Chagatai Khanate

Chagatai Khanate
Цагаадайн Хаант Улс
Tsagadaina Khaanat Ulus
Nomadic empire
Division of the Mongol Empire
1225 – 1340s (Whole)
1340s – 1370 (Western)

1340s–1680s (Eastern)
The Chagatai Khanate (green), c. 1300.
Capital Almaliq, Qarshi
Languages Turkic[1][2]
Religion Shamanism
Christianity (minority)

later Naqshbandi Sunni Islam

Government Semi-elective monarchy, later hereditary monarchy
   1225–1242 Chagatai Khan
Legislature Kurultai
Historical era Late Middle Ages
   Chagatai Khan inherited part of Mongol Empire 1225
  Death of Chagatai 1242
  Chagatai Khanate split into two parts, Western Chagatai Khanate and Moghulistan 1340s
  End of the western empire. 1370
   End of the eastern empire. 1680s
   1310 or 1350 est.[3][4] 3,500,000 km² (1,351,358 sq mi)
Currency Coins (dirhams, Kebek, and pūl coins)
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Mongol Empire
Western Chagatai Khanate
Timurid Empire
Afaq Khoja
Dzungar Khanate
Today part of  Kyrgyzstan

The Chagatai Khanate (Mongolian: Tsagadaina Khaanat Ulus/Цагаадайн Хаант Улс) was a Mongol and later Turkicized khanate[5][6] that comprised the lands ruled by Chagatai Khan,[7] second son of Genghis Khan, and his descendants and successors. Initially it was a part of the Mongol Empire, but it became a functionally separate khanate with the fragmentation of the Mongol Empire after 1259. The Chagatai Khanate recognized the nominal supremacy of the Yuan dynasty in 1304,[8] but became split into two parts in the mid-14th century: the Western Chagatai Khanate and the Moghulistan Khanate.

At its height in the late 13th century, the Khanate extended from the Amu Darya south of the Aral Sea to the Altai Mountains in the border of modern-day Mongolia and China.[9]

The khanate lasted in one form or another from 1220s until the late 17th century, although the western half of the khanate was lost to Timur's empire by 1370. The eastern half remained under Chagatai khans, who were, at times, allied or at war with Timur's successors, the Timurid dynasty. Finally, in the 17th century, the remaining Chagatai domains fell under the theocratic regime of Afaq Khoja and his descendants, the Khojas, who ruled Xinjiang under Dzungar and Manchu overlordships consecutively.


Genghis Khan's empire was inherited by his third son, Ögedei Khan, the designated Khagan who personally controlled the lands east of Lake Balkhash as far as Mongolia. Tolui, the youngest, the keeper of the hearth, was accorded the northern Mongolian homeland. Chagatai Khan, the second son, received Transoxiana, between the Amu Darya and Syr Darya rivers (in modern Uzbekistan) and the area around Kashgar. He made his capital at Almaliq near what is now Yining City in northwestern China.[10] Apart from problems of lineage and inheritance, the Mongol Empire was endangered by the great cultural and ethnic divide between the Mongols themselves and their mostly Islamic Iranian and Turkic subjects.

When Ögedei died before achieving his dream of conquering all of China, there was an unsettled transition to his son Güyük Khan (1241) overseen by Ögedei's wife Töregene Khatun, who had assumed the regency for the five years following Ögedei's death. The transition had to be ratified in a kurultai, which was duly celebrated, but without the presence of Batu Khan, the independent-minded khan of the Golden Horde.[11] After Güyük's death, Batu sent Berke, who maneuvered with Tolui's widow, and, in the next kurultai (1253), the Ögedite line was passed over for Möngke Khan, Tolui's son, who was said to be favorable to the Church of the East.[12] The Ögedite ulus was dismembered; only the Ögedites who did not immediately go into opposition were given minor fiefs.[nb 1]

The Chagatai Khanate after Chagatai

Chagatai died in 1242, shortly after his brother Ögedei. For nearly twenty years after this the Chagatai Khanate was little more than a dependency of the Mongol central government, which deposed and appointed khans as it pleased. The cities of Transoxiana, while located within the boundaries of the khanate, were administrated by officials who answered directly to the Great Khan.[14]

This state of subservience to the central government was ended during the reign of Chagatai's grandson Alghu (1260–1266), who took advantage of the Toluid Civil War between Kublai Khan and Ariq Böke by revolting against the latter, seizing new territories and gaining the allegiance of the Great Khan's authorities in Transoxiana.[15] Most of the Chagatayids first supported Kublai but in 1269 they joined forces with the House of Ögedei.[16]

Alghu's eventual successor, Ghiyas-ud-din Baraq (1266–1271), who expelled Kublai Khan's governor in Xinjiang soon came into conflict with the Ögedite Kaidu, who gained the support of the Golden Horde and attacked the Chagatayids.[17] Baraq was soon confined to Transoxiana and forced to become a vassal of Kaidu.[18] At the same time, he was at odds with Abaqa Khan, the Ilkhan, who ruled his Ilkhanate in Iran. Baraq attacked first, but was defeated by the Ilkhanate army and forced to return to Transoxiana, where he died not long after.[19]

The Chagatai Khanate and its neighbors in the late 13th century

The next several Chagatayid khans were appointed by Kaidu,[20] who maintained a hold upon the khanate until his death. He finally found a suitable khan in Baraq's son Duwa (1282–1307), who participated in Kaidu's wars with Kublai khan and his successors of the Yuan dynasty.[21] The two rulers also were active against the Ilkhanate.[22] After Kaidu's death in 1301, Duwa threw off his allegiance to his successor. He also made peace with the Yuan dynasty and paid tributes to the Yuan court; by the time of his death the Chagatai Khanate was a virtually independent state.[23]


Duwa left behind numerous sons, many of whom became khans themselves. Included among these are Kebek (1309, 1318–1326), who instituted a standardization of the coinage and selected a sedentary capital (at Qarshi), and Tarmashirin (1326–1334), who converted to Islam and raided the Delhi Sultanate in India. Tarmashirin, however, was brought down by a rebellion of the tribes in the eastern provinces, and the khanate became increasingly unstable in the following years. In 1346 a tribal chief, Amir Qazaghan, killed the Chagatai khan Qazan Khan ibn Yasaur during a revolt.[24]

The Chagatai Khanate split into two parts in the 1340s.[25] In Transoxiana in the west, the mostly Muslim tribes, led by the Qara'unas amirs, seized control. In order to maintain a link to the house of Genghis Khan, the amirs set several descendants of Chagatai on the throne, though these khans ruled in name only and had no real power. The eastern part of the khanate, which had been largely autonomous for several years as a result of the weakening power of the khans, meanwhile became independent under the Chagatayid Tughlugh Timur. This eastern portion (most of which was known as "Moghulistan") was, in contrast to Transoxiana, primarily inhabited by Mongols and largely followed Buddhism and Mongolian shamanism.

The two halves of the Chagatai Khanate were briefly reunited in the 1360s by Tughlugh Timur, who invaded Transoxiana twice and attempted to establish his authority there. Following his death in 1363 his successors ruled only over the east, while control of Transoxiana was contested by two tribal leaders, Amir Husayn (the grandson of Qazaghan) and Timur or Tamerlane. Timur eventually defeated Amir Husayn and gained mastery over Transoxiana (1369–1405). Like his predecessors, Timur maintained a puppet khan on the throne to legitimatize his rule, but his khans were members of the house of Ögedei rather than descendants of Chagatai.[26] After he died in 1405 his successors, the Timurids, are also reported to have had their own shadow khans until the mid-15th century.

The eastern half of the khanate remained in the hands of the descendants of Tughlugh Timur for several centuries, although it was itself split into multiple successor states in the 1500s. The last independent Chagatai Khanate, the Yarkent Khanate, was conquered by the Dzungar Khanate in the Dzungar conquest of Altishahr from 1678–1680.

See also


  1. For example Kaidu, who received Qayaliq, in modern Kazakhstan. He later revolted against Khubilai Khan and forcefully made the Chagatai khans his vassals for three decades, as will be discussed.[13]


  1. Gulácsi, Zsuzsanna (2015). Mani's Pictures: The Didactic Images of the Manichaeans from Sasanian Mesopotamia to Uygur Central Asia and Tang-Ming China. BRILL. p. 156. ISBN 978-90-04-30894-7.
  2. Kim, Hyun Jin (2013). The Huns, Rome and the Birth of Europe. Cambridge University Press. p. 29. ISBN 978-1-107-06722-6. Retrieved 20 November 2016.
  3. Turchin, Peter; Adams, Jonathan M.; Hall, Thomas D. (December 2006). "East-West Orientation of Historical Empires" (PDF). Journal of world-systems research. 12 (2): 222. ISSN 1076-156X. Retrieved 20 November 2016.
  4. Taagepera, Rein (September 1997). "Expansion and Contraction Patterns of Large Polities: Context for Russia". International Studies Quarterly. 41 (3): 499. doi:10.1111/0020-8833.00053. JSTOR 2600793.
  5. Black, Cyril E.; Dupree, Louis; Endicott-West, Elizabeth; Matuszewski, Daniel C.; Naby, Eden; Waldron, Arthur N. (1991). The Modernization of Inner Asia. Armonk, N.Y.: M.E. Sharpe. p. 57. ISBN 978-1-315-48899-8. Retrieved 20 November 2016.
  6. Upshur, Jiu-Hwa L.; Terry, Janice J.; Holoka, Jim; Cassar, George H.; Goff, Richard D. (2011). Cengage Advantage Books: World History (5th ed.). Cengage Learning. p. 433. ISBN 1-133-38707-1. Retrieved 20 November 2016.
  7. Alternative spellings of Chagatai include Chagata, Chugta, Chagta, Djagatai, Jagatai, Chaghtai etc.
  8. Dai Matsui – A Mongolian Decree from the Chaghataid Khanate Discovered at Dunhuang. Aspects of Research into Central Asian Buddhism, 2008, pp. 159–178
  9. See Barnes, Parekh and Hudson, p. 87; Barraclough, p. 127; Historical Maps on File, p. 2.27; and LACMA for differing versions of the boundaries of the khanate.
  10. Grousset 1970, pp. 253–4.
  11. Grousset 1970, pp. 268–9.
  12. Grousset 1970, pp. 272–5.
  13. Biran 1997, pp. 19–20
  14. Grousset 1970, pp. 328–9.
  15. Biran 1997, pp. 21–2.
  16. Allsen, Thomas T. (2004). Culture and Conquest in Mongol Eurasia. Cambridge University Press. p. 24. ISBN 978-0-521-60270-9. Retrieved 20 November 2016.
  17. Biran 1997, p. 25.
  18. Biran 1997, pp. 25–6.
  19. Biran 1997, pp. 30–2.
  20. Biran 1997, p. 33.
  21. Biran 1997, pp. 50–2.
  22. Biran 1997, pp. 59–60.
  23. Biran 1997, pp. 71–8.
  24. Grousset 1970, pp. 341–2.
  25. Sh. Tseyen-Oidov; "From the Genghis Khan to Ligden Khan" 2002
  26. Grousset 1970, p. 416.


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