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Dmitri Donskoy versus Mamay: A Russian army under Dmitri boldly crosses the Don River to engage a Mongol-Tatar army under Mamay. Delighted by Dmitri’s rash actions, Mamay attacks first, unaware of the Russian ambush force in the forest. Will Dmitri’s ambush force be able to enter the battle and swing the momentum before Mamay routs the Russian main force?
This celebrated Russian victory is difficult to place in its proper historical context because Russia was under Mongol-Tatar rule again within two years of this victory. Kotker argues the battle “made it clear Russia’s independence was bound to come” (1993: 31) but to whom was it clear that this was inevitable? Vernadsky (1953) does not write of Kulikovo as the monumental symbolic victory for Russian independence but merely a part of the plot towards such an ideal. The battle is most likely that.
Tactically, Kulikovo is a typical Russian battle from the middle ages in which the Russians deploy on terrain which secures their flanks and offers the possibility of concealing an ambush party (Heath, 1984: 83). Obviously, doctrine is an important aspect of military operations, both past and present, when analyzing commanders’ decisions and outcomes.
Reportedly, the Kulikovo battlefield was so congested that trampling and blunt pressure killed just as many men as weapons did (Kotker, 1993: 28). This is fitting because I spent many frustrating hours trying to properly fit all of the units into the cramped terrain. Hopefully, my figures for the strength of each army will not be vehemently opposed as my sources were very consistent. Heath – usually so sober in his figures – places the forces involved at no more than 150,000 Mongol-Tatars and 100,000 Russians with a 7:2 ratio being “fairly accurate” (1984: 87) which I sincerely hope is a typo.
– Jonathan Webb
Buganov, Victor Ivanovich. Kulikovskaia Bitva. Moscow: Pedagogica, 1985.
Halperin, Charles J. The Tatar Yoke. Columbus: Slavica, 1986.
De Hartog, Leo. Russia and the Mongol Yoke: The History of the Russian Principalities and the Golden Horde, 1221-1502. London: British Academic Press, 1996.
Heath, Ian. Armies of the Middle Ages Vol. 2: The Ottoman Empire, Eastern Europe and the Near East, 1300-1500. Sussex: Flexprint, 1984.
Kotker, Norman. “Kulikovo Field.” Military History Quarterly 6.1 (1993): 20-31.
Vernadsky, George. The Mongols and Russia. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1953.
Dmitri Donskoy: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Dmitri_Donskoy_140-190_for_collage.jpg
Map of Central Eurasia: http://kids.britannica.com/comptons/art-144283/At-its-greatest-extent-the-Golden-Horde-the-western-part
Map of the world: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_map_projections
Mongol-Tatar soldiers: http://www.dbaol.com/armies/army_154_figure_1.htm
Russian soldiers: http://www.dbaol.com/armies/army_157_figure_1.htm
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