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War on the Eve of Nations. Annotation of the chapters

War on the Eve of Nations

Conflicts and Militaries in Eastern Europe, 1450–1500


Annotation of the chapters


1. Entering 1500: A Guide to the Book


The Layout of conflict. The triple maxim of a military in History. – The challenge of historiography and sociology. – On names and notions. A reading guide. - A post mortem. - All Rus'. – The count of blood. – The eastward axis.


Notes about the field of study and methodology.

The climax of the epoch came with the confrontation on the river Vedrosha in 1500.



2. The Reign Expeditio: Four Decades of the Polish Fighting Eminence, c. 1450–1490


The Krasna alarm. – Dracula's student. – Spiral of warfare. – The ascension of the tabor. – The dead and survivors. – The lizard of Konitz. – Bidding for Wilkomierz. - Tannenberg redressed. – The Oboz paramount. – The iron nut cracked. - Et in Bohemia ego. – The black siege. – A combat beauty awakened. - Twilight of fighting.


Polish warfare of the High Middle Ages was established by King Casimir III in the 1340s as the well-organized levy. New challenges emerged for Casimir IV. In the 1450s the Teutonic Order regained its perfection of fighting utilising the Central European mercenaries. The Teutons defeated the Polish levy-based armies and turned back the tide of Polish pressure. Starting in the 1460s Poland replaced its feudal levy with the army of professionals with the distinctive tactic of the wagon array. The national Polish model of the commissioned service of the regular horse troops was introduced. The contracted units of the foot mercenaries were rented from abroad. The offices of the overall military build-up and field command were incepted. The mixed mass army of Poland of the levy, native hired professional horse and mercenary foot was created. It matched the political ideals of the Polish gentry class, but it fell in Bohemia in 1477 and occurred wrong in the dynastic war for the Hungarian crown in 1490–92. It was ineffective against the Crimean raiding intensifying since the 1470s. The sound results of the professional troops led to the establishment of the regular corps of the border defence. The inertia mass of the levy and the dynamic professional troops remained unconsolidated.

The major conflicts observed:

  • The Polish intervention in the Lithuanian Civil War of 1432–40 and the battle of Wilkomierz in 1435;
  • The Polish venture in Bohemia in 1438 supporting the aspiration of the Polish prince Casimir for the Bohemian Crown;
  • The Polish intervention in the dispute of Moldavian factions in 1450 and the battle of Krasna;
  • The Polish involvement in the War for the Hungarian Crown in 1440–43;
  • The Hungarian-Polish Crusading invasion of European Turkey in 1443–44 and the battles of Kunovica and Varna in 1444;
  • The Thirteen Years' War of Poland and the Prussian Union against the Teutonic Order of 1454–66 with the battles of Konitz in 1454, Schwetz in 1462 and other actions;
  • The War for the Bohemian succession between Poland and Hungary in 1471–78 with the siege of Breslau in 1474;
  • Moldavia's resistance against the Turkish invasions with the battles of Vasluj in 1475 and Neamt in 1476, the Ottoman taking of the Chilia and Akkerman portfortresses in 1484 and the battle of lake Katlabuh in 1485;
  • The Crimean depredation of Polish Rus' in the late 1470s–80s with the devastation of Galicia in 1474 and combats of Savranka and Koperstin in 1487;
  • The Polish venture in Hungary in 1490–92 following the claim of the Polish prince John Albert for the Bohemian Crown with the battle of Presov in 1492.



3. Lithuania's Sequel: A Breakdown and Consolidation of the Lithuanian Military, c. 1450–1485


Rus' insidious. – The conference of Lutsk. – The Civil War feigned. – An oligarchy next. – A top lapse. – The steppes' star. - Defence alternatives. - Force of three. – A Crimean tartar. – The coming of Wil. – The Kievan crossbreeds. – The Volhynian transplant and Severa emigre.


The Civil War of 1432–40 was fought in Lithuania between the faction of independence and one of merger with Poland, without a clear edge of either of them. The course of the Civil War was heavily influenced by the Polish involvement with the first faction and the Golden Horde's support of the latter one. An intermediate party of magnates triumphed and established the rule of the conservative Oligarchy. The ancient social-military model of Rus' constituted in Lithuania by Grand Prince Olgierd in the 1350s–70s stagnated. The Tatar Hordes of the Steppes revived to strike. The Crimean Khanate consolidated under the Ottoman protectorate. Lithuanian South-Eastern Rus' was devastated. Moscow denied Lithuania's ancient protection rights over the Republic of Novgorod and the Grand Principality of Tver. Lithuania wasn't able to participate in the onslaught of the Grand Horde on Moscow in 1480 and the Grand Horde was defeated. Casimir IV initiated reforms promoting the new generation of Lithuanian political and military leaders. They introduced innovatory military forms and revived traditional institutions. But the Lithuanian rally lagged behind the dynamics of Poland and Moscow and didn't catch up with the rise of Crimea.

The major conflicts observed:

  • The Lithuanian Civil War of 1432–40 with the battle of the river Styr and siege of Lutsk in 1431; battle of the river Murafa in 1432; battle of Krasnopol in 1438; and sabotage in the castle of Troki in 1440;
  • The intervention of the Grand Horde of the khan Sayid Ahmed in Lithuania in 1433–55;
  • The Turmoil in the Golden Horde of 1419–37 and following conflicts of its fragmentation in the 1450s–60s;
  • The Genoese expedition to Crimea in 1434 and the engagement of Karakhoz;
  • The Ottoman capture of the Crimean seashore in 1475 with the taking of Kaffa and Mangup; and imposing of the Turkish protection over the Crimean Khanate;
  • The aborted Lithuanian participation in the onslaught of the Grand Horde of khan Ahmed on Moscow in 1480;
  • The Crimean raiding in Lithuania and its overrunning of the Northern Black Sea Steppes with the taking of Kiev in 1482.



4. A Blind Visionary: Moscow's Search for Superior Warfare, c. 1450–1480


A yoke-style. - Praying to the enemy's God. – The fourth capital. – The maxima of 1446. – A spear and an arrow. – The republic amok. – A bear neither dumb nor numb. – Moscow's river-borne campaigns. - Novgorod explored. – The edge of Bereg. - Grandes battagliones of Moscow: First echelon. - Novgorod blood-sucked. – The prince and subterfuge. – The khan of Doomsday.


North-Eastern Rus' converted its pre-Mongolian military inheritance and Mongolian adoptions into the peculiar Russian style of warfare combining contracted noble horse troops and communal militias. The Golden Horde split, its domination weakened. The Kazan Khanate boomed as the new hub of the TatarIslamic ascension. The Moscow Grand principality wrecked in the Dynastic War of 1425–53. The Republic of Novgorod arose superior in arms, developing its particular military model of the pensionary heavy horse, contracted troops of mercenary princes, professional amphibian armies of the magnates and city militia. In 1446 the grand prince Vasily II of Moscow switched from contracted noble horse troops and communal militia to the new army combining the regular court corps and Kasimov Tatar mercenaries. The rest of North-Eastern Rus' lagged, and Moscow consolidated its gains. Novgorod lost its edge. Moscow launched longrange river-borne campaigns and suppressed Kazan. Moscow defeated the Novgorod Republic in 1471. The major incursion of the Grand Horde in 1472 was cut abruptly. Moscow enrolled the forces of North-Eastern Rus' and arranged them in new-style territorial troops. Moscow annexed the Novgorod Republic in 1478 abolishing its political and military institutions. The Livonian Order ravaged Moscow's dependent the Republic of Pskov. The general invasion of the Grand Horde in 1480 was fought to a standoff.

The major conflicts observed:

  • The War of the Kazan emergence, with the battles of Belev in 1437 and Suzdal in 1445;
  • The climax of the Moscow Dynastic War of 1425–53 with the battle of Galich in 1450;
  • The Republic of Novgorod's war against the Livonian Order in 1444–47 with the amphibian battle of the Narva estuary;
  • The Moscow's war against Novgorod in 1456, with the battle of Rusa;
  • The Moscow's war against the Khanate of Kazan of 1467–69, with the Moscow amphibian attacks on the city of Kazan and the on-river battles of Zvenich Bor and Kama estuary;
  • The Moscow's war against Novgorod in 1471 with the battle of the river Shelon; Moscow's counter-amphibian actions of Korostyn and New Rusa; the amphibian battle on the river Shelenga;
  • The amphibian expedition of the Vyatka Republic to the residence capital of the Grande Horde of Saraychik in 1471;
  • The attack of the Grand Horde on the Moscow defensive barrier, the river Oka, in 1472 with the Horde's taking of Aleksin and the battle of the Mitkov ford;
  • The Moscow's armed suppression of Novgorod in the winter of 1477–78;
  • The armed upheaval of the appanage princes of the Moscow house against the Grand prince Ivan III in 1480;
  • The amphibian assault of the Moscow and Kasimov troops on the residence capital of the Grande Horde of Saraychik in 1480;
  • The on-land and amphibian assault of the Livonian Order on Moscow's dependent the Republic of Pskov in 1480;
  • The Grand Horde's onslaught on Moscow in 1480 resulting in a standoff on the river Ugra;
  • The assault of the Siberian Khanate and Nogay Horde on the roaming capital of the Grand Horde in 1480 and the assassination of the khan Ahmed.



5. A Carousel of Forces: the Interplay of Moscow, Novgorod and Kazan Warfare, c. 1480–1490


The ideals of Moscow and Co. - Novgorod converted. - Tver absorbed. – Kazan's portfolio. – The khanate anticlockwise. - Grandes battagliones of Moscow: Second echelon. - On steel and breed.


The small volume of regular troops and the infirmity of militia pressed the grand prince Ivan III of Moscow to establish regular territorial forces of a new model that adapted the Lithuanian precedents, Novgorodian forms of organisation, Kazan's experience and Byzantine legislation. The central bureaucratic management of the national military build-up and war-waging was established. Standardisation of weaponry and tactical reform followed. The Grand Principality of Tver was annexed and transformed according to the new Moscow military model as well as the Novgorod Republic. At the same time, the Khanate of Kazan constructed its effective military model with the Horde's heritage and Central Asian adoptions. Moscow launched the invasion and enforced Kazan's allegiance.

The major conflicts observed:

  • Moscow's annexation of the Grand principality of Tver in 1485;
  • Moscow's war against the Khanate of Kazan in 1487, with the siege and surrender of Kazan;
  • Moscow's annexation of the Republic of Vyatka in 1489.



6. The Operational Theatre: Approaching the Partition of Eastern Europe, c. 1485–1500


Lithuania galvanised. - Buffer wars. – The Cossackdom authored. – Vyazma's sabotage. – A wound of Wisniowec. – The thunder of Vyborg. - Ivangorod amphibious. - Jagellonian thorns. - Arrogant strategists and humble tactician. - Bali's seasons. – The Crimea's transcontinental.


After the ascension of grand prince Alexander to the Lithuanian seat in 1492, Lithuania capitalised on the reforms of Casimir IV. The advanced military forms, found before, were promoted: the large mercenary army was rented in Poland; the garrisons of marginals were hired from the frontier settlers, and the strengthened noble levy was moved into action. Lithuania took a tough stance against Moscow in the Oka Upper reaches and against the Crimea in SouthWestern Rus'. In the following confrontation, Lithuania was pressed by the superior Moscow forces and was defeated by the Crimeans, but it didn't give up and fell apart. Crimean khan Mengli Geray established the new operational design for his raids on Lithuania and Poland. He arranged western and central raiding hubs in the Bucak Steppe and Dnieper estuary, in addition to the traditional raiding base of the Crimea's Perekop isthmus. He also fortified logistical raiding passes across the Dnieper. Sweden recharged its expansion in Karelia along the Gulf of Finland; the Swedish regular army of mixed mercenary and the native stock was born. Moscow deployed its new model army against Sweden, and Sweden utilised its advanced warfare techniques against the Moscow attack. The struggle resulted in a stalemate. In 1497 Poland and Lithuania mobilised and launched the joint twothorn offensive towards the Turkish Black Sea ports of Chilia and Akkerman across Moldavia and on the Crimea. The Lithuanian army turned back after the vanguard action against the Crimeans in Podolia. The Polish army was heavily defeated by Moldavian troops in the battle of the Kozmin forest. The Ottoman retaliation of a grand scale followed. In two attacks in 1498, the Polish armed resistance was suppressed, and the South-East of Poland was devastated. In 1499–1500 Khan Mengli Geray launched giant circular raids over Eastern Poland to the vicinity of the Baltic and back to Crimea across the Lithuanian heartland.

The major conflicts observed:

  • The pro-Moscow insurgence in the Lithuanian dependent principalities of the Upper reaches of the river Oka and the frontier war between Moscow and Lithuania in 1487–92;
  • The onslaught of the Grande Horde on the Crimean Khanate in 1490–91 with involvement of the Turkish, Moscow and Kazan forces on the Crimean side;
  • The Moscow advance against Lithuania in the Upper reaches of the river Oka and war between them in 1493–94;
  • The Moscow taking of Vyazma in the Lithuanian Smolensk province in 1493;
  • The Lithuanian counter-attack on the Crimean fortified passes across the Dnieper and on the raiding hub of Ochakov in the Dnieper estuary in 1493;
  • The Crimean onslaught on Lithuania in 1492–97; the combat of Wisniowiec in 1494; and the Crimean breakthrough across the Pinsk marshes into NorthWestern Lithuania in 1497;
  • The Moscow war against Sweden of 1495–97, with Moscow's siege of Vyborg in 1495 and the Swedish amphibian attack on Ivangorod in 1496;
  • The Lithuanian onslaught on the Crimea in 1497 and the combat of Braclaw;
  • The Polish invasion of Moldavia in 1497 and the battle of Kozmin forest;
  • The Turkish invasions of Southern Poland in 1498;
  • The Crimean circular raids across Eastern Poland to the vicinity of the Baltic and back across the Lithuanian heartland in 1500.



7. Inside 1500: The Campaign of Eastern Europe's Partition


Reason reversed. – The meleé of heirs. – Severa's rift. – A corps from oblivion. – A knot of stratagems. - Looking for an engagement. – Vedrosha's protocol.


A new Union of the close military alliance was accorded between Poland and Lithuania in 1499, it was directed against Moscow and Crimea. The transfer of Polish regular troops into Lithuania was smoothed, the Jagellonian reigns of Hungary and Bohemia participated in the joint military efforts sending a large number of mercenaries. The Grand prince Alexander of Lithuania drafted the mixed army of Polish, Czech and Hungarian mercenaries and Lithuanian noble levy. Ivan III suppressed peacemakers in Moscow and mobilises his mass army. The Orthodox princes of the Lithuanian Severa province deserted to Moscow with their possessions. The hostilities between Moscow and Lithuania restarted. The Moscow forces attacked Lithuania in the North-West, West and South-West strategical directions at once. Alexander moved his army to Moscow's stronghold of Vyazma to destroy Moscow's central column. The Lithuanians looked for the decisive engagement and marched in concentration. Ivan III hid his operational deployment and played with his reserves. The troops of Kazan campaigned together with the Moscow forces. The resolute engagement of the epoch was going on.



8. A Pot for Two Heads: Conclusions and Explanations


Eastern Europe well-done. – The application of forces against the guns and numbers. - Tailoring warfare. – Turning to professionals. – Gaining the mass. - Warfare à la Carte. - Social-military relations reversed. - Ad hominem.


The operational approach emerges as the link between the tactical edge of the troops and large-scale historical changes. The organisation of forces and their application had upturned warfare before the domination of firearms and social spread of the martial craft did. The reverse socialisation and political grab of the advanced military forms came as the postponed cost of the leap of fighting capability.



Appendix: The Action Schedule of Eastern Europe, c. 1450–1500


A Table of military reforms, build-ups, campaigns, battles, combats, sieges, raids, assaults, riots, acts of sabotage and armed coups. Each of its entries has a brief comment and a reference to its page in the study.





The bibliography consists of over 500 items in eight languages: Belarusian, English, French, German, Italian, Polish, Russian, Ukrainian. The major literature of the field is embraced. English, Polish and Russian titles are in the leading majority. The titles in East-European languages are translated into English to support a choice for further reading.





There are a couple of dozen references to the Russian Illustrated Anthological Chronicle of the sixteenth century, integrated into the text. Each of them has the link to the digital image of the miniature on the website of a depository.


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