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BATTLE OF KALKA RIVER 1223

At the beginning of 1223 the head of the western tribal union of Polovetsi (Kypchaks - Cumans), khan Kotyan, asked for help from prince Mstislav Galitski against the troops of Ghengis Khan. Mstislav Galitski called for many heroic deeds. He was successful and called all the princes to assemble to consider the threat from the Mongols. They assembled in Kiev where the Polovetsi described how terrible the Mongols were. The princes decided on a joint campaign.
In second half of March the princes started their preparations to conduct the campaign. The backbone of each princes' forces was his own private druzhina. The number of members of the druzhina that consisted of their hired mercenary warriors must have been quite different, from dozens up to 3-5000 troops, mounted warriors for the very rich princes. The first part of the druzhina was the heavy cavalry - kopeishchiki (lancers). This part of the druzhina was called "best" or "elders". The "younger" druzhina consisted of more lightly armed archers. The warriors belonged in these two parts were quite different according to their status in the feudal structure. Besides this the druzhina was divided into two parts, the combat part and the supply train (oboz ) The combat part was the main striking force of the detachment of every prince.

The armaments of the druzhiniki consisted of a spear of either the "steppe" or European type, sword, which did not differ from the European type, combat axe, bludgeon, spiked mace, shestoper (six flanged mace), saber, dagger, and knife. After a lot of battles with steppe warriors the use of bow and arrow spread widely into Russia
The main armor of the warrior was the kolchuga, but in the XIII century almost all warriors wore over the kolchuga also a pantsir. Pantsir was either of rings or scales (of Byzantine or west European type) consisting of metal scales attached to a leather or cloth base or tied together by leather thongs. Also in use which came from Europe were iron ring stockings or trousers formed of metal plates on leather. and also different types of knee and shoulder protectors
The shield was large, round or almond shaped. The armament of the warrior was completed by the helmet with half mask or a metal plate with eye slits (which were called lichina) that came into use from the end of the XII century in Europe and Asia.

Besides the druzhina the princes had the ability to appeal to the people and to assemble from them polki (battles) from the city population. The village people who were providing supplies for the army rushed to support in case of emergency.
These warriors as well as the younger drushina got their armor and weapons from the prince's or the city arsenal. This armament was not so variable and consisted mainly of the kolchuga, helmet, sword and spear.
Besides this the troops organized by the prince might be the so called volunteers which consisted of very different people. They provided their own armament.

At the beginning of April after preparation, the princes began to come to the assembly place. In this enterprise took part three main groups of Russian princes. Kievan portion led by grand prince Mstislav Romanovich consisted of his son, Vsevolod; son-in-law, prince Andrei; and also Svyatoslav Shumski, and Yuri Nesvizhski.
The second group - Chernigovo-Smolenski, led by great prince Chernigovsi, Mstislav Sviatoslavovich, consisted of troops of prince Oleg Kurski, prince Putivlski and prince Trubchevski
At head of the third group - the Galitsko-Volinski coalition - was great prince Galitskii, Mstislav Mstislavovich. His group consisted of troops of Danilo Romanovich Volinski; Mstislav Yaroslavovich Nemoi; prince of Lutski, prince Izyaslav Ingvaryevich; and prince of Izyaslav, Vladimirovich Trebovl'ski.

The grand prince of Vladimir-Suzdal, Yuri, did not participate in the campaign even though many asked him to join in the campaign.
Yuri at that time went on campaign against the Livonian knights and he could only send the troops of his kinsman Vasili Konstantinovich, prince of Rostov, but his troops arrived at the battlefield so late that they did not take part in it.

Up the the end of April all troops rallied near the city Zaruba, 50-60 km below Kiev. The cavalry came on horseback along the river banks and the infantry by boats on the rivers. The waterways were used to move all the various supplies and armaments.
Here at the assembly place of the Russian troops the Mongol ambasadors arrived. The Mongols proposed that the Russians join with them against the Polovetsi and each would take their spoils from the Polovetsi on the one side or the other. Bu the Russians did not break their word to the Polovetsi and warriors of Khan Khotan killed the Mongol ambassadors.

Now the war with Russia which initially was not in the plan of the Mongols, according to their custom became inevitable.

The assembly of the Russians was accomplished and by the end of April the princes transported their forces down the Dnieper; After a few days a second Mongol embassy arrived, again proposing peace with the Russians. After getting a new refusal the Mongols said to the Russian princes "If you follow the advice of the Polovetsi, kill our ambassadors and coming against us - go against us. But we did not trouble you and only God will make his judgement."

The Russian troops began their movement down the right bank of the Dnieper. On 15 May at the mouth of the River Khortisa the Russian troops assembled The main part of the Polovetsi troops which mainly consisted of mounted archers also arrived at this place. Their quivers made from leather or birch bark were decorated with wooden plates. The richer warriors had sabers, lances with narrow armour-piercing tips. Their defensive constum consisted of a kolchuga and scale or plate armor. Polovetsi helmets had a mask having a steel frame covered by iron plates or pork
The whole number of Russian troops which rallied on the river were about 80 - 100,000 people but only 15-20,000 of them were well armed and skilful warriors.
The next day Mstislav Galitski with part of his druzhina and Polovetsi came to the other bank of the river and charged against the Mongol outpost. the result of this enterprise was tremendous. The Mongols fled. Mstislav followed them and captured the head of the detachment Ghemyabek. He killed him. The day after for reconnaissance the detachment of Danilo Volinski crossed to the left bank of the river. They were also successful. Meeting with a small Mongol detachment they overran the Mongol troops. After returning to base, these leaders without any trouble convinced the remaining princes to cross the Dnieper and attack the Mongols. They built a bridge and the troops started to cross the river. This lasted some days.

A small outpost of Subodai, beginning combat with the Russia troops moved further and further into the steppe. The Russian troops collected domestic animals and prisoners so their force became larger and larger. The commander and chiefs of the Russian troops could not reach a common concept on how to conduct the battle. All the princes had their own idea about this. This controdiction among the princes became vivid on the Dniper. Many of them thought it was no use to cross the Dniper but to conduct the war carefully without penetrating into the steppe.

Subodai wanted to entice the Russian troops into the steppe.
By very small but active attacks by small groups he damaged the Russian troops. On 31 May 1223 the united troops reached the Kalka River. After several very successful clashes with the avantguard of the Mongols, the princes gathered the council to discuss the problem whether to go further or to stop and take position for defense. After long discussion of this point with clashes and contradictions among them, the princes left the council without coming to one opinion. Prince Mstislav Galitsi crossed the Kalka River and continued his advance. Later on Mstislav Chernogovski followed him. Then the break between the separated detachments of the Russian troops was so large that they were wainting for a long time for this occasion, and gave the signal for a charge. The marching order for the Mongols consisted of five lines of dzhagunov (hundreds). The first two of them were made of heavy cavalry of swordsmen wearing the heavy plate and scale armor. This armor was made from layers of buff leather with a varnished surface. The durability of this armor was like iron but much lighter. The head of the warrior was covered by a very light and solid leather helmet with a very solid back-of-the-head plate which protected the neck from slashing blows. The peak of the helmet was decorated by a plume with horsehair or feathers. The quality of the horses of the cavalry were also well protected. The head of detachments and honorable warriors had metal ring and plate armor. Very often the Mongols used so called myaki armor with many layers of cloth or thick fur reinforced by small metal disks. The offensive weapon consisted of heavy bow. Every warrior had two or three bows and three quivers full of different arrows. With thirty in each quiver. The Mongols used different kinds of arrow heads which varied in distance of flight and penetrating force. There were no equals to the Mongols for sharpening arrows.

Every warrior had a special needle file to sharpen the arrow tips. Besides the bows the heavy cavalry had curved sabers, lances, sekiri (axe), iron sticks, long sword, and dagger. In attacking a mounted adversary the Mongols were very successful using a hoop attacked to the end of the lance, and javelins. as well as a lasso made from horse hair. The large cavalry, which was in the three rear lines of battle order, often had no armor and very often used light armor. They also used kolchuga which the Mongol captured in Central Asia. Besides bow the light cavalry had sabers and javelins. The very light Mongol shield, diameter 50-70 cm, was made from flexible twigs woven together which well protected them from saber slashes. To deflect piercing thrusts in the center of the shield was a metal boss. Mongols also had small multi- layered shields covered by leather and a large one which was taken from the middle east.
As for the detachment of Subedey and Djebe they were much more equiped then the rest of Mongol troops. Their successful operations in Georgia and Caucasus gave them the possibility to take armor of high quality from the defeated enemy. So the number of heavy cavalry in their order of battle was more than usual and approximately it reached 2/3 of the forces.

The lines of cavalry hundreds were deployed in checkerboard fashion. There were large intervals between the units. The lines of light cavalry usually began the battle. They moved through the intervals of the heavy cavalry and charged the enemy. Firing a hail of arrows, trying to envelop the enemy as much as possible. If they got resistance or the enemy started a counter attack, the light cavalry took the rear position and a new attack began with the heavy cavarly. If they were unsuccessful, they repeated the attack once more trying to get a victory.

But at that time Subotai changed his tactics. Suddenly the heavy cavalry attacked the Polovetsi who were following the Mongol outposts. The Mongols attacked with their whole force. In one moment the Polovetsi were crushed and overthrown. The troops of prince Danilov were charged by the shouting Mongol forces. Danilo Romanovich together with voevodas Semen Olyevich and Vasil'ko Gavrilovich moved forward. Vasilko was struck by the spear and Danilo was wounded in chest. Mstislav Nemoy threw himself to them for aid but the Mongol archers bespattered the Volyn troops by arrows. Enveloped on the flanks they were put to stampede.
Galitski prince Mstislav Uadoloy, beginning to understand what had happened, ordered to raise the banners and to be ready for battle. Charged by the Mongol archers the Polovetski troops could not stop and retreated across the Kalka River.
The troops that had still not crossed the river could not get ready for battle and were swept away by the wave of cavalry charge. Only prince Oleg who crossed the river together with the Chernigov troops managed to rush ahead to protect the Galitski troops and shared with them the sorry lot. Probably this battle was short. Surrounded by two or three times the number of enemy troops the Galitski could not fight longer. With heavy losses they began to retreat and then run away.

The Kievan troops of Mstislav Romanovich observing the battle on the opposite side of the river managed only to take arms in their hands and surround themselves with their wagon train when the Mongol troops reached them. To make a counter attack at such moment was out of the question. The only thing to be done in this occasion was to start moving back under the shelter of the wagons. Ordering Tsigirkhan and Teshukhan to besiege the Kievans, Subotai continued to follow the retreating troops. The Galitski and Volinski troops were about to reach the crossing of the Dnieper where they had their ships. By getting in their ships they would be saved from defeat. Mstislav Chernegovski retreated from the steppe to the north trying to reach his own lands. Mongol warriors followed him sitting on the tails of his horses and striking and defeating all the Chernegovski force. Mstislav and his son perished. Smolenski prince Vladimir was more successful. With the one thousand troops he rallied about him he rushed to the northwest and more or less successfully defended himself from the Mongols. He reached the Dnepr and threw off his pursuers. Meantime surrounded from all sides the Kievans with using frequent sallies tried to follow to the east but the Mongols did not want to let their last loot escape. The archers stopped all attempts to escape. The resistance lated three days. The sallies did not bring success. The Mongol attack became more furious and the water supply came to an end. Coming back from persuit Subodai decided to start negociations with Kievans. He proposed for ransom to liberate him and his troops. There was no other choice for Mstislav and he agreed. But when the Kievans came out from shelter the Mongols attacked them and killed a lot and took prisoners of a lot of Kievans. Mstislav and some other princes were captured. They were tied and thrown under a wooden platform where they were suffocated by the Mongols partying on top. Thus the Mongols paid back for the murder of their ambassadors. Having severe losses, the Mongols were forced to descend down on the left bank of the Volga river and coming to Sarai they moved further into middle Asia. There on the banks of the Syr Darya River on the great Kuratai Subodai personally reported to Ghenghis Khan about his long raid.