In Mongolia

Genghis Khan had been revered for centuries by Mongols and certain other ethnic groups such as Turks, largely because of his association with Mongol statehood, political and military organization, and his victories in war. He eventually evolved into a larger-than-life figure chiefly among the Mongols and is still considered the symbol of Mongolian culture.

During the communist period in Mongolia, Genghis was often described as a reactionary, and positive statements about him were avoided. In 1962, the erection of a monument at his birthplace and a conference held in commemoration of his 800th birthday led to criticism from the Soviet Union and the dismissal of secretary Tömör-Ochir of the ruling Mongolian People’s Revolutionary Party Central Committee.

Portrait on a hillside in Ulaanbaatar, 2006

In the early 1990s, the memory of Genghis Khan underwent a powerful revival, partly in reaction to its suppression during the Mongolian People’s Republic period. Genghis Khan became one of the central figures of the national identity. He is considered positively by Mongolians for his role in uniting warring tribes. For example, Mongolians often refer to their country as “Genghis Khan’s Mongolia”, to themselves as “Genghis Khan’s children”, and to Genghis Khan as the “father of the Mongols” especially among the younger generation. However, there is a chasm in the perception of his brutality. Mongolians maintain that the historical records written by non-Mongolians are unfairly biased against Genghis Khan and that his butchery is exaggerated, while his positive role is underrated.

Chinggis Khan Statue Complex (22310875634)

In Mongolia today, Genghis Khan’s name and likeness appear on products, streets, buildings, and other places. His face can be found on everyday commodities, from liquor bottles to candy, and on the largest denominations of 500, 1,000, 5,000, 10,000, and 20,000 Mongolian tögrög (₮). Mongolia’s main international airport in Ulaanbaatar is named Chinggis Khaan International Airport. Major Genghis Khan statues stand before the parliament and near Ulaanbaatar. There have been repeated discussions about regulating the use of his name and image to avoid trivialization.

President Elbegdorj‘s second inauguration on 10 July 2013, in front of the monument to Genghis Khan at the Government Palace in Ulaanbaatar

Genghis Khan is regarded as one of the prominent leaders in Mongolia’s history. He is responsible for the emergence of the Mongols as a political and ethnic identity because there was no unified identity between the tribes that had cultural similarity. He reinforced many Mongol traditions and provided stability and unity during a time of almost endemic warfare between tribes. He is also credited for introducing the traditional Mongolian script and creating the first written Mongolian code of law, the Ikh Zasag (“Great Administration”). Mongolian President Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj has noted that the Ikh Zasag heavily punished corruption and bribery, and he considers Genghis Khan a teacher for anti-corruption efforts who sought equal protection under the law for all citizens regardless of status or wealth. On the 850th anniversary of Genghis’s birth, the President stated “Chinggis … was a man who deeply realized that the justice begins and consolidates with the equality of law, and not with the distinctions between people. He was a man who knew that the good laws and rules lived longer than fancy palaces.” In summary, Mongolians see him as the fundamental figure in the founding of the Mongol Empire and therefore the basis for Mongolia as a country.

As of 2012, Elbegdorj issued a decree establishing Genghis Khan’s birthday as a national holiday on the first day of winter (according to the Mongolian lunar calendar).