History Perspective

Genghis Khan

You don't capture Russia, unless you are the Mongols

Whenever Mongolia, or Mongolian Empire is brought up, the name Genghis Khan comes to our mind.

His real name was Temujin, he united all nomadic tribes of Mongolia into a single force. In a Quriltai (meeting of all tribal chiefs), he was proclaimed as the Oceanic Khan, Great Khan or Genghis Khan. That moment in history set the path for one of the world’s most greatest empires, an empire that shook the world, that expanded across continents.

The Mongolian Empire was spread out, covering Asia (Except India), up till Europe where they camped outside Vienna. Even Russia fell to the Mongols.

There are many factors that resulted in such a massive empire for Genghis Khan. The most important one was the unity among them. He used the ‘Divine Theory’ of kingship, i.e. he proclaimed that God had given him the mandate to conquer the world. This motivated many of the tribes, religion was and still is a great motivator. In the name of God, people can do almost anything. Genghis Khan united the Mongolian tribes, the absence of infighting allowed them to focus their time and strength on expanding their area of control.

Even though he had united the tribes, there isn’t any guarantee that they will stay united. He made provisions to ensure that the army and the kingdom stayed that way. The army was organized in such a way that legions would not be divided on the basis of tribe,  each legion would have a heterogeneous mix of soldiers, so as to prevent the development of a common identity and revolting ideas and if any one tribe had problems they couldn’t just march off with their soldiers as they would be spread across the entire kingdom in small numbers. Movement between these legions was highly regulated and if anyone was caught changing legions without permission then harsh punishment was given to the soldier. The commanders of the legions were the trusted and most loyal people of Genghis Khan, whom he considered as blood brothers (even if they weren’t related by blood).

The Mongols were horseback archers, cavalry. They were expert marksmen on horseback, they were so well trained, they could hit any kind of target.  An innovation in archery, which has become popular even in the contemporary world, the crossbow. A highly accurate weapon that could shoot arrows fast and with great accuracy. Since theirs was a Cavalry army, it meant that they had great speed in movement and they traveled very light.

The Mongolian army could perform an extraordinary feat, something no other army of its time could achieve and that is moving during winter. Due to their nature of traveling light and quick, the army could move about even in the winters which was a huge tactical advantage. They used frozen rivers as highways to enemy cities, therefore having the element of surprise as they would reach the enemy sooner than they were expected.

Due to the vast expanse of the empire, effective communication was key to keep the empire protected and functioning. A postal system was set up, this system was quite unique and easy to understand. For example, a messenger moving from point A to point B will have outposts between the two points, these outposts would be built at equal distances and consist of food, water, fresh horses and even riders, this allowed the message to not lose its speed and continue with the same momentum.

Genghis Khan was not only a great administrator, a clever tactician, but also a visionary. He knew he would have to leave his empire to his sons when they succeeded him and so as to consolidate the empire’s integrity and strength he made a number of provisions and changes.

The Empire was divided into 7 parts, and each part was given equal troops, territories etc. with the exception of the Old Country having the maximum power. These parts were ruled over by his sons and because of the clear distinction in their powers and territories, removed any chance of internal power struggles (though struggles do happen in late Mongolian period).

His most important contribution was the the ‘Code of Yasa.’ This code was a set of rules and objectives that was to be achieved by his successors, a kind of guide as to where the empire has to head and so that the successors wouldn’t be clueless when a point of saturation settled in the conquest of the world.

Genghis Khan was one of the best rulers of his time and he deserves undisputed credit for his contributions. He is still considered by me a person who can be idolized for his governance and ideas.

Priyamvad Rai


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