Mongol invasions and conquests

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Mongol invasions and conquests
Mongol Empire map.gif
Expansion of the Mongol Empire 1206–94

Mongol invasions and conquests took place throughout the 13th century, resulting in the vast Mongol Empire, which by 1300 covered much of Asia and Eastern Europe. Historians regard the destruction under the Mongol Empire as results of some of the deadliest conflicts in human history. [1] [2] In addition, Mongol expeditions may have brought the bubonic plague along with them, spreading it across much of Asia and Europe and helping cause massive loss of life in the Black Death of the 14th century. [3] [4] [5] [6]

Mongol Empire former country in Asia and Europe

The Mongol Empire existed during the 13th and 14th centuries and was the largest contiguous land empire in history. Originating in the steppes of Central Asia, the Mongol Empire eventually stretched from Eastern Europe and parts of Central Europe to the Sea of Japan, extending northwards into Siberia, eastwards and southwards into the Indian subcontinent, Indochina and the Iranian Plateau; and westwards as far as the Levant and the Carpathian Mountains.

Asia Earths largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the Eastern and Northern Hemispheres

Asia is Earth's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the Eastern and Northern Hemispheres. It shares the continental landmass of Eurasia with the continent of Europe and the continental landmass of Afro-Eurasia with both Europe and Africa. Asia covers an area of 44,579,000 square kilometres (17,212,000 sq mi), about 30% of Earth's total land area and 8.7% of the Earth's total surface area. The continent, which has long been home to the majority of the human population, was the site of many of the first civilizations. Asia is notable for not only its overall large size and population, but also dense and large settlements, as well as vast barely populated regions. Its 4.5 billion people constitute roughly 60% of the world's population.

Eastern Europe eastern part of the European continent

Eastern Europe is the eastern part of the European continent. There is no consensus on the precise area it covers, partly because the term has a wide range of geopolitical, geographical, cultural, and socioeconomic connotations. There are "almost as many definitions of Eastern Europe as there are scholars of the region". A related United Nations paper adds that "every assessment of spatial identities is essentially a social and cultural construct".


The Mongol Empire developed in the course of the 13th century through a series of conquests and invasions throughout Asia, reaching Eastern Europe by the 1240s. In contrast with later empires such as the British, which can be defined as "empires of the sea", the Mongol empire was an empire of the land, a tellurocracy, [7] fueled by the grass-supported Mongol cavalry and cattle. [8] Thus most Mongol conquering and plundering took place during the warmer seasons, when there was sufficient grass for the herds. [8]

A thalassocracy is a state with primarily maritime realms, an empire at sea or a seaborne empire. Traditional thalassocracies seldom dominate interiors, even in their home territories. Examples of this are Phoenician Tyre, Sidon, and Carthage, or Srivijaya and Majapahit in Southeast Asia. One can distinguish this traditional sense of thalassocracy from an "empire", where the state's territories, though possibly linked principally or solely by the sea lanes, generally extend into mainland interiors: the Bruneian Empire (1368–1888) in Asia. Compare to tellurocracy.

Tellurocracy is a type of civilization or state system that is clearly associated with the development of land territories and consistent penetration into inland territories. Tellurocratic states have a certain territory and the state-forming ethnic majority living on it, around which further expansion takes place. The opposite of tellurocracy is thalassocracy, although in the pure type of a particular state is rarely observed. Usually there is a combination of tellurocratic characteristics with thalassocratic. In political geography, geopolitics and geo-economics, the term is used to explain the power of a country through its control over land. For example, prior to their merger, the Sultanate of Muscat was thalassocratic, but the Imamate of Oman was landlocked and purely tellurocratic. In addition, it could be said that most or all landlocked states are tellurocracies.

Tartar and Mongol raids against Russian states continued well beyond the start of the Mongol Empire's fragmentation around 1260. Elsewhere, the Mongols' territorial gains in China continued into the 14th century under the Yuan dynasty, while those in Persia persisted into the 15th century under the Timurid Empire. In India, a Mongol state survived into the 19th century in the form of the Mughal Empire.

Tartary Historical area in northern and central Asia in Middle Ages

Tartary or Great Tartary was a historical region but up until the late 18th century it was known as a vast country located in northern and central Asia stretching eastwards from the Caspian Sea and from the Ural Mountains to the Pacific Ocean, inhabited mostly by Turkic peoples.

Division of the Mongol Empire

The division of the Mongol Empire began when Möngke Khan died in 1259 in the siege of Diaoyu castle with no declared successor, precipitating infighting between members of the Tolui family line for the title of Great Khan that escalated to the Toluid Civil War. This civil war, along with the Berke–Hulagu war and the subsequent Kaidu–Kublai war greatly weakened the authority of the Great Khan over the entirety of the Mongol Empire and the empire fractured into autonomous khanates, including the Golden Horde in the northwest, the Chagatai Khanate in the middle, the Ilkhanate in the southwest, and the Yuan dynasty in the east based in modern-day Beijing, although the Yuan emperors held the nominal title of Khagan of the empire. The four khanates each pursued their own separate interests and objectives, and fell at different times.

China State in East Asia

China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia and the world's most populous country, with a population of around 1.404 billion. Covering approximately 9,600,000 square kilometers (3,700,000 sq mi), it is the third- or fourth-largest country by total area. Governed by the Communist Party of China, the state exercises jurisdiction over 22 provinces, five autonomous regions, four direct-controlled municipalities, and the special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macau.

Central Asia

Battle of Vâliyân against the Khwarazmian dynasty. Bataille de vâliyân (1221).jpeg
Battle of Vâliyân against the Khwarazmian dynasty.

Genghis Khan forged the initial Mongol Empire in Central Asia, starting with the unification of the Mongol and Turkic confederations such as Merkits, Tartars, and Mongols. The Uighur Buddhist Qocho Kingdom surrendered and joined the empire. He then continued expansion of the empire via conquest of the Qara Khitai [9] and the Khwarazmian dynasty.

Genghis Khan founder and first emperor of the Mongol Empire

Genghis Khan was the founder and first Great Khan of the Mongol Empire, which became the largest contiguous empire in history after his death. He came to power by uniting many of the nomadic tribes of Northeast Asia. After founding the Empire and being proclaimed "Genghis Khan", he launched the Mongol invasions that conquered most of Eurasia. Campaigns initiated in his lifetime include those against the Qara Khitai, Caucasus, and Khwarazmian, Western Xia and Jin dynasties. These campaigns were often accompanied by large-scale massacres of the civilian populations – especially in the Khwarazmian and Western Xia controlled lands. By the end of his life, the Mongol Empire occupied a substantial portion of Central Asia and China.

Central Asia core region of the Asian continent

Central Asia stretches from the Caspian Sea in the west to China in the east and from Afghanistan in the south to Russia in the north. The region consists of the former Soviet republics of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. It is also colloquially referred to as "the stans" as the countries generally considered to be within the region all have names ending with the Persian suffix "-stan", meaning "land of".


The Merkit was one of the five major tribal confederations (khanlig) of probably Turkic origin later Mongolized in the 12th century Mongolian Plateau.

Large areas of Islamic Central Asia and northeastern Iran were seriously depopulated, [10] as every city or town that resisted the Mongols was subject to destruction. Each soldier was required to execute a certain number of persons, with the number varying according to circumstances. For example, after the conquest of Urgench, each Mongol warrior – in an army group that might have consisted of two tumens (units of 10,000) – was required to execute 24 people. [11] [ better source needed ]

Islam in Central Asia

Islam in Central Asia has existed since the beginning of Islamic history. Islam is the most widely practiced religion in Central Asia. The Hanafi school of thought of Sunnism is the most popular, with Shiism of Imami and Ismaili denominations predominating in the Pamir plateau and the western Tian Shan mountains, while boasting to a large minority population in the Zarafshan river valley, from Samarkand to Bukhara. Islam came to Central Asia in the early part of the 8th century as part of the Muslim conquest of the region. Many well-known Islamic scientists and philosophers came from Central Asia, and several major Muslim empires, including the Timurid Empire and the Mughal Empire, originated in Central Asia. In the 20th century, severe restrictions on religious practice were enacted by the Soviet Union in Soviet Central Asia and the People's Republic of China in Xinjiang. Concerns about Islamic radicalism and religious freedom in the region persist to this day.

Konye-Urgench city

Konye-UrgenchOld Gurgānj also known as Kunya-Urgench, Old Urgench or Urganj, is a municipality of about 30,000 inhabitants in north Turkmenistan, just south from its border with Uzbekistan. It is the site of the ancient town of Ürgenç (Urgench), which contains the ruins of the capital of Khwarazm, a part of the Achaemenid Empire. Its inhabitants deserted the town in the 1700s in order to develop a new settlement, and Kunya-Urgench has remained undisturbed ever since. In 2005, the ruins of Old Urgench were inscribed on the UNESCO List of World Heritage Sites.

Tumen, or tümen, was a part of the decimal system used by the Turkic peoples and Mongol peoples to organize their armies. Tumen is an army unit of 10,000 soldiers.

Against the Alans and the Cumans (Kipchaks), the Mongols used divide and conquer tactics by first telling the Cumans to stop allying with the Alans and after the Cumans followed their suggestion the Mongols then attacked the Cumans [12] after defeating the Alans. [13] Alans were recruited into the Mongol forces with one unit called "Right Alan Guard" which was combined with "recently surrendered" soldiers. Mongols and Chinese soldiers stationed in the area of the former Kingdom of Qocho and in Besh Balikh established a Chinese military colony led by Chinese general Qi Kongzhi (Ch'i Kung-chih). [14]

The Alans were an Iranian nomadic pastoral people of antiquity.

Cumans Turkic nomadic people comprising the western branch of the Cuman-Kipchak confederation

The Cumans were a Turkic nomadic people comprising the western branch of the Cuman–Kipchak confederation. After the Mongol invasion (1237), many sought asylum in the Kingdom of Hungary, as many Cumans had settled in Hungary, the Second Bulgarian Empire, and Anatolia before the invasion.

During the Mongol attack on the Mamluks in the Middle East, most of the Mamluk military was composed of Kipchaks, and the Golden Horde's supply of Kipchaks replenished the Mamluk armies and helped them fight off the Mongols. [15]

Hungary became a refuge after the Mongol invasions for fleeing Cumans. [16]

The de-centralized stateless Kipchaks only converted to Islam after the Mongol conquest, unlike the centralized Karakhanid entity made out of the Yaghma, Qarluqs, and Oghuz who converted to world religions. [17]

The Mongol conquest of the Kipchaks led to a merged society with the Mongol ruling class over a Kipchak speaking population which came to be known as Tatar and which eventually absorbed other ethnicities on the Crimean peninsula like Armenians, Italians, Greeks, and Goths to form the modern day Crimean Tatar people. [18]

West Asia

Siege of Baghdad in 1258. Bagdad1258.jpg
Siege of Baghdad in 1258.

The Mongols conquered, either by force or voluntary submission, the areas today known as Iran, Iraq, Caucasus and parts of Syria and Turkey, with further Mongol raids reaching southwards into the Palestine region as far as Gaza in 1260 and 1300. The major battles were the Siege of Baghdad (1258), when the Mongols sacked the city, which for 500 years had been the center of Islamic power, and the Battle of Ain Jalut in 1260, when the Muslim Kipchak Mamluks were able to defeat the Mongols in the battle at Ain Jalut in the southern part of the Galilee—the first time the Mongol advances had been decisively stopped. One thousand northern Chinese engineer squads accompanied the Mongol Khan Hulagu during his conquest of the Middle East. [19]

East Asia

Battle of Yehuling against the Jin dynasty. Bataille entre mongols & chinois (1211).jpeg
Battle of Yehuling against the Jin dynasty.
Mongol Empire's conquest of Chinese regimes including Western Liao, Jurchen Jin, Song, Western Xia and Dali kingdoms. Mongol Invasion of China.png
Mongol Empire's conquest of Chinese regimes including Western Liao, Jurchen Jin, Song, Western Xia and Dali kingdoms.

Genghis Khan and his descendants launched numerous invasions of China, subjugating the Western Xia in 1209 before destroying them in 1227, defeating the Jin dynasty in 1234 and defeating the Song dynasty in 1279. They made the Kingdom of Dali into a vassal state in 1253 after the Dali King Duan Xingzhi defected to the Mongols and helped them conquer the rest of Yunnan, forced Korea to capitulate through invasions, but failed in their attempts to invade Japan.

Mongol warrior on horseback, preparing a mounted archery shot. Mongol warrior of Genghis Khan.jpg
Mongol warrior on horseback, preparing a mounted archery shot.

The Mongols' greatest triumph was when Kublai Khan established the Yuan dynasty in China in 1271. The Yuan dynasty created a "Han Army" (漢軍) out of defected Jin troops and an army of defected Song troops called the "Newly Submitted Army" (新附軍). [20]

The Mongol force which invaded southern China was far greater than the force they sent to invade the Middle East in 1256. [21]

The Yuan dynasty established the top-level government agency Bureau of Buddhist and Tibetan Affairs to govern Tibet, which was conquered by the Mongols and put under Yuan rule. The Mongols also invaded Sakhalin Island between 1264 and 1308. Likewise, Korea (Goryeo) became a semi-autonomous vassal state and compulsory ally of the Yuan dynasty for about 80 years. The Yuan dynasty was eventually overthrown during the Red Turban Rebellion in 1368 by the Han Chinese who gained independence and established the Ming dynasty.


The Battle of Legnica took place during the first Mongol invasion of Poland. Bitwa pod Legnicą.jpg
The Battle of Legnica took place during the first Mongol invasion of Poland.
The Mongol invasion in the 13th century led to construction of mighty stone castles, such as Spiš Castle in Slovakia. Spisska nova ves...castle.jpg
The Mongol invasion in the 13th century led to construction of mighty stone castles, such as Spiš Castle in Slovakia.

The Mongols invaded and destroyed Volga Bulgaria and Kievan Rus', before invading Poland, Hungary and Bulgaria, and others. Over the course of three years (1237–1240), the Mongols destroyed and annihilated all of the major cities of Russia with the exceptions of Novgorod and Pskov. [22]

Giovanni da Pian del Carpine, the Pope's envoy to the Mongol Great Khan, traveled through Kiev in February 1246 and wrote:

They [the Mongols] attacked Rus, where they made great havoc, destroying cities and fortresses and slaughtering men; and they laid siege to Kiev, the capital of Rus; after they had besieged the city for a long time, they took it and put the inhabitants to death. When we were journeying through that land we came across countless skulls and bones of dead men lying about on the ground. Kiev had been a very large and thickly populated town, but now it has been reduced almost to nothing, for there are at the present time scarce two hundred houses there and the inhabitants are kept in complete slavery. [23]

The Mongol invasions induced population displacement on a scale never seen before in central Asia as well as eastern Europe. Word that the Mongol hordes were approaching would spread terror and panic. [24]

South Asia

From 1221 to 1327, the Mongol Empire launched several invasions into the Indian subcontinent. The Mongols occupied parts of modern Pakistan and other parts of Punjab for decades. However, they failed to penetrate past the outskirts of Delhi and were repelled from the interior of India. Centuries later, the Mughal Empire, with Mongol roots from Central Asia, conquered the northern part of the sub-continent.

Southeast Asia

The Battle of Bạch Đằng against Vietnam. Battle of Bach Dang (1288).jpg
The Battle of Bạch Đằng against Vietnam.

Kublai Khan's Yuan dynasty invaded Burma between 1277 and 1287, resulting in the capitulation and disintegration of the Pagan Kingdom. However, the invasion in 1301 was repulsed by the Burmese Myinsaing Kingdom. The Mongol invasions of Vietnam (then known as Đại Việt) and Java resulted in defeat for the Mongols, although much of Southeast Asia agreed to pay tribute in order to avoid further bloodshed. [25] [26] [27] [28] [29] [30]

Death Toll

Due to the lack or records and timespan in which they occurred the violence associated with the conquests of the Mongol Empire and its predecessor states vary considerably. [31] Not including the spread of plague to Europe, West Asia, or China [32] it is possible that between 20 and 40 million people were killed between 1206 and 1405 during the various campaign's of Genghis Khan Khan, Kublai Khan, and Timur. [33] [34] [35] Open conflict, sieges, [36] early biological warfare, [37] and massacre [38] [39] were employed to varying degrees.


See also

Related Research Articles

Mongol invasion of Kievan Rus Mongolian invasion of Kievan Rus

As part of the Mongol invasion of Europe, the Mongol Empire invaded Kievan Rus' in the 13th century, destroying numerous cities, including Ryazan, Kolomna, Moscow, Vladimir and Kiev.

Golden Horde Mongol Khanate

The Golden Horde was originally a Mongol and later Turkicized khanate established in the 13th century and originating as the northwestern sector of the Mongol Empire. With the fragmentation of the Mongol Empire after 1259 it became a functionally separate khanate. It is also known as the Kipchak Khanate or as the Ulus of Jochi.

Batu Khan Mongol Khan

Batu Khan, also known as Sain Khan and Tsar Batu, was a Mongol ruler and founder of the Golden Horde, a division of the Mongol Empire. Batu was a son of Jochi and grandson of Genghis Khan. His ulus was the chief state of the Golden Horde, which ruled Rus', Volga Bulgaria, Cumania, and the Caucasus for around 250 years, after also destroying the armies of Poland and Hungary. "Batu" or "Bat" literally means "firm" in the Mongolian language. After the deaths of Genghis Khan's sons, he became the most respected prince called agha in the Mongol Empire.

Battle of Ain Jalut

The Battle of Ain Jalut took place in September 1260 between Muslim Mamluks and the Mongols in the southeastern Galilee, in the Jezreel Valley, in the vicinity of Nazareth, not far from the site of Zir'in.

Hulagu Khan Il-Khan emperor

Hulagu Khan, also known as Hülegü or Hulegu, was a Mongol ruler who conquered much of Western Asia. Son of Tolui and the Keraite princess Sorghaghtani Beki, he was a grandson of Genghis Khan and brother of Ariq Böke, Möngke Khan, and Kublai Khan.

Ögedei Khan second Great Khan of the Mongol Empire

Ögedei, was the third son of Genghis Khan and second Great Khan of the Mongol Empire, succeeding his father. He continued the expansion of the empire that his father had begun, and was a world figure when the Mongol Empire reached its farthest extent west and south during the Mongol invasions of Europe and East Asia. Like all of Genghis' primary sons, he participated extensively in conquests in China, Iran, and Central Asia.

Mongol invasion of Europe 13th century conquests

The Mongol invasion of Europe in the 13th century was the conquest of Europe by the Mongol Empire, by way of the destruction of East Slavic principalities, such as Kiev and Vladimir. The Mongol invasions also occurred in Central Europe, which led to warfare among fragmented Poland, such as the Battle of Legnica and in the Battle of Mohi in the Kingdom of Hungary.

Kitbuqa Noyan was a Nestorian Christian of the Mongolian Naiman tribe, a group that was subservient to the Mongol Empire. He was a lieutenant and confidant of the Mongol Ilkhan Hulagu, assisting him in his conquests in the Middle East. When Hulagu took the bulk of his forces back with him to attend a ceremony in Mongolia, Kitbuqa was left in control of Syria, and was responsible for further Mongol raids southwards towards Egypt. He was killed at the Battle of Ain Jalut in 1260.

Berke Khan was a Mongolian military commander and ruler of the Golden Horde who effectively consolidated the power of the Blue Horde and White Horde from 1257 to 1266. He succeeded his brother Batu Khan of the Blue Horde (West) and was responsible for the first official establishment of Islam in a khanate of the Mongol Empire. He allied with the Egyptian Mamluks against another Mongol khanate based in Persia, the Ilkhanate. Berke supported Ariq Böke in the Toluid Civil War, but did not intervene militarily in the war.

Mongol invasions of the Levant Wikimedia list article

Starting in the 1240s, the Mongols made repeated invasions of Syria or attempts thereof. Most failed, but they did have some success in 1260 and 1300, capturing Aleppo and Damascus and destroying the Ayyubid dynasty. The Mongols were forced to retreat within months each time by other forces in the area, primarily the Egyptian Mamluks. Since 1260, it had been described as the Mamluk-Ilkhanid War.

Köten was a Cuman–Kipchak chieftain (khan) and military commander active in the mid-13th century. He forged the important alliance with the Kievan Rus against the Mongols but was ultimately defeated by them at the Kalka River. After the Mongol victory in 1238, Köten led 40,000 "huts" to Hungary, where he became an ally of the Hungarian king and accepted Catholicism, but was nonetheless assassinated by the Hungarian nobility.

Mongol conquest of China 13th century conquest

The Mongol conquest of China was a series of major military efforts by the Mongol Empire to invade China proper. It spanned six decades in the 13th century and involved the defeat of the Jin dynasty, Western Xia, the Dali Kingdom and the Southern Song. The Mongol Empire under Genghis Khan started the conquest with small-scale raids into Western Xia in 1205 and 1207. By 1279, the Mongol leader Kublai Khan had established the Yuan dynasty in China and crushed the last Song resistance, which marked the onset of all of China under the Mongol Yuan rule. This was the first time in history that the whole of China was conquered and subsequently ruled by a foreign or non-native ruler.

Mongol raids into Palestine

Mongol raids into Palestine took place towards the end of the Crusades, following the temporarily successful Mongol invasions of Syria, primarily in 1260 and 1300. Following each of these invasions, there existed a period of a few months during which the Mongols were able to launch raids southward into Palestine, reaching as far as Gaza.

The Asud were a military group of Alani origin. The Mongol clan Asud is the plural of As, the Arabic name for the Alans.

Political divisions and vassals of the Mongol Empire

This article discusses the political divisions and vassals of the Mongol Empire. Through invasions and conquests the Mongols established a vast empire that included many political divisions, vassals and tributary states. It was the largest contiguous land empire in history. However, after the death of Möngke Khan, the Toluid Civil War and subsequent wars had led to the fragmentation of the Mongol Empire. By 1294, the empire had fractured into four autonomous khanates, including the Golden Horde in the northwest, the Chagatai Khanate in the middle, the Ilkhanate in the southwest, and the Yuan dynasty in the east based in modern-day Beijing, although the Yuan emperors held the nominal title of Khagan of the empire.

During the Mongol invasion of Europe, Mongol tumens led by Batu Khan and Kadan invaded Serbia and then Bulgaria in the spring of 1242 after defeating the Hungarians at the battle of Mohi and ravaging the Hungarian regions of Croatia, Dalmatia and Bosnia.


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Further reading

Primary sources