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- The mongol path from central asia to minor asia -



Early History

Although people have inhabited Mongolia since the Stone Age, Mongolia only became politically important after iron weapons entered the area in the 3rd century BCE. In general, Mongolia at this point had a similar history to the rest of the nomadic steppe that lies between Siberia Northern Russia to the North, China, and, the Middle East and Central Asia to the South. These steppes usually were inhabited by bands of nomads, sometimes united in confederations of varying sizes. These nomads usually herded animals, traded, raided more agricultural peoples and each other. However, every now and then, there would form giant nomadic confederations that threatened China, and sometimes the Middle East, Europe and beyond, but these confederations, while vast, and often destructive, rarely lasted, though they did redistribute peoples and disrupt the politics of the regions they attacked. The people in the Mongolia region usually focused their attention on nearby, wealthy China, and their occasional confederations greatly influence Chinese history. China's response is a major theme in Mongolian history.

Xiongnu Period

The establishment of the Xiongnu state (Хүн улс) in Mongolia in the 3rd century BCE landmarks the beginning of the statehood on the territory of Mongolia. The founder of the Xiongnu kingdom was Toumen. He was succeeded by his son Modu Shanyu whose unified kingdom stretched from lake Baikal in the north to the Great Wall of China in the south and from the Tian Shan mountains in the west to the Greater Khingan ranges in the east. Han Dynasty of China invaded the territory of the Xiongnu in 200 BCE attempting to subjugate them. However the Xiongnu united their forces and repelled the invaders and furthermore advanced into China itself and besieged its capital Pingyang. The Han emperor surrendered to the Xiongnu in 198 BCE and recognised all the territories to the north from the Great Wall should belong to the Xiongnu, while the territory to the south of the Great Wall should belong to the Han. In addition, China was obliged to pay annual tribute to the Xiongnu.

The Xiongnu state weakened as it was divided into the southern and northern Xiongnu in 48 CE. The Xianbei that were under the Xiongnu rebelled in 93 ending the Xiongnu domination in Mongolia. Zhizhi Chanyu, the leader of the northern Xiongnu moved to the west with his people triggering the Great Migration. Their descendants—together with the members of other tribes—appeared in Europe in the 5th century as the Huns of Attila. By then, of course, these people were considerably more mixed ethnically.[1]

Xianbei Period

The Xianbei (Сүмбэ улс буюу Сяньби) gained strength beginning from the 1st century CE and were consolidated into a state under Tanshihuai in 147. He expelled the Xiongnu from Jungaria and pushed the Dinglin to the norh of the Sayans thus securing domination of the Mongolic elements in nowadays Khalha and Chaharia[2]. The Xianbei successfully repelled an invasion of the Han Dynasty in 167 and conquered areas of northern China in 180. The ruler of the Xianbei state was elected by a congress of the nobility. The Xianbei used woodcut tallies called Kemu as a form of non-verbal communication. Besides extensive livestock husbandry, the Xianbei were also engaged at a limited scale in cropping and handicrafts. The Xianbei fractioned in the 3rd century.
Xianbei belt buckle, 3rd-4th centuries
Xianbei belt buckle, 3rd-4th centuries

A faction of the Xianbei--Toba established an empire Toba Wei beyond Mongolia proper--in northern China in 386. Toba Wei existed until 581. There are various hypotheses about the language and ethnic links of the Xianbei. The first and most widely accepted version suggests that the Xianbei were a Mongolic ethnic group and their branches are the ancestors of many Mongolic peoples such as the Joujan, Kidan and Menggu Xibei, who are suggested to be the proto-Mongols. The second hypotheses proposes that the Xianbei were a Tungusic ethnic group. The third group of historians propose the Xianbei being a common ancestor of both Mongolic and Tungusic groups. It is also unclear, whether the Mongolic and Tungusic groups of languages had been distinctively diverged by the time of the Xianbei[3].

Joujan Period

A branch of the Xianbei, the Joujan (Нирун улс буюу Жужань) were consolidated under Mugulyu. Shelun assumed the title of Kagan in 402 landmarking the establishment of the state of the Joujan Kaganate. The Toba waged long wars against the Joujan Kaganate. The Turks of Altai that were subjects of the Joujan revolted in 552 establishing the Turkic Kaganate. The Joujan Kaganate was finally defeated by the Turks in 555. Part of the Joujan exodused from the present territory of Mongolia. A number of histroians maintain that they established the Avarian Kaganate between the river Danube and the Carpathian Mountains[4]. The Joujans that stayed in Mongolia became the ancestors of the Tatar tribes[3].


Turkic Period

The Altain Turks (Алтайн түрэг, Орхон Түрэг, Хөх Түрэг, Orkhon Turks, Göktürks, Kök-Türks or Blue Turks, ), whose language belonged to the Oguz subgroup of the Turkic languages, were subjects to the Nirun and served as blacksmiths for them. Therefore, the revolt of the Turks of 552 is often called the "Blacksmiths rebellion". The uprising was headed by Buman who became the founder of the Turkic Kaganate (Түрэгийн хаант улс). Chinese dynasties Qi and Zhou surrendered in 570 and began paying tribute to the Göktürks. However, the Turkic Kaganate partitioned in 590 into an Eastern and Western Turkic Kaganates. The Sui Dynasty of China invaded the Turkic Kaganate in 615, but Shibi kagan repulsed the invasion and captured the Sui Emperor. The internal struggle between the Turkic nobles lead to their defeat by the Tang Dynasty of China in 630. The Göktürks continuously struggled against the subjugation by the Tang Dynasty. An uprising of 680 under the leadership of Kutuluk and Tonyukuk led to restoration of the Turkic Kaganate. In the early 700's, an invading army of 450 thousand soldiers headed by Tang Dynasty's Empress Wu Zetian was defeated and chased back by Mojo kagan[3].

Uighur Period

The Uighurs, who were subjects to the Göktürks, revolted in 745 and founded the Uighur Kaganate (Уйгурын хаант улс) which replaced the Eastern Turkic Kaganate. The Uighur kagan Bayanchur established city Balyklyk (Kara Balagasun, Хар балгас)on the river Orkhon in 751. Tang Empire invited the Uigurs to subdue a peasant rebellion in 755. Successful campaigns of the Uigur Kaganate led to a peace with the Tang Dynasty of China which paid tribute in silk and grain for 12 years since 766 [5]. Though a faction of the Uighurs were Buddhists, the Manichaean religion became the official religion of the Kaganate in the 8th century. Nevertheless, the majority of the Uighurs remained shamanists. The culture and economy of the Uighur Kaganate were more advanced than those of its predecessors. The Uighurs used a 12-month calendar and calculated the dates of solar and lunar eclipses. The Uighurs developed their own writing system based on the Sogdian script. The Uighur Kaganate fell under an invasion of the Yeniseyan Kyrgyz in 840.

Kidan Period

The Kidans (Хятан улс, Hitan, Kitan) were an ethnic group, whose language belonged to the Mongolic group. Kagan Ambagyan founded the Kidan state in 911. The Kidan state covered a significant portion of what is now Mongolia including the basins of the rivers Kerulen, Tuul and Orkhon. As it grew strong and occupied parts of China, it became to be called the Liao Dynasty. The territory of the Kidan Empire consisted of two parts: one populated by pastoral herders in the north and the other populated by croppers in the south. The two parts of the empire actively traded with each other. Lubugu, a grandson of Ambagyan, together with a scholar Tulyubu developed a Grand Alphabet based on the Chinese hieroglyphics in 920. Later, Tela, a son of Ambagyan, developed a Minor Alphabet based on the Uyghur script. A printing technology developed in the Kidan Empire. The Kidan language was widely studied abroad. The Jurjens, who were subjects to the Kidans rebelled in 1113 and established in 1125 the Jin Dynasty which replaced the Liao Dynasty. A faction of the Kidans moved to the west escaping subjugation by the Jurjens. Those Kidans established the Kara-Kitai Kaganate in Eastern Turkestan.

Mongol Period

The Mongol Empire and the states that emerged from played a major role in the history of the 13th and 14th centuries. Genghis Khan and his immediate successors conquered nearly all of Asia and European Russia and sent armies as far as central Europe and Southeast Asia. In Mongolia itself, the legacy of Genghis Khan was a superior law code, a written language, and a historical pride. In addition, the foreign contact created by the Mongolian Empire allowed for the spread of Mongolian genes, and the introduction of Buddhism into Mongolia. When the Mongolian empire broke up, Mongolia became part of the Yuan dynasty (1271-1368), which included a unified China. The Ming Dynasty replaced it in 1368 and invaded Mongolia, leading to a Mongolian defeat, but not a Chinese conquest.

By the early 15th century, Mongolia was split between the Oirad in the Altay Mountains region and the eastern group that later came to be known as the Khalkha in the area north of the Gobi. In the mid-15th century, the Oirad dominated and briefly united Mongolia and threatened China, at one point taking a Chinese emperor captive. Eventually in the 16th century, under Dayan Khan, it ruled over a vast section of North-Central Asia from the Ural Mountains to Lake Baykal, conquering even the Khalkas. But after his death, Mongolia split into waring factions again, though most of Mongolia was unified by Altan Khan, who attacked China, though he gave up in 1571, signing a peace treaty with the Ming Dynasty that ended 3 centuries of war. Instead he concentrated on his southwest and raided Tibet, eventually becoming a convert to Tibetan Buddhism and naming the first Dalai Lama.





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