The religion of the Mongols at the time of the invasion was a paganism founded upon sorcery and magic; but they soon thereafter adopted Islamism, and became ardent followers of the Prophet (1272). Although they never attempted to Tatarize Russia, 250 years of occupation could not fail to leave indelible traces upon a civilization which was even more than before Orientalized. The dress of the upper classes became more Eastern—the flowing caftan replaced the tunic, the blood of the races mingled to some extent; even the Princes and boyars contracting marriages with Mongol women, so that in some of the future sovereigns the blood of the Tatar was to be mingled with that of Rurik.
A weaker nation would have been crushed and disheartened by such calamities as have been described. But Russia was not weak. She had a tremendous store of vigor for good or for evil. Life had always been a terrible conflict, with nature and with man, and when there had been no other barbarians to fight, they had fought each other. Every muscle and every sinew had always been in the highest state of activity, and was toughened and strong, with an inextinguishable vitality. Such nations do not waste time in sentimental regrets. Their wounds, like those of animals, heal quickly, and they are urged on by a sort of instinct to wear out the chains they cannot break. By the time Novgorod came under the Tatar yoke the entire state had adjusted itself to its condition of servitude. Its internal economy was re-established, the peasants, in their Mirs or communes, sowed and reaped, and the people bought and sold, only a little more patient and submissive than before. The burden had grown heavier, but it must be borne and the tribute paid. The Princes, with wits sharpened by conflict, fought as they always had, with uncles, cousins, and brothers for the thrones; and then governed with a severity as nearly as possible like the one imposed upon themselves by their own master—the Great Khan.
The germ of future Russia was there; a strong, patient, toiling people firmly held by a despotic power which they did not comprehend, and uncomplainingly and as a matter of course giving nearly one-half of the fruit of their toil for the privilege of living in their own land! When her sovereigns had Tatar blood in their veins and Tatar ideals in their hearts, Russia was on the road to absolutism. All things were tending toward a centralized unity of an iron and inexorable type—a type entirely foreign to the natural free instincts of the Slavonic people themselves.
RUSSIA BECOMES MUSCOVITE
The tumultuous forces in Russia, never at rest, were preparing to revolve about a new center. Whether this would be in the East or West was long in doubt, and only decided after a prolonged struggle. Western Russia grouped itself about the state of the Lithuanians on the Baltic, and Eastern Russia about that of Muscovy.