The Mongols’ 1240 siege of Kyiv, an event we’ve also discussed here, occurred on their second incursion into the eastern European steppe. The Mongols’ first European invasion, which gives us today’s anniversary, was more a raid than an invasion, since there was no consideration given to actually conquering territory. But it stands as perhaps the most momentous raid in history. By 1221 the Mongols’ war against the Khwarazmian Empire was over, although that empire’s straggling remnants would survive for another decade. Instead of turning around and heading home, as most of the Mongol army was doing, two generals—Jebe and Subutai—asked Genghis Khan for permission to take 20,000 men on an extended (1-2 year) expedition further west. Their intent was not conquest but simply to scout out these western lands, assess the kingdoms controlling them, take whatever booty they could scrape up, and then return home a little richer and a lot better informed.
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