In today's military scenario, even the most imaginative among us would be hard pressed to contemplate the possibility that a ruler belonging to Mongolia ruled Asia and parts of Europe. Genghis Khan's empire stretched from China to Hungary.
The leadership and organizational abilities that Genghis Khan displayed would have made a corporate honcho of any Fortune 100 company proud. The Mongols were illiterate, herdsmen who dwelt on the grassy plains north of the Gobi Desert and the population was less than a million. Whenever food was scarce they would raid their neighboring tribes.
During the 13th century, a Mongol named Temujin was a vassal to Ong Khan, titular head of a tribe that was considered to be amongst the better organized clans than the other. Temujin's managerial skills were par excellence. He was good at spotting talent and kept the best men in Ong Khan's tribe.
In 1202, Temujin defeated the Tatars, who were the traditional heavies of the East. Ong Khan was aging and in appreciation of Temujin's military conquest, he adopted him and named him heir to the throne.
Temujin quelled any challenge to his ascension to the throne, which includes defeating Senggum, the biological son of Ong Khan. In 1206, at the age of 42, Temujin took the title 'Universal Ruler', which translates to Genghis Khan.
Genghis Khan's ambition knew no bounds. It by far exceeded the resources that he possessed. Mongolia was part of the territory of the brutal Kin regime in China. His methods were extremely innovative and cloaked in a veil of strategy.
While armies all over the world preferred heavy artillery and ammunition, Mongol horses were small, and their riders were lightly clad. Their main weapon was the bow and arrow. Genghis enraged the Kins when he stopped paying taxes.
He then launched a rapid attack on the province of Hsi-Hsia, overran the 1,000-year-old Great Wall of China and slaughtered every Kin hiding in the fortresses. In 1215, Peking, the capital of China was conquered. He could have destroyed the entire Kin army, but he chose to recruit most of them and assimilate them into his own army.
He established a tax regime where the situation was reversed. The Chinese were now paying the Mongols. Genghis Khan realized that his army would have to be better equipped if he wanted to take on Persia. One of his convoys was ambushed by a ruler of a country close to Persia.
Genghis Khan was waiting for such an opportunity, and he unleashed his forces in Central Asia. In the icy winter, his troops rode across the desert and invaded the city of Bukhara. Fearing for his life, the ruler abdicated his throne, his army surrendered and Samarkhand fell.
Genghis Khan was the master of strategic tie-ups. He entered into a venture with the caliph of Baghdad. This gave him access to Afghanistan and Persia. His policy of adding to his army at every given opportunity ensured that it had more than 200,000 highly skilled warriors.
He decided to leverage his military might and diversify to extend his empire. A horde of 40,000 Mongol horsemen pushed through Azerbaijan and Armenia. They defeated Georgian opposition and captured Crimea. In the absence of their leader, they defeated an army that was twice as large at Kalka River.
Now that his military conquests had guaranteed him a place in the pantheon of greats, he began to concentrate on administrative issues. He realized that religion could be one of the reasons to cause cracks in his system. He declared freedom of religion throughout his empire.
Troops were issued strict guidelines as to their behavior in public. It was not long before he was at war again; the Chinese were refusing to pay tax. He decided that any sign of rebellion had to be quelled immediately.
In 1227, while leading the fighting against the North Chinese, Genghis Khan, it is said, fell off his horse and died. He was sixty-five years old. At his funeral, 40 maidens were burned to death as an offering to his spirit and a celebration of his life.
Alexander was considered to be the greatest ruler of all time, but in terms of landmass conquered, he possessed one-fourth of what Genghis Khan did. He is the equivalent of King David for the Mongols. Till date there is a belief in Mongolia that he will come back and rule the world !