The Battle of Smolino

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13. September 1502

By the beginning of September 1502, Livonians had gathered an army large enough to make another attempt on Pihkva. But this time the army was significantly smaller than in the previous year and therefore Lithuania's help was crucial. Latter however, was facing serious problems in Polotsk, thus was unable to send help. Grand Duke Aleksandras, who in the meanwhile had become the king of Poland, asked the Livonians to come to Polotsk instead. Plettenberg did not see this to be possible and hoped that perhaps the Livonian army will suffice. This hope was based on the fact that the Russian main forces were engaged with the battles in the south.


Initially, Livonians assaulted Pihkva; townsfolk were willing to negotiate, but had no wish to surrender, rather they tried to stall until the Novgorodian forces reached Pihkva. Plettenberg saw this plan through and decided to remove his army from Pihkva. It was clear however, that they had to fight the Russians, unless they wanted them to come raiding Livonia. Hence, Livonians moved to Smolino Lake, in southern Pihkva. Novgorod's and Pihkva's forces pursued them and attacked the supply train, consisting mainly of Estonians and Latvians. Until the Russians were busy destroying this unit, Plettenberg managed to organize his own forces and attack the Russians. Thanks to their superior artillery, with what the Livonians were more skilled to use, Plettnberg's forces prevailed.


Victory in the Smolino Battle was extremely important for the Livonians. The bishop Riga, Michael Hildebrand, declared that the day following the victory, the Ristiülendamispüha, is to be celebrate all over Livonia. This tradition continued until the end of Old-Livonia. The chancellor of Plettenberg and later bishop of Dorpat, Christian Bomhower, wrote a propagandist work called "Eynne schonne hysthorie...", which establishes the Battle of Smolino as an important event. The Russians did not see this battle as an important one, and in reality it did not have any strategical significance. What was more significant in relation to ending the war, was that Lithuania, after several defeats, decided to open truce talks in the beginning of 1503. The Livonians had to accept this turn of events, as fighting Moscow alone would have been pointless.


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