Dmitry Ivanovich Donskoy
Grand Prince of Moscow and Vladimir. Born on 12 October 1350. Son of Grand Prince Ivan II (‘Ivan the Red’, 1326-1359). Married Evdokia, youngest daughter of Dmitry Konstantinovich, Grand Prince of Nizhny Novgorod and Suzdal (?-1407).
Dmitry Ivanovich became Grand Prince of Moscow in 1359 at the age of nine, on the death of his father.
Dmitry Ivanovich was successful in extending the borders of his principality. In 1366-1367 he built a stone fortress, or kremlin, in Moscow. He systematically subjected the princes of the north-eastern principalities to his influence and formed a military-political alliance of the Russian principalities led by Moscow. His marriage to Princess Evdokia of Novgorod and Suzdal brought closer ties with Nizhny Novgorod, and there was also an alliance with Novgorod the Great.
In 1378 the Moscow army, led by Dmitry Ivanovich, defeated the Horde at the Battle of the Vozha River. On 8 September 1380 the prince and his warriors brought crushing defeat to Mamai’s horde at Kulikovo Field. Dmitry himself fought in the battle, and according to the “Tale of Mamai’s Defeat” he was wounded. The victory at Kulikovo gave rise to hopes that Rus’ could throw off the Mongol-Tatar yoke once and for all.
Under Dmitry Donskoy’s rule, Moscow started to mint its own coins – evidence of the significant rise in influence of the Moscow principality.
In 1389, at the age of 39, Great Prince Dmitry Ivanovich died and was buried at the Archangel Cathedral in the Moscow Kremlin. In the 1560s-70s he was given the honorific title ‘Donskoy’.
In 1988 Dmitry Donskoy was honoured as a saint by the Council of the Russian Orthodox Church. The memory of the holy prince is celebrated on the anniversary of his death on 19th May (1st June in the Gregorian calendar).
Vladimir Andreyevich Khrabry
The Prince of Serpukhov (1358-1410), Borovsk (1378-1410) and Uglich (1405-1410), a gifted commander and warrior, younger son of Prince Andrei Ivanovich Serpukhovsky. Born 15th June 1353. Grandson of Ivan Kalita and cousin of Dmitry Ivanovich, Grand Prince of Moscow.
Married to Princess Elena, daughter of Grand Duke Algirdas of Lithuania.
One of the main heroes of the Battle of Kulikovo. According to the “Tale of Mamai’s Defeat”, on the eve of battle he was sent to command the Ambush Regiment beyond the River Don to protect the Russian troops as they crossed. Along with other warlords he put the regiments into formation in preparation for battle. Vladimir Andreyevich and Prince Dmitry Mikhailovich Bobrok-Volynsky commanded the Ambush Regiment, whose sudden entry into the battle led to of the Horde army fleeing the battlefield and brought about the Russian victory. According to written sources about the battle he led the pursuit of the enemy and then gathered troops to search for the wounded Dmitry Ivanovich
For his role in Mamai’s defeat he was dubbed ‘khrabry’ (meaning ‘brave’) and also ‘Donskoy’. Both epithets were inscribed on his grave at the Archangel Cathedral in the Moscow Kremlin. He died on 12th August 1410.
Prince Dmitry Mikhailovich Bobrok-Volynsky
Date of birth unknown, but before 1356. Son of Lithuanian Prince Koriata-Mikhail Gediminids. One of Dmitry Donskoy’s most trusted boyars, and married to Donskoy’s sister Anna.
The Prince was one of the key figures in the Battle of Kulikovo. The “Tale of Mamai’s Defeat” tells us in epic form of his prediction of victory to Dmitry of Moscow on the night before the battle. On the day of the battle he was one of the warlords who lined up the Russian regiments in preparation for combat. He commanded the Ambush Regiment alongside Prince Andrei Serpukhovsky. It was Bobrok-Volynsky who chose the moment for the Ambush Regiment to make their decisive attack; their entry into the battle caused panic amongst the Horde – which had prematurely started to celebrate victory – and brought about their mass flight from the battlefield. After the Battle of Kulikovo, his name became associated with the Bobrenev Monastery in Kolomna, located on his ancestral land.
The last time we encounter any written evidence of his name is in 1389, when his signature appears at the top of a list of boyars who were witnesses to Dmitry Donskoy’s last will and testament. That was the year when Dmitry Ivanovich died, and the subsequent fate of Bobrok-Volynsky can only be surmised on the basis of circumstantial evidence.
Moscow nobleman, a monk from the Old Simonov Monastery. Year of birth unknown. Fought at the Battle of Kulikovo. He is mentioned in the “Zadonshchina” and the “Tale of Mamai’s Defeat”. The “Zadonshchina” refers to him as the brother of Alexander Peresvet. It is possible that they were not brothers but cousins, or perhaps brothers in Christ, as monks from the same monastery were known. Oslyabya fought in the Battle of Kulikovo with his son Yakov. According to the “Zadonshchina”, Andrei forsees the death of Peresvet and his son. The names of Andrei Oslyabya and Alexander Peresvet are mentioned in the “Tale of Mamai’s Defeat”. Together they set out to march to Kulikovo Field from the Trinity Monastery at the personal request of Dmitry Donskoy.
Moscow and Bryansk boyar, latterly a monk. Year of birth unknown. Took part in the Battle of Kulikovo Field; killed in combat.
The “Tale” praises him highly. According to the Tale he had the honour of commencing the battle by dueling with a ‘bogatyr’ (hero) from the Horde. “They came together in combat, striking each other so hard that the ground beneath them almost gave way; then both fell from their horses and were killed.” After this the episode is no longer mentioned by any poets, writers or artists dealing with the subject of the Kulikovo battle. However, on this subject the “Tale” contradicts the “Zadonshchina”, which does not refer to any duel and says that Alexander Peresvet fought throughout the battle rather than being killed at the start of it.
According to legend, Alexander Peresvet was buried alongside Andrey Oslyabya at the Old Simonov Monastery.
A Horde general, descended from the Nogai Horde. Historical sources do not mention his date or place of birth. He is first mentioned during the rule of Khan Berdibek (1357-1359). By this time, as the senior representative of the Kiyat clan he held the status of emir and was a ‘temnik’, or commander of 10,000 warriors. There is also evidence that he married Khanum, daughter of Berdibek. Arab sources say that during Berdibek’s lifetime Mamai assumed the office of beklerbek (head of council of the four main Horde clans). It is known that his clan domain was Crimea.
After Berdibek was killed Mamai decamped to his own domain, and evidently remained loyal to the three subsequent khans: Qulpa (November 1359 – April 1360), Nawruz (April 1360 – spring 1361) and Khizra (spring to summer 1361). After Khizra’s death Mamai actively engaged in the struggle for power within the Golden Horde.
Mamai could not pronounce himself khan, since he was not from the clan of Ghengis-Khan or Ghengis’s eldest son Jochi (whose descendants from Batu-Khan onwards were regarded as the only rightful rulers of the Golden Horde). In 1361, therefore, Mamai founded an independent dominion in Crimea. In 1362 his authority extended to encompass the land from the River Don to the River Volga.
In around 1363 Mamai announced his intention to capture the principality of Moscow from Dmitry Ivanovich. In 1373 Mamai’s Horde carried out a raid on the Ryazan principality. Dmitry of Moscow moved his troops to the River Oka so that the Tatars ‘would never stand on Moscow soil’.
In 1374 Mamai demanded that Dmitry Ivanovich of Moscow pay tribute to him; this was refused. So began the open enmity between Mamai’s Horde and Moscow. Mamai’s troops carried out multiple raids on Russian principalities. It is likely that his plans included a raid on Moscow, given that in 1376 Dmitry stood at the Oka with his regiments to guard against the Tatars. In the summer of 1378 Mamai’s troops again threatened Nizhny Novgorod and its outskirts. One of Mamai’s largest detachments, a 10,000-strong force commanded by Begich, was sent to attack Moscow but suffered a crushing defeat by the Moscow army at the River Vozha.
Through the whole of 1379 and into 1380 Mamai prepared for his great crusade against Rus’, and in 1379 he conquered the North Caucasus. His defeat at Kulikovo Field was not the end of his rule; he gathered a new army together and, according to Russian sources, planned to repeat his invasion of Rus’. But Khan Tokhtamysh of the Blue Horde stood against him. Mamai ordered his troops against his opponent, but his entire army betrayed him and pledged allegiance to Tokhtamysh. Mamai fled to the city of Caffa in Crimea, where he was killed.