What is the significance of this event, why is it “Great”, and was it really just “standing”? Let's figure it out.
Exactly one hundred years before this, the famous Kulikovo battle took place, which is considered the most significant in the fight against the Tatar-Mongol yoke. In fact, this battle, although victorious, did not liberate Russia from vassal dependence on the Golden Horde. But during these one hundred years the country has become so strong economically and spiritually that it was able to finish the job. This mission was fulfilled by the Grand Duke of Moscow Ivan III (Ivan the Great, son of Vasily II the Dark).
Ivan III acted consistently and decisively, which speaks of his extraordinary political qualities. In 1476, he stopped paying tribute to the Golden Horde, and then refused to recognize the dependence on her Rus. Naturally, the response did not have to wait long: Khan Akhmat concluded an alliance with the Polish-Lithuanian king Casimir IV about a joint campaign against Moscow. Ivan III is also looking for allies, but feudal struggle still reigns inside Russia, and he makes an alliance with the Crimean Khan Mengli-Giray, who promises to oppose Casimir IV.
In the environment of Ivan III himself there is no unanimity either. Part of the Moscow nobility was for unification to fight the Horde, the other - for refusing to fight. And the khan's crowds had already approached the Ugra and stopped at Vorotynsk.
Ivan III directs his main forces under the command of Ivan the Young (his son) and Andrei Menshy (brother of the prince) to Kaluga on the bank of the Ugra River, where on October 8, 1480, they repelled Khan Akhmat's attempt to force the river on the move. Narrow Ugra did not represent a strong natural obstacle for the enemy, so from tactical requirements it would be unwise to keep all forces in one place by the river, so as not to get the threat of an attack from the flank or encirclement. Russian troops place outposts on almost all possible crossings across the river.
The Grand Duke himself was located in the city of Kremenets, between Medyn and Borovsky, about 50 kilometers behind the Russian regiments (now the village of Kremenskoye, Kaluga Region). Such a choice for his stakes does not mean the Grand Duke’s unwillingness to take part in a possible battle, much less about his cowardice, on the contrary, with this decision Ivan III solved two tasks. He gave the opportunity to his commanders to act without regard to the prince, proceeding from the situation, that is, realizing that they were more skilled in military affairs than he, gave them freedom of action; on the other hand, the location of Ivan in Kremenets covered the main forces of the Russian troops from Lithuania and made it possible to maneuver in the case of the crossing of Akhmat-Khata through Ugra. It was a brilliant strategic move.
While in Kremenets, Ivan III does not sit idle, but is actively engaged in diplomacy. He does not want to engage in a big battle with Khan Akhmat, he wants to win, but with little blood. Ivan III sends an ambassador with gifts to Akhmat Khan, Khan does not accept gifts and demands that Ivan himself come to him and send his messenger for negotiations, who returned to Khan with nothing. The exchange of useless conditions and ambassadors helped Ivan gain time, and even minor clashes at possible crossings along the Ugra at the time of the talks stopped. Ivan III fully possessed the situation.
However, on October 26, the river was covered with ice. Now the Khan's troops could cross the Ugra anywhere, and the Russian troops defending the fords were stretched for dozens of miles and could not offer serious resistance to the Khan hordes. But at this time, news was received of the approach of the feudal princes with the regiments. Ivan III, not knowing the true intentions of his rebellious brothers and not trusting them completely, summoned from a Ugra son Ivan and brother Andrew with faithful regiments. Negotiations begin between relatives, in which the grand duke makes some concessions to his brothers, but ultimately achieves obvious political benefits and strengthens his power as the grand duke.
Having learned about the reunification of the Russian regiments and having no news from Casimir, who fought back from the Crimean Khan, Akhmat does not dare to go over the Ugra on ice, but withdraws its troops to the south. According to the chroniclers, this happened between November 6 and 10. And the more the Russian frosts grew stronger, the faster the Khan's flight was to their winter nomads. Only Akhmat’s son, Murtoza (the future Khan), decided not to abandon rich booty and made a raid on Russian lands in the Alexin area. Seeing the danger in this raid for Moscow, Ivan III immediately sends troops to Alexin. Learning of this from the captives, Murtoza, without waiting for the clashes, runs into the steppe, connects with the rest of the Horde. Russian regiments expect attacks, but Akhmat Khan does not dare to invade Moscow's borders.
Thus, the Great Standing on the Ugra solved two main problems of the growing Russian state - it freed him from the hated foreign yoke and practically stopped the feudal turmoil.