Genghis Khan, father of democracy


Tradition and modernity run side-by-side in today’s Mongolia. The hut in the photo is a ger, the traditional, highly portable Mongolian nomadic house. The car is — well, you know what the car is.

Photo by Paula L.W. Sabloff, University of Pennsylvania Museum

In the West, Genghis Khan is the leader of the hordes who rampaged their way across Eurasia in the 13th century, destroying all in their path. His fellow Mongolians have an entirely different view of the man.

To them, Genghis Khan was the source of the ideals that shape today’s democratic, capitalist Mongolia. “Modern Mongolia: Reclaiming Genghis Khan,” a new exhibit that opens at the University of Pennsylvania Museum Oct. 20, shows how Mongolian life in the 20th century retained its ties to its historic past through decades of feudal and Communist rule and how the principles Khan laid down helped Mongolians re-establish an independent, democratic state in 1992.

In addition to artifacts, the exhibit — jointly organized by the Museum and the National Museum of Mongolian History in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia — features interviews with contemporary Mongolians about their country’s heritage and future.


“MODERN MONGOLIA: RECLAIMING GENGHIS KHAN”: Oct. 20 through July 2002 at the University of Pennsylvania Museum, 33rd and Spruce streets. Hours: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday. Admission $5, students/seniors $2.50, Museum members/PennCard holders/children under 6/all visitors Sundays free.

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Originally published on October 11, 2001