Genghis Khan and the Communists

The Mongolian past has been drawn by both sides into twentieth-century disputes between Russia and China, writes J.J. Saunders.

Genghis Khan, the Napoleon of the steppes, is one of the great figures of world history, the creator of a huge nomadic Mongol empire which went on expanding after his death in 1227 until it extended from Poland to Korea. The sheer range of Mongol military operations is stupendous. The same conquerors who in 1242 were chasing the fugitive King of Hungary down the Adriatic coast were forty years later subduing the island of Java. Europe and Asia were forced into a kind of union that lasted a century and a half. The world was terrified by the swiftness and brutality of the conquests, which were marked by genocide on a hideous scale. The fervent prayer ‘From the fury of the Tartars, good Lord deliver us!’ went up from many stricken lands; and it was long before men ceased to tremble at the recollection of the wiry little horsemen who rode to bloody victory across whole continents. 

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