Genghis Khan Day

Yesterday, 2023-11-14, Mongolians celebrated Genghis Khan Day, an annual public holiday celebrating the founder of the Mongolian nation and the Mongol Empire, which grew after his death to become the largest contiguous land empire in history, extending from the Sea of Japan to Eastern Europe. While those in lands conquered by the Mongols in the 12th and 13th centuries A.D. view Genghis Khan as a bloodthirsty invader and tyrant, within Mongolia he is revered, with his visage appearing on large-denomination banknotes, his name on many streets, buildings, and Mongolia’s main international airport in the capital of Ulan Bator, where east of the city the world’s largest equestrian statute, the 40 metre tall Genghis Khan Equestrian Statue commemorates the national hero.

How is the life of Genghis Khan taught in Mongolia, and why do people there revere a figure so many elsewhere consider one of the great villains of history?


An Extract from the Book “The Silk Roads - A New History of the World - Peter Frankopan”
Chapter 9.
The Mongols cultivated such fears carefully, for the reality was that
Genghis Khan used violence selectively and deliberately. The sack of one
city was calculated to encourage others to submit peacefully and quickly;
theatrically gruesome deaths were used to persuade other rulers that it
was better to negotiate than to offer resistance
Genghis Khan’s use of force was technically advanced, as well as
strategically astute. To mount a lengthy siege on fortified targets was
challenging and expensive because of the demands of sustaining a large
mounted army whose need for pasture could quickly exhaust the
surrounding region. For this reason, military technicians who could
expedite a swift victory were highly valued. At Nīshāpūr in 1221, we
learn of 3,000 giant crossbows being used, as well as 3,000 stone-hurling
machines and 700 projectors of incendiary material. Later, the Mongols
became intensely interested in the techniques that had been pioneered by
western Europeans, copying designs for catapults and siege engines
created for the Crusaders in the Holy Land and using them against targets
in East Asia in the late thirteenth century
Curiously, given their reputation, one explanation for the astounding
successes of the Mongols in early thirteenth-century China, Central Asia
and beyond was that they were not always seen as oppressors. And with
good reason: in the case of Khwārazm, for example, the local population
had been ordered to pay a year’s taxes up front to fund the construction
of new fortifications around Samarkand and to pay for squadrons of
archers against an imminent Mongol attack. Putting such strain on
households hardly retained goodwill. In contrast, the Mongols invested
lavishly in the infrastructure of some of the cities they captured. One
Chinese monk who visited Samarkand soon after its capture was amazed
to see how many craftsmen there were from China and how many people
were being drawn in from the surrounding region and further afield to
help manage the fields and orchards that had previously been
It was a pattern repeated time and again: money poured into towns
that were rebuilt and re-energised, with particular attention paid to
championing the arts, crafts and production. Blanket images of the
Mongols as barbaric destroyers are wide of the mark, and represent the
misleading legacies of the histories written later which emphasised ruin
and devastation above all else. This slanted view of the past provides a
notable lesson in how useful it is for leaders who have a view to posterity
to patronise historians who write sympathetically of their age of empire –
something the Mongols conspicuously failed to do