In This Review

The Horde: How the Mongols Changed the World
The Horde: How the Mongols Changed the World
By Marie Favereau
Harvard University Press, 2021, 384 pp.

Favereau’s history of the Horde, a nomadic regime that grew out of the Mongol leader Genghis Khan’s expansion of his empire in the early thirteenth century and lasted for over two centuries, relies on abundant academic literature and translated primary sources. The Horde controlled a gigantic territory that extended from Central Asia to eastern Europe and included Russian principalities and Siberia. It excelled at conquest, trade, co-opting local elites, and collecting tribute but was weak in written culture and architecture. Favereau’s narrative is extremely rich in ethnographic detail and descriptions of succession battles, military campaigns, and internecine warfare. Favereau seeks to exonerate the Horde, which in her view is too often portrayed as merely a plundering force. To that end, she focuses on the Horde’s impact on the course of history, particularly the history of Russia. Subordination to the Horde, Favereau argues, was beneficial for Russia, which at the time was fragmented, mostly rural, and agriculturally poor. The Mongols, according to Favereau, “created for the Russians a type of governance befitting their political and economic particularities and cultural sensitivities.” This interpretation sounds strangely colonial and stands in sharp contrast to the Russian perception of the Horde’s domination: Russians refer to it as “the Tatar-Mongol yoke” and see this unique episode of long-term vassalage as a time of humiliation, destruction, and decline.