The most well known episode in Mongol history, the creation of the largest contiguous land empire in the world by Genghis Khan and his descendants in the 13th and 14th century, was an event that broke the traditional pattern of life among the various peoples and tribes who inhabited the land of Mongolia over the centuries. These peoples fall into a number of ethnic and linguistic groups which were quite distinct from each other; this did not prevent them from intermingling and intermarrying as well as fighting each other. One of these groups of nomadic tribes was called by the Chinese the Yuezhi and they were akin to the Scythians of Central Asia who inhabited the areas between and around the Black and Aral seas, and were Indo-Europeans. The second group, called by the Chinese, the Xiongnu, was a Mongol linguistic and racial group. A third group, was comprised of the Turkic linguistic and racial tribes. All of these groups followed similar nomadic patterns of life, interacted with and displaced each other, migrated to Europe and Western Asia, established various empires and states and had a tremendous impact on Eurasian history.
The history of these groups, and hence the history of Mongolia, follows four main themes from the beginning of recorded history to the 18th century. First, there were constant and repeated struggles and shifting alliances among the neighboring tribes that comprise these broad groupings. Warfare was an integral part of the history of these nomadic groups. Second, during the times when the Chinese empire was strong and united (the Han, Tang, Ming and Qing dynasties) trade with these nomads formed part of the larger Silk Road trade and these tribes either became vassals of the Chinese state or retreated into the steppe lands of Siberia; when China was weak (at the end of most dynasties), these tribal groups raided and looted parts of China, inviting retaliatory raids into Mongolia. Third, at times great unifiers arose who, through warfare, and strategic alliances, united a coalition of similar tribes; these temporary unifications resulted in life and death struggles between tribal groupings usually resulting in the expulsion of one group from the region. The great migrations of the Huns, the Yuezhi, the Turks, and other groups to Central and Western Asia and to Europe were a direct result of these struggles. Fourth, several times the nomads were able to conquer and hold large parts of the territory of northern China (The Period of Division, 3rd-6th centuries, the Northern Song dynasty) and twice all of China (The Yuan-Mongol-dynasty, the Qing-Manchu-dynasty). During these occupations, the nomads settled in the conquered land, established dynasties and eventually became sinicized, adopting Chinese culture and customs and eventually becoming absorbed by the more numerous Chinese.
Within this general pattern, the Yuezhi were eventually expelled by the Xiongnu and migrated to Central and South Asia to become the Kushans of Iranian, Afghan, and Indian history. It was an attempt to contact this group to assist him in fighting the Xiongnu, that impelled the Han Emperor, Wudi (2nd-1st Centuries B.C.), to send an expedition to Central Asia, thus opening up the Silk Road to Eurasian traffic. The Xiongnu were in turn expelled by a coalition of Turkic speaking groups and migrated West to become the Huns of European history and destroy the Roman Empire. In more recent times, some of the Turkish groups migrated to modern day Turkey and formed the Ottoman empire.
This historical pattern was, of course, broken in the 13th and 14th century by the rise of Genghis Khan and his descendants. Genghis consolidated Mongolia and invaded northern China. In the process he built a sophisticated military and political organization and set out on a deliberate policy of world conquest which led to the unification of large parts of Asia and Europe. With the collapse of this empire, the Mongols retreated back to Mongolia and the traditional pattern again emerged. In the 17th century the Manchus, following the fourth pattern, arose and conquered all of China, including parts of Mongolia, Tibet, and Xinjiang. Here the traditional pattern ended as the rise of the Manchus coincided with European expansion and conquest and Mongolia saw itself caught between the territorial ambitions of China and Russia. Thus, from the late 17th century to the early twentieth century, Mongolia was a military and political battleground between Chinese and Russian forces. This resulted in the division of Mongolia into its present day parts. Russia absorbed the portions of historical Mongolia to the West and South of the present day Mongolian People’s Republic; the heart of Mongolia (then called Outer Mongolia, now the Mongolian PR) was claimed by the Chinese who actively discouraged Russian advances. The southern and eastern parts of Mongolia south of the Gobi were detached and have now been incorporated into modern day China as the “Inner Mongolian Autonomous Region.” With the weakening and collapse of the Qing dynasty, Russian influence in Outer Mongolia grew and the Russians helped sponsor the Mongolian Independence movement, which in 1924 turned the country into a communist controlled satellite of the Soviet Union. It was only in 1989, that Mongolia gained its independence from Russia and became an independent nation.
Archaeological evidence indicates that the southern Gobi was home to stone age inhabitants between 100,000 and 200,000 years ago; some evidence indicates that the area was inhabited even earlier. By the first millennium B.C. the bronze age arrived in Mongolia and by the third century, iron weapons were being used. The entire Northern and Central Asia land area from the Korean peninsula to modern day Kazakhstan was inhabited by steppe, dessert and forest dwelling nomads of various ethnic and linguistic origin.
The first written accounts of these nomadic peoples comes from 3rd century Chinese sources which speak of the Xiongnu invasions across the Yellow River (Huang He) and Chinese attempts to beat them back. Inventions of these nomadic and warlike peoples, such as mounted archers, the stirrup, and the crossbow, were adopted by Chinese military forces and aided in the unification of China. In the second century B.C., the Xiongnu, in addition to raiding deep into China, attacked the Yuezhi living in present day Gansu province and drove them out of that area into the Altai Mountains, from which they then drove them to the Oxus River area (modern Amu Darya). The Xiongnu continued to threaten China for several centuries and were the impetus behind the building of the Great Wall, the sending of expeditions across the Silk Road in search of allies, and the Chinese attempts to conquer or ally with tribes of “Inner Asia” (modern day Xinjiang Province of China.)
The collapse of the Han dynasty at the beginning of the 3rd century A.D. allowed various Mongolian tribes to engage in a free-for-all in invading, looting and setting up a series of governments in northern China as well as in the lands of Mongolia, southern Siberia, and modern day Xinjiang. From the 3rd through the 6th century, various ethnic groups: the Xiongnu, the Xianbei, the Ruruan, the Toba, and the Chiang (Tibetan) variously conquered, established states, and fought each other. The most significant result of this struggle was the defeat of the Xiongnu and their Westward migration, eventually taking them to the gates of Rome as the Huns. The 6th century also saw the emergence of a group known to the Chinese as the Tujue (the Turks), a vassal people of the Ruruan empire living in the Altai mountains, who overthrew their rulers and emerged as the most powerful force in North and Inner Asia. As well as being the first to use the name Turk, they were the first of these nomad groups to leave written records, leaving behind a runic-like script which was deciphered in 1896.
The emergence of the strong Chinese dynasty, the Tang, saw the Chinese taking control of central and eastern Mongolia and parts of Inner Asia and the rise of a new, Turkic speaking people, the Uighurs, to power in west and north Mongolia. At times the Uighurs were feared enemies of the Chinese and at times their allies in fights against invading Islamic armies, the Central Asian Kirghiz and other groups. After the destruction of their northern kingdom in the 9th century, the Uighurs moved to present day Xinjiang and established a flourishing kingdom; the Uigurs are still the majority group in this area.
With the defeat of the Uighurs, the Kitan, another semi nomadic tribal group, expanded their control of Mongolia and moved into northern China where they became sinicized and set up the Liao dynasty (916-1125). The 11th and 12 centuries saw the amalgamation of various groups in the vast Mongolian and Inner Asian areas. These groups of closely related peoples including the Mongols, the Tatars, the Turks and the Tanguts (who were related to the Tibetans and were not a Turkish people) built up kingdoms, attacked each other and ultimately helped to destroy the Kitan Liao dynasty, which had lost its nomadic character and become a settled agricultural civilization. Another Mongol people conquered the present day Gansu province and set up the Western Xia (Xi Xia) empire. They fought with the Kitans and the Uighurs of the Turpan (Xinjiang) region; both groups fought the Chinese.
In the early 12th century, a Tungusic people, the Jurchen (ancestors of the Manchus) defeated the Kitan empire and drove them out—their Westward migration, which led to the establishment of the Karakitai state in the Pamir mountains, brought them into contact with trappers from the newly formed Russian state and gave the name Kitai to the Russians as their name for China; eventually this term, Kitai reached England where it became the Cathay of English literature. The Jurchen then established the Jin dynasty in the Northern half of China, driving the Song dynasty to the South.
The most dramatic and well known event in the history of the Mongols was the rise to power of Temujin, son of a Mongol chieftain, his union of the various Mongol tribes into an unstoppable conquering force, and his conquest of much of Eurasia, creating the Mongol Empire. The effects of this conquest were many and varied and influenced the subsequent history of many nations in the two continents. It broke the usual Mongol nomadic pattern and set the Mongols on a road of conquest unequalled in the world.
Temujin was an unlikely candidate for world unifier. Born in 1162 (or 1167) in an important Mongol family, he was left in difficult straits when his father was killed and his family rejected and abandoned by the rest of the clan. After a series of dramatic struggles, Temujin succeeded not only in surviving but in becoming the leader of the Kiyat sub clan by the age of 20. In a subsequent 16 years of warfare, during which he allied and changed alliances with various clans, he succeeded in defeating all the Mongol and Tatar tribes from the Altai Mountains to Manchuria, and emerged as the strongest chieftain in a confederation of clan lineages. In 1206 Temujin’s leadership of all Mongols was formally recognized in a Kuriltai (council) which chose him as their Khan or leader. He then took the title of Genghis (Chinngis) Khan, meaning supreme, to signify the scope of his power.
Temujim, from the time he first began to organize the Mongols, made a number of important changes in their organization which led to his success. He re-organized the clan lineages, making them subordinate to the Khan. He unified the tribes into a series of units of ten, which formed the basis for both military and the civil life; the Mongols were seen as fighting machines and each unit had the responsibility of contributing its young men to the military organization. The women had the responsibility of managing the herds and home base while the men fought. Genghis employed both Jin and Chinese military strategists to assist him in organizing his flexible army of mounted soldiers and in teaching him siege tactics that would enable him to take cities.
After uniting the Mongol tribes, he attacked the Western Xia empire and, in a series of dramatic battles succeeded in reducing its territory and gaining their acknowledgment of himself as overlord. He then attacked the Jin empire of Northern China and succeeded brilliantly in the field but ran into the same problem of taking walled cities as he had encountered in his fight against the Western Xia. With the aid of clever tricks and the assistance of Chinese engineers, he developed the techniques that made his army the most successful besiegers in the history of warfare. One common technique used was fear: he destroyed any town that resisted but allowed those who surrendered to keep their lives, forbade looting and allowed them to pay a tax, recognize his overlordship and continue to live much as they had in the past. He became famous for the ways he tricked walled cities into surrendering or in thinking that they could best the Mongols. In 1215, he successfully besieged and destroyed the Jin capital of Yanjing (later the Yuan dynasty’s Dadu and even later, Beijing). The Jin emperor then transferred his capital south to Kaifeng and held on until he was finally defeated in 1234by Genghis’s son. After driving the Jin form their capital, Genghis’a army was exhausted and needed to retrench; however, he sent two squads to attack the state of Karakitai which had been overrun by the khan of the Naiman Mongols who revolted against Genghis. By 1918, Karakitai was conquered and the Mongol state extended from Lake Balkash to Korea.
It was the murder and insults offered to his peace-bearing envoys by the Muslim ruler of the eastern state of Khwarizm that set Genghis on the conquest of Central Asia and Russia. Determined to punish this ruler, Mohammed, he sent 200,000 troops and eradicated Khwarizm by 1220; however, Mohammed escaped and the Mongols pursued him throughout Western Asia, taking the lands of Afghanistan, Iran and Iraq in the process. Another group of cavalry penetrated deep into the Russian forests, eventually destroying the Kievan government and taking over rule of much of the country. Genghis was stopped from advancing into India by a fall from his horse and a dream interpreted by one of his advisors as death for the Mongols should they invade India. Genghis’s last battle was against the Western Xia who had united with the remaining Jin forces and rebelled while Genghis was busy in the West. He defeated both the Western Xia and the main body of the Jin forces before a premonition of his death caused him to return to Mongolia; he died en route and in 1227, on his deathbed, he told his youngest son, Tulue, how to consolidate his conquests and defeat the Jin empire. There is great dispute over what happened to his body. Tradition said it was buried secretly in the mountains; on the other hand, a mausoleum in what is now Inner Mongolia claims to be his final resting place.
Before his death, Genghis divided his territory between his four sons, and instructed the Kuriltai at Karakorum (his Mongolian capital) to elect his son Ogedei as Khan or the overseer of the others. In accord with his wishes, Batu (son of his deceased son, Jochi) received control over the Russian territories, Chagadai, the area of Afghanistan, Central Asia and Central Siberia, Ogedai the lands of East Asia, and Tulei, the youngest, the homeland of Mongolia. Soon after the kuriltai met in 1228, Ogedei and his armies set out to destroy the Jin and finally took Kaifeng in 1234. The Southern Song dynasty attempted to seize back part of their former territory taken years before by the Jin; this brought them into conflict with the Mongols who then embarked on a 45 year war to conquer the most populous nation on earth, Song China. At the same time, other Mongol armies were invading Iran, Anatolia, Syria, and Russia. By now ethnic Mongols were a minority in the armies, most of which were composed of Turks, Tatars, Tanguts, Cumans, and other Inner Asian peoples who had previously surrendered to the Mongols.
In 1235, the Mongols launched an attack on Tibet (finished in 1239) and a major attack, led by Batu, against Europe. Batu led his forces in conquering Moscow, Vladimir, northern Russia, the steppe region around the Don River, Lithuania, Poland, the Baltic coast, Transylvania, and into Hungary where by 1241 they had seized the city of Pest, controlling Hungary east of the Danube River. Scouting parties had raided into northern Italy and Vienna when word came that Ogedei had died. The laws passed by Genghis provided that, when the ruler died all offspring of Genghis Khan must return to Mongolia to take part in the election of a new khan. The forces pulled back from the conquest of Europe and marched Eastward, destroying Serbia and Bulgaria and then leaving Hungary never to return. Europe was saved, not through any action of its own, but through the fortuitous death of Ogedei.
The various contenders for the position of Khan fought with each other and civil war seemed eminent until one of the contenders died, and all agreed on the election of Mengke, a son of Tulei and a brilliant administrator and warrior. He changed who would inherit each part of the empire, disinheriting some grandsons of Genghis and giving more to his own branch of the family and decided that the first priority was the conquest of East Asia. He and his brother Khubilai conquered first Nanchao (present day Yunnan province) and then Tonkin (northern Vietnam). His death from dysentery in 1259 put a temporary stop to his conquest of China and gave the Song dynasty another 16 years of life. Khubilai was elected as the new khan, defeated his younger brother in a civil war, and established the new capital in Dadu (present day Beijing) thus shifting the political center of the Mongol empire from the land of Mongolia into China. He then began a series of campaigns into China which resulted in the final collapse of the capital of Hangzhou in 1276 and the defeat of the Song fleet in 1279. While this was going on, the Mongols in the West suffered their first defeat by the Egyptian Mamluk army in Palestine in 1260. This army was led by a Turkish defector from the Mongol armies who used Mongol tactics to defeat them. From this time on, the Mongols ceased new conquests in the West and devoted themselves to consolidating their gains. Khubilai tried twice to conquer Japan, in 1274 and 1281; failing both times he ceased trying to conquer Japan. He was driven out of Java after defeating the local ruler by an ally who turned against him and thus gave up also the conquest of Southeast Asia. The expansion of the Mongol empire finally halted. With the conquest of the Song, Khubilai declared himself as the emperor of a united China and established the Yuan (beginning) dynasty (1279-1368).
While remaining nominally under the central control of Khubilai and his successors, in actual fact the Mongol empire divided into three parts: the Yuan dynasty under Khubilai and his heirs, Central and Western Asia under the Ilkhans (subordinate Khans) and Russia under the descendants of Batu, who became known as the Golden Horde. Each part of the empire had a different history and the Mongol rulers of each gradually adopted the ways of the conquered and lost the strength and momentum that had made them world conquerors. In China, the descendants of Khubilai became sinified and corrupted by the delights of Chinese culture. In Central and Western Asia, the Mongols adopted Islam and Islamic culture. In southern Russia, the Mongols retained their nomadic ways the longest although they founded cities and accumulated wealth; over the years they intermingled with the local Turkish peoples, the Kipchak, and Arabic and Tatar replaced Mongol as the official language of the Golden Horde.
The Mongol empire, split though it was, lasted a remarkably long time. In China, the Yuan dynasty was one of the shorter lived dynasties, being overthrown by a native rebellion in 1368. However, the Ilkhans held on until their final overthrown by Turkish forces in 1335. The longest lasting Khanate, the Golden Horde, managed to last, in spite of many defeats, until 1502 when it was destroyed by an alliance of Muscovites and Crimean Tatars. Timur the Lane (Tamerlane or Timur Lenk), who falsely claimed to be descended from Genghis, tired to reestablish the Mongol empire in Central Asia, reuniting the lands of the Ilkhans with Central Asia, Northern India, and Southern Russia. His empire disintegrated with his death in 1405.
The decline of the Mongol empire had a number of causes. First, the sheer size made it impossible to keep together and control. Second the Mongols were so few in relation to the conquered peoples that the Mongols became absorbed into the culture of the conquered rather than vice versa. Third, as the Mongol adopted a sedentary and cultured way of life they lost their military skill and warlike prowess and were unable to defend themselves and their territories from new attackers.
The impact had by the Mongol conquests and empire was enormous. One of the most important results was the increased contact between Europe and Asia as Europeans visited the countries of Asia and wrote accounts of the wonders and marvels seen. Trade between the east and west was stimulated and ultimately so desired that it led the Europeans to the age of exploration. Inventions and ideas passed between east and west, changing all societies through which they passed, perhaps none more profoundly than the Chinese invention of paper.
The most famous of the travelers who went to the East is Marco Polo, although others, such as Ibn Battuta, Father Carpini, and William of Rubruck also left fascinating accounts of their travels.
For a site on the travels of Marco Polo visit:
Marco Polo and His Travels.
For more information on this fascinating chapter in Mongol history, with pictures and interviews with leading experts, please click on the following links:
MacroHistory: Genghis Khan and the Mongols
The Lagacy of Genghis Khan: The Mongols in China
Explorations in Empire: Pre-Modern Imperialism Tutorial
In the footsteps of Marco Polo
When the Yuan dynasty was defeated in China in 1368, over 60,000 Mongols returned to Mongolia. The Mongols reverted to their traditional tribal and nomadic patterns and divided again into several groups. These groups at times allied with each other and at times fought. They continued to fight the Ming dynasty (at one time taking the emperor hostage) but eventually realized they could not win this fight. The rise of Altan Khan in the 16th century briefly reunited the Mongols but ultimately the war with the Ming was unsuccessful. Altan Khan did, however, introduce Tibetan Buddhism to his Mongols and succeed in helping the Yellow Hat sect gain power in Tibet. By the early 17th century, the power of the khan was weak and the pattern of decentralized rule reemerged.
The tribes of Mongolia soon found themselves caught between two opposing forces: the Manchus to the east and the Russian to the west. A new power arose in Manchuria as an emerging tribal leader first united the tribes of Manchuria and then attacked and unified many of the tribes of Mongolia; others migrated westward. The Manchus continued their expansion and conquered China in 1644, setting up the Qing (Pure) dynasty which ruled until 1912. At the same time, the Westward movement of the Russians, led by fur trappers and explorers, put growing pressure on the Turkish and Mongol tribes in the north; in 1652, the Russians defeated the Buryat Mongols and gained control of the region around Lake Baikal. They continued to push both westward and south, reaching the Pacific Ocean and clashing with the Manchus in 1653 and 1683-5. These moves resulted in two treaties with the Manchus: The Treaty of Nerchinsk in 1689 and the Treaty of Kiakhta in 1727 which delineated the Sino-Russian border, along the Amur and other rivers.
In the meantime, Galdan Khan of the Dzunger tribe of Mongols in the west began to unify Mongol tribes. He conquest much of what is now the Chinese province of Xinjiang and threatened the Mongol heartland. The Khalka Mongols appealed to the Manchus for aid and the Manchu send a large army into northern Mongolia to prevent Galdan from unifying the Mongols. The Manchus then organized the Mongols into military banners the leader of which was paid by the Qing government and the Mongols were mandated to stay with and support their banners. The combined Manchu and Mongol banner forces defeated Galdan in 1696. Fights continued with a Mongol invasion of Tibet in 1718 which resulted in the Chinese conquest of Tibet, its incorporation into the Chinese empire and the permanent stationing of Chinese troops in Lhasa. China continued its expansion into both Mongolia and Xinjiang, defeating the Dzunger Mongols by 1732 and incorporating them all into the Chinese empire. Mongolia as an independent nation ceased to exist.
Both Russia and China continued their expansion into Central Asia. After a series of revolts by the Dzungar Mongols in 1755-1757 the Chinese strengthened their control of the western area and divided Mongolia into two sections: the southern part which they absorbed into China and the northern (outer) part which they largely ignored until they became concerned with Russian encroachments in the 19th century. During this period of Chinese domination, Mongolia both experienced peace and became an increasingly theocratic society as Buddhist institutions came to control much of the population. The late 19th and early 20th century saw a series of Mongol rebellions and uprisings, which were put down with some difficulty.
The collapse of the Qing government in 1912 gave Mongolia a chance to become independent and this was seized upon by revolutionary leaders who proclaimed Mongolia’s independence from China on December 1, 1911, installed the Jebtsundamba Khutuku (head of the Buddhist establishment) as Bogdo Khan (Holy ruler), created a 20,000 troop strong army and invited Russian officers to organize and equip this army. China refused to recognize Mongolian independence, but was too pre-occupied with her own struggles to do anything about it.
Russia moved in to assist the Mongols (take over the country); a treaty was signed by the Chinese and the Russians in 1913 and another in 1915 recognizing the division of Mongolia into the Chinese part (Inner Mongolia) and the Independent state of Outer Mongolia. Russia’s involvement in WWI and the subsequent revolution lessened the attention given to Mongolia, thus increasing Japanese interest in the country. After the Russian revolution began, Japan moved to aid anti-Bolshevik forces in Mongolia and a pan-Mongol movement was fostered; this movement ultimately failed to gain support.
The next decade saw a struggle between various forces in Mongolia: the White Russians, who captured much of the territory for a short time, the Bolshevik forces who came to fight them, the Japanese who were taking over Manchuria and parts of Mongolia, and the Chinese who were trying to protect their borders. All of these foreigners fighting over their country aroused the nationalism of the Mongols who sought an independent state. They appealed to the Soviets who sent aid and assisted in the creation of the People’s Government of Mongolia, supported by Soviet troops who virtually occupied the country. In 1924, the theocratic symbol of Mongolia, the Bogdo Khan, died, and the People’s Government forbade the traditional search for his reincarnation. A party congress met and formerly established the Mongolian People’ Republic on November 25, 1924; the capital was renamed Ulan Bator (Red Hero).
While Mongolia was nominally independent, her history for the next decade was that of struggle between various forces for control of the government while the Russian grip tightened until they controlled virtually all the government and economy. The policies of the government were harsh and brutal. Property of religious and secular leaders was seized; heads of households killed or imprisoned, an anti-religious campaign resulted in monks being forced to leave the monasteries and enter the army, put in prison camps or killed. Herdsmen were collectivized, the power of the nobles and monks destroyed, and economic disaster threatened. The communes failed, trade was destroyed and famine conditions threatened; civil war was imminent. Soviet troops were used to put down this rebellion and the collectivization was reversed. The mid-thirties saw renewed Japanese pressure and threat, especially with the Japanese conquest of Manchuria and the formation of Manchuguo (the home of the Manchus). The Soviets worked to maintain Mongolia as a buffer state between themselves and Japan, strengthening the army and economy. It is estimated that from l938 to 1945, the Mongolian army numbered between 80,000 and 100,000 troops, out of a total population of 900,000. The anti-religious campaign continued in the late 1930’s, virtually destroying the Buddhist establishment.
In the summer of 1939, a Japanese army invaded eastern Mongolia; the army was defeated by a combined Mongol-Soviet force and a treaty signed guaranteeing Mongolia’s neutrality during the war. The Soviet-Japanese Neutrality Pact of April 13, 1941 included a clause that Japan would respect Mongolia’s territorial integrity. However, the cost of maintaining an army to ensure the provisions of this treaty put a heavy burden on the country. Following the Soviet lead, Mongolia declared war on Japan on August 10, 1945 and the 80,000 troops of the Mongolian army joined the Soviets in invading Inner Mongolia and Manchuria. On August 14, 1945, in the Sino-Soviet Treaty of Friendship and Alliance, China recognized the independence of Mongolia with its “existing boundary” provided that a plebiscite confirmed that the Mongolians wanted independence. In an October 2 referendum, 100% of the electorate voted for independence from China. In 1949, Mongolia returned the favor by recognizing the newly established People’s Republic of China.
The following decades saw the development of Mongolia’s economy and government, always as an ally of the Soviet Union. Initiatives were taken to raise the education of the people, to improve livestock herding, to develop the economy with mines and industry, to improve the communication and transportation systems. By 1956, Soviet troops were withdrawn, thus increasing Mongolia’s control over its own internal affairs. The Soviet Union cemented its friendship with Mongolia by providing large amounts of economic aid. However, as the Sino-Soviet dispute worsened, Soviet troops were once again stationed in Mongolia along the border with China and Mongolia became increasingly anti-Chinese. With Mao’s death in 1976 and the change of China’s policies in the ensuing years, tensions along the border lessened and Soviet troops largely withdrew. Then, with the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989, Mongolia truly achieved independence for the first time.
Since 1989, Mongolia has largely abandoned is communist economic policy and has turned towards policies more in keeping with a global economy. It still has large economic difficulties and environmental concerns, but is encouraging international development and tourism as means of bettering its economy. For up to date information on Mongolia click on the MSU globalEDGETM page (see current events on this site).
For more information on Mongolian history, with pictures, please click on the following sites.
MONGOLIA - A Country Study