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Mongol Rule

At the same time, a dynamic leader was beginning to create a following far to the east of the Caucasus. Having risen to the title of khan of his people by the 1190s, he quickly became leader of all Mongol tribes and was given the title Chinggis Khan. While his birthdate is uncertain, by the time he died in 1227, he had become the greatest conqueror in history. In 1218, having defeated much of China and Manchuria, Chinggis Khan turned to the west in what he saw as a “divine mission” to rule the world. Although he was not as ruthless as often portrayed, he was infuriated when a Persian prince mistakenly killed his envoys. Chinggis Khan subsequently stormed through Persia, swung north through the Caucasus region into south Russia, and returned along the other side of the Caspian Sea. This was accomplished by 1223. Chinggis Khan died in 1227, but his son Ogodai returned to the west in 1236, using the Caucasus region and the Caucasus Mountains as a gateway to Russia and the Black Sea. To achieve this, the Mongols reestablished security along the Great Silk Road, which enabled revived trade between Europe and Asia.

Why was Chinggis Khan successful? - Many scholars have pondered how Chinggis (Genghis) Khan could lead an army to conquer nearly all of Europe and Asia. The reason is not that he was a great warrior but that he was a true leader, militarily, spiritually, and administratively. Among his qualities:

• He tolerated religious diversity. Those who submitted peacefully had little to fear.
• His soldiers were well-trained in the art of siege warfare.
• He only used warfare when negotiation failed.
• He moved only after doing reconnaissance and collecting intelligence regarding his foes.
• He recruited specialists from his captives. For example, he enlisted a Turkish captive to create a written Mongol language.
• He was organized. Chinese civil servants organized the conquered territories for revenue purposes.
• He set up communications areas along main roads to look after messengers and agents.
• He encouraged the rebuilding of roads and cities so he could quickly build trade between China and Europe.

While the administrative structure actually helped the region thrive through this period, the era of the khans had another impact on the region. The bulk of the Mongol army was made up of Turkish soldiers whose tribes had been absorbed by the Mongol advance across Eurasia. As these soldiers settled in the Caucasus region, the population slowly and subtly shifted from Persian roots to Turkish. Persian cities and cultural areas such as Zoroastrian temples were destroyed as the area was transformed to Turkish Islam.