|Directions: Carefully read the following excerpts from the Robert W. Strayer textbook regarding the Mongol conquest of China, Persia, and Russia. Fill out the Compare/Contrast Chart in which you must cite specific evidence regarding the following categories: conquest, length and nature of rule, impact on locals, and the extent of assimilation the Mongols experienced in relation to their reigns over China, Persia, and Russia.
[The conquest], lasted some seventy years, from 1209 to 1279. The invasion began in northern China, and in the north was characterized by destruction and plunder on a massive scale. Southern China, under the control of the native Song dynasty, was a different story, for there the Mongols were far less violent and more concerned to accommodate the local population. Landowners, for example, were guaranteed their estates in exchange for their support or neutrality. The achievement of conquest persuaded many Chinese that the Mongols had been granted the Mandate of Heaven and, despite their foreign origins, were legitimate rulers.
After conquest, the Mongols desired to extract as much wealth as possible from China’s advanced civilization. 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 in Mongolia to what is now Beijing, known as Khanbalik, the “city of the khan.” Many of Khublai Khan’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 supported peasant agriculture. Mongol khans also made use of traditional Confucian rituals and supported the building of some Daoist temples.
However, the Mongols did not become fully Chinese, nor did they accommodate every aspect of Chinese culture. Deep inside the capital of Beijing they established the so-called 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 t he Mongol elite much preferred to live, eat, sleep, and give birth in traditional tents [gers or yurts] that sprouted everywhere. In administering the country, the Mongols largely ignored the traditional Chinese Confucian examination system and relied heavily on foreigners such as Uighers and Persians to serve as officials, while keeping the top decision-making posts for themselves.
By the mid-14th century, intense factionalism among the Mongols, rapidly rising prices, furious epidemics of the Black 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.
A first invasion (1219-1221), led by Chinggis Khan himself, was followed thirty years later by a second assault (1251-1258) under his grandson Hulegu, who became the first Il-khan (subordinate khan to the Great Khan of the Mongol homeland) of Persia. More destructive than the conquest of Song dynasty China, the Mongol’s stunning victory was a profound shock to the Persian and Arab peoples, accustomed to viewing history as the progressive expansion of Islamic rule and spread of Islamic civilization. Furthermore, Mongol military victory brought in its train a degree of ferocity and slaughter that simply had no parallel in Persian experience. The Persian historian Juwayni described it in fearful terms: Every town and every village has been several times subjected to pillage and massacre and has suffered this confusion for years so that even though there be generation and increase until the Resurrection the population will not attain to a tenth part of what it was before. 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 lay the damage to Persian and Iraqi agriculture and their peasant farmers. Heavy taxes, sometimes collected twenty or thirty times a year and often under torture or whipping, pushed large numbers of peasants off their land. Furthermore, the in-migration of nomadic Mongols, together with their immense herds of sheep and goats, turned much agricultural land into pasture and sometimes into desert. In many cases, the delicate underground irrigation systems (quanats) first put into place by the Persian empire of Darius were destroyed. Some sectors of the Persian economy gained, however. Wine production increased because the Mongols were fond of alcohol, and the Persian silk industry benefited from close contact with a Mongol-ruled China.
As the Mongols lived in Persia for generation after generation, they began to assimilate to the culture. The Mongols made extensive use of the sophisticated Persian bureaucracy, leaving the greater part of government operations in Persian hands. They rebuilt damaged cities and repaired neglected irrigation works. Most important, the Mongols who conquered Persia became Muslims. Members of the court and Mongol elites learned at least some Persian, unlike most of their counterparts in China. A number of Mongols also turned to farming, abandoning their nomadic ways, while some married local people. The Mongols were not driven out of Persia, rather they and their Turkic allies simply disappeared through assimilation into Persian society.
The Mongol military machine rolled over Russia between 1237 and 1240. 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. They likewise killed the Prince and Princess, and men, women, and children, monks, nuns, and priests, some by fire, some by 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, laborers and skilled craftsmen were deported to other Mongol lands or sold into slavery.
From the Mongol point of view, Russia had little to offer. Its economy was not nearly as developed as that of more established civilizations; nor was it located on major international trade routes. It was simply not worth the expense of occupying [therefore the Mongols determined that] they could dominate and exploit Russia from the steppes. Russian princes received appointment from the khan and were required to send substantial tribute to the Mongol capital at Sarai. A variety of additional taxes created a heavy burden, especially on the peasantry, while continuing border raids sent tens of thousands of Russians into slavery. The Mongol impact was highly uneven, however. Some Russian princes benefited considerably because they were able to manipulate their role as tribute collectors to grow wealthy. The Russia Orthodox Church likewise flourished under the Mongol policy of religious toleration, for it received exemption from many taxes.
The absence of direct Mongol rule had implications for the Mongols themselves, for they were far less influenced by or assimilated within Russian cultures than their counterparts in China and Persia had been. “The impact of the Mongols on Russia was, if anything, greater than on China and Persia” as Russian princes, who were more or less left alone if they paid the required tribute and taxes, found it useful to adopt the Mongol’s weapons, diplomatic rituals, court practices, taxation system, and military draft. Mongol policies facilitated, although not intentionally, the rise of Moscow as the core of a new Russian state. The old center of power, Kiev, had been sacked, whereas Moscow surrendered before the Mongol onslaught. The Russians, led by Tsar Ivan III, broke the Mongol’s hold by the end of the 15th century.