Vassali died in the year 1276, and was succeeded by a prince of Vladimir, named Dmitri. He immediately left his native principality and took up his residence in Novgorod, which city at this time seems to have been regarded as the capital of the subjugated and dishonored kingdom. The indomitable tribes inhabiting the fastnesses of the Caucasian mountains had, thus far, maintained their independence. The Tartars called upon Russia for troops to aid in their subjugation; and four of the princes, one of whom, Andre of Gorodetz, was a brother of Dmitri the king, submissively led the required army into the Mogol encampment.
Andre, by his flattery, his presents and his servile devotion to the interests of the khan, secured a decree of dethronement against his brother and his own appointment as grand prince. Then, with a combined army of Tartars and Russians, he marched upon Novgorod to take possession of the crown. Resistance was not to be thought of, and Dmitri precipitately fled. Karamsin thus describes the sweep of this Tartar wave of woe:
“The Mogols pillaged and burned the houses, the monasteries, the churches, from which they took the images, the precious vases and the books richly bound. Large troops of the inhabitants were dragged into slavery, or fell beneath the sabers of the ferocious soldiers of the khan. The young sisters in the convents were exposed to the brutality of these monsters. The unhappy laborers, who, to escape death or captivity, had fled into the deserts, perished of exposure and starvation. Not an inhabitant was left who did not weep over the death of a father, a son, a brother or a friend.”
Thus Andre ascended the throne, and then returned the soldiers of the khan laden with the booty which they had so cruelly and iniquitously obtained. The barbarians, always greedy of rapine and blood, were ever delighted to find occasion to ravage the principalities of Russia. The Tartars, having withdrawn, Dmitri secured the cooeperation of some powerful princes, drove his brother from Novgorod, and again grasped the scepter which his brother had wrested from him. The two brothers continued bitterly hostile to each other, and years passed of petty intrigues and with occasional scenes of violence and blood as Dmitri struggled to hold the crown which Andre as perseveringly strove to seize. Again Andre obtained another Mogol army, which swept Russia with fearful destruction, and, taking possession of Vladimir and Moscow, and every city and village on their way, plundering, burning and destroying, marched resistlessly to Novgorod, and placed again the traitorous, blood-stained monster on the throne.
Dmitri, abandoning his palaces and his treasures, fled to a remote principality, where he soon died, in the year 1294, an old man battered and wrecked by the storms of a life of woe. He is celebrated in the Russian annals only by the disasters which accompanied his reign. According to the Russian historians, the infamous Andre, his elder brother being now dead, found himself legitimately the sovereign of Russia. As no one dared to dispute his authority, the ill-fated kingdom passed a few years in tranquillity.