Batu Khan

Batu Khan (/ˈbɑːtuː ˈkɑːn/; Mongolian: Бат хан, Russian: хан Батый; c. 1207–1255) was a Mongol ruler and founder of the Ulus of Jochi (or golden horde), the sub-khanate of the Mongol Empire. Batu was a son of Jochi and grandson of Genghis Khan. His ulus was the chief state of 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. "Batu" or "Bat" literally means "firm" in the Mongolian language. After the deaths of Genghis Khan's sons, he became the most respected prince called agha (elder brother) in the Mongol Empire.

Early years

After his son Jochi's death, Genghis assigned the latter's appanages to his sons. But the Great Khan installed Batu as Khan of the Ulus of Jochi. He had an elder brother Orda Khan who agreed that Batu should succeed his father. Genghis Khan's youngest brother Temuge attended the coronation ceremony as an official representative of Genghis. When Genghis Khan died in 1227, he left 4,000 Mongol men to Jochi's family. 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 Horde ruled the lands west of the Volga.

In 1229, Ogedei dispatched 3 tumens under Kukhdei and Sundei to conquer the tribes on the lower Ural. According to Abulghazi, Batu joined Ogedei's military campaign against the jin dynasty in North China while his younger brother was fighting the Bashkirs, the Cumans, the Bulghars and the Alans in the west. Despite heavy resistance of their enemies, the Mongols conquered major cities of the Jurchens and made the Bashkirs their ally. In 1230's Ogedei distributed lands in Shanxi , China to Batu and the family of Jochi, but they appointed their officials under the supervision of the Imperial governor likewise in Khorasan, Persia.

Conquest of Rus

After the end of the Mongol-Jin War, the Great Khan Ogedei ordered Batu to conquer western nations at the kurultai in Mongolia. 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. His relatives and cousins Guyuk, Büri, Mongke, Khulgen, Khadan, Baidar and notable Mongol generals Subutai (Subeedei), Borolday and Mengguser joined him by the order of his uncle Ogedei. 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. When Yuri refused to surrender the Mongols 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. As the story goes, at the news of Mongol approach, a city of Kitezh was submerged into a lake with all its inhabitants, where it may be seen to this day. Khadan and Buri stormed the city in three days after they joined Batu. 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 marshlands.

When Batu drank a cup of wine before the others at the victory banquet, Buri complained of the unfairness of Batu receiving such a vast and fertile steppe and the Mongol army, and, along with Guyuk and others, ridiculed Batu as an old woman with beard. Then they left the banquet. Batu sent an envoy to his uncle Ogedei to complain of his cousins' rude behavior. Ogedei, who got angry on hearing the news, recalled Buri and Guyuk. According to some sources, Buri, who was sent to his grandfather Chagatai, never returned to join the Mongol conquest of Europe. But Guyuk came to Russian steppe again after his father Ogedei harshly criticized him.

In the summer of 1238, Batu Khan devastated the Crimea and pacified Mordovia and Kipchak controlled steppe. In the winter of 1239, he sacked Chernigov and Pereyaslav. After several days of siege, the Mongols stormed Kiev in December 1240. Despite fierce resistance of Danylo of Halych, Batu Khan managed to take two principal capitals of his land, Halych and Volodymyr-Volyns'kyi. Ruthenian principalities became vassals of the Mongol Empire.

Invasion of Central Europe

The Cuman refugees took shelter in the Kingdom of Hungary. Batu sent more than 5 messengers to Bela IV, the king of Hungary but they all died. For the last time Batu demanded that Bela have the Cumans returned and warned "It is much easier for the Cumans to escape than it is for you. . . you dwell in houses and have fixed towns and fortresses, so how will you escape me". Batu Khan then decided to "reach the ultimate sea", where the Mongols could proceed no further. Some modern historians speculate that Batu 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.

Having devastated the various Rus principalities, Subutai and Batu 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, they brilliantly prepared an attack. Batu Khan 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. The Mongols invaded central Europe in three groups. One group conquered Poland, defeating a combined force under Henry II 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 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. While the northern force under Ogedei's son Khadan and Baidar, the son of Chagatai, won the Battle of Legnica and another army of Guyuk or Büri triumphed in Transylvania, Subutai was waiting for another victory over the Magyars, the Croats and the Templars on the Hungarian plain. In 1241, a Tatar (Mongol) army led by Bujek crossed the mountains of the Kara Ulagh ("Black Vlachs"); Bujek defeated the Vlachs and one of their leader named Mišlav. After the siege of Pest Batu's army withdrew to the Sajo River where they inflicted the tremendous defeat on King Béla IV and his allies at the Battle of Mohi on April 11. Khadan, Baidar and Orda came to Hungary, devastating Moravia en route. The Mongols appointed a darughachi in Hungary and minted coins in the name of Khagan. According to Michael Prawdin, the country of Bela was assigned to Orda by Batu as an appanage. Batu sent Khadan in pursuit of Bela who fled to Croatia.

The Mongol battalions checked the forces of the Holy Roman Empire and Babenberg Austria. During his campaign in Central Europe, Batu demanded that Frederick II, the Holy Roman Emperor dethrone himself, and said "I am coming to usurp your throne instead of you". The latter only replied that he would make a good falconer, for he understood birds very well. The Emperor and Pope Gregory IX called crusade against the Mongol Empire, but Europe was plagued by internal strife. Subutai achieved perhaps his most lasting fame with his victories in Europe as did he in Eastern Persia.

By late 1241, Batu and Subeedei were finishing plans to invade Austria, Italy and Germany, when the news came of the death of Ögedei Khan (died in December, 1241). Batu wanted to continue the war, but Subeedei reminded him the law of Yassa (Их Засаг). 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. The Second Bulgarian Empire was forced to acknowledge Batu's supremacy. Batu was a potential Great Khan. When he failed to win this he would turn to consolidate his conquests in Asia and the Urals.

Viceroy and struggle with Guyuk

Withdrawing from Hungary, Batu made his camps along the Banks of the Volga. When the Great Khatun Toregene invited him to elect the next Emperor of the Mongol Empire, Batu announced his inability to attend any immediate kurultai, thus delaying the succession for several years. Eventually, Guyuk was elected Khagan in 1246, with Batu's brothers representing the Jochid lineage.

As one of the oldest members of Chingisid Borjigin, Batu became a viceroy over all the western parts of the empire, controlling routine affairs among the Russian princes, nominating Jochid retainers as governors of Iran, and receiving in audience grandees from the Caucasus. At no point, however, did he openly challenge the authority of the Great Khan.

During the absence of Batu, the Mongols who were left behind put to death Mstislav, the prince of Rylsk, in the Ukraine. On his return Batu summoned the Grand prince Yaroslav II of Vladimir to meet him. Yaroslav was well received by Batu, who confirmed him as suzerain over the other Russian princes, and gave him authority of Kiev. The princes of Suzdal followed Yaroslav's example. Batu sent Yaroslav to the imperial court of Karakorum and to assist at the inauguration of Guyuk Khan in 1246. Plano Carpini, who got approval from Batu to go further, noted that the Great Khan's aunt was executed. At the same time Yaroslav was poisoned in Mongolia.

Batu had commissaries in the various towns where the dependent Russian princes and other princes held their courts. The princes from Russian states such as Vladimir Constantine, Boris, Gleb, Vasili, Constatantine, Vladimir Constantinovich, Vasil'ko and Sviatoslav Vsevolodovich of Vladimir, went to the court of Batu in person. When Michael of Chernigov, who had murdered the Mongol envoy in Kiev earlier, arrived the Mongol overseers were engaged in taking a census of the inhabitants for the poll tax. Michael was ordered to repair to Batu. When summoned before Batu, he was made to pass between two fires and ordered to prostrate himself before the tablets of Chingis Khan. Michael replied that he did not object to do obeisance to Batu himself but to adore images of dead man was repugnant. As he persisted in his refusal, Batu ordered him to death.

Danylo from Galich summoned to Batu and diplomatically made obeisance to the Mongols. Batu, addressing him, said "You have for a long time refused to come, but have effaced your ill conduct by your obedience" and saluted him with a draught of airag. After the defeat of the Sultanate of Rum, Baiju freed David VII Ulu from Turkish imprisonment and sent him to Batu and Guyuk. Fearing Baiju's aggressive policy, Queen Rusudan of Georgia sent her son David VI Narin to Batu's court to get official recognition as heir apparent. Batu supported David VI and granted him the rights above the Georgian and Armenian nobles and the Mongol tammachis. But Guyuk made David Ulu the senior king of Georgia and ordered Batu's protege David Narin to be subordinate to David Ulu.

Suspicion between Batu and Guyuk increased, however, and Guyuk replaced the officials in Iran and the Caucasus with his own men,including Eljigidei. Guyuk gave a good reception to Alexander Nevsky and Andrey II. Andrey was assigned the throne of Vladimir-Suzdal while Alexander was given southern Russia. When Guyuk began moving west, Sorghaghtani Beki, the widow of Tolui, warned Batu that he was actually the Great Khan's target. When Guyuk summoned Batu to appear before him, Batu moved slowly. Before meeting Batu, Guyuk died suddenly. According to William of Rubruck and a muslim chronicle, Batu then killed the imperial envoy, and one of his brothers murdered or poisoned the Great Khan Guyuk. But this account is not completely confirmed by other major sources.

Mongke and Batu

An opportunity had arrived for deposing the House of Ogedei from the overlordship of the Mongols, and Batu was determined to avail himself of it. But Batu seems to allow Oghul Ghaimish to serve as regent. He also suggested unruly princes listen to her words. When Batu was ill, Mongke went to the Ulus of Jochi to greet him as his mother Sorghagtani advised. Batu was much delighted on seeing him.

At last, Batu called a kurultai on his own territory in 1250. Members of the Ogedeid and Chagataid families refused to attend the kurultai that was held beyond the Mongolian heartland. The kurultai offered the throne to Batu Khan who had no interest in promoting himself as the new Grand Khan. Rejecting it, he instead nominated Mongke who led a Mongol army in Russia, Northern Caucasus and Hungary. The pro-Tolui faction rose up and supported his choice. Given its limited attendance and location, this kurultai was of questionable validity. Batu sent Mongke under the protection of his brothers, Berke and Tukhtemur, and his son Sartaq to assemble a formal kurultai at Kodoe Aral in the heartland. The supporters of Mongke invited Oghul Ghaimish and other main Ogedeid and Chagataid princes to attend the kurultai but they refused each time, demanding descendants of Ogedei must be khan. In response to it, Batu accused them of killing his aunt Altalaun and defying Ogedei's nominee, Shiremun. After the assembled throng proclaimed Mongke Great Khan of the Mongol Empire in 1251, he punished the Ogedeid and Chagataid families for the organized plot against him. Mongke sent Buri to Batu who had him executed by Buri's opponent general. Eljigidei was ordered to be executed.

The Grand prince Andrey II allied with the rebellious minded princes of western Rus, giving umbrage to the Mongols. Batu sent a punitive expedition under Nevrui. On their approach, Andrey fled to Pskov, and thence to Sweden. The Mongols spread over Vladimir and harshly punished the people there. The Livonian Knights stopped their advance to Novgorod and Pskov on hearing the news about the Mongols. Thanks to his friendship with Sartaq, Alexander was installed as the Grand Prince of Vladimir (i. e. , the supreme Russian ruler) by Batu in 1252. In 1256 Andrey travelled to Sarai to ask pardon for his former infidelity and was shown mercy.

During the reign of Mongke, Batu's prestige as kingmaker and the great khans' viceroy in the west reached its height. Even so, Batu allowed Mongke's census takers to operate freely in his realm. According to a muslim chronicle and the history of yuan dynasty, Batu had free access to the imperial treasury. Of all the grandsons of Chinggis Khaan, he and Mongke seemed most capable and the most dedicated to following the spirit of Mongolian law.

He dispatched a large Jochid delegation to participate in Hulegu's expedition in the Middle East. However, Berke's persuasion might force him to delay to strengthen Hulegu's force, little suspecting that it would result in eliminating the Jochid predominance there, for few years.

Batu, Mongke and other princely lines shared rule over the area from Afghanistan to Turkey. He left state affairs to his son Sartaq before Batu died in 1256.

Family and Legacy

Batu had at least four children:

Sartaq, khan of the golden horde from 1255–1256



Ulagchi - probably the son of Sartaq often named Ju Lai (Dzhulaibek)

Batu's mother Ukhaa ujin belonged to the Mongol Onggirat clan while his chief khatun Borakchin was an Alchi-Tatar.

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 Mongke and the Empire of the Great Khan as his overlords. In fact, Berke was an independent ruler by then. Fortunately for Europe, Berke did not share Batu's interest in conquering it, however, he demanded Hungarian King Bela IV's submission and sent his general Borolday to Lithuania and Poland.

The Kipchak Khanate was known in Rus and Europe as the golden horde (Zolotaya Orda) 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 expulsion of the yuan dynasty from China to Mongolia, and the fall of Ilkhanate in Middle East, the descendants of Batu Khan continued to rule the Russian steppes. However, Batu's line had ruled the Jochid Ulus until 1360, a century after Berke's death in 1264. Descendants of his brothers, Orda and Tuqatimur, took the throne of the golden horde afterwards.

In 2011 only one family in Far East Russia, Vladivostok is often considered to be the relatives of Bat Khan, the grand son of Genghis Khan.

Last update 20-06-2012

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