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Great stand on the Ugra river

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Title: Great stand on the Ugra river  
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Subject: Golden Horde, Battle of Kulikovo, Siege of Moscow (1382), Ivan III of Russia, List of sovereign states by date of formation
Collection: Conflicts in 1480, Golden Horde, Medieval Russia
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Great stand on the Ugra river

Great stand on the Ugra river
Part of Tatar and Mongol rule

Miniature in Russian chronicle, 16th century
Date October 8, 1480
Location Ugra River banks (now in Kaluga Oblast, Russia)
Result Decisive Russian victory
End of Russian principalities' tribute to the Golden Horde
Grand Duchy of Moscow Golden Horde
Commanders and leaders
Ivan III of Russia
Ivan Molodoy
Andrey Menshoy
Akhmat Khan

The Great Standoff on the Ugra river (Великое cтояние на реке Угре in Russian, also Угорщина (Ugorschina in English, derived from Ugra) was a standoff between the forces of Akhmat, Khan of the Great Horde, and the Grand Prince Ivan III of Muscovy in 1480, which resulted in the retreat of the Tatars and is seen in Russian historiography as the end of Tatar rule over Moscow.[1]


  • The campaign 1
  • The standoff 2
  • Results 3
  • See also 4
  • References 5
  • Further reading 6

The campaign

The main Russian defense line ran along the east-flowing Oka River from Nizhny Novgorod in the east to Kaluga in the west. At Kaluga the east-flowing Urga River extends this line westward. On October 8, 1480 Akhmat Khan planned to bypass the Oka river from the west and thus avoid Ivan's regiments which were located in Kolomna, Serpukhov and Tarusa. This would allow Akhmat Khan to unite his army with his ally, the Polish king Casimir. Akhmat Khan's forces approached the Ugra river. At the Ugra, Akhmat Khan was met by the Russian army under the joint command of Ivan Molodoy (Ivan Junior, Ivan's son) and Andrey Menshoy (Andrey Smaller One, Ivan's brother). Akhmat's attempt to cross the Ugra river was rebuffed in a 4-day battle. The Muscovite chronicle says the Russians succeeded through the use of firearms, of which the Tatars had none.

The standoff

After this battle, Akhmat, clearly dispirited by the Russians' firearms,[2] retreated to the town of Vorotynsk, where he decided to wait for the army of Polish king Casimir IV. Ivan III moved his army to Kremenets and started to negotiate with the khan, in an attempt to buy some time to restore his relations with his rebellious brothers (hence, the Great standing on the Ugra river). It took Ivan III four days (from September 30 to October 3) to reconcile with his brothers and another 17 days (until October 20) for his brothers' armies to arrive at Kremenets. Unlike Dmitry Donskoy in a similar situation one hundred years before, Ivan decided not to cross the river, but to keep on his shore and bide his time.

Watching the increasing Russian army and receiving no word from the Polish king, Akhmat chose not to attack the Russians. In the meantime, Casimir was dealing with his own country's internal affairs and fighting against Muscovy's ally, Crimean Khan Mengli I Giray, who had invaded Poland while the king's army was away. Ivan also sent a regiment under command of Prince Vasily Nozdrevaty of Zvenigorod, to encircle Akhmat. Nur Devlet Giray, brother of Mengli Giray, was in this regiment.

On October 28, Ivan gradually started to pull his armies back to Kremenets for winter quarters. Akhmat waited for reinforcements until November 11 and then turned south.[3] Among other reasons for Akmat's retreat was the possible threat of Crimean, Nogai or other attacks on his unprotected home base, a common problem in nomadic warfare. As Nikolai Karamzin wrote in his "History of Russian State", "It should have been an odd image: two armies ran away from each other, not pursued by anyone".

The Tatar retreat was seen as a victory in Muscovy. Ivan and his armies returned to Moscow to celebrate.


On January 6, 1481, Akhmat Khan was killed in a clash with the Nogais under Ibak Khan, a princeling from the Khanate of Sibir. In 1502, Crimea destroyed the Great Horde as an organization thereby removing the buffer between Russia and Crimea and leading to a series of Russo-Crimean wars that lasted until 1784.

In nationalist history, the Ugra Standoff is taken as the end of the so-called "Tatar Yoke". Modern writers are more skeptical and see it as an important landmark in the gradual expansion of Russia and the gradual decline of the Turko-Mongol empire.

Perhaps the most important result of the Russo-Crimean alliance was its effect on Lithuania. In 1480-1515, Muscovy (Russia) expanded out of its Oka-Volga cradle west to Smolensk and southwest across the Ugra and down the west side of the Oka as far as Novgorod-Seversky.

See also


  1. ^ Michael Khodarkovsky, Russia's Steppe Frontier: The Making of a Colonial Empire, 1500-1800, (Indiana University Press, 2002), 80.
  2. ^ Viacheslav Shpakovsky, David Nicolle, Armies of Ivan the Terrible: Russian Troops 1505-1700, (Osprey, 2006), 6.
  3. ^ Michael Khodarkovsky, Russia's Steppe Frontier: The Making of a Colonial Empire, 1500-1800, 81.

Further reading

  • Khodarkovsky, Michael (2002). Russia's Steppe Frontier: The Making of a Colonial Empire, 1500-1800. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.  
  • Martin, Janet (1995). Medieval Russia: 980-1584. New York: Cambridge University Press.  
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