Temujin (Genghis Khan), the brutal Mongol Leader

genghis khan in an exhibition

A brutal warlord and shrewd politician, Temujin or better known as Genghis Khan; the man who made the Mongol empire one of the largest in history, massacred millions of people along the way but also helped open trade between the east and west, embraced religious tolerance, encouraged meritocracy and modernized Mongolian culture.

He was born near Burkhan Khaldun Mountain, on the banks of Onon and Kherlen rivers in 1162. According to legends he was born with a blood clot grasped in his fist, which the Mongols believed to be a traditional sign for one to become a great leader. Temujin means “blacksmith” while the title of “Genghis Khan” was conferred much later on in his life. While “Khan” means a great ruler the origin of “Genghis” is yet to be confirmed, although it’s believed to may have meant “ocean” or “just”.

Temujin experienced a rough childhood and grew up experiencing politically unstable climate of Mongolia. His family was abandoned by their tribe after the death of his father, thus living in utter poverty for a long period of time. He is also said to have killed his half-brother in a dispute over food. He married Borte at the age of sixteen and had four sons and unknown number of girls. Although he had children with other wives, only his sons with Borte were entitled to the throne. Genghis khan was also captured and enslaved by a rival group but daringly managed to escape thus beginning his slow ascent to power. He started consolidating his empire by defeating various tribes and uniting the mongols under his rule and expanding his conquer from northern china in the east to Turkmenistan, Iran and Afghanistan in the west.

Genghis Khan was responsible for the death of nearly 40 million people. When his emissaries sent to establish trade relation to khwarezmia (parts of Iran, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Afganistan) were murdered, he personally took control of planning and execution of attack on the khwarezim dynasty. Millions of people were killed including animals and livestock. He also defeated Xi  Xia dynasty after they refused to provide troops for the battle in khwarezmia. It is said that he killed three- fourth of Iran’s population and reduced the world population by eleven per cent.

Unlike many rulers, Genghis khan accepted the religious differences of his conquered territories: places of worship were made tax free and laws were passed regarding religious freedom. Although it had a political side to it as the emperor knew that accepting the religion would make his people happy hence less likely to rebel and it was impossible to force one religion over such a vast territory. Yassa, a military and civilian code was developed to govern the Mongolian empire. It includes prohibition of blood feuds, adultery, theft and bearing false witness and safe guarding the environment by prohibiting bathing in rivers and streams. Non adherence to the rules was punishable by death. Meritocracy was preferred in administration rather than ethnicity. Most of his trusted generals were his former opponents.

There are many theories about the death of Genghis khan in 1227, some say he died due to injury from falling of a horse, illness or injuries sustained in hunting or battle. And another theory is that he was stabbed by a princess whom he had abducted as a war prize. He is buried in an unknown location and according to legends forty virgins and horses were sacrificed, over two thousand guests killed and everybody on sight to keep the location a secret.

After his death, Genghis khan’s empire continued to expand covering an area of twelve million square miles.

Roughly sixteen million men are believed to be the direct descendants of the brutal yet great Genghis Khan.


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