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The area which is now Mongolia was administered by China from the early eighteenth century as the province of Outer Mongolia. The province of Inner Mongolia, to the southeast, is still part of China. From around 1800, Qing Chinese rule became more and more oppressive, both within China and in Mongolia. The increasingly corrupt rulers exacted high taxes, exploited the peasants and brutally punished the slightest offence or resistance. When a small military uprising in central China expanded into a short-lived nationwide rebellion in 1911, the Mongol princes saw their chance and declared independence under the 8th Jebtzun Damba (Living Buddha).

China reluctantly recognised Monolia’s independence in 1915, but after the 1917 Russian revolution weakened Mongolia’s strong neighbour, Chinese troops invaded Mongolia and reoccupied Ulaanbaatar in 1919. Retreating White Russian (anti-communist) troops expelled the Chinese in February 1921, but treated the Mongolians just as badly. Mongolian nationalists, seeing the advance of the Bolshevik (Russian communist) army, called on them for help, and together they recaptured Ulaanbaatar just 5 months after the White Russian troops had taken it over. While Mongolia’s Buddhist leader remained as figurehead during his lifetime, the newly formed Mongolian People’s Revolution Party took over the government, and in 1924 Mongolia became the world’s second communist country.

At first Mongolia was largely independent of Moscow, but when Stalin gained absolute power in the late 1920’s he installed his own leader in Mongolia, Khorloogiyn Choibalsan, who followed Stalin’s lead by seizing land and herds to redistribute to the peasants, collectivising farms and businesses, expelling foreigners and arresting and executing 17,000 Buddhist monks.

Stalin died in 1953, the year after Choibalsan’s death, and both were replaced by more moderate leaders, who denounced their predecessors’ atrocities. During the following period of relative peace, Soviet relations with China improved. In the 50’s Mongolia was able to receive economic and technical aid from both its neighbours. When Soviet-Chinese relations soured in the early 60's, Mongolia sided with the Soviets and all trade and aid from China ceased. Soviet troops poured into Mongolia to create a buffer zone between Russia and their enemy. Russian influence increased, and with it came more aid, sparking a period of economic growth in Mongolia.

When in 1984 Mikhail Gorbachev came to power in the Soviet Union, Mongolia’s leaders embraced his philosophies of glasnost (openness) and perestroika (reform or restructuring), with cautious decentralisation and warmer relations with the outside world. Mongolia established diplomatic relations with the USA in 1987 and with China in 1989.

In March 1990, pro-democracy protests and hunger strikes were held in Ulaanbaatar. When the Mongolian People’s Revolution Party (which was still in power) moved to use troops to quell the protests, the plan was exposed to the press, and further protests and strikes ensued. In May the government bowed to popular pressure and amended the constitution to allow multiparty elections. Although the communists won the July 1990 election, their totalitarian rule was over, and they granted freedom of speech, religion and assembly.

The 1996 elections saw the first change in government since the Mongolian People’s Revolution Party gained power in 1924. The election was won by the Democratic Coalition, with N. Bagabandi elected President.



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