В previous article we examined the working methods of strategic intelligence of the Mongol empire.
Let's try to analyze what the Russian princes knew about the upcoming war and the likely enemy on the eve of the invasion.
So, in 1235, at the general Kurultai of the leaders of the Mongol Empire, a decision was made to carry out a campaign to the west - to Europe, with the aim of expanding the Juchi ulus. In 1236, the united forces of the empire during the lightning campaign finally defeated the Volga Bulgaria, seven years before that restrained the Mongols' onslaught to the west. All its large cities were destroyed, most of them were never recreated in their former place. The empire came close to the borders of Russia.
The Russian princes, of course, could not help but be aware of the events taking place directly near the borders of their possessions, but we are not aware of any intelligence or diplomatic measures that could be carried out by them in order to protect their lands. Nevertheless, the analysis of documents of those times, in particular, the notes of Julian of Hungary mentioned in the previous article, as well as the analysis of indirect annals, allow us to conclude that such events were carried out, although not with absolute success.
Travels of Julian of Hungary
The records of Julian of Hungary are especially interesting, since the last time he visited Russia just before the invasion began and personally communicated in Suzdal with Grand Duke Yuri Vsevolodovich. The mission, by the way, was very peculiar: Julian was looking for ethnic relatives in eastern Europe, namely pagan Hungarians, who, according to legend, remained in their ancestral home, somewhere in the region of the Ural Mountains, which he was going to convert to Christianity. As part of this mission, he made two trips.
The first is in 1235-1236. through Constantinople, Matarch (Tmutarakan, modern Taman) and further up the Don and Volga north to the Volga Bulgaria, where, probably, in the territory of modern Bashkiria, I found those whom I was looking for: people who speak the “Hungarian” language, whom he he understood perfectly and who understood him. Julian returned from his first trip to Europe through Vladimir, Ryazan and Galich and at the beginning of 1237 appeared with a report to the Hungarian King Bela IV.
His second journey began in the same 1237, in the fall. This time, he decided to head towards his goal directly through the Russian lands, apparently, this way seemed to him safer. However, having arrived in Suzdal, he learned that all territories east of the Volga, including the entire Volga Bulgaria, had already been captured and brutally ravaged by the Mongols, and that his mission to convert the "pagan Hungarians" to Christianity was no longer relevant. If Julian returned to Hungary with the usual route through Ryazan, then he could miss the Mongols literally in days, since the Mongol invasion of Ryazan lands began in November 1237, and Ryazan itself was besieged in December.
Researchers highly appreciate the reliability of the notes of Julian of Hungary, because they are executed in a dry, "official" style and are purely business reports about his trips, recalling in style (especially the report of the second trip, the most informative) intelligence reports.
What Monk Julian Told
Julian himself did not meet with the Mongols, unlike the Plano Karpini, and could only get all the information about them from a third person, namely from the Russian prince Yuri Vsevolodovich, with whom he spoke literally on the eve of the invasion, in the late autumn of 1237. To a large extent, he the notes are a reflection of how the Russians imagined the Mongols and what they knew and thought of them. Here is what Julian writes about the Mongols:
I will tell you the truth about the war as follows. They say that they shoot (meaning the Mongols. - Auth.) Further than other peoples can. At the first collision in the war, their arrows, as they say, do not fly, but as if pouring downpour. Swords and spears, they are rumored to fight less skillfully. They build their structure in such a way that at the head of ten people there is one Tatar, and one hundred over one hundred people. This was done with such cunning reckoning that the incoming scouts could not hide among them, and if in the war it happened to somehow retire to any of them, so that you could replace him without delay, and people gathered from different languages and peoples, could not commit any betrayal. In all the conquered kingdoms, they immediately kill princes and nobles, who inspire fears that they might someday put up any resistance. They are suitable for the battle of soldiers and settlers, having armed, they are sent against the will in battle ahead of themselves. The other villagers, less able to fight, are left to cultivate the land, and the wives, daughters and relatives of those people who were driven into battle and who were killed are divided among those left to cultivate the land, appointing each twelve or more, and oblige those people from now on called Tatars. But to the soldiers who are driven into battle, even if they fight well and win, gratitude is not great; if they die in battle, there is no concern for them, but if they retreat in battle, they are mercilessly killed by the Tatars. Therefore, when fighting, they prefer to die in battle than under the swords of the Tatars, and fight braver so as not to live longer but die sooner.
As you can see, the information set forth by Julian is quite consistent with our historical materials, although in some cases they commit inaccuracies. The art of the Mongols in archery is noted, but their troops are insufficiently prepared for hand-to-hand combat. They also noted their tough organization on the principle of ten, pursuing goals related to counterintelligence (so that incoming intelligence officers could not hide among them), which also tells us that the Mongols themselves practiced such intelligence. The well-known practice of the Mongols to include representatives of conquered peoples in their army was also noted. That is, we can conclude that the Russian princes still had a general idea of who they were dealing with in the person of the Mongols.
But the very next phrase in Julian’s letter sheds light on one of the reasons for the catastrophe that Russia befell literally weeks after the conversation between Julian and Yuri Vsevolodovich.
They do not attack the fortified castles, but at first they devastate the country and rob the people and, having gathered the people of that country, they drive to battle to besiege his castle.
The Russian prince, until the very end, did not understand that he was faced not just with the next steppe horde, but with an organized and excellently managed army, which was able to storm well-fortified cities. If the prince had information about the Mongols having advanced (at that time) siege equipment and competent personnel to manage it, perhaps he would have chosen a different defense strategy for his lands, not relying on the possibility of delaying the invasion by the need for the Mongols to carry out numerous long sieges of Russian cities . Of course, he knew that such a technique existed: the capture of Yuryev was already taking place in his memory, where the Germans used the most advanced siege technique of that time. About this he should have been told the very only Russian defender Yuryev left by the Germans alive, sent by them to him with news of the capture of the city. However, Yuri Vsevolodovich simply could not assume the presence of such equipment in the Mongols. If even the Bulgarian cities showed fierce resistance to the Mongols, forcing them to use heavy siege equipment, the prince could even change or adjust his decisions at the last moment, but, unfortunately, the Bulgarian cities did not show serious resistance to the Mongols, for example, their capital Bulgar was abandoned by the inhabitants even before the arrival of the Batumen tumens.
Julian’s next phrase also speaks more about poor Russian intelligence on the eve of the invasion:
Their troops do not write you anything about the size of their entire army, except that from all the kingdoms they conquered, they drive warriors who are ready for battle in front of them.
That is, the Russians did not even imagine how many enemy soldiers they would encounter, although they generally outlined the location of the Mongol troops, because Julian mentions somewhat higher in his letter:
Now, being on the borders of Russia, we closely learned the real truth that all the troops going to Western countries are divided into four parts. One part near the Etil River (Volga) on the borders of Russia from the eastern edge approached Suzdal. Another part in a southerly direction was already attacking the borders of Ryazan, another Russian principality. The third part stopped against the Don River, near the Voronezh castle, also a Russian principality. As the Russians themselves, the Hungarians and Bulgars, who had fled before them, verbally passed on to us, they are waiting for the land, rivers and swamps to freeze with the coming winter, after which it will be easy for the whole set of Tatars to plunder all of Russia, the whole Russian country.
It is noteworthy that the Russians, having the correct idea of the deployment of the troops of the Mongols, of their plans to attack Russia immediately after the freezing, had absolutely no idea of their strength and equipment. This may indicate that the Russian princes and governors did not neglect intelligence at all, but were limited only to military intelligence and the questioning of refugees, having absolutely no intelligence information about the enemy.
I think it would not be an exaggeration to say that in terms of intelligence, as, indeed, and many other aspects of military activity, the Mongol Empire was ahead of Europe and Russia as its smallest by a few steps.
The last thing I would like to say is about where the “wild Mongols” came from with such deep and fundamental knowledge, skills that enabled them to get ahead of Europe so much.
It should be understood that in the XIII century. Europe was by no means the Europe that it will become in three centuries. That technical and technological superiority, which it will demonstrate centuries later, was just emerging (rather preparing to be born) in the crucible of numerous wars and conflicts of that time. The East, the Middle, and the Far, were at a much higher stage of cultural development. In fact, Europe was just a large peninsula on the northwestern edge of the inhabited oikumena, not too comfortable for life, not too developed industrially and culturally. One word - the outskirts of the world, nothing more.
China, which was the intellectual base for the Mongol Empire, far surpassed Europe in cultural and technical terms, and the same can be said about the countries of the Near and Middle East, conquered by the Mongols and included in the empire.
For clarity, to understand the difference in the levels of cultural development of Asia and Europe, we can compare the samples of literary work of representatives of one and the other part of the world.
Many readers, although they themselves do not suspect it, know a vivid example of the work of the Chinese poet, as well as the statesman Su Dong-po, or Su Shi, who lived in China in the 950th century. This is the song "Boat" performed by Konstantin Kinchev. Listen to the text of this song, it was written about XNUMX years ago, and then for comparison read the text “Songs of Roland” or “The Word of Igor’s Regiment”, written after a good hundred years on the other side of the globe. In no way would I like to belittle the artistic merits of both works, but the difference between them and the poetic works of a Chinese official seems so striking that it seems to be the best illustration of the thesis about the general lag of Europe from Asia during the Middle Ages.
The quotation from the famous treatise of the Chinese author Sun Tzu, “The Art of War”, is also not accidentally put out in the epigraph to this study (see the first part). The Mongols, having constant contact with China, undoubtedly realized the cultural superiority of the latter and, of course, were greatly influenced by it. Genghis Khan's military and political genius managed to direct the penetration of Chinese culture into the Mongolian environment along a somewhat peculiar path, but as a result this penetration was significantly accelerated and in the end was the very cementing force that managed to unite and subjugate the vast territory from the Pacific Ocean to the Danube and unite Carpathians.
And when the Mongolian tumens appeared on the fields of Europe, she started with horror not because the Mongols showed unprecedented cruelty (Europeans themselves were no less cruel to each other), not because there were so many of these Mongols (there were many but not terribly many), but because these same "savages", nomads demonstrated unattainable for Europeans discipline, unity, controllability, technical equipment and organization. They were just more civilized.