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Armies of Genghis Khan


Genghis Khan’s
Genghis Khan’s

In 1223 the Mongol armies of Genghis Khan invaded the southeast. The Polovtsy sent for help from the Russian princes, who came to their aid against this common, greater foe. In the Battle of the Kalka River (now Kal’mius River), the Polovtsy-Russian coalition was routed. After his victory, however, the Mongol khan recalled his armies to Asia and they retreated as rapidly as they had come. For 14 years, the Mongols made no move in the direction of Russia. Then, in 1237, Genghis Khan’s grandson Batu Khan led an army back to eastern Russia. On their northward march, Batu’s forces captured and destroyed most of the major cities in the Vladimir-Suzdal’ region. The difficult terrain of the forests and swamps south of Novgorod halted the Mongol sweep, and Batu Khan was forced to change the direction of his march, moving to the southwest. Kyiv desperately tried to defend itself, but the city was destroyed by Batu’s army in 1240. The invaders came to be generally known in Russia as the Tatars, after the Turkic-speaking people who comprised a prominent part of the Mongol forces. The Mongols ravaged Poland and Hungary and progressed as far east as Moravia. In 1242 Batu established his capital at Sarai on the lower Volga (near modern Volgograd) and founded the khanate known as the Golden Horde, which was virtually independent of the Mongol Empire.

In addition to the havoc it created in Russia at the time, the Mongol invasion had a long-term influence on later Russian history. Mongol rule increased Russia’s isolation from Europe, and Tatar customs, laws, and government also had an influence on Russia. During the Mongol era the East Slavs evolved into three distinct groups. One group, culturally influenced by the Poles and Lithuanians, eventually became known as White Russians, or Belorussians (Belarusians). A second group, formed of the Slavic population from Kyiv and adjacent areas, became known as Little Russians (Malorussians) and later as Ukrainians. Those who lived in the northeast became known as the Great Russians.

Although the Mongols did not attack Novgorod, northwestern Russia was menaced by invaders from the west during the same time period. The Swedes descended from the Baltic and sought to penetrate the territories of Novgorod.

In 1240 a Swedish army landed on the banks of the Neva River, and Prince Alexander of Novgorod led a Russian army to meet them. The prince so completely defeated the Swedes that he became known as Alexander Nevsky, meaning “Alexander of the Neva.” Two years later the Teutonic Knights, a religious military order of Germans, advanced from the west. Alexander led his troops to meet the Germans, crossing the frozen Lake Peipus, and routed them. Faced with continuing danger in the west and unwilling to risk Tatar invasion from the south, Alexander adopted a policy of loyal submission to the Golden Horde and conciliation with the khan. In accordance with Tatar wishes, Alexander journeyed to Sarai to secure permission to rule from the khan. The Tatars made Alexander ruler of Kyiv, Vladimir, and Novgorod. Most of the other Russian princes followed Alexander’s example, paying tribute and considering themselves vassals of the khan. "Russia" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia.

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