Today in European history: the Mongols sack Kyiv (1240)

Historians often cite the 1240 Mongol sack of Kyiv as the final end of the Kyivan Rus’ federation, but as with most things there’s more to the collapse of the Rus’ than one solitary event. For nearly two centuries prior to 1240, the balance of power in the Rus’ federation had been shifting gradually away from Kyiv and toward its constituent principalities, who fought each other for supremacy almost as often as they fought any external enemies in self-defense. The federation’s ruling Rurik Dynasty began to fragment, as uncles contested with nephews for succession and local princes refused to be governed by the Grand Prince of Kyiv. The federation was the kind of political entity whose cohesion depended in large part on the strength of any given Grand Prince, and so when a series of weak (or weakened by infighting) monarchs came to the throne one after another, decentralization was the inevitable result.

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