The whole of southern Russia trembled with terror; and men, women and children, in utter helplessness, with groans and cries fled to the churches, imploring the protection of God. That divine power which alone could aid them, interposed in their behalf. For some unknown reason, Genghis Khan recalled his troops to the shores of the Caspian, where this blood-stained conqueror, in the midst of his invincible armies, dictated laws to the vast regions he had subjected to his will. This frightful storm having left utter desolation behind it, passed away as rapidly as it had approached. Scathed as by the lightnings of heaven, the whole of southern Russia east of the Dnieper was left smoking like a furnace.
The nominal king, Georges II., far distant in the northern realms of Souzdal and Vladimir, listened appalled to the reports of the tempest raging over the southern portion of the kingdom; and when the dark cloud disappeared and its thunders ceased, he congratulated himself in having escaped its fury. After the terrible battle of Kalka, six years passed before the locust legions of the Tartars again made their appearance; and Russia hoped that the scourge had disappeared for ever. In the year 1227, Genghis Khan died. It has been estimated that the ambition of this one man cost the lives of between five and six millions of the human family. He nominated as his successor his oldest son Octai, and enjoined it upon him never to make peace but with vanquished nations. Ambitious of being the conqueror of the world, Octai ravaged with his armies the whole of northern China. In the heart of Tartary he reared his palace, embellished with the highest attainments of Chinese art.
Raising an army of three hundred thousand men, the Tartar sovereign placed his nephew Bati in command, and ordered him to bring into subjection all the nations on the northern shores of the Caspian Sea, and then to continue his conquests throughout all the expanse of northern Russia. A bloody strife of three years planted his banners upon every cliff and through all the defiles of the Ural mountains, and then the victor plunging down the western declivities of this great natural barrier between Europe and Asia, established his troops, for winter quarters, in the valley of the Volga. To strike the region with terror, he burned the capital city of Bulgaria and put all the inhabitants to the sword. Early in the spring of the year 1238, with an army, say the ancient annalists, “as innumerable as locusts,” he crossed the Volga, and threading many almost impenetrable forests, after a march, in a north-west direction, of about four hundred miles, entered the province of Rezdan just south of Souzdal. He then sent an embassage to the king and his confederate princes, saying:
“If you wish for peace with the Tartars you must pay us an annual tribute of one tenth of your possessions.”
The heroic reply was returned,
“When you have slain us all, you can then take all that we have.”