Battle of Usaanbalsan

Battle of Usaanbalsan
Legnica.JPG
Tapestry depicting the battle, author unknown
DateAugust 27–28, 1286
(1 day)
Location
Usaanbalsan, Zalyk Khanate
(near Nurmgö, Narozalica)
Result

Pavatrian victory:

Belligerents
Duchy of Pavatria Zalyk Khanate
Commanders and leaders
Nikolai IV Ayuga Khan
Strength
6,500 6,000
Casualties and losses
Light sustained casualties Heavy battle casualties, heavy defections

The Battle of Usaanbalsan (Narodyn: Битва за Усаанбальсан; Bytva za Usaanbal'san) was a military battle fought between the forces of the Duchy of Pavatria and the Zalyk Khanate between August 27 and 28, 1286, near the town of Usaanbalsan, around 15 miles north of modern-day Nurmgö. It was the final battle of the Pavaric-Zalyk Wars and saw the the Zalyk leader Ayuga Khan slain in battle, shattering the Zalyk forces and making way for Pavatria to make swift occupations of much of eastern Zalykia.

The conflict immediately ended any semblence of Zalyk resistence against the expanding Pavatrian state, and Nikolai's gains were consolidated at the Treaty of Buryn signed around two months later. Victory over the Zalyks, most of whom still practised a syncretised form of Badi, made Nikolai extremely popular among the Episemialist clergy. The Ecumenical Patriarch of Arciluco later visited some of Zalykia's newly-conquered cities a few years after the battle. It reaffirmed Pavatrian religious presence, and historians place the battle as the point where Pavatrian cultural, military and religious influence and power began to exceed that of the Polianian states, eventually becoming a significant precursor to the Iconoclast Wars just over a century later.

Background

The states of Pavatria and Zalykia had been in intermittent conflict for around two centuries by the time of the battle, and costly invasions, defenses as well as logistical problems of fighting armies far further west than the bulk of Narozalica's population and economy with little changes in the front had made the conflicts unpopular among Pavatria's nobility. Early guilds in Narozalica also disapproved of the conflict as it severed lucrative trade routes to Zalykia, who had been trading with Pavatrian merchants since their arrival in the eighth century. The clergy of Pavatria were the main caste who openly and avidly supported conflict against the Zalyks. As Badi was still the religion of most of the Zalyk population since their migration from central Coius during the Tagamic War, the clergy disapproved of their presence next to Pavatria. More radical members of the clergy are documented with questioning the religious authority and the divine right of the Pavatrian dukes in ruling the country, but this view was not shared by much of the 13th century standing clergy.

Pavatria and Zalykia had been at relative ease since 1189, when Duke Tomislav brokered a peace between the two states. Despite this, both countries remained fairly mobilised along the border, with forts regularly manned by Pavatria. Ayuga Khan sought to expand Zalykia towards the Lake Nimgan, and, beginning in 1285, launched a raid on the city of Nimganopol, breaking the peace established by Tomislav some 70 years prior. Caught on the back foot, Pavatrian Duke Nikolai of Lipa was forced to retreat his forces from open battle and prepare for a defense of the city. He rallied religious support from the clergy and hired military orders from Amathia and Piraea into the city, numbering around 700. The Zalyks destroyed much of the city but were unsuccessful in sieging and breaching the city's walls, which gave a significant morale boost to Pavatrian armies now attempting to catch the Zalyk forces in full retreat. With fragile support for the war spurred on by the victory at Nimganopol, Nikolai aimed to quickly and decisively win the war, avoiding a prolonged and drawn out conflict. The two countries met first and sparred in small battles at Zamoriyevka, Shompoly and Pikuzy, before a more significant Zalyk victory at Teplyanka intercepted a Pavatrian flank. Both armies eventually regrouped, and met head on outside the farming town of Usaanbalsan.

Composition

Pavatria

The main bulk of Pavatria's standing forces were made up of pikemen, spearmen and swordsmen, and formed most of Pavatria's infantry in the battle. Pikemen and spearmen were especially effective against charges by the cavalry-dominated Zalyk forces, while swordsmen would re-enforce the position providing quick and precise attacks to protect the front pikemen. Some of these swordsmen were comprised of Episemialist military orders, notably the Order of the Eternal Flame and Serpent from Amathia, who were famed for their skill in battle. The flanks of Pavatrian armies were compromised of lancers on horseback as well as small amounts of horse archers.

However, due to the prevalence of horse archers in the opposing Zalyk armies, these horse archers rarely advanced into battle and were mainly used to compliment Pavatrian pikemen and swordsmen during cavalry charges.

Zalykia

Zalyk armies were almost entirely on horseback. Through combat history with their Tagamic counterparts, Zalyk soldiers had become extremely familiar and skilled on horseback, and were regarded as some of the best cavalrymen in medieval Euclea. Zalyk military tactics were often characterised by fast, unpredictable attacks and charges, used to disorient and panic the enemy into formation errors, breaking shape or outright shattering. Against Pavatrian armies of the 11th and 12th centuries, these tactics were extremely effective, but by now the Pavatrian forces had begun to adapt and overcome these forces, devising new methods to stop and break charges.

The predominant part of a Zalyk army in battle would be its frontline cavalry, who were responsible for most of the combat and charging into enemy lines. These cavalry wore light armour themselves and almost no armour on their horses, apart from metal plates on the horses head to protect it from head-on stabs and arrows. They carried either thin, long swords known as ilns or short, sharp, small weapons known as selms. Selm-wielding cavalry of the Zalyk army were extremely agile but the iln began to be favoured as Pavatria began to resort to organised lines of pikemen. Ilns were also later developed to have jagged edges, giving the weapon a blunt strike which dealt much greater damage to heavily armoured opposition. Horse archers were almost important parts of Zalyk forces and charges often began with a barrage of arrows aimed to distract or injure the organised front line of the Pavatrian armies.

Battle

Stories of the battle have been documented for centuries, but it is difficult to verify the accuracy of some accounts of battle. Historians generally agree on a general chronology of the battle, but other sources detail specific aspects that are not mentioned elsewhere. Almost all sources are from Pavatria, and whether Zalyk sources didn't exist or were purposefully destroyed or suppressed by Pavatria is subject to historical debate.

The Zalyks began their advance with three sets of arrow barrages, Pavatria sustained minor casualties from the arrows before the Zalyk cavalry were spotted in the distance. Nikolai of Lipa, who was commanding his armies, ordered his pikemen and swordsmen to advance ahead to meet the cavalry head-on. The tactic was effective, splitting and dispersing the Zalyk lines of the initial charge, which were later picked off by swordsmen and lancers, with horse archers providing backup from afar. Nikolai ordered in the flanks during the second flanks, and Pavatrian cavalry and lancers dealt heavy losses to the unarmoured flanks of the Zalyk armies. Zalyk horse archer provided ample attack and nearly broke Pavatria's right flank, but eventually retreated as the flank began to reroute towards them.

During the third charge, Ayuga Khan was killed while on horseback. Zalyk Khans bared their own recognisable weaponry, so word of his death spread quickly throughout the Zalyk forces. Whether Ayuga Khan was killed by Nikolai or one of his men is also subject to debate, but historians generally agree that it was not him who struck the final blow that killed him. Zalyk morale dropped quickly and as pikemen began to advance quickly, formation broke as defections run rampant throughout the army. With no centralised leadership, it was extremely difficult to regroup them into formation, and Zalyk forces quickly went into full retreat. Pavatria followed and began to pick off groups of around ten soldiers retreating. Sources differ on how far the Zalyks were chased, with ranges between 2 kilometres (1.24 miles) and 30 km (18.6 miles) given.

Directly after the battle, the armies regrouped and called in reinforcements and administrators to begin occupying the abandoned parts of Zalykia, eventually becoming much of its eastern land. Pavatria occupied up to around 80 km (49.7 miles) from its pre-war border.

Conclusion and aftermath

The Battle of Usaanbalsan was the last battle the Zalyks would wage on the Pavatrians, and Nikolai of Lipa met with Zalyk administrators and nobles to sign the Treaty of Buryn into effect in November 1286, which saw Nikolai adopt the title of Khan of Zalykia, bringing Zalykia into de facto personal union with Pavatria, and almost half of Zalykia directly annexed into Pavatria. Nikolai intentionally annexed land near the Polianian border in order to prevent expansion from the south into Zalykia, which angered Polianian rulers and started periods of tension between the two states.

More importantly, the war put Pavatria on the forefront of the medieval Euclean geopolitical stage. As influence and power over the Episemialist countries began to leave Amathia, Piraea and Poliania, Pavatria filled the role of a forefront Episemialist power and assumed the place of a medieval defender of the faith, but this title was not used at the time or in any official capacity. Pavatria began to exceed Poliania in military power and wealth around this time and Pavatrian merchants became extremely wealthy with the massive land and trade expansion into the region. The dukes of Pavatria began mass conversions in the region away from the traditional Badi and towards Episemialist Sotirianity. Badi shrines were destroyed were Episemialist churches and monasteries were built in their place, and cities became increasingly integrated into Pavatria and Pavatrian culture.

The Zalyk Khanate still existed as an official state, but it was entirely a vassal of Pavatria and essentially subservient to Pavatria. The Zalyk conversions to Episemialism and the continued integration of the region bolstered Pavatria's western influence that went unrivalled until it was matched by Poliania in the Iconoclast Wars, which historians argue was partially a result of Pavatria's victory at Usaanbalsan.