Battle of Molodi

In 1572, the greatest battle of a Christian civilization took place and defined the future of the European continent and the world many centuries ahead. In that battle, which claimed more than a hundred thousand lives, not only the fate of Russia was decided but the fate of European civilization.

But few, besides professional historians, know about this battle. This is due to Western Europe considering itself the exclusive arbiter of history. Besides, France and England strive to deny European power to each other or to Germany. These two warlike nations are eternally wary of Germany or the potential power of the Russian bear in the tundra.

In 1569, 17,000 hand-selected Ottoman Janissaries, reinforced by the Crimean and Nogai horse troops moved towards Astrakhan. The vainglorious trek failed: the Turks didn’t manage to drag their artillery with them, but they were not used to fighting without guns.

In 1571, Crimean Khan Devlet I Girey, in collaboration with the Ottoman Empire and cursed enemy of Russia, invaded the Muscovite lands. Triumph seemed assured as the Khan was leading an army of 40,000 tough as nails fighting men. The Janissaries were supported by the ‘enemy within’; the traitors to Russia. The approaching armies reached Moscow and razed to ground the great Christian metropolis. See Fire of Moscow (1571).

After such an initial successful raid by Devlet Girey and the scorching of Moscow, Ivan (The Terrible) Grozny was exultant. The outcome had proved once and for all that Russians do not know how to fight, preferring instead to sit behind the serfdom walls. If a light Tatar horse was not able to take fortifications, then experienced Turkish janitors were able to do it very well.

In 1572, Khan Devlet Girey assembled an unprecedented military force of 120,000 fighters, including 80,000 Crimeans and Nogaians, added to by 7,000 of the best Turkish janitors who with them dragg dozens of artillery barrels. In addition were the Special Forces, elite troops with great experience in wars and capturing fortresses.

As though preparing for a camping holiday, Devlet Girey earlier stated that he was ‘going to Moscow merely to acquire the kingdom’. There would be no necessity to fight but merely to confirm his right to reign.  It never once occurred to him that his supposed omnipotence could be challenged.

In advance, the ‘divination of the skin of an unbeaten bear’ went to the Russian cities. The murzas (territories) were appointed, to the not yet conquered Russian principalities, deputies and the merchants were granted permission to trade duty-free on land they had not yet acquired.

The elite of Crimea gathered to gloat over their yet unearned spoils and prepared to divide up between themselves requisitioned lands. The presumption was that the huge army should enter Russian borders unchallenged and Russia would remain as part of the Ottoman Empire forever.

This was not quite how things turned out. On July 6, 1572, Crimean Khan Devlet Girey’s Ottoman armies arrived in Oka, where they encountered twenty-thousand troops under the command of Prince Mikhail Vorotynsky.

Devlet Girey blinked first and refused to meet the gathered defenders head-on, deciding instead to encircle and pause along the river. Near Senkin broda, he easily dispersed a squad of two hundred boyars and, after crossing the river, moved along the Serpukhovsky road to Moscow.

Oprychnik Dmitry Hvorostinin, who headed a 5,000 squad of Cossacks and boyars, was meanwhile snapping at the heels of Tatars. The warlord’s wish was granted and he was permitted to attack the Ottoman enemy on July 30, 1572.

Turning on his heel, the Russian forces of Dmitry Hvorostinin advanced along the arid unmade roads of the Lands of the Tatars, the main forces being situated by the river Pakhra.

The surprised Tatars, who beforehand had shown such arrogance, turned around and rushed against the small Russian squad with their own forces. Russians rushed to the corner, and enemies, after pursuing them, persecuted oprychniki to the very village of Molodi.

The Ottoman invaders were met by an unexpected surprise and were led into a trap for the Russian army was already there. And not just stood, but meantime had managed to build a fortress-city, a mobile strengthening of thick wooden shields. The Russians broke into groups and surrounded each group with gulyay-gorods.

Cannons were struck between the shields on the steppe horse, and the slaughterhouses of fighters crushed in the log walls. The rain of arrows was swallowed up by the advancing armies.

The Tatars were confused, and Hvorostininin, after turning his Cossacks around, rushed into an attack again. The Ottoman waves were storming the defences of the fortress. Caught in a trap the Ottoman Janissaries and their cohorts fell from their mounts fell into a cruel meat grinder and provided Russian land with their blood. Only the arrival of eventide nightfall stopped the slaughter.

In the morning, the Ottoman army realised the extent of the rout. Moscow’s strong walls lay ahead of the Serpukhovsky road. The paths of the approaching ways were blocked by iron-tied sprains and shooters. Now for the uninvited guests, the question was no longer about conquering Russia, but about returning to the homelands alive.

The Tatars were incandescent: they were used not just to fight Russians, but to drive them into slavery. The Ottoman murs, who were going to rule new lands, rather than die on them, were not amused.

By the third day, it became clear that Russians would rather die on the spot than allow unwanted guests to reduce the Russians to serfdom status.

Devletry Girey then ordered his warriors to attack Russians along with the Yanichars. Tatars in the service of the Ottomans knew perfectly that this time they were not going to rob, but rescue their skin and were themselves prepared to fight to their deaths.

It came to the point that Crimeans tried to break the shields with bare hands, but were unsuccessful. The Russians were not going to let the troops of the Ottoman Empire rest and return to their homelands again. Blood poured freely throughout the day, but by the evening the city was firmly in Russian control.

In the early morning of August 3, 1572, when the Ottoman army went into a decisive the attack, they were completely unexpectedly hit by the regiment of Vorotynsky and the oprichniki, and the formidable armies of the Ottomans were finally and unquestionably humbled.

On the field in the village of Molodi, all seven thousand Turkish Yanichars were butchered. There was little or no time for rest from what had turned into a vengeful rout. The son, grandson and son-in-law of Devlet-Girey died as he did near the village of Molodi. Crimea lost almost all the combat male population. From this defeat, the forces of the once invincible Ottoman Empire could never recover. The losses that had occurred predestined the emergence of Imperial Russia.

Despite the almost four-fold superiority in numbers there were few survivors of the 120,000-strong Ottoman armies. It is recorded that only 10,000 returned to their Crimea homeland; the remaining 110,000 remained buried or scattered on what was now Russian soil

External link: in English http://www.xenophon-mil.org/rushistory/battles/ivanbook.htm

Molody village. A foundation stone to commemorate the victory in the Battle of Molodi in 1572.
Date29 July–2 August 1572
LocationMolodi, 50 km south of Moscow.
ResultDecisive Russian victory

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1 reply »

  1. I took a class in college about Russian History. The first course was to 1917; the 2nd Course was post WW1-the present. I remember we covered the period in history about Ivan the Terrible. The liberals in my class were shocked Ivan was so “harsh” Well, considering the Turks/Tatars had kidnapped millions of Slavic people, he had to be tough saving them. It’s almost like how these liberals were also critical of Vlad the Impaler. The Turks were going to kidnap Romanian boys and were forcing tribute from the Romanians. What was he supposed to do? Be “nice” about it? I notice it’s mostly Americans (my country) and Western Europe that seem to be critical of our ancestors, especially when our ancestors fought either nonwhites, non-Christians or were fighting communism (like Germany was after WW1).

    Liked by 1 person

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