On the northeastern edge of the Gobi, in the steppes between Onon and Kerulen (Fig. 13), lies the main area DSCHINGIS KHANS (1155 or 1167 to 1227). His real name is TEMUDSCHIJN. He comes from the impoverished middle nobility and grew up as an outsider. It was precisely his origins and development that made him a charismatic leader who introduced a new political-military order among the nomadic Central Asian tribes and created the greatest empire of all time. By 1205, after many successes and setbacks, TEMUDSCHIJN had subdued all Tatar tribes in the region. The following year, he was already 50 years old, the assembly of khans raised him to the “white felt of honor” and declared him great khan. This happened in 1206 at the source of Onon with the intention of having a first among equals. But TEMUDSCHIJN saw it differently.
He took the name DSCHINGIS KHAN (the messenger from heaven) and gave his tribes the name Mongols (the victorious) as “people chosen from heaven”. DSCHINGIS KHAN instituted a strict military order of tens, hundreds and thousands, commanded by reliable leaders. The result was a unified, obedient Mongolian army, of fast, agile, light cavalry.
He also enforced legal norms. No Mongol was allowed to rob, deceive or hostile another under the death penalty. He himself was tolerant and caring for his friends and followers, but brutal and cruel to anyone who did not submit to him. He is said to have thrown his enemies alive into kettles of boiling water.
From DSCHINGS KHAN, a transport and communications system was created. His famous “arrow riders”, tied to the horses with frequent horse changes, are said to have covered 2000 km in six days.
Triggered more by chance than planned, his campaigns began in all directions, which were always robbery campaigns. It was always about loot; Prisoners were not taken. Those who were not ready to fight for him were killed. Everyone participated in the booty, including the common soldiers. This motivated his warriors, but always required new conquests. In 1225, one year before the capture of Tbilisi, he returned to his home country, where he died in 1227. He wrote world history for a good 20 years.
His son ÖGEDEI continued the campaign to the west until he was defeated in 1241 near Liegnitz. Under him, Karakorum became the capital and center of the world empire (Fig. 14). Thousands of envoys are said to have been accredited there at times. The caravan routes converged in Karakoram. After the death of ÖGEDEIS (1241) the empire began to disintegrate into independent sub-empires. When
DSCHINGIS KHAN’s grandson, KHUBLAI, had himself declared the new Khan without asking the general assembly of military leaders and governors, the breakup of the world empire could not be stopped.
KHUBLAI KHAN moved the capital city from Karakoram to Beijing. There he was proclaimed Emperor of China in 1259 and thus founded the Yuan Dynasty. As the “Son of Heaven” he succeeded the dynasties of three millennia.
The Mongolian Empire only existed for a good 50 years; 100 years later, the Mongolian empires also disintegrated. With a small Mongolian population, without state ideology and administrative system, no successor empires could emerge that invoked the former world power.
As suddenly as the world empire of DSCHINGIS KHANS emerged, it disappeared again just as quickly.
Until the 80’s of the last century, the name DSCHINGIS KHANS did not actually exist during the time of the People’s Republic either; its predatory wars were ostracized. Now it is celebrating a renaissance. The street that leads from the airport to the center of Ulan Bator bears his name today. The most modern hotel was named after him. Memorial stones and plaques have been erected (Figs. 15 and 16). There are glorifying films about him, and in apartments and yurts his image is increasingly replacing that of the 1921 revolutionary hero, SUCHBAATAR.
Famous researchers have made an outstanding contribution to the Gobi. They include the Russian officer NIKOLAI PRSHEWALSKIJ, who discovered the last wild horses that were named after him and are being released again today; SVEN HEDIN, the Lamaism researcher and author of great travel reports, the paleontologist ROY CHAPMAN-ANDREWS, who found the dinosaur eggs, the insect collector HANS LEDERER, the translator of the “Secret History” of the Mongols ERICH HAENISCH and also the geographers MURSAJEW and OBRUTSCHEW.