Great stand on the Ugra river

Great stand on the Ugra river

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, Khan of the Great Horde, and the Grand Duke Ivan III of Russia in 1480, which resulted in the retreat of the Tataro-Mongols and is often taken as the end of Tatar rule over Russia.

In 1476 Ivan III ceased paying annual tribute to the Horde. This tribute had been collected by the Mongols since the time of Batu Khan. At the time, Akhmat Khan was busy with his struggle against the Crimean Khanate and did not do anything seriously except to demand tribute and send a Mongol noyan to Moscow. By 1480 Muscovy and Crimea were in alliance against the Great Horde and Poland-Lithuania under Casimir IV. On the Lithuanean side, this was partly provoked by the Muscovite annexation of Novgorod in 1478.

The western borders of Russia were subjected to multiple attacks by the Teutonic Order of Livonia in early 1480 ( ? or, in 1480 Livonia attacked Pskov and the following year Moscovy invaded Livonia, resulting in a series of treaties [Janet Martin, Midieval Russia, p344] ). In January of 1480, Ivan's brothers Boris Volotsky and Andrey Bolshoy became dissatisfied with his growing princely authority and turned against him. Akhmat Khan decided to take advantage of the political discontent and, in June of 1480, sent a reconnaissance unit to investigate the right bank of the Oka river. In autumn, his army started to advance towards Moscow, he passed through the Lithuanian territories of his ally king Casimir and stood on the Lithuanian-Muscovite border on the river Ugra [Sergey Solovyov. History of Russia from the Earliest Times, ISBN 5-17-002142-9, v.5 [] ] . In the face of such grave danger, the Russian boyars fractured into two groups: one, led by "okolnichies" Oschera and Mamon, wanted Ivan III to flee; the other wanted to fight the Horde. It could be that Ivan's final decision to face the Horde was affected by the Russians who had demanded action on the part of the Grand Duke.

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 Casimir's. Akhmat Khan's forces approached the Ugra river. (The main Russian defense line ran along the Oka from Nizhnii Novgord to Kaluga where to Oka turns from north to east. The Ugra extends this line to the west from Kaluga toward Lithuania.) 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", Ivan's brother). Akhmat's attempt to cross the Ugra river was rebuffed in a 4-day battle.

After the battle, Akhmat retreated to the town of Vorotynsk, where he decided to wait for Casimir's army. Ivan III moved his army to Kremenets and started to negotiate with the khan, in 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 20 October) for his brothers' armies to arrive at Kremenets. Watching the increasing Russian army and receiving no word from the Polish king, Akhmat chose not to attack the Russians. In the meantime, Casimir IV was dealing with his own country's internal affairs and fighting with the Crimean Khanate. The Mongols waited for reinforcements until November, 11 and then, lacking supplies and suffering from epidemics and freezing weather, turned south.commons|Great standing on the Ugra river

English sources say that Akhmat was waiting for the river to freeze so that it could be crossed, and for the arrival of Lithuanian forces. These did not arrive because of Crimean raids and internal troubles in Lithuania. He turned south due the the onset of winter and the possible threat of Crimean, Nogai or other attacks on his unprotected home base, a common problem in nomadic warfare.


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 popular memory, the Ugra Standoff is taken as the end of the 'Tatar Yoke'. Modern writers are more sceptical and see it as an important landmark is the gradual expansion of Russia and the gradual decline of the Turko-Mongol empire.

Perhaps the most importand result of the Russo-Crimean alliance was its effect on Lithuania. In 1480-1515 Muscovy or 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 Novgord Seversky.


Khodarkovsy, Michael, Russia's Steppe Frontiers, 2002.

Martin, Janet, Midieval Russia, 1991.

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