Ghengis Still Rocks

I'm Barry Petersen, and this Letter from Asia comes from the vast open spaces that are the heart of Mongolia.

You would think this land couldn't produce much, but back in the 12th century it spawned Ghenghis Khan, a warrior who stretched the Mongol empire all the way from here to Europe. Now, that was a long time ago…but Ghenghis is going through a bit of a revival here in Mongolia, achieving the kind of fame that would leave a rock star envious.

Throughout history…and in today's movies…Genghis is portrayed as a pretty nasty guy whose Mongol hordes were the scourge of all who fell before them.

But in his homeland, Ghenghis…or Ch-enkis Han as they call him here…was pretty much a non-person this past century.

That's because Mongolia fell under the dictatorial influence of the Soviet Union. Genghis was out…and communist leaders like Lenin were in. But in 1990, when the Soviet Union collapsed, Mongolia emerged as a country on its own.

Today you see Genghis all over the place…including his own comic books. Genghis as super hero.

In the US, on our currency, we share the honors…a bit of George, a bit of Abe, even Ben Franklin gets his place on a bill.

Not so in Mongolia. Here, the currency is Genghis, Genghis and…yep, Genghis.

The most popular vodkas bear the image of you know who…that's right, the leader of the Mongol hordes is also the pitchman for the local brew.

Not everyone is happy about this...as we discovered in a visit with Mongolia's President.

"Personally speaking, I don't like his name put on a bottle of vodka," said Presient Bagabandi. "Everybody tries to use his name to sell something."

But in a country that has yet to produce, say, a world famous movie star or grunge band…Genghis rocks.

"Everyone in the world know Ghengis Khan," a female student told me.

He was brutal and viscious…by some estimates, his wars took 40-million lives. But he founded an empire and inspired a tiny nation to greatness and…at least today and at least in that one nation, he is back to being cool.

So we give you Genghis Khan…the new toast of Mongolia. By the way - you want that Genghis on the rocks?