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which pillaged the Russian principalities and ruled the southern and central expanses of Russia for over three centuries, impeding the country's economic and social development.

Galicia-Volhynia was eventually assimilated by the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, while the Mongol-dominated Vladimir-Suzdal and the independent Novgorod Republic, two regions on the periphery of Kiev, established the basis for the modern Russian nation. The Novgorod Republic together with Pskov retained some degree of autonomy during the time of the Mongol yoke and were largely spared the atrocities that affected the rest of the country. Led by Alexander Nevsky, Novgorodians repelled the invading Swedes in the Battle of the Neva in 1240, as well as the Germanic crusaders in the Battle of the Ice in 1242, breaking their attempts to colonize the Northern Rus'.

Grand Duchy of Moscow

The most powerful successor state to Kievan Rus' was the Grand Duchy of Moscow ("Moscovy" in the Western chronicles), initially a part of Vladimir-Suzdal. While still under the domain of the Mongol-Tatars and with their connivance, Moscow began to assert its influence in Western Russia in the early 14th century.

Those were hard times, with frequent Mongol-Tatar raids and agriculture suffering from the beginning of the Little Ice Age. Like in the rest of Europe, plagues hit Russia somewhere once every five or six years from 1350 to 1490. However, due to the lower population density and better hygiene (widespread practicing of banya), the population loss caused by plagues wasn't so severe as in the Western Europe, and the pre-Plague populations seem to have been reached in Russia as early as 1500.

Assisted by the Russian Orthodox Church and Saint Sergius of Radonezh's spiritual revival, under the leadership of Prince Dmitri Donskoy of Moscow, the united army of Russian principalities inflicted a milestone defeat on the Mongol-Tatars in the Battle of Kulikovo (1380). Moscow gradually absorbed the surrounding principalities, including eventually the strong rivals, such as Tver and Novgorod, and thus became the main leading force in the process of Russia's reunification and expansion.

Ivan III (Ivan the Great) finally threw off the control of the Golden Horde, consolidated the whole of Central and Northern Rus' under Moscow's dominion, and was the first to take the title "grand

Taiga forest in winter, Arkhangelsk Oblast.