How brutal was Genghis Khan, one of the greatest conquerors in history?

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New Delhi: Genghis Khan is one of the greatest conquerors the world has ever seen. When it comes to warfare and military tactics, it is hard to keep the Khan out of any list. He was the founder and first khan of the Mongol Empire and he reigned over it from 1206 till his death in 1227. Born to a Mongol chieftain of the Borjigin clan, his original name was Temujin. He lost his father when he was just eight years old and his family fell into extreme poverty.

But he and his family survived, and as Temujin became older, he began to gain followers. He made some prominent alliances early in his life and gained fame as an astute general. But in 1187, he was defeated by a steppe leader named Jamukha which dealt a blow to his career. But he reemerged in 1196 and became the sole ruler in the Mongolian steppe.

From Temujin to Genghis Khan

In 1206, Temujin formally adopted the title ‘Genghis Khan’ whose meaning is uncertain. He changed the tribal structure of Mongols into an integrated meritocracy devoted to the ruling family. He began to expand his territory and founded the Mongol Empire. He conquered large parts of China and Central Asia and the Mongol Empire became the largest contiguous empire in history. He is credited for uniting the Mongol tribes which used to be at loggerheads otherwise.

The brutality of Genghis Khan

Genghis Khan was a legendary conqueror who is remembered for his invasions and also for his brutality. He loved his followers but seldom showed any kind of mercy towards his enemies. He was open to listening to advice from different sources in his quest for world domination.

But under his leadership, the Mongol army wiped out millions of people from the face of the earth. His army destroyed the prosperous civilizations of China, Central Asia, and Persia and subjected them to multi-generational trauma and suffering. Also, Khan never created a proper succession system which resulted in the division of the Mongol Empire after his death.

In February 1221, his forces laid siege to the city of Merv, in modern-day Turkmenistan, and killed about a million people. During the siege of Nishapur located in modern-day in April 1221, the Mongols reportedly made three mountains of skulls from those they had beheaded there and around 1 lakh people were killed. In 1219, after the successful siege of Otrar in modern-day Kazakhstan, around 1 lakh people were put to the sword.

However, the legacy of Genghis Khan has many positive sides as well. His invasions enabled much improved commercial and cultural exchange over an unprecedented geographical area. He oversaw bureaucratic advancements like the census and the establishment of an effective postal service. As a ruler, he was efficient and even beneficial many times. In the West, his character has been reassessed in recent years with many agreeing it to be a blend of good and bad and is revered by the Mongolians as the founding father of their nation. However, there is no denying his brutality, which marked an end to the golden age of Islamic Civilisation.

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