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The Muscovite-Lithuanian Wars

The History of the Russian Conflicts Against the Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania
Sprecher: Daniel Houle
Spieldauer: 1 Std. und 58 Min.
Kategorien: Geschichte, Europa

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Though history is usually written by the victors, the lack of a particularly strong writing tradition from the Mongols ensured that history was largely written by those who they vanquished. Because of this, their portrayal in the West and the Middle East has been extraordinarily (and in many ways unfairly) negative for centuries, at least until recent revisions to the historical record. The Mongols have long been depicted as wild horse-archers galloping out of the dawn to rape, pillage, murder and enslave, but the Mongol army was a highly sophisticated, minutely organized and incredibly adaptive and innovative institution, as witnessed by the fact that it was successful in conquering enemies who employed completely different weaponry and different styles of fighting. 

The Mongols were pushed out of the region by the Poles and Lithuanians, who then occupied state territories in the 14th century. Poland seized areas in the west, known as Galicia, while Lithuania occupied a northern area called Volynia. The Mongol-Tatars, however, retained control of the Crimean Peninsula, using it as a base for trade, including that of slaves, with the Ottoman Empire. The Tatars would actually strengthen their grip on the Crimea after the Golden Horde’s demise and continue terrifying other European powers. By allying themselves with the Ottomans, the Tatars seemingly lost the potent position they had when they were a part of the Mongol Empire, they were still close to being a superpower from Southeast Europe and the Middle East. Meanwhile, the Ottomans would continue to expand their territory and threaten other European nations for centuries to come. 

Meanwhile, Russia also began expanding its influence by playing a role in defeating the Mongol hordes. The Russian ruler, Grand Prince of Moscow Ivan III, married the final heir to the Byzantine throne, Sophia (born Zoe) Palaiologina, the daughter of the last emperor of Byzantium, in 1480. Sophia would go on to be the grandmother of Ivan the Terrible, the first tsar of Imperial Russia from 1547-84. As a result of this lineage, the Romanov tsars would claim they were the torchbearers of Orthodox Christianity, descending directly from Byzantium. 

All of this political maneuvering would bring about one of the most famous battles in the history of Eastern Europe as the various parties sought to fill the power vacuum. The battle would be fought around Orsha, which is today a city of about 118,000 inhabitants on the fork of the Dnieper and Arshytsa Rivers in northern Belarus. One of the oldest settlements in that nation, Orsha has historically been an important center of communication and trade, situated as it is on a major river that flows down into the Black Sea. 

In 1514, Orsha was a much smaller town, home to a population of no more than 5,000 as part of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, but on September 8 of that year, the normally quiet and unpretentious town was thrust into the world’s gaze when over 100,000 troops engaged in one of the 16th century’s biggest battles outside the town walls. The battle pitted the forces of the King of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania against the Grand Duchy of Moscow, and it was part of a conflict known to history as the Fourth Muscovite-Lithuanian War. That war was part of a series of conflicts that began in the 15th century, and the fighting would not end until Poland and the lands of Grand Duchy of Lithuania were completely annexed by the Russian Empire in 1795. 

The Muscovite-Lithuanian Wars: The History of the Russian Conflicts Against the Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania examines the turbulent history of the region and the series of conflicts between the various powers.

©2020 Charles River Editors (P)2020 Charles River Editors

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