In late 1236, the princes of the ancient kingdom of Kievan Rus’ heard troubling reports from the eastern frontier of their lands. The nomadic peoples of the borderlands were being slain by a great military force unlike the world had ever seen before: the Mongols. Within the span of just a few short years, these mighty warriors would bring Kievan Rus’ to its knees and continue to rampage and conquer into the heart of Europe.
For the next several hundred years of Russian history, rule underneath the “Mongol yoke” would be the genesis of modern Russia’s alienation from the rest of Europe. The great debates of Russia’s place as either a European or Eurasian country began in this pivotal moment in the 13th century. A Rus’ historian proclaimed the direness of the situation, “For our sins, unknown nations arrived. No one knew their origin or whence they came, or what religion they practiced. That is known only to God, and perhaps to wise men learned in books.”