Of all the pastoral peoples who took a turn on the stage of world history, the Mongols made the most stunning entry. Their thirteenth-century breakout from Mongolia gave rise to the largest land-based empire in all of human history, stretching from the Pacific coast of Asia to Eastern Europe. The Mongol Empire at its height: This empire would join the nomadic peoples of the inner Eurasian steppes with the settled agricultural civilizations of outer Eurasia more extensively and more intimately than ever before. It also brought the major civilizations of Eurasia—Europe, China, and the Islamic world—into far more direct contact than in earlier times. Both the enormous destructiveness of the process and the networks of exchange and communication that it created were the work of the Mongols, numbering only about 700,000 people. This would be another of history’s unlikely twists. For all of its size and fearsome reputation, the Mongol Empire left a surprisingly small cultural imprint on the world it had briefly governed. Unlike the Arabs, the Mongols left the world no new religion or civilization. Where the Islamic community offered a common religious home for all converts—conquerors and conquered alike—the Mongols never tried to spread their own faith among subject peoples. Rulers sometimes consulted religious specialists (the shamans), who might predict the future, offer sacrifices, and communicate with the spirit world, and particularly with Tengri, the supreme sky god of the Mongols. At the level of family life, that religion centered on rituals invoking the ancestors, performed around the hearth. There was little in this tradition to attract outsiders and the Mongols showed little interest in religious imperialism. The Mongols offered the majority of those they conquered little more than the status of defeated, subordinate, and exploited people, although people with skills were put to work in ways useful to Mongol authorities. Unlike the Turks, whose languages and culture flourish today in many places far from the Turkic homeland, Mongol culture remains confined largely to Mongolia. Some Mongols became absorbed into the settled societies they conquered. After the decline and disintegration of the Mongol Empire, the tide turned against the pastoralists of inner Eurasia, who were increasingly swallowed up in the expanding Russian or Chinese empires. Nonetheless, while it lasted and for a few centuries after, the Mongol Empire exercised an enormous impact throughout the entire Eurasian world. The steppes where the Mongols came from are flat, grassy areas with few trees—similar to the plains of North America. The Onon River in Mongolia. The steppes of Eurasia form "the largest unified area of flatlands in the world," an area too dry for farming without irrigation. Such geography created unique conditions that shaped Mongol history. Without farming, the Mongols had to rely heavily on the animals they kept: they rode horses, used oxen and camels to transport things, drank milk and ate meat and dairy products, and covered their homes with felt that they made from their sheep's wool. Their herds lived on native grasses, and since these nomads moved their homes from place to place, their animals did not overgraze any area of land. (Consider parallels with traditional Native American societies of the plains: form and portability of their dwellings, management of animals, their impact on the environment.) Their traditional type of dwelling, practically unchanged from the time of Chinggis Khan, is called a ger but is also known by the Russian word yurt. These structures are made of a wooden support that stands in a cylindrical form, then covered with a thick layer of felt, and have a hole in the top (with a felt flap to close it when necessary) to let out the smoke from the household fire. Snapshot: Key Moments in Mongol History 1162 Birth of Temujin 1206 Temujin becomes the Chinggis Khan (“Universal ruler”) 1206-1227 Reign of Chinggis Khan 1209-1279 Conquest of China 1219-1221 Initial assault on Persia 1237-1240 Conquest of Russia 1241-1242 Attacks in Eastern Europe; then withdrawal 1258 Mongol seizure of Baghdad Key Moments in Mongol History: 1271-1294 Kubilai Khan rules China 1274, 1281 Failed attacks on Japan 1295 Il-khan Ghazan converts to Islam 1348-1350 High point of the plague in Europe 1368 Ming dynasty established; end of Mongol rule in China 1480 End of “Mongol yoke” in Russia; Moscow emerges as the center of the Russian state World historians focus attention on large-scale and long-term processes of change in explaining “what happened in history,” but to understand the rise of the Mongol Empire, most scholars are forced to look closely at the role of one individual—Temujin (1162?-1227), later known as Chinggis (or Genghis) Khan. The twelfth-century world he was born into saw the Mongols as an unstable and fractious collection of tribes and clans, much reduced from a somewhat earlier and more powerful position in the shifting nomadic alliances in what in now Mongolia. “Everyone was feuding,” declared a leading Mongol shaman. “Rather than sleep, they robbed each other of their possessions…there was no respite, only battle. There was no affection, only mutual slaughter.” The early life of Temujin (Turkic temur=iron and jin=smith…“blacksmith”) showed few signs of a prominent future (this association with a strong metal would later be shared with Josef Stalin.) His father had been a minor chieftain of a noble clan, but he was murdered (poisoned) by a tribal rival before Temujin turned 10. The family was deserted by other members of their clan/tribe and they became social outcasts. Temujin’s small family, led by a resourceful mother, was forced to live by hunting, fishing, and gathering wild roots instead of the mare’s milk and mutton that was the staple diet of a Mongol warrior. Without their own livestock, his family had fallen to the lowest level of nomadic life. In these desperate circumstances, Temujin’s remarkable character came into play. As Temujin grew, his personal magnetism and courage became well known and caught the attention of a Khan (leader) of a tribe that had been loyal to his father. That Khan (Toghril) along with 20,000 warriors helped the young Temujin reunite other tribes that had been aligned with his father. His followers were men like himself—warriors who lacked powerful connections because their clans had been defeated in battle. His raids against his tribal enemies annihilated his opponents, and his inclination to rely on trusted friends rather than ties of kinship allowed him to build up an extremely loyal following of officers chosen on the basis of their ability rather than their lineage. His tribal alliances also received a boost from Chinese patrons, who were always eager to keep the nomads divided. But his rise to power (and keeping it) amid the complex tribal politics of Mongolia was never a sure thing. What contributed to his growing power base were the constantly shifting alliances and betrayals, a mounting string of military victories, the indecisiveness of his enemies, a reputation as a leader generous to his friends and ruthless to his enemies, and the incorporation of warriors from defeated tribes into his own forces. In 1206, at the age of 44, a Mongol tribal assembly (a kuriltai) recognized Temujin as Chinggis Khan (“universal ruler”), supreme leader of a now unified Mongol nation. A remarkable achievement that wasn’t noticed beyond the highland steppes of Mongolia. That would soon change. The unification of the Mongol tribes raised an obvious question: What was Chinggis Khan to do with the large and powerful army he had assembled? Without a common task, the new (and fragile) unity of the Mongols would dissolve into quarrels and chaos; and without external resources to reward his followers, he would be hard pressed to maintain his supreme position. Both issues pointed in a single direction— expansion, particularly towards China, long a source of great wealth for nomadic peoples. In 1209, the first major attack on the settled agricultural societies south of Mongolia set in motion a half century of a Mongol world war, a series of military campaigns, massive killing, and empire building without precedent in world history. The early campaigns established Chinggis’ typical methods: agents were sent ahead to demoralize and divide the garrison and inhabitants of an enemy city; massacres were regularly used; populations could be slaughtered despite a prompt surrender. The Great Khan allowed no enemies to survive in his rear as he progressed onto the next campaign (even dogs were killed). In the process, Chinggis, followed by his sons and grandsons (Ogedei, Batu, Mongke, and Kubilai) created an empire that contained China, Korea, Central Asia, Russia, much of the Islamic Middle East, and parts of Eastern Europe. A recent historian wrote “In a flash, the Mongol warriors would defeat every army, capture every fort, and bring down the walls of every city they encountered. Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, and Hindus would soon kneel before the dusty boots of illiterate young Mongol horsemen.” Various setbacks—the Mongol withdrawal from Eastern Europe (1242), their defeat in Egypt (1260), the failure of their invasion of Japan (1274, 1281), and their difficulty penetrating the tropical jungles of South East Asia—marked the outer limits of the Mongol Empire. How did a Mongol confederation, with a total population of less than 1 million people and few resources beyond their livestock, create an imperial structure of such staggering transcontinental dimensions? According to one historian, “Mongol armies were simply better led, organized, and disciplined than those of their opponents.” Each fresh victory brought new resources for making war and new threats or insecurities that seemed to require further expansion. Like the Roman Empire, but far more rapidly, the Mongol empire grew of its own momentum without any grand scheme or blueprint for world conquest. By the end of his life Chinggis Khan came to see his career in terms of a mission…“I have accomplished a great work,” he declared, “uniting the whole world in one empire...but it is not sufficient that I succeed—all others must fail.” Thus the Mongol Empire acquired an ideology in the course of its construction. But what made this “great work” possible? The odds seemed overwhelming, for China alone outnumbered the Mongols more than 100 to 1 and possessed incomparably greater resources. Nor did the Mongols initially have any technological superiority over their many adversaries. The key to the Mongol success was in their army. A quote from an Arab source: “They had the courage of lions, the patience of hounds, the prudence of cranes, the cunning of foxes, the long-sightedness of ravens, the wildness of wolves, the passion of fighting-cocks, the protectiveness of hens, the keenness of cats and the fury of wild boars.” It was also said that one of the defining features of Mongol warriors was their smell… Amir Khuzru (Persian poet): “Their eyes were so narrow and piercing that they might have bored a hole in a brazen vessel, and their stench was more horrible than their color. …. Their chests, in color half-black and half-white were covered with lice, which looked like sesame growing on a bad soil. Their bodies, indeed, were covered with these insects…” The Mongols also had physical advantages over their enemies: Because they lived on the high plains of Mongolia, their bodies would have more red blood cells to transport an equal amount of oxygen. When they moved to the lower levels of Asia and Europe, this meant that their endurance and strength would be increased – this is the same trick track and field athletes use today when they have their training camps in high elevations like Mexico City or Denver for several months; it is called “blood doping”. They were known for having great eyesight – it was said that they could distinguish a man from an animal from 18 miles away. They had great visual memory – a built-in map generator/GPS in their head. They often did not have maps on paper, but could remember a place and the way to it after riding there once. This was an essential survival skill in the steppes, because in most areas, there were no roads. It is said the Mongols learned how to ride even before they learned how to walk – when they were 2 years old. Each warrior was equipped with a bow which gave tactical flexibility during an attack; the English at Crecy and Poitiers (100 Years’ War) also won through the use overwhelming firepower against a numerically superior enemy (the French). The Mongol bow: 166lbs pull, 350 yards range The English longbow: 120lbs pull, 150-200 yards range. Mongolian Bow and English Longbow: Mongol iron arrowheads: The Mongol army consisted of professional warriors: no peasants, all warriors: 10,000 Mongols = 10,000 fighters (European army: 500 knights and 9500 peasants). All warriors were on horses (cavalry). Average speed for the whole army: 60 miles per day (4 to 5 times faster than any European army). Each warrior had four or more horses and rode them in turns. The Mongols fought differently: Retreat, other than in Europe and Japan, was not dishonorable but used as a tactical weapon. They did everything they had to, to win. Chivalry and courtesy on the battlefield did not exist for them. European knights and Japanese Samurai cherished the noble idea of individual combat against a worthy opponent. This was not the way Mongol warriors fought. In an effort to reduce divisive tribalism, Chinggis Khan reorganized the entire military structure of the Mongols into units of 10, 100, 1000, and 10,000 warriors. This created more efficient and effective command and control. Conquered tribes were broken up and their members scattered among these new units. A highly prestigious imperial guard was also recruited across tribal lines. From the imperial guard the field commanders were drawn. How to chose a commander – Chinggis Khan: “There is no man alive who is braver than Yessutai; no march can tire him and he feels neither hunger nor thirst; that is why he is unfit to command.” Because a commander has to care about his men and protect the weakest of them, which Yessutai apparently did not care about, he was not promoted and remained in the ranks. Promotion in the army was due to proven capability, not birthright. For example: Toguchar, Chinggis Khan’s son-inlaw, disobeyed orders and plundered villages when he was a general, so he was reduced to simple soldier, where he remained until killed in action. Discipline and loyalty to their leaders characterized Mongol military forces, and discipline was reinforced by the provision that should one or two warriors of a unit desert in battle, all were subject to the death penalty. Loyalty was cemented by their leaders’ willingness to share the hardships of their men. “I eat the same food and am dressed in the same rags as my humble herdsmen,” wrote Chinggis Khan. “I am always in the forefront, and in battle I am never at the rear.” Such discipline and loyalty made possible the elaborate tactics of encirclement, retreat, and deception that proved decisive in many battles. Whenever there was a great assembly (Kuriltai), the commanders discussed the military strategy for the next several years. Everything was thoroughly planned in great detail, from logistics to who would lead the different armies. The Mongols had the best intelligence and reconnaissance: networks of spies and agents in the enemy's countries and cities; reconnaissance forces surrounding the army – no one ever surprised a Mongol army. They never attacked without a declaration of war: “Whoever obeys us remains in possession of his land, but whoever resists is destroyed. We send you this order, so if you wish to keep your land, you must come to us in person and thence go on to him who is master of all the earth. If you don’t, we know not what will happen, only God knows.” It was said that a favorite saying of Chinggis Khan was “The greatest pleasure is to vanquish your enemies and chase them before you, to rob them of their wealth, and see those dear to them bathed in tears, to ride their horses and clasp to your bosom their wives and daughters.” One of the many legends surrounding Chinggis Khan was that one Persian ruler offered his submission in a unique way: he gave the Khan a pair of socks, which had his portrait painted on the soles, so that his master might walk on his face. They did almost everything differently than their enemies: For example, in Europe and Persia, the campaigning season was summer, after the spring planting and before the harvest in autumn. The Mongols had no fields to plow; they carried their food with them (cattle, horses, goats); their campaigning season was winter. For the Mongols, frozen soil was the best ground for fast movement on horseback. Rivers were frozen and not an obstacle anymore (they fought some battles on frozen rivers/lakes). They were used to harsh winters in Mongolia, so they were accustomed to, and prepared for those conditions. Communications on the battlefield were done with black and white flags which ensured tactical control over the army at all times. Communications in that form did not exist in European armies – everybody fought for himself, and most of the time, there wasn’t even a battle plan. Mongol Battlefield Tactics: Light cavalry stormed forward and showered the enemy with arrows to harass and disorganize them. Followed by two rows of heavy cavalry in armor with lances and swords. They often used pincher maneuvers. There was always an escape given to a surrounded enemy – that led to routing, as those escaping were cut down quite easily because there was no unit cohesion anymore. The Mongols were known to pursue their enemy for days, stretching dozens, even hundreds of miles. Dummies, women and slaves were put on the spare horses, so that the strength of the Mongol army would appear larger. Their favorite tactic was the fake retreat: After this tactic became known to their enemies, they just retreated longer, sometimes for days. At the Battle of Kalka River they retreated for 9 days until the Russians were spread out so far, they could be cut down one by one very easily. But they were not perfect: The only defeat in the European/Middle Eastern region came in 1260 at Ain Jalut in Palestine, at the exact same site David had defeated Goliath thousands of years before. They were beaten by a Mamluk army from Egypt. The Mamluks (means literally “slave”) were slaves from Turkic tribes, sold to Egypt by the Mongols after they had been defeated in 1238. Mamluks: 120,000 men Mongols: 25,000 men They used terror and cruelty as weapon, sometimes winning battles and sieges by reputation alone. The poor were promised liberation by the Mongols. The rich were promised greater riches and privileges. Rumors were spread about deals that single leaders made with the Mongols to drive alliances apart. The Mongols were not initially good at siege warfare – until they captured Chinese engineers, who taught them how to do it (some 1,000 Chinese artillery crews took part in the Mongol invasion of Persia). The siege weapons they most often used were the mangonel and the trebuchet (which could catapult huge rocks), giant crossbows mounted on stands, gunpowder propelled arrows and rockets. The Mongols then became masters of siege warfare with the average time to take a city …about a week. They used captives from already conquered cities to fill moats, built ramparts and operate siege machines – how many of them would get killed was of little importance, they were conquered and enslaved people who had been lucky to not be slaughtered right away when the Mongols took their city. They would surround the besieged city with a wooden palisade, which gave them protection against the missiles from the city and against a possible relieving army from the rear. The palisade also prevented messengers from leaving the city and new provisions from being brought in. Rumors about the vast numbers of the Mongol army were spread to instill fear. They put whistles on their arrows to terrorize their enemy, especially the horses. They often used poison-tipped arrows (often with snake venom), which killed quickly and painfully. In 1209 Chinggis Khan besieged a fortress in China. He built a dyke to flood the fortress, but his engineers flooded his own camp instead. The fortress surrendered anyway, because they figured that eventually the Mongols would get it right and by then would be very, very angry … In the Central Asian kingdom of Khwarizm, the king offended the Great Khan by killing and mutilating Mongol envoys and merchants. Chinggis Khan responded by utterly destroying virtually every city in Khwarizm, and their soldiers were passed out in lots to Mongol troops for execution, while women and skilled craftsmen were enslaved. Unskilled civilians were used as human shields for attacks on the next city or were used as human fill in the moats surrounding those cities. In 1220, after the siege of Bukhara (Uzbekistan), they poured molten gold down the throat of the Governor. Apparently he had killed Mongol merchants for their money, (under the pretext of spying). The Mongols apparently thought, if he wants our gold, he shall have it... During the siege of Bukhara, legend has it that Chinggis Khan announced inside the mosque, "I am the punishment of God. If you had not committed great sins, he would not have sent a punishment like me." In 1221 at the city of Merv (Persia), they slaughtered 700,000 people. Only the useful, like engineers, doctors, artisans, were spared and enslaved. Not even dogs were left alive. The reason… revenge for the death of Toguchar, a son-in-law of Chinggis Khan, who was killed during the siege. After the Battle of Kalka River in 1223 against the Russian principalities, they promised to let the Kiev detachment go for a ransom. The men from Kiev agreed, but were captured instead. Most were slaughtered, the rest enslaved. This was revenge for the killing of Mongol ambassador in Kiev. In 1237, the city of Ryazan (Russia) was conquered after a siege of five days. Before the citizens were slaughtered (by impaling and flaying), they were forced to watch how the Mongols raped all young women, including nuns. The Mongols assessed the extent of their victories by cutting off an ear from each dead enemy. After the battle of Liegnitz, Poland in 1241, they collected nine large sacks of ears and sent them back to the great Khan as proof of the victory. In 1258 they conquered Baghdad (the Abbasids). They locked up the Caliph in a tower with all his gold and silver to punish him, because he had refused to spend his personal wealth on the defense of the city. That insulted the professionalism of the Mongol commanders, who never would have held back anything to achieve victory. The destruction of Baghdad by Hulegu in 1258. Baghdad was looted for seven days during which the Caliph starved to death amongst his riches. They then slaughtered about 800,000 people in Baghdad. After that, Damascus surrendered immediately when the first Mongol patrol was in sight of the city. In Russia and in Europe the Mongols were known as the “Tatars” or “Tartars” which comes from the Latin Tartarus = Hell. At first they were seen as heavenly punishment for the sins of the people. Then they just became known as “demons from Hell.” In 1239, the Holy Roman Emperor, Frederick II, received a message from Khan Batu in which he demanded the surrender of the Holy Roman Empire and offered Frederick a position in the Mongol hierarchy. Frederick II responded by attacking the Pope because it was rumored that the Pope actually encouraged the Mongols to attack his enemy, Frederick II. In 1241, when the Mongols invaded Hungary, the Hungarian nobility would only fight if the King rewarded them with greater powers and more privileges. They finally agreed to ride with the King to meet the Mongols, but their quarreling and bickering went on. The result…the Battle of Mohi ended with 65,000 Hungarians dead. On the same day as the Battle of Mohi in Hungary, the Battle of Liegnitz (Poland) was fought – 25,000 Polish troops, Teutonic Knights and Knights Templar were killed by the Mongols. When the Mongols marched towards Cracow in Poland, a trumpeter sounded the alarm from the highest tower in the city and continued through the storming of the city, until a Mongol arrow struck him down. To this day, every 24th of March, a trumpeter from the Cracow fire department sounds the alarm call from the cathedral tower; he ends it abruptly at the exact time, when the original trumpeter was struck down by the Mongol arrow. Yet the two strongest powers in Europe, The Holy Roman Emperor (Frederick II) and the Pope continued their war against each other despite of the invasion of Hungary, the battle of Liegnitz (Poland) and the threat to Western Europe. The way to the heart of Western Europe was wide open, and nobody was there to stop the Mongol onslaught. Europe was saved, not by its knights, but only by the death of the Great Khan Ogodei (Chinggis’ son) in 1242. As per tradition, all Mongol commanders were called back to the Mongol capital of Karakorum to elect a new Khan and they took their armies with them. Several modern scholars believe they can explain Mongol savagery… “Extremely conscious of their small numbers and fearful of rebellion, Chinggis often chose to annihilate a region’s entire population if it appeared too troublesome to govern.” But not everything the Mongols did was brutal or savage (and some historians argue that they were no more brutal than several other conquerors in history). For example, writing became an important tool for Chinggis Khan's empire. The Mongols were illiterate until Chinggis Khan's reign, when he commanded a Naiman captive (part of today’s Kazakhstan) to explain their written language to him. A Mongol writing stone: A Mongol script (from the Naiman script that was based on the Uighur language) was created. With a newly established writing system, the Mongols were able to record a set of laws, the Yasa, that Chinggis Khan had declared. The Yasa recorded the Mongol's cultural beliefs, rules of conduct, and a system of punishment, laying the foundation for Chinggis Khan's empire. A court was then established to enforce the Yasa fairly. By law, the following were forbidden: To cut the throat of an animal killed for food; instead, the belly should be slit open and the heart pulled out. Urinating in running water Washing in running water Adultery (death penalty) Cattle theft (death penalty) As a merchant, bankruptcy for the third time (death) Spying (death penalty) Desertion (death penalty) Theft (death penalty) Scribes in Karakorum translated official decrees into the various languages of the empire, such as Persian, Uighur, Chinese, and Tibetian. Chinggis Khan also established a messenger system, a medieval pony express, known as the yam. Outposts were established about a day’s ride apart from each other where horses and riders waited to relay messages through the empire, greatly speeding up communications. Not only were there rapid communications within the empire, these outposts fostered trade because merchants could follow these postal roads in safety. The Silk Roads—that off and on for centuries linked Europe, Africa, and the Far East in trade and cultural exchange—had been under the control of various local powers, became unsafe during times of conflict, and therefore, fell out of use. Under Mongol protection, the Silk Roads flourished, and during the Pax Mongolica under Chinggis Khan's successors, people commonly traveled the full length of the Silk Roads, greatly increasing cultural exchange. In this atmosphere, Europeans like Marco Polo traveled to the East and returned with tales of the Mongol empire. Polo claimed the Mongols maintained 10,000 outposts along with 200,000 horses available to authorized users. Interested in commerce, Mongol rulers often offered 10% or more above a merchant’s asking price and allowed them free use of the relay stations for transporting their goods. Unfortunately, the Silk Roads also allowed diseases to spread. The bubonic plague traveled from somewhere in the Himalayas to Yunnan and Burma eastward to China and westward to Europe along the roads and sea lanes of the Mongol empire. Cities were ideal hosts for rats, and outbreaks of the plague occurred from time to time. However, the massive outbreak of the bubonic plague in Europe was indirectly caused by the deliberate actions of a Mongol military maneuver (and the first known account of biological warfare). Under Janibeg Khan, the last Khan of the Golden Horde, the Mongols were fighting against the city of Caffa, located on the Black Sea in Crimea, when they witnessed an outbreak of the plague. Just before fleeing the disease, the Mongol commander catapulted plague-ridden corpses over the walls of the city. The disease was carried to European ports by boat and eventually became the Black Death that decimated medieval Europe. In administering conquered regions, Mongols held the highest decision-making posts, but Chinese and Muslim officials held many advisory and lower-level positions in China and Persia. In religious matters, the Mongols welcomed and supported many religious traditions— Buddhist, Christian, Muslim, Daoist—as long as they didn’t become the focus of political opposition. Their policy of religious toleration allowed Muslims to seek converts among Mongol troops and gave Christians much more freedom than they enjoyed under Muslim rule. One of Chinggis’ grandsons (Mongke) arranged a debate among representatives of several faiths and concluded “Just as God gave us different fingers to the hand, so has He given different ways to men.” The Mongol moment in world history represented an enormous cultural encounter between nomadic pastoralists and the settled civilizations of Eurasia. Differences among these civilizations— Confucian China, Muslim Persia, Christian Russia—ensured considerable diversity as this encounter unfolded across thousands of miles. China: Long the primary target of nomadic steppedwelling peoples looking for agrarian wealth, China proved the most difficult and extended of the Mongol’s many conquests, lasting nearly 70 years (1209-1279). The invasion began in northern China, which had been ruled for several centuries by various dynasties of nomadic origin, and was characterized by massive destruction and plunder. Southern China, under control of the native Song dynasty was different, for the Mongols were far less violent and more concerned with accommodating the local population. Landowners were guaranteed their estates in exchange for their support or at least their neutrality. By whatever methods, the outcome was the unification of a divided China, a treasured ideal among the educated Chinese. The achievement persuaded many of them that the Mongols had indeed been granted the Mandate of Heaven, and despite their foreign origins, they were legitimate rulers. Having acquired China, one consideration of the Great Khan Ogodei (in the 1230’s) was to exterminate everyone in northern China and turn the country into pastureland for Mongol herds. That suggestion was rejected in favor of extracting as much wealth as possible from the country’s culturally advanced civilization. This meant accommodating and absorbing some Chinese culture and ways of governing since the Mongols had no experience with the operation of a complex agrarian society. That accommodation took on many forms: the Mongols made use of Chinese administrative practices, techniques of taxation, and their postal system. They gave themselves a Chinese dynastic title, the Yuan, meaning “Great beginnings.” They transferred their capital from Karakorum (Mongolia) to what is now Beijing, building a wholly new capital city known as Khanbalik (“the city of the Khan”). The Mongols had rooted themselves solidly on the soil of the world’s most sophisticated civilization, well removed from their homeland on the steppes. Khubilai Khan, a grandson of Ghinggis and China’s Mongol ruler from 1271-1294, even ordered a set of Chinese-style ancestral tablets to honor his ancestors and posthumously gave them Chinese names. Many of Khubilai’s policies evoked the values of a benevolent Chinese emperor as he improved roads, built canals, lowered some taxes, patronized scholars and artists, limited the death penalty and torture, and prohibited Mongols from grazing their animals on peasants’ farmland. When Marco Polo arrived in China in 1275, the splendor and wealth of the country overwhelmed him. He described Khubilai Khan as “the mightiest man, whether in respect of subjects or of territory or of treasure, who is in the world today or who ever has been, from Adam our first parent down to the present moment.” The Mongols used traditional Confucian rituals, supported the building of some Daoist temples, and were attracted to the Tibetan form of Buddhism, all of which gave them increased political support. Despite these accommodations, Mongol rule was still harsh, exploitative, and foreign. Marco Polo observed the hostility between the Mongols and their Chinese subjects: “The Cathayans (Chinese) detest the Grand Khan’s rule because he set over them governors who were Tartars (Mongols), or still more frequently Saracens (Muslims), and these they would not endure, for they were treated by them just like slaves.” The Mongols did not become Chinese, nor did they accommodate every aspect of Chinese culture. Deep inside their capital they established the Forbidden-City, where the royal family and court could continue to experience something of steppe life. Animals roamed freely in large open areas, planted with steppe grass. Many of the Mongol elite preferred to live, eat, sleep, and give birth in their traditional felt tents (yurts) which sprung up everywhere. In administering the country, the Mongols largely ignored the traditional Chinese examination system and relied heavily on foreigners, particularly Muslims from Central Asia and the Middle East. Few Mongols learned Chinese, and Mongol law discriminated against the Chinese, reserving for them the most severe punishments. In social life, Mongol law forbade intermarriage and prohibited Chinese scholars from learning the Mongol script. Mongol women never adopted footbinding and scandalized the Chinese by mixing freely with men at official gatherings and riding to the hunt with their husbands. Plus, the Mongols honored and supported merchants and artisans far more than Confucian bureaucrats had been inclined to do. However you look at Mongol rule in China (as the Yuan dynasty), it was brief, lasting little more than a century. By the mid-fourteenth century, intense factionalism among the Mongols, rapidly rising prices, epidemics of the plague, and growing peasant rebellions combined to force the Mongols out of China. By 1368, rebel forces had triumphed, and thousands of Mongols returned to their homeland in the steppes. For several centuries thereafter, they remained a periodic threat to China, but during the Ming dynasty that followed, the memory of their often brutal and alien rule stimulated a renewed commitment to Confucian values and practices and an effort to wipe out all traces of the Mongol’s impact. Persia: The second great civilization conquered by the Mongols was that of an Islamic Persia. There the Mongol takeover was far more abrupt than the extended process of conquest in China. The first invasion (1219-1221) was led by Chinggis Khan himself, followed thirty years later by a second assault (1251-1258) led by his grandson Hulegu (brother of Khubilai). Hulegu became the first il-khan (subordinate khan) of Persia. More destructive than the conquest of Song dynasty China, the Mongol offensive against Persia and Iraq had no precedent in its history, even though Persia had been repeatedly attacked, from the invasions of Alexander the Great to that of the Arabs. The most recent incursion was from Turkic peoples, but they had been Muslims (recently converted), small in number, and only wanting acceptance within the Islamic world. The Mongols were infidels in Muslim eyes, and their stunning victories were a profound shock to people accustomed to seeing history as the progressive expansion of Islamic rule. Mongol victories brought ferocity and slaughter that simply had no parallel in the Persian experience. The sacking of Baghdad in 1258, which put an end to the Abbasid caliphate, was accompanied by the massacre of more than 200,000 people, according to Hulegu himself. Beyond this human catastrophe was the damage to Persian and Iraqi agriculture and their peasant farmers. Heavy taxes, sometimes collected 20-30 times a year and often under torture or whipping, pushed large numbers of peasants off their land. The nomadic Mongols, with their immense herds of sheep and goats, turned much agricultural land into pasture and sometimes into desert. Some sectors of the Persian economy fared pretty well…wine production increased because the Mongols were fond of alcohol, and the Persian silk industry benefited from close contact with a Mongol-ruled China. In general, Mongol rule in Persia represented “disaster on a grand and unparalleled scale.” The Mongols in Persia were themselves transformed far more than their counterparts in China. They made extensive use of the sophisticated Persian bureaucracy, leaving the greater part of government operations in Persian hands. During the reign of Ghazan (1295-1304), the Mongols made efforts to repair the damage caused by earlier policies of ruthless exploitation. Ghazan had cities rebuilt and agricultural areas restored. More importantly, many Mongols followed Ghazan’s lead (in 1295) and converted to Islam. No such widespread conversion to the culture of the conquered happened in China or in Christian Russia. Members of the court and Mongol elites learned at least some Persian, unlike most of their counterparts in China. A number of Mongols also became farmers, abandoning their nomadic ways, and marrying local women. When the Mongol dynasty of Hulegu’s descendents collapsed in the 1330’s for lack of a suitable heir, the Mongols were not driven out of Persia, as they would be in China. Rather they simply disappeared, through assimilation into Persian society. From the Persian point of view, the barbarians had been civilized. Russia: When the Mongol military machine rolled over Russia between 1237 and 1240, it encountered a relatively new civilization located on the far eastern fringe of Christendom. Whatever political unity the Kievan Rus had enjoyed was now gone, and various independent princes were unable to unite even in the face of the Mongol onslaught. Even though the Kievan Rus had interacted extensively with nomadic people of the steppes north of the Black Sea, nothing had prepared them for the Mongols. The devastation wrought by the Mongol assault matched or exceeded anything experienced by the Persians or the Chinese. City after city fell to Mongol forces, which were now armed with catapults and battering rams adopted from Chinese or Muslim sources. The slaughter was described by Russian chroniclers, “They likewise killed the Prince and Princess, and men, and women, and children, monks, nuns, and priests, some by fire, some by the sword, and violated nuns, priests’ wives, good women and girls in the presence of their mothers and sisters.” From the survivors and the cities that surrendered early, skilled craftsmen were deported to other Mongol lands or sold into slavery. Several Russian crafts were so depleted of their workers/artisans that it took centuries before they recovered. Even though the ferocity of initial conquest was similar to that of Persia or China, Russia’s incorporation into the Mongol Empire was very different. To the Mongols, it was the Kipchak Khanate, named after the Kipchak Turkicspeaking people north of the Black and Caspian seas, among whom the Mongols had settled. To the Russians, it was the “Khanate of the Golden Horde.” The Mongols conquered Russia, but they didn’t occupy it as they had in China or Persia. Since the Mongols didn’t set up any garrisoned cities or permanently stationed administrators or Mongol settlements, the Russian experience with Mongol rule was quite different. From the Mongol point of view, Russia had little to offer. Its society and economy were not nearly as developed as China’s or Persia’s and it wasn’t located on any major international trade routes. It simply wasn’t worth the expense of occupying since they could easily dominate and exploit Russia from the steppes. And the Mongols certainly exploited the Russians. Russian princes (appointed by the khan) had to send substantial amounts of tribute to the Mongol capital at Sarai (located on the lower Volga River). Mongol taxes were a heavy burden and occasional border raids sent thousands of Russian peasants into slavery. But the Mongol impact was very uneven…some Russian princes benefited considerably under the Mongols because they could manipulate their role as tax collectors to grow wealthy. The Russian Orthodox Church also flourished under the Mongol policy of religious toleration, and it was exempted from most taxes. Nobles who participated in Mongol raids got a share of the loot. Some cities, like Kiev, resisted the Mongols and were devastated while others collaborated and were left undamaged. Moscow in particular emerged as the primary collector of tribute for the Mongols, and its princes parlayed that position into a leading role as the nucleus of a renewed Russian state when Mongol domination receded in the fifteenth century. Since the Mongols didn’t practice direct rule, they were less influenced by or assimilated into Russian culture than their counterparts in China or Persia. The Mongols in China turned themselves into a Chinese dynasty, with the khan as a Chinese emperor. Some learned calligraphy, and a few came to appreciate Chinese poetry. In Persia, the Mongols had converted to Islam, with many settling down as farmers. Not so in Russia where “the Mongols of the Golden Horde were still spending their days in the saddle and their nights in tents.” Even though they remained culturally separate from Russia, eventually the Mongols assimilated to the culture and Islamic faith of the Kipchak people of the steppes, and in the process, lost their identity and became Kipchaks. Despite their domination from a distance, many historians believe their impact was greater on Russia than on China or Persia. Russian princes, who were more or less left alone if they paid their tribute, adopted Mongol styles of clothing, weaponry, diplomatic rituals, court practices, taxation system, and military conscription. Several Russian historians, trying to explain their country’s economic backwardness and political autocracy in modern times, have held the Mongols responsible for both conditions…but most Western historians believe this to be an oversimplification and exaggeration of reality. Divisions among the Mongols and the growing strength of some Russian noble families (centered in Moscow) enabled the Russians to break the Mongol’s hold by the end of the fifteenth century (by 1480). With the earlier demise of Mongol rule in China and Persia, and now Russia, the Mongols retreated from their brief, but spectacular incursion into the civilization of outer Eurasia. Nonetheless, they continued to periodically threaten these civilizations for several centuries, until their homelands were absorbed into the expanding Russian and Chinese empires. The Mongol moment in world history was over.