Kulikovo, Battle of 1380

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Kulikovo, Battle of (1380)


a battle fought on Kulikovo Field in 1380 by Russian forces led by Dmitrii Ivanovich Donskoi, grand prince of Vladimir and Moscow, against the MongolTatars headed by the ruler of the Golden Horde, Mamai.

Moscow led the struggle against the Mongol-Tatars for the liberation from the rule of the Golden Horde. In 1378 troops of the Moscow principality defeated Begich’s Tatar host on the Vozha River. Mamai decided to break the growing power of Russia and to increase its dependence on the Horde. He raised an army of between 100,000 and 150,000 men, which included, in addition to Mongol-Tatars, detachments of Circassians, Ossetians, Armenians, and several other peoples of the Volga region, as well as detachments of Genoese mercenaries from the Crimea.

The Lithuanian Grand Duke Jagetto was allied with Mamai; Jagetto’s army followed the Oka to make contact with Mamai, who approached the Oka from the south. Some chroniclers also report that Oleg Ivanovich, grand prince of Riazan’, also fought on Mamai’s side.

When Dmitrii Ivanovich learned in late July about the Mongol-Tatars’ movement, he sent out an appeal to raise Russian forces in Moscow and Kolomna. The 100,000 to 150,000 Rus-sian troops that gathered in these areas were homogeneous. The troops nucleus was made up of Muscovites, mostly young artisans and peasants without combat experience; in addition there were warriors from other lands that recognized the authority of the Moscow prince, as well as Ukrainian and Byelorussian detachments. Warriors of the lands of Novgorod, Tver’, Nizhny Novgorod, Riazan’, and Smolensk did not participate in the campaign.

The plan of the campaign was to cross the Oka without waiting for Mamai to make contact with his allies at that river and to move to the encounter with the enemy on the upper Don. The troops moved in August and early September. On the morning of September 8 the Russian regiments crossed from the left bank to the right bank of the Don at the point where the Nepriadva River flows into it and deployed on Kulikovo Field. The forward line was held by the leading regiment; immediately behind was a large supporting regiment, and the right-hand and left-hand flanks were held by other regiments; the reserve cavalry was in the rear. An ambush (reserve) regiment, commanded by Prince Vladimir Andreevich Khrabryi and Prince D. M. Bobrokl’olynskii, deployed behind the left flank in the forest. The rear of the Russian troops was covered by the Don and Nepriadva Rivers and deep ravines; such a position made retreat impossible, but at the same time it hampered any enveloping maneuvers by the Mongol-Tatar cavalry. Mamai’s army was deployed in line formation—the cavalry was deployed in the first line and the infantry in the second line.

The battle opened with a duel between two warriors, Peresvet and Chelubei, both of whom died in the fight. After that the Tatar cavalry crushed the forward regiment and began pressing the large supporting regiment; the Russians suffered great losses; the boyar Mikhail Brenok, who fought in the supporting regiment clad in the armor of the grand prince and under his banner, was killed. Grand Prince Dmitrii fought in the same regiment in the armor of a soldier among the rank and file. The pressure of the Mongol-Tatars in the center was halted when the Russian reserve was introduced. Mamai shifted the main strike to the left flank and began pressing the Russian regiments. But when fresh Russian forces from the ambush regiment struck an unexpected powerful blow at the rear and flank of the Tatar host and when the other Russian regiments went over to the offensive, Mamai’s host was decisively routed. The Russians pursued and destroyed the remnants of the host over a distance of 50 km from Kulikovo Field.

The battle of Kulikovo was of great historic significance in the struggle of the Russian people and other peoples against Mongol-Tatar oppression. Although this battle did not mark the end of the Mongol-Tatar yoke in Russia, it struck a powerful blow at the rule of the Golden Horde and contributed to its subsequent disintegration. An important consequence of the battle was a strengthening of Moscow’s role in the formation of the Russian state. In 1848 a monument was erected on Krasnyi Hill, the site of Mamai’s headquarters.


Polnoe sobranie russkikh letoposei, vols. 5-6, 8, 11, 18, 23, 25-28. St. Petersburg-Moscow-Leningrad, 1851-1963.
Povesti o Kulikovskoi bitve. Moscow, 1959.


Grekov, B. D., and A. lu. lakubovskii. Zolotaia Orda i ee padenie. Moscow-Leningrad, 1950.
Tikhomirov, M. N. “Kulikovskaia bitva 1380g.” Voprosy istorii, 1955, no. 8.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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