In the 13th century, the Mongols built an empire with the largest contiguous territory in human history. It stretched from Russia to Southeast Asia and from Korea to the Middle East. Hordes of nomads destroyed hundreds of cities, destroyed dozens of states. The very name of the founder of the Mongol Empire, Genghis Khan, has become a symbol of an entire medieval era.
The first Mongol conquests affected China. The Celestial Empire did not immediately submit to the nomads. In the Mongol-Chinese wars, it is customary to distinguish three stages. The first was the invasion of the state of Jin (1211-1234). That campaign was led by Genghis Khan himself. His army numbered one hundred thousand people. The neighboring Uighur and Karluk tribes joined the Mongols.
The city of Fuzhou in northern Jin was captured first. Not far from it, in the spring of 1211, a major battle took place at the Yehulin Ridge. In this battle, a large professional Jin army was annihilated. Having won the first major victory, the Mongol army overcame the Great Wall - an ancient barrier built against the Huns. Once in China, it began to rob Chinese cities. For the winter, the nomads retired to their steppe, but since then returned every spring for new attacks.
Under the blows of the steppes, the state of Jin began to fall apart. Ethnic Chinese and Khitans began to rebel against the Jurchens who ruled this country. Many of them supported the Mongols, hoping to achieve independence with their help. These calculations were frivolous. Destroying the states of some peoples, the great Genghis Khan did not at all intend to create states for others. For example, the Eastern Liao, which broke away from the Jin, lasted only twenty years. The Mongols skillfully made temporary allies. Dealing with their opponents with their help, they also got rid of these "friends".
In 1215, the Mongols captured and burned Beijing (then called Zhongdu). For several more years, the steppes acted according to the tactics of raids. After the death of Genghis Khan, his son Ogedei became the kagan (great khan). He switched to conquest tactics. Under Ogedei, the Mongols finally annexed the Jin to their empire. In 1234, the last ruler of this state, Aizong, committed suicide. The Mongol invasion devastated northern China, but the destruction of the Jin was only the beginning of the triumphal march of the nomads across Eurasia.
Tangut state Xi Xia (Western Xia) was the next country conquered by the Mongols. Genghis Khan conquered this kingdom in 1227. Xi Xia occupied territories west of the Jin. It controlled part of the Great Silk Road, which promised rich booty to the nomads. The steppes besieged and ravaged the Tangut capital Zhongsin. Genghis Khan died while returning home from this campaign. Now itthe heirs had to finish the work of the founder of the empire.
The first Mongol conquests concerned states created by non-Chinese peoples in China. Both Jin and Xi Xia were not the Celestial Empire in the full sense of the word. Ethnic Chinese in the 13th century controlled only the southern half of China, where the Southern Song empire existed. The war with her began in 1235.
For several years, the Mongols attacked China, exhausting the country with incessant raids. In 1238, the Song pledged to pay tribute, after which the punitive raids ceased. A fragile truce was established for 13 years. The history of the Mongol conquests knows more than one such case. Nomads "put up" with one country in order to concentrate on conquering other neighbors.
In 1251 Möngke became the new Great Khan. He initiated a second war with the Song. Kublai Khan's brother was placed at the head of the campaign. The war went on for many years. The Sung court capitulated in 1276, although the struggle of individual groups for Chinese independence continued until 1279. Only after that the Mongol yoke was established over the entire Celestial Empire. Back in 1271, Kublai founded the Yuan dynasty. She ruled China until the middle of the 14th century, when she was overthrown in the Red Turban Rebellion.
Korea and Burma
On its eastern borders, the state created in the course of the Mongol conquests began to coexist with Korea. A military campaign against her began in 1231. A total of six invasions followed. As a resultdevastating raids, Korea began to pay tribute to the Yuan state. The Mongol yoke on the peninsula ended in 1350.
At the opposite end of Asia, the nomads reached the limits of the Pagan kingdom in Burma. The first Mongol campaigns in this country date back to the 1270s. Khubilai repeatedly delayed the decisive campaign against Pagan because of his own setbacks in neighboring Vietnam. In Southeast Asia, the Mongols had to fight not only with the local peoples, but also with an unusual tropical climate. The troops suffered from malaria, which is why they regularly retreated to their native lands. Nevertheless, by 1287, the conquest of Burma was nevertheless achieved.
Invasions of Japan and India
Not all wars of conquest started by the descendants of Genghis Khan ended successfully. Twice (the first attempt was in 1274, the second - in 1281) Habilai tried to launch an invasion of Japan. For this purpose, huge fleets were built in China, which had no analogues in the Middle Ages. The Mongols had no experience in navigation. Their armadas were defeated by Japanese ships. 100 thousand people took part in the second expedition to the island of Kyushu, but they also failed to win.
Another country not conquered by the Mongols was India. The descendants of Genghis Khan had heard about the riches of this mysterious land and dreamed of conquering it. North India at that time belonged to the Delhi Sultanate. The Mongols first invaded its territory in 1221. The nomads devastated some provinces (Lahore, Multan, Peshawar), but the matter did not come to conquest. In 1235 they added to theirthe state of Kashmir. At the end of the 13th century, the Mongols invaded the Punjab and even reached Delhi. Despite the destructiveness of the campaigns, the nomads did not manage to gain a foothold in India.
In 1218, the Mongols, who had previously only fought in China, turned their horses to the west for the first time. On their way was Central Asia. Here, on the territory of modern Kazakhstan, there was the Kara-Kitai Khanate, founded by the Kara-Kitais (ethnically close to the Mongols and Khitans).
Kuchluk, a longtime rival of Genghis Khan, ruled this state. Preparing to fight against him, the Mongols attracted to their side some other Turkic peoples of Semirechye. The nomads found support from the Karluk Khan Arslan and the ruler of the city Almalyk Buzar. In addition, they were assisted by settled Muslims, who were allowed by the Mongols to conduct public worship (which Kuchluk did not allow).
The campaign against the Kara-Khitay Khanate was led by one of the main temniks of Genghis Khan, Jebe. He conquered the entire East Turkestan and Semirechye. Defeated, Kuchluk fled to the Pamir Mountains. There he was caught and executed.
The next Mongol conquest, in short, was only the first stage in the conquest of all of Central Asia. Another large state, in addition to the Kara-Khitay Khanate, was the Islamic kingdom of Khorezmshahs inhabited by Iranians and Turks. At the same time, the nobility in it was Polovtsian (Kypchak). In other words, Khorezm was a complex ethnic conglomerate. Conquering it, the Mongols skillfullytook advantage of the internal contradictions of this major power.
Even Genghis Khan established outwardly good neighborly relations with Khorezm. In 1215 he sent his merchants to this country. Peace with Khorezm was needed by the Mongols to facilitate the conquest of the neighboring Kara-Khitay Khanate. When this state was conquered, it was the turn of its neighbor.
The Mongol conquests were already known to the whole world, and in Khorezm, the imaginary friendship with the nomads was treated with caution. The pretext for breaking off peaceful relations by the steppes was discovered by accident. The governor of the city of Otrar suspected the Mongol merchants of espionage and executed them. After this thoughtless massacre, war became inevitable.
Genghis Khan went on a campaign against Khorezm in 1219. Emphasizing the importance of the expedition, he took all his sons with him on the journey. Ogedei and Chagatai went to besiege Otrar. Jochi led the second army, which moved towards Dzhend and Sygnak. The third army aimed at Khujand. Genghis Khan himself, together with his son Tolui, followed to the richest metropolis of the Middle Ages, Samarkand. All these cities were captured and plundered.
In Samarkand, where 400 thousand people lived, only one in eight survived. Otrar, Dzhend, Sygnak and many other cities of Central Asia were completely destroyed (today only archaeological ruins have survived in their place). By 1223 Khorezm was conquered. The Mongol conquests covered a vast territory from the Caspian Sea to the Indus.
Having conquered Khorezm, the nomads opened a further road to the west - fromon one side to Russia, and on the other - to the Middle East. When the united Mongol Empire collapsed, the Khulaguid state arose in Central Asia, ruled by the descendants of Genghis Khan's grandson Khulagu. This kingdom lasted until 1335.
After the conquest of Khorezm, the Seljuk Turks became the Mongols' western neighbors. Their state, the Konya Sultanate, was located on the territory of modern Turkey on the peninsula of Asia Minor. This area had another historical name - Anatolia. In addition to the Seljuk state, there were Greek kingdoms - the ruins that arose after the capture of Constantinople by the Crusaders and the fall of the Byzantine Empire in 1204.
The Mongol temnik Baiju, who was the governor in Iran, took up the conquest of Anatolia. He called on the Seljuk Sultan Kay-Khosrov II to recognize himself as a tributary of the nomads. The humiliating offer was rejected. In 1241, in response to the demarche, Baiju invaded Anatolia and approached Erzurum with an army. After a two-month siege, the city fell. Its walls were destroyed by catapult fire, and many residents were killed or robbed.
Kay-Khosrow II, however, was not going to give up. He enlisted the support of the Greek states (Empires of Trebizond and Nicaea), as well as Georgian and Armenian princes. In 1243, the army of the anti-Mongolian coalition met with the interventionists in the mountain gorge of Kese-Dag. The nomads used their favorite tactic. The Mongols, pretending to retreat, made a false maneuver and suddenly counterattacked the opponents. The army of the Seljuks and their allies was defeated. AfterWith this victory, the Mongols conquered Anatolia. According to the peace treaty, one half of the Sultanate of Konya was attached to their empire, and the other began to pay tribute.
In 1256, the grandson of Genghis Khan Hulagu led a campaign in the Middle East. The campaign lasted 4 years. It was one of the largest campaigns of the Mongol army. The Nizari state in Iran was the first to be attacked by the steppes. Hulagu crossed the Amu Darya and captured Muslim cities in Kuhistan.
After defeating the Khizarites, the Mongol khan turned his attention to Baghdad, where Caliph Al-Mustatim ruled. The last monarch of the Abbasid dynasty did not have sufficient forces to resist the horde, but he self-confidently refused to peacefully submit to foreigners. In 1258 the Mongols laid siege to Baghdad. The invaders used siege weapons and then launched an assault. The city was completely surrounded and deprived of outside support. Baghdad fell two weeks later.
The capital of the Abbasid Caliphate, the pearl of the Islamic world, was completely destroyed. The Mongols did not spare the unique monuments of architecture, destroyed the academy, and threw the most valuable books into the Tigris. Plundered Baghdad turned into a heap of smoking ruins. His fall symbolized the end of the medieval Islamic Golden Age.
After the events in Baghdad, the Mongol campaign began in Palestine. In 1260, the battle of Ain Jalut took place. The Egyptian Mamluks defeated the foreigners. The reason for the defeat of the Mongols was that on the eve of Hulagu, having learned about the death of the kagan Mongke,retreated to the Caucasus. In Palestine, he left the commander Kitbugu with an insignificant army, which was naturally defeated by the Arabs. The Mongols could not advance further deep into the Muslim Middle East. The border of their empire was fixed on the Mesopotamia of the Tigris and Euphrates.
Battle on Kalka
The first campaign of the Mongols in Europe began when the nomads, pursuing the fleeing ruler of Khorezm, reached the Polovtsian steppes. At the same time, Genghis Khan himself spoke about the need to conquer the Kipchaks. In 1220, an army of nomads came to Transcaucasia, from where it moved to the Old World. They devastated the lands of the Lezgin peoples on the territory of modern Dagestan. Then the Mongols first encountered the Cumans and Alans.
The Kipchaks, realizing the danger of uninvited guests, sent an embassy to the Russian lands, asking the East Slavic specific rulers for help. Mstislav Stary (Grand Duke of Kyiv), Mstislav Udatny (Prince Galitsky), Daniil Romanovich (Prince Volynsky), Mstislav Svyatoslavich (Prince Chernigov) and some other feudal lords responded to the call.
It was 1223. The princes agreed to stop the Mongols in the Polovtsian steppe even before they could attack Russia. During the gathering of the united squad, the Mongolian embassy arrived at the Rurikovich. The nomads offered the Russians not to stand up for the Polovtsians. The princes ordered to kill the ambassadors and advanced to the steppe.
Soon a tragic battle on the Kalka took place on the territory of the modern Donetsk region. 1223 was a year of sadness for the entire Russian land. Coalitionprinces and Polovtsy suffered a crushing defeat. The superior forces of the Mongols defeated the united squads. The Polovtsians, trembling under the onslaught, fled, leaving the Russian army without support.
At least 8 princes died in the battle, including Mstislav of Kyiv and Mstislav of Chernigov. Together with them, many noble boyars lost their lives. The battle on the Kalka became a black sign. The year 1223 could turn out to be the year of a full-fledged invasion of the Mongols, but after a bloody victory, they decided that it was better to return to their native uluses. For several years in the Russian principalities, nothing more was heard about the new formidable horde.
Shortly before his death, Genghis Khan divided his empire into areas of responsibility, each of which was headed by one of the sons of the conqueror. Ulus in the Polovtsian steppes went to Jochi. He died prematurely, and in 1235, by decision of the kurultai, his son Batu set about organizing a campaign in Europe. The grandson of Genghis Khan gathered a gigantic army and went to conquer countries far away for the Mongols.
The Volga Bulgaria became the first victim of the new invasion of nomads. This state on the territory of modern Tatarstan has been waging border wars with the Mongols for several years. However, until now, the steppes have been limited to only small sorties. Now Batu had an army of about 120 thousand people. This colossal army easily captured the main Bulgarian cities: Bulgar, Bilyar, Dzhuketau and Suvar.
Invasion of Russia
Having conquered the Volga Bulgaria and defeated its Polovtsian allies, the aggressors moved further west.Thus began the Mongol conquest of Russia. In December 1237, the nomads ended up on the territory of the Ryazan principality. His capital was taken and mercilessly destroyed. Modern Ryazan was built a few tens of kilometers from Old Ryazan, on the site of which only a medieval settlement still stands.
The advanced army of the Vladimir-Suzdal Principality fought the Mongols in the Battle of Kolomna. In that battle, one of the sons of Genghis Khan, Kulkhan, died. Soon the horde was attacked by a detachment of the Ryazan hero Yevpaty Kolovrat, who became a real national hero. Despite stubborn resistance, the Mongols defeated every army and took all the new cities.
At the beginning of 1238, Moscow, Vladimir, Tver, Pereyaslavl-Zalessky, Torzhok fell. The small town of Kozelsk defended itself for so long that Batu, having razed it to the ground, called the fortress "an evil city." In the battle on the City River, a separate corps, commanded by the temnik Burundai, destroyed the united Russian squad led by Vladimir Prince Yuri Vsevolodovich, who was beheaded.
More than other Russian cities, Novgorod was lucky. Having taken Torzhok, the Horde did not dare to go too far to the cold north and turned south. Thus, the Mongol invasion of Russia happily bypassed the key commercial and cultural center of the country. Having migrated to the southern steppes, Batu took a short break. He let the horses feed and regrouped the army. The army was divided into several detachments, solving episodic tasks in the fight against the Polovtsians and Alans.
Already in 1239, the Mongols attackedSouthern Russia. Chernigov fell in October. Glukhov, Putivl, Rylsk were devastated. In 1240 nomads besieged and took Kyiv. Soon the same fate awaited Galich. Having plundered the key Russian cities, Batu made the Rurikovich his tributaries. Thus began the period of the Golden Horde, which lasted until the 15th century. The principality of Vladimir was recognized as the senior inheritance. Its rulers received permission labels from the Mongols. This humiliating order was interrupted only with the rise of Moscow.
The devastating Mongol invasion of Russia was not the last for the European campaign. Continuing their journey to the west, the nomads reached the borders of Hungary and Poland. Some Russian princes (like Mikhail of Chernigov) fled to these kingdoms, asking for help from the Catholic Monarchs.
In 1241, the Mongols took and plundered the Polish cities of Zavikhost, Lublin, Sandomierz. Krakow was the last to fall. Polish feudal lords were able to enlist the help of the Germans and Catholic military orders. The coalition army of these forces was defeated in the battle of Legnica. Prince Heinrich II of Krakow was killed in the battle.
The last country to suffer from the Mongols was Hungary. Having passed the Carpathians and Transylvania, the nomads ravaged Oradea, Temesvar and Bistrica. Another Mongol detachment marched with fire and sword through Wallachia. The third army reached the banks of the Danube and captured the fortress of Arad.
All this time the Hungarian king Bela IV was in Pest, where he was gathering an army. An army led by Batu himself set off to meet him. In April 1241 two armiesclashed in the battle on the Shayno River. Bela IV was defeated. The king fled to neighboring Austria, and the Mongols continued to plunder the Hungarian lands. Batu even made attempts to cross the Danube and attack the Holy Roman Empire, but eventually abandoned this plan.
Moving west, the Mongols invaded Croatia (also owned by Hungary) and ravaged Zagreb. Their forward detachments reached the shores of the Adriatic Sea. This was the limit of the Mongol expansion. The nomads did not join Central Europe to their power, being satisfied with a long robbery. The borders of the Golden Horde began to pass along the Dniester.