The Cult of Chinggis

Looking up to the Great Khaan.
Looking up to the Great Khaan.

That’s how the Russians referred to the Mongolian reverence of the late conqueror Chinggis Khaan upon their orders to remove the conqueror from the popular consciousness. They wanted to remove anything that could be a distraction from loyalty to the state. Chinggis’ spirit banner, the physical embodiment of his soul, was lost forever during the socialist era, vanished from a monastery in the north. The socialists in Mongolia renamed the capital city, a monastery-based city by the name of Urgan to Ulaanbaatar, literally, “Red Hero.”  They played a zero-sum game, but that was not enough to extinguish the flames of Chinggis.

To see this shift from an adaptation of the Russian systems to a more Mongolian-centric one, one has to look no further than two places: Hentii aimag and Ulaanbaatar. The aimag of Hentii is where the great Khaan was born, and recent poling in the aimag’s capital, Undurkhaan, done during the 90th anniversary, revealed that a majority of citizens would be supportive of a name change to Chinggis City. Ulaanbaatar, they have moved to change the name of the highly-recognizable Sukhbaatar Square to Grand Chinggis Square. There have been groups voicing opposition to this Chinggis-fication of the square, most notably The Mongolian People’s Party.

All around Mongolia, you can’t help but see the Khaan’s face everywhere: He’s on money, vodka, carpets, rugs, t-shrits, paintings, murals, statues, and the likes. His birthday became a national holiday, usurping Independence Day as the November celebration. Some have come to question this surge of Mongolian pride in their conqueror. Their main question tends to be something along the lines of “Is Chinggis really the only great Mongolian to come from our history? Has no one in the past 800 years since his death brought pride to Mongolia? Is there no one else we can identify with and proudly display to the world?”

As an outsider, it’s hard for me to say. I know for sure that Mongolian history if full of all sorts of interesting people: Monks and Commissars alike. Chinggis did leave an indelible mark on the world; no one can debate that. Especially if you consider that 1 in 200 Men are direct descendants of Chinggis Khaan.

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3 thoughts on “The Cult of Chinggis

    1. Indeed he is! It’s a rather large metal statue East of Ulaanbaatar. We got there in the late afternoon. You can go inside the statue to look out over the steppe, but it was closed when I went. Glad you liked it!


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