Class 11 History


Social, Political and Military Organization

The Mongol army was composed of diverse people; like Turkic Uighurs, Kereyits and many other nomadic societies. The Mongol army was organized according to the old steppe system of decimal units. The army was divided into Arbans (10 people), Zuuns (100), Minghhans (1000) and tumens (10000). Genghis Khan stopped the practice of including the clan and the tribe within the same decimal units. He divided the old tribal groupings and distributed their members into new military units. Any person who tried to move from his/her allotted group without permission received harsh punishment. This altered the old steppe social order and gave the army a new identity. The new military contingents were required to serve under his four sons and specially chosen captains of his army units called noyan. People who had served Genghis Khan loyally through grave adversity for many years were given special status. Some of them were honored as ‘bloodbrothers’ (anda), and some others were given special rank of bondsmen (naukar). This new ranking demolished the rights of the old clan chieftains, and a new aristocracy emerged.

Division of Power: Genghis Khan gave the responsibility of newly conquered territories to his four sons. The four territories were called ulus; where boundaries were still fluid. The eldest son, Jochi received the Russian steppes. The second son, Chaghatai got the Transoxanian steppe and lands north of the Pamir mountains. The third son, Ogodei established his capital at Karakorum, and was to succeed the Great Khan. The youngest son, Toluy, got the ancestral lands of Mongolia. Genghis Khan envisaged that his sons would rule the empire collectively.

Rapid Courier System: Genghis Khan had developed a rapid courier system that connected the distant areas of his regime. Fresh mounts and dispatch riders were placed in outposts at regularly spaced distances. For the maintenance of this communication system the Mongol nomads contributed a tenth of their herd – either horses or livestock – as provisions. This was called the qubcur tax. The courier system (yam) was further refined after Genghis Khan’s death and its speed and reliability surprised travelers.

During the hegemony of the Mongol Empire, Europe and China were territorially linked, and trade connections matured. Now the trade routes did not terminate in China. They continued north into Mongolia and to Karakorum, the heart of the new empire. Travelers were given a pass (paiza in Persian; gerege in Mongolian) for safe conduct. Traders paid the baj tax for the same purpose, all acknowledging thereby the authority of the Mongol Khan.

Better Relations Between Nomadic and Sedentary Elements: The contradictions between the nomadic and sedentary elements within the Mongol empire eased through the thirteenth century. Unlike his predecessors, Qubilai Khan (grandson of Genghis Khan) appeared as the protector of the peasants and the cities. Similarly, in the 1290s, the Mongol ruler of Iran, Ghazan Khan (a descendant of Genghis Khan’s youngest son Toluy) warned family members and other generals to avoid pillaging the peasantry. Even during Genghis Khan’s reign, the Mongols had recruited civil administrators from the conquered societies. They were sometimes moved around: Chinese secretaries deployed in Iran and Persians in China. They helped in integrating the distant dominions. The Mongol Khans trusted them as long as they continued to raise revenue for their masters and these administrators could sometimes command considerable influence.

By the middle of the thirteenth century the sense of a common patrimony shared by all the brothers was gradually replaced by individual dynasties each ruling their separate ulus. Descendants of Toluy had come to rule both China and Iran Where they formed the Yuan and Il-Khanid dynasties. Descendants of Jochi formed the Golden Horde and ruled the Russian steppes. Chaghatai’s successors ruled the steppes of Transoxiana and the Lands called Turkistan today.

Changes in Laws: By the middle of the thirteenth century, the Mongols had emerged as a unified people who created the largest empire ever. In spite of dominating the region politically, the Mongols were a numerical minority. They claimed adherence to the yasa which was a compilation of the customary traditions of the Mongol tribes. Apart from referring to it as Genghis Khan’s code of law, the Mongols also laid claim to a ‘lawgiver’ like Moses and Solomon.