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Kurultai (Mongolian:ᠻᠦᠷᠦᠯᠳᠠᠶ, Хуралдай, Khuruldai; Turkish: Kurultay),[dn 1] was a political and military council of ancient Mongol and some Turkic chiefs and khans. The root of the word is "Khur" (assemble/discuss) and that helps form "Khural" meaning political "meeting" or "assembly" in Turkic and Mongolian languages. Khuraldai (written Khuruldai) or Khuraldaan means "a gathering", or more literally, "intergatheration". This root is the same in the Mongolian word khurim, which means "feast" and "wedding" and originally referred to large festive gatherings on the steppe, but is used mainly in the sense of wedding in modern times.
All Great Khans of the Mongol Empire, for example Genghis Khan and Ogedei Khan, were formally elected in a Kurultai; khans of subordinate Mongol states, such as the Golden Horde, were elected by a similar regional Kurultai.
During the Kurultai, Mongol Chiefs would all convene in order to choose the next Great Khan. The Kurultai, oftentimes but not always held in the capital of the Mongolian empire, were also a time to assign all critical positions of leadership as well as an opportunity to decide the militaristic direction to be implemented under new Khan and the aforementioned new leadership.
After the new khan has been elected, an elaborate enthronement procedure followed. Johann Schiltberger, a 15th-century German traveler, described the installation of a new Golden Horde khan as follows(, quoted in ):
When they choose a king, they take him and seat him on white felt, and raise him in it three times. Then they lift him up and carry him round the tent, and seat him on a throne, and put a golden sword in his hand. Then he must be sworn as is the custom.
Russian princes and boyars, who often had to wait in Sarai for the Kurultai to elect a new khan, who would then re-issue their yarlyks (patents), would no doubt often witness this khan kutermiak rituals, which became increasingly more frequent and futile during the mid-14th century time of troubles in the Horde, giving rise to the Russian word "кутерьма" (kuter'ma), meaning "running around pointlessly".
Kurultai were imperial and tribal assemblies convened to determine, strategize and analyze military campaigns and assign individuals to leadership positions and titles. One such example is Genghis Khan was declared Khan in the 1206 kurultai. Most of the major military campaigns were first planned out at assemblies such as this and there were minor and less significant Kurultais under the Mongol Empire under political subordinate leaders and generals.
The kurultai, however, required the presence of the senior members of the tribes participating, who were also in charge militarily. Thus, the deaths of Ögedei and Möngke in 1241 and 1259, respectively, necessitated the withdrawal of Mongol leaders (and troops) from the outskirts of Vienna and Venice (in 1241) and from Syria (in 1259), hamstringing military operations against the Austrians and Mamluks that might otherwise have continued.
Although the Kurultai was a serious political event in the Mongol world, it was also a festival of sorts including great feasting and various traditional games. Many of these traditions have been carried on in the modern day Mongolian event, the Naadam, which includes Mongolian wresting, horse racing, and archery competitions.
Various modern Mongolian and Turkic peoples use it in the political or administrative sense, as a synonym for parliament, congress, conference, council, assembly, convention, gathering. Examples are: World Qoroltai of the Bashkirs, Fourth Qurultay of Crimean Tatars, National Kurultai of Kyrgyzstan, the State Great Khural of Mongolia, People's Khural of Buryatian and Kurultai held today in Hungary, there written Kurultáj.
In Mongolian, the following forms of the word are still in use today: khuraldai, khuraldaan and khural. "Ulsin Deed Shuukhiin Khuraldaan" means "session of the National Supreme Court".
Also spelled as: kurultay, qurultay, qurıltai, qorıltay, and qoroltay.
The word has several modern usages in the modern Turkish language as well: "Yüksek Öğretim Kurulu"(Higher Education Counsel), "genel kurul toplantısı" (general board meeting), ". "Kurultay" is also a highly used word in modern Turkish meaning general assembly, such as that of organisations, committees etc. "Kurul" is also a verb in Turkish meaning to be established.
- 1944-, Tan, Koon San,. Dynastic China : an elementary history. Kuala Lumpur. ISBN 9839541889. OCLC 898313910.
- Commander J. Buchan Telfer, "The Bondage and Travels of Johann Schiltberger". (London, Hakluyt Society, 1879[page needed])
- George Vernadsky, "The Mongols and Russia". (Yale University Press, 1953)[page needed]
- Michael., Burgan, (2009). Empire of the Mongols (Rev. ed.). New York: Chelsea House. ISBN 9781604131635. OCLC 276930428.