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Genghis Kahn’s military and administrative achievements were both impressive and have echoed across history. Due to popular media, if you were to ask one the primary achievements of the Mongols they would undoubtedly answer with, “military conquest”. However, with their empire being so vast, the legacy he and his descendants left on the modern administrative world was most important in that it contributed to our modern sense of citizenship, governmental institutions, and ‘public relations’.
Temujin created a pluralistic society with wide-ranging institutions all while being mindful of how he would be perceived by the outside world. From early on, Temujin was not hesitant to ally with people different than himself. Weatherford says that due to the wide range of religions and kinships involved in the joining of various Mongol clans under Temujin, it “came close to being a type of modern civic citizenship based upon personal choice and commitment”. Throughout his life, Temujin would retain this meritocratic fairmindedness. Whether animist, Christian, Muslim, or Buddhist mattered not if you were loyal to Temujin and performed admirably. This greatly informs the modern sense of the ideal culture. Temujin further codified this with his religious freedom decree, which Weatherford relates as “probably the first law of its kind anywhere in the world”.
Genghis Kahn and his descendants were also effective at creating universalist institutions. No doubt necessitated by the mere vastness of his empire, Genghis Kahn “created the first international postal system”. This sort of administrative prowess would continue with his grandson Khubilai, who would go on to create a universal education system that Weatherford notes wouldn’t occur in the West for another 500 years. Weatherford goes on to say that the “Mongol emphases on free commerce, open communication, shared knowledge, secular politics, religious coexistence, international law, and diplomatic immunity” put into motion more philosophical institutions of the modern world as well. Perhaps most ominously, Genghis Kahn and his descendants were also masters of propaganda, or ‘public relations’, as it is referred to with less negative connotations. This has no doubt shaped public administrations from Kahn’s era until now.
Despite Kahn’s unquestionable military prowess and dedicated warriors, Weatherford describes propaganda as becoming Temujin’s “weapon of choice” early on. When trying to prepare his sons for rulership, Temujin explained to them that “conquering an army is not the same as conquering a nation” and that one must win over the hearts of minds of one’s constituents to effectively rule. Leaders, nations, and large corporations today have entire armies of people whose sole function is to shape their respective image.
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