Memorable date
Memorable date

Memorable date

642 years ago


The united army of the majority of Russian princes, headed by Moscow prince Dmitry Ivanovich (after the battle he was nicknamed “Donskoi”) decisively defeated the troops of the Golden Horde, which were led to the Kulikovo field by the de facto ruler of the Horde, darkie Mamai.

The significance of the victory was not limited to military aspects. Soon Mamay would overthrow the legitimate Khan Tokhtamysh, who even managed to take Moscow for a short time.

The effect was moral and psychological. First, it was the first major victory over the ORDO (a couple of years before the Kulikovo battle, they managed to defeat one of Mamay’s military leaders on the Vozha River, which was then perceived as a forerunner of the Kulikovo battle). Secondly, it was Moscow’s experience of organizing an all-Union army. The Prince of Moscow gradually began to turn into the sovereign in the minds of most Northeastern Russians.

At one time I wrote a poem on this subject. It is called “Before the Battle”.

I see the crows have flown in,
They’re circling right above me,
In the distance, the horde is stirring,
And the enemy is ready to slay me with an arrow…

“And there’s a dashing gang gathered here,
Of strange and unfamiliar faces,
And a scout has been sent out at first****,
They are many, the army has no limits.

I see the flashes of battle,
♪ I’ve been at war for a long time now ♪
The source of all crime,
There, in the distance, the stacks are burning.

Danger toughens an army.
We have few men now…
We are those who defend our home
From all uninvited guests.

They’ve laid a tribute on us
They don’t respect honest labor.
Across the river – the field is burnt,
They’re burning fires by the ponds.

We hate them with all our souls,
Those who have come to kill us,
And who are ready with their arrow,
And in little children – to hit –*.

I see a field before the storm.
There is no sound now, silence.
But the smell of carcasses over the river,
The war has come.

We’ve unholstered our halberds,
We’ve got our pikes and our swords,
We’ve been hoarding our strength for a long time,
To throw them into the river’s bosom…

And we’re all ready for battle,
I’ve set up my regiments
And only the right word
I have only the right word to utter.

Ah, my youth,
I don’t know if I’ll ever see my wife again,
“And there’s a gray-haired death wandering around,
rattling with a sharpened scythe.

** “I shall see you” is the future tense of “to see you” (Ushakov’s Dictionary).

** “The Battle of Kulikovo (Mamaev Battle), the battle between the united Russian army led by Moscow Grand Duke Dmitry Ivanovich and the army of the Temnik of the Golden Horde Mamay, which took place on September 8, 1380 on Kulikovo Field (the historical area between the Don, Nepryadva and Krasivaya Mecha rivers in the southeast of the Tula region).

Strengthening of the Moscow principality in the sixties of XIV century and unification around it of other lands of Northeastern Russia went almost simultaneously with the strengthening of power of the Temnik Mamay in the Golden Horde. Married to the Golden Horde Khan Berdibek’s daughter, he received the title of emir and became the master of fates of the part of the Horde that was located to the west of the Volga to the Dnieper and in the steppe spaces of the Crimea and Ciscaucasia.

In 1374 the Moscow Prince Dmitry Ivanovich, who also had a label for the Grand Duchy of Vladimir, refused to pay tribute*** to the Golden Horde. Then Khan in 1375 gave a label for the great reign of Tver. But against Mikhail of Tver the whole Northeastern Russia stood up against it. The Moscow prince organized a military campaign against the Tver principality, which was joined by Yaroslavl, Rostov, Suzdal and other principalities’ regiments. Dmitry was also supported by Novgorod the Great. Tver capitulated. Under the treaty concluded Vladimir’s throne was recognized as a “patrimony” of Moscow princes, and Mikhail of Tver became Dmitry’s vassal.

****The ambitious Mamai continued to regard the defeat of the Moscow principality, which had fallen out of subordination to Moscow, as the main factor of strengthening his own positions in the Horde. In 1376 the Khan of the Blue Horde-Arab Shah Muzzaffar (Arapsha of Russian chronicles) who joined Mamay ruined a Novosilsk principality, but came back avoiding a fight with a Moscow army which went beyond the Ox frontier. In 1377 he also defeated a non-Moscow-Suzdal army on the Pyan River. The voivodes which were sent against the Horde were careless which brought them the following punishment: “And their princes, and boyars, and nobles, and voivodes, rejoicing and having fun, drinking and catching fish, imagining a house being”, and then ruined the Nizhny Novgorod and Ryazan principalities.

In 1378 Mamai, seeking to make him pay tribute again***, sent to Russia an army led by the Murza Begich. Russian regiments that came to meet him were led by Dmitry himself. The fight took place on August 11, 1378 in the Ryazan land, on the tributary of the Oka, on the Vozhe River. The Horde was utterly defeated and fled. The battle of Vozhe showed the increased might of the Russian state, forming around Moscow”. Source – Ministry of Defense

***** From the time of Genghis Khan, the killing of children was practiced in the Horde. Genghis Khan’s real name was Temujin. He committed his first murder when he was 14 years old. Temujin’s half-brother, Begter, often mocked him and his younger brother. And one day, the brothers ambushed Begter and riddled him to death with arrows. Since then, Temujin has considered murder the most effective method of solving problems. One day a famous Bury wrestler insulted Temujin’s younger brother Belgutei.
Upon coming to power, Genghis Khan challenged Buri to a match – a rematch with Belgutei. Buri was very frightened and did not resist, deciding that it would be better for him to lose the fight. But Genghis Khan despised cowards. And at his command, Belgutei broke his opponent’s spine with a special method, after which the helpless Bury was left alone to die in the street. Mamai Khan was particularly cruel to children. So during massacre in the city of Azak (according to results of archeological excavations) only a quarter of the killed were men and almost 40% were children. Almost two-thirds were children under the age of 9 years old. Surely the proportion of young children among the victims was higher. It is just that their corpses were more easily completely destroyed by animals, carrion eaters. People were slaughtered in clans. That’s what’s so terrible about internecine strife. The killers must have wanted to protect themselves from blood feuds. After all, in other cases they would have sold people into slavery, and kept some of the girls and young women for themselves. And this is far from an isolated case…

* Dmitry Donskoy married not long before the Kulikovo battle – on January 17, 1366 the union of the Russian princes was sealed by the marriage of Dmitry Ivanovich with the Suzdal princess – the beautiful Evdokia Dmitrievna. From the marriage with her Dmitry had five sons, including the future Grand Duke Vasily I, thanks to the prudent policy of whom, during the 36 years of his reign, the Moscow principality had not felt any internal turmoil. During this period, Moscow only once, in 1408, was invaded by the Horde, but Yedigey was not able to take the city.


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