HISTORICAL BATTLES #6 -Kalka river 1223


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May 25, 2013
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The Mongol tribes - Naimans, Keraits, Uirats, Merkits and Jalair -inhabited both slopes of the Altai mountains, northwards to Lake Baikal and south-eastwards into Manchuria living a harsh nomadic lifestyle.There were no towns, the steppe Mongols lived in huge, circular-tent encampments.Ruling clans and military elite existed, the tribes were very fragmented being held together by bonds of kinship and personal charisma of a leader.The chinese particularly took care to maintain a balance of power between chiefs in the steppes,as if any got too powerful he would inevitably turn to raids against propsperous north china.

Timujin,son of a chieftain of the Borijigin tribe(One of the major mongol tribes) had a rough upbringing.His father was killed by the Tatars when he was 12,and his followers dispersed and joined the Taichyut(other main mongol tribe) leaving the family to fight for survival.Growing up he slowly gathered a loyal band of followers around him by charisma and leadership skills.Timujin established a client-patron relationship with Toghril,the powerful chief of the Kereits who was blood brother to his father and sought his assistance against the Merkits who had abducted his wife.Timujin and Jamuqa,another client of Toghril and blood brother to timujin joined forces to crush the merkits.When they went their sperate ways owing to tension,several of jamuqas men had joined timujin due to charisma and his practice of equal treatment,promotion on merit and intense loyalty to them.With his growing prestige most of his fathers followers returned to serve him and in 1185 at just 20 or so years old he was elected Khan of the Borjigids.

(The Pre-Mongol World -Expand image)

It was still a learning phase for timujin and in 1187 tensions with Jamuqa led to conflict.Timujin was defeated and had to flee.But Jamuqa's brutal policy of vengeance against those who had left him for timujin,alienated many of his own followers who were often related by kinship.Timujin regrouped his forces,the growing power of the tatars alarmed the Chinese Jin empire as well as his overlord Toghril.The Mongol-Kerait -Jin alliance succeeded in destroying tatar power and timujin avenged his father.Timujin's power continued to grow and he established himself as the undisputed leader of the mongols by defeating the Taichyuts.The Taichyut remnants and other tribes formed a confederation against toghril and temujin led by jamuqa.However Jamuqa was defeated in battle forced to submit again to toghril,while Timujin assimilated the Taichyuts into the Borigijin tribe after executing their leaders.Following this success he made a final attack against the Tatar remnants in 1202 and finished them off.Temüjin ordered the destruction of the Tatar aristocracy, while the commoners were assimilated into the Mongols and distributed among the various clans to ensure that they would not prove troublesome.He was now master of Eastern Mongolia.
His rapid growth in power alarmed his formal overlord Toghril who was again supported by Jamuqa.A failed ambush to kill Temujin in 1203 led to a battle,the outnumbered army of Temujin initially suffered a defeat,he managed to rally his forces and made a surprise attack on the Kereit camp as they celebrated their victory routing the Kereit forces.Toghril fled and was killed in exile.Temüjin’s power and prestige increased tremendously, he now dominated both Central and Eastern Mongolia.He absorbed the Kereit Aristocracy into the mongol structure by treating them well and establishing matrimonial relations with them,rather than destroy them for many of these men were well-known to Temüjin and there was no true animosity between the Kereit and the Mongols,till recently allies.

The final opposition to Timujin came from the Naiman confederacy of South-western Mongolia.They were joined by temujin's surviving enemies and the forces of Jamuqa.While the Naimans began the war,Timujin attacked first and fast.Outnumbered upon arriving in Naiman territory, Temüjin ordered every man to light a campfire at night to conceal the relative smallness of their numbers. The ruse worked and delayed the Naiman from attacking. The resultant confusion regarding the Mongols’ true strength caused dissension among the Naiman leaders.The disciplined mongol army and temujin's generalship saw a decisive mongol victory in the Battle of Chakirmaut.In its aftermath Jamuqa was betrayed by his own men,Temujin executed the traitors and wished to pardon jamuqa(his blood brother) but he chose death.With his Unification of Mongolian steppe complete,in 1206 in a Quriltai(Congress) ,Timujin was proclaimed Genghis Khan - Universal Ruler.An event of little significance at that moment for the many peoples of eurasia who weren't even aware of their existence.

(United Mongolia-And its former divisions)

''It is not sufficient that i succeed,all others must fail'' -Genghis Khan


Genghis Khan didn't simply unify Mongolia,he also altered the political and social structure of the society.
Previously Khans existed for the convenience of those they ruled. Chiefs were proclaimed when they were needed as war leaders or to settle serious disputes. Most came from aristocratic families, as did Genghis himself an unsuccessful chief would simply not be obeyed. This 'political' freedom was in marked contrast to the iron discipline within the later Post-Genghis Mongol armies once an effective leader had been accepted.In time of peace, however, the people merely agreed not to go against their khan's interests, but would equally resist interference in their own everyday lives. Genghis Khan's achievement was to create a government that not only governed but was wholly accepted by the ruled.Absolute loyalty to the Khan became a tenet of mongol theory of kingship.Genghis laid down several rules and also took novel steps to unify his empire.

The first new laws forbade the kidnapping of women within his empire.
>He forbade the abduction and enslavement of any Mongols
>He declared all children legitimate, whether born to a wife or a concubine
>The penalty for thief or not returning an animal or a good to the appropriate supervisor is death
>He forbidden hunting of animals between March and October during the breeding time.
>Himself an animist(Tengri),he decreed complete and total religious freedom for everyone.
>Instituted the novel practice of granting diplomatic immunity for all ambassadors and envoys .
>Exempted religious leader and their property from taxation and from all types of public service.
Later extended the same tax exemption to professionals who provided essential public service, including undertakers, doctors, lawyers, teachers and scholars.
>According to his law, the Khan must always be elected by a Khuriltai.
>He ordered the adoption of a writing system.

>Temujin had produced a new type of steppe army based on greater variety of tactic and most important, close cooperation among the men and complete obedience to their commanders. Temujin used a set of maneuvers that each man had to know and to which each responded precisely and without hesitation.

>In the long history of steppe warfare, a defeated tribe was looted, some members taken prisoner, and the rest left again to their own devices. Defeated groups regularly reorganized and counterattacked or broke away and joined rival tribes. Temujin followed a radical new policy that revealed his ambitions to fundamentally alter the cycle of attack and counterattack. The members who choose to join his followers would not be taken as slaves but Temujin took them as members of the tribe and all others would be executed.To those who followed Temujin faithfully, there would be rewards and good treatment. To those who chose to attack him, he would show no mercy.

>He demanded that each commander of the units of one thousand and ten thousand send their own son and their son's best friends to him personally to make his own unit of ten thousand.This ensured their loyalty as well as served as a model officer corps under his supervision.
>Genghis promoted on basis of merit.
>Genghis realized that the rush to loot the camp of the defeated served as an impediment to more complete victory. This system allowed many defeated warriors to escape and eventually return for a counterattack.
He would order that all looting would wait until after a complete victory had been won over the enemy.
>He distributed the goods along the same lines by which the hunting men of the forest traditionally distributed the kill at the end of a group hunt. In an other innovation, he ordered that a soldier's share be allocated to each widow and each orphan of every soldier killed in the raid. This policy not only ensured him the support of the poorest people in the tribe, but it also inspired loyalty among his soldier who knew that even if they died, he would take care of their surviving families.
>Set up the famed mongol postal service that was the artery of the empire and reason behind large co-ordinated strategic successes over vast areas.(later detailed)
>Genghis organized his warriors into squads of ten who were to be brothers to one another. No matter what their kin group of their tribal origin, they were ordered to live and fight together as brothers. No one of them could ever leave the other behind in battle as a captive.

(Expand view)


By the its very nature,the new mongol state had to expand or implode.Genghis began by subduing his immediate neighbours the Siberian forest tribes to the north,the kyrghyz to the west and the Uyghurs to the south all of which submitted without serious fighting.

''Heaven is weary of the pride and luxury of china'' - Genghis to the chinese emperor.

Invasion of China -
Next the mongols penetrated into the western chinese Xi-xia kingdom in 1209 which had sheltered his rivals.Unable to stop the mobile mongol hordes the xia xia submitted and became a client state.

The accesion of a new ruler on the throne of the principal chinese empire-the Jin brought with it the traditional demand for a token of submission.With Genghis this meant war .He spit the ground and unleashed the mongol war machine on Northern china.Although the Mongols devastated much of the Jin Empire, they withdrew in 1212 unable to capture the walled cities and retained only a small portion of Jin territory, primarily to control the mountain passes back into the steppes. They also compelled the Jin to pay a handsome amount in tribute.Autumn of 1212, Genghis Khan once again invaded the Jin Empire in a two-pronged attack, the second army being led by Tolui, Genghis Khan’s youngest son. Both forces took siege engineers with them. The Mongols withdrew in 1214, once again having been paid a sizeable tribute and taken a considerable amount of plunder. Perhaps more importantly, the Mongols had demonstrated that the Jin forces could not defeat them in open combat; nor could they rely on their fortifications to protect them, as the Mongols took numerous cities slowly blockading the capital of Zhongdu (near modern Beijing). As before, the Mongols maintained a presence in strategic passes after their withdrawal, thereby preventing the Jin from launching attack an into Mongolia.Another mongol invasion in 1214 saw the downfall of the Jin capital and the slow disintegration of the empire.By 1218 most of the Empire was in Mongol hands, and more and more Jin generals,were changing sides.The Empire was on the verge of collapse until events in the west staved off defeat for another decade.

Invasion of Central Asia & Middle East -
The raids of the surviving naimans who had fled to kara khitai and the qanlu or Eastern Kipchak turks were of concern to genghis.The kara -khitai turkish khanate thus became the next targets of mongol expansion.Jebe's assault brought the Kara-khitai to a quick end ,while subutai and jebe led another expedition into the eastern kipchak lands to crush the remaining rival fugitives to genghis.The conquest of the kara-khitai however brought he mongol borders in contact with the other great power of the region -The Islamic Khwarezm Sultanate of muhammad Shah.Khan at that time had no intention of invading the Khwarezmid Empire,the Shah very suspicious of Genghis' desire for a trade agreement, and messages from the shah's ambassador at Zhongdu(Beijing) in China described the savagery of the Mongols when they assaulted the city.Underestimating mongol strength,and thinking it occupied in china the shah executed mongol trade caravans and then mongol envoys - a direct affront to the prestige of genghis which he couldn't ignore.In response Genghis left behind a holding detatchment in china and turned the Mongol Hordes west.

After compiling information from many intelligence sources, primarily from spies along the Silk Road,Genghis Khan carefully prepared his army,While still relying on the traditional advantages of his mobile nomadic cavalry, Genghis incorporated many aspects of warfare from China, particularly chinese siege engineers. His baggage train included such siege equipment as battering rams,gunpowder,trebuchets and enormous siege bows capable of throwing 20-foot arrows into siege works.The Mongol army was perhaps 150,000 strong - perhaps only 2/3rd of its mongols.(rest auxillaries from conquered areas).Shah Muhammad had an enormous 400,000 men army but it was partly dissipated -by his fear of united commanders intriguing against him,need to pacify newly conquered areas and his belief that mongol raiders would be unable to siege cities like typical steppe nomads.The shah concentrated his forces in a cordon of fortresses on the Syr Darya riverline.

The mongol invasion was carried out by 4 seperate columns working in concert in an astonishing display of strategic co-ordination and skill over hudnreds of miles.The initial phase began with a 2- prong attack. Genghis with the main army moved on the city of Utrar,North on the Syr Darya riverline which fell after 5 months of siege.This was the same city that the Mongolian convoy was put to death. To send a message, the Mongols poured molten silver in the eyes and ears of the governor.Simultaneously a southernmost mongol army(25-30,000) under Jochi(son of genghis)burst forth from the Tien Shan mountains and advanced from South khorasan(bottom most arrow in map).The shah sent his troops to contain jochi and more north along the syr darya riverbank to meet any mongols coming southwards from Utrar.A mongol attack from further west was held impossible due to the Kizil Kum desert.

Genghis split his main army at Utrar into 2 sections.His sons Ogedei and Chagatai led a column south along the west bank of the syr Darya towards the khorasan capital samarkand from Utrar.He himself and his son Toulai led 50,000 men (which was joined a second column ) and moved west skirting round the desert , traversed the seemingly impassable Kizil Kum desert by hopping through the various oases, guided most of the way by captured local nomads.(Mongol intelligence had identified some of them before the invasion and had taken it into account).They completely outflanked the Shah's defensive line and appeared suddenly to the Shah's rear before the city of Bukhara -effectively cutting off his escape route and throwing a tightening noose around the Khwarezm forces from 3 directions.The shock generated by his sudden appearance was immense.The Bukharan garrison attempting to break out, of perhaps 20,000 men, was annihilated in open battle. The city fell, artisans and craftsmen were sent back to Mongolia, young men who had not fought were drafted into the Mongolian army and the rest of the population was sent into slavery. The city was razed to the ground and here before the assembled populace Genghis made his infamous proclamation -

''I am the Punishment of God,had you not committed great sins god would not have sent a punishment like me upon you''- Genghis Khan

Even as Genghis had appeared on the rear,Ogedei and Chagatai were descending from the north ,a final Mongol force under Jebe and Subutai crossed the Syr Darya and head directly for Samarqand from the frontal direction.Meanwhile Jochi's Southern Column swung upwards and moved on samarkand from the south.Surrounded by Mongol armies converging on him from every direction the shah was in deseperation.

After the fall of Bukhara, Genghis headed to the Khwarezmi capital of Samarkand and arrived in March 1220. Samarkand possessed significantly better fortifications and as many as 100,000 men defending it. As Genghis began his siege, his sons Ogedei and Chagatai joined him and the joint Mongol forces launched an assault on the city. The Mongols attacked using prisoners as body shields. On the third day of fighting, the Samarkand garrison launched a counterattack. Feigning retreat, Genghis drew a garrison force of 50,000 outside the fortifications of Samarkand and slaughtered them in open combat. Shah Muhammad attempted to relieve the city twice, but was driven back. Genghis reneged on his surrender terms and executed every soldier that had taken arms against him at Samarkand. The people of Samarkand were ordered to evacuate and assemble in a plain outside the city, where they were killed and pyramids of severed heads raised as the symbol of Mongol victory.The shah fled in desperation westwards.Khan sent his trusted generals Jebe and Sübedei in pursuit while he prosecuted the war. Muhammad eventually escaped to an island in the Caspian Sea, where he died in 1221.


1>Jochi destroys the khwarzem city of Urgench and attacks the Eastern Kipchkas(cuman) turks.Assault on Urgench proved to be the most difficult battle of the Mongol invasion. The city was built along the river Amu Darya in a marshy delta area. The soft ground did not lend itself to siege warfare, and there was a lack of large stones for the catapults. The Mongols attacked regardless, and the city fell only after the defenders put up a stout defense, fighting block for block. Mongolian casualties were higher than normal.The sack of Urgench one of the bloodiest massacres in history with hundreds of thousands killed.(Dec 1220)

2>Genghis pursues Jalal-ud-din,son of the shah ,enroute he destroys Balkh(1221) and Ghazni(1222) in afghanisthan,butchering all inhabitants.
3>Jalal-ud-din defeats a mongol army at Parwan ,but is defeated subsequently at the indus against the main mongol army under Genghis.He escapes across the Indus.
4>Genghis returns to Samarqand,having finished off Khwrezmid resistance.

5>Toulai's Khorasan Campaign.The garrison at Merv was only about 12,000 men, and the city was inundated with refugees.On the 8th day after heavy fighting, the city's governor surrendered the city on Tolui's promise that the lives of the citizens would be spared. As soon as the city was handed over, however, Tolui slaughtered almost every person who surrendered, in a massacre possibly on a greater scale than that at Urgench. After finishing off Merv, Tolui headed westwards, attacking the cities of Nishapur and Herat. Nishapur fell after only three days; here, Tokuchar, a son-in-law of Genghis was killed in battle, and Tolui put to the sword every living thing in city, including the cats and dogs.After Nishapur's fall, Herat surrendered without a fight and was spared. Bamian was another scene of carnage . By spring 1221, the province of Khurasan was under complete Mongol rule. Leaving garrison forces behind him, Tolui headed back east to rejoin his father.

6-8>Shah Mohammad flees ,closely pursued by Mongol army under Jebe and Subutai.He dies on Astara island on the caspian sea.
9>Subutai and Jebe sack Qazvin and Rayy enroute.(early 1221)Hamadan submits.Jebe on hearing of Muhammad's death,asks Genghis for a year or two to continue his conquests before returning to Mongolia via the Caucasus.
10>Mongols raid Georgia.Georgian army sent to oppose them is defeated.(Feb 1221)
11>Azerbaijani Ruler of Tabriz saves himself by bribing the mongols with money,clothing and horses.
12>Mongols invade Georgia in force.Georgian army is annihilated in battle.Subutai feigns retreat and jebe ambushes them.Mongols go on to devastate Georgia.(late 1221)
13>Mongols go into winter quarters on the Azeri steppe.Jebe & Subutai recieves orders from Genghis to cross the caucasus next season and attack the western Kipchaks or Cumans while Jochi attacks the Eastern Cummans from the other side of the caspian sea and then return to Mongolia.

14-15>After making it through the Caucasus(1222), the Mongols were met by an alliance consisting of the Lezygians,Alans,Cherkassy tribes who were living north of the Caucasus,joined by the Cumans who had mustered an army of over 50,000 men.In the narrow passes facing a similar steppe army and outnumbered the mongols are unable to break through.
The Mongols resort to treachery.They persuade the Cuman to abandon the alliance by reminding them of the Turkic-Mongol friendship and promising them a share of the booty gained from the Caucasian tribes.With the alliance weakened,the Mongols attacked the alliance's army and routed it.
The Mongols then proceeded to attack the Cumans, who had split into two separate groups as they were returning home, destroying both armies and executing all the prisoners before sacking Astrakhan.The Mongols began pursuing the Cumans as they fled in a north-westerly direction
18>Mongols spend winterquarters(1222) in Don steppe.

19>Surviving Cumans flee to the russian principalities.Khan Koten fled to the court of his son-in-law,Mstislav the bold and warned him "Today the Mongols have taken our land and tomorrow they will take yours".However, the Cumans were ignored for almost a year as the Rus had suffered from Cumans raids for decades. But when news reached Kiev that the Mongols were marching along the Dneister River, the Rus responded.Mstislav gathered an alliance of the Kievan Rus Princes including Mstislav of Kiev and Yuri of Vladimir-Suzdal who promised support. The Rus princes then began mustering their armies and going towards the rendezvous point.


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The core mongol army of Genghis khan contrary to belief was not enormous.It constituted of 105,000 men at his coronation in 1206 and 130,000 at the time of his death(1227).This limited manpower was also one of the reasons mongols resorted to terror tactics,fear being used as a substitute in conquered areas where they couldn't afford large garrison troops.This core ethnic mongol force was augmented by thousands of auxillaries from conquered regions.The army was basic to the structure, organization and character of the Mongol Empire. All fit adult males in Mongol society were warriors and remained so until the age of sixty. Everyone learned to ride in childhood and at an early age they were also expected to fight with bow, spear or sword, depending on their wealth or status.


''Well, [the Khan] appoints an officer to every ten men, one to every hundred, one to every thousand, and one to every ten thousand, so that his orders have to be given to ten persons only, and each of these ten persons has to pass the orders to only another ten, and so on; no one having to give orders to more than ten. And everyone in turn is responsible only to the officer immediately over him; and the discipline and order that comes of this method is marvelous, for they are a people very obedient to their chiefs'' -Observer.

Genghis Khan ordered the Mongol army to be established along decimal lines, in units of ten(arban) ,100 (jaghun), 1000(minqan),and 10,000(tümen). Khan did not simply turn tribes into such units, but rather he created new units out of dispersed tribes and distributed men among different units. In doing so he created a new system that replaced the pre-existing tribal social structure with one better suited to the needs of his new state and army, as it provided a rationalized military organization that, in effect, increased central control over the independent tribes.Genghis Khan erased the old kinship ties of Mongol, Tatar, Kereit, and Naiman. Now all of the steppe nomads of Mongolia were part of the Qamuq Monggol Ulus,meaning All of or the Whole Mongol Nation, essentially a supra-tribe. In addition, he divided the entire population of Mongolia into units, called aurug,which functioned more or less as the supply system for the army, as they provided both men and equipment. In effect, Chinggis Khan created a state suited to the waging of war.
The tactical organization of the Mongol army reflected age-old Turco-Mongol steppe tradition. Overall it was divided into three divisions facing China to the east (the left wing), Turkestan and the Muslim world to the south-west (the centre), and the western steppes and Russia to the west (the right wing). On Genghis Khan's death over sixty thousand troops faced east, nearly forty thousand faced west, with the remainder either in the centre or in reserve.In battle too nominally The army was divided into three basic corps of baraghun ghar(right flank),jeün ghar(left flank), and qol(center or pivot) plus reserves.

(Mongol Elite of the Keshik)

Finally the Khan himself had an elite imperial guard of 10,000 men called Keshik.A standing army composed of the sons of the mongol captains,nobility as well as troops promoted for bravery.The Keshiks equipment were maintained by the state .The Keshik consisted of 1,000 nightguards ,1000 dayguards, 1000 sharpshooters(best archers) and 7000 main body.Apart from serving as an elite reserve it established a diverse bodyguard, open to all, from the powerful and influential to the ordinary shepherd.
The institution was also an instrument of political control. By requesting the youngest son in addition to another son, Chinggis Khan gained hostages. This practice was not applied just to his own commanders but was also utilized amongst conquered peoples, a prince or a relative of such vassals often entering the keshik.It also gave an opportunity to mold the hostage. Once he had been indoctrinated in thekeshik,the Mongols possessed a suitable replacement for a vassal or commander who no longer conformed to their demands and expectations.The keshik institution also served as a model officer corps for young men under genghis's direct supervision.Subutai emerged from the Keshik.

(Mongol Heavy Lancer - Six of every ten Mongol troopers were light cavalry Horse archers; the remaining four were heavily armored and armed Lancers)


Mongols had the typical advantage of a steppe army in that they need not train a field army.The daily necessities of steppe life -The skills of horsemanship and archery was present in all mongol males(and even females)
The constant exposure to archery from an early age enabled the Mongols to acquire the requisite strength to pull a composite bow and hold it at full-draw.The key element to the success of the Mongols was their instilling of discipline into the otherwise individualistic nomad warrior. Anecdotes of the discipline of the Mongols are numerous. For the Mongols, discipline meant not only adhering to the orders of their commanders but also not straying from the parameters of an operation. While the Mongols plundered and raided, they also completely bypassed areas that had not been designated as targets.In battle, if a few men from an arban fled but the entire unit did not, the entire arban was still put to death. Likewise, if an arban fled but the jaghun to which it belonged did not, all 100 men were nevertheless executed.This collective identity fostered unit cohesion and ensured that feigned retreats never degenerated into actual routs.Genghis Khan elevated men from all levels of nomadic society to positions of importance, his followers were devoted to him out of gratitude and loyalty.

Another common observation about the Mongols is that their military maneuvers were based on the practice of the Nerge,which was a mass hunt .This involved the Mongols in fanning out over several miles and forming a circle. Gradually this circle would contract until all the animals within it were trapped in a ring of men and horses. After the Khan had killed a few animals others would join in the hunt. Some animals were allowed to escape. A hunt of this size naturally required excellent communication and discipline in order to maintain the circle and prevent animals from escaping until the Khan allowed it.The nerge contributed to a well-disciplined force capable of complex maneuvers over a broad front.

Mongol Light Horse Archer

Armed with the deadly composite bow.Very light or no armour and a silk undershirt.Shirt prevented the arrowhead from completely penetrating the body. The silk wrapped around the arrowhead, thus allowing surgeons to simply unwrap it and pull the arrow out rather than having to push the arrow through the patient.Composite bows made from laminated wood,horn and sinew.The layer of horn is on the inner face as it resists compression, while the layer of sinew is on the outer face as it resists tension. Such bows, with minor variations, had been the main weapon of steppe herdsmen and steppe warriors for over two millennia. Composite construction allows a powerful and relatively efficient bow to be made small enough that it can be used easily from horseback.Quivers containing sixty arrows were strapped to the backs of the cavalrymen and to their horses. Mongol archers typically carried 2 to 3 bows (one heavier and intended for dismounted use, the other lighter and used from horseback) that were accompanied by multiple quivers and files for sharpening their arrowheads. These arrowheads were hardened by plunging them in brine after first heating them red hot.The Mongols could shoot an arrow over 200 metres (660 ft). Targeted shots were possible at a range of 150 or 175 metres.Modern Horse archery Expert Lajos Kassai of Hungary has shown that is possible for a trained horse archer to fire 6 arrows in ten seconds in rapid fire.A continous barrage of such volume would have had devastating impact on an opposing line.


The mongols ability to move thousands of miles with perfect co-ordination and so fast befuddled its opponents,the somewhat unique mongol supply system was at the heart of it.For a campaign the mongols required food for both the soldiers and their horses.As a general practice while obtaining the submission of regions adjoining their theatre of operations, the Mongols requested food and pastureland in addition to tribute. If a region resisted their demands the Mongol army devastated it, reducing competition for pasturage and stocking up their supplies.

''Their horses support themselves by grazing,so there is no need to carry barley or hay'' -Marco Polo

Grazing - Mongol horses are relatively small, but extremely hardy, self-sufficient and longwinded. These horses could survive in climates that would have killed other breeds, enabling the Mongols to be the only ever army to conquer Russia in winter. Mongol horses typically do not require a daily supply of grain. Their ability to forage grass and twigs on their own—and to survive on such fodder—helped free the Khan's army from the need for supply lines.Their endurance allowing the Mongols to move over large distances quickly, often surprising enemies that had expected them to arrive days or even weeks later.Mongols didn't carry additional fodder for their horses but rather relied on grazing them.Unlike european horses,mongol ponies could dig through the snow and feed on the grass underneath making grazing in winter no problem.Each mongol soldier had 4-6 remounts with him -ensuring maximum speed .The need for availability of grasslands were taken into account when planning campaigns,but this remained a weakness for the mongol system outside of the steppe regions or agricultural areas.This would lead to serious difficulties during some of the Mongol campaigns, the arid terrain of Syria making it difficult for large Mongol armies to penetrate the region, especially given the Mamluk scorched earth policy of burning grazing lands throughout the region. It also limited the Mongol ability to exploit their success following the Mohi 1241 as even the great hungarian plain was not large enough to provide grazing for all the flocks and herds following Subutai's army permanently.The marshy forest areas of north russia also saved novgorod even as the southern russian principalities fell in the 1240s to the mongols.
Apart from grazing,mongols could also restock supplies from agricultural fields ,through tribute or plunder.

(Young mongols practicing archery)

Soldier Rations -
The Mongol armies traveled very light, and were able to live largely off the land. Their equipment included fish hooks and other tools meant to make each warrior independent of any fixed supply source.Generally the main diet of a mongol soldier on campaign was Horsemeat/oxen and milk.The horse not only acted as a mount but the large number of remounts served as food. If a horse or oxen died they promptly dried the meat or made sausages; some they ate there and then, and the rest were smoked for later use.One horse could feed a hundred men for a day.

''They boil millet in water and make it so thin that they cannot eat it but have to drink it. Each one of them drinks one or two cups in the morning and they eat nothing more during the day; in the evening, however, they are all given a little meat, and they drink the meat broth. But in the summer, seeing they have plenty of mare’s milk, they seldom eat meat, unless it happens to be given to them or they catch some animal or bird when hunting'' - Observer

Since most of the Mongols' mounts were mares, they were able to live off their horses' milk or milk products as they moved through enemy territory.Their preferred drink was fermented mare’s milk .Mare’s milk was ideal for making this because, it does not curdle unlike other animals’ milk.Thus two ponies could support one soldier for their normal five-month lactation period. During winter, when their horse herds could eat less, mare’s milk became scarce and other foods became more important. One such ration was a paste made from powdered milk that was reconstituted in water and served as a staple in the Mongol soldier’s diet.They consumed most of their non-dairy meals like grains,millet in the form of soups.
Finally as an emergency diet,In dire straits, the Mongol warrior could drink some of the blood from his string of remounts.A horse can donate one third of its blood without serious risk to its health.Polo wrote that the Mongols could survive ten days on this. Eventually, however, it would take a toll on the horses, and was used only as a last resort.

Heavier equipment was brought up by well organized supply trains. Wagons and carts carried, amongst other things, large stockpiles of arrows.These were largely employed in long campaigns not during raids.The bactrian camel was used extensively,being employed as a beast of burden as well as serving as a source of meat,milk,wool and fuel.Supplies were normally carried to the army by camel or on horseback. A Bactrian camel can carry 200–240kg as a pack animal and pull 400–600kg as a draught animal, traveling 30 to 40km per day.Thus a sizeable amount of food and equipment could be delivered to Mongol armies on the march. It was not always delivered at the rapid pace but their forces did not always travel quickly either The main armies could and often did travel at a more leisurely pace while flying columns and vanguards pushed swiftly ahead. Thus baggage trains could keep up with the rest of the army. This practice confused their enemies. The Mongol vanguard and flying columns often devastated a region before the baggage train arrived.

Below shows a mongol heavy cavalryman in full lamellar armour.Apart from lance he also weilded a scimitar and occasionally a mace for close combat.They also retained a composite bow for ranged combat.Lamellar armor consists of small platelets known as lamellae, which are punched and laced together, typically in horizontal rows.Lamellae can be made of metal, leather, horn, stone, bone.Its lighter and much more flexible than ringmail.

Mongol Heavy cavalry


As horsemen, the Mongols could send messengers to maintain contact between units with relative ease. However, as their armies were extremely mobile there always remained the possibility that communications between armies or units could be broken.To avoid this, the Mongol armies operated according to predetermined time schedules. This helped to coordinate efforts to resupply troops with horses, and to make sure pastureland was available. In addition, communications between columns on the march were maintained through the continual dispatch of riders. Yet the most important tool for maintaining logistics for the army, and indeed for communications throughout the empire, was the yam.A post system, the yam had stations set up at intervals where official messengers could exchange their horses for fresh ones or, at times, the riders themselves could be changed. The yam system extended as the Mongols expanded their empire, and it was possible to relay information to the Mongol capital at Karakorum in a matter of days as the riders traveled non-stop.


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May 25, 2013
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Mongols had any number of strategic advantages. One was central position. With their heartland in the steppes of inner Asia, they could strike east against the Chinese, south against the Muslim world, and west against Europe. At the same time, their opponents lacked the mobility and logistical wherewithal to attack into the Mongol homeland. Routes into that heartland were blocked by mountain ranges, deserts and vast uninhabited expanses that more conventional armies would have had difficulty negotiating. More fundamentally, the Mongols lacked anything that might constitute a vulnerable strategic center of mass, such as great cities or complex irrigation systems. Being nomadic, they could move their populace and their cattle as far as the grasslands that supported them.Given their central position, the Mongols could pick off their enemies one at a time. If their opponents had formed a grand alliance, the Mongols could have conceivably been overwhelmed by having to fight on multiple fronts. Of course no such alliance was possible, given the limits on primitive communications in the pre-modern era.They also possesed the natural advantage of steppe hordes,in having aready reservoir of trained military manpower without any upkeep.

Espionage was central to mongol warfare.The Mongols did not begin a campaign without accumulating intelligence. This they gathered in a variety of ways, from merchants, from their own spies, from the algincinor scouts who rode ahead of their armies, and from the reports of expeditionary forces sent to deal with specific threats. Institutions within the empire like he famous yam postal system relayed news and other information back quickly from the frontiers.Throughout the history of the Mongol Empire, the khans patronized merchants and protected the trade routes. In return, the merchants supported the khans and provided them with a wealth of information.The merchants controlled all trade between China and Central Asia. They knew all the routes and, being highly cultivated, were good observers and were well acquainted with the economic and political situation of every district with which they traded.Prior to the invasion of Europe, Batu and Subutai sent spies for almost ten years into the heart of Europe, making maps of the old Roman roads, establishing trade routes, and determining the level of ability of each principality to resist invasion. They made well-educated guesses as to the willingness of each principality to aid the others, and their ability to resist alone or together.


Mongol campaigns were noticeable for superb strategic planning and co-ordination.This was achieved.Usually the mongol high command met at the first month of every year to decide on their objectives for that campaign season and the forces to be allocatted to each.The selection of commanders were agreed at the quriltai,points of rendezvous were established, and mobilization began in earnest.Unity of command under the first khans proved decisive in this regard.While objectives were set by the khan,the generals were given full operational independence to achieve those objectives.Mongol armies like those of Batu and Subutai in the european campaign(1241) and Genghis in the Khwarezm campaign showed they could move hundreds of miles apart yet recombine with outstanding ease (operating on previosuly agreed timetables and keeping in communication through riders),a feat which would not be replicated until the time of Napoleon and his grande armee.

On the march Mongols followed Napoleon's maxim -''March divided,fight concentrated'' much before napoleon's time.Mongol columns would enter along seperate routes and then recombine on their assigned objective with great speed.This often gave their opponents the impression they were facing enormous numbers,as reports came in from multiple directions of mongols advancing.

A main mongol invasion of a region was often preceded by a Reconaissance in force by a smaller but still capable mongol army.This would often lead to a bloody battle,where the mongols would assess their enemy's strength and general nature of the country before withdrawing even if victorious.They would later return with a full invasion force.This mongol habit of disappearing after winning a victory is noted by many historians.Subutai and Jebe's great raid and the resulting battle at kalkariver in 1223 is one of the greatest examples of a mongol-reconaissance in force which served as a prelude to the full invasion of russia and eastern europe over a decade later.


Mongols were masters of psychological warfare and use of terror as a weapon.Mongol agents would frequently encourage downtrodden groups within targeted countries to believe the invaders would liberate them. And Mongol
tolerance for diverse religions sometimes encouraged minority groups.What the Mongols did that was unique was to
deliberately exploit terror as a propaganda weapon to demoralize their foes.They often offered an opportunity for the enemy to surrender and pay tribute, instead of having their city ransacked and destroyed. They knew that sedentary populations were not free to flee danger as were nomad populations, and that the destruction of their cities was the worst loss a sedentary population could experience. When cities accepted the offer, they were spared, but were required to support the conquering Mongol army with manpower, supplies, and other services. If the offer was refused, however, the Mongols would invade and destroy the city or town, but allow a few civilians to flee and spread terror by reporting their loss. These reports were an essential tool to incite fear in others.A commonly used tactic was the use of what was called the "kharash". During a siege the Mongols would gather a crowd of local residents or soldiers surrendered from previous battles, and would drive them forward in sieges and battles. These "living boards" or "human shields" would often take the brunt of enemy arrows and crossbow bolts, thus leaving the Mongol warriors safer.

The Mongols also used deception very well in their wars. For instance, when approaching a mobile army the units would be split into three or more army groups. This confused the opponents as to the main point of effort and create a situation where the Mongols would seem to appear out of nowhere and there were seemingly more of them than in actuality.During the initial states of battlefield contact, while camping in close proximity of their enemies at night, they would feign numerical superiority by ordering each soldier to light at least five fires, which would appear to the enemy scouts and spies that their force was almost five times larger than it actually was.Another way the Mongols utilized deception and terror was by tying tree branches or leaves behind their horses and letting the foliage drag behind them across the ground; by traveling in a systematic fashion, the Mongols could create a dust storm behind hills, in order to create fear and appear to the enemy to be much larger than they actually were, thereby forcing the enemy to surrender. Because each Mongol soldier had more than one horse, they would let the prisoners and the civilians ride their horses for a while before the conflict also to fake numerical superiority.

One of the main mongol uses of deception was in Strategic Feigned Withdrawals .If outnumbered or faced with a determined unified enemy force mongols would seemingly disperse or withdraw,withdrawals could carry on for days.The attempt was to lure the enemy out of his heartland and fortified towns,or disperse an assembled host into groups of pursuing contingents which could be ambushed and annihilated one by one.The startegic withdrawal was used to devastating effect at kalka river.


After defeating an army, the Mongols pursued it until it was destroyed
. Assaults on enemy strongholds were often delayed by this effort to put the field army out of action.Once an enemy field army had been defeated, the Mongols concentrated on destroying their opponent’s capacity to rally. They targeted all the enemy leaders and harried them until they were killed.Genghis Khan first pursued this policy during the wars of unification in Mongolia. In his first few campaigns his failure to eliminate the opposing leaders allowed them to regroup their forces and start the conflict anew. He learned from this experience and in his later campaigns the merciless pursuit of enemy commanders evolved into a standard operational procedure.In Khwarazm, for example, Muhammad Khwarazmshah fled to the Caspian Sea with the generals Jebe and Sübedei in pursuit. Meanwhile, Chinggis Khan chased Jalal al-Din to the Indus River.Bela of Hungary got no breathing space after his defeat at Mohi(1241).This aspect of mongol warfare of turning tactical successes into larger strategic ones was another feature Napoleon emphasized upon.


Mongol battle tactics was based on 4 main features - Control,Mobility,Massed Firepower and Surprise.A Mongol army in battle was nominally divided into 2 wings and a centre plus reserves and advance guard.(maybe altered acc.to situation).Mongol scouts operated 35 to 70 miles in advance of a mongol army making it near impossible to surprise it.Two-fifths of a mongol force were heavy cavalry,and the rest horse archers.Horse archers usually stayed out of reach of their opponents’ weapons and used hit and run tactics in waves while showering the enemy with arrows. Often they retreated before the enemy, utilizing the famous ‘Parthian shot’ as they went. At the right moment, normally when the enemy’s forces were drawn out in pursuit, the nomads would wheel around and annihilate them. These methods of war were augmented with surprise attacks, ambushes, and encirclements.The Mongols were not necessarily innovative but simply perfected the timeless tactics of the steppe. Training exercises further perfected their execution.

The Tumens would typically advance on a broad front, five lines deep. Three lines would be composed of horse archers,two of lancers. Once an enemy force was located, the Mongols would try to avoid risky or reckless frontal assaults (in sharp contrast to their European and Middle-Eastern opponents). Instead they would use diversionary attacks to fix the enemy in place, while their main forces sought to outflank or surround the foe. First the horse archers would lay down a withering barrage of arrow fire. Additional arrows were carried by camels who followed close by, ensuring a plentiful supply of ammunition.

Caracole Tactics -
The Mongols combined the basic arrow storm with hit-and-run tactics, changing horses regularly to keep them fresh. Approximately 60 or 80 men in each jaghun participated, the remaining acting as heavy cavalry. Each jaghun sent 20 men per wave. The waves fired several arrows as they charged, and then circled back to the Mongol lines after completing their charge, having loosed their final shot roughly 40–50m from the enemy line before wheeling around. This distance was close enough to pierce armor, but far enough from the enemy to evade a counter-charge. While circling back, the Mongols often used the ‘Parthian shot’. Since each man was equipped with 60 arrows the Mongols could maintain this barrage for almost an hour, perhaps longer if the number of men in each wave varied.

'' When they come to an engagement with the enemy, they will gain the victory in this fashion. They never let themselves get into a regular mêlée, but keep perpetually riding round and shooting into the enemy. And as they do not count it any shame to run away in battle, they will [sometimes pretend to] do so, and in running away they turn in the saddle and shoot hard and strong at the foe, and in this way make great havoc '' -Marco Polo

Flanking tactics and double envelopment -
Whenever possible, the Mongols preferred to surround their enemies by using their nerge training.As soon as the scouting screen of a Mongol army made contact with the enemy, the main body extended in front over as great a distance as possible so as to overlap the flanks of the hostile force. On closer contact and the approach of action, skirmishers went forward, and scouts were called upon to bring in reports about local topography, lines of communication, and the strength and disposition of the opposing troops.The Mongols sometimes confused an enemy by feinting towards his front and then unleashing their main attack against his rear. By attacking from several directions, the Mongols gave their enemies the impression that they were surrounded. By leaving a gap in their encirclement the Mongols allowed the enemy an apparent means of escape, whereas in reality it served as a trap. In their panic and desire to escape through this gap, the enemy often discarded their weapons to flee faster and rarely maintained their discipline. The Mongols then attacked them from the rear, as in their defeat of the Hungarians at Mohi in 1241. Mongol writer Dalantai(during Kublai) called this the ‘Open-the-End tactic’ and noted that the Mongols used it if the enemy seemed to be very strong and might fight to the death if trapped.

Feigned Retreat -

The feigned retreat was a classic tactic of steppe warfare practised since ancient times. A token force charged the enemy and then retreated, drawing the enemy in pursuit. The retreat might extend a great distance in order to stretch the enemy’s ranks and formations. Then at a pre-arranged location, other Mongol forces would attack from the flanks while the token force wheeled around and attacked from the front.Used to full effect at Kalka river 1223 and at Liegnitz 1241 as well as numerous other mongol battles.

Fabian Tactics -
At times the Mongols avoided combat with the enemy until they found an ideal location for a battle or had regrouped far-flung forces to confront their opponent. This tactic differed from the feigned retreat in which they attacked and then withdrew with the deliberate intent of luring the enemy into an ambush. Fabian tactics involved the avoidance of all direct contact with the enemy. The Mongol army would often divide into small groups to prevent it from being surrounded when necessary, and then regroup and launch a surprise attack on the enemy at a more opportune time.Fabian tactics also had the effect of exhausting the enemy by avoiding combat,the constant stress of the anticipation of an attack wore down some units.When the Mongols were confronted by opponents who had planted spears in the ground to prevent cavalry charges, they responded by withdrawing the bulk of their forces while a few detachments remained behind to harass the enemy. Eventually, their enemies would emerge from their defenses, either because of hunger or thirst or because they believed that the Mongols had withdrawn. The main Mongol force would then return and destroy them. Again, in this way the Mongols were able to choose a more opportune time to fight if the initial encounter did not go well.

Some other basic formations and field tactics
are described such as -
Moving Bush - Repeated small skimishes intermittantly at different fringes to draw opponent into a more strung out formation.
Chisel formation- Concentrate your heavy combat units into a single point of attack after you got them to spread out their forces.
Lake formation
- Successive waves of attacks along enemy front. Each line, or wave, attacks and withdraws filtering through the next wave on its attack.
Falling stars - Small units attack and pin down parts of the enemy simultaneously so no part of their army can reinforce another.Used at Kalka.

Three -prong attack
- Attacking up the middle and on both flanks simultaneously. The mongols attack either one flank and the centre or both flanks in the initial move,as the enemy moves to reinforce these areas from either his other flank or centre,the denuded area will be subjected to the main assault.

Some of the above tactics illustrated in a typical mongol attack.In Phase I,the light horse archers(lighter shade of red) move through the gaps and launch wave after wave arrow shower caracole attacks on the enemy line wearing it down.The flanking parties of horse archers attempt to spread out and envelop the enemy wings.
In Phase II ,when the enemy is considered sufficiently weakened ,horse archers filter back to the rear through the gaps while the heavy cavalry starts moving forward.Some of the flanking parties continue to attempt to envelop him further,making him stretch out his line further and weakening the density of forces about to be subjected to the assault of the heavy cavalry.In Phase III,the armoured lancers charge in massed line.A part of the horse archers support the cahrge from the rear by firing arrows over their heads.Other light horse have swung to the sides after filtering through and assault the flanks of the enemy line even as the flanking parties attempt to get into the rear.


Whenever possible, Mongol commanders found the highest ground available, from which they could make tactical decisions based on the best view of the battlefield as events unfolded. Furthermore, being on high ground allowed their forces to observe commands conveyed by flags more easily than if the ground were level. In addition, keeping the high command on high ground made them easier to defend. Unlike the European armies, which placed enormous emphasis on personal valor, and thus exposed their leaders to death from anyone bold enough to kill them, the Mongols regarded their leaders as a vital asset.A general such as Subutai, unable to ride a horse in his final campaigns due to age and obesity, would have been ridiculed out of most any European army of the time. But the Mongols recognized and respected his still-powerful military mind, who had been one of the Genghis' most able subordinates, so he transported in a cart.Mongols also protected their ranking officers well.
Commanders on the flanks and groups had full authority on what to do in the course of battle - such as supporting other flanks or performing an individual feigned retreat as conditions seemed appropriate, in small groups of 100 to 1000 - so long as the battle unfolded according to the overall general directive and the opponents were defeated.

Commands in the field were transmitted by drums, standards and signal flags. Mongol soldiers were ordered to remain silent during the initial maneuvers so orders could be understood. When the final assault came, a single great war cry was raised, backed up by the beating of great war drums.

Genghis Khan's 'Dogs of War' - Jebe and One-eyed Subutai.

The mongol army at kalka river numbered around 23,000. 2 tumens of veteran cavalry plus few auxillaries.The commanders were Genghis Khan's 2 most formidable lieutenants -Jebe Noyan and Subutai Baghatur.

Jebe Noyan - Jebe first encountered Genghis Khan on the battlefield during the wars of unification in Mongolia.During the battle when Genghis Khan defeated the Tayichiut in 1201 a sharpshooter had killed Genghis Khan’s horse with a well-placed arrow to the neck,Genghis asked who it was,a a man named Jirqo’adai came forward and spoke if the khan could have him executed,but if he let him join his army he would serve him well.An impressed Genghis Khan on account of his archery skills,gave him the nickname of Jebe or 'Arrow'.Throughout Genghis Khan's wars he was one of Genghis's four most feared generals - Genghis's 'Hounds of war'.In 1209 he and Sübedei pursued the Naiman and Merkit who fled Mongolia to the Irtysh RiveJebe was also responsible for hunting down Güchülüg, a Naiman prince who became ruler of Kara-Khitai.Against the Jin Empire, he served as commander of Genghis Khan’s vanguard in 1211, capturing the strongly guarded Chabchiyal Pass through a perfectly executed feigned retreat.In their famous great raid,he and subutai pursued the shah and then went on to russia(where they will fight at kalka river).Jebe died in 1224 on the return to Mongolia from russia from natural causes.

Subutai Baghatur - The greatest of the mongol generals,and sometimes considered the equal of genghis in strategic skill entered Chinggis Khan’s service as a young man while performing menial tasks such as tending his horses.He rose rapidly through the ranks.His first foray outside of Mongolia was conducted under the command of Jebe, pursuing renegade Naiman and Merkit tribes into western Siberia in 1209.In the invasion of the Jin Empire, Sübedei carried out various missions for genghis becoming one of genghis's dogs of war'.In the Khwarazmian War, he served as one of the vanguard commanders and then, with Jebe, relentlessly pursued Sultan Khwarazmshah. Sübedei and Jebe next set out on the reconnaissance en force that took them through Transcaucasia and across the Caucasus Mountains. There, they defeated a combined army of Russian princes and Kipchak Turks at the battle of the Kalka River.Sübedei led a Mongol army against the recalcitrant Tangut of Xi-Xia in 1226–7.He also served as a commander in the final assault on the Jin Empire and was instrumental in its destruction.
At the age of 60, in 1236 he was chosen to lead the Mongols west towards the Volga River and into the Russian heartland and beyond.In three years of campaigning the Mongols extended their empire by 1,000km, from the Volga River to the Carpathian Mountains, conquering not only the Rus’ but also the Kipchak Turks.
Sübedei then planned his invasion of Central Europe. Mongol armies struck simultaneously at Hungary and Poland. The invasion of Poland appears to have been little more than a diversion to keep armies there from potentially joining forces with the Hungarians. Sübedei himself led the assault on Hungary. After overpowering the fortresses that guarded the mountain passes, the Mongols destroyed the Hungarian army – considered one of the best in Europe – on the Sajo River, at a spot called Mohi demonstrating brilliant tactical skill.Sübedei, however, ordered a general withdraw from Hungary upon receiving news that Ögödei Khan had died.
The new Khan, Güyük, dispatched the now 70-year-old general to lead a force against the Song Empire in 1246.After this campaign he finally retired and died soon after.In all he is said to have led over 20 campaigns and fought sixty five pitched battles and engagements which marks him as one of the greatest commanders in history.


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May 25, 2013
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Russia was at this time a feudal society divided into several princedom's collectively called the Kievan Rus.Constantly warring ,they thus possessed experienced soldiers but no grand vision or single doctrine.The core of the armies of each principality was the Prince and his body of retainers -which acted as a standing army.Well equipped Armoured heavy cavalry - these were capable shock troops.Above is a russian prince with bodyguards.

More than a third of the russian armies remained infantry,these being feudal levies called up in times of war and provided with mail armour and a mix of weapons -Spears,shields.swords,axes and crossbows.They augmented the numbers of a field army acting as a pivot.While these militia troops were not regulars,a formed body of spearmen could easily halt a cavalry charge in its tracks.

Bulk of the russian horse remained heavy shock cavalry. Owing to the influence of steppe warfare the russians had also learned to use limited numbers of horse archers and in this battle had the cuman turks to support them.
The russian armies predominantly used chainmail and scalemail armour.In contrast the mongols used lamellar armour with silk shirt inside.While mail provided superb protection against slashing strikes and was excellent for close combat,it was expensive and heavy.Lamellar armour was cheaper ,lighter and superior against projectiles like arrows.
Elite russian horsemen however could wear lamellar coat over their mail hauberk for superb protection.

Tactics - The contemporary russian field tactics were simple.The enemy was first disrupted by horse archers and crossbowmen fire.Crossbowmen being protected by the spearmen.Then the spearmen could be used as a pinning force while the heavy cavalry made the decisive attack.There was no uniform permanent military organization in the strict sense as these princely states by themselves didn't field too big standing armies.The professional standing troops were supplemented by militia in wartime.The commanders led from front often particiapting in the battle on horseback.

The cumans,a turkish people were highly sophisticated for a steppe people and by the 13th people with extensive relations with their russian neighbours as well as mercenary service in byzantine and georgian lands had become influenced by these cultures.They had established matrimonial relations with the kievan rus and many had converted to christianity.Called the Polovtsians by the Russians,and the Western Kipchaks or the Cumans by the Byzantines -the main foundation of their military strength remained horse archers.But the heavier cavalry had gradually adopted the mail armour from their western neighbours.After being driven from their lands by the mongols they joined with the russians to exact vengeance.At Kalka river,Cuman cavalry acted as flanka nd advance guards for the russian forces being more mobile.Their leader was Khan Koten at this time.Despite being good steppe cavalry,they lacked the discipline of the mongols.

The combined Russian - Cuman coalition army numbered a very impressive 80,000.However there was no unity of command and perhaps no more than 20,000 -25,000 of these troops were regulars,rest being militia.


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May 25, 2013
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On hearing of the mongol approach,the major russian princes form an alliance and rendezvous their forces near Zarub,50 miles southeast from Kiev.Most of the main southern russian states like Kiev,Volhynia,Galicia,Kursk and Chernigov send their forces to unite against this common threat.Meanwhile a mongol force raids crimea and destroys the genoese trading post of Sudak.The mongols send envoys offering peace and to unite against the cumans,however hearing the earlier trickery by the mongols from the cumans and understanding that if the cumans were destroyed there would be no buffer between them and the mongols,the allies kill the ambassadors.A clash is now inevitable as by mongol law ambassadors are sacrosanct.The russian forces join with the cumans at the Dneiper river with the russian infantry being transported by boat.The huge allied army now advances.

The mongol commanders recieve bad news.Reinforcement army under jochi would not be coming to join them as he had fallen ill.They were heavily outnumbered.The mongols resort to their favourite tactic-The False Strategic withdrawal.For nine days the mongols fall back in face of the allied advance.Above is the sequence of events.
The russians attack and win 2 minor skirmishes with the mongol rearguard outposts,capturing and executing a mongol captain of the rearguard.Interestingly till now they have mostly only faced the mongol light horse archers,equipped only with a bow,lasso and sabre -they are held with contempt by the russians.
There is disagreement in the russian camp on whether they should pursue further into the vast steppe,but these easy victories and apparent enemy weakness make them complacent.They are also egged on by the cumans who are eager to regain their former lands.On the way they even find some herds of sheep left behind by the mongols on a hurry,as if to ease their logistical situation.[sheep were essential for feeding a mobile army]
Meanwhile subotai and jebe bide their time,luring the allies in to a battlefield of their choosing.
They decide to make their stand at Kalka river.

Mongol Feigned Retreat
Mongols - Red , Russians - Green , Cumans - Blue .(Dotted green -Infantry)


The allied army advances towards the kalka in 4 divisions.

The cumans act as vanguard and flankguards of the russian columns.
The lead division has the volhynian russians and the cuman advance guard.
The 2nd division consists of the galicians.The 3rd division of chernigov-kursk.
The 4rth division of kiev has marched slowly due to disagreement over tactics and is quite a bit distance away as yet.

1.>The cuman advance guard meets the mongol outposts and overwhelm them.They are as adept at steppe archery tactics as these mongol horse archers and chase them back across the river expecting a easy victory like the previous skirmishes.The mongol defeat had been easy -perhaps too easy.During this initial attack the first division of volhynians keep up with the cumans and enthusiastically join them in the pursuit accross the river.

2 & 3.>The mongols flee in three directions to join the main body that is now forming up in the distance.The right under Jebe,the centre under Subutai and the left under Tsugyr and Teshi.Mongol camp is further afield.The mongols begin to deploy for battle as Subutai watches more allied forces crossing the river and bides his time.

4.>The army of Mstislav of Kiev has marched more slowly and cautiously and due to difference of opinion is still quite a bit to the rear.

(Mongol Ambush)
1. > Subotai waits until just about half of the allied army has crossed the river and a sufficient distance has emerged between the 2 lead and 2 rear divisions.Then he gives the order to attack.The mongol army is divided into 11 divisions[perhaps each of around 2000],subotai with 5 centre divisons and the right and left wings with three each.Discarding traditional tactics of skirmishing with horse archers first,subotai attacks the incoming allied cuman vanguard from all sides with massed heavy cavalry,they are taken totally by surprise having suddenly become the hunted from the hunters ,enveloped and overrun.The volhynians too are swept away by the mongol assault,their archery proving terribly effective combined with the lancer charge.Their commanders and prince are killed or wounded.
The fleeing first division crashes backward into the second division of the galicians totally disordering them,before they can reorganize the mongol centre smashes into them.

2 and 3.>The ambush is sprung in earnest.The Mongol left and right wings now join the fray as both allied second and third divisions are assaulted from the flanks as well.The third division(Chernigov-kursk) in process of crossing the river is taken from both sides and are pinned down.Attempted counterattacks on the mongol left flank are beaten off as the allied forward divisions begin to collapse,being assailed from all sides and being ridden down by their own cavalry in panic.

4.>The Army of Kiev sees the disaster unfolding and immediately begins setting up a line of wagons as field fortifications.This would serve as a mobile defensive position.


1.>All order and organization breaks down in the allied army and the remnants of first 2 divisions as they are pinned with the river in their backs and enveloped by the mongol centre and right wings under jebe and subotai and are being picked off at will by the mounted archers.

2.>Tsugyr and Teshi have been sent forward to pin the army of Kiev in place with massed archery and prevent it from interfering in the annihilation of the allied forces in the centre in any manner,and also to stop the fleeing forces from joining them.An example of the Falling stars tactic.

3.>Remnants of Cuman advance guard and Volhynians flee,closely pursued by one of subutai's divisions.
4.>Remnants of Kursk-Chernigov breaks and flees,pursued by one of Jebe's divisions

5.>Allied centre collapses,and as the remnants try to flee across the river they are ruthlessly purused by the mongols and ridden down ,by and large being wiped out.

6.>After crushing the 3 allied divisions,subutai and jebe join tsugyr in enveloping the wagons of the army of kiev from all sides.After 3 agonizing days ,with water running out kiev army surrenders under promise of safety but as soon as they come out mongols capture and slaughter them.The kievan leaders are executed in barbaric fashion as retaliation for killing of mongol ambassadors.(Ironically death without shedding blood was considered an aristocrats proper death by the mongols)

(Mongol commanders feast on top of the kievan leaders,suffocating them to death.Sadism at its best.)

The defeat was catastrophic for the kievan rus and they had still not recovered fully a decade later.Losses were 60,000 -70,000 dead.Russian scholars wrote 1 in 10 men returned from the battle.As many as 10 princes were killed in battle or in pursuit.Psycologically they were traumatized,with priests attributing black magic and sins of man to mongol success,similar to how the Muslim scholars called them the 'Devil's horsemen'.The Cumans ceased to be a significant political entity after the battle.The remnants fled to Hungary.Mongol Losses were minimal.


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May 25, 2013
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1-4>. Flight of the surviving russian princes.
.Cumans flee for the balkans.
6>.Mongols sack Novgorod Svyatopolch,but recieve orders from gengshi to join jochi on a attack on the Volga bulgars and return to mongolia.
7-8>.Jochi joins jebe and subutai.
9>.Volga Bulgars manage to hold off the Mongols in an inconclusive battle,the mongols withdraw for the time being.They would return later.
11>.Enroute home they attack and destroy the Eastern kipchaks.
.Jebe dies from illness.

Jochi and Subutai joins the main army of Genghis and is congratulated by him.It was the greatest cavalry raid in history,spanning over 5000 miles in enemy territory without reinforcement and defeating enemy after enemy,sweeping everything in their path.The Mongols would for the next decade concentrate on China and Korea,returning in 1238 at the head of a massive horde of 150000 under subotai and batu.And this time they would come to stay.Neither would they stop at the borders of russia.


Reasons For Mongol Success and Allied Defeat:

1.Unity Of Command -The different principalities with their different armies were lacking in coordination to the mongols who acted as one.Their leaders controlled the battle magnificently without getting embroiled in personal fighting.The co-operation between allied columns was lacking.

2.Choose The Battlefield - Subotai and jebe chose the battlefield to perfection forcing the fight on their own terms.A common military maxim is 'never fight with a river on your back'.Exactly what allies were forced into.

3.Surprise - Mongols achieved total tactical surprise .Their feigned retreat and ambush was perfectly executed and aided by allied impetousity.

4.Overconfidence & Deception - The allies fell for the mongol false retreat and easy skirmish victories bred a sense of superiority which mongols cultivated.Without this prelude allies would have been more cautious.Textbook sun zu.In their eagerness they failed to detect the 2 mongol wings as the cumans and the volhynian russians rushed at the mongol vanguard and centre.A violation of the Principle of Security.

5.Concentration of Effort - The key to the mongol success was in divide and conquer.The mongols were heavily outnumbered by the total allied force,but fought the battle in a way that the allies were never able to bring their whole force into play simultaneously.The mongols concentrated on and crushed them piecemeal one at a time thus rendering their numerical disadvantage moot.A defeat in detail.

Genghis Khan's Bloodline
.Even with Genghis's death in 1227,the tide of mongol expansion didn't subside.Indeed it would continue unabated for most of the 13 the century.Genghis's sons and their descendants came to control the biggest contiguous land empire in human history.

Sources -
Osprey Campaign
Osprey Men at Arms - Russian armies,Mongols
Osprey Warrior - Mongols
Mongol Art of War -Timothy May
The Mongols - D.Nichole,R.hook
Strategy & Tactics Magazine
Military History Magazine
Net sources

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