What was the Siege of Kiev (1240)?


The Siege of Kiev by the Mongols took place between 28 November and 06 December 1240, and resulted in a Mongol victory. It was a heavy morale and military blow to Halych-Volhynia and allowed Batu Khan to proceed westward into Europe.


Batu Khan and the Mongols began their invasion in late 1237 by conquering the state of Ryazan in north-east Rus. Then, in 1238 the Mongols went south-west and destroyed the cities of Vladimir and Kozelsk. In 1239, they captured both Pereyaslav and Chernihiv with their sights set on the city of Kiev (Kyiv).

When the Mongols sent several envoys to Kiev to demand submission, they were executed by Michael of Chernigov and later Dmytro.

The next year, the Mongol general Batu Khan reached Kiev. At the time, the city was ruled by the principality of Halych-Volhynia. The chief commander in Kiev was Voivode Dmytro, while Danylo of Halych was in Hungary at that time, seeking a military union to prevent invasion.

Refer to the Batu Raid of Ruthenia (1240).

The Siege

The vanguard army under Batu’s cousin Möngke came near the city. Möngke was apparently taken by the splendor of Kiev and offered the city terms for surrender, but his envoys were killed. The Mongols chose to assault the city. Batu Khan destroyed the forces of the Rus vassals, the Chorni Klobuky, who were on their way to relieve Kiev, and the entire Mongol army camped outside the city gates, joining Möngke’s troops.

On 28 November, the Mongols set up catapults near one of the three gates of old Kiev where tree cover extended almost to the city walls. The Mongols then began a bombardment that lasted several days. On 06 December, Kiev’s walls were breached, and hand-to-hand combat followed in the streets. The Kievans suffered heavy losses and Dmytro was wounded by an arrow.

When night fell the Mongols held their positions while the Kievans retreated to the central parts of the city. Many people crowded into the Church of the Tithes. The next day, as the Mongols commenced the final assault, the church’s balcony collapsed under the weight of the people standing on it, crushing many. After the Mongols won the battle, they plundered Kiev. Most of the population was massacred. Out of 50,000 inhabitants before the invasion, about 2,000 survived. Most of the city was burned and only six out of forty major buildings remained standing. Dmytro, however, was shown mercy for his bravery.

Aftermath and Legacy

After their victory at Kiev, the Mongols were free to advance into Hungary and Poland.


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