A legendary Russian medieval boyar and knight, Evpaty Kolovrat is a folk hero known for his courageous acts in battles during the Mongol invasion of Russia. Described in the old Russian tale ‘’The Tale of the Ruination of Ryazan by Batu “, Kolovrat represents an archetypal brave, self sacrificing warrior seen in numerous Slavic folk stories. While many still argue whether Kolovrat was a historical, somewhat made up figure, or a real life hero, his name remains one of best known from ancient chronicles of Russia.
Early life and Battle of Ryazan
Born around 1200 in the village of Frolovo, Kolovrat was a noble native of Ryazan region, one he will become a symbol of in the wake of Mongolian invasion. A duke (воевода) at the court of Prince Yuri of Ryazan, Evpaty was well known as a physically strong, mentally capable, experienced military commander among his peers and locals. Presumably 35 at the age of Horde invasion, life of Evpaty was accidentaly saved by Prince Yuri. After becoming aware of the incoming invasion of powerful Batu Khan and his vast armies, Yuri sent a few trustworthy dukes to act as messengers to Prince Chernigov, and ask for his help. One of the chosen soldiers to carry the message was Evpaty Kolovrat, one of Yuri’s favorite, most loyal subjects accompanied by Prince Yuri’s brother Ingvar Ingvarevich. While Kolovrat and others were on a mission to win over Prince Chernigov’s help, Prince Yuri was trying to buy Ryazan some time by offering gifts to Batu Khan and employing various other diplomatic strategies. However, Batu Khan had a very specific request in mind, and it was the most beautiful woman in Ryazan, Yuri’s daughter in law, noble Byzantine wife of his son Fedor, Eupraxy.
After Fedor refused to satisfy this request of Mongol leader, he was promptly killed, alongside Prince Yuri and entire army of Ryazan in a “brutal, godless way”. After hearing of Fedor’s death, Eupraxy jumped from a window with their infant son in her hands. According to the legend, once Evpaty got the news of the Ryazan tragedy, he left Prince Ingvar and convinced 1700 soldiers to follow him into taking revenge on the Mongol Horde. Soon after finding nothing but hundreds of thousands of corpses surrounded by burned homes and land in Ryazan, Kolovrat and others who left Prince Ingvar were sure they made the right decision.
Revenge against Mongols
Furious at the destruction Mongol invaders have left behind in Ryazan, Kolovrat decided to seek revenge on the battlefield. Without thought, he came up with a plan to defend honour of his hometown, although Russian side was largely outnumbered and hardly likely to win the fight. With his group of 1700 men, Evpaty had a sort of guerilla revenge planned out, with an idea of chasing the Horde and attacking it from various places in small groups. Rushing out of the forest, fog or in the middle of night producing chilling screams, Kolovrat’s small army managed to intimidate and frighten Mongol soldiers. According to the legend, invaders thought they were “being chased by demons”.
Overtaking some of Mongol camps, the legend says Evpaty’s soldiers striked with such vigor that their “swords became dull”. Struggling to track down the enigmatic enemy, Mongols grew increasingly paranoid and were frightened to make a step further. Fearing that “the dead have risen”, Horde was plagued by superstitious ideas of punishment and persecution from God. After the irrational fear started to seriously weaken Batu’s grip on his forces, he decided to send his best commander, his brother in law Khostovrul, to catch the unknown commander and destroy his army.
After being ambushed by Mongol-Tatar forces, Kolovrat managed to kill the famed Tatar warrior Khostovrul by cutting him in half with a sword, but was later killed himself in combat. Using their superior artillery, Mongols defeated 1700 Russians with the strategic use of catapults. After Russian defeat, body of Evpaty Kolovrat was brought back to Batu Khan. Amazed at bravery and strength of Kolovrat, Khan honoured Kolovrat’s body, and said “Oh, Evpatiy! If you had served me, I would’ve held you at my very heart! ” As a sign of respect for their bravery and valour, Batu Khan gave Evpaty’s body back to his surviving soldiers and let them go unhurt.
The body of Evpaty Kolovrat was brought back to Ryazan, where he was buried alongside other locals who died in a heroic attempt to defend the city. Somewhere around this time, Prince Ingvar also returned to Ryazan, and allegedly searched through mountains of corpses in an attempt to find his brothers and rest of the family. Although he never got over the tragedy, Prince Ingvar managed to restore and renew the city in the years to come and eventually take and reestablish the familial throne of Ryazan.