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Batu Khan (c. 1205 - 1255) was a Mongol ruler, founder of the Kipchak Khanate. The term "Kipchak" came from the Kipchak Turks in the Mongol forces. Batu was a son of Jochi and "grandson" of Genghis Khan. (Although Genghis Khan recognized Jochi as his son, his parentage was always a question, as his mother Borte, Genghis Khan's wife, had been captured and historians assume, raped, and Jochi was born exactly 9 months after her recovery by Genghis Khan. This issue of parentage, which made Jochi less close to his "father," and spurred disputes with Batu and his cousins, ultimately led to the break up of the Mongol Empire. But not before they had ravaged all of Eastern and Central Europe! )
In 1235 Batu, who earlier had directed the conquest of the Crimean Tatarss, was assigned an army of possibly 130,000 (actually commanded by Subutai) to oversee an invasion of Europe. The army crossed the Volga and invaded Volga Bulgaria in 1236. Then it invaded Russia from 1237. The army quickly subdued the proto-state of Kievan Rus, destroying the towns of Riazan and Vladimir in 1237-38 and sacking the capital Kiev in 1240. The Russia states were subdued but left as vassals rather than combined into the central Asian kingdom.
Batu Khan then decided to invade Europe itself, primarily to assure his flanks were safe for the future from possible interference from the Europeans, and partially as a precursor to further conquest.
The Mongols invaded central Europe in three groups. One group conquered Poland, defeating a combined force under Henry the Pious, Duke of Silesia and the Grand Master of the Teutonic Order at Legnica. A second crossed the Carpathians and a third followed the Danube. The armies re-grouped and crushed Hungary in 1241, defeating the army led by Béla IV of Hungary at the Battle of Mohi on April 11. The armies swept the plains of Hungary over the summer and in the spring of 1242 regained impetus and extended their control into Austria and Dalmatia as well as invading Bohemia. Had the Great Khan not died, necessitating the return of all the "Princes of the Blood" (of Genghis Khan), all of Europe might have fallen as easily as Poland and Hungary, and the Russian principalities before them.
This attack on Europe was planned and carried out by Subutai, under the nominal command of Batu, who was intelligent enough to get out of the way and let one of history's great generals do his best. Subutai achieved perhaps his most lasting fame with his victories there. Having devastated the various Russian Principalities, he sent spies into Poland, Hungary, and as far as Austria, in preparation for an attack into the heartland of Europe. Having gotten a clear picture of the European Kingdoms, he brilliantly prepared an attack nominally commanded by Batu Khan and 2 other princes of the blood. Batu Khan, son of Jochi, was the overall leader, but Subutai was the actual commander in the field, and as such was present in both the northern and southern campaigns against Russia and the Ukraine. He commanded the central column that moved against Hungary. While Kaidu's northern force won the battle of Leignitz and Kadan's army triumphed in Transylvania, Subutai was waiting for them on the Hungarian plain. The newly reunited army then withdrew to the Sajo river where they inflicted the tremendous defeat on King Béla IV at the Battle of Mohi. Subutai masterminded the operation, and it was to prove one of his greatest victories.
The King of Hungary had summoned a council of war at Gran, a large and important settlement upriver from Buda and Pest. As Batu was advancing on Hungary from the north-east it was decided by the King to concentrate his strength at Pest and then head to the north to confront the Mongol army. When news of the Hungarian battle strategy reached the Mongol commanders they slowly withdrew, drawing their enemies on. This was classic Mongol strategy, perfected by Subutai. He prepared a battlefield and waited. It was a strong position, because woods prevented their ranks from being clearly scouted or seen, while across the river on the plain of Mohi, the Hungarian army was extremely exposed.
Subutai launched the Battle of Mohi during the night of 10 Apri1 1241, only one day after the smaller army in Poland had won the battle of Legnica. At the Mohi, a single division crossed the river in secret to advance on the Hungarian camp from the southern flank. The main body began to cross the Sajo by the bridge at Mohi. This was met with fierce resistance, so catapults were used to clear the opposite bank. When the crossing was completed the other contingent attacked at the same time. The result was panic, and to ensure that the Hungarians did not fight desperately to the last man the Mongols left an obvious gap in their encirclement. This, along with the feigned retreat, was one of the Mongol's most prized strategies.
As Subutai had planned, the fleeing Hungarians poured through this apparent hole in the lines, which led to a swampy area. When the Hungarian knights split up, the light Mongol archers picked them off at will and it was later noted that corpses littered the countryside for the space of a two day journey. Two archbishops and three bishops were killed at the Sajo, plus 40,000 fighting men, the pride of Hungary! By late 1241, Subutai was discussing plans to invade Austria, Italy and Germany, when the news came of the death of Ogodei Khan, and the Mongols withdrew, as the Princes of the blood, and Subutai, were recalled to Mongolia. As noted previously, only the death of the Great Khan prevented the utter destruction of the remainder of Europe.
Fortunately for Europe in the late spring of 1242 Batu withdrew from Europe following the news of the death of Ögedei Khan (died in December, 1241). Batu was a potential Great Khan and when he failed to win this he turned to consolidate his conquests in Asia and the Urals. He established the capital of his khanate at Sarai (also transcribed as Saraj or Saray) on the lower Volga in 1242. He was planning new campaigns but he died in 1255 and the khanate passed to Sartak . The Kipchak Khanate ruled Russia directly, or in the case of Novograd by vassal status, for the next 130 years.
The Kipchak Khanate was known in Russia and Europe as the Golden Horde (Zolotaya Orda) because of the Golden colour of the Khan's tent. "Horde" refers to this, not to the Mongol hordes. "Golden" is thought to have had a similar meaning to "royal." Of all the Khanates, the Golden Horde ruled longest. Long after the Yuan Khanate had been driven out of China, and Il Khanate of the Middle East had fallen, the descendants of Batu Khan continued to rule the Russian Steppes . Russia was not to be free of them until the "Great Standing."
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