Genghis the good guy
By Catriona Davies
Of all the images the name Genghis Khan brings to mind, that of a visionary who brought literacy, law and culture to his people rarely springs to mind.
Genghis Khan leads his troops into battle in the BBC's re-enactment
His name is usually synonymous with evil, his image that of a brutal barbarian who slaughtered millions in his quest for power.
Yet a BBC drama-documentary is aiming to change the reputation of one of the world's most notorious warlords to that of a heroic figure who achieved greatness against all odds.
"Genghis Khan is right up there with the likes of Hitler and Attila the Hun as one of the bogeymen of history," said Ed Bazalgette, the programme's producer.
"We hear the phrase 'somewhere to the Right of Genghis Khan'. Everyone has heard the name yet few people know much about his story.
"It is one of the great untold stories of history and we wanted to get behind the myths. No one is suggesting that he was a benign individual but his history was written by those he defeated.
"To make a parallel, imagine if our country's history was written by the people of Africa or India. He was intent on sharing his riches with his people, and wanted to raise levels of culture, law and literacy. He also brought Chinese medicine to his people." Mr Bazalgette is not the only one taking a new look at Genghis Khan. Mike Yates, the founder of LeaderValue, a company which provides leadership resources, uses him as an example of a figure who achieved success through the "four Es of leadership" - envision, enable, empower and energise".
He said: "Amassing material wealth did not matter much to him, as he shared everything with his loyal supporters. He was seen as a generous leader.
"Genghis Khan also demonstrated a rather liberal and tolerant attitude to the beliefs of others, and never persecuted people on religious grounds."
Born in Mongolia sometime after 1160, he created the largest known empire, covering a fifth of the world, stretching from the Pacific to the Black Sea.
He lived in a brutal world. His father was killed when he was nine and, at the age of 13, he killed his half-brother in a dispute over who would lead the family.
Such is the cult of Genghis Khan in his homeland that last year when Mongolians had to register family names for an election - after having only first names in the Communist era - 50,000 of the 2.5 million population registered themselves as part of his clan.
There are now more than 500 Genghis Khans living in the capital Ulan Bator
Mr Bazalgette's programme involved six weeks filming on the Mongolian steppes in 100F heat and cost £1million.
The cast included 150 horsemen from the Mongolian army, as well as a team of Hungarian stuntmen.
Mr Bazalgette said his team was welcomed by a nation eager for the world to know more about its founding father.
"Genghis Khan has suffered centuries of vilification here," he added. "But he is seen in a different light in Mongolia."
Genghis Khan is on BBC 1 at 9pm next Monday.