Right now I'm on a serious history kick and I'm reading my way through the ancient history section of the local bookstore. I was lucky enough to travel internationally through high school and college, and retroactively learning the history of a place where I've been is immensely satisfying. My favorite country is Mongolia, as I found the most friends and kindest people there, and thanks to the modern scholarship of their history I'm learning everything I can about their society. Of course learning about Chinggis Khan and the explosion of cultural growth and expansion he brought to the world is a major aspect, but is only one chapter in such a great nation's story.
It's fascinating to me to see the change in international opinion of the Mongolians - they started out as unimportant northern steppe tribes, united, conquered well over half of the then current world population, established religious freedom, brought about a code of law that was fair, and promoted or demoted officials based on their personal qualities, not family ties; and yet for too long the West saw them as synonym with cruel and barbarism. This revolution leaked into Europe by the Renaissance, long after Chinggis was dead and his descendants ruled in a dozen different countries; the fragments of his great empire. And yet why did Western and Eastern historians show the Mongols as a disorganized horde, bent on destruction and looting? Part of it I believe was resentment, part of it was racism, and some was the ignorance that time and stories bestowed.
Yet the Khan, though an uneducated pagan to their monotheistic eyes, had personally guaranteed the safety of their diverse beliefs when he could have easily put the churches, mosques and monasteries to the torch. Their very existence spoke against the brutish stereotype even today perpetuated in textbooks, movies and popular culture. It's this pagan slant on history that's hard to find, but getting easier. As I learn more, I'll probably be inspired to write more and probably with a much better point that this entry - but the Great Khan inspired me to rant somewhere today, and I hope you enjoyed learning a little bit about a leader and his oft neglected country.