In c. 1236-7 the Mongols, led by Batu Khan crossed the Volga and went after the present-day Russian Ukrainian territories, as they had two decades previous. The peoples that inhabited this area were known as the Rus. The Mongols campaigned to gain an alliance from the city-state or demand a surrender. This campaigning initiative was one commonly employed by the invading Mongols. If the city surrendered, the people would be accepted into the Mongol ulus (subject people, effectively lands), would be able to live, and keep their religious affiliation. The Riazan refused, as most other cities, to submit to the Mongol prodding.

In response to the politico rejection, the Mongols sent small units to the villages scattered along the surrounding Riazan countryside. These units took a number of citizens from each village. The promise of work was alluring to the Rus village folk. The jobs of manual labor positions included: digging fortifications, cutting trees and carrying supplies. As the small units escorted the chosen laborers out of the countryside villages, subsequent Mongol units entered the villages. Burning the villages, the Mongols destroyed the homes of the chosen laborers and invoked fear into those that had been left behind.  Out of desperation and in need of protection the villagers fled to Riazan. Fortunately, so it seemed, Riazan was fortified by a wall, seen as a beacon of safety for the fleeing villagers.

The wall, of safety and refuge for the fleeing villagers, became their demise. Once at the city wall, the Mongols sent a woman ambassador to speak with the Riazan. The officials scoffed at this gesture. Deeming the woman ambassador a witch they refused her entry beyond the wall. This dismissal aroused the Mongols to devise a plan to breech the wall and sack the city of Raizan.

However, rather than attack the wall of Riazan directly, the Mongols ordered their laborers to build a wall around the city’s, seemingly sturdy, wall. The Mongols constructed a wall, not built of stone and mortar, but wood and then implemented the use of ropes and blankets. The ropes were strung from neighboring trees and blankets were used for the hunters to lay on. From this location the hunter could look down on the enemy, creating a perfect vantage point to administer a variety of bombardments on the unsuspecting trespasser. The use of ropes and blankets was a commonly implemented tactic when the Mongols would herd prey animals, as well as used in military training; nerge. Now the Mongols looked down upon their captives. The people of Riazan were isolated within their walled city. The wall of solace had imprisoned the people. No one could get in and no one could get out. Their enemy trapped in the walls of the city, the Mongol forces blasted down torrents of rock, wood, flaming pots of naphtha and gun powder upon the people.

Related image
The Capture of Riazan by Khan Batu. Illumination from The Illustrated Chronicle. 16th Century. Academy of Science Library, Leningrad.

The Mongols bombarded the city with these tactics for five days before directly attacking the city and taking it within a day. The Mongols then executed the ruling aristocrats. Next they picked the most industrious of the labor force and incited the rest to flee to the next city; a possible refuge. Those that escaped told stories of what happened to the next of what was to come; instilling fear in the city even before the approaching Mongol invaders arrived on the scene.