Room 12. Mongol Invasion of Eastern Europe. The Fight of Rus’ Against German and Swedish Aggressors (13th -15th Centuries)

The 13th – 15th centuries are one of heroic periods in national history. For more than two centuries Russian people had to withstand not only a foreign yoke, but also the Swedish and German expansion. This fight made the North-Eastern Rus and North-Western Rus consolidate their forces; following this unification the new Russian State appeared on the world map in the 15th century.

The exposition of room 12 starts with an artistically made map placed on the wall left of the entrance and called «Mongol Conquests in the 13th Century». In 1206 A.D. khan Temuchin better known as Genghis khan united the Mongol tribes of Central Asia into a single state with the capital in Karakorum. It took Mongols who aimed at the world supremacy less than half a century to roll to the Pacific in the east and to the Mediterranean in the west. Mongol hordes invaded Central Asia and Caucasus. In 1236 Genghis khan’s grandson, khan Batu began conquering Europe in pursuance of his grandfather’s will to reach «the last of seas», that is the Atlantic Ocean. By 1237 AD., Mongol rule spread to the Volga region, Northern Caucasus, Crimea, the Polovtsian steppe. Rus lied on the way of the victorious army.

cases 1-4
The materials of cases 1-4 come from the territories invaded by Mongols; most of them came under the rule of the Golden Horde. Exhibited in the exposition are things from Polovets burial grounds (case 1), settlements of West-Siberian tribes (case 2). Here also the antiquities of medieval Caucasian peoples are displayed: Adygs, Kabardinians, Circassians, Ossetins (case 3).

The antiquities from the territory of Volga Bulgarian State and the Volga region (case 4) deserve special mention. This state rose on Middle Volga in the 9th century on the basis of local Finnish and Turkic population, newly arrived. Domination over the most important length of the Volga trade route made for the rapid growth of cities in Volga Bulgarian State and for the flourishing of urban culture. Presented in the case are objects manufactured by skilled blacksmiths, armourers, jewellers, potters and bronze-casting craftsmen.

In the same section of the exposition one can see a large medieval graven image from the territory of Northern Caucasus. Quite interesting also is a stone cup of the fountain originating from the «Fine Palace» – a public bath of Bulgar, the capital of Volga Bulgarian State. On both sides of the cup are sculpted dragonheads, architectural details of the Kondui Palace (now the Chita region), and the residence of a member of the Genghis khan’s dynasty. Right of the entrance one can see the Polovtsian «stone image». All those things are a graphic illustration of the scope of Mongol conquests and the bounds of the Mongol empire that comprised several uluses – state entities governed by Genghis khan’s descendants.

case 6
There are very few relics reminding of the time of heroic fight of Russian people against foreign invaders (case 6). This is what Russian annalists wrote: «Mongols came and left smoke and ash, desolated the whole land». That is the main reason for the scarcity of material evidences to the events of those days. The memory of them retained in popular sagas and in the cult of wonder-working icons that helped people to prevail over the enemy according to the tradition. For instance, the tradition is perpetuated in the famous Life of Eufrosinia of Suzdal written many years after the Mongol invasion on how the Rizpolozhensky Monastery (Monastery of the Deposition of the Robe) in Suzdal was saved from hostile ravage by this Saint’s prayers.

case 7
Case 6 has a special place in the exposition. Its materials tell of the heroic fight of North-Western Rus against German and Swedish invaders in the 12th century. The purpose of Swedish invasion was the seizure of the Neva River estuary and the Ladoga city, since that would have given them ample opportunity to control the trade route «from Varangians to Greeks. At the same time the Knights of the Teutonic Order launched their «eastem campaign» pursuing the same goals. Rus found herself between hammer and anvil with Mongol hordes pressing from the East and Swedish and German aggressors advancing from the West. Annalists described the two decisive battles that enabled Rus to repulse enemies from its western borders: Swedish regiments were utterly defeated in the Neva Battle of 1240 A.D. while Teutonic Knights were smashed in the Battle on the ice on Chudskoe Lake. The Russian Army was led by Novgorod Prince Alexander Yaroslavich (Nevsky).

Unfortunately, no corporeal objects as witnesses of the great battles have lasted out. Exhibited in the case is the princely seal of Alexander Nevsky from the time of his reign in Novgorod the Great as well as the reconstruction and authentic details of the armament. A fragment of the «kuyak», lamellar armour of the Russian warrior, is a unique find. This was a leather shirt with thin metal bands sewn on top. This is the earliest sample of protective armour of this type in Rus, going back to the 13th century.

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