Mongols prized their commercial and trade relationships with neighboring economies and this policy they continued during the process of their conquests and during the expansion of their empire. All merchants and ambassadors, having proper documentation and authorization, traveling through their realms were protected. This greatly increased overland trade. During the thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries, European merchants, numbering hundreds, perhaps thousands, made their way from Europe to the distant land of China Marco Polo is only one of the best known of these. Well-traveled and relatively well-maintained roads linked lands from the Mediterranean basin to China. The Mongol Empire had negligible influence on seaborne trade.
The Mongol Empire had an ingenious and efficient mail system for the time, often referred to by scholars as the Yam, which had lavishly furnished and well guarded relay posts known as örtöö set up all over the Mongol Empire. The yam system would be replicated later in the U.S. in form of the Pony Express. A messenger would typically travel 25 miles (40 km) from one ordu to the next, and he would either receive a fresh, rested horse or relay the mail to the next rider to ensure the speediest possible delivery. The Mongol riders regularly covered 125 miles per day, which is faster than the fastest record set by the Pony Express some 600 years later.
Mongol invasion of Central Asia initially was composed of Genghis Khan's victory and unification over the Mongol central Asian confederations such as Merkits, Mongols, Uighurs that eventually created the Mongol nation and founding of the Mongol Empire. It then continued with invasion of Khwarezmid Empire in Persia.
The Mongol invasion of the Middle East consists of the conquest, by force or voluntary submission, of the areas today known as Iran, Iraq, Syria, and parts of Turkey, with further Mongol raids reaching southwards as far as Gaza into the Palestine region in 1260 and 1300. The major battles were the Battle 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 Egyptian Mamluks, with some unusual provisioning assistance from the Christian European Crusaders, were for the first time able to stop the Mongol advance at Ain Jalut, in the northern part of what is today known as the West Bank. Due to a combination of political and geographic factors, such as lack of sufficient grazing room for their horses, the Mongol invasion of the Middle East turned out to be the farthest that the Mongols would ever reach, towards the Mediterranean and Africa.
Mongol invasion of East Asia refers to the Mongols 13th and 14th century conquests under Genghis Khan and his descendants of Mongol invasion of China, Korea, and attempted Mongol invasion of Japan, and it also can include Mongols attempted invasion of Vietnam. The biggest conquest was the total invasion of China in the end.
Mongol invasion of Europe largely constitute of their invasion and conquest of Kievan Rus, much of Russia, invasion of Poland and Hungary among others.
Hulagu, Genghis Khan's grandson and founder of the il-KhanAt first, the Mongol Empire was ruled by Ögedei Khan, Genghis Khan's third son and designated heir, but after his death in 1241, the fractures which would ultimately crack the Empire began to show. Enmity between the grandchildren of Genghis Khan resulted in a five year regency by Ögedei's widow until she finally got her son Guyuk Khan confirmed as Great Khan. But he only ruled two years, and following his death he was on his way to confront his cousin Batu Khan, who had never accepted his authority, another regency followed, until finally a period of stability came with the reign of Mongke Khan, from 1251-1259. The last universally accepted Great Khan was his brother Arigboh (aka. Arigbuga, or Arigbuha), his elder brother Kublai Khan dethroned him with his own supporters after some extensive battles. Kublai Khan ruled from 1260-1294. Despite his recognition as Great Khan, he was unable to keep his brother Hulagu and their cousin Berke from open warfare in 1263, and after Kublai's death there was not an accepted Great Khan, so the Mongol Empire was fragmented for good.
Genghis Khan divided his realm into four Khanates, subdivisions of a single empire under the Great Khan (Khan of Khans). The following Khanates emerged after the regency following Ögedei Khan's death, and became formally independent after Kublai Khan's death:
Blue Horde (under Batu Khan) and White Horde (under Orda Khan) would soon be combined into the Golden Horde, with Batu Khan emerging as Khan.
Il-Khanate - Hulegu Khan
Empire of the Great Khan (China) - Kublai Khan
Mongol homeland (present day Mongolia, including Kharakhorum) - Tolui Khan
Chagatai Khanate - Chagatai Khan.
The empire's expansion continued for a generation or more after Genghis's death in 1227. Under Genghis's successor Ögedei Khan, the speed of expansion reached its peak. Mongol armies pushed into Persia, finished off the Xia and the remnants of the Khwarezmids, and came into conflict with the Song Dynasty of China, starting a war that concluded in 1279 with the conquest of populous China, which then constituted the majority of the world's economic production. In the late 1230s, the Mongols under Batu Khan invaded Russia and Volga Bulgaria, reducing most of its principalities to vassalage, and pressed on into Eastern Europe. In 1241 the Mongols may have been ready to invade Western Europe as well, having defeated the last Polish-German and Hungarian armies at the Battle of Legnica and the Battle of Mohi. Batu Khan and Subutai were preparing to start with a winter campaign against Austria and Germany, and finish with Italy. However news of Ögedei's death spared Western Europe as Batu had to turn his attentions to the election of the next Great Khan. It is often speculated that this was one of the great turning points in history and that Europe may well have fallen to the Mongols had the invasion gone ahead. During the 1250s, Genghis's grandson Hulegu Khan, operating from the Mongol base in Persia, destroyed the Abbasid Caliphate in Baghdad and destroyed the cult of the Assassins, moving into Palestine towards Egypt. The Great Khan Möngke having died, however, he hastened to return for the election, and the force that remained in Palestine was destroyed by the Mamluks under Saif ad-Din Qutuz in 1261 at Ayn Jalut.
Essentially, only six areas accessible to the Mongols avoided conquest by them -- Indochina, South Asia, Vietnam, Japan, Western Europe and Arabia. Also, two important cities that evaded the Mongol Conquest were Vienna and Jerusalem. Both evaded the conquest because of the death of a Great Khan.
While the Mongolian Empire extended into Poland and threatening present day Austria, the Mongols were not able to push into Western Europe. The most popular explanation was the fact that on 11 December 1241, during pre-emptive operations by Mongol reconnaissance forces inside Austria for the invasion of Vienna, news came that Ogedei Khan died, and bound by Mongol tradition, all Mongol commanders and princes had to report back to the capital of Karakorum to elect a new Khan. It was believed that the Mongol abandonment of the European campaign was only temporary, but in fact, the Mongols had committed no further campaigns into Europe in earnest. Some western historians attribute European survival to Mongol unwillingness to fight in the more densely populated German principalities, where the wetter weather affected their bows. But the same weather did not stop them from devastating Russia or the campaigns against the Southern Song, and Europe was less densely populated than China. The probable answer for the Mongol's stopping after the Mohi River, and the destruction of the Hungarian army, was that they never intended to advance further at that time. Batu Khan had made his Russian conquests safe for the next 10 generations, and when the Great Khan died, he rushed back to Mongolia to put in his claim for power. Upon his return, relations with his cousin Guyuk Khan had deteriorated to the point that open warfare between them came shortly after Guyuk's death. The point is that the Mongols were unable to bring a unified army to bear on either Europe, or Egypt, after 1260. Batu Khan was in fact planning invasion of Europe all the way to the "Great Sea" the Atlantic Ocean, when he died in 1255. His son inherited the Khanate, but also died in a short time, and Batu's brother Berke became Khan of the Kipchak Khanate. He was far more interested in fighting with his cousin Hulagu than invading the remainder of Europe, which was no threat to him.
Another area not conquered by Mongols was Vietnam, which repelled Mongol attacks in 1257/1258, 1284/1285 and 1287/1288. Japan also repelled massive Mongol invasions in 1274 and 1281. Japan's ruler Hojo Tokimune first sent back the emissaries time and time again without audience in Kamakura, and then after the first invasion was so bold as to behead Kubilai's emissaries, twice. In both Japan and Vietnam, Kubilai sent part of the Mongol armies, instead of concentrating on Vietnam first, and then Japan. Furthermore, the splitting of resources left the Mongols with a fleet that was not readily equipped for the storms that plagued the Sea of Japan. A great storm sank the primary invasion fleet and killed most of the Mongol army during the 1281 invasion. Nonetheless, Kublai Khan continued to attempt to gather forces for another invasion while simultaneously attacking Vietnam. The end result was Japan was able to repel Mongol assaults, but Vietnam was not.
Many other countries of Indochina could counter the Mongol invasion, such as the Maoluang Kingdom (or Kingdom of Mong Mao) in Northern Thailand, Shan and Kachin in today's Northern and Northeastern Burma as well as Assam in Eastern India and Southwestern China. Sa Khaan Pha (or Si Ke Fa), king of Maoluang Kingdom, was able to negotiate a treaty after he defeated the Mongols three times during the period of Kublai Khan. He received authority over the land south of the Sang city which is now Kunming in the Yunnan province of the People's Republic of China. Lanna and Sibsongpanna in Northern Thailand, Northern Laos and Southern China, Lan Xang in Laos, Champa in Southern Vietnam and Cambodia, the Siamese kingdoms of Chiang Saen (or Chieng Saeng), Lavo, Haripunjai, Phyao and Sukhotai, and the Khmer empire were never touched by the Mongols due to the treaty. However, the Burmese Pagan dynasty was destroyed in 1287 by Kublai Khan as well as the Northern Vietnamese empire of Viet. The Mongol fleets sent to Khmer, Java, Siam, Srivijaya and Malay Archipelago never won any battles.
South Asia was also able to withstand the advance of the Mongols. At this time, Northern India was under the rule of the Delhi sultanate. Though the Mongols raided into the Punjab and invaded Delhi itself (unsuccessfully), the Sultans--mostly notably Ghiyasuddin Balban--were able to keep them at bay and roll them back.
When Genghis Khan died, a major potential weakness of the system he had set up manifested itself. It took many months to summon the kurultai, as many of its most important members were leading military campaigns thousands of miles from the Mongol heartland. And then it took months more for the kurultai to come to the decision that had been almost inevitable from the start that Genghis's choice as successor, his third son Ögedei, should become Great Khan. Ögedei was a rather passive ruler and personally self-indulgent, but he was intelligent, charming and a good decision-maker whose authority was respected throughout his reign by apparently stronger-willed relatives and generals whom he had inherited from Genghis. After the initial massive campaigns at the beginning of the conquest of Europe, where the Mongol war machine handily defeated the Hungarian and Polish armies, the Hospitallers, the Teutonic Knights, as well as the slaughtering of countless many civilians, Ögedei Khan suddenly died in 1241; just as the Mongol forces under General Subutai were preparing an all out assault on Vienna, Austria. This sudden vacuum of power is seen as the beginning of the events that led to the decline of the Mongol Empire. As customary to Mongol military tradition, all generals and princes, and thus the tumens, had to report back to the capital Karakorum thousands of miles away (the relocation of the capital to Dadu would add to this difficulty under Kublai Khan), for the election of a successor to the throne. Pending a kurultai to elect Ögedei's successor, his widow Toregene Khatun assumed power and proceeded to ensure the election of her son Guyuk by the kurultai. Batu, bitterly disappointed by the postponement of the European campaign, was unwilling to accept Guyuk as Great Khan, but lacked the influence in the kurultai to procure his own election. Therefore, while moving no further west, he simultaneously insisted that the situation in Europe was too precarious for him to come east and that he could not accept the result of any kurultai held in his absence. The resulting stalemate lasted four years. In 1246 Batu eventually agreed to send a representative to the kurultai but never acknowledged the resulting election of Guyuk as Great Khan. Guyuk died in 1248, only two years after his election, on his way west, apparently to force Batu to acknowledge his authority, and his widow Oghul Ghaymish assumed the regency pending the meeting of the kurultai. Batu remained in the west but this time gave his support to his and Guyuk's cousin, Möngke, who was duly elected Great Khan in 1251. Möngke Khan unwittingly provided his brother Kublai, or Qubilai, with a chance to become Khan in 1260, assigning Kublai to a province in North China. Kublai expanded the Mongol empire and became a favorite of Möngke. Later, though, when Kublai began to adopt many Chinese laws and customs, his brother was persuaded by his advisors that Kublai was becoming too sinicized and would be considered treasonous. Möngke kept a closer watch on Kublai from then on but died campaigning against Southern Song China at the Fishing Town in Chongqing. After his older brother's death, Kublai placed himself in the running for a new khan against his younger brother, and, although his younger brother won the election, Kublai defeated him in battle, and Kublai became the last true Great Khan. He proved to be a strong warrior, but his critics still accused him of being too closely tied to Chinese culture. When he moved his headquarters to Beijing, there was an uprising in the old capital that he barely staunched. He focused mostly on foreign alliances, and opened trade routes. He dined with a large court every day, and met with many ambassadors, foreign merchants, and even offered to convert to Christianity if this religion was proved to be correct by 100 priests. By the reign of Kublai Khan, the empire was already in the process of splitting into a number of smaller khanates. After Kublai died in 1294, his heirs failed to maintain the Pax Mongolica and the Silk Road closed. Inter-family rivalry compounded by the complicated politics of succession, which twice paralyzed military operations as far off as Hungary and the borders of Egypt (crippling their chances of success), and the tendencies of some of the khans to drink themselves to death fairly young (causing the aforementioned succession crises), hastened the disintegration of the empire. Another factor which contributed to the disintegration was the difficulty of the potential two-weeks extra transit time of officials and messengers and a general decline of morale when the capital was moved from Karakorum to Dadu, the Yuan name for the modern day city of Beijing by Kublai Khan; as Kublai Khan associated more closely to Chinese culture. Kublai concentrated on the war with the Song Dynasty, assuming the mantle of ruler of China, while the khanates to the west gradually drifted away. The four descendant empires were the Mongol-founded Yuan Dynasty in China, the Chagatai Khanate, the Golden Horde that controlled Central Asia and Russia, and the Ilkhans who ruled Persia from 1256 to 1353. Of the latter, their ruler Ilkhan Ghazan was converted to Islam in 1295 and renounced all allegiance to the Great Khan. He actively supported the expansion of this religion in his empire.
The Mongol expansion throughout the Asian continent from around 1215 to 1360 helped bring political stability and re-establish the Silk Road vis-à-vis Karakorum. The 13th century saw a Franco-Mongol alliance with exchange of ambassadors and even military collaboration in the Holy Land. The Chinese Mongol Rabban Bar Sauma visited the courts of Europe in 1287-1288. With rare exceptions such as Marco Polo or Christian missionaries such as William of Rubruck, few Europeans traveled the entire length of the Silk Road. Instead traders moved products much like a bucket brigade, with luxury goods being traded from one middleman to another, from China to the West, and resulting in extravagant prices for the trade goods. The disintegration of the Mongol Empire led to the collapse of the Silk Road's political unity. Also falling victim were the cultural and economic aspects of its unity. Turkic tribes seized the western end of the Silk Road from the decaying Byzantine Empire, and sowed the seeds of a Turkic culture that would later crystallize into the Ottoman Empire under the Sunni faith. Turkic-Mongol military bands in Iran, after some years of chaos were united under the Saffavid tribe, under whom the modern Iranian nation took shape under the Shiite faith. Meanwhile Mongol princes in Central Asia were content with Sunni orthodoxy with decentralized princedoms of the Chagatay, Timurid and Uzbek houses. In the Kypchak-Tatar zone, Mongol khanates all but crumbled under the assaults of the Black Death and the rising power of Muscovy. In the east end, the Chinese Ming Dynasty overthrew the Mongol yoke and pursued a policy of economic isolationism. Yet another force, the Kalmyk-Oyrats pushed out of the Baikal area in central Siberia, but failed to deliver much impact beyond Turkestan. Some Kalmyk tribes did manage to migrate into the Volga-North Caucasus region, but their impact was limited. After the Mongol Empire, the great political powers along the Silk Road became economically and culturally separated. Accompanying the crystallization of regional states was the decline of nomad power, partly due to the devastation of the Black Death and partly due to the encroachment of sedentary civilizations equipped with gunpowder.
The Mongol Empire was the largest contiguous empire in human history. The 13th and 14th century, when the empire came to power, is often called the "Age of the Mongols". The Mongol armies during that time were extremely well organized. The death toll (by battle, massacre, flooding, and famine) of the Mongol wars of conquest is placed at about 40 million according to some sources. Many ancient sources described Genghis Khan's conquests as wholesale destruction on an unprecedented scale in their certain geographical regions, and therefore probably causing great changes in the demographics of Asia. For example, over much of Central Asia speakers of Iranian languages were replaced by speakers of Turkic languages. The eastern part of the Islamic world experienced the terrifying holocaust of the Mongol invasion, which turned northern and eastern Iran into a desert. Between 1220 and 1260, the total population of Persia may have dropped from 2,500,000 to 250,000 as a result of mass extermination and famine. Non-military achievements of the Mongol Empire include the introduction of a writing system, based on the Uyghur script, that is still used in Inner Mongolia. The Empire unified all the tribes of Mongolia, which made possible the emergence of a Mongol nation and culture. Modern Mongolians are generally proud of the empire and the sense of identity that it gave to them.
Some of the long-term consequences of the Mongol Empire include:
The Mongol empire is traditionally given credit for reuniting China and expanding its frontiers. The language Chagatai, widely spoken among a group of Turks, is named after a son of Genghis Khan. It was once widely spoken, and had a literature, but eventually became extinct in Russia. Moscow rose to prominence during the Mongol-Tatar yoke, some time after Russian rulers were accorded the status of tax collectors for Mongols. The Russian ruler Ivan III overthrew the Mongols completely to form the Russian Tsardom, after the Great stand on the Ugra river proved the Mongols vulnerable, and led to the independence of the Grand Duke of Moscow. Europe’s knowledge of the known world was immensely expanded by the information brought back by ambassadors and merchants. When Columbus sailed in 1492, his missions were to reach Cathay, the land of the Genghis Khan. Some research studies indicate that the Black Death, which devastated Europe in the late 1340s, may have reached from China to Europe along the trade routes of the Mongol Empire. In 1347, the Genoese possession of Caffa, a great trade emporium on the Crimean peninsula, came under siege by an army of Mongol warriors under the command of Janibeg. After a protracted siege during which the Mongol army was reportedly withering from the disease, they decided to use the infected corpses as a biological weapon. The corpses were catapulted over the city walls, infecting the inhabitants. The Genoese traders fled, transferring the plague via their ships into the south of Europe, whence it rapidly spread. The total number of deaths worldwide from the pandemic is estimated at 75 million people, there were an estimated 20 million deaths in Europe alone. It is estimated that between one-quarter and two-thirds of the of Europe's population died from the outbreak of the plague between 1348 and 1350.
One of the more successful tactics employed by the Mongols was to wipe out urban populations that had refused to surrender. In the invasion of Kievan Russia, almost all major cities were destroyed. If they chose to submit, the people were spared and treated as slaves, which meant most of them would be driven to die quickly by hard work, with the exception that war prisoners became part of their army to aid in future conquests. In addition to intimidation tactics, the rapid expansion of the Empire was facilitated by military hardiness (especially during bitterly cold winters), military skill, meritocracy, and discipline. Subutai, in particular among the Mongol Commanders, viewed winter as the best time for war while less hardy people hid from the elements, the Mongols were able to use frozen lakes and rivers as highways for their horsemen, a strategy he used with great effect in Russia. The Mongol Empire is also responsible for many technological achievements that are in wide use today. In addition, they discovered a unique way to increase the population of fish in a given body of water. The Mongol Empire had a lasting impact, unifying large regions, some of which (such as eastern and western Russia and the western parts of China) remain unified today, albeit under different rulership. The Mongols themselves were assimilated into local populations after the fall of the empire, and many of these descendants adopted local religions.