Having tested the strength of the Russian princes in the battle on Kalka, the Mongols took up more pressing matters.
1224-1236 The calm before the storm
The main direction on which the main forces were thrown was the Tangut kingdom of Xi Xia. The hostilities were fought here already in 1224, even before Genghis Khan returned from the campaign against Khorezm, but the main campaign began in 1226 and was the last for Genghis Khan. By the end of that year, the Tangut state was practically defeated, only the capital held, which was captured in August 1227, probably after the death of Chinggis. The death of the conqueror led to a decrease in the activity of the Mongols on all fronts: they were busy with the election of a new Great Khan, and, despite the fact that Genghis Khan appointed his third son Ogedei as his successor during his lifetime, his election was not at all a formality.
Only in 1229 Ogedei was finally proclaimed the Great Khan (until then the empire was ruled by the youngest son of Chinggis, Tolui).
With his election, the neighbors immediately felt the intensification of the Mongol onslaught. Three tumens were sent to Transcaucasia to fight Jelal ad-Din. Subedei set off to avenge his defeat on the Bulgars. And Batu Khan, who, by the will of Genghis Khan, was to inherit power in the Jochi ulus, took part in the war with the Jin state, which ended only in 1234. As a result, he received control over the province of Pinyanfu.
Thus, for the Russian principalities, the situation during these years was generally favorable: the Mongols seemed to have forgotten about them, giving time to prepare to repel the invasion. And the Bulgars, whose state was still blocking the way to Russia for the Mongols, desperately resisted, held out until 1236.
But the situation in the Russian principalities over the years did not improve, but worsened. And if for the battle on Kalka it was still possible to unite the forces of several large principalities, then in 1238, even in the face of a frank and terrible threat, the Russian princes looked indifferently at the death of their neighbors. And the time allotted for Russia to prepare for a new meeting with the Mongols was running out.
On the eve of the invasion
In the spring of 1235, a great kurultai was assembled in Talan-daba, at which, among others, a decision was made to march to the West against the "Arasyuts and Circassians" (Russians and residents of the North Caucasus) - "where the hooves of Mongolian horses galloped".
These lands, as Genghis Khan commanded, were to become part of the Jochi ulus, the heir of which was finally approved by Batu Khan.
According to the "will" of Genghis Khan, four thousand indigenous Mongols were handed over to the Jochi ulus, who were to form the backbone of the army. Subsequently, many of them will become the founders of new aristocratic families. The main part of the invasion army consisted of warriors of the already conquered peoples, who were supposed to send 10% of combat-ready men to it (but there were also many volunteers).
Batu Khan at that time was about 28 years old (born in 1209), he was one of the 40 sons of Jochi, moreover, from his second wife, and not the eldest. But his mother, Uki-Khatun, was the niece of Chingis's beloved wife, Borte. Perhaps this circumstance became the decisive factor in Genghis Khan's decision to appoint him as Jochi's heir.
Experienced Subudei became the actual commander-in-chief of his army: "a leopard with a severed paw" - so the Mongols called him. And here the Russian principalities were clearly out of luck. Subudei is perhaps the best military leader in Mongolia, one of Genghis Khan's closest associates, and his methods of warfare have always been extremely brutal. The murder of the Mongol ambassadors by the Russian princes before the battle on Kalka was also not forgotten by them, and did not add sympathy to the Russian princes and their subjects.
It should be said that, in the end, the number of Mongols in the army of Batu Khan turned out to be much more than four thousand, since other noble Chingizids went on a campaign with him. Ogedei sent his sons, Guyuk and Kadan, to gain combat experience.
Also, Batu was joined by the son of Chagatai Baydar and his grandson Buri, the sons of Toluya Mongke and Byudzhek, and even the last son of Chinggis Kulkhan, who was not born Borte, but a merkit Khulan.
Despite the strict order of their parents, other Genghisids considered it beneath their dignity to directly obey Batu Khan, and often acted independently of him. That is, they could rather be called Batu's allies than his subordinates.
As a result, the Genghisids quarreled among themselves, which had far-reaching consequences. The "Secret Legend of the Mongols" ("Yuan Chao bi shi") reports on the complaint that Batu Khan sent to the Great Khan Ogedei.
At a feast arranged by him before returning from the campaign, he, as the eldest among the Genghisids present, "drank the cup first at the table." Guyuk and Buri did not like this very much, who left the feast, insulting the owner before this:
“And away they left the fair feast, and then said Buri, leaving:
"They wanted to be equal with us
Old bearded women.
To poke them with a heel, And then trample underfoot!"
"I wish I could beat the old women, who hung quivers on their belts"! - Guyug haughtily echoed him.
"And hang wooden tails!" - added Argasun, the son of Elzhigdei.
Then we said: "If we came to fight foreign enemies, shouldn't we strengthen our agreement among ourselves amicably ?!"
But no, they did not heed the reason of Guyug and Storms and left the honest feast, scolding. Reveal, Khan, now we have our own will!"
Having listened to the envoy of Bat, Ogedei Khan became enraged."
Guyuk will not forget this letter from Batu Khan, and will not forgive him for his father's anger. But more on that later.
Start of the hike
In 1236, the Volga Bulgaria was finally conquered, and in the fall of 1237 the Mongol army first entered the Russian land.
Having proclaimed as his goal "a march to the last sea", "as far as the hooves of Mongolian horses will gallop," Batu Khan moved his troops not to the west, but to the north and northeast of the ancient Russian state.
The defeat of the principalities of Southern and Western Russia can easily be explained by the further campaign of the Mongols in Europe. In addition, the squads of these particular Russian lands fought in 1223 with the Tumens of Subeday and Dzhebe near the Kalki River, and their princes were directly responsible for the murder of the ambassadors. But why did the Mongols have to "make a detour", entering the lands of the northeastern principalities? And was it necessary to do this?
Let us recall that the forests of central Russia for the Mongols and the steppe people of other tribes involved in their campaign were an unfamiliar and alien environment. And the Genghisids did not want the grand-princely thrones of Moscow, Ryazan or Vladimir, the Horde khans did not send their children or grandchildren to rule in Kiev, Tver and Novgorod. The next time the Mongols will come to Russia only in 1252 ("Nevryuev's army" to the northeast, the armies of Kuremsa, and then Burundi - to the west), and even then only because the adopted son of Batu Khan, Alexander Yaroslavich, told him about the anti-Mongol the plans of brother Andrey and Daniel Galitsky. In the future, the Horde khans will literally be drawn into Russian affairs by the opposing princes, who will demand that they be arbiters in their disputes, beg (and even buy) punitive armies of all kinds of princes. But until that time, the Russian principalities did not pay tribute to the Mongols, limiting themselves to one-time gifts when visiting the Horde, and therefore some researchers talk about the re-conquest of Russia in 1252-1257, or even consider this conquest to be the first (considering the previous military campaign as raid).
Batu Khan, indeed, very soon became not up to Russia: in 1246 his enemy Guyuk was elected the Great Khan, who in 1248 even went on a campaign against the ulus of his cousin.
Batu was saved only by the sudden death of Guyuk. Until that time, Batu Khan was extremely merciful to the Russian princes, treated them, rather, as allies in a possible war, and did not demand tribute. An exception was the execution of the Chernigov prince Mikhail, who, the only Russian princes, refused to undergo the traditional rituals of purification and thereby insulted the khan. At the Council of 1547, Michael was canonized as a martyr for the faith.
The situation changed only after the election of the Great Khan Mongke, who, on the contrary, was a friend of Batu, and therefore historians who consider the "yoke" a forced alliance between Russia and the Horde, justify the actions of Alexander Yaroslavich, saying that Andrei and Daniil Galitsky were late with their speech.
Batu Khan now did not fear a blow from the Karakorum, and therefore a new invasion of the Mongols could be truly catastrophic for Russia. Having “headed” it, Alexander saved the Russian lands from an even more terrible rout and ruin.
The first Horde khan who completely subjugated Russia is considered Berke, who was the fifth ruler of the Jochi ulus, and was in power from 1257 to 1266. It was under him that the Baskaks came to Russia, and it was his rule that became the beginning of the notorious "Tatar-Mongol yoke".
But back to 1237.
It is usually said that Batu Khan did not dare to go to the West, having on the right flank the unbroken and hostile principalities of the Northeast. However, the northeastern and southern Russian principalities were ruled by different branches of the Monomashichi, which were at enmity with each other. All the neighbors were well aware of this, and the Mongols could not but know about it. The Volga Bulgars, conquered earlier, and merchants who visited Russia could tell them about the situation in the Russian principalities. Subsequent events showed that, striking a blow to the northeastern lands, the Mongols were not at all afraid of the Kiev, Pereyaslavl and Galich squads.
As for the Western campaign, it is clear that it is more profitable to have on the flank, if not friendly, then neutral states, and, given the complex relations of the Russian Monomashiches, the Mongols could hope at least for the neutrality of Vladimir and Ryazan. If they really wanted to defeat the potential allies of the southern Russian princes first, then it should be admitted that this goal in 1237-1238. was not reached. Yes, the blow was very strong, the losses of the Russians were great, but their armies did not cease to exist, the place of the dead princes was taken by others, from the same dynasty, the rich and powerful Novgorod remained unharmed. And the losses in manpower were not too great, since the Mongols still did not know how to catch people who had taken refuge in the forests. They will learn only in 1293, when the soldiers of the third son of Alexander Nevsky, Andrei, will actively help them in this (this is why the army he brought in was so remembered by the Russians, and children in Russian villages were frightened by "Dyudyuka" back in the 20th century).
The new Grand Duke of Vladimir Yaroslav Vsevolodovich in 1239 had a large and fully combat-ready army, with which he made a successful campaign against the Lithuanians, and then captured the city of Kamenets of the Chernigov principality. In theory, it could have gotten even worse, because now the Russians had a reason to strike from the rear to get revenge. But, as we see and know, the hatred between the princes turned out to be stronger than the hatred of the Mongols.
Mongols at the borders of the Ryazan land
Opposite information has been preserved about the Mongol attack on the Ryazan lands.
On the one hand, it tells about the desperate resistance of the proud Ryazan and the adamant position of its prince, Yuri Ingvarevich. Many people from school years remember his answer to Batu: "When we are not there, then you will take everything."
On the other hand, it is reported that the Mongols, at first, were ready to be content with the traditional tribute in the form of "tithes in everything: in people, in princes, in horses, in everything tenth." And in "The Tale of the Ruin of Ryazan by Batu", for example, it is said that the council of Ryazan, Murom and Pronsk princes decided to enter into negotiations with the Mongols.
Yuri Ingvarevich, indeed, sent his son Fedor with rich gifts to Batu Khan. Justifying this act, historians said later that in this way the Ryazan prince tried to gain time, since he simultaneously requested help from Vladimir and Chernigov. But at the same time, he let the Mongol ambassadors go to the Grand Duke of Vladimir Yuri Vsevolodovich, and he perfectly understood that he could conclude an agreement behind his back. And Ryazan never received any help from anyone. And, perhaps, only the incident at the Khan's feast that ended in the death of his son prevented Yuri Ryazansky from concluding an agreement. After all, Russian chronicles claim that at first Batu Khan received the young prince very graciously and even promised him not to go to the Ryazan lands. This was possible only in one case: Ryazan at least has not yet refused to pay the required tribute.
The mysterious death of the Ryazan embassy at the headquarters of Batu Khan
But then, suddenly, the murder of Fyodor Yuryevich and the "eminent people" accompanying him at Batu's headquarters occurs. But the Mongols treated the ambassadors with respect, and the reason for their murder had to be very serious.
The strange, simply monstrous demand of the "wives and daughters" of the Ryazan ambassadors, nevertheless, seems to be a literary fiction, hiding the true meaning of this incident. After all, the Horde khans never made such demands to the Russian princes already completely obedient to them.
Even if we assume that someone from the drunken Mongols (the same Guyuk or Buri), who wants to end the negotiations and start the war, suddenly shouted such words at the feast, deliberately provoking the ambassadors, the refusal of the guests could become a reason for breaking off relations, but not reprisals them.
Perhaps, in this case, there was a tragic misunderstanding of the traditions and customs of the representatives of different peoples who met for the first time. Something in the behavior of Fyodor Yuryevich and his people could seem defiant and inappropriate to the Mongols, and provoke a conflict.
The easiest way to imagine is their refusal to go through the ritual of purification by fire, which is mandatory when visiting the khan's yurt. Or - refusal to bow to the image of Genghis Khan (this tradition is reported, for example, by Plano Carpini). For Christians, such idolatry was unacceptable, for the Mongols it would be a terrible insult. That is, Fyodor Yuryevich could anticipate the fate of Mikhail Chernigovsky.
There were other prohibitions that the Russians simply could not know about. Genghis Khan's "Yasa" forbade, for example, to step on the ash of a fire, because the soul of a deceased member of a family or clan leaves traces on it. It was impossible to pour wine or milk on the ground - this was considered as a desire to harm the dwelling or livestock of the owners with the help of magic. It was forbidden to step on the threshold of the yurt and enter the yurt with weapons or with rolled up sleeves; it was forbidden to urinate, before entering the yurt, to sit on the northern side of the yurt without permission and change the place indicated by the owner. And any treat served to a guest must be taken with both hands.
Recall that this was the first meeting of Russians and Mongols at such a level, and there was no one to tell about the intricacies of Mongolian etiquette to the Ryazan ambassadors.
The fall of Ryazan
Subsequent events in the Russian chronicles, apparently, are transmitted correctly. Ryazan ambassadors died at the headquarters of Batu Khan. The wife of the young prince Fyodor Eupraxius, in a state of passion, could easily throw herself from the roof with her young son in her arms. The Mongols went to Ryazan. Evpatiy Kolovrat, who came from Chernigov "with a small squad", could attack the rearguard units of the Mongols between Kolomna (the last city of the Ryazan principality) and Moscow (the first city of the Suzdal land).
In The Legend of Kolovrat, perhaps the most shameful historical film in the entire history of Russian and Soviet cinema, Fyodor Yuryevich bravely fights the Mongols in front of a transvestite-like Batu Khan, and his retinue, led by boyar Yevpatiy, boldly runs away, leaving the protected person to fend for themselves. And then Kolovrat, apparently realizing that for this, Prince Yuri Ingvarevich, at best, would hang him on the nearest aspen, wandering around the forests for several days, waiting for the fall of his city. But let's not talk about the sad, we know that everything was not at all like that.
Having defeated the Ryazan troops that came out against them in a border battle (three princes were killed in it - David Ingvarevich of Murom, Gleb Ingvarevich of Kolomna and Vsevolod Ingvarevich of Pronsk), the Mongols captured Pronsk, Belgorod-Ryazan, Dedoslavl, Izheslavets, and then, after a five-day stall … Together with the townspeople, the family of the Grand Duke also perished.
Kolomna will soon fall (the son of Chingis Kulkhan will die here), Moscow, Vladimir, Suzdal, Pereyaslavl-Zalessky, Torzhok …
In total, during this campaign, 14 Russian cities will be taken and destroyed.
We will not retell the history of Batu Khan's campaigns on the Russian lands, it is well known, we will try to consider two strange episodes of this invasion. The first is the defeat of the Russian squads of the Grand Duke of Vladimir on the City River. The second is the incredible seven-week defense of the small town of Kozelsk.
And we'll talk about this in the next article.