Sunday, July 28, 2019

Duma Set to Make Anniversary of Russia’s Defeat of Mongol Horde a State Holiday

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 26 – The Duma plans to discuss a new law setting November 11, the anniversary of the defeat of the Mongol Horde at the Ugra River a public memorial day. Plans to do so have been backed by a 100,000-signature petition and are already sufficiently advanced that regional governments are preparing for the day (

            Anatoly Artamanov, the Kaluga governor who is an enthusiastic proponent of the idea, says that the defeat of Khan Akhmat by the forces of Ivan III of Moscow in October-November 1480 is generally viewed by Russian historians as the end of the Mongol Horde’s dominance over Russian lands.

            “At present,” he says, “the Duma is considering a draft law about establishing an all-Russian memorial day to coincide with the anniversary of the end of the Great Stand on the Ugra.” He says he is confidence this will be adopted at the start of the legislature’s fall term given how much support it has in the regions.

            The text of the bill has already been approved by the Russian Academy of Sciences, the Russian State Archive, the ministries of culture, defense, justice and the Institute for Legislation and Comparative Law in the Russian government. 

            Russians began pushing for this holiday in April 2017, but many people pointed out that the battle was less conclusive that Moscow is accustomed to think and that people from the same ethnic communities were on opposite sides of the fight, thus making any commemoration potentially explosive.

            Rafael Khakimov, director of the Kazan Institute of History, says that while Russian historians earlier accepted that the Ugra battle was “the date of the liberation of Rus from
‘the Mongol yoke,’ now these views have been revised.” In fact, no battle at that time took place on the Ugra River.

            “The events of 1480 were only an episode in the struggle for supremacy in the Horde and not an act of liberation of Moscow from the power of the Tatars. From a scientific-historical point of view, the stand at the Ugra River must not be considered as an especially significant historical event linked to the liberation of Rus from the power of  the Horde.”

            But there is a bigger question, Khakimov says, and that is this: “why in general should residents of the multi-national Russian Federation in our time regardless of region mark a medieval date connected with the freeing of a single pro-Russian ruler from vassal dependence on another?”

            What is going on with this proposal, the Kazan historian says, is an effort to force the Tatars and other peoples of Russia to “mark the victory of a Russian Orthodox prince over Muslim Turks,” something that is consistent with Putin’s approach but not conducive to good relations among the nations of the country.

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