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Genghis Khan
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9-12 Classroom Ideas
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Review our online feature about Genghis Khan, as well as the articles and map supplement in the December 1996 and February 1997 issues of NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC magazine. If possible, share them with your students.
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Genghis Khan: A Ruthless Leader
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Genghis Khan is revered in modern Mongolia for unifying feuding tribes into a single people with a common national identity that persists to this day. He and his successors brought artisans from across Asia and parts of Europe to ply their skills in Karakorum, the Mongol seat of power. The Mongolian Empire tolerated cultural and religious differences and, particularly under Genghis’s grandson Kublai Khan, fostered numerous artistic accomplishments and scientific advances.
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Yet Genghis Khan is also despised as a destroyer, ruthless in warfare, who used civilians as shields for his advancing armies. When crossed, he acted with legendary vengeance. Indeed, he was not above slaughtering whole towns—a fearsome example to others.
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The history of the world is full of figures such as Genghis Khan—efficient, charismatic, brutal—though few are as successful in military tactics and nation building. Nevertheless, genocide, the wholesale murder of a people, has been as much a part of the 20th century as it was of the 13th.
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Ask your students to consider the character, context, and accomplishments of Genghis Khan. In a class discussion, you could have them list traits that Genghis possessed and write them on the board. Which of these traits do they admire in political leaders today and which are undesirable? Which 20th-century leaders does he most resemble? If your students wielded the sort of power that Genghis Khan did, how do they think they would use it?
 


© 1997 National Geographic Society. All rights reserved.