The Encounter Between Forest Lithuanians and Steppe Tatars in the Time of Mindaugas

In: Lithuanian Historical Studies
Author: Darius Baronas
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This article investigates the first contacts between the Lithuanians and the Tatars in Mindaugas’ time (ca. 1240-1263). In this period the role of the Tatars seems to be underestimated in historical literature. A study of the situation in the aftermath of the Tatar invasions into Rus’ in 1238-1240 reveals that Lithuanian warlords exploited the chaos there by intensifying their plundering assaults. Such Lithuanian behaviour shows that they did not try to clash with the Tatars, instead, like the Germans or the Swedes, the Lithuanians also sought to strengthen their political influence in Rus. The study also reveals that the Tatars were aware of the Lithuanians, whose lands were not the main target of their aggression. A radical change in the relations between the Lithuanians and the Tatars is obvious in connection with King Mindaugas’ policy (from 1253) characterised by the idea of a crusade against the Tatars, popular in contemporary Christian Europe. The nearness of the Tatar world to the Baltic countries shows that the contacts established in the thirteenth century would yield fruit only in the fourteenth century.

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