Why Did the Mongols So Easily Conquer Russia?
I have been reading Peter Turchin's War and Peace and War. He open's with a look at how the Mongols easily swept through Russia and how Muscovy completely turned the table three centuries later. One reason his analysis caught my eye is because it resonated with a favorite theme of mine: what is wrong with Libertarianism. Thirteenth Century Russia was fragmented into tiny principalities and city states. Even though they knew that cooperation was their best chance against the invasion, they were unable to unite. Why?
The destruction of the Volga Bulgars in 1236 made it abundantly clear that the Mongols planned a systematic conquest; however, the Russians did not unite. Paradoxically, every principality, when taken individually, behaved in a completely rational manner. Each prince waited for others to unite and defeat the Mongols. Because each prince controlled only a small army, his contribution was not crucial to the common success. His potential costs, on the other hand, could be enormous. (For example, he could be killed.) Unfortunately, the same logic governed the actions of all his peers, with the result that no collective effort attempted to defend against Batu’s army. Such an individually rational, but collectively foolish, response is well known to sociologists and economists; it has been dubbed the “tragedy of the commons.”
Turchin, Peter. War and Peace and War (p. 52). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
WRT my anti-libertarian argument, the point is that individual self-interest can lead to a collective disaster. Three centuries later, Muscovy had forged a united and cooperative state, and the Tatars (a name for surviving Khanates) were systematically pushed back and eliminated. One of Turchin's themes is how such collective and cooperative consciousness is forged and can endure.
My belief is that the central thing that made humans a successful and dominant species has been the forging of such collective consciousnesses, and that libertarians reject this and reject human nature.