When Audrey Aleksandrovich died, an epoch died with him. It was the end of an age of leaden hopelessness mad seemingly utter purposelessness in strifetorn Russia. The rulers appear to have lost all sen* of direction. It was the end of an age of chaotic disunity, fragmentation and disintegration, of feeble ness of endeavour, of military unpreparedness and inefficiency. The sickness of thirteenth-century Russia was caused not so much b y any .external factor or by the so-called ‘yoke' imposed by the Tatars, as by the innate and devastating conservatism of the ruling clans, by their unwillingness and inability to change an outmoded and creaking system and by the sheer impotence of most of the rulers. By 1304 the grand prince enjoyed less authority and less real power in terms of national solidarity than at any time previously. The old Kievan empire lay in ruins; it was a thing of the past, only much later to be lamented and remembered with regret and a certain nostalgia. South-west Russia looked to Eastern Europe and, by the end of the century, had few ties with Suzdalia. Nowhere was there a glimmer of a thriving economy, except in Novgorod. The only known links with the outside world, apart from mercantile contacts with the East, were conducted either with the West by the traders of Novgorod and to a lesser extent of Smolensk, or with a tattered and tottering Byzantium by the Church, and that only rarely and spasmodically. It might have appeared to anyone possessed at the time of a knowledge of the overall situation that there were only two possible futures for Russia, or rather for Suzdalia-Novgorod: either to be physically neutralized by the Kipchak Horde, put in a state of political limbo (rather as Kiev and Chernigov had been after 1240) and eventually to be occupied by a virile and aggressive Lithuania; or to be resus citated by a tough single-minded ruler or clan of rulers who knew how to exploit Tatar policy and not simply to rely on the khans as their military allies, much as their ancestors had relied on the Polovtsians.