In 1241–1242, the kingdom received a major blow with the Mongol (Tatar) Invasion: after the defeat of the Hungarian army at the Battle of Mohi, Béla IV of Hungary fled, and a large part of the population died in the ensuing destruction leading later to the invitation of settlers, largely from Germany. Historians estimate that up to half of Hungary's then population of 2,000,000 were victims of the Mongol invasion. In the plains between 50 and 80% of the settlements were destroyed. Only castles, strongly fortified cities and abbeys could withstand the assault.
During the Russian campaign, the Mongols drove some 40,000 Cumans, a nomadic tribe of pagan Kipchaks, west of the Carpathian Mountains. There, the Cumans appealed to King Béla IV of Hungary for protection. The Iranian Jassic people came to Hungary together with the Cumans after they were defeated by the Mongols. Cumans constituted perhaps up to 7-8% of the population of Hungary in the second half of the 13th century. Over the centuries they were fully assimilated into the Hungarian population, and their language disappeared, but they preserved their identity and their regional autonomy until 1876.
As a consequence, after the Mongols retreated, King Béla ordered the construction of hundreds of stone castles and fortifications, to defend against a possible second Mongol invasion. The Mongols returned to Hungary in 1286, but the new built stone-castle systems and new tactics (using a higher proportion of heavily armed knights) stopped them. The invading Mongol force was defeated near Pest by the royal army of Ladislaus IV of Hungary. As with later invasions, it was repelled handily, the Mongols losing much of their invading force.
These castles proved to be very important later in the long struggle with the Ottoman Empire. However the cost of building them indebted the Hungarian King to the major feudal landlords again, so the royal power reclaimed by Béla IV after his father Andrew II significantly weakened it was once again dispersed amongst lesser nobility. The countries of the Balkan region and the territory of Russian states fell under Ottoman/Mongolian rule very rapidly, due to the lack of the network of stone/brick castles and fortresses in these countries.
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