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Daily TWiP – Drunken Russian troops are wiped out by the Mongols at the Battle on Pyana River today in 1377

By Staff | Aug 2, 2011

Welcome to Daily TWiP, your daily dose of all the holidays and history we couldn’t cram into The Week in Preview.

A word to the discerning soldier: don’t drink the local alcoholic specialty unless you know how strong it is. Also: while you’re waiting to go into battle is not the right time to experiment with this. Had the Russian troops stationed at the Pyana River put that advice to good use today (Aug. 2th) in 1377, the Battle on Pyana River might have turned out very differently. For one thing, the river might have had a different name.

At this time in Russian history, Russia was made up of principalities, each ruled by its own knyaz, or prince. The princes normally fought for power amongst themselves, but after the invasion of the Mongol Empire during the 13th century, many of the princes allied against this common enemy.

In the summer of 1377, the princes learned that Khan Arapsha, leader of the Mongolian Blue Horde, would be traveling with his troops to the town of Nizhny Novgorod. The princes of Pereyaslavl, Yaroslavl, Yuryev, Nizhny Novgorod, and Murom assembled their armies to meet the Blue Horde at Nizhny Novgorod.

Unfortunately, Khan Arapsha took his time arriving, so the Russian forces withdrew to the nearby Pyana River. Due to the heat, soldiers and commanders alike sought out alcoholic beverages to slake their thirst and make the wait more bearable.

Mead, ale, and beer were consumed in large quantities, along with a concoction known as Mordva pure, an herbal wine stronger than what the soldiers were accustomed to in their home villages. The combination of all four beverages pretty much immobilized the soldiers.

Alerted to the troops’ intoxication by his allies in the area, Khan Arapsha divided his comparably smaller force into five groups, which surrounded and attacked the Russian troops. Too drunk to fight back, most of the Russian soldiers were slaughtered. Their inebriated commander, Knyaz Ivan Dmitriyevich, drowned trying to cross the river.

Khan Arapsha and the Blue Horde descended on Niznhy Novgorod, sacking the city. Residents of the town fled the chaos by boat.

It was a massacre that would occupy a prominent place in Russian history. Not only was the event recorded in the medieval text, “Chronicle on the Slaughter at Pyana River,” it was immortalized in the name of the river itself, which wasn’t officially given until after the battle of 1377. It derives from the Russian word “piany,” which translates to drunk or tipsy.

Daily TWiP appears Monday through Saturday courtesy of The Week in Preview. Read more of both at www.nashuatelegraph.com/columnists/weekinpreview.

– Teresa Santoski

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