The history of people is the history of wars. From the beginning of the history of humanity and ancient civilizations (Egypt, China, Mesopotamia) to the current moments already deep in the 21st century, much has changed, and one of the few things that has remained the same is warfare. Warfare is usually reduced to military efforts to capture territory or valuable resources when politics cannot do so in an elegant diplomatic manner.

Given human nature’s inherent tendency to break boundaries, the rulers of various kingdoms, empires, and republics often measured their power by the degree of control over vast territories and the large number of residents there who were their subjects. In addition to territory and population, rulers also wanted to own valuable resources such as gold, silver, silk, porcelain, grain, water and energy. History often repeats itself, and great conquerors who managed to turn their small or medium-sized nations and states into superpowers of their time at a certain point in time also repeat themselves again and again. A prime example for history books is Genghis Khan and the Mongol Empire.

During its existence in the 13th and 14th centuries, the Mongol Empire was the largest land state in human history. The Mongol state was founded in the distant and isolated steppes of Asia and eventually spread far west to Eastern Europe, east to the Sea of ​​Japan, north to Siberia, south to the Indian subcontinent, from Indochina and Persia to the Levant out of. At its peak, the empire covered an incredible 33 million square kilometers and had 100 million inhabitants under its rule. It is therefore not surprising that some later great conquerors, such as Adolf Hitler, saw in Genghis Khan, Mongolia’s most famous leader, a role model and a path to follow.


The Mongol Empire was formed by the unification of nomadic tribes in Mongolia under the leadership of Genghis Khan, who was declared ruler of all Mongols (or Tatars) in 1206. The Great Khan named Temujin showed the qualities of a charismatic and courageous warrior at a young age. When he announced the idea of ​​uniting all Mongols, many tribes voluntarily joined his side, and those who did not had only two options: side with him or die.

In 1206, Temujan became leader of a large confederacy of Mongols and was given the popular name Genghis Khan, meaning “General Leader.”

Great Yasa

Genghis Khan is known for his legal system called the Great Yasa. This law sets out the rights and obligations of every citizen. Of course, the punishments are listed so that everyone knows what awaits them if they do not submit to Genghis Khan’s will. This law abolished, among other things, the collection of origin taxes.

What is now called meritocracy was introduced: anyone could hold even the highest state offices if they showed themselves capable of doing so. Religious, national or racial affiliation played no role. Yasa enabled taxation and the obligation of Mongolian adults to participate in hunting during the winter months. Temujin forbade the plundering of defeated enemies without permission and instituted a policy of sharing the spoils with his warriors and their families. The sale of females, internal conflicts and hunting during the mating season are prohibited. It supported internal and external trade. The poor and clergy were exempt from taxes.

Unification of Mongolian tribes

At the beginning of the 13th century, Genghis Khan managed to unite the Mongol tribes under his leadership through both grace and force. He then formed a powerful army with which he attacked two neighboring Chinese empires: Jin and Xia. The more numerous and better armed Chinese were surprised by the Mongols’ military tactics. There was no infantry in the Mongol army, and lightly armed horsemen attacked quickly and suddenly and then, feigning a retreat, lured the enemy into a trap. Meanwhile, the enemy was constantly bombarded with clouds of deadly arrows.

In addition, Mongol warriors, often changing their fast horses, were able to travel more than 100 miles (160 kilometers) per day and support themselves by pillaging and drinking the blood of their horses. The Mongol leader introduced an innovative way of organizing the army, dividing it into decimal divisions: Arbani (10 soldiers), Zuni (100), Mingani (1,000), Tumeni (10,000). The Imperial Guard, the Kešig, was founded and divided into day and night guards. Commanders wore recognizable rank insignia on their chests. With such an army, Genghis Khan destroyed one Chinese army after another.

Conquest of Beijing and China

In 1209 the Uyghurs were conquered, and then it was the turn of northern China with Beijing. Genghis Khan decided to launch a campaign with 50,000 soldiers that would last six years. Confident in his own power, the emperor of northern China did not worry too much about the Mongols. There was the Great Wall of China, which had stopped Mongol raids for centuries. Not this time, however, because Genghis Khan solved the problem of the Great Wall of China by simply bypassing it. So he came to the capital of northern China, Beijing, which at that time had around 350,000 inhabitants. Only then did problems arise for the Mongols. At that time, Beijing was one of the most advanced and brilliant cities in the world, surrounded by a 60-kilometer-long and 12-meter-high wall with 900 watchtowers and numerous military personnel. The residents of Beijing therefore considered their city to be impregnable.

However, this did not deter Genghis Khan, who, faced with this obstacle, decided to prevent the city from being supplied with food. In doing so, he turned Beijing into a prison in which thousands of people will soon starve and even cannibalism will occur. In addition, Chinese engineers who were part of Genghis Khan’s staff trained the Mongols in building siege engines. As the machines were being built, the Mongol army attacked.

Since the city was defended by a large army, Jinigs-khan knew that the first wave of attack would receive the strongest blow, and forced the previously captured enemy soldiers to take part in the first wave of attack. Technically superior but starving and exhausted, the Chinese army will eventually give in and the city will fall. On June 1, 1215, the Mongols conquered Beijing. The city was destroyed and the entire population was killed. Genghis Khan ordered the complete destruction of the city, buildings were set on fire, and murders and rapes occurred. Witnesses who visited Beijing a year after the fall said they found mounds of human bones in the city.

After destroying both Chinese empires, Genghis Khan directed his mighty army westward and dreamed of conquering the entire world. Although they established their administration in China, the Mongols soon adopted Chinese culture and merged with the majority population, so Genghis Khan’s grandson Kublai Khan founded the new ruling Yuan dynasty. As a lasting consequence of the Mongol invasion, a unified China remained, which was never again divided into individual kingdoms and empires.

Further conquests and death of Genghis Khan

Then the Great Khan turned to conquering the Khorezmian Empire, a powerful Islamic empire that encompassed the territories of many countries in Central Asia. Ortara, Bukhara and Samarkand fell one after the other. Part of the army, led by his son Tulaj, conquered Iran, Azerbaijan and Georgia and advanced through the Caucasus to the Crimea. After defeating the Russian princes on the Kalki River and driving the Polovtsy from the Dnieper, he returned down the Volga to Asia.

When the Tangut rebellion broke out (the Tanguts were the rulers of the Hsi Hsia vassal empire in northwestern China), Genghis Khan resumed the campaign, but died during the siege of the capital on August 18, 1227. He was over 60 years old and at poor health. After promising their ruler to keep his death a secret, Khan’s followers killed all witnesses to the funeral. According to legend, he was buried with 40 horses and 40 maidens, and a thousand horses covered every trace of his grave with their hooves. According to other sources, the Mongol ruler was buried in the bed of a river diverted from its course, and then his grave was allowed to be covered with water. Therefore, Genghis Khan’s final resting place remains a mystery to this day.

Arrival of Ogataj

Genghis Khan’s empire, the area from the Yellow Sea to the Black Sea, came under the rule of his son Ogatai. Genghis Khan bequeathed a regulated Mongol script, religious tolerance, the Mongol Code (Great Yasa), and developed trade. Ogataj sent troops to subdue Bashkirs, Bulgars and other peoples in the Eurasian steppes. In the east, Ogatai forces reestablished control over Manchuria by defeating local Chinese and Tatar troops.

In 1230, the Great Khan personally led a campaign against the Jin dynasty. General Subutai captured the Wanyan Emperor Shoux’s capital at the Siege of Kaifeng in 1232. The Jin dynasty collapsed in 1234 when the Mongols conquered Caizhou. In the same year, three armies under the command of Ogataj’s sons Koču and Koten and General Čagan attacked southern China. With the help of the Song Dynasty, the Mongols won. Many Chinese went to fight with the Mongols against the Jin Dynasty.

New Mongol offensives

The second Mongol invasion of the Caucasus began with the Chormagan expedition against Jalal al-Din Menguberdi, ordered by Ogotaj in 1231. The southern Persian dynasties in Fars and Kerman voluntarily submitted to Mongol rule and agreed to pay them tribute. They set out for Armenia and Georgia in 1236 and completed the conquest three years later. The Mongol military governors camped mostly on the Mughan Plain. When the rulers of Cilicia and Mosul saw the danger posed by the Mongols, they surrendered to the Great Khan. Chormagan divides the Transcaucasian region into three districts. By 1237, most of Persia was under the control of the Mongol Empire, with the exception of the Abbasid Caliphate, the Ismaili strongholds, Afghanistan and Kashmir.

The Mongols began conquering the North Caucasus in 1237, but encountered strong resistance from the local population. To the east, there were a series of Mongol invasions of Korea (Kingdom of Goryeo), but Ogata’s efforts to annex the Korean peninsula met with little success. Gojong, King of Gorje, surrendered, but later rebelled, massacred the Mongol overseers, and then moved the seat of his kingdom from Gaeseong to Ganghwa Island. As the empire grew, Ogatai founded the capital of Karakorum in western Mongolia

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