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Batu Khan ( )
(c. 12051255)

Batu Khan ( ) (c. 12051255)

Batu Khan was a Mongol ruler and the founder of the Blue Horde. Batu was a son of Jochi and grandson of Genghis Khan. His Blue Horde became the Golden Horde (or Kipchak Khanate), which ruled Rus and the Caucasus for around 250 years, after also destroying the armies of Poland and Hungary.

Although Genghis Khan recognized Jochi as his son, his parentage was always in question, as his mother Börte, Genghis Khan's wife, had been captured and he was born shortly after her return. During the lifetime of Genghis, this issue was public knowledge but it was taboo to publicly discuss it. Still, it drove a wedge between Jochi and his father; just before Jochi's death, he and Genghis almost fought a civil war because of Jochi's sullen refusal to join in military campaigns. Jochi also was given only 4,000 Mongol soldiers to carve out his own Khanate. Jochi's son Batu got most of his soldiers by recruiting amongst the Turkic people he defeated, mostly Kipchak Turks. Batting the house of his uncle Ögedei aside in favor of the house of Tolui, his other uncle.

After Jochi and Genghis died, Jochi's lands were divided between Batu and his older brother Orda. Orda's White Horde ruled the lands roughly between the Volga river and Lake Balkhash, while Batu's Golden Horde ruled the lands west of the Volga.

When Batu and his son Sartak died, Batu's brother Berke inherited the Golden Horde. Berke was not inclined to unity with his cousins in the Mongol family, making war on Hulagu Khan, though Berke officially recognized the Khanate of China as his overlordin theory only. In fact, Berke was an independent ruler by then. Fortunately for Europe, Berke did not share Batu's interest in conquering it.

In 1235 Batu, who earlier had directed the conquest of the Crimea, was assigned an army of possibly 130,000 to oversee an invasion of Europe. The army, actually commanded by Subutai, crossed the Volga and invaded Volga Bulgaria in 1236. It took them a year to extinguish the resistance of the Volga Bulgarians, Kypchaks, and Alani.

In November 1237 Batu Khan sent his envoys to the court of Yuri II of Vladimir and demanded his allegiance. A month later, the hordes besieged Ryazan. After six days of the bloody battle, the city was totally annihilated, and never restored its former glory. Alarmed by the news, Yuri II sent his sons to detain the horde, but these were soundly defeated. Having burnt Kolomna and Moscow, the horde laid siege to Vladimir on February 4, 1238. Three days later the capital of Vladimir-Suzdal was taken and burnt to the ground. The royal family perished in the fire, while the grand prince hastily retreated northward. Crossing the Volga, he mustered a new army, which was totally exterminated by the Mongols on the Sit' River on March 4.

Thereupon Batu Khan divided his army into smaller units, which ransacked fourteen Rus' cities: Rostov, Uglich, Yaroslavl, Kostroma, Kashin, Ksnyatin, Gorodets, Galich, Pereslavl-Zalessky, Yuriev-Polsky, Dmitrov, Volokolamsk, Tver, and Torzhok. The most difficult to take was the small town of Kozelsk, whose boy-prince Titus and inhabitants resisted the Mongols for seven weeks. The only major cities to escape destruction was Smolensk, who submitted to the Mongols and agreed to pay tribute, and Novgorod with Pskov, which could not be reached by the Mongols on account of considerable distance and winter weather.

In the summer of 1238, Batu Khan devastated the Crimea and pacified Mordovia. In the winter of 1239, he sacked Chernigov and Pereyaslav. After several months of siege, the horde stormed Kyiv in December 1239. Despite fierce resistance of Danylo of Halych, Batu Khan managed to take two principal capitals of his land, Halych and Volodymyr-Volyns'kyi. The Rus' states were left as vassals rather than integrated into the central Asian empire.

Batu Khan then decided to "reach the ultimate sea", where the Mongols could proceed no further. Some modern historians speculate that Batu Khan intended primarily to assure his flanks were safe for the future from possible interference from the Europeans, and partially as a precursor to further conquest. Most believe he intended the conquest of all Europe, as soon as his flanks were safe, and his forces ready.

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.

This attack on Europe was planned and carried out by Subutai, under the nominal command of Batu. Subutai achieved perhaps his most lasting fame with his victories there. Having devastated the various Rus 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 two 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 Rus. While Kaidu's northern force won the Battle of Legnica 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.

By late 1241, Batu and Subutai were finishing plans to invade Austria, Italy and Germany, when the news came of the death of Ögedei Khan (died in December, 1241), and the Mongols withdrew in the late spring of 1242, as the Princes of the blood, and Subutai, were recalled to Karakorum where the kurultai was held. 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 did not have Subutai with him when he returnedSubutai had remained in Mongolia where he died in 1248and Batu's animosity to Guyuk Khan made any further European invasion impossible. He had to keep his troops ready in the event of attack from the East, as the deterioration of relations between the grandsons of Genghis Khan ultimately brought about the end of the Mongol Empire. After his return, Batu Khan established the capital of his khanate at Sarai on the lower Volga in 1242. He was planning new campaigns after Guyuk's death, (he was intent on carrying out Subutai's original plans to invade Europe) but he died in 1255 and the khanate passed to Sartaq. He decided against the invasion of Europe. The Kipchak Khanate ruled Russia through local princes for the next 230 years.

Berke did not share Batu's interest in conquering Europe. He was more interested in fighting his cousins, especially Hulagu, whom he loathed for destroying Baghdad. For Berke, a devout Muslim, what Hulagu had done was despicable, and in 1262, when Hulagu prepared to move on Egypt to avenge the defeat of his army (during his absence) at the Battle of Ain Jalut, Berke Khan had Kipchak raiding parties despoil lands considered part of the Il-Khanate. Enraged, Hulagu gathered his armies and marched north, and suffering severe defeat in an attempted invasion north of the Caucasus in 1263, after Berke Khan had lured him north, and away from the Holy Land.

The Kipchak Khanate was known in Rus and Europe as the Golden Horde some think because of the Golden colour of the Khan's tent. "Horde" comes from the Mongol word "orda/ordu" or camp. "Golden" is thought to have had a similar meaning to "royal" (Royal Camp). Of all the Khanates, the Golden Horde ruled longest. Long after the Yuan Dynasty 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.

Turkey, 1987, Batu Khan and flag of Golden Horde


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