The further spread of Christianity in Russia

In the first half of the thirteenth century Christianity in Russia entered upon grim days. The Mongols swept into the land and made themselves masters of the area north of the Caspian and Black Seas. They were pagans and the immediate effect of their conquest was adverse for the Church. Many Christians perished, numbers of church buildings were laid in ruins, and service books and vestments were destroyed. Eventually the dominant groups among the Golden Horde — the Russian Mongols — embraced Islam. It would not have been surprising if Russian Christianity, by the majority very superficially and unintelligently held, had disappeared.

However, the net effect of the Mongol conquest was to deepen the hold of Christianity on the Russians and to spread the faith into areas hitherto untouched. In general the Mongol rulers were friendly to the Church and did not attempt to force their Christian subjects to abandon their faith. The Church was given authority over its members in moral and religious questions, especially in marriage, sex offenses, inheritance, and the duties of children to parents. It was accorded immunity from some forms of taxation. The Church was regarded by Russians as the one institution which was peculiarly their own and became a symbol of what might be called Russian nationalism. It and became a symbol of what might be called Russian nationalism. It was the tie of Russian unity.

To escape the Mongol yoke many Russians migrated northward, beyond the border of Mongol rule. Numbers also sought release by abandoning the world and adopting the monastic life. Hermits made their way to the northern forests. In other places in the North monastic communities were established. Around many of the latter towns sprang up and the monasteries became schools in agriculture and the Christian faith. Through them pagans were converted, lands cleared, roads and canals built, marshes drained, and improved methods of cattle breeding and cultivating the soil were introduced. By them the Russian language was spread and various Finnish tribes were assimilated to the Russian church and Russian culture.

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