Khan Tamerlane curse and Joseph Stalin's superstitions

The opening of a medieval tomb coincided with the beginning of a tragedy, and reburial marked a turning point in the Second World War almost 82 years ago.

Timur Lenk, also called Teymur, but better known as Tamerlane, was a warlord who in the 14th century conquered the largest territory in history, second only to Macedonian king Alexander the Great. Some historians claim that he was the cruelest and bloodiest ruler who ever lived, responsible for the deaths of a record number of people.

A map of Tamerlan's empire.

Tamerlane's vast conquests in Asia and Europe, and the low value he placed on human life, were probably highly appreciated by the Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, another lover of foreign territories and the greatest tyrant of the 21st century. Only this could explain Stalin's order to open up Tamerlane's tomb in Samarkand and attempt to reconstruct the physical features of the khan's face.

An expedition sent from Moscow arrived in Samarkand, a city in present-day Uzbekistan, in the first half of June 1941. Its members located the tomb of the khan's family, and on June 19, after exhuming the remains of his sons, they also unearthed Tamerlane's bones.

The Soviet anthropologists led by Mikhail Gerasimov (left) examing the remains of Tamerlane.

The locals protested vehemently about the archaeological excavations carried out by Soviet scientists and warned the anthropologists that those who disturbed the "peace" of the khan would be cursed.

According to witness accounts, one of the tombstones was engraved with a text that literally translates as follows: "When I rise from the dead, the world will tremble." Stalin's team paid little attention to the inscription or interpreted it as an attempt to keep tomb raiders away.

Two days later, on 22 June 1941, Nazi Germany launched a full-scale invasion of the Soviet Union.

Back to the grave

However, the research continued and one of the participants in the expedition, Mikhail Gerasimov, a renowned Russian scientist, managed to reconstruct the face of Tamerlane based on the deceased’s skull features. Facial reconstruction according to the configuration of the skull is now called "Gerasimov's method." During the examination of the bones, it was established, among other things, that the leader of the Mongols and numerous Turkish tribes was 172 cm tall and had a severe limp on one leg.




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