The Mongols were a powerful nomadic tribe of the Asian Steepes and their vast empire extended into China, India and central Europe during the 12th to 16th centuries. In 1206, Mongolia was conquered by Ghengis Chan and it became the center of the vast Mongol empire. Ghengis Chan, the founder of the empire, was the most feared military leader of his time. His conquests were so immense and his influence so absolute that he was able to achieve an almost mythic status during his own lifetime. He ruled from 1206 to 1227 and during that time, his empire steadily expanded across Asia in a series of ruthless military conquests. The Mongols thrived on hardships and primitive fertility. They lived in tents or the open air, followed their herds to fresh pastures, clothed themselves in oxhides, and studied with relish the arts of war. They were experts with the dagger and swords and arrows aimed from their flying steeds.
The Mongols captured Kiev in 1240, which ended the period known as Kievan Rus'. In the following period, the principalities which once made up Kievan Rus' remained separate, and Galicia and Volhynia inherited Kiev's political and cultural traditions. Danylo Mstyslavych,the Prince of Galicia-Volhynia, was crowned king in 1253, and a dynasty was established which would rule the territory for the next century. In the 1340's, a great deal of Ukrainian territory was annexed to the duchy of Lithuania, but the Ukrainians maintained much of their political and cultural autonomy. Soon Poland and Lithuania were competing for Volhynia and Galicia and later, Galicia was annexed by the Poles.
In 1385, Poland and Lithuania were united, (later termed the Commonwealth), with the marriage of the queen of Poland and the grand prince of Lithuania, and the Ukrainians lost self government. At the same time. the princes of Moscow gained prominence among the northeastern principalities and soon came to pose a threat to Polish-Lithuanian power. A second threat was developed in the form of the Crimean Khanate left by the retreating Mongols, which accepted the overlordship of the Ottoman sultan in 1478. The existence of these two opponents to the power of the Commonwealth were to have a strong impact on the Ukrainians.
- ^ Swyrich, Archive materials