Saturday, July 2, 2011

Jochi (1180-1226), Gifted Son of Genghis Khan

Statue of Jochi Khan in Mongolia

Jochi (Mongolian: Зүчи, Züchi, Crimean Tatar: Cuçi; also spelled Jöchi and Juchi) (c. 1180–1227) was the eldest of the Mongol chieftain Genghis Khan's four sons by his principal wife Börte. An accomplished military leader, he participated in his father's conquest of Central Asia, along with his brothers and uncles.

There is some question as to Jochi's true paternity. Shortly after her marriage to Genghis Khan (known as Temüjin at the time), Börte was abducted by members of the Merkit tribe. She was given to a certain Chilger Boke, who was the brother of the Merkit chief, as a spoil of war. She remained in Chilger Boke's captivity for a few months before she was recovered by Temüjin. Shortly afterwards she gave birth to Jöchi. By all accounts, Genghis Khan treated Jochi as his first son, but a doubt always remained among the Mongols whether Temüjin or Chilger Boke was the real father of Jochi. This uncertainty about his paternity was not without consequences. Jochi’s descendants, although they formed the oldest branch of the Genghis Khan’s family, were never considered for the succession in claiming their father’s heritage and there were signs of estrangement between Jochi and Genghis Khan.

In 1207 he had successfully conquered the forest peoples in Siberia, extending the northern border of the Mongol Empire for the very first time. On behalf of his father, Jochi led two campaigns against the Kyrgyz, in 1210 and 1218. Jochi’s contribution in the Khwarezm war was extensive and he was responsible for capturing the towns of Signak, Jand, and Yanikant in April, 1220, during this war. Subsequently he was given the command of operation against the city of Urgench (Gurganj) which was the capital of the Khwarezmian Empire. Here the siege of the town led to inordinate delays because Jochi engaged in extensive negotiation with the town to persuade it to surrender peacefully and save it from destruction. This action was seen as militarily unsound by his brother, Chagatai. Chagatai wanted to destroy the city but Genghis Khan had promised the city to Jochi after his victory. This difference of opinion on military affairs deepened a rift between Jochi and Chagatai. Genghis Khan intervened in the campaign and appointed Ögedei as the commander of the operation. Ögedei resumed the operations vigorously and the town was duly captured, sacked, massacred and destroyed thoroughly.
The differences in tactics between Jochi and Chagatai in early 1221 added to their personal quarrel about the succession. To settle the matter, Genghis Khan called a kurultai. The formal meeting was used in both familial matters and matters of state. Temüjin was elected/appointed Khan of his tribe during a kurultai, and he called for them often during his early campaigns to garner public support for his wars. These meetings were key to Genghis Khan legitimacy. Tribal tradition was also critical. As Genghis Khan's first born son, Jochi, was favored to rule the clan and the empire after his father died. At the familial kurultai called in 1222, the issue of Jochi's legitimacy was brought up by Chagatai. At that meeting, Genghis Khan made it clear that Jochi was his legitimate first-born son. However, he worried that the quarrelsome nature of the two would split the empire. By early 1223 Genghis Khan had selected Ögedei, his third son, as his successor. For the sake of preserving the Empire, both Jochi and Chagatai agreed but the rift between them never healed. Their rift would later politically divide the European part of the Mongol Empire from its Asian part permanently.

In the autumn of 1223 Genghis Khan started for Mongolia after completing the Khwarezm campaign. Ögedei, Chagatai and Tolui went with him but Jochi withdrew to his territories north of Aral and Caspian Seas. There he remained until his death and would not see his father again in his lifetime. Perhaps the selection of Ögedei as a successor to Genghis Khan had greatly disappointed him; this is a probable explanation for Jochi's withdrawal from court life.

Though the histories are unclear, there is evidence that Jochi conspired against Genghis, and that Genghis in return pondered a pre-emptive strike. When Genghis Khan returned home he sent for Jochi. When the latter refused to obey and asked a pardon Genghis Khan sent Chagatai and Ögedei against him. But before it came to open hostilities, news came that Jochi had died in February 1226.

Genghis Khan had divided his empire among his four surviving sons during his lifetime. Jochi was entrusted with the westernmost part of the empire, then lying between Ural and Irtish rivers. In the kurultai of 1229 following Genghis Khan’s death, this partition was formalized and Jochi’s family (Jochi himself had died six months before Genghis Khan) was allocated the lands in the west up to ‘as far as the hooves of Mongol horses had trodden'. Following the Mongol custom, Genghis Khan bequeathed only four thousand ‘original’ Mongol troops to each of his three elder sons and 101,000 to Tolui, his youngest son. Consequently Jochi’s descendants extended their empire mostly with the help of auxiliary troops from the subjugated populations which happened to be Turkic. This was the chief reason why the Golden Horde acquired a Turkic identity. Jochi's inheritance was divided among his sons. His sons Orda and Batu founded the White Horde and the Blue Horde, respectively, and would later combine their territories into the Kipchak Khanate or Golden Horde. Another of Jochi’s sons, Shiban, received territories that lay north of Batu and Orda’s Ülüs.

Genghis Khan had made Jochi responsible for the supervision and conduct of the community hunt. Hunting was essentially a large scale military exercise designed specifically for the training of the army. It frequently encompassed thousands of square kilometers of area, required the participation of several tumens and lasted anywhere between one to three months. Rules and procedure of the conduct of the military exercise were encoded in the Yassa.

Certain incidences hint towards the fact that Jochi was of a kinder disposition than Genghis Khan, though the adjective “kind” must be interpreted by the standards of his times and milieu because Jochi had had his share of indulgence in massacres of civilians. On one occasion Jochi pleaded with his father to spare the life of a son of an enemy chief who had been taken captive and who happened to be a great archer. Jochi argued that such a great archer could be an asset to the Mongol army. Genghis Khan brushed aside this argument and had the captive executed.

Jochi had at least 14 sons and one daughter:
Orda (c. 1204-1280)
Batu (c. 1205-1255)
Berke, Khan of the Golden Horde from 1257-1267[3]
Teval (Buval). He was the grandfather of Nogai Khan.
Tuq-timur, the ancestor of late khans of the Great Horde.
a daughter who married the Qarluq chief of Almaliq.

Sources :

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