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Pros and Khans

Mongol rule and exchange of cultures.

Published onDec 11, 2021
Pros and Khans

This map depicts the beginning of the Mongol Empire to its peak. The empire expanded all throughout Eurasia and indirectly caused a variety of cultural exchange.

The Mongol Empire is infamous for its violent come to power. After the Mongols had conquered these lands, they did not care how things were done so long as none of what the citizens did step on any Mongol toes. By encapsulating so many countries and their cultures, culture was bound to spread. The Mongols did not mean to spread culture. Policies were not very strict. This was their tactic at “winning”. If they appealed to their captors in ways of trade, religion, and citizenship, there was less of a chance of uprising. They appealed to their new citizens by letting them keep some of their individuality.

Letting citizens reign over local laws helped preserve culture. The Mongols appealed to their religious subjects by placing chosen religious leaders, into power. This tactic helped spread the religious side of culture. Lastly, the Mongols promoted trade to keep power which assisted in cultural exchange. Even though the empire is known for its raping, pillaging, and killing, the Mongol Empire accidentally promoted cultural exchange with their policies or lack thereof. The empire’s religious, trade, and citizenship policies would eventually come to have a big effect on cultural exchange.

What religion did the Mongols practice? Mainly manipulation. The Mongols practiced Shamanism.[1] In portrayals of the Mongols, it is said that they were tolerant of other religions. [2] As long as a religion did not threaten the empire, it was accepted. The Mongols wanted to practice shamanism, but not force it on those that they had control over.[3] To the Mongols, religion was a weapon used to appeal to their captors to avoid resistance. They wanted to please those that they planned to form alliances. They played favor to those they needed to access power.[4] The Mongols used religion as a pawn in their empire to gain power and indirectly inspired an exchange of culture. The Mongols were not progressive people who were out to experience new religions and ways of living. The Mongols should be given credit for their expansion of culture, but not that much. I mean, it was the 1300s after all. They were in it for the power. They were often portrayed as barbarians though using violence to get what they wanted.[5] This is true, but not necessarily. The Mongols were good politicians who wanted control. They felt they had been given divine purpose and were not going to let anything get in their way of what was rightfully theirs.[6] Even though the Mongols’ intentions were not to spread, promote, tolerate, or exchange religions with their policies, it still happened on accident.

The first rule of the Mongol Empire? There are no rules! Well…sort of. The Mongols policies on citizenship were sort of lax for the reputation they had. The Mongols wanted everyone to be united so there were no holes in their society. One of the main characteristics of citizenship was to follow the laws put in place by Genghis Khan.[7] These laws were called the “Yasa”.[8] One main rule within the Yasa was that if someone deserved punishment, punish them.[9] Do what needs to be done. The people were to deal with business as usual as long as you do not undermine the Khan. [10] This is a reoccurring theme within the empire. In other words, don’t mess with the Khan. The Mongols did not care what the people they conquered were doing as long as the Mongols remained in control. The most legal control that the Mongols had was their appointment of judges and judicial leaders.[11] They appointed who they knew would judge similar to the ideals Mongols.[12] The people put into power had no political agenda. If you don’t have an opinion, you can’t argue. Their empire was so vast and expanding so much that they did not have time to handle small matters. The Mongols would recruit, capture, or enslave people to grow their army.[13] This growth of the Mongol army helped mesh different cultures and connect them. By traveling and fighting, they were able to spread their different cultures as they moved across lands to conquer them. The Khan let them do what they wanted with their laws and to define what made someone a citizen.

People are interested in things they cannot have, so it’s no wonder trading was such a hot commodity in the Mongol Empire. One of the main sources of cultural exchange would be trading. There would be no competition since the Mongols owned most of Eurasia.[14]There can’t be any competition if you make the game. The empire covered the entire expansion of the “Silk Road”.[15]This route connected eastern and western cultures. Most Europeans did not know a lot about Asia or the culture there. It was considered safe to travel these routes because the Mongols needed trade for their economy to strive.[16] The Mongols were not going to mess up a good thing, so why would they jeopardize that by running off potential business partners? Once again, the Mongols did not necessarily care about cultural exchange or the effect that trade would have on it. They were worried about attaining power and keeping it. The reoccurring theme of threats being eliminated within this society was prevalent within the trade as well as other aspects of the empire. A lot of exchanges were not documented regarding culture, but it still appears today. The Mongols are often viewed as disastrous or leaving terror in their wake. This is true, but the impact of trade not only on the Mongolian Empire, but the world is very impressive. The Mongols profited from trade even though they did not have anything to offer.

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