What do the Mongols think of Poland?

Fake attack and fictitious battle - the Mongols came to Moravia

At the beginning of the 13th century, the nomadic tribes unite in what is now Mongolia and northern China, under the leadership of Genghis Khan, one of the most powerful empires in the world was created. In just a few years the Mongols, sometimes called Tatars, occupied the vast expanses of Central Asia. And they move on to Europe. They easily subjugate the dismembered principalities of the Kievan Rus and invade Hungary. The northern campaign is aimed at Poland, where the Asian fighters meet the united troops of the Polish and Silesian princes, who are supported by Hospitallers, Templars and Teutonic Knights. They successfully besiege Wroclaw, and according to the chronicles, the Bohemian King Wenceslaus I is said to have opposed them unsuccessfully. In 1241 the Poles and Silesians suffer a bitter defeat near Legnitz, now Legnica in south-west Poland. The successful tactics of the Mongols are explained by Robert Antonín, historian at the Silesian University in Opava / Troppau.“The western world, so to speak, in which one can include Russia as far as military tactics are concerned, is confronted with unknown methods in these battles that it cannot withstand. The Mongols have collected practically all relevant information about the situation of their enemies because they have sent their informers across Europe in advance and in some places they also have their own agents. They also know a lot about the plans and fighting strength of the enemy. Therefore, they use a method in which they only fake an attack and then seemingly withdraw. In doing so, however, they lure the enemy into the trap. Your archers then shower the opposing troops with arrows. They repeat the tactic over and over again - and again and again with success. "

Showered with arrows

According to current estimates, at least 100,000 Mongols took part in the campaigns to Europe. The “northern” army alone counted around 20,000 horsemen when it conquered Poland. According to historians, the motives for these campaigns were initially purely economic: to rule new areas and use their resources. But more and more it was also about inner Mongolian politics: The individual leaders in the army wanted to make themselves worthy in the eyes of the changing rulers. After all, the long campaign must have been an adventure for the Mongols too. The soldiers just moved on because no one could stop them. However, it can be said with certainty that the mere rumors of the impending invasion of the Mongols aroused horror among the residents of the affected areas. Jana Valterová is a historian at Masaryk University in Brno:“In European chronicles one can find reports in which the Mongols are portrayed in a very negative light. They are said to have been very cruel warriors who ruthlessly plundered everything. Alleged cannibalism is also written there. However, the question arises as to whether this picture is somewhat distorted. There are also reports from negotiators, for example Franciscans, who brokered contacts between the Mongols and the local rulers. These are much more factual and have not contributed to any legend. "

Although the Mongols were pagans from a Christian perspective, the religious question played no role in the arguments with them. In the beginning they were even considered by the inhabitants of the occupied territories in Europe to belong to a mythical kingdom of the Christian prince John, which was supposed to be somewhere far to the east. This of course soon turned out to be a mistake, but there were nevertheless attempts to establish peaceful contacts with the Mongols.

“After 1245, on the initiative of Pope Innocent IV, several ambassadors were sent to the Mongols. Their aim was to enter into a dialogue with the Mongol Empire and to call on the Great Khan to stop the military advance in Europe. The first report about it comes from Johannes de Plano Carpini - this Franciscan was the first European to reach Mongolia. He mainly wrote about the fear he had during his trip to the unknown land. However, his successors then actually managed to make contacts. They also endeavored to carry out the mission assigned to them ", says Jana Valterová.

Fictional battle of Wenceslaus I.

As already mentioned, the Mongol conquests in Europe are entwined with many legends. One of them concerns the alleged battle near Olomouc / Olmütz, in which the Bohemian King Wenceslaus I is said to have defeated the Mongols. The armed forces are said to have taken place in 1241, i.e. in the same year as the lost battle near Legnitz. The story of the Battle of Olomouc can be found in several versions in some chronicles, always emphasizing the bravery of the Bohemian king. In the 19th century, this legend was also incorporated into the so-called Königgrätz manuscript, but the manuscript soon turned out to be a forgery. Only then do historians begin to doubt that the battle even existed. It is primarily German researchers who draw attention to the shaky source base. Your Czech colleagues have to agree with you, albeit sometimes very reluctantly. Robert Antonín:“There are no contemporary sources on the alleged battle. We only know that the Mongols were in Moravia and that Wenceslaus I dealt with this fact somehow. This is shown by the drafts of the royal letters, although not all of the letters were necessarily sent. The reason for spreading the legend was the royal archivist Antonín Boček in the 15th century. We know that this archivist made a number of false documents. Some of them also concern the Mongol invasion of Moravia. There he wrote about a heroic Templar monk Kuno and other imaginary people who are said to have distinguished themselves in the fight against the Mongols. These descriptions, together with the aforementioned Königgrätz manuscript, formed the corpus for the whole story. "

The legend of the lightning strike in the Mongol camp

There is also a legend about the departure of the Mongols from Moravia. It is said about the Moravian pilgrimage site of Hostýn / Hostein that the people there sought refuge from the Mongols. They are said to have prayed to Saint Mary, who then allegedly set fire to the Mongol military camp with lightning. In the storm wind and heavy rain, the riders are said to have fled and never appeared in the country again.

The fact is that the Mongols were only briefly in Moravia. They evidently moved away as early as 1242, which also marked the end of their conquest in Europe. After the death of the fourth great khan, the Mongol Empire then became troubled, which later led to the division of the country. The Mongols ruled only in what is now Russia until the 15th century.

In the Czech Republic, only one regional delicacy called “Stramberger Ears” reminds of this chapter of history. According to legend, the Mongols are said to have cut off the ears of the inhabitants during the attack on the northern Moravian town of the same name in 1241 in order to send them as a gift to the Great Khan. As a reminder of this time, a sweet pastry is made from rolled gingerbread dough in Štramberk / Stramberg, which is even recognized by the EU as a regional specialty.