What did we know about them? Russian intelligence about the Mongols

What did we know about them? Russian intelligence about the Mongols
What did we know about them? Russian intelligence about the Mongols

In the previous article, we analyzed the working methods of the strategic intelligence of the Mongol Empire.

Let's try to analyze what the Russian princes knew about the upcoming war and the likely enemy on the eve of the invasion.

So, in 1235, at a general kurultai of the leaders of the Mongol Empire, it was decided to carry out a campaign to the west - to Europe, with the aim of expanding the Jochi ulus. In 1236, the united forces of the empire in the course of a lightning campaign finally defeated the Volga Bulgaria, which had been holding back the Mongol advance to the west for seven years. All of its major cities were destroyed, most of them were never recreated in their original place. The empire came close to the borders of Russia.

The Russian princes, of course, could not but be aware of the events that took place directly near the borders of their possessions, but we are not aware of any intelligence or diplomatic measures that they could carry out in order to protect their lands. Nevertheless, the analysis of documents of those times, in particular, the notes of Julian of Hungary mentioned in the previous article, as well as the analysis of indirect chronicle data, allow us to conclude that such events were carried out, although not with one hundred percent success.

Julian of Hungary's Travels

The notes of Julian of Hungary are especially interesting, since the last time he visited Russia just before the very beginning of the invasion and personally communicated in Suzdal with the Grand Duke Yuri Vsevolodovich. The mission, by the way, was very peculiar: Julian was looking for ethnic relatives in the east of Europe, namely the pagan Hungarians who, according to legend, remained in their ancestral home, somewhere in the Ural Mountains, whom he was going to convert to Christianity. As part of this mission, he made two journeys.

The first was in 1235-1236. through Constantinople, Matarkha (Tmutarakan, present-day Taman) and further up the Don and Volga to the north to the Volga Bulgaria, where, probably, on the territory of modern Bashkiria, he found those he was looking for: people who speak the "Hungarian" language, whom he he understood perfectly well and who understood him. Returned from his first trip to Europe, Julian through Vladimir, Ryazan and Galich, and at the beginning of 1237 presented a report to the Hungarian king White IV.

His second journey began in the same year 1237, in the fall. This time he decided to head towards his goal directly through the Russian lands, apparently, this path seemed safer to him. However, upon arriving in Suzdal, he learned that all the territories east of the Volga, including the entire Volga Bulgaria, had already been captured and brutally devastated by the Mongols, and that his mission to convert “pagan Hungarians” to Christianity was no longer relevant. If Julian returned to Hungary by the usual route through Ryazan, then he could miss the Mongols in literally days, since the Mongol invasion of Ryazan began in November 1237, and Ryazan itself was besieged in December.

Researchers highly appreciate the degree of reliability of Julian of Hungary's notes, since they are executed in a dry, "official" style and are purely businesslike reports of his travels, recalling in style (especially the report on the second trip, the most informative) intelligence reports.

What Monk Julian Told

Julian himself did not meet with the Mongols, unlike Plano Carpini, and he could get all information about them only from third parties, namely from the Russian prince Yuri Vsevolodovich, with whom he communicated literally on the eve of the invasion, in the late autumn of 1237. the notes are a reflection of how the Russians imagined the Mongols and what they knew and thought about them. Here is what Julian writes about the Mongols:

I will tell you about the war as follows. They say that they shoot (meaning the Mongols. - Author) farther than other peoples are able to. At the first collision in a war, their arrows, as they say, do not fly, but as if pouring down like a downpour. With swords and spears, they are rumored to be less adept at fighting. They build their own in such a way that at the head of ten people there is one Tatar, and over a hundred people there is one centurion. This was done with such a cunning calculation that the incoming scouts could not hide among them in any way, and if in a war it happens to somehow drop out of one of them, so that he can be replaced without delay, and people gathered from different languages ​​and peoples, could not commit any treason. In all the conquered kingdoms, they promptly kill princes and nobles, who inspire fears that someday they may offer any resistance. Armed warriors and villagers, fit for battle, they send against their will into battle ahead of them. Other villagers, less capable of fighting, are left to cultivate the land, and the wives, daughters and relatives of those people who were driven into battle and who were killed are divided between those left for cultivating the land, assigning twelve or more to each, and obliging those people in the future be called Tatars. But to the warriors who are driven into battle, even if they fight well and win, there is little gratitude; if they die in battle, there is no concern for them, but if they retreat in battle, they are mercilessly killed by the Tatars. Therefore, fighting, they prefer to die in battle than under the swords of the Tatars, and they fight more bravely, so as not to live longer, but to die sooner.

As you can see, the information presented by Julian is fully consistent with the available historical materials, although in some cases they are guilty of inaccuracies. The art of the Mongols in archery is noted, but the insufficient preparation of their troops for hand-to-hand combat. Also noted is their tough organization on the principle of tens, pursuing goals related, among other things, to counterintelligence (so that the incoming intelligence officers could not hide among them in any way), which tells us, among other things, that the Mongols themselves practiced such intelligence. The well-known practice of the Mongols to include representatives of the conquered peoples in their army was also noted. That is, we can conclude that the Russian princes still had a general idea of ​​who they were dealing with in the person of the Mongols.

But the very next phrase in Julian's letter sheds light on one of the reasons for the catastrophe that befell Russia literally weeks after Julian's conversation with Yuri Vsevolodovich.

They do not attack fortified castles, but first devastate the country and plunder the people and, having gathered the people of that country, drive them to battle to besiege their own castle.

Until the very end, the Russian prince did not understand that he faced not just another steppe horde, but an organized and excellently controlled army, which, among other things, was able to take well-fortified cities by storm. If the prince had information that the Mongols had advanced (at that time) siege technology and competent personnel to manage it, perhaps he would have chosen a different strategy for the defense of his lands, not relying on the ability to delay the invasion by the need for the Mongols to conduct numerous long sieges of Russian cities … Of course, he knew that such a technique existed: already in his memory, the capture of St. George's took place, where the Germans used the most advanced siege technology of that time.The only Russian defender of Yuriev, who had been left by the Germans, who had been sent to him with the news of the capture of the city, had to tell him about this. However, Yuri Vsevolodovich simply could not assume that the Mongols had such a technique. If at least the Bulgar cities offered the Mongols fierce resistance, forcing them to use heavy siege techniques, the prince could, even at the last moment, change or correct his decisions, but, unfortunately, the Bulgar cities did not offer serious resistance to the Mongols, for example, their capital, the Bulgar was abandoned by the inhabitants even before the arrival of the Tumens of Batu.

Julian's next phrase also speaks rather of the unsatisfactory conduct of intelligence by the Russians on the eve of the invasion:

They do not write anything to you about the number of their entire army, except that from all the kingdoms they conquered, they drive warriors ready for battle into battle before them.

That is, the Russians did not even imagine how many enemy soldiers they would have to face, although they represented in general terms the disposition of the Mongol troops, because Julian mentions a little higher in his letter:

Now, being on the borders of Russia, we closely learned the real truth that the entire army going to the countries of the West is divided into four parts. One part of the river Etil (Volga) on the borders of Russia from the eastern edge approached Suzdal. Another part in the southern direction was already attacking the borders of Ryazan, another Russian principality. The third part stopped opposite the Don River, near the Voronezh castle, also of the Russian principality. They, as the Russians themselves, the Hungarians and Bulgars, who fled in front of them, verbally conveyed to us, are waiting for the land, rivers and swamps to freeze with the onset of the coming winter, after which it will be easy for the whole multitude of Tatars to plunder all of Russia, the entire country of Russians.

It is noteworthy that the Russians, having a correct idea of ​​the deployment of the Mongol troops, of their plans to attack Russia immediately after the freeze-up, had absolutely no idea about their numbers and equipment. This may indicate that the Russian princes and governors did not neglect intelligence at all, but limited themselves to military intelligence and interviewing refugees, having absolutely no intelligence information about the enemy.

I think it would not be an exaggeration to say that in terms of intelligence, as, indeed, in many other aspects of military activity, the Mongol Empire was ahead of Europe and Russia as a part of it by at least a few steps.


The last thing I would like to say is where the “wild Mongols” got such deep and fundamental knowledge, skills and abilities that allowed them to get so far ahead of Europe.

It should be understood that in the XIII century. Europe was by no means the Europe it will become in three centuries. The technical and technological superiority that it would demonstrate centuries later was still in its infancy (rather, it was preparing to emerge) in the crucible of numerous wars and conflicts of that time. The East, the Middle, and the Far, were at a much higher stage of cultural development. In fact, Europe was just a large peninsula on the northwestern outskirts of the inhabited ecumene, not very convenient for life, not too industrially and culturally developed. One word - the edge of the world, nothing more.

China, which was the intellectual base for the Mongol Empire, far surpassed Europe culturally and technically, and the same can be said of the countries of the Near and Middle East, conquered by the Mongols and incorporated by them into the empire.

For clarity, in order to understand the difference in the levels of cultural development of Asia and Europe, one can compare the samples of literary creativity of representatives of both parts of the world.

Many of the readers, although they themselves do not suspect it, know a vivid example of the work of the Chinese poet, as well as the statesman Su Dong-po, or Su Shi, who lived in China in the 11th century. This is the song "Boat" performed by Konstantin Kinchev. Listen closely to the lyrics of this song, it was written about 950 years ago, and then, for comparison, read the lyrics "Song of Roland" or "The Word of Igor's Host", written a hundred years later on the other side of the globe. In no way do I want to belittle the artistic merits of both works, but the difference between them and the poetic works of a Chinese official seems so striking that it seems to be the best illustration of the thesis about the general lag of Europe behind Asia during the Middle Ages.

The quote from the famous treatise of the Chinese author Sun Tzu "The Art of War" is also not accidentally included in the epigraph to this study (see the first part). The Mongols, having constant contact with China, undoubtedly realized the cultural superiority of the latter and, of course, were greatly influenced by it. The military and political genius of Genghis Khan managed to direct the penetration of Chinese culture into the Mongolian environment along a somewhat peculiar path, but as a result, this penetration was significantly accelerated and in the end was the very cementing force that was able to unite and subordinate to a single will the vast territory from the Pacific Ocean to the Danube and Carpathians.

And when the Mongol tumens appeared on the fields of Europe, she shuddered with horror not because the Mongols showed unprecedented cruelty (the Europeans themselves were no less cruel to each other), not because these Mongols were so numerous (there were many, but not terribly much), but because these same “savages”, nomads, demonstrated discipline, unity, controllability, technical equipment and organization unattainable for Europeans. They were just more civilized.

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