Ogedei Khan

Image Source: Public Domain

About Ogedei Khan

Lifespan: 1186-1241 A.D

Reign Years: 1229 – 1241 A.D

Given Name: Borjigin Ogedei

Reign Name: Taizong

Ögedei Khan – Yuan Dynasty

Ogedei Khan, the Mongol Empire’s second Great Khan, was Ghengis Khan’s third son. After succeeding his father, he continued expanding the empire and eventually became a world figure. This was after conquering as far as the west and south areas during their invasion of East Asia and Europe.

Like every other son of Genghis Khan, he extensively joined in various conquests in Iran, China, and Central Asia.

When he was still alive, Genghis Khan saw that Ogedei featured a generous and courteous character. Plus, his charisma was somehow credited for his success in keeping the Mongol Empire intact.

Genghis Khan was able to leave behind a great organization. And with the combination of this with Ogedei’s personality, the Mongol Empire’s affairs remained mostly stable during his rule.

Early Life of Ogedei Khan

After Genghis Khan was declared Emperor/Khagan in 1206, thousands of clans like the Besud, Jalayir, Suldus, and Khongqatan were offered as endowments.

Ogedei had territories that occupied the Hobok and Emil rivers. And since Genghis Khan wanted him to excel, he had the Jalayir Commander, Ilugei, tutor Ogedei.

Together with his brothers, Ogedei campaigned on their own and went against the Jin Empire. He was sent to attack the southern area through Hebei, then the north through Shanxi.

Because of Ogedei’s forces, the Jin’s fort was driven out of the Ordos. After that, he headed for the crossroads of Jin, Xi Xia, and the Song domains.

During the Mongol Empire’s conquest of Khwarezmia, both Ogedei and Chagatai killed the people of Otrar. This was after a five-month-long siege in 1219 and 1220.

And since there were arguments over the military strategies, Genghis Khan appointed Ogedei to foresee the Siege of Urganch.

From there, they were able to seize the area in 1221. When the rebellion reached southeast Persia and Afghanistan, Ogedei Khan also took over and pacified Ghazni.

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Enthronement and Reign of the Supreme Khan

Empress Yisui insisted that Genghis choose an heir before invading the Khwarezmid Empire. And after the alarming argument between two elder sons Chagatai and Jochi, they chose Ogedei to be Genghis Khan’s heir.

Genghis Khan died in 1227, and Jochi died a year or two earlier. With that, Tolui, Ogedei’s younger brother, acquired the regency until 1229.

Yet in 1229, Ogedei Khan succeeded his father and was elected as the Great Khan in 1229. The decision was based on the kurultai held after Genghis Khans’ death.

To note, the kurultai was a tribal and imperial assembly to analyze and strategize military campaigns. It was also for assigning people to leadership titles and positions. Ogedei’s election wasn’t doubted since it was Genghis Khan’s clear wish that he succeed him.

After ritually refusing three times, Ogedei became the Khagan or Great Khan of the Mongols in September 1229.

His headquarters was on the Orhon River, Central Mongolia. This was where he established the Karakorum, the capital city of the empire.

Just like his father, he was able to carry out different campaigns with the help of generals in the field. These people acted on their own but were subject to all of his orders.

All orders from the Mongol Empire’s leader were sent via a messenger system that covered almost every part of Asia.

The Karakorum

There was a time when the Mongol Empire immediately needed a capital city, so revenue could be acquired and accumulated. It was necessary for attempting a centralized government as well. To put it simply, the Mongols had to make themselves more stationary to set permanent roots.

Ogedei Khan started this by creating a walled capital in 1235. The area was to be the Karakorum in the Orkhon Valley, a few kilometers southwest of Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia’s current capital.

It wasn’t a large city, but it was more cultured, thus, it eventually became the first Mongol capital. This area later included areas like Xanadu and Daidu.

Ogedei never lived in this area and preferred to stay in his empire where traditional Yurt tent camps were found. Of course, the great Khan occasionally visited the area, even having a silver drinking fountain set in his palace. It was an interesting spot since it served all types of alcoholic drinks from spouts shaped like lions and snakes.

Although the Karakorum needed a ton of food shipped into the area to feed everyone, it became a vital logistics center and repository. It was specifically for the Mongol Empire’s resources.

Not only that, but merchants traveled all the way to the area due to its location on the Silk Roads. Plus, they were also attracted to the generously-priced goods.

Eventually, the city flourished with huge and regular markets. Then, stone buildings were established by those who followed Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, and Christianity.

Messenger and Passport System

Of course, Ogedei further extended the Yam, their messenger system, which spread across Mongolia. He even had a passport system, allowing messengers to receive different entitlements in different rest stations.

Additionally, Ogedei Khan was even responsible for the modernization of numerous wells with high walls. This was to have a regular water supply help the movement of merchants and troops across Asia.

Taxation and Governance

Those who were part of the imperial bodyguards and ministers were assigned to act as regional governors. They were also tasked to supervise and assist local collectors who needed to collect taxes.

This plan was backed by the creation of local government branches. These are made of a combination of officials, as well as imperial clan heads.

It was a successful system, though as time passed, it led to certain abuses. Taxation and governance were more efficient from 1234 to 1236. It was when the census was administered across north China by the parallel the Jarquci.

They were officials who checked and ensured that families received war spoils. Plus, they soon became administrators and coordinators in the government businesses.

When income was stabilized, and bureaucracy was in order, the great Khan Ogedei set on expanding his territories.

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Invasion of China and Central Asia

During the great Khan Ogedei’s reign, the Mongols were able to complete the assault of the Jurchen Jin Empire in 1234. The next year, under Ogedei Khan’s direct leadership, the Mongols started a conquest that lasted 45 years. This war resulted in the entire annexation of China.

The Mongol army vassalized Korea, controlled Persia, and expanded to the west under commander Batu Khan’s lead. Here, they aimed to subdue the Russian steppe.

The western conquests included Russia (except for Novgorod, which became a vassal), Poland, and Hungary. Kadan and Guyuk Khan, Ogedei’s sons, attacked Transylvania and Poland.

Ogedei Khan granted permission to invade the remaining areas of Europe, all the way to the Great Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. Only his death prevented the possible invasions of Austria, France, Germany, Italy, and Spain, and the small principalities of Europe.

Mongol forces moved on to Vienna, launching a ferocious winter campaign against Austria and Germany when Ogedei died. Some historians believe only his death prevented the complete conquest of Europe.

The Mongol invasion of the Asian continent under Ogedei’s leadership encouraged political stability. It also contributed to the reestablishment of the Silk Road, the main trading route between East and West.

Death & Legacy

In December 1241, Ogedei Khan died at the age of 65, possibly due to stroke or organ failure. However, there were also rumors about his death caused by poisoning. But before he died, Ogedei Khan was able to set the foundations for a functional, efficient, and governable empire.

Because of its efficiency, it was able to span throughout Asia.

After his death, the Mongol Empire’s emperor was succeeded by his son in 1246.

Ogedei Khan’s first personal choice for succeeding the throne was his son Kochu. Yet when he died prematurely, he selected Kochu’s son, Shiremun, to take the throne.

However, this decision was ignored by the Mongol tribe leaders. The reign of Guyuk as the Mongol Empire’s third Khan only lasted for a short two years.