Han Kotyan and the Battle of Kalka

Khan Kotyan Sutoyevich led the union of the Western Polovtsian tribes and took an active part in various internecine conflicts, helping his son-in-law, Mstislav Udatny, to gain a leading position among the southern Russian princes. Galician prince was known for his cocky disposition and reckless self-confidence. In 1216, on his initiative, the Lipitsku battle took place, which became the bloodiest in the history of Russian feudal wars. However, this tragic event, during which, according to the chronicle data, more than 9000 people died, became the starting point in the history of the Novgorod Republic, which managed to preserve its independence until 1478.

Kotyan changed faith twice to please his allies

The Galician prince received the nickname "lucky" for good reason and had a reputation as a very greedy and adventurous ruler. In addition, the enterprising Khan Kotyan, as a sign of his loyalty, accepted the Orthodox faith and did not stint on luxurious gifts: “horses, and velbluds, and bouvols and girls”. Having showered the Russian princes with generous gifts and ostentatious devotion, Kotyan uttered the legendary phrase: "Our land was taken away today, and your morning will be taken." Mstislav of Chernigov and nominal Grand Duke Mstislav of Kiev succumbed to the entreaties of Mstislav and the Polovtsian ruler. It is worth noting that such a coalition did not possess either order, or a hierarchy of ranks, or elementary consistency.

Fantasy artist on how Mstislav Udatny looked

On May 31, 1223, coalition troops gathered on the bank of the Dnieper, not far from the island of Khortytsya, in the place of the supposed death of the famous commander Svyatoslav Igorevich, a landmark for Russian history. Having learned about the large concentration of troops on the borders, the Tatar-Mongols send ambassadors to the Russian camp, who persuade Russian troops to abandon their alliance with the Polovtsy and return home. However, for unknown reasons, the ambassadors decide to kill, and such an insult was perceived as a reason for serious revenge on Mongolian ethical principles. Thus, Mstislav Udatny’s quick-tempered decision (it was probably he who initiated the massacre of parliamentarians) cost him and his principality independence and life. Seventeen days later, the Tatar-Mongols send messengers who hand out a note about the formal declaration of war with a well-known signature: “Do you go on us? Well, go. We did not touch you. God is above us all. ”

Like Yaroslav the Wise, Kotyan strengthened his position with dynastic marriages.

The battle began with minor clashes between the opposing sides, which gave the Russian troops confidence in their own forces, but the enemy seemed so far not so terrible. However, the leader of the Tatar-Mongol army, the bogatyr Subedey, during his military career, was able to win 65 battles and conquer 32 countries, receiving the status of the best Mongolian military leader. In contrast to the Galician Mstislav, Subedey climbed to the top of the social hierarchy due to his intelligence and ability to learn. These qualities bore fruit - the young man became the temnik of Genghis Khan, who as we know, did not pay attention to the genealogy of his commanders. Subaday’s partner was Jaba’s warlord, nicknamed “The Arrow”. He was among the elected representatives of the Tatar-Mongol nobility, too, thanks to the vision of Genghis Khan, whom he wounded in the neck during a battle with a hostile Mongolian tribe.

Khan Kotyan persuades the Russian princes to repel the Tatar-Mongols

Chaos and disunity reigned in the camp of the combined Russian-Polovtsian troops: the troops did not support the beginning attack of Mstislav Galitsky, as a result of which he was forced to flee. Fleeing from a stronger enemy, Mstislav ordered that the floating crossing over Kalka be destroyed, thereby blocking the Russian troops remaining on land. Mstislav of Kiev with the bulk of the warriors entrenched themselves in the outpost on the hill, in the hope that they could avoid revenge from the Tatar-Mongols without taking direct part in the battle itself. After a three-day siege, Mstislav surrenders to the enemy, provided that the captives are released for ransom. However, the Tatar-Mongols could not take advantage of the opportunity to avenge the execution of their ambassadors, and therefore they sentenced the captured Russian princes to death. Their death took place according to the traditional Mongolian customs: on the bodies of the captives wooden planks were hoisted, on which the Tatar commanders held a banquet of winners. It is worth noting that the instigator of the battle at Kalka, Mstislav Udatny, managed to get out of the battlefield unscathed, returning again to internecine wars with the neighboring principalities, and at the end of his life he accepted the schema.

Battle of the Kalka River

Khan Kotyan, together with the 40-thousand army after the defeat of Kalka and the capture of the Tatar-Mongols of Kiev in 1240, went west to the Hungarian kingdom. Asking for asylum with King Bela IV, Khan receives land for settlement. Kotan himself and his army take Catholicism and swear support in all military campaigns of the Hungarian king. Having changed his faith again, the Polovtsian Khan did not change his lack of principle. Gradually, the influence of the Polovtsi began to grow: Khan Kotyan entered into a profitable marriage, giving his daughter for the future of the Hungarian king. Apparently, the Polovtsy ruler had a significant political weight, having managed to conclude a large number of dynastic marriages: the eldest daughter was married to Galician Mstislav, the average - became the wife of the regent of the Latin empire (the state formed after 4 crusades in Byzantium), and the youngest daughter who adopted baptized the name of Elizabeth, became the wife of the Hungarian king Stephen V and the mother of the next Hungarian ruler Laslo IV.

The participation of Russian princes in the battle of Kalka was an initiative of Kotyan

The local Hungarian nobility was unhappy with the rapid strengthening of the Polovtsian Khan's position, and they decide to kill the newcomer under the pretext of a conspiracy with the Tatar-Mongols. Enraged Polovtsy, learning about the death of the Khan, exterminated the army sent by the Hungarian nobility, and then subjected a significant part of Hungary to devastating raids, and only after that the army migrated to the Second Bulgarian Kingdom.


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