This Day in History: The Russian Princes Defy The Mongols (10/8/21)

This Day in History: The Russian Princes Defy The Mongols (10/8/21)

A.J. Hargett, Feature-Writer

This day in history marks the historic standoff between the Russian princes and their Mongol overlords. This historic event marked the end of Russian payments to the Mongols and the end of Mongol rule over the Russian principalities. This also marked the beginning of the unification of the Russian states eventually culminating in the Duchy of Muscovy uniting most of northern Russia.


Starting with the initial Mongol invasion in 1237 the un-unified and divided Russian states soon came under the banner of Batu Khan, one of Genghis Khan’s descendants. For many years the Russians paid tribute to the Mongols so that they didn’t have their cities burned and their people killed which the Mongols did to anyone who refused their demands. This compliance did not last long as Russian princes were unsatisfied with giving tribute to foreign invaders and slowly started to resist them. The Russians began their resistance after the Mongols allowed the collection of Russian tribute to be collected by the local princes instead of Mongol tax collectors. They would use this to their advantage and would take money from these collections and use them to slowly build up an army. The Russians also used revolts against the Mongols to gain power. For example when The Duke of Tver revolted against the Mongols, Duke Ivan of Moscow used it as an opportunity to take land from his rivals and gain benefits from the Mongols for his loyalty. One of the first battles against the Mongols occurred when some of the Russian princes defied the Mongols and refused to pay tribute, this resulted in the battle of Kulikovo which was a Russian victory and is often regarded as the beginning of the decline of Mongol influence in Russia. This however did not result in the Russians gaining independence as the city of Moscow was burned just 2 years later and the Russians were forced once again into compliance with the Mongols.


For the next one hundred years the Russian princes continued paying tribute to the different khans of the Golden Horde. This changed when once again the Russians refused to pay tribute. Ivan the Great, who was the Duke of Moscow, refused to pay tribute to the Mongol Khans. This time Ivan used the lands that he and his father had subjugated in previous years to raise a large army against the Mongols. The Mongol Khan Akhmat raised an army to fight the Muscovites and marched to the Ugra river where he awaited his Lithuanian allies to join him. This would not come into fruition as the Russians led by Ivan met the Mongol army along the other side of the Ugra. Both armies lined the river but no major battle would take place, as every attempt to cross the river made by the Mongols would be unsuccessful largely due to the use of basic firearms by the Russians. This would eventually lead to a month-long standoff until the Mongol Khan decided to withdraw. Why Akhmat withdrew is somewhat of a mystery but there are many speculations as to why.


 Shortly after the withdrawal of Mongol forces Khan Akhmat was killed in battle against another stepped tribe, this would shortly after lead to the dissolution of the Golden horde in 1502. The destruction of the Golden Horde would change the balance of power in the region, making the Grand Duchy of Muscovy to become one of the biggest players in the region. This rise to dominance would result in major territorial growth for the Russians and would eventually lead to the formation of Russia in the coming centuries. But it was on this day in 1480 AD that the Russians and the Mongols had their last standoff.