Ancient tribe Mongols
Around the year 1000, the Mongol tribes Kerait and Merkit were converted to Christianity by Nestorian missionaries. Around 1196, Temmujin became prince of the tribe "Mongchol," and it was he who gave the entire people the name Mongol.
Around 1130, Kublai Khan united the Mongols, but his empire collapses already in 1160/61. The Mongols first became truly important under Genghis Kahn (1155/1162-1227), who gave real structure to the state and introduced law. Under him, the Mongols created the largest land empire in history–29.000.500 km2 – and subjugated more than 100 million people.
At the high point of their power, they ruled over great portions of Imperial China, Korea, Khorassan (belonging to modern day Afghanistan and Iran), Georgia, Armenia, Russia, Hungary, Persia, and those lands in between. The Mongols were a nomadic people, surrounded in the thirteenth century by highly developed agrarian and urban cultures. No civilization of the period had a strongly centralized government, though. In Asia, Russia, and the Near East, the kingdoms or city-states were already doomed to collapse. The Mongols exploited this power vacuum, which meant opportunity for them. In their oppressive wars, they brought whole regions together into a federation of states with common political and economic interests. They were also completely dependent on trade with settled, urbanized peoples.
As nomads, they did not really understand the importance of building up stores of supplies, or promoting handcrafts and technology. It was said of Genghis Khan that his goal was not the subjugation of the neighboring cultures, but their destruction. He is said not to have comprehended the advantages of urban life. In truth, and in deed, Genghis Khan was well aware of the economic advantages that these peoples enjoyed.
In the course of a few decades, the Mongols under Yelü Chutsai and Sorghaghtani Beki (see „State Philosophy“ below), just how important it was to maintain the status quo. The princes now attempted, to act in the interests of the settled populace. They were no always successful.
Whenever urban populations were allowed to carry on their way of life, they could produce an excess of good and foodstuffs. This excess was to be paid as a tax to the Khan. It was Genghis Khan's successor, Ugedai Khan, who permitted in 1234 the transformation of the traditional Tribute into a tax. This saved many lives and whole cultures.
Genghis Khan did not originally intend to establish an empire. Every one of his conquests proceeded on the basis of due considerations of the political situation and potential economic gains.
One example of this is the conquest of the northern Chinese capital of Peking in 1215. He did not take advantage of the opportunity to conquer all of northern China, but returned home to the steppes after achieving his victory. The war against the Choresmian Empire 1219-21 began because of a trade dispute.
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On the steppes, the Mongols lived as herdsmen and animal breeders in yurts, which are half-domed shaped structures of felt stretched over wooden frames. Women and children also participated in nomadic life, took care of the animals, and collected the manure as fuel. These privations made the Mongols tough and gave them tenacity. The survival of the group depended on their skill with their small horses, and on herding sheep, goats, cattle, camels, and yaks. Even today, these animals feed the Mongols with their milk and meat. Cheese and yogurt exist in hundreds of variations among the Mongols, and even a sort of distilled "Milk Vodka" for festivals. All parts of their animals are used, and big chunks of fat are considered delicacies.
Buddhism, introduced from Tibet, has, over the years, influenced the Mongolian culture, which has an indigenous strain of Shamanism. The nomads learned to build portable altars and religious illustrated scrolls that were suited for travel. The connections between Tibet and Mongolia became so strong in the sixteenth century that a Mongolian Khan gave a Tibetan leader the title Dalai Lama.
Today the Mongols have their own country in northern central Asia. The state, known as the People's Republic of Mongolia, is on a high, hilly plateau and is almost three times the size of France, but has only 2.6 million inhabitants. Many more Mongols, approximately 3.5 million, live on the other side of the southern border, in China's Inner Mongolia and other Chinese provinces. There are other Mongol populations in Kazakhstan, Siberia and in the Kalmyk region of Russia, the Kalmyk Steppes on the lower Volga.
Mongolia was the second Communist nation after Russia. In 1924, it took on the status of a republic. Anti-religious revolutionaries killed thousands of monks, restricted nomadic life, and erected collectives. Most Mongols today live in cities and settlements.
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