Mongolia’s history begins with the Mongol Kingdom in the Middle Ages. This kingdom was conquered by China in the late 1300s. Mongolia was under Chinese rule until the early 1900s, but Russian influence also prevailed. In 1911, Outer Mongolia declared itself independent after contact with St. Petersburg. Inner Mongolia remained part of China. However, Russia did not recognize the independence of Outer Mongolia; in fact, in 1912-1919, the country was almost an autonomous area under Chinese supremacy and Russian protection. From 1919 to 1921, Mongolia was again subject to China.
A revolutionary resistance supported by the Russians led to independence in 1921. A communist regime in close cooperation with the Soviet Union was deployed and Mongolia became the world’s second communist state in 1924.
After extensive demonstrations demanding democratization, the Communist Party monopoly in Mongolia was abolished in 1990. The first election with several political parties was held the same year. In 1992 Mongolia got a constitution based on western democratic model and with market economy. See abbreviationfinder for geography, history, society, politics, and economy of Mongolia.
The Mongol Empire (1206–1368)
Since prehistoric times, Mongolia has been populated by nomads. In the 9th century, tribes held together in short-term alliances. Towards the end of the 12th century, the chief of the Genghis Khan united Mongol tribes and formed the Mongol Empire, which became the largest empire in world history in area. At its greatest, it stretched from Siberia in the north to Vietnam and the Gulf of Oman in the south and from Korea in the east to Poland in the west.
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After the death of Genghis Khan, the kingdom was divided into four khanates (kingdoms). In 1368, these were conquered by the Chinese Ming Dynasty, who drove the Mongols back to their homeland and destroyed the former Mongolian capital Karakorum. The Mongol Empire went down.
Chinese Lordship (1368–1921)
From the 15th century, the Mongolian steppe people were forced by China, with the ruling dynasties of Ming and Ching (the Man-seers). Insurgency occurred, but they were crushed by Chinese generals. In the 1600s, a distinction is made between Outer Mongolia and Inner Mongolia, as the latter is regarded as part of China itself.
Russian influence began to prevail in outer Mongolia in the 19th century. Several Russian trading centers were established, and resident Burjat Mongols provided cultural contact. In 1902, the Mongolian territories were opened to Chinese settlement for fear of Russian expansion, and the move increased. But to the Mongols, the distant tsarist regime seemed less dangerous than a stream of Chinese peasants and traders.
During the Chinese Revolution, Outer Mongolia declared independence on December 28, 1911, after contact with St. Petersburg. The spiritual head of the Mongols, the eighth “living Buddha “, was crowned as king of gods in Ulan Bator. However, Russia did not recognize the independence of Outer Mongolia; in fact, in 1912-1919, the country was almost an autonomous area under Chinese supremacy and Russian protection. In 1919-1921, Mongolia was again subject to China. The feudal community was unsettled.
A revolutionary movement arose, supported by the Russians. In 1921, Sukhe Bator (1893–1923) and Choibalsang (1895–1952) founded the Mongolian People’s Party (from 1924: the Mongolian Revolutionary Party), and a provisional government was formed. With Soviet assistance, they expelled revolutionary Belarusian and Chinese forces, and the government established itself in 1924 in Ulan Bator. When the eighth “living Buddha” died shortly afterwards, Outer Mongolia was proclaimed a people ‘s republic, defiant in Chinese protests, and with the Soviet state as the role model.
After a few years, a “capitalist class” emerged with pro-Chinese tendencies. It was crushed in the years 1929-1932, and a more revolutionary policy was initiated. But attempts at forced agricultural collectivization were met with the slaughter of cattle, and Soviet assistance had to be called in to stop the uprising.
Soviet vassal state (1921–1990)
When the Japanese occupied Manjury and moved further west, the Soviet Union and the Mongolian People’s Republic entered into a treaty on mutual aid, and Soviet troops moved in 1936. This was the beginning of even harder repression, especially of Buddhism, which had an important historical role. Marshal Choibalsang had close contact with Stalin through the Soviet secret police. The monks were largely liquidated, and most of the country’s 700 monasteries collapsed; in total, about 100,000 Mongols should have lost their lives during the terror that culminated in 1938.
New mass graves were discovered in the 1990s. Then the religious life also flared up again, and several monasteries were rebuilt. As recently as 2003, at a monastery in Ulan Bator, a mass grave was found with the remains of at least 575 victims. At the liquidation, most were wearing monk costumes.
Jumdjagin Tsedenbal, Mongolia’s dominant leader for over 30 years, was deposed in 1984 and his dogmatic regime criticized. In 1989–1990 came a wave of demonstrations demanding multi-party system and economic reform. A constitutional amendment ended the Communist Party’s monopoly of power, and the first election involving several parties was held in 1990. Democratic opposition was winning in the cities.
Extensive economic reforms were implemented in 1991. In the following year, Mongolia gained its first stock exchange, mainly as a result of extensive privatization. All citizens were granted share options free of charge in former state companies.
In 1992, Mongolia introduced a new constitution according to the Western democratic model. The country was no longer called the People’s Republic, and the Communist star was swept away by the flag. In 1991, the old Communist Party changed its political profile by officially renouncing Marxism-Leninism as an ideology in favor of “scientific socialism”. Orthodox powers were purified. Led by a reform wing, the party still had a dominant role throughout the 1990s.
Traditional Mongolian culture underwent a renaissance during the democratization process in the 1990s; At the same time, western popular culture also gained entry. Genghis Khan became one of the symbols of new nationalism and officially recognized as a national hero.
After opposition in 1992, four opposition parties joined forces in the Mongolia National Democratic Party (MNDP) alliance. The MNDP alliance won the 1996 general elections by a pure majority; Thus, for the first time since 1924, Mongolia gained a non-communist regime. Punsalmaagiyn Ochirbat won the 1993 presidential election as MNDP’s candidate, but was followed in 1997 by the communist Natsagiyn Bagabandi, an obvious reaction to the far-reaching economic reform measures since 1993. A third of the Mongols then lived below the poverty line. Bagabandi was re-elected as president in 2001 but in 2005 had to give way to Prime Minister Nambaryn Enkhbayar.
The 2004 parliamentary elections became a triumph for the liberal opposition, which won over the old ruling party of reformed communists with 40 against 36 seats. In the previous elections, the communists won a full 72 out of 76 seats, but now got the mandate cut in half.
Prime Minister Miyegombyn Enkhbold came to power in 2006 following election promises on measures to accelerate economic growth. But in power, he met counterparts from MPRP factions, and the opposition criticized the government for corruption, especially in connection with agreements that granted foreign investors a license to extract Mongolia’s mineral wealth. Enkhbold was forced to resign in November 2007 after he was first dismissed as leader of the People’s Revolutionary Party (MPRP), the reformed Communist Party. Sanjaagiin Bayar from the same party took over the prime minister post. The new prime minister promised a critical review of all the mining industry licenses.
In June 2008, Mongolia held its first parliamentary election following a new electoral system in which one-man circles were replaced by proportional representation in multi-person circles. MPRP retained power with 41 out of 76 seats. Exploitation of the country’s mineral wealth was the biggest electoral issue. A draft law proposed by the MPRP will give the state at least a 51 percent stake in new large joint ventures with foreign mining companies. The opposition will improve the framework conditions for private Mongolian companies.
Allegations of electoral fraud by MPRP gave rise to strong riots in the capital Ulan Bator. Five people died and over 300, including 100 policemen, were injured during the riots. 700 were arrested. The opposition boycotted the opening of the new National Assembly.
The May 2009 presidential election was won by Tsakhiagijn Elbegdorj from the largest opposition party, the Democrats, by a small margin. Elbegdorj is known to be skeptical of foreign influence, and his stated policy of fair and sustainable development may weaken the opportunities for foreign investment in the mining industry.
Economic development after 1990
The transition from a planning economy with a partially natural economy to a market-based economy has been difficult. GDP declined by 20 percent in the period 1990–1995, but has since shown cautious growth. Since the turn of the millennium, peat farming and nomadic culture have been severely affected during Mongolia’s worst natural disaster in half a century. Extreme climates in the form of drought, floods, blizzards and large amounts of snow caused more than 13 million livestock to die during the extremely severe winters from 2000 to 2003. The country received extensive crisis relief from the UN and donor countries, including Norway.
Since the turn of the millennium, total international aid has responded to 60-70 percent of the state budget. About one third of the population lives below the UN poverty line. In 2013, Mongolia was ranked 103 out of 187 countries on the UN Living Index. During the economic transition, the social problems became more tangible. Loss of livestock and other business bases has driven tens of thousands of nomads and half-moms into cities and towns. A disputed law on the privatization of the state’s land properties from 2003 aims to secure a broader business base for a vulnerable population. Around half of the country’s 586,000 households applied for land.
Mongolia is among the poorest countries in the world – with GDP per capita of $ 3770 in 2013, according to the World Bank. Around one third of the country’s own population lives below the government’s defined poverty line. The country imports about 70 percent of its food needs. A marked urbanization process has led to unemployment of more than 30 percent and pressure on urban infrastructure. In recent years, public health services and social services have been weakened.