The Famous and Powerful Khanates that Followed the Mongol Empire
A khanate was a political entity ruled by a khan. Historically speaking, the ruler of a Mongolian tribe was given the title ‘Khan’. Later on, this title was adopted by many Muslim societies. Although there were many khanates throughout history, the most famous ones are those that succeeded the Mongol Empire.
During the 13th century, the Mongol Empire was established by Genghis Khan. To signify his position as the supreme ruler of the Mongols, Genghis Khan assumed the title ‘Khagan’, which may be translated to mean ‘Great Khan’. The successors of Genghis Khan continued to use the title ‘Khagan’, though it was not long before the empire began to fragment.
Eight of 15 Great Khagans of the Mongolian Empire. ‘Khagan’ means ‘Great Khan’ and refers to a leader of a khaganate, also known as a khanate Source: Public Domain
The Three Khagans After Genghis
The three khagans who succeeded Genghis Khan – Ogedei, Guyuk, and Mongke, were elected by a kurultai (roughly equivalent to a general council or assembly) and ruled over a united Mongol Empire. This system began to show flaws after the death of Ogedei but it was only after Mongke’s death in 1259 that things really started to break down.
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Genghis Khan and three of his four sons. (Public Domain) Genghis Khan’s successor’s continued to see themselves as the Khagans of their khanates.
Although no consensus could be reached, Kublai Khan became the new khagan, though this was only a nominal title. Whilst smaller khanates had already begun to form before Kublai Khan became the khagan, the fragmentation of the Mongol Empire may be traced to his reign, as he did not rule over a united empire. By the time of Kublai Khan’s death in 1294, the Mongol Empire had split into four khanates – the Chagatai Khanate, the Golden Horde, the Ilkhanate, and the Yuan Dynasty.
The first of these four khanates to have been formed was the Chagatai Khanate, which was based in Central Asia. This area of the Mongol Empire was given to Chagatai, the second son of Genghis Khan. The Chagatai Khanate did not have as much of an impact on world history as the other three khanates.
Funeral of Chagatai Khan, the ruler of the Chagatai Khanate. (Public Domain)
The Golden Horde, known also as the Kipchak Khanate, and the Ulus of Jochi, was the northwestern part of the Mongol Empire, and was given to Jochi, the eldest son of Genghis Khan. Jochi died several months before his father, and was succeeded by his son, Batu Khan. Under the new khan, the Golden Horde khanate expanded into Europe, subjugating the Russian principalities as they swept eastwards.
This khanate flourished until the middle of the 14th century, after which it began to decline. By the 15th century, the Golden Horde fragmented into a number of smaller khanates, three of the most important being the Khanates of Crimea, Astrakhan, and Kazan.
The Golden Horde army defeats the Ilkhanate at the battle of Terek in 1262. Many of Hulagu's men drowned in the Terek River while withdrawing. (Public Domain)
The Ilkhanate (which is said to mean ‘subordinate khan’) was centered in Persia, and was founded by Hulegu (Hulagu) Khan, a brother of Mongke and Kublai. In 1255/6, Hulegu was charged by his brother, Mongke, with the task of subduing the Muslim states to the west all the way to Egypt. Baghdad was sacked by the Ilkhans in 1258, thus bringing the Abbasid Caliphate to an end.
In 1260, however, the westward expansion of the Ilkhans was halted in Palestine when they were defeated at the Battle of Ain Jalut by the Mamluks. Although the expansion of the Ilkhans in the Middle East was stopped after this defeat, they remained nonetheless a force in the region.
The Mongol ruler Hulagu in Baghdad interns the Caliph of Baghdad among his treasures. (Public Domain)
This may be seen, for instance, in the attempts made by the rulers of Western Europe to form an alliance with the Ilkhans against the Mamluks. Less than a century after the founding of the Ilkhanate, however, it went into decline and disintegrated, with a number of pretenders emerging.
The Khanate that was also a Dynasty
Last but not least is the Yuan Dynasty, which ruled over China. Its first emperor was Kublai Khan, and the dynasty lasted until 1368. Although the Yuan Dynasty lasted less than a century, it made certain important contributions to Chinese history.
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For instance, Khanbaliq (modern day Beijing) was completely rebuilt by Kublai Khan as his new capital. Additionally, the Yuan Dynasty is reputed for its development of the literary genres of drama and novel. Moreover, Kublai Khan undertook various public works to improve the lives of his subjects, and his benevolent rule was recorded by the Venetian traveler, Marco Polo.
Kublai Khan and the Polo family. (Public Domain)
Unlike the other khanates, the Yuan Dynasty did not disintegrate into smaller khanates, but was replaced by a when a native Han dynasty, the Ming.
Top image: Mongol attack (Lunstream / Fotolia)
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