May 10, 2005


Mongolia sees Genghis Khan's good side (Jehangir S. Pocha, MAY 10, 2005, International Herald Tribune)

"Genghis Khan wasn't really a bad guy," Elbegdorj Tsahkia, the Mongolian prime minister, said with a grin. "He just had bad press."

He was only half joking. Ever since Mongolia emerged from the Soviet Union's shadow in the early 1990s, the lore and myth surrounding the khan, the original bad boy of history, have captured the imagination of the country. [...]

During the seven decades the Soviet Union ran Mongolia, Moscow feared the deification of Genghis Khan would incite Mongolian nationalism, so even mentioning his name was forbidden. People were banned from visiting his home province of Khentii in the northeast; a Soviet tank base sat on the sole road connecting Khentii to the rest of the country.

Now, as Mongolia is reinventing itself as a free-market democracy, it is also searching its past for the means to define itself. And no one looms larger in its history than Temujin, who took the title Genghis Khan, or Universal Ruler, after forging the world's largest land empire in the early 1200s. [...]

Baabar said the savage image of Genghis Khan endures only because "his history was written by his enemies." The Mongols were not scribes, and the only comprehensive chronicle of his times, "The Secret History of the Mongols" (a 13th-century account of Genghis Khan's life), was lost for centuries.

Even when it was rediscovered in the early 1800s by a Russian diplomat in China, its dissemination was tightly controlled, so most of the material on Genghis Khan comes from people he conquered. The historians present the picture of a brilliant but tempestuous and cruel man. He is said to have been so hot-tempered that he slew his half-brother in an argument.

But a slow reconsideration of this fearsome figure has been taking place since 1982, when Francis Woodman Cleaves produced the first authoritative modern version of "The Secret History of the Mongols."

Some newly found details, such as Genghis Khan's apparent fear of dogs, make him seem more human; historians are also reassessing the nature of Mongol society and rule. New books say his empire gave citizens religious freedom, banned the slave trade, expanded a global economy and introduced several important international concepts, such as diplomatic immunity. The extent of Genghis empire also led to greater contact between East and West, and these exchanges were carried further by his grandson, Kublai Khan.

Though it is estimated that Genghis Khan killed about 40 million people across Asia and Europe, some researchers cite evidence that Genghis Khan might have exaggerated his massacres.

Researchers at the Genghis Khan University in Ulan Bator even say that toward the end of this life he was trying to turn his empire into a civil state, based on a code of laws called the Great Yassa, which granted equal and defined legal rights for all citizens, including women.

But Genghis Khan's most astounding effect remains on the world's demography. In February 2003, the study "The Genetic Legacy of the Mongols," published by the American Journal of Human Genetics, estimated that Genghis Khan has more than 17 million direct descendants living today: One in every 200 people is related to him.

I always though Ghengis would be a good name for a boy.

Posted by Orrin Judd at May 10, 2005 9:10 AM


Posted by: Mike Morley at May 10, 2005 9:39 AM


One anonymous poster here is claimimg that the Russians fought because of the spirit and will Stalin had instilled, apparently ignorant of how many of them Stalin had to shoot to get the rest to fight.

Posted by: oj at May 10, 2005 9:49 AM

It's surprising the amount of will an NKVD detachment could inspire.

Posted by: Mikey at May 10, 2005 9:53 AM

The one-syllable last name would mantain the cadance of the original source, OJ, though I assume a young "Ghengis Judd" would be under pressure to be the alpha male among his peers and fellow schoolmates throughout his developmental years.

Posted by: John at May 10, 2005 10:02 AM


I'd actually gottren The Wife to agree that if we had twins I could name them Ghengis and Cool Whip.

Posted by: oj at May 10, 2005 10:06 AM

Mr. Judd: Obviously she agreed to it after the sonogram showed just one baby.

At least Ghengis is better than Dweezil.

Posted by: Buttercup at May 10, 2005 11:18 AM

I've always been partial to the Discworld character Ghengis Cohen, otherwise known as Cohen the Barbarian.

Posted by: David Cohen at May 10, 2005 11:25 AM

Of course, Ghengis Judd would have to pronounce his first name John Kerry style -- jenjis -- preferably with a northeastern aristo lock-jaw, a la Thursten Howell III (and the young John Kerry before he became a man of the people.)

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at May 10, 2005 12:11 PM

Just remember what happened to the kids named Winner and Loser -- surely Cool Whip Judd would end up ruling the world, and Ghengis working in a Dairy Queen.

Posted by: pj at May 10, 2005 12:22 PM

hmmmmmmm, ice cream....

Posted by: oj at May 10, 2005 12:25 PM

Of course, the ultimate portrayal of Genghis Khan was John Wayne.

Posted by: Timothy at May 10, 2005 12:50 PM


"L'etat c'est moi." In a totalitarian state, the will is embodied in one person. Russia was a peculiar country composed of weak-minded peasants subject to 20 years of Bolshevik brainwashing. If it took mass executions to prod them forward, it was done. Look how many showed up for his funeral. They loved that beast because he was the leader who "saved" their country, or at least its name. That's not to say he was loved by anyone in 1941.

Posted by: anonymous poster at May 10, 2005 6:54 PM

Yes, the mass executions and the one person are the points. Nuke Moscow and there is no USSR.

Posted by: oj at May 10, 2005 8:03 PM

Wouldn't Kublai or Huglu be just as good?

Posted by: jim hamlen at May 10, 2005 8:49 PM

We have a local citizen whose first name in Genghis. He shows up in the police blotter news every few months.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at May 10, 2005 11:23 PM

For what? Riding through town on a mighty steed, slashing at the residents?

Posted by: jim hamlen at May 11, 2005 10:09 AM