Genghis Khan died in 1227, but even today no account of Central Asia can ignore him. Ten modern states sprang from his empire. All of them figure in this magisterial and gorgeous book, the fourth and final volume of Christoph Baumer’s The History of Central Asia.
Subtitled ‘The Age of Decline and Revival’, this survey of the last five hundred years begins with the ‘Descendants of the Genghis Khanids’. Genghis’s first-born, Jochi, fathered three dynasties, one of which, the Arabshahids, ruled over parts of what is today Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan until 1804. In Crimea, numerous Genghisid khans lasted until Russia’s conquest of the region in 1783. The family’s spirit lives on. During a recent visit to Uzbekistan, I was assured that mothers still scold their children, ‘Do as you’re told or Jochi will get you.’ In Kazakhstan, I was given a book tracking Genghis’s descendants over thirty-four generations down to the present.
The empire crumbled, Genghis’s heirs turned Muslim or Buddhist and the whole region entered a dark age of mini-states and rival warlords, ignorant of the rest of the world and forgotten by it until the start of European imperial expansion. Not many Westerners are familiar with Moghulistan (destroyed in