Who freed the Russians from Mongol rule?
Mongol rule over Russia weakened and collapsed over a period of decades, but it was Ivan III, the prince of Moscow, known as Ivan the Great, who formally renounced Mongol rule in 1480. The princes of Moscow had for centuries paid homage to the Mongol rulers, sending tributes that included slaves eastward. Ivan, having already expanded his influence over neighboring kingdoms including Lithuania and parts of Ukraine, announced that he would no longer be a vassal to the Mongols. This ended a period remembered by Russians as the "Tatar yoke," a phrase that uses the name given to Mongols within the Russian Empire after 1480. It also marked a major milestone in the creation of a Russian kingdom, one which was already (as noted above) expanding and developing a unique cultural identity—one which included Mongol and western European influences as well as the Eastern Orthodox church. Future Russian tsars would claim descent from Ivan III as well as his grandson Ivan IV (the Terrible).
Ivan III, grandfather to Ivan the Terrible, is the Russian leader most often associated with the defeat of the Mongols. Duke of Muscovy, Ivan III consolidated control over areas of modern Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia, forming a solid front against what has become known as the "Mongol Yoke." Through mostly political maneuvering, he weakened the political control of Mongol officials, and the Russian noble families who had come to depend on them for titles and authority. Later, Ivan the Terrible would consolidate Russian gains against the Mongols with major military victories at Kazan and at Astrakhan.