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The Keraiten ( Mongolian Хэрэйд / Chereid ) were a central Mongolian tribal association in the time before the Mongol Empire . They lived in the area between the Orkhon and Cherlen rivers , east of the Naimans .

The Keraites are mostly classified as Turkic people , but some sources also classify them as Mongols . The names and titles of the rulers suggest that they primarily spoke a Turkic language. But as a coalition of many subclans they are likely to have combined influences from both directions, which makes a clear assignment difficult.


The Keraites were converted to Nestorian Christianity in the early 10th century . Other largely or completely Christianized peoples of the region in the 10th and 11th centuries were the Naimans and the Merkites .

A report on the missionary work of the Keraiten from the 13th century can be found in the Jacobite Gregorius Bar-Hebraeus . According to his legendary information, a Keraitic ruler in the mountains lost his way in the early 11th century. After he had given up hope, a vision appeared to him and said: “If you want to believe in Christ, then I will guide you so that you do not perish”, after which he found safely. When he met Christian traders shortly afterwards, he remembered the vision and asked them about their beliefs. On her recommendation, he sent a message to the Metropolitan of Merw , who sent priests and deacons to baptize him and his tribe. The missionary effort that followed resulted in the baptism of 20,000 of his followers.

The legend of the priest king John , otherwise settled in India or Ethiopia , was for a time also associated with the Nestorian rulers of the Keraiten. In some versions, the figure of John is even expressly equated with Toghril Chan (see below).

Submission by the Mongols

The Keraitic ruler Toghril was awarded the title Wang-Chan by the Jin Emperor in 1183 . Toghril is best known as a kind of godfather to Temüdschin (later Genghis Khan ) and one of his earliest allies until Temüdschin's rapid rise to power divided them.

Temüdschin defeated the Keraiten in 1203 when they were weakened by internal disputes. Toghril tried to flee to the Naimans, but was killed by a Naiman warrior who did not recognize him. The remaining Keraiten submitted to Temüdschin completely, but out of distrust he distributed them to the remaining Mongolian tribes.

Nevertheless, individual personalities managed to hold influential positions in the Mongol empire. The Nestorian Keraiten princesses Doquz-Chatun and Sorghaghtani Beki became daughters-in-law of Genghis Khan. The latter had four sons who temporarily served as great khans and some of them founded their own dynasties. In addition to Kublai Khan, this includes the first Ilchan Hülegü , whose main wife was Doquz-Chatun.

Individual evidence

  1. The Mongol Century ( Memento of the original from September 1, 2003 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. ; Department of Asian Pacific Studies, San Diego State University @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  2. ^ A b R. Grousset: The Empire of the Steppes ; New Brunswick, NJ, Rutgers University Press, 1970; P. 191.
  3. ^ Moffett: A History of Christianity in Asia ; Pp. 400-401.