A Map of Muscovy Russian Expansion from 1533-1598 Under Ivan the Terrible
Episode 31: Conversion and Assimilation
Barbarian Empires of the Steppes (2014)
Dr Kenneth Harl
At its height the Mongol Empire consisted of four semi-independent states or hulas
- The eastern hula, consisting of the Yuan Empire, Tibet and the Mongol homeland
- The Chagatai Khanate on the central steppes
- The Golden Horde controlling the western steppes and the Russian principalities
- The Ilkhanate (Persia and Transoxiana)
The Yuan Dynasty was overthrow in a civil war in 1368. Mongol control over the other hulas began to decline even earlier (after 1254) as they converted to Islam.
Demise of the Yuan Dynasty
Concerned an entrenched bureaucratic state would undermine his power, the Yuan emperor Kublai Khan scrapped the civil service exam established by the Mandarin followers of Confucius. Appointing his own Mongol relatives to run the empire, he relocated the capitol further north to Xanadu (now Beijing) close to the steppes and the Mongol homeland. Likewise he refused to use Chinese script for official documents, adopting Tibetan script instead.
From the outset, this made him extremely unpopular with the Mandarin class. His successors were even more unpopular with the Chinese people for heavy taxes they imposed to fund military campaigns and construction initiatives. Owing to their failure to properly maintain the canal system, successive Yuan emperors were also blamed for a series of floods.
in 1351 a peasant named Chu Yuan-Chang launched an armed uprising. By 1356 he controlled south China, and in 1368 he marched his forces to Xanadu. After the Yuan emperor fled, Chu proclaimed himself the first Ming emperor. In 1403 the Ming Dynasty leveled Xanadu and rebuilt the city as Beijing. They also ordered total reconstruction (in masonry) of their border walls to ensure nomads never again ruled over China.
By 1334 the Ilkanate Empire had fragmented into multiple small kingdoms as Transoxiana was assimilated into the Chagatai hula. In 1453, with the fall of Constantinople, Ilkhan rule totally vanished as the Ottoman Sultanate (1299-1924) and the Safavid Dynasty of Iran absorbed the former Ilkhan kingdoms
Beginning in the 14th century, the Chagatai Empire (which controlled the Tarim Basin Silk Road), split into smaller and smaller kingdoms until it was eventually absorbed by the Ottoman Empire.
The Golden Horde
The Golden Horde continued to control the Russian principalities until the 15th century. Between 1325-49, they collaborated with Prince Ivan of Moscow, who collected tribute for them from the other Russian princes and Mongol cities on the western steppes. Also allying themselves with the Marmaluk Sultans in Egypt, the Golden Horde continued to provide them with Slavic slave via the Genoese colony of Kafia (on Black Sea) and later the Venetian colon of Tarnau (also on Black Sea).
In the 1380 Battle of Kurvo Yeti, a Russian army assembled by a coalition of princes defeated the Mongol army for the first time. However Mongol rule persisted, especially after Tamerlane came to the rescue of the Mongol khans.
Between 1453-70, the Golden Horde disintegrated into competing khanates (Muscoy, Crimea Khanate, Kazan Khanate and Astrakhan Khanate), all vassals of the Ottoman sultanate in Constantinople, which they supplied with slaves.
In 1480 Prince Ivan III (Ivan the Great) invaded the Kazan Khanate (comprised primarily of Turkish Tatars) for the first time. In 1568, Ivan IV (Ivan the Terrible) conquered both Khazan and Astrakhan and gained control of the Volga. Crimea would remain a vassal of the Ottoman Empire until the 17th century, when Cossack cavalry developed the skill and technology to defeat mounted Mongol archers.
As Russia expanded rapidly across the Eurasian tundra, taiga and steppes, they made treaties with the Chinese Manchu Empire about control of the steppes. The Russians assumed control of Transoxiana, and the Chinese the Tarim Basin, Tibet and Inner Mongolia.
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