A long line of Mongol khans have left their mark on history ever since Temujin, or Genghis Khan (1162–1227), set up the first Mongol empire in 1206. Outstanding among them were Kublai Khan (1216–94), a grandson of Genghis, who conquered most of China; Hulagu Khan (1217–60), a brother of Kublai, who conquered Persia and Syria; Batu Khan (d.1255), Kublai's cousin, who overran Russia, Poland, and Hungary; Timur, also known as Timur Lenk ("Timur the Lame") or Tamerlane (1336?–1405), a descendant of Genghis, who extended his military power for short periods into southern Russia, India, and the Levant; and Babur (Zahir ad-Din Muhammad, 1483–1530), a descendant of Timur, who established an empire in India.
In recent times, two national leaders were Sukhe Baatar (1894–1923) and Khorloin Choybalsan (1895–1952). Yumjaagiin Tsedenbal (1916–1991), intermittently general secretary of the Central Committee of the MPRP since 1940, became chairman of the Council of Ministers in 1952, was elected chairman of the Presidium of the People's Great Hural in 1974, and was named the MPRP general secretary in 1981. Jambyn Batmunkh (b.1926) became chairman of the Council of Ministers in 1974 and was elected chairman of the Presidium and general secretary of the MPRP in 1984.
The founder of modern Mongolian literature is D. Natsagdorj (1906–37). Tsendyn Damdinsuren (b.1908) is one of the most important writers. Leading playwrights are Ch. Oydov (1917–63) and E. Oyuun (b.1918). Other prominent writers are B. Rindhen (1905–78), D. Namdag (b.1911), U. Ulambayar (b.1911), and Ch. Lodoydamba (1917–70). B. Damdinsuren (b.1919) and L. Murdorzh are noted composers. Jugderdemidiyn Gurragcha (b.1947) became the first Mongolian in space in 1981, when he was carried into orbit aboard the former USSR's Soyuz 39.