus.]

  • [Swede: No. Clearly Kiev was founded by Swedes.]

  • Right, okay,

  • so trade was hugely important to Kiev.

  • Almost all of their wars ended with trade concession treaties, and their law codes were

  • unusually devoted to the subject of commerce.

  • The Rus traded raw materials like fur, wax, and also slaves

  • Were not gonna venture into the astonishingly intense etymological debate over whether the

  • word slav derives from the Latin word for slave

  • because there's nothing more terrifying and verbose

  • than an etymologist flame war.

  • But, yeah, the Rus traded slaves.

  • They also relied on agriculture

  • and your relationships to the land determined both your social status and your tax burden.

  • And if you fell into tax debt, which a lot of peasants did,

  • then you became bonded to the land you farmed for the rest of your life,

  • I guess that slave-like dynamic is okay as a model for social organization,

  • but if you step on the proletariat for too long,

  • you might end up with a Communist revolution.

  • But I’m getting way ahead of myself.

  • Couple more things about Kiev:

  • First, the ruler of Kiev was called the Grand Prince, and he became the model for future

  • Russian Kings. Also, the early grand princes made a fateful decision:

  • They became Byzantine Christians.

  • According to legend,

  • prince Vladimir chose to convert the Rus to Byzantine Christianity in the 11th century.

  • He purportedly chose Christianity over Islam because of Islam’s prohibition on alcohol

  • saying:

  • Drink is the joy of the Russian.”

  • Anyway, the Kievan Rus eventually fell in 1240

  • when these guys

  • [Mongol-tage horns horn it up]

  • showed up and replaced them.

  • By that time the Rus had been at war with pastoral nomads for centuries; from the Khazars

  • to the Pechengs to the Cumans,

  • and they were tired.

  • Which made them easy targets. The period of Mongolruleover Russia is also known

  • as Appanage Russia.

  • An Appanage is princedom,

  • and this period basically featured a bunch of Russian princes vying for control over

  • territory, which is not a recipe for political stability or economic growth,

  • another theme that will re-emerge in Russian history.

  • By the way,

  • I’m describing all of this as Russia even though if you did that in the 13th century,

  • people would look at you funny.

  • They’d be like,

  • What do you mean, Russia? Also,

  • where’d you get those pants?

  • And all those teeth?”

  • MMMM...YOU SMELL PRETTY.”

  • Right.

  • So, to discuss how important the Mongols were to Russia,

  • let’s go to the Thought Bubble.

  • The Mongols did set up the Khanate o f the Golden Horde in Russia,

  • but it didn’t leave much lasting impact on

  • the institutions of the region,

  • which had already been set up by the Kievans.

  • But they did bring about a population shift

  • away from the South, where Kiev was,

  • toward the Northeast.

  • This was partly to get away from

  • the Mongols and their massacring,

  • but that noted, the Mongols were comparatively light rulers:

  • They were happy to live in their yurts and collect tribute from

  • the ever-bickering Russian princes.

  • And all the princes had to do in exchange for their relative freedom

  • was recognize the Mongol khans as their rulers and allow the Mongols to pick the Grand Prince

  • from among the Russians.

  • Perhaps most importantly,

  • Mongol rule cut the Russians off from the Byzantines

  • and further isolated them from Europe, leaving Russia

  • not Byzantine,

  • not European,

  • and not really Mongol either,

  • since they hated the Mongols and generally believed the Mongols were a scourge sent from

  • God to punish them for their sinfulness and everything.

  • But the Mongols did help propel Moscow to prominence and in doing so, created the idea

  • that this was Russia.

  • And as an aside, they also did what

  • Napoleon, Hitler, and many others couldn’t:

  • The Mongols successfully conquered Russia in the winter.

  • Thanks, Thought Bubble.

  • So how did the Mongols help catapult Moscow and its princes to prominence?

  • Well, first,

  • they named Muscovite princes The Grand Prince on more than one occasion.

  • More importantly, the Muscovite princes won

  • that is to say purchased

  • the right to collect tribute on behalf of the Khan from other princes.

  • That’s a good gig because it’s easy to skim a little bit off the top before you send

  • it down the line to

  • [Mongol-taging a bit more for good measure]

  • the Mongols.

  • Which is precisely what the Muscovites did to enrich themselves

  • in fact,

  • one prince who was particularly good at this was known as Ivan Kalita.

  • Using my Russian, I can tell you that that translates to

  • Johnny Moneybags.”

  • As my Russian professor would tell you,

  • I’m a “creativetranslator.

  • All this extra loot helped Moscow expand their influence and buy principalities.

  • The Mongols also helped them more directly by attacking their enemies.

  • Plus Moscow was at the headwaters of four rivers

  • which made it well-positioned for trade.

  • And because they were kind of the allies of the Mongols- the Mongols rarely attacked them-

  • which meant that lots of people went to Moscow because it was relatively safe.

  • Includingchurchypeople.

  • In fact,

  • Moscow also became the seat of the Eastern Orthodox church in 1325,

  • when the Metropolitan Peter moved there.

  • So you might think that the Muscovites would be grateful for all this help from the Mongols,

  • but you would be wrong.

  • As the Mongolsposition weakened in Russia in the latter half of the 14th century,

  • one of Moscow’s princes Dmitrii Donskoi

  • made war on them and inflicted the first major defeat of Mongols in Russia

  • at battle of Kulikovo Field.

  • This showed that the Mongols weren’t invincible, which is always really bad for an imperial

  • force.

  • Plus it made Moscow look like the hero of the Russians.

  • And that helped strengthen the idea of a unified Russia,

  • just as youll remember the Persians helped unify the Greeks a long time ago.

  • Aiding this growth was stability, which Moscow owed largely to luck:

  • Muscovite princes usually had sons which allowed them to have successors.

  • In fact,

  • there was only one major succession struggle and it was between

  • two blind guys named Basil.

  • That’s not a joke by the way.

  • Oh, it’s time for the Open Letter?

  • [Swoodilyscoots by globey to get his fireside chat on]

  • An Open Letter to Basil and Basil:

  • But first,

  • let’s see in the Secret Compartment.

  • Oh, it’s Grizzlor!

  • Yeah, I guess that is kind of how the Russians saw the Mongols.

  • Dear Basils,

  • The 15th century Muscovite civil war was insanely complicated,

  • but it culminated with you guys

  • essentially blinding each other.

  • First,

  • Basil II, the eventual winner of the civil war,

  • had Basil the cross-eyed blinded.

  • Because being cross-eyed wan’t bad enough.

  • And that was seen as the end of the political career of

  • Basil the Cross-Eyed.

  • But then Basil the Cross-Eyed’s brother

  • tracked down Basil II and he was like

  • “I’ma blind you back!”

  • And of course,

  • everybody thought that would end Basil II’s political career,

  • but they were wrong.

  • It turns out you can rule Russia like a boss even if youre blind.

  • Best Wishes, Johnny Green.

  • After Basil the Blind came the real man who expanded Moscow’s power,

  • Ivan III,

  • later known as Ivan the Great.

  • First,

  • he asserted Russian independence from the Mongols

  • and stopped paying tribute to the khan--

  • after the khan had named him Grand Prince, of course.

  • Then,

  • Ivan purchased, negotiated for or conquered multiple appanages,

  • thus expanding Muscovite power even more.

  • Ivan later declared himself sovereign of all Russians and

  • then married the niece of the last Byzantine emperor,

  • thus giving him even more legitimacy.

  • And he took titles autocrat and tsar, which means Caesar.

  • Basically,

  • Ivan created the first centralized Russian state and for doing that

  • he probably deserves titlethe Great.”

  • And that would be a good place to stop,

  • except then we won’t see the type of absolute rule that characterized Russia

  • for most of the rest of its history,

  • even unto Putin.

  • OH GOD.

  • JUST KIDDING PUTIN!

  • YOU’D NEVER RIG AN ELECTION..

  • N-NO...PLEASE DON’T PUT ME IN JAIL!

  • While Ivan III consolidated Muscovite power,

  • the undeniable brutal streak in Russian governance comes not

  • from the Mogols,

  • but from Ivan IV.

  • Better known as Ivan the Terrible.

  • Ivan IV ruled from 1533 to 1584,

  • taking the throne at age 16,

  • yet more evidence that adolescents should

  • not be trusted with emerging empires.

  • Ivan the Terrible’s reign

  • represents the end of princely power

  • and the beginning of the autocracy that Russia is famous for.

  • But in the beginning, he was really an innovative leader.

  • As a young king, he worked with a group of advisers called

  • the Chosen Council, which certainly sounds like a good thing.

  • He also called the very first meeting of the zemskii sobor,

  • a grand council of representatives similar to the estates general that

  • would become so important in France two hundred years later.

  • And also reformed the army, emphasizing the new technology of muskets.

  • But in the second part of his reign,

  • Ivan earned his nickname, the Terrible

  • which can mean either bad or just awe-inspiring,

  • depending on your perspective.

  • Psychological historians will point out that things started go terribly wrong

  • with Ivan after the death of his beloved wife, Anastasia Romanov.

  • Or they might point to the fact that he enjoyed

  • torturing animals when he was a kid.

  • Regardless,

  • Ivan set out to break the power of the nobility--

  • the former princes and landowners called the boyars.

  • They were the last link to princely rule.

  • And after an odd episode that saw him brieflyabdicate,”