It is a well-known truth that history is often controversial, and that the same historical fact can be treated in numerous ways and have unexpected consequences. Mongol expansion that started in the thirteenth century and lasted for several hundred years, resulting in creation of the powerful empire, is often approached in terms of its cruelty and devastating effects. However, as it happens in history, it has other impacts too on many aspects of history, politics and culture. It would not be an exaggeration to say that it determined further direction of development in the Euro-Asian region and shaped the face of a new culture, trade and leadership.
Mongol empire is a unique formation in many ways, but as in case with many historical events, its outstanding role is due to the influence of outstanding personalities. From the twelfth century, such leaders as Temüjin, Toghril and Genghis Khan were building a powerful state by invading and uniting the lands. It is Genghis Khan who is known for his cruel and charismatic rule that enabled him to start conquering huge territories and inspire courage in his warriors, who appeared the winner of most battles. However, it is not only the warlord’s personal influence that accounts for his success. His heritage is an innovative approach to organization of the army that is still used nowadays in military conflicts. He brought the army to a totally new level by making it flexible, mobile and unpredictable for the enemy.
It is worth saying that the legacy of Mongol Empire is also reflected in other more peaceful aspects. It was the start of international and intercontinental trade, which was supported by Genghis Khan with his investments. Numerous caravans were going across Eurasia, which gave access to new types of goods to nations that were not familiar with them. The so-called “Pax Mongolica” ensured that all merchants could safely move across the territory of the empire without being afraid of sudden attacks or robberies. Due to the initiative of Mongolian rulers, such important Chinese inventions as printing, gunpowder and blast furnace traveled to Europe. Silk from China became cheaper due to new facilitated and secured ways of its transportation and low tax fees.
Medicine flourished because of the Khan’s open-mindedness to knowledge and new inventions: “Mongol rulers, regardless of location, were open to medical treatments according to Islamic, Chinese, Tibetan, Indian, and of course shamanic practice”(May, n.d.). Overall, Genghis Khan is known as a great enthusiast of education and learning. Due to his efforts, the world acquired an opportunity to find out about the Chinese legacy in sciences such as astronomy, history, geography, and agriculture among others. Influence can be traced in cuisines, where the Turkish and the Chinese cuisines acquired a lot from each other and even affected the Italian one.
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In the Mongolian Empire, the office of ba'urchi, generally translated as “cook,” or sometimes as “steward” or “commissary,” had an unexpected importance. Cooks were officers in the imperial guard (keshig), one formation of which, the night guard (kebte'ül), oversaw the provision and preparation of drink and food (und¯n ide'en). During the reigns of Chinggis Qan and Ögödei; in addition to their titular duties, these officers often held active military commands. (Allsen, 2001, p. 127)
The Italian trader Marco Polo is not only known for bringing spaghetti to Italy but also for introducing the records of his travels to a wide audience. They were huge success and attracted interest of the Europeans to Asia, which continued even after Mongol empire vanished. The map of Eurasia was never the same after Mongolian invasion because it resulted in formation of new cultures and nations. Although being an empire politically, the Mongolian state introduced a totally new system of power. Being a powerful leader, Genghis Khan preferred that the rule would be inherited by people who were elected, though only from his relatives. Nevertheless, one should admit that this attempt looked like one of the first seeds of democracy in history.
In terms of education and culture, a breakthrough decision of the ruler was to introduce a system of written language. Genghis Khan could neither read nor write but he realized that this innovation would raise his nation to a new level and will make it competitive among other nations. The writing system was based on the Syrian one and was used in modern Mongolia until the twentieth century, when it was changed for a Cyrillic one.
In terms of religion, Mongolic beliefs did not compose a clear-cut system and were rather close to shamanism. Mongols did not believe in spiritual afterlife, but they believed in a quite material Paradise where people would live in wealth and comfort. The cult of Genghis Khan as half god impacted on religious beliefs of the consecutive epochs on these territories. Thus, Tibetan Buddhism and even Islam felt Mongolian impact by absorbing some aspects of this culture. While they contributed to establishing Dalai Lama rule, they also turned Islam into a universal religion rather than attached to a certain territory or regime.
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Overall, the impact of Mongolian empire on the rest of the world cannot be overestimated. It is true that this expansion was sanguinary and destroyed many cultural and religious values in the conquered lands. At the same time, due to Mongolian rule, knowledge and education were promoted so that new discoveries from Asia penetrated the European states. The development of trade boosted the overall economic growth in the region.
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