Mongol Empire

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The Mongol Empire was the main settlement area of ​​the Mongols and the largest contiguous area of ​​rule in world history. The term "Mongols" refers to the original peoples of Mongolia , a country north of today 's People's Republic of China on the plateau. Despite their small number (about 200,000 around 1200), the Mongols played an important role in world history.

The Mongol empires under Genghis Khan (from 1206 to 1227) and his heirs:
  • Mongol Empire
  • From 1260:
  • Golden Horde Territory (Southern Russia)
  • Chagatai Khanate (Central Asia)
  • Area of ​​the Ilkhan (Persia)
  • Yuan Dynasty Empire (China)
  • Character of the empire

    A governor ( darughachi ) of the Golden Horde in a Russian city in the 13th century. Historical representation from 1902.
    Empire of the Mongols

    The term Mongolian Empire includes the steppe empire (1190 to 1260) founded by Genghis Khan and ruled by his descendants Ögedei Khan , Güyük Khan and Möngke Khan , as well as the community of four successor empires : Chagatai Khanate (until 1565), Ilchanat ( until 1507), Golden Horde (until 1502) and Yuan Dynasty (until 1387, in China only until 1368). The Mongolian Empire still knew the institution of the Great Khan after 1260 , however, after Möngke Khan, the respective Great Khan was no longer fully recognized by all Mongolian Khanates , but in some cases they acted as independent empires.

    The last great khan who ruled all Mongolian partial empires was Timur Khan (until 1307). After that there were repeated tribute payments from the other khans to the respective great khan, in particular to Toqa Timur (until 1332), who was proven to have received such tribute payments from the other partial kingdoms 14 times during his reign. B. also Russian slaves. In a report to Pope John XXII. there are even reports of annual tribute payments to Toqa Timur. Similar gestures of submission and attachment were e.g. B. Weddings between princes of the Yuan Dynasty on the one hand and those of the Golden Horde or Ilkhanates on the other. However, after Timur Khan, the political fortunes of the Mongol Empire were largely decentralized. In particular, the khans supported each other - or their great khan - only to a limited extent in military actions; soldiers were often only sent symbolically. In this respect, the Mongolian Empire from 1307 onwards was more of a confederation of states similar to the Holy Roman Empire under more formal than actual leadership by the Great Khan as a unified state in the modern sense.

    Despite the inadequate political unity, the solidarity within the Mongol Empire was still clearly visible after 1307. It manifested itself among other things in the law codified in the Jassa , the postal and communication system (Örtöö and Païza), and the common art and cultural assets such as writing and language in particular . The unity of the Mongolian Empire can thus be compared with that of other great empires of the late Middle Ages and the early modern period .

    The rule over the numerous vassal states of the Mongol Empire, especially in the periphery , was often exercised through a system of tribute payments, hostages and punitive expeditions. After the conquest, for example, men capable of military service were often integrated into the Mongolian army. Native rulers were retained or reinstated, but selected family members were taken hostage. In addition, a governor was usually appointed ( darughachi in Russian, داروغه darougheh in Persian, basqaq in Turkish), who either stayed on site or returned annually. He ensured the delivery of the tribute to the respective khan and ensured that the vassal state did not pursue a policy that was contrary to that of the Mongol Empire. If something happened to the governor or if he reported disobedience to the Khan, the hostages previously taken were killed and punitive expeditions against the vassal state were undertaken. The process was then usually repeated.



    Map of Eurasia showing the different states
    Eurasia before the start of the Mongol conquests, around 1200.

    The vast steppe areas of Mongolia - as well as the adjacent areas of northern China, southern Russia and eastern Kazakhstan - were ruled by nomadic groups in the Middle Ages , which, due to their way of life in clans, are not always easy to classify and differentiate from one another; Linguistically, these groups can be divided into three categories: those who speak a Turkic , Mongolian or Tungusic language .

    Based largely on the different languages, five ethnic groups were identified as dominating the Mongolian steppe areas for the decades before Genghis Khan : Naimans , Keraites , Merkites , Tatars and Mongols , with the Merkites and Mongols speaking Mongolian and the Tatars speaking a Turkic language and the Naimans and Keraiten are qualified by some as Turkic peoples . These five groups were often involved in conflicts with one another, but also with one another. Around 1123 the groups of the Mongolian steppe areas were united by Kabul Khan , but this empire fell again in 1160/61.

    Empire founding

    The Mongol Empire at the death of Genghis Khan (1227)
    Map of Asia
    The Mongol Empire at the death of Möngke Khan (1259).

    The Mongols only rose permanently under the leadership of Genghis Khan (1155 / 1162-1227), who succeeded in reunification in 1190 and which also subjugated the other steppe peoples by 1204. Unlike Kabul Khan before him, he gave the unified horsemen a state structure this time: In his army - regardless of clans and clans - each warrior was assigned to a tower (ten thousand); this policy was continued with the soldiers who were later integrated into the Mongolian army, which contributed significantly to the clout and scalability. He also gave his kingdom a uniform script and a uniform law ( Jassa ). To establish a central power, he founded the new capital Karakorum . His successors built up a postal and communication system (Örtöö and Païza) in particular.

    Under him and his successors, the Mongols were able to build the largest land empire in history with a size of 26,000,000 km², in which 100 million people lived. At the height of their power they ruled the empires of China , Korea , Khorassan (today part of Afghanistan and Iran ), Persia , Georgia , Armenia , Bulgaria , Hungary , Russia , and the countries in between.

    Mongol conquest in Europe

    Caucasus before the Mongol invasion

    In the 1220s, two Mongolian generals from Genghis Khan , Jebe and Subutai , undertook a first campaign to Europe after a successful campaign against the Naiman prince Kütschlüg, ruler of what was left of the Kara-Kitai empire . In February 1221 they defeated a numerically far superior Georgian army of Giorgi IV. Lascha at the confluence of Debed and Kura and in the following winter again at Derbent . That same winter they made an alliance with Venetian merchants ; In return for maps and detailed information about Central and Western Europe, they destroyed the Genoese city of Sudak on the Kerch peninsula . In today's Ukraine there was a battle in May 1223 between a coalition of 18 Russian princes, including Daniel Romanowitsch of Galicia of the principality of Halych-Volodymyr , Mstislav Mstislavich and Mstislav III. of the Kievan Rus and the Cuman leader Köten on the one hand and the again outnumbered Mongolian army on the other; in the battle of the Kalka the Mongols defeated the Russian army. There were also looting of Russian cities. These were the first direct contacts between Mongols and Europeans. For the Russians this collision was a traumatic experience, so that in the Nestor Chronicle for the year 1224, for example, it is recorded: “[...] because of our sins, unknown peoples fell upon us that year, none of whom knew who they were, where they came from who they come from or what beliefs they have. ”The Mongols brought detailed information about Europe back to Mongolia: records of climate and vegetation, maps showing Hungary, Poland, Silesia and Bohemia, translators and estimates about the population numbers.

    Less than two decades later, when Genghis Khan had died and his son Ögedei Khan was Great Khan of the Mongols, a Mongol storm broke out over Europe. Another son of Genghis Khan, Jötschi , and his son Batu Khan led a Mongolian army that, first in 1237, conquered smaller empires in what is now Russia, between Kazakhstan and Ukraine. By 1240 the Russian principalities with the exception of Novgorod were conquered, which the Mongols probably succeeded so quickly and apparently without effort because the Russian principalities only partially bundled their forces or were able to bundle due to the force of the Mongol attack. Turkish peoples in the area of ​​today's Ukraine, especially the Kipchak , partially submitted and joined - like other Turkish tribes before them - the Mongolian army, partially they fled to Hungary and served the Hungarian king as mercenaries.

    In 1241 the Mongolian cavalry forces penetrated into what is now the Czech Republic and Austria. The knight armies of the European states had nothing to oppose the Mongols. The two largest battles, the (first) battle near Liegnitz ( Silesia ) on April 9, 1241 and the battle near Muhi (Hungary), only a few days later, ended with devastating defeats for the German / Polish and Hungarian armies. The Mongols benefited from the discipline and perseverance of their cavalry and the outstanding logistical achievements, see Mongolian warfare . The European campaign was stopped due to the death of Ögedei Khan in December, as Dschötschi and Batu Khan wanted to take part in the election of the new great Khan .

    The Mongolian conquests in Europe became the state of the Golden Horde , which was one of the largest empires of Europe until 1502 and thus for more than a quarter of a millennium: It comprised up to a third of geographical Europe and up to 10% of the European population and practiced in particular supremacy over Russia. The Mongols attacked the Hungarians and Poles again and again at least until the late 13th century, but later formed alliances with Central European powers - around 1410 in the battle of Tannenberg . They threatened the Byzantine Empire until the middle of the 14th century by taking the economically and militarily important city of Vicina and making repeated incursions into Thrace . There were raids into Central Europe until the 15th century.

    Mongol conquest in the Near and Middle East

    The Anuschteginid Empire at the beginning of the 13th century

    The fourth and last dynasty of the Khorezm Shahs ( Persian خوارزمشاه), the Muslim Anushteginids (Anūšteginids), ruled Khoresmia , Iran , Transoxania and Afghanistan since 1077 ; a campaign against the caliph of Baghdad had to be broken off because of initial military confrontations with the Mongols. Provoked by the attack on a trade caravan in Utrar in 1218, the Mongols conquered western Central Asia . Muhammad II (ʿAlāʾ ad-Dunyā wa-ʼd-Dīn Abū 'l-Fatḥ Muḥammad) - unable to effectively defend his empire - fled to an island in the Caspian Sea where he died soon after. His son Jalal ad-Din attempted a campaign against the Mongols from Azerbaijan, but was defeated in 1230 by the previously allied Rum Seljuks and Aiyubids in the battle of Yasi-Tschemen (near Erzincan ).

    The Mongols invaded Anatolia in the 1230s and killed Kai Kobad I , Sultan of the Rum Seljuks . After 1241, under Baiju , they began to conquer further areas of the Middle East from Azerbaijan . Together with Georgian and Armenian forces, they conquered Erzurum in 1242 . Kai Chosrau II then raised an 80,000-strong army and awaited the Mongols in Sivas . The Empire of Trebizond and Georgian aristocrats, who had left their country because of the Mongol invasion, joined Kai Chosrau II. In the battle of Köse Dağ , the Mongols almost completely wiped out the opposing army.

    The Mongols attack Baghdad with various weapons (including siege weapons and pontoon bridges ). (Persian miniature from the Jami 'at-tawarich (universal story )
    Raschīd ad-Dīns ).

    More than ten years later, Great Khan was now Möngke Khan , his brother Hülegü was commissioned with another campaign in the west. For this, Hülegü received a large army, which made up around a fifth of the entire Mongolian army, around 150,000 men. When he reached Transoxania in 1255 , his army included generals such as Arghun Aqa from the Oirats , Baiju, Buqa-Temur, the Chinese Guo Kan, the Jalaiyr Koke Ilge, Kitbukha from the Naimans , Tutar and Quli from the Golden Horde and Hülegüs Brother Sunitai. In addition to the Mongols, associations of Christian vassals such as the Georgians , Armenians and some Franks from the Principality of Antioch fought for the Mongols. The contemporary witness Ata al-Mulk Juwaini also reported on 1000 Chinese artillery experts as well as Persian and Turkish soldiers. In Iran, the militant sect of the Nizarites was initially eliminated. They controlled several fortresses in the Elburs Mountains in northern Iran (and in Syria). The leader of the Nizarites in Alamut (north of Qazvin ), Ala ad-Din Muhammad III. b. Hasan (1221–1255), sent assassins to murder Möngke and Kitbukha, but this could be prevented. After the destruction of several fortresses, Hülegü was able to conquer Alamut on December 20, 1256.

    The realm of the Ilkhan in its greatest extent

    From the already Mongolian areas in the Middle East, Helegü advanced next in the direction of Baghdad, where the second dynasty of the caliph, that of the Abbasids, had ruled since 751. After a period of weakness in the caliphate, in which the caliph had been degraded to a puppet of his military slaves (Mamluks) and Turkish warlords ( Seljuks ), the caliphate had regained more - also secular - power from the 12th century. Baghdad, which (after formerly Arabia and Syria) had become the center of the Islamic world, had a population of one million people and was defended by up to 60,000 soldiers. Hülegü's army attacked from three sides: the northern part under Baiju came from Anatolia via Arbil and crossed the Tigris at Tikrit and approached the city from the west. Hülegü himself came from Hamadan with his army and approached Baghdad from the east via Kermanshah , Hulwan. The southern group moved towards Baghdad via Lorestan .

    Al-Musta'sim was able to repel an initial attack , but then lost. On February 10, 1258 (according to the Islamic calendar on the 4th Safar 656 AH) he surrendered the city. The fall of Baghdad came as a great shock to the Islamic world. But the city was soon rebuilt: 3000 Mongolian warriors were left behind for this purpose; the former caliphate was integrated into the Mongolian administrative system: Baghdad, southern Mesopotamia and Chusistan received governors ( Wali - Wali of the entire region was the Mongol prince Sujunjāq), deputies ( Nāʾeb ), military commanders ( Še Šna ) and numerous judges. In 1258/59 a census and tax assessment was carried out in the city. The Jacobite traveler Gregorius Bar-Hebraeus visited Baghdad in 1265 and found that the Mongol conquest of Aleppo was more devastating than it was in Baghdad.

    In January 1260 the Mongols conquered Aleppo and Homs . At this time, however, the news of the death of the great khan arrived. Hülegü withdrew to Central Asia with most of the Mongolian army. The troops remaining in Syria under the general Kitbukha could still take Damascus and subjugate the last sultan of Syria from the Ayyubid dynasty , an-Nasir Yusuf . However, they were still subject to the Mamluks of Egypt in September at the Battle of ʿAin Jālūt , so that from then on the Euphrates formed the border to the Mamluk Sultanate , which will continue to be successful in the future.

    The Mongol conquests in the Near and Middle East became the Ilkhanate . The descendants of Hülegü ruled this khanate for around 100 years and dominated the entire region. The Ilkhan Tegüder was the first Mongol ruler to convert to Islam and to take the name Ahmad. This led to the resistance of the Mongolian upper class, so that in 1284 Ahmad Tegüder was overthrown by Arghun and an increased promotion of Buddhism took place. Under Ghazan , whose rule is seen as the high point of the dynasty, a large part of the Mongolian upper class converted to Sunni Islam. At the same time, he was also the first Ilkhan who did not personally travel to the Great Khan when he was enthroned to seek confirmation of his power - although he was on friendly terms with him. In 1353 Togha Temür was murdered and the Ilchanat fell apart.


    The Near and Middle East were brought back under quasi-Mongolian rule as early as 1360, when another part of the Mongolian Empire, the Chagatai Khanate , under Timur , conquered the region. The Mongolian army led by Tamerlane defeated the Ottoman Sultan Bayezid I in the Battle of Ankara . In this battle, the Ottoman troops suffered one of the worst defeats in history. The Ottoman Sultan was captured, where he died in 1403. Although Timur appealed to his Mongolian ancestors and the legitimation of the Chagatai Khanate and even married a (real) descendant of Genghis Khan, his attempt to position himself as the successor of Genghis Khan is rejected by many historians. Today's Hazara in Afghanistan are considered direct descendants of the Ilkhan.

    Mongol conquests in China, Korea and Japan

    China 1142: In the decades before the Mongol invasion, the Song ruled only parts of what is now China due to the Jurchen.

    Already at Genghis Khan's lifetime was the kingdom of Tangut ( Western Xia ), on the northwestern edge of the then China, conquered and the empire of Jurchen ( Jin Dynasty , made) in northern tributary. Under his son Ögedei Khan as Great Khan , the Jurchen Empire was finally conquered in a war from 1231 to 1234. General Subutai , who later played an important role in the campaign in the west, was involved in this war .

    Korea was also made subject to tribute as early as 1218; after the death of a governor, Korea was finally subjected in 1231; however, there were repeated uprisings against the Mongolian occupiers as a result. It was not until the middle of the 1270s, under Kublai Khan as Great Khan , that Korea could be "pacified".

    Empire of the Yuan Dynasty around 1294

    In the year 1235 the conquest of the Chinese empire of the Song in the south began from the already Mongolian areas on the territory of today's China . However, this undertaking was not initially a priority; two campaigns in 1242 and 1245, for example, served more as a diversion from domestic political disputes during the interregnum between Ögedei Khan and his son Güyük Khan . Under the Great Khan Möngke Khan actual territorial gains took place from 1252 to 1255 and in 1256 there was a general offensive, which ended with Möngke's unexpected death in the late summer of 1259 with an armistice at which the Song had bought dearly. After Khublai's seizure of power , the Mongolian capital was relocated to former Chinese soil in 1260. In addition to Kublai's own troops, troops from the incumbent Ilkhan took part in a new general offensive in 1267/1268 . After the fortresses on the Han River fell in 1273 (several years under siege of Xiangyang ), the Mongols advanced into Hangzhou. The capital Hangzhou surrendered in 1276, the last followers of the Song held out until 1279. After the Sea Battle of Yamen ( Chinese  崖門 戰役  /  崖门 战役 ) on March 19, 1279, one of the greatest sea battles in world history, Prime Minister and Imperial Advisor Lu Xiufu drowned ( Chinese  陸秀夫  /  陆秀夫 , 1232–1279) the eight-year-old heir to the throne Bing and jump into the Pearl River , which ended the Song dynasty.

    Also under Khubilai Khan there was a first Japanese invasion in 1274. An army, which according to various sources consisted of between 20,000 and 40,000 Mongolian, Chinese and Korean troops, set out for Japan on around 1,000 Korean warships. However, due to the time pressure during construction, the ships were of relatively poor quality. After landing in Hakata Bay on Kyūshū, the Mongols met the Japanese defense army, formed by the local rulers, the Gokenin ( 御 家人 ), of the Kyūshū provinces. In the Battle of Bun'ei , the "First Battle of Hakata Bay", the invaders were numerically and technically superior to the Japanese. The Mongols were able to quickly take Hakata and push the Japanese out of the bay into the interior after 20 days of battle. The Japanese holed up in the Mizuki fortress ( 水城 ). There they wanted to wait for more troops to arrive from central and eastern Japan. However, the Mongolian commanders decided to withdraw beforehand. The reasons for this are likely to have been supply problems on the one hand and own losses on the other; For example, the Mongolian general Liu Fu-heng was seriously injured. This decision marked the turning point of the battle: After the troops had embarked in Hakata Bay, a severe storm hit, which sank about a third of the less robust ships; the Japanese interpreted the storm as a "divine wind", a kamikaze . This marked the end of the first invasion of Japan.

    In the spring of 1281 the Mongols urged the Koreans to attack the Japanese island of Tsushima - without substantial support from Mongolian or Chinese troops. The Japanese were able to fight back. Later that year, a large new force of Mongols, Chinese and Koreans moved through Tsushima and Iki , to Kyushu, and landed between Munakata and Hakata Bay. The Japanese were also able to repel this attack. Meanwhile, however, the majority of the advancing troops landed in the province of Hizen . The Japanese managed to hold the lines until August 14, 1281 in the Battle of Koan , the "Second Battle of Hakata Bay". On August 15 and 16, a typhoon hit the coast of Kyūshū, which in turn destroyed about a third of the attacking forces. This ended the second invasion without success.

    The Mongol conquests in China became the Yuan dynasty , which was to rule China until 1368 and, after it was driven out by the Ming , to continue to rule further north until 1387. This made the Yuan dynasty the most short-lived of the four partial kingdoms of the Mongol Empire - although the respective Great Khan from Kublai Khan always resided in China. With the fall of the Yuan Dynasty, the Mongol Empire politically (finally) disintegrated into independent partial kingdoms that were only kept together culturally, in particular through the common history, in the law codified in the Jassa, the postal and communication system (Örtöö and Païza) and a common art and cultural asset. Thus the unity of the Mongolian Empire was reduced to that of a confederation of states, which further disintegrated in the following decades.

    Mongol conquests in South and Southeast Asia

    Majapahit in the 14th century

    Mongolian expeditions on the Southeast Asian mainland were militarily successful and permanently displaced Indian Hindu influence on the region. Only the attacks on the Vietnamese Trần dynasty in 1257/1258, 1284 and 1287/1288 were unsuccessful: the Vietnamese general Trần HưngĐạo forced the Mongols to fight, which for various reasons did not suit them. The Mongols also suffered from tropical diseases and, over time, from supply difficulties. After the Battle of the Bạch-Đằng River in 1288, there were no further military operations against Vietnam. Like other kingdoms in the region, Vietnam was subject to tribute - just as Vietnamese kings were before the Chinese emperor. In the area of ​​today's Laos , Thailand and Cambodia , new hybrid cultures emerged with a very strong Chinese influence, each of which laid the foundation for the states that still exist there today. For these regions, too, the Mongols were mostly satisfied with tribute payments by the local rulers; thus mostly only indirect rule came about - similar to the Mongolian rule in Europe over the Russians.

    Mongolian conquests in the Southeast Asian islands were less successful. An expedition to the Indonesian islands that began in 1292 was led with 20,000 soldiers and 1,000 ships. The Mongols brought the kingdom of Majapahit under Mongolian control after a battle of March 15-20, 1293 on Java . After an ambush, the Mongol invaders, who were already weakened in the meantime, had to withdraw. Nonetheless, a cultural change also took place here: The large Chinese minorities in the region go back to the time of Mongolian expansion; numerous Chinese traders found their way to Southeast Asia. The Majapahit Kingdom was the last great Hindu culture in the region.

    The Sultanate of Delhi had existed in northern India since 1206 . Coming from Afghanistan, Genghis Khan conquered the city of Multan in what is now Pakistan in the summer of 1222 , but then withdrew to the north. He left only 20,000 warriors behind, but they had to leave again without any notable success. Timur Lang conquered Delhi in 1398. But he also withdrew afterwards. Only Zahir ud-Din Muhammad, known as Babur , from the Timurid- ruled Transoxania region , defeated the last sultan in 1526. He was a direct descendant of Timur on his father's side, his mother tracing her ancestry back to Genghis Khan. In 1504 he moved to Kabul , which he ruled as a kingdom and where, after the extinction of the last remaining Timurid in Herat from 1507, he had the title Pad (i) shah (emperor), which is formally superior to a shah (king). He moved over the Chaiber Pass to northwest India (present-day Pakistan), allied himself with the Shah of Safavid Persia , Ismail I , and thus won Samarkand. In return for supporting the Shah, he had to publicly profess Shiite Islam, but later returned to the Sunni faith. Thanks to his ancestor Timur, he was able to make claims on the Delhi Sultan. Kandahar fell in 1522 , and by early 1526 he had extended his rule far into the Punjab . There, on April 20 of the same year, there was a decisive clash with the numerically clearly superior army of Sultan Ibrahim II : In the Battle of Panipat , Barbur achieved a superior victory over the last Delhi Sultan. After the occupation of Delhi and Agra , he proclaimed himself Emperor of Hindustan and thus founded the Mughal Empire. At the same time, an alliance of Rajput rulers under Prince Rana Sanga of Mewar tried to restore Hindu rule in northern India. Babur had to persuade his soldiers, who were urging them to return to Kabul, to stay with generous rewards from the defeated sultan's treasury. Only with the victory over the Rajput Alliance on March 17, 1527 in the Battle of Khanua was his rule in Hindustan secured.

    Chagatai Khanate , late 13th century

    The conquests of Babur became the Mughal Empire , a name that was probably coined by the Portuguese in the 16th century ( Portuguese Grão Mogor or Grão Mogol , Great Mughal ), and it was derived from the Persian مغول mughul derives. It means "Mongol". "Mog (h) ulistan" originally referred to the Chagatai Khanate , the geographical and political home of Timur Lang , the founder of the Timurids . The name thus correctly refers to the Mongolian descent of the Indian dynasty, but ignores the more precise relationship to the Mongol Empire. This comes in the Persian nameگوركانى gurkāni of the Mughals, which is derived from the Mongolian kürägän "son-in-law" - an allusion to the marriage of Timur into the family of Genghis Khan .

    The division of the Mongol Empire

    With the growth of the empire, the differences between a central unitary state and decentralized sub-empires grew. The distribution of areas to branches of the Genghisids at the time of Ögedei had particularly affected the pastures:

    • Dschötschi : in the west the steppes from Siberia to Kazakhstan to Eastern Europe
    • Chagatai : The steppes of Turkestan and the Tarim Basin
    • Ögedei : The areas of the Khagan, Altai area and the Djungary
    • Tolui : Mongolia

    Often other rights were transferred to the other branches of the family at the same time. Agricultural land was managed jointly. Important tasks were carried out by several representatives from different branches of the family ('collegial administration').

    Mongol warriors, 14th century

    The first four khagans

    As early as 1218, after a quarrel between the princes, Genghis Khan had chosen not his eldest son Jötschi, but the middle-born Ögedei as his successor. He was elected Great Khan in 1229. His unexpected death in 1241 led to the termination of the Batu Khan campaign in Europe .

    Ögedei's successor was - after a difficult agreement and the interim reign of his wife - five years later (1246) his eldest son Güyük . Güyük Khan died in 1248 on the way to an argument with his rival Batu. The reign was transferred to his widow Ogul Qaimish.

    After Güyük Khan's death, Batu Khan supported Möngke Khan as a possible Great Khan, but the negotiations and intrigues in this regard dragged on until 1251. Finally he was elected in the absence of some important Genghisid princes and consolidated his power by ousting the heir to the throne of the house of Ögedei after a conspiracy. Princes of the Chagatai family were also affected. Batu Khan, however, was Möngke's co-regent.

    Möngke transferred the Caucasus region to the Golden Horde in 1252. With Möngke's consent, Berke succeeded his brother Batu in 1255 as Khan of the Golden Horde. Hülegü took power in the Caucasus and the conquest of Baghdad in 1258 displeased Berke, who had converted to Islam.

    When Möngke Khan died in 1259 during the campaign against the Song dynasty during the siege of the Diaoyu fortress , no successor was determined. With his death the unified Mongolian Empire ended. The territorial order at this time:

    • The Khagan ruled Mongolia and the bordering steppe areas, in addition to most areas of Ögedeis such as the Altai region and Djungary . His brother Kubilai ruled in China and his brother Hulegü in Iran
    • The Ögedei branch only dominated smaller areas
    • The Tschagatei branch existed (weakened) in the western areas of Central Asia
    • The Djodji branch ruled in Eastern Europe and the Kipchak steppe, with additional rights in Khwarazm, Bukhara and Samarkand that had been withdrawn from the Chagatei branch.

    Two khagans at the same time

    Möngke might have had Arigkbugha in mind for the successor and made him commander of Karakorum , the capital, in 1258 . Large parts of the family supported him: Berke (Golden Horde) and Alghu (Tschagatai), the Jödschi branch and parts of the Ögedei branch. Kublai Khan stood for the growing autonomy of the partial empires and was elected Khagan on a Kurultai that he convened himself in 1260 . He was supported by Hülegü and Kadan (also Qadan, from the Ögedei clan). Arigkbugha was elected Khagan on a second Kurultai, a month after Kublai. At this time the Mameluks attacked the Ilkhanate under Hülegü and Berke tried to take advantage of this by attacking the Ilkhanate as well - so both were neutralized.

    In Karakoram, Arigkbugha was dependent on supplies from China. Kublai used his position in northern China and cut Karakoram from its supplies, while at the same time in southern China, against the Song dynasty , he had to accept setbacks. The branches of the Ögedei and Tschagatei tried to regain their previous rights, which the Ögedei branch only managed temporarily. The war was still undecided at the end of 1261 when Algui (also Alghu), the khan of the Chagatai khanate, defected from Arigkbugha's party over tribute issues. A campaign of revenge against Algui had no lasting success. So weakened, Arigkbugha finally had to capitulate in 1263. He was accused and acquitted in an imperial assembly, but remained Kublai's prisoner afterwards and died in 1266.

    From 1256 to 1274, Kublai Khan gradually moved his capital to Beijing and adopted the administrative practices and culture of the Chinese, and in 1260 he became Emperor of Northern China. He was well aware of the risks of a Sinization of the Mongols in China. His politics earned him the disapproval of a significant part of the Mongolian nobility, as they preferred a leader living in the steppe to a "son of heaven" living in Beijing. The relations of the Kublai Khan to his Jödschi cousins ​​of the Golden Horde remained aloof, those with the Chagatai Khanate were repeatedly hostile. Despite these quarrels, the Mongols were still able to maintain the formal unity of the empire.

    This development weakened the position of the Great Khan and led to a division of the already loose Reichsverband into four parts.


    Mongolian-language inscription on Païza - used on the territory of the Golden Horde
    Persian (left), Mongolian-speaking (center) and Uighur (right)

    The enormous area of ​​the Mongol Empire required an improvement in communication. On the one hand, the respective government of the Mongolian Empire could not afford to forego an efficient form of communication; the Mongol Empire would be just as quickly falling apart like other empires that grew rapidly; on the other hand, the Mongolian Empire was too big to have a road system. Hence the Örtöö system (Mongolian: Өртөө) was created.

    Western observers like Marco Polo have always been particularly impressed by Mongolian communications. The Italian Johannes de Plano Carpini , the Flame Wilhelm von Rubruk and the Bohemian Odorich von Portenau also reported with great astonishment. According to the American historian David Morgan, internal communication was the most efficient institution of the Mongol Empire after its military system.

    The Örtöö system was used to issue political and military orders in all areas of the Mongolian Empire, the military intelligence service , the transport of people (especially that of Mongolian aristocrats), but occasionally also the transport of goods (especially between China and Mongolia). It was only created by Genghis Khan's successors, probably Ögedei Khan , because of the now almost insurmountable distances within the Mongolian Empire. Formally, it was a military and therefore Mongolian institution; The horses and supplies required for this had to be provided by the local - including non-Mongolian - population. One of the special features was that the supply posts of the Örtöö system were not equipped according to (expected) needs, but always had to be equipped in every case. This is how the system always worked when it was used unexpectedly. The censuses carried out by the Mongols served, among other things, to determine the tax liability for the Örtöö system.

    The system consisted of a network of supply posts set up a day's ride apart; According to several sources, including Marco Polo, the distance was usually between 40 and 50 km, less in difficult terrain. Each post always had to have enough horses, water, feed and food in stock. These resources were only allowed to be used by travelers who indicated themselves to the post staff through a board (Paiza, Mongolian Пайз , Persian پایزه, Chinese 牌子 ). This consisted of gold, silver or wood, depending on the importance of the traveler. In the event of a conflict about the use of resources, the rank of the traveler decided. The use of the Örtöö system was regulated by law and abuse was strictly punished.

    According to the Persian scholar Raschīd ad-Dīn , more than 300 km per day could be covered within the Mongolian Empire thanks to the Örtöö system; Marco Polo even speaks of 500 km a day. For further optimization, the traveler informed the next supply post in advance of his arrival with a special horn. The post staff then prepared the horse or horses, and the traveler could ride on without a break. Some posts were also equipped with their own runners. According to Rashīd ad-Dīn, for example, the Persian posts always had two runners each.

    Paiza were found in several languages ​​(Mongolian, Persian, Uighur) in all parts of the Mongolian Empire, including the area of ​​the Golden Horde (in today's Ukraine) - that is, that of the four khanates into which the Mongolian Empire fell after the death of Genghis Khans that was least loyal to the respective Mongolian Great Khan . The Örtöö system therefore not only covered the Far East as well as the Middle East and Europe, but also contributed to the cohesion of the late Mongolian Empire.

    While it worked perfectly in the Far East until the 14th century, in the Middle East it is likely to have become increasingly abused over time and become inefficient as a result.

    Source overview

    Due to its size, the primary sources about the Mongol Empire are diverse: there are Mongolian, Chinese, Persian, Arabic, Turkish, Japanese, Russian, Armenian, Georgian, Latin, and many others. Most of them, however, only deal with a - relatively small - part of the empire and section of its history: The Japanese sources, for example, deal primarily with the two (ultimately failed) invasions of the Mongols in Japan in the late 13th century. The few comprehensive primary sources are Mongolian, Persian or Chinese:

    Even these sources, however, have shortcomings: The Secret History of the Mongols was written relatively early in the history of the Mongol Empire and has hagiographic features, the Persian sources depict the Mongol conquerors - in accordance with the Muslim worldview of the time - primarily as a catastrophe and punishment from God , and the Chinese sources are very much focused on China.

    The only halfway comprehensive European primary source on the Mongol Empire is the Chronica Maiora by Matthäus Paris . Despite obvious flaws such as a very subjective depiction of the Mongols in particular, it was the first choice for many European authors on the subject of the “Mongol Empire” until the 20th century. Above all, it is to be credited with the fact that it clarified the mistaken designation of the Mongols as Ta (r) tars, which is still widespread to this day, as an error (probably made by the French King Louis IX ). In addition, there are European primary sources, in particular Ystoria Mongalorum by Johannes de Plano Carpini , the travel reports of the European adventurers Wilhelm von Rubruk and Marco Polo and the Nestor Chronicle .

    A large number of the sources about the Mongolian Empire are travel reports that arose due to the Pax Mongolica and the resulting possibility of traveling enormous distances relatively safely for the first time in human history. The same circumstance is responsible for the first transfer of a large amount of (historical) knowledge over very long distances: For example, Chinese writings reached the Middle East and vice versa through the Pax Mongolica. Another large group of sources are biographies of Mongol rulers and war reports.

    In addition to contemporary chronicles, findings from numismatics in particular make a significant contribution to research into the Mongolian Empire. Compared to the study of other states of the late Middle Ages and early modern times, archeology plays a subordinate role. The potential role of genetics in research into the history of the Mongolian Empire was shown by a study at Oxford University in 2003, which found that around 8% of the male population in the eastern half of Europe and the northern half of Asia share a common genetic signature in the Y -Chromosome, which probably goes back to Genghis Khan. In 2015, the exceptionally high reproductive success of certain male lines in Europe and Asia was investigated by a team from the University of Leicester; once again the genetic line of Genghis Khan was identified as the most outstanding.

    Consequences of Mongol rule

    Jiaozi (Chin. 交 子), paper money from the Song Dynasty (960 - 1279)
    Description of a bomb in the Wu Jing Zong Yao (chin. 武 經 總 要) a work created in 1044 about military techniques of the time
    Model of a compass from the Han Dynasty (206 BC - 220 AD)
    Cover page of the Diamond Sutra , oldest definitely dated copy of a printed book (868 AD)

    Incorrect designation of the Mongols in Europe as Tatars

    The Mongolian troops, which invaded Europe for the first time in the 1220s (at that time still under Genghis Khan as Great Khan ), were referred to in some - occidental - sources as "Ta (r) tars". It is unclear where this misnomer comes from. Even in the Chronica Maiora by Matthäus Paris this equality is clarified as an error (probably made by the French King Louis IX ). The American historian David O. Morgan and the British historian Peter Jackson see the origin of this "mistake" in the attempt by Western chroniclers to corrupt the particularly cruel Mongols as "coming from Tartarus". The Austrian historian Johannes Gießauf points out that the Tatar people were almost completely exterminated by the Mongols under Genghis Khan and that the minor remains were assimilated by the Mongols; The Tatars were therefore in truth one of the first victims of the Mongol conquests, which lasted from the late 12th century to the early 16th century.

    Power political effects

    In addition to the direct political effects on Europe and Asia from the 12th to the 16th centuries, there were also indirect ones that lasted even longer: Russian aristocrats of Mongolian origin are documented until the 17th century; Estimates assume 156 families, 37 of them Genghisids - but only three of the high nobility (Juspovy, Cerkasskie and Urusovy). To be a descendant of Genghis Khan was in numerous successor and former vassal states of the Mongolian Empire until the 18th century. used as legitimation for a claim to power. The khans of the Golden Horde, for example, remained important personalities in the Russian principalities even after their collapse; they stood at the Muscovite court, for example. B. over all boyars and knees ; 1574 rose a great-grandson of Khan Shaykh Ahmad , Sajin Bulat , first to commander in chief of the Russian army and 1575-1576 to the Grand Duke of Russia.

    The Giray ( كرايلر), a noble family of the Genghisids, who not only ruled the khanate of Crimea from 1444 to 1758 and thus large parts of today's Ukraine, the northern Caucasus region and southern Russia, but also formed the second most important family of the Ottoman Empire after the House of Osman : “If the Should the Ottomans ever become extinct, it was natural that the Girays, descendants of Genghis Khan, would follow them ”( Sebag Montefiore . Prince of Princes: The Life of Potemkin . London, 2000, p. 244). The Giray were thus only under the respective sultan , but z. B. over the Grand Vizier.

    The descent of Genghis Khan was partly a prerequisite, partly conducive to succeeding a vacant khanate. In Central Asia, most of the rulers, mostly khanates, were ruled by Genghisids. Another dynasty, the Scheibanids , a sub-branch of the Genghisids, ruled in three khanates.

    Timur , who came from Central Asia and who restored Mongolian rule over the Near and Middle East after a seven-year hiatus, referred to himself as gurkāni ("son-in-law") and thus indicated his marriage to the family of Genghis Khan in order to underpin his claims to rule. His descendants, the Timurids , ruled some states for decades.

    Ethnological effects

    Mongol rule also left its mark in several other areas. In addition to the genetic footprint of Genghis Khan already mentioned, there were also significant migratory movements; z. B. There were Russian settlements in Cambaluc and other parts of the Mongol Empire; The Great Khan had as part of the Kheshig (also Khishig, Keshig, Keshichan) - his bodyguard - also the Uroš (also Ulosz or Urosh), a Russian force founded in 1330 under the command of General Bayan. Conversely, there is still a Buddhist Mongolian-speaking minority in Europe.

    Other effects

    The Pax Mongolica in particular also had far-reaching consequences for trade, travel and worldview. The American anthropologist Jack Weatherford identified, among other things, a radical change in Western clothing style - away from tunics and robes to trousers and jackets - as well as effects on several European languages ​​(e.g. the exclamation " Hurray !"). The British ethnologist Sir Henry Hoyle Howorth identifies numerous other words and (person and place) names in various Slavic languages ​​that are of Mongolian origin; he also traces various customs and traditions back to Mongol rule. The German-American historian Gustave Alef traces the excellent Russian post and courier system back to Mongol rule centuries after the collapse of the Golden Horde. Mongolian military tactics were even studied into the 20th century and used as a model: Heinrich Himmler, for example, adopted the concept of the militarization of society and the importance of elite troops from literature on the Mongolian military system, in particular from the works “Tschingis-” published in 1934 and 1935. Chan, the storm from Asia ”and“ Das Erbe Tschingis-Chan ”(both from the pen of the historian Michael Prawdin ), which Himmler sent to every SS leader, among others.

    Technology transfer

    There are also numerous technologies whose transfer to Europe by the Mongolian rule is controversial; the most prominent examples are paper money , gunpowder , compass, and letterpress . In fact, most of these technologies existed in China before they became widespread in Europe; however, it cannot be ruled out that some of them were not brought by the Mongols. As an alternative route for the transfer of Asian knowledge to Europe, the Arab rule over the Iberian Peninsula from 711 to 1492 comes into question; Arabic scripts from the fields of astronomy , physics , alchemy and mathematics were translated into Latin and Castilian in particular by the translation school in Toledo . The knowledge gained in this way came to Italy , among other places, and had a strong influence on the development of scholasticism . Since a large part of this reception took place during the time of Mongolian rule over the Near and Middle East (and basically the Pax Mongolica facilitated the transfer of knowledge within the Mongolian Empire), the knowledge transferred in this way also included technologies from the Far East.


    Chronicle of the Mongols from the 13th to the 18th century

    In addition to the above, this list also includes events that affect the Mongolian tribes in later years, such as the Dörben Oirat and the Djungarian Khanate

    Itinerary of the Rabban Bar Sauma
    • 1360: The Chagatai Khanate under Timur , who refers to his Mongolian ancestors, the legitimacy of the Chagatai Khanate and his wife, a descendant of Genghis Khan, again invades the Near and Middle East and conquers large parts of the country by 1405 Region.
    • 1368: With the fall of the Yuan Dynasty (since 1271), Mongolian rule over China ends; In 1387 the Yuan dynasty finally ended and the Mongols left China.
    • 1368: the tribal confederation of West Mongolian tribes, Dörben Oirat , is founded.
    • 1388: Destruction of Karakoram by the Chinese; with the last Ilkhan (Luqman, 1353-1388) the Mongolian rule in the Near and Middle East ends.
    • 1402: Battle of Ankara ; the Turkic-Mongolian army led by Tamerlane defeats that of the Ottoman Sultan Bayezid I. In this battle, the Ottoman troops suffered one of the worst defeats in history. The Ottoman Sultan was captured, where he died in 1403.
    • From 1400: In Mongolia, the western Mongols ( Dörben Oirat ) and the eastern Mongols ( above all Chalcha , Chahar , Ordos , Tümed and Urianchai ) fight for power or against Ming China . Frequent raids on the Chinese border areas eventually lead to the expansion of the Great Wall of China .
    • 1449: Victory of the (Western) Mongols ( Dörben Oirat ) under Esen Taiji against the Ming ( Tumu crisis ); Esen then claims the khanate and is murdered.
    • 1468: The Eastern Mongols under Dayan Khan († 1543) and his grandson Altan Khan (regent; † 1582) again take power in Mongolia. Another heyday of Mongolia, whose influence extends back to Central Asia and the Urals.
    • 1472: Akhmat Khan , Khan of the Golden Horde, forms an alliance with the Polish ruler Casimir IV against the Russian ruler Ivan III. a. Another campaign in 1480 ends with standing almost without a fight on the Ugra .
    • 1501: Ivan III. is formally enfeoffed by a Mongolian Khan for the last time in December and pays tribute.
    • 1502: The last Khan of the Golden Horde, Shaykh Ahmad , is defeated in June and later murdered
    Remains of the Mongol Empire (brown background) before 1500. Green letters: successor states, all now Turkish-speaking and (apart from the Siberian Khanate ) also Islamized. Blue letters: Mongolian tribal associations, "The Four Oirats" stands for "Dörben Oirat". Black writing: other states and peoples.

    Successor states

    See also


    • Stephan Conerman, Jan Kusber (ed.): The Mongols in Asia and Europe , Peter Lang Verlag, Frankfurt / M. u. a. 1997. ISBN 978-3-631-30636-9 .
    • Hansgerd Göckenjan: Mongols. In: Lexikon des Mittelalters 6 (1993), Sp. 756-760.
    • René Grousset: The steppe peoples. Attila - Genghis Khan - Tamerlane . Zurich 1970.
    • Wassili Jan : Mongols . Kiepenheuer-Verlag 1993, ISBN 3-378-00521-1 .
    • George Lane: The Mongols. IB Tauris, London / New York 2018.
    • Peter Olbricht: The postal system in China under Mongol rule in the 13th and 14th centuries . Harrassowitz, Wiesbaden 1954.
    • Michael Weiers (Ed.): The Mongols. Contributions to their history and culture . Darmstadt 1986.
    • Michael Weiers: History of the Mongols . Kohlhammer, Stuttgart a. a. 2004, ISBN 3-17-017206-9 .
    • Gudrun Ziegler, Alexander Hogh (Ed.): The Mongols. In the realm of Genghis Khan. Scientific Book Society, Darmstadt 2005.

    Web links

    Commons : Mongol Empire  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files


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