Military Review

Battle of Kulikovo - Donskoy cunning

In 1380, Prince Dmitry Donskoy defeated the Mongol army under the leadership of Khan Mamai at the Kulikovo field. In some historical In his writings, you can read that Dmitry Donskoy did not lead the battle, that he gave up command altogether and went to the front ranks to fight like a simple warrior. Others in the description of the battle place the main emphasis on the heroism of the Russian army, thanks to him, they say, they won. At the same time, it is overlooked that the course of the battle was largely predetermined by the strategic moves of the Moscow prince.

Those who focus on heroism lose sight of the fact that the heroism of some is often a consequence of the stupidity of others. So in 1237, the Ryazan prince with his squad went into the open field to meet Batu, there, in fact, there was no battle, just the beating of the heroic Ryazan army. And the battle on Kalka, when almost the 90 thousandth Russian army met the 30 thousandth Tatar army, half of the Russian army was killed, and nothing good. So in the story with Dmitry Donskoy, a great role was played not by his personal heroism and not by the courage of the Russian army, but, first of all, by Dmitry's genius and strategic talent, who won the battle before it even began.

Strategic deception

Throughout history, any army, especially the defending one, has tried to rise in the heights. It is always more convenient to defend from a height, especially against cavalry troops. The prince was the first to enter the Kulikovo field, but did not occupy the height, he left it to Mamai. Mamai accepted this “sacrifice” and already then lost the battle. It is even strange that such an experienced commander did not think about why he was presented with the dominant height. Dmitry did this so that Mamai could watch and was sure that he could see. And he did not see the main things: the ravines in front of the Russian right flank, the ambush regiment sheltered by the forest, did not understand the asymmetry and weakness of the flanks of the Russian rati.
Battle of Kulikovo - Donskoy cunning

The effect of advanced shelf

For the first time in history before the head regiment, Dmitry Donskoy put forward an advanced regiment slightly ahead, a very dubious at first glance protection in 3-5 thousand people. What role should he perform? Was it worth it to attach to the head?

In order to understand this, you can refer to the circus number. Its essence is as follows: the hero knocks the stone with a hammer, it cracks or splits under the blow. Dale is put on the table of a man and covered with a thin stone slab, the same Hammer striker now beats the slab, it shatters into pieces, and the man rises from under it unscathed. At the moment of impact, the plate evenly distributes the impact force over its entire area. Instead of a powerful blow, only some uniform pressure is transmitted to a person.

We don’t know how Dmitriy thought of turning the Mongolian cavalry’s swift strike into the usual weakened pressure on the center of the Russian army, without violating its structure. But we have to admit, he applied this technique very skillfully.

Mamai - Dmitri's ally?

Mamai thought he saw everything from the hill. And he clearly saw that the weakest flank of the Russian army was the right one. He was not numerous and stretched for quite a long distance. In the center, on the contrary, there was the bulk of the Russian army: the forward, head and spare regiments.

The battle plan was born by itself: to break through the right flank and go to the rear of the main Russian forces, surround them, bring panic into the ranks and destroy. And Mamai originally sent his cavalry to the regiment of his right hand. And then he ran into the first “gift” that Dmitry had prepared for him. The positions of the Russian troops were two rows of ravines, which simply could not be seen from the hill. Moreover, even the horsemen themselves noticed the ravines, only standing in front of them closely.

Thousands of cavalry in a broad front at a decent speed flies into a ravine. Rear horsemen are pushing at the front, it is impossible to step aside - the offensive is going on a broad front. Already before the collision with the Russian Tatars suffer losses. Instead of a swift raid, cavalry is slowly moving up to ... the second row of ravines.

And this is a small victory. Horsemen first descend into a ravine, then slowly rise one by one from it and stumble upon a squad of princely squads, who calmly one by one, methodically beating up these emerging riders. Mamai's army suffers heavy losses, its best batyrs die, the tempo of attack is lost. After 1-2 hours of such beatings, Mamai takes the second point of Dmitry Donskoy’s plan to “get stuck” in a critical mass in the center of the Russian army.

Trick prince

After that, none of the historians really could not explain why the prince, before the battle, wore a simple chainmail war, and gave his cloak and banner to the boyar Mikhail Brenko. But this was one of the moments that later led to the first turning point in the course of the battle: the balancing of forces in the center and the loss of the offensive outburst here by the Tatars.

The prince knew the Horde army well, the methods of conducting the battle, and the generals of the enemy. He was confident that the tactical offensive impulse, each individual commander will be sent to him, the Russian commander, to his banner. That is exactly what happened, the Tatars, regardless of the losses, were hacked to the flag, and it was impossible to stop their outburst, the boyar was hacked up, and the banner was knocked down.

Historically, the loss of the commander and the flag, death or flight led to a psychological change, followed by the defeat of the army. It turned out differently; the Tatars turned out to be paralyzed. Thinking that they killed the commander, they published victorious shouts, many even chopped off, their pressure began to fade. But the Russians did not even think about stopping the battle, they knew that the Tatars were wrong!

Outfit troops

Let's return to the advanced regiment. He took upon himself the very first and most terrible blow of the Mongolian cavalry, but this did not mean that all his warriors were doomed to death. Foot soldiers can resist cavalry. For example, you can put a "wall" of copies. Several rows of warriors, armed with spears of different lengths (at the front they are shorter, at the back - longer) that end at the same distance in front of the line. In this case, the advancing cavalry encounters not one spear, which he can deflect with a shield or chop, but stumbles upon 3-4 and one of them can achieve his goal. The warriors' bodies were also well protected. The so-called “blue armor” of the squad from Veliky Ustyug was not inferior in its qualities to the armor of the Genoese knights who fought on the side of the Horde.

The prince himself during the battle was not even wounded, although he fought in the front ranks of the troops. And it's not just in the skill and power of Dmitry Donskoy. The enemy simply could not hit him when he took a sword or spear. His mail was forged from the best grades of metal. A plate of metal plates was worn over the chain mail, and a simple warrior was disguised over all this chain mail. He was hacked, stabbed, beaten, but no one was able to cut through all three layers of his armor.

But any blows are blows. The prince’s helmet was dented in several places; by the end of the battle, Dmitry was in a state of deep concussion, perhaps it was the cause of his early death at the age of 39. But at the same time not one Russian soldier did not see that the prince was bleeding, he did not give such a psychological loss to the Tatars.

Mamai gets trapped

The battle is already 4-5 hours. Mamai sees that there is a dead end in the center, a wall of the dead is formed between the living, a critical mass has worked, Mamai sees this from a hill and gives the order to transfer the blow to the left flank. And even in spite of the fatigue factor, the Tatars are already offensive for several hours, both people and horses are tired, their pressure is still strong. The numerical advantage affects, and the regiment of the left hand begins to retreat, bend under the onslaught of the Tatars, retreat to the oak grove. The numerical advantage on the side of the attackers, it seems to Mamai from the hill, he does not see the Ambush regiment beyond the oak grove.

But it is from the top that you can see how the Russian regiments are moving farther and farther back, how a gap appears, into which you can throw troops and go around the Russians to the left and strike them to the rear. And Mamai makes his last mistake. Directs to the breakthrough all the reserves at his disposal. The regiment of the left hand is rejected, the Tatars rush forward, accumulate and unfold to strike at the flank and rear of the central regiments, leaving the rear for the Ambush regiment open. The prince’s plan was completely successful; the Tatars turned back to the main strike force of the Russian troops. The strike of the fresh cavalry of the ambush regiment was fatal for the Tatars. Army Mamaia turns into uncontrollable flight.
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  1. Ungern Sternberg
    Ungern Sternberg April 26 2011 06: 24
    Respect to the author .. Excellent article ..
    Yes .. It was the talent of Prince Dmitry that allowed me to win this great victory ...

    Regarding heroism ..
    The Monogl militia was better prepared than the Russian militia. And in the rifle training they were a cut above .. And Dmitry knew that .. And he was able to use the situation to the maximum. By the way, the Russian army knew that Don was behind and if they wavered and run, then rather they’ll be chopped off on the shore ..

    In the battle on the river Kalka, Russians and Polovtsians were more likely to be about 80 thousand ..
    But the Mongols were not 30 thousand.
    Firstly. The Tumen-Mughal corps numbered about ten "thousand". That is, about 10 thousand soldiers. In practice, there were fewer ... because. "thousand" did not always include 1000 warriors; usually fewer.
    Only 2 corps were Mongol under the command of Jebe and Subudey .. Two of the best Mongol commanders. They fought Iran, Georgia, defeated the Alans and Polovtsy .. It is unlikely that they had all 20 soldiers .. And the third corps consisted of a core Mongol, with the non-mongols who joined them ..
    And he connected with the Mongols shortly before the battle ..
    approx. 20-25 thousand Mongols ..
    In the annals it is said that one of the uncle of Russian warriors returned home.
    As for the Polovtsy who fled first, they obviously died less ..
    Jebe and Subudei went to the Bulgar, where they were beaten, and then through the Kipchak steppes after a 4-year campaign they joined their ..
    Bulgar for this was wiped off the face of the earth by Munk Khan 13 years later ..
  2. Joker
    Joker April 26 2011 11: 58
    Ungern Sternberg,
    See the chronology of Fomenko, in any case, having information from several alternative sources is easier to generalize and draw up your vision, including the one in our history.
    1. Alex
      Alex 16 June 2014 12: 26
      Quote: Joker
      See the chronology of Fomenko
      This is absolutely not recommended to be done - you will become a little kid ... lol
  3. Vend
    Vend 17 June 2014 12: 56
    Curious theory. The first time I read about this. Good article. You only forgot about the guard regiment. He was the first to hit. Then he moved to the flanks.
  4. Kromeshnik24
    Kromeshnik24 1 October 2016 16: 29
    Good article, just about the wrong person. All this should have been addressed to the remarkable commander and warrior who had not lost a single battle, Prince Dmitry Mikhailovich Bobrok-Volynsky. He entered the service of Dmitry of Moscow in the mid-70s, already being an accomplished and recognized commander. In this regard, the glory of "magician" and "sorcerer" followed him. And Dmitry, in order to keep him in Moscow, even married him to his sister. In 1378, in the battle on Vozha, against the troops of the Tatar Murza Begich, Dmitry built the Russian troops exactly as Bobrok advised. And on the Kulikovo field - the scheme of the formation of the regiments, the battle plan and the place of the Ambush Regiment were also determined by Prince Bobrok. There is no need to remind anyone that the outcome of the battle in our favor was decided by the timely attack of the selected warriors from the ambush. And the Ambush Regiment was commanded by princes Bobrok and Vladimir Andreevich "Brave" Serpukhovskoy, two people, each of whom, in his military abilities, was a head taller than the Donskoy. By the way, Vladimir Andreevich received the nickname "Brave" long before the battle of Kulikovo, and that means something. And after the Kulikov field, the people, along with Dmitry, called him Donskoy. Without denying Dmitry's personal courage, I cannot consider him a talented commander, this is evidenced by the campaigns that the Moscow troops made without his participation - to Bulgaria, to Kolomna captured by the Ryazan prince Oleg, etc. Finally, the flight from Tokhtamysh to Kostroma is not too far ? I put the death of Donskoy from the consequences of a shell shock in third place, after death from obesity, the Grand Duke "... was overweight ..." and the abuse of intoxicated honey and overseas wines. By the way, the death of the close boyar Mikhail Andreevich Brenk (childhood friend), a strong and experienced warrior, who put on not only a cloak, but also Dmitry's gilded helmet and armor, happened to a large extent due to the fact that the equipment of the Grand Duke was small in height and large in size, which inevitably constrained movement. Apart from the ethical side of this disguise, I do not see much sense in the desire to fight as a simple warrior. It would seem much more logical to take command of the Ambush Regiment, intended to decide the fate of the battle.
    The author’s words about what Mamai saw from Red Hill also amused him. In my opinion, there is a distance of about 5 km to the battlefield. What could he see? Puffs of dust and through them a dark strip of human masses? If only Mamaia ... had no modern optics ...
  5. bratchanin3
    bratchanin3 16 October 2016 08: 18
    The glorious history of the Russian army and the vast experience of battles! Well, where are the Americans tossing around? Again the mouse face will be cleaned.