If you had lived anywhere in Asia between 1200 and 1300, you would have thought of the Mongols as the rulers of the world. The Mongol Empire, during the later part of that century, covered a good part of the known world then.
In actual numbers, it covered 33 million square kilometers (about 13 million square miles) which is about a quarter of the world’s land area today and much more of the known world then. That makes it the largest continuous empire in history. Even the Soviet Union was not that large. It also covered 100 million people, or about a quarter of the world’s estimated population at the time. The British Empire in 1920 was just a little larger, but not contiguous and put together over a much longer period of time. It included, as the larger land areas, Canada, Australia, India and many territories of Africa. But back to Mongolia.
Image Credit: Wikipedia.
Genghis Khan was born in 1160 in Mongolia. Through ruthless political maneuvering, brilliant military strategy and a soldier ethic not seen anywhere else he united the various tribes of Mongolia and then spread out from there, reaching all the way to Poland and the Baltic nations in Europe. His Grandson Kublai Khan spread he empire further, down into south China and Indochina. India was spared, mostly due to the Himalaya barrier.
The Khans were utterly ruthless warriors. Their armies were fearless, fast, hardened and excellent horsemen. Being nomadic to begin with, they often brought along their homesteads, including women and children, for their campaigns. That’s not surprising, since it took years to cross Asia on foot or even horseback, particularly when you had to contend with skirmishes along the way.
The Peoples of the day were terrified of the Mongols. Their reputation preceded them. When they were in Poland, Europeans sometimes fled their homes in terror. Of course, when the strategy of the conquerors is to kill all military opposition, systematically rape women and girls, then send them off to slavery, recruit boys and men into the armies, pillage the countryside, loot everything that could be taken and burn what could not, it is no wonder that quite often they didn’t have to do any fighting when they arrived. Entire nations just gave up.
In Asia during the Mongol reign, their race was viewed as superior to all others. Mongols controlled all the wealth, held all high offices, make all decisions for everyone else. Nations were subjugated by the sheer iron fist of the ruler. Dissention was crushed with torture and death, or worse, torture of loved ones. For a century, Mongols ruled a good part of the world.
In the early 14th century, internal power struggles and strife among the heirs of the Great Khans caused the empire to be divided up and soon to crumble. The Chinese pushed them back to Mongolia. Within a few decades, Mongolia was in anarchy and never really recovered.
Today Mongolia is a large, mostly empty, landlocked country in Central Asia with a population of 2.9 million. Much of its population lives in poverty, with no significant contribution to world culture or economy.
Who would have thought that, 700 years ago?