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The Mongol invasion of Eastern Europe in 1223, 1237-1240  

Alexander V. Maiorov

The task of the tümens of Jebe and Sübedei’s raid to Europe (1221–1223) was not limited to reconnaissance only. This raid was part of Chinggis Khan’s general expansion strategy involving establishing total control over the Kipchaks and conquering their steppe territories both in Asia and Europe. This strategic ambition had to be implemented by Prince Jochi, the ruler of the Western ulus of the Mongol Empire. Jochi was to bring his major forces to Europe and join the Jebe and Sübedei vanguard corps for the final defeat of the Kipchaks. Being allies and kin of the Kipchak rulers, the prince of Kiev and other southern Rus’ princes provided military assistance to them. Thus, the counter-attack of the Mongols targeted Rus’. After the defeat of the Rus’–Kipchak coalition forces in the Battle of the Kalka River, the Mongols were able to cross the Dnieper and approach Kiev. However, Jochi’s refusal to bring his major forces to support the Mongol vanguard brought to naught all the victories and achievements of generals Jebe and Sübedei. The initial goals of the Great Western Campaign of the Mongols (late 1236–1242) consisted in conquering Volga Bulgaria, the Kipchak/Polovets steppes, and the Hungarian kingdom. To a large extent, the defeat and destruction of Vladimir-Suzdal Principality occurred as part of the aftermath of the battle of Kolomna, where Kölgän, the youngest son of Chinggis Khan and one of the most honorable Mongol lords, was killed. The Mongol invasion was preceded by peace negotiations with the Mongols conducted by the most powerful Rus’ princes, specifically Yury Vsevolodovich of Vladimir-Suzdal and Daniel Romanovich of Galicia-Volhynia. Following these negotiations, the princes did everything they could to avoid personal involvement in military action against the Mongols. The Mongols’ stone artillery and wide use of flame liquids were critical weapons in the siege and assault of Rus’ cities and towns. The defendants had no effective countermeasures against these dangerous weapons. A comparative analysis of various reports in Rus’ chronicles about the date of the capture of Kiev by the Mongols with information from Hungarian sources shows that the most likely date is December 6, 1240. The proper names Uladmur and Uchogul Uladmur, given by the medieval Persian historian Rashīd al-Dīn in his account of the conquest of south Rus’ by the Mongols, cannot be related to the historical toponyms of Galician-Volhynian Rus’. The Mongol name Uladmur was connected with the name of Prince Vladimir Riurikovich, who had occupied the Kievan throne not long before the attack of the Mongols against south Rus’ and held peaceful negotiations with Prince Möngke. In Volhynia and Galicia the Mongols used a method that they had often used before. They forced the residents of the conquered cities to go outside the city walls and massacred them. They spared only the young men suitable for military service and took them into auxiliary troops (khashar), so that they should fight in the most dangerous areas of the battle.