Friday, Feb. 04, 2011

Genghis Khan

Few figures in world history inspire the awe — and terror — that Genghis, or Chengiz, Khan does. Through canny politicking and force of will, the 13th century Mongol warlord banded together a confederation of nomadic tribes in his remote homeland of endless steppe. Then he unleashed his horde upon the rest of the world, his rapid horse archers serving as a kind of medieval-era blitzkrieg. His own campaigns focused mostly on parts of China and Central Asia, but his descendants would go on to create a vast empire that spanned from the fringes of Siberia into the river valleys of Eastern Europe.

Genghis is largely remembered as the brutal, devastating marauder he once was, but that doesn't mean he's not loved. Mongolia has embraced their most famous potentate and images of Genghis Khan adorn myriad buildings and products, not least a popular brand of vodka. An hour's drive outside the Mongolian capital of Ulaanbaatar, an over-12-storey steel statue of the horse-lord looms over the horizon, brooding over the empty steppe.