Standing on the Ugra. How Ivan III triumphed against the Horde

Standing on the Ugra. 1480. Miniature from the Observational Codex. XVI century

540 years ago, Russia finally freed itself from the power of the Horde. Standing on the Ugra River became an important milestone in the history of the Russian state. Russia became stronger and refused to pay tribute to the degraded and collapsed Golden Horde on the khanates.

It is worth noting that when Grand Duke Ivan III Vasilyevich tore up the khan’s letter, refusing to pay tribute to the Horde, it was a purely symbolic gesture. Russia has long been superior to the Horde in military-economic terms, paying at times according to the old tradition, which it was “ugly” to break. Russia and the Horde were parts of the great northern civilization. But if Muscovite Rus after the Kulikov field and the raid of Tokhtamysh constantly strengthened and grew stronger, then the Horde grew decrepit and degenerated, falling apart. Islamization and Arabization destroyed the Horde (more precisely, the Clan of the direct heir of late Scythia: “The Secret of the Russian Horde and Great Tartary”). Moscow became the new center of control of the northern civilization. For some time, the mighty and prosperous Russian state, according to old memory, paid the Horde (like “humanitarian aid”), but the time came when even this formality was no longer observed. Moscow confidently takes the place of the main center of Northern Eurasia. Under Ivan the Terrible, two parts of the great and ancient civilization (Great Scythia – “Tartaria”) were again united under the rule of one king.

The collapse of the Golden Horde and the rise of Muscovite Russia

Islamization became the main factor that destroyed the White (Golden) Horde. Some of the nobility and most of the ordinary people did not accept Islam, preferring to preserve the old faith or go under the rule of Russian princes (including the Grand Duke of Lithuania and Russia) and accept Orthodoxy. Even during the “great hush” of the XIV century, the collapse of the Horde Empire began. The rulers of certain regions became de facto independent. In the first half of the 15th century, the Siberian, Uzbek, Crimean and Kazan Khanates and the Nogai Horde gained independence. A little later, the Astrakhan Khanate arose. The largest fragment of the Golden Horde was the Great Horde. The territory of the Great Horde included the lands between the Don and the Volga, the Lower Volga region and the steppes of the North Caucasus. The capital was the city of Saray-Berke.

Moscow Russia, on the contrary, experienced a period of military-political, economic and cultural flourishing. The great Tsar Ivan III Vasilievich (ruled 1462-1505), on the whole, completed the process of uniting the northeastern Russian lands around Moscow. A family alliance was concluded with the family of the Ryazan princes. Ryazan became an ally of Moscow, covering it from the side of the “Wild Field” (steppe). The lands of the Yaroslavl and Rostov principalities became part of Muscovite Rus. In 1471, the Moscow army defeated the Novgorodians on the banks of the Sheloni River. Novgorod took the oath of allegiance to the great sovereign. The Free City was deprived of the right to conduct an independent foreign policy and ceded to Moscow a significant part of the large Dvina land. The Prolitovskaya boyar party was defeated. The Novgorod Republic still retained its autonomy, but its end was a foregone conclusion. In 1472, Great Perm with its vast and rich possessions was annexed to the Moscow Grand Duchy. The possessions of Moscow stepped over the Stone (Ural).

In 1475, the army of the great sovereign pacified Novgorod. The Novgorod Republic was liquidated. The Novgorod archive and the veche bell were taken to Moscow. The Novgorod opposition was “cleaned out”. As soon as Novgorod was pacified, the brothers Andrei Bolshoi, Boris and Andrei Menshoi mutinied against the Grand Duke. They tried to raise Novgorod against Moscow and conclude an alliance with Lithuania. In response, Ivan III made a new campaign against Novgorod in 1478. In Novgorod, the veche and the institution of the mayor were liquidated, and it was finally annexed to Muscovite Russia.

Moscow has already actively intervened in the affairs of its eastern neighbors. In particular, she responded to the raids of the Kazan Tatars. In 1467-1468. Moscow army for the first time made a trip to Kazan. At the same time, Moscow attracted the pro-Russian party to its side, tried to put its Tatar prince on the Kazan table. In 1469, the Moscow army forced the Kazan Khan Ibragim, who was pursuing a policy hostile to Russia, to surrender. Kazan, in fact, became a vassal of Moscow. Ibrahim promised to release all Christian slaves and prisoners taken over the past 40 years, not to attack the border lands, not to enter into alliances with the enemies of Moscow, etc.

Khan Akhmat’s attempt to restore the power of the Horde

The Khan of the Great Horde, Akhmat (from 1460 he ruled together with his older brother, from 1471 to 1481 on his own) tried to restore the power of the state. He tried to restore power over the rich Khorezm, fought with the Crimea, which was the main threat to the future of the Great Horde. He entered into an alliance with the Polish-Lithuanian king Casimir, directed against Moscow. Akhmat tried to return the old relations with Moscow, to receive the old tribute from Russia. In 1460 and 1468. Akhmat’s troops raided the Ryazan land.

In 1472 Akhmat organized a large campaign against Moscow. But when the Horde reached the Oka, the Moscow sentry was already there, which occupied convenient crossings. They were well fortified with notches and palisades. The great sovereign himself stood with the main forces in Kolomna. The direct route to Moscow was closed by the enemy, an attempt to break through could lead to heavy losses, which in the face of confrontation with the Crimean Khan was suicide. Then the khan turned west, trying to find a roundabout way, and attacked the city of Aleksin on the right bank of the Oka. The two-day battle ended with the fall of the city. But at this time the Russian regiments occupied the fords outside the city. Losses, the impossibility of an easy victory and an attack in the east on his ulus forced Akhmat to leave. After that, the great Emperor Ivan Vasilyevich reduced the amount of payments even more, and then completely stopped paying tribute (according to other sources, this happened even earlier).

Standing on the Eel

The situation at the beginning of 1480 was dangerous for the Moscow sovereign. The elder brother was openly challenged by Andrei Uglichsky and Boris Volotsky. They had their own inheritance, treasury and squads. Ivan Vasilyevich asked the brothers not to break the peace, but they have not yet agreed to reconciliation. Moscow was threatened by a war on two fronts: against the Polish-Lithuanian king Casimir, who was allied with Livonia and the khan of the Great Horde. At the same time, in the conditions of internal turmoil, the Livonians gathered a large army and attacked the Pskov land, but they could not take Pskov.

The tsar of the Great Horde demanded from Moscow to pay tribute “for the last summer” and called the prince himself to bow to Sarai. Ivan Vasilievich replied with a resolute refusal. Akhmat began to prepare for a big war. In May 1480, the Horde king attacked the Besputu volost, which belonged to Moscow. However, the grand-ducal regiments took up positions on the Oka in time and again did not allow the enemy to cross the river. Akhmat again returned home and, having received an assurance of help from King Casimir IV, reassembled his troops and in July of the same year moved to Moscow. If earlier the Golden Horde fielded 60-100 thousand horsemen, now the Great Horde was able to raise only 30-40 thousand soldiers. The great Moscow sovereign had about the same strength. In the summer, scouts and border guards began to receive news about the preparation of the enemy for the campaign.

The boyar elite in Moscow split into two groups: one (“rich and belly lovers of money”), led by the okolnichy Ivan Oschera and Grigory Mamon, suggested that Ivan III flee, the other defended the need to fight the enemy. The townspeople demanded decisive action. The sovereign took the side of the people. Russian regiments reached the Oka River and took up defensive positions “along the bank.” The Grand Duke’s brother Andrei Vasilyevich moved to Tarusa, the son Ivan Ivanovich Molodoy stood at Serpukhov, the sovereign himself – in the Kolomna fortress.

Khan Akhmat, having received information from his scouts that the enemy had occupied the fords on the Oka, decided to bypass it from the west. The Horde went through the territory of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania (also Russian lands) and crossed the Oka south of Kaluga. Akhmat hoped to help Kazimir, but he was distracted by the Crimean attack on Podolia. Then the khan of the Great Horde decided to attack Moscow through the border Russian-Lithuanian river Ugra. It is possible that he did not plan a deep invasion, hoping to “reason” Ivan Vasilyevich with a powerful military demonstration.

Ivan III, having received information about the enemy’s maneuvers, sent his son Ivan and brother Andrey Menshoy to Kaluga and to the bank of the Ugra. On September 30, he returned “to the council and the duma” in Moscow. The great sovereign received a unanimous answer, “that he should stand firmly for Orthodox Christianity against bezserlessness.” At the same time, his brothers stopped the rebellion and joined with their squads to the common army. In early October, Russian regiments took up positions on the Ugra for 60 miles. All convenient crossings were occupied by outposts or whole regiments. The great sovereign himself stayed in Kremenets, about 50 km from the river. From here he could come to the rescue on any part of the “coast” and at the same time parry a blow from the Lithuanian side. All attempts by the Horde to cross the river were repelled. The Grand Duke’s troops pulled up artillery, erected additional fortifications, their positions became practically impregnable.

Russian troops on the Ugra for the first time massively used firearms. In the regiments there were numerous detachments of “squeaks” – warriors armed with hand squeaks, “hand cranks”. Artillery was also massively used: cannons and “mattresses” – short-barreled guns, which were beaten with “shot iron” (buckshot). “Squealers”, gunners and archers thwarted the enemy’s attempts to cross the river. The Russian chronicler wrote: “… we beat many with arrows and pishchalmi, and their arrows were between our pads and no one was driven away.” Obviously, the arrows of the Horde archers have lost their effectiveness due to the flight range. Our riflemen were covered by cavalry regiments of nobles and boyar children. There was also a third line of defense: behind the notches and palisades there was a “staff”, a “trooper army” – the militias.

“Standing” lasted from October to November 1480. Akhmat lost the initiative, had no room for cavalry maneuver. The military demonstration had no effect. Attempts to negotiate have yielded nothing. Ivan Vasilievich did not break down. By November, the situation had deteriorated again. Winter came, the rivers “rose”. Strong ice allowed the Horde cavalry to force the river in many places. Ugra ceased to be a serious obstacle for the enemy, and the far-out stretched Russian troops became vulnerable to a massive strike. The Grand Duke decided to gather the regiments scattered along the river into a fist, pull them back and give the enemy a decisive battle. The regiments were taken to Kremenets and then to Borovsk. However, Akhmat did not dare to go for a breakthrough. Meanwhile, a Russian ship detachment led by Prince Vasily Zvenigorodsky descended along the Oka, then along the Volga and, with the support of the Crimean prince Nur-Devlet, defeated the Horde encampments and ravaged the capital of the Great Horde – New Saray. Also, there was a threat of an attack on the lands of the Great Horde, which were left practically without soldiers who left with Akhmat, Crimean Tatars and Nogais. The Horde troops suffered from disease, lack of provisions and fodder (Russian regiments were supplied from the reserves of the Grand Duke). On November 9-11, the khan began to withdraw troops from Ugra back to the Horde. On the way, the Horde ravaged a number of Lithuanian cities (Russian cities). Among them was the legendary Kozelsk.

The Grand Duke of Lithuania did not come to the aid of his subjects. The great sovereign Ivan sent horse regiments led by his brothers and commanders in pursuit of the Horde. The Russian cavalry pursued the enemy on the heels. Akhmat did not dare to fight. His bloodless and discouraged troops left for the steppe. Thus, the Horde rule over Russia officially ended. Akhmat dismissed the army, which was demoralized by an unsuccessful campaign. A year later, he was killed at his headquarters during an attack by the Nogai Murzas and the Tyumen Khan. The position of the Great Horde was undermined. Soon the Crimean Khanate destroyed the Big Horde. Russia continued to grow, annexing new lands, including the former Horde lands.

Russia. Kaluga region. Diorama of the artist Pavel Ryzhenko in the museum complex “Great Standing on the Ugra River”

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