Siege of Kiev (1240)

Coordinates: 50°27′0.00″N 30°31′25.00″E / 50.4500000°N 30.5236111°E / 50.4500000; 30.5236111
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Siege of Kiev
Part of Mongol invasion of Kievan Rus'

Imaginative portrayal of the 1240 Siege of Kiev in the 16th-century Facial Chronicle.
Date28 November[citation needed] – 6 December 1240[1]
Location50°27′0.00″N 30°31′25.00″E / 50.4500000°N 30.5236111°E / 50.4500000; 30.5236111

Mongol victory

  • Kiev plundered
  • Most civilians slaughtered
Mongol Empire Galicia–Volhynia
Commanders and leaders
Batu Khan Voivode Dmitr
Unknown; probably large ~1,000
Casualties and losses
Unknown, probably minor ~48,000 (including noncombatants) killed
Siege of Kiev (1240) is located in Europe
Siege of Kiev (1240)
Location within Europe

The siege of Kiev by the Mongols took place between 28 November and 6 December 1240, and resulted in a Mongol victory. It was a heavy morale and military blow to the Principality of Galicia–Volhynia, which was forced to submit to Mongol suzerainty, and allowed Batu Khan to proceed westward into Central Europe.[1]


Batu Khan and the Mongols began their invasion in late 1237 by conquering the northeastern Rus' Principality of Ryazan.[2][3] Then, in 1238 the Mongols went south-west and destroyed the cities of Vladimir and Kozelsk. In 1239, they captured both Pereyaslav and Chernigov with their sights set on Kiev.[3][4]

The Mongol envoys sent to Kiev to demand submission were executed by Grand Prince Michael of Chernigov.[5][6][7] The Mongol capture of Chernigov caused Michael to flee to Hungary in 1239 or 1240.[8] The Smolensk prince Rostislav II Mstislavich seized the opportunity to claim Kiev for himself, but was in turn soon driven out by Daniel of Galicia-Volhynia (Danylo Romanovych).[1]

The next year, Batu Khan's army under the tactical command of the great Mongol general Subutai reached Kiev (in November 1240[1]). At the time, the city was ruled by the Principality of Galicia–Volhynia (Halych-Volhynia, also known as Ruthenia), having been recently captured by Danylo Romanovych.[9] The chief commander in Kiev was Voivode Dmytro, while Danylo was in Hungary at that time, seeking a military union to prevent invasion.[citation needed]


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.[10] The Mongols chose to assault the city. Batu Khan destroyed the forces of the Rus vassals, the Chorni Klobuky,[11] who were on their way to relieve Kiev, and the entire Mongol army camped outside the city gates, joining Möngke's troops.[citation needed]

According to one chronicle account written many years after the fact, the Mongol siege engines took ten weeks to break through Kiev's two sets of fortifications.[1] 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.[12] The Mongols then began a bombardment that lasted several days. On 6 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.[4]

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.[4] Out of 50,000 inhabitants before the invasion, about 2,000 survived.[13] Most of the city was burned and only six out of forty major buildings remained standing. Dmytro, however, was shown mercy for his bravery.[4]


After their victory at Kiev, the Mongols forced both Galicia and Volhynia to submit to Batu Khan's suzerainty, and they were free to advance westward into Hungary and Poland.[1] The Mongol advance westward only halted in September 1242, when Batu Khan heard the news that Ögedei Khan had died, and Batu needed to attend the quriltai where a successor would be chosen.[1] Soon after, the new Mongol regime began collecting tributes through a basqaq in Kiev and elsewhere, as Carpine already observed in the 1240s.[14]

Former Kievan grand prince Michael of Chernigov had been unsuccessfully seeking assistance in Hungary, Poland, and Galicia during his exile.[15] But by 1243 he had accepted the fact that the Mongols had recognised Yaroslav II of Vladimir as the new grand prince, and Michael returned to Chernigov.[15] All the major reigning Rus' princes eventually made the journey to Sarai, the capital city of Batu Khan's newly established Golden Horde state.[15] Daniel of Galicia and Michael of Chernigov were the last two to make their trip and formally submit to the khan as their overlord, and be confirmed in their principalities.[15] However, Michael refused to "purify himself by walking between two fires and to kowtow before an idol of Chingis Khan"; this offence reportedly angered Batu, who had him executed in September 1246.[16]


Italian diplomat Giovanni da Pian del Carpine (Latin: Iohannes de Plano Carpini) visited Kiev in 1246.[17] Afterwards, he wrote a brief note in his Ystoria Mongalorum about the sack of Kiev that happened several years earlier.[17] Although frequently cited by earlier historians, the accuracy of this account has been questioned, especially because the passage from the first redaction of Carpini's manuscript copies was substantially expanded in the second redaction, which breaks the narrative of the first, and partially contradicts it.[18]

First redaction of Carpini's Ystoria Mongalorum[18] Second redaction of Carpini's Ystoria Mongalorum[18]
(authenticity disputed[18])
Subduing this country they attacked Rus', where they made great havoc, destroying cities and fortresses and slaughtering men; and they laid siege of Kiev, the capital of Rus'; after they had besieged the city for a long time, they took it and put the inhabitants to death.[19] Subduing this country they attacked Rus', where they made great havoc, destroying cities and fortresses and slaughtering men; and they laid siege of Kiev, the capital of Rus'; after they had besieged the city for a long time, they took it and put the inhabitants to death.[19]
[19] When we were journeying through that land we came across countless skulls and bones of dead men lying about on the ground. Kiev had been a very large and thickly populated town, but now it has been reduced to almost nothing, for there are at the present time scarce two hundred houses there and the inhabitants are kept in complete servitude.[19]
Going on from there, fighting as they went, the Tatars destroyed the whole of Rus'.[19] Going on from there, fighting as they went, the Tatars destroyed the whole of Rus'.[19]

While the first redaction text states that the Mongols "put the inhabitants to death", suggesting that the entire population was killed and there were no survivors, this is contradicted by the second-redaction statement that "the inhabitants are kept in complete servitude", meaning that at least some had to be left alive to be "kept in complete servitude".[18] The added text thus seems likely to be an inauthentic interpolation.[18] Questions have also been raised as to whether Carpini really "was describing Kiev or some other town he was told was Kiev", as there are no other extant descriptions of what Kiev looked like at the time, and Carpini does not mention any landmarks such as Saint Sophia Cathedral, Kyiv that would make this identification unambiguous.[17]

According to the Galician–Volhynian Chronicle (written in Old Ruthenian, completed in the 1290s), the defenders of Kiev managed to capture a Mongol soldier named Tovrul', who provided them with the names of all enemy officers, suggesting that they acquired extensive knowledge of the army they were facing.[20]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Martin 2007, p. 155.
  2. ^ Dowling, Timothy (2015). Russia at War: from the Mongol Conquest to Afghanistan, Chechnya, and Beyond. ABC-CLIO. p. 537.
  3. ^ a b Turnbull, Stephen (2003). Genghis Khan and the Mongol Conquests 1190–1400. Oxford, Great Britain: Osprey Publishing. pp. 45–49.
  4. ^ a b c d Perfecky, George (1973). The Hypatian Codex. Munich, Germany: Wilhelm Fink Publishing House. pp. 43–49.
  5. ^ Martin 2007, p. xvii.
  6. ^ The Mongols by Stephen Turnbull, p. 81
  7. ^ Roux, Jean-Paul (2003). Genghis Khan and the Mongol Empire. "Abrams Discoveries" series. New York: Harry N. Abrams. p. 131.
  8. ^ Martin 2007, pp. 154–155, 164.
  9. ^ Magocsi 2010, p. 125.
  10. ^ Charles Halperin – The Tatar Yoke, p. 43
  11. ^ V. Minorksy – "The Alān Capital Magas and the Mongol Campaigns", Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, Vol. 14, No. 2 (1952), pp. 221–238
  12. ^ Alexander V. Maiorov (2016). "The Mongolian Capture of Kiev: The Two Dates". The Slavonic and East European Review. 94 (4): 702. doi:10.5699/slaveasteurorev2.94.4.0702. ISSN 0037-6795. S2CID 151475561.
  13. ^ Davison, Derek (6 December 2019). "Today in European history: the Mongols sack Kiev (1240)". Retrieved 30 July 2020.
  14. ^ Martin 2007, p. 165.
  15. ^ a b c d Martin 2007, p. 164.
  16. ^ Martin 2007, pp. 164–165.
  17. ^ a b c Ostrowski 1993, p. 89.
  18. ^ a b c d e f Ostrowski 1993, pp. 89–90.
  19. ^ a b c d e f Ostrowski 1993, p. 90.
  20. ^ Halperin 1987, p. 124.


Primary sources[edit]