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Mongolia's legislature on Thursday began debating a law on regulating the use of Genghis Khan's name, in a bid to prevent the memory of the legendary conqueror from being cheapened.
Since Mongolia emerged from the shadow of the Soviet Union in 1991, the isolated Asian nation has applied the moniker of its favorite son to more than half a dozen brands of vodka and beer and a variety of other commercial products.
The trend reflects the immense pride Mongolians feel about a man who established an empire that stretched across Asia all the way to central Europe in the early 13th century.
Lawmaker E. Bat-Uul said that since the prohibition on the use of Genghis Khan's name and imagery had been lifted following the breakup of the Soviet Union, Mongolians had gone overboard in attaching them to products and brands that brought disrepute on a revered national symbol.
"We are not showing enough respect to Genghis Khan," he said. "We tend to use his name more on vodka bottles. If today somebody produces toilet paper with Genghis Khan's name, we do not know what to do about it as currently there is no law to regulate this issue."
Under the provisions of the new law, use of the name Genghis Khan for commercial purposes would be granted only by the government, which would set fees for its licensing.
The law would also give the Mongolian president the right to select an official Genghis Khan portrait from one of about 10 currently in circulation and define the organizations authorized to use it.
It would forbid the Genghis Khan name or portrait to be employed in a degrading or insulting manner or to serve the interests of political parties or non-governmental bodies.
Lawmaker D. Arvin said a major feature of the new legislation would be to prevent foreigners from cashing in on the Genghis Khan name for their own purposes.
"Foreigners are attempting to use the Genghis Khan name and image for their use," he said. "They are saying Genghis Khan was born in Kazakhstan or the Siberian part of Russia or Chinese Inner Mongolia and thus distorting out history."
While Genghis Khan is reviled in much of the world as a symbol of barbarism, Mongolians see him as a symbol of order and civilization.
He is a touchstone of national identity to a nation sandwiched between Russia and China and wary of being swallowed up by either.