MONGOLIA RISES TO NATIONHOOD DURING THE RUSSIAN REVOLUTIONARY PERIOD

RUSSIANS VERSUS CHINESE IN TURN-OF-THE-20TH-CENTURY MONGOLIA

In the 19th and 20th century, Mongolia became a pawn in a struggle between China and Russia. For most of its history Mongolia and nearby Siberia were vast wildernesses that no one cared much about. In the 19th century the Russian czars set up a "protectorate" in northern Mongolia, while the rest of Mongolia was controlled by the Chinese Qing Dynasty.

As Chinese power waned Russian influence in Mongolia grew. The Russians were interested in Mongolia as transit area for a railroad from Siberia across Manchuria to Vladivostok and the Russian concessions in China. The Russian came to control what became Outer Mongolia and the Chinese controlled Inner Mongolia.

Russia supported Outer Mongolian declarations of independence in the period immediately after the Chinese Revolution of 1911. Russian interest in the area did not diminish, even after the Russian Revolution of 1917, and the Russian civil war spilled over into Mongolia in the period 1919 to 1921. Chinese efforts to take advantage of internal Russian disorders by trying to reestablish their claims over Outer Mongolia were thwarted in part by China's instability and in part by the vigor of the Russian reaction once the Bolshevik Revolution had succeeded. Russian predominance in Outer Mongolia was unquestioned after 1921, and when the Mongolian People's Republic was established in 1924, it was as a communist controlled satellite of Moscow. [Source: Library of Congress, 1989*]

Key sources for those studying Mongolian history are two translated works under the same title, “History of the Mongolian People's Republic” — a condensed Soviet translation of a larger Russian/Mongolian edition by Soviet and Mongolian academicians, which covers the history of Mongolia from the stone age to 1971 — and an American translation and annotation of volume three of an original Mongolian work written by Mongolian scholars, which covers the years 1921 to 1966. A detailed documentary history of Mongolia's independence movement is Urgunge Onon and Derrick Pritchatt's “Asia's First Modern Revolution.” Several works by Denis Sinor and Sechin Jagchid also are important contributions. “Mongolia's Culture and Society,” by Jagchid and Paul Hyer, provides excellent background on the historical development of Mongolia. A seminal work on the modern period, which includes an extensive chronology and bibliography, is Robert A. Rupen's “Mongols of the Twentieth Century.”

Russia, China, Japan and Early 20th Century Mongolia

Throughout the twentieth century, Russian and Soviet influence over Mongolia has been a predominant factor in its national development. The tsarist government aided Mongolian revolutionaries both diplomatically and militarily against the Chinese, and anti-Bolshevik White Russian military forces did active battle against both the Chinese and the indigenous revolutionaries. The theocratic monarchy established after 1911 was greatly limited by the Mongolian Revolution of 1921 and eventually replaced by a "people's republic" under heavy Soviet influence. This influence continued throughout the twentieth century in the form of political guidance and economic aid. Severe purges of monarchists, Buddhists, conservative revolutionaries, and any other real or perceived opponent of the new communist regime took place throughout the 1920s and early 1930s. [Source: Robert L. Worden, Library of Congress, June 1989 *]

With the end of the Qing Dynasty and the establishment of the Republic of China in 1911, revolutionary ferment also emerged in Mongolia. As early as July 1911, participants in an anti-Chinese meeting in Yihe Huree had petitioned the Russian government--which long had sought the independence of Outer Mongolia--for help against China. On December 1, 1911, Outer Mongolia in effect proclaimed its independence on the basis that its allegiance had been to the Manchus, not to China. On December 28, the eighth Jebtsundamba Khutuktu became Bogd Khan (holy ruler) of an autonomous theocratic government; a 20,000-troop army was created; and Russian officers appeared in Yihe Huree (renamed Niyslel--capital--Huree, or Urga) to equip, to organize, and to train the army. The new Chinese government refused to recognize Mongolian independence, but it was too preoccupied with internal discord to enforce its sovereignty. *

Meanwhile, Russia was moving rapidly to take advantage of the situation. On November 3 and December 19, 1912, respectively, Mongolian-Russian and Mongolian-Tibetan agreements were signed in Niyslel Huree. The latter agreement granted mutual recognition of independence; the former only affirmed Mongolia's autonomy from China. The Russian agreement and a protocol to it created a tsarist protectorate over Outer Mongolia. The Japanese, too, sought, unsuccessfully, to influence the independence movement in 1911 and 1912 with contributions of arms and money. Following the mobilization of a Mongol army to liberate Inner Mongolia, several other agreements affecting Mongolia were reached. *

Brief Mongolian Independence Under the Bogd Khan

When Qing dynasty collapsed in 1911, Mongolian princes, with Russian encouragement, proclaimed Mongolia as an independent country—a theocracy under Bogd Javzundamba VIII (1869-1924), who was declared the Bogd Khan, Dalai-Lama-like living Buddha, spiritual and state leader recognized by the Dalai Lama. The Bogd Khan was a colorful character who kept an elephant and giraffe as a pet, drank heavily, dressed in women’s clothing and once fastened a car battery to a wire with aim of anybody who touched attributing the shock to his magical powers. His wife was formally married to a wrestler and reportedly had a long-running affair with her hairdresser.

When a new Chinese government came to power, Mongolia was forced to retract its declaration of independence and become an autonomous region under the suzerainty of China.

In November 5, 1913, agreement, Russia recognized Chinese suzerainty over Mongolia, and China recognized Outer Mongolia's right to selfrule and to the control of its own commerce and industry. China also agreed not to send troops into Mongolia.

In May 1915, Russia, China and Mongolia signed the Kyakha Agreement in which Mongolia was recognized as an independent state on the condition that it didn’t attempt to form relations with foreign powers. The Bogd Khan was recognized as the Mongolian king. In the meantime Russia defined Inner and Outer Mongolia in a treaty in 1914. While legally subject to Chinese suzerainty, Mongolia was in fact a Russian protectorate. After the Russian revolution in 1917, Mongolian revolutionaries sought help from Moscow.

The tripartite meeting in Kyakhta, on the Siberian side of the Mongolian-Russian border, was organized by the Russians in 1915. At that time Russia’s attention was focused on World War I. Chinese and Mongolian representatives attended with considerable reluctance, but eventually a treaty resulted. Its principal military effect was to limit Chinese forces in Mongolia to a 200-strong guard for the residence of the Chinese high representative at Yihe Huree. Between 1914 and 1919, the Mongolian army languished, but it retained some semblance of order. During these years, the expenditures for the army varied from 20 to 25 percent of the total government budget. Although an agent of the Communist International, also called the Comintern, said while visiting Yihe Huree in 1919 that there was no army, 2,000 troops were actually on the rolls. [Source: Library of Congress, June 1989 *]

Creation of Mongolian Military with Russian Help

In terms of a consciously expressed military tradition, modern Mongolian military history began in 1911 with the autonomy of Outer Mongolia and the establishment of a new-style army with Russian military assistance. Russia, after its disastrous defeat in the 1904-1905 Russo-Japanese War, noted the modernization of the Chinese army and realized the need for a buffer between a resurgent China and Russia's tenuous lifeline to eastern Siberia, the Trans-Siberian Railway. Consequently, Russia looked with favor on Outer Mongolia's efforts to free itself of Chinese rule in 1911. The tsar received a Mongolian delegation in August 1911, and he agreed to furnish arms and ammunition to Outer Mongolia. When the Chinese revolution occurred in October, the Mongolians proclaimed their freedom, receiving diplomatic support from Russia. [Source: Library of Congress, June 1989 *]

In 1912 a small Russian military mission arrived in Yihe Huree (present-day Ulaanbaatar) to train a Mongolian army of conscripts furnished by the ruling nobles. As increments of this force were trained, they were sent as first priority to the Chinese frontier. About half the army was retained near Yihe Huree as a general reserve. In the summer of 1912, elements of this fledgling army fought their first battle, forcing the surrender of a Chinese garrison at Hovd in western Mongolia. On November 3, 1912, a secret Mongolian-Russian agreement supported Mongolia's claim for its own national army and promised to prohibit Chinese troops in Mongolia. *

The Mongolian government of monks and nobility lacked both the funds and the will to pay for such an armed force. The Mongolians, who wanted the Chinese to leave, were disappointed by the Sino-Russian Declaration of November 1913, which recognized Chinese suzerainty over Outer Mongolia and substituted the vaguer concept of autonomy for the Mongolian claim to independence. In addition, not all the nobility, particularly not those in western Outer Mongolia, willingly accepted Yihe Huree's hegemony over their territories, and the Chinese initially held Hovd. The new national state still did not see the need for a modern armed force for its preservation, seemingly relying on Russia's diplomatic support and promises, as well as on its own estimate that revolution-torn China was little to be feared. *

In February 1913, Russia granted the Mongolian government a loan of 2 million rubles (then equivalent to about US$1 million) for the maintenance and training of an army consisting of two cavalry regiments with a machine gun company, a four-gun battery of artillery, and 1,900 soldiers and officers. The loan and a Russian military mission did not solve the problem. The Russians promptly made a new loan of 3 million rubles, but this they time sent a Russian financial adviser to control the expenditures. *

Russia's objective of creating a Mongolian self-defense and internal security capability encountered further difficulties in 1913. Freedom-loving Mongolian recruits did not relish the idea of two years of barracks life under harsh discipline. Furthermore, the Russian colonel in charge insisted on infantry drills, which were anathema to hard-riding nomadic cavalry. The desertion rate was high, and one unit actually mutinied against its Russian instructors, who called out the Russian Cossack Legation Guard to suppress the uprising. The Mongolian government's lack of interest in an effective military force further plagued the Russian effort; for the most part, misfits and sick men were sent as recruits. *

Mongolian irritation at the harshness of the Russian instructors and the constant Russian pressures for government moral and material support resulted in the one-year agreement's being allowed to lapse on its termination date. Russia won reluctant Mongolian agreement to its being allowed to maintain 1,000 troops and thus to reduce its military mission by only half; however, by the end of 1914, continued resentment against the Russian instructors and reluctance to support a regular army forced the recall of the military mission. *

Mongolia During the Russian Revolution Period

In 1919, as Russia fell into civil war, troops under a Chinese warlord invaded Mongolia again. In February 1921, White (anti-Communist) troops entered Mongolia and drove out the Chinese. Jason Goodwin wrote in New York Times, Mongolia in the 1910s and 20s was the site“weird alliances, murderous dreams and improbable careers that emerged in the aftermath of World War I and the fall of czarist Russia. Mongolia... was nominally free of Chinese rule after the 1911 revolution that overthrew the Qing dynasty and ushered in a failing republic. The Japanese — flush with victory against the Russians in 1905 — were groping toward the expansionist, pan-Asian dream they articulated a few years later, while the Russians were caught up in the vortex of the Bolshevik revolution. Russian nobles were fleeing with their jewels to China. Local Buddhist rulers were vicious and corrupt. “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion” was being read by everyone from the imprisoned czarina downward.” [Source: Jason Goodwin, New York Times, February 20, 2009]

Russia's involvement in World War I reduced the attention that the tsar's government could pay to Mongolia. This neglect, which occurred at the same time as new monarchical machinations in China, rekindled Japanese interest in, and aid to, anti-Chinese forces in Mongolia and neighboring Manchuria. After revolution broke out in Russia in November 1917, Japan moved to aid anti-Bolshevik forces in Mongolia, and a Japanese-fostered pan-Mongol movement was established under the influence of the Buryat Mongols. [Source: Robert L. Worden, Library of Congress, June 1989 *]

The Chinese took advantage of the Russian preoccupation with their own revolution at home to reinforce their consular guard at Yihe Huree in 1918--in violation of the 1915 Treaty of Kyakhta. The Russians protested, but with the collapse of effective White Guard forces in Siberia in late 1919, the Chinese brought in 3,000 more troops. A pan-Mongolia conference was held in February and March 1919 in Chita, Siberia. The participants decided to establish a Mongol state, comprising Outer Mongolia, Inner Mongolia, and Buryatia (present-day Buryatskaya Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic) and to send letters to the Versailles Peace Conference that ended World War I. Despite formation of a small provisional government--in which Outer Mongolia refused to participate--and promises of Japanese aid, the movement failed in the face of renewed Chinese efforts to regain control over all of Mongolia.

In October 1919, a Chinese warlord army under General Xu Shucheng, emboldened by the demise of the tsarist regime, occupied Niyslel Huree and received an acknowledgment of Chinese sovereignty from the Bogd Khan government. General Xu arrived with an army of 4,000 (later increased to 10,000); he suppressed the autonomous government, carrying out numerous executions, looting, and other atrocities. The Mongol army was disarmed and disbanded. Thus the army of autonomous Mongolia came to an end after a scant eight years of tenuous existence. The army was to live on, however, in a small cadre of demobilized Russian-trained soldiers that was led by Sukhe Bator and aspired to again free Mongolia from Chinese rule.*

Soon, however, the effects of the upheaval in Russia began to reach Mongolia. In October 1920, Russian White Guard troops under Baron Roman Nicolaus von Ungern-Sternberg invaded from Siberia. In February 1921, after a fierce battle, Von Ungern-Sternberg drove the Chinese out of Niyslel Huree and occupied the city. At first the White Guards were hailed as liberators by Mongolian monarchists, but in the next several months Von UngernSternberg 's reign of terror and destruction aroused popular opposition. *

“Mad Baron” Roman on Ungern-Sternver

One of the more colorful characters of Russian-Soviet-backed Mongolian struggle for independence was “Mad Baron” Roman von Ungern-Sternver, a rebel White Russian officer, with a crazed stare and massive sword scar across his face, who threw rivals into train boilers and was supported by an entourage of renegade mercenaries led by thugs who ordered assassinations by saying the word “teapot.” Believing that he was a reincarnation of Genghis Khan, the baron entered Mongolia with 6,000 troops with the aim of launching a neo-Mongol empire. His forces managed to capture and hold Ulaanbaatar for several months before being ousted by the Red Army and driven into the desert, where Ungern was shot by his own followers.

In a review of James Palmer’s “Bloody White Baron,” a book about Ungern, Jason Goodwin wrote in New York Times, The “life of Baron Roman Nikolai Maximilian von Ungern-Sternberg, is the story of ‘a loser — albeit an upper-class one’ — who turned himself into a visionary psychopath in the Russian far east...Born in 1885 and raised at the other periphery of the Russian Empire, in Estonia, Ungern belonged to the minor German aristocracy that supplied the czarist armies with officers. His military career was hardly glorious, although his cavalry service on the Western front proved his idiotic valor. Russia’s collapse in 1917 found him in the Russian far east, where he joined in wild exploits of daring with another White commander, Captain Grigori Michaelovich Semenov, which brought him notoriety and some recruits.” [Source: Jason Goodwin, New York Times, February 20, 2009. Goodwin’s books include “The Snake Stone,” a crime novel set in the Ottoman Empire <=>]

Ungern’s “specialty, though, was Mongolia. He spoke the language, was an idiosyncratic Buddhist and liked the Buriats — nomads he always trusted over ordinary Russian peasants. Hence the increasingly Mongolian nature of his escapades. He was able to seize the Chinese-held town of Urga (Ulaanbaatar) with an army of some 6,000 men and to reinstate its ruler, the Bogd Khan. <=>

“With its panoply of outlandish tyrants, fortune tellers, mounted tribesmen and wild dreams advanced against absurd odds, the whole story could have possessed the makings of a glorious offshoot of the Great Game, had Ungern been anything more than a murderous sadist. His chief contemporary biographer, the Polish author Ferdinand Ossendowski, ladled on the trappings — the messianic visionary who stood too firm for czar and the right of kings. Presumably Ossendowski saw beyond the torture, the firing squads, the casual executions; perhaps he was not unduly fazed by Ungern’s command to exterminate all the Jews, down to their children. Like many mad people, Ungern had the glittering eye and the gift for wandering prophecy that could, at a pinch, be taken for inspiration; and for a while his life seemed to be demonically protected. But it would be more true to say that the times brought forth the man, and these were appalling times. <=>

“Whites degenerated into warlords, with no realistic chance of turning back the Bolshevik tide. Ungern was the weirdest of the White warlords, presenting himself as the heir to Genghis Khan and for a few months holding the reins of power in Mongolia. He governed by terror. His men were forever trying to desert, but he pursued them like a fury, subjecting them to insane disciplinary actions. Equally insane were his military decisions. He chose to march into Russia when the only course was to flee. At the end he was making for Tibet, although he made no real effort to escape.

“Palmergives us a brilliant portrait of a very nasty war, fought by horrible people in a hostile environment. As he points out, the final capture and execution of Ungern in 1921 was a sideshow...Ungern’s contempt for human life, his icy hatred of Jews, his appeal to a monstrous, ill-formed mysticism foreshadowed the foundations of the Third Reich. What makes “The Bloody White Baron” so exceptional is Palmer’s lucid scholarship, his ability to make perfect sense of the maelstrom of a forgotten war. This is a brilliant book.”

Book: “The Bloody White Baron: The Extraordinary Story of the Russian Nobleman Who Became the Last Khan of Mongolia” by James Palmer (Basic Books, 2009).

Rise of Mongolian Nationalism and Communism

The threatening actions of Chinese, Japanese, and White Russian forces greatly stimulated Mongolian nationalism during this time. Two secret revolutionary circles emerged in Niyslel Huree in 1919, the military-oriented Dzuun (East) Huree Group, under Damdiny Sukhe Bator and Horloogiyn Dandzan, and the civilian-oriented Consul's Group, headed by Horloyn Choybalsan and Dogsomyn Bodoo. The Communist International, also called the Comintern, which was headquartered in Moscow, advised the two groups to merge in order to present a united front to the Chinese and the White Russian occupation forces. The merger was accomplished at a conference in Irkutsk in March 1920, with the formation of the Mongolian People's Party under the leadership of Sukhe Bator. The Jebtsundamba Khutuktu gave his encouragement and support to the revolutionary leaders, and in his name they appealed to Moscow for more assistance. [Source: Robert L. Worden, Library of Congress, June 1989 *]

The Japanese were pressing ahead with efforts to take advantage of the chaos caused by the Russian civil war. A large Japanese force, nominally part of an anti-Bolshevik Allied Expeditionary Force intervening in eastern Siberia, had taken over much of the Trans-Siberian Railway between Vladivostok and Lake Baykal. Japanese funds were provided to von Ungern-Sternberg and other White Russian elements, in order to prevent the Soviet government from establishing control in eastern Siberia and from obtaining too much influence in Mongolia. The Japanese efforts were thwarted to a large degree, however, by the neutralist attitude of United States elements of the Allied Expeditionary Force, and Soviet forces gradually established control over Siberia. *

Sukhe Bator

Sukhe Bator, Sukbaatar or Suhe the Hero — is regarded as the liberator Mongolia. Known as Sükhbaatar in Mongolian and Suke Bator in Russian, he was born in 1893 in Ulaanbaatar and joined the army in 1911. He made a name for himself as a skilled horseman but was forced out because of insubordination. In 1917 he joined another army and distinguished himself fighting against the Chinese. In early 1921, Sukhe Baator was named commander in chief of the Mongolian People’s Revolutionary Army, which defeated the Chinese and later the White Russian army. In July 1921, he declared Mongolian independence in the square that now bears his name. Later the same year he met Lenin.Sukhe Baator and Khooloogiin Choibalsan formed and led the early revolutionary party. Sukhe Baator died in “mysterious circumstances” in 1924. He was only 30.

Sukhe Bator — whose name means Ax Hero — was poor and jobless when he was called up at the age of nineteen as one of the first conscripts for the new army in 1912. His lack of wealth and position reportedly was more than compensated for by intelligence and vigor. Sukhe Bator soon became a junior noncommissioned officer (NCO). During border clashes with the Chinese, he distinguished himself in combat and was promoted to senior NCO rank. As a member of a machine gun company, a technical and prestigious assignment for that time, he was associated closely with Russian instructors, and he learned some Russian. He also reportedly was a natural leader, liked and respected by his peers, and he was an accomplished practical soldier. [Source: Library of Congress, June 1989 *]

In late 1918, the recently demobilized Sukhe Bator, anticipating the return of the Chinese, formed a group of like- minded army friends to plan a new revolution and encouraged discharged soldiers to await his call. In November 1919, under the aegis of Russian Bolshevik agents in Yihe Huree, Sukhe Bator's group joined with a similar small group of revolutionaries led by Choybalsan. In 1920 Sukhe Bator and Choybalsan, with about fifty followers, escaped the returning Chinese forces and moved to Siberia where they received further military training.

Sukhe Bator’s Military Achievements

As Bolshevik victories grew, some opposing White Guard troops retreated into Outer Mongolia, where they were supported and encouraged by Japanese forces in Manchuria and eastern Siberia. The largest White Guard band was 5,000 strong and was led by Baron Roman Nicolaus von Ungern-Sternberg. After an abortive attack on Yihe Huree in October 1920, von Ungern-Sternberg attacked again in February, drove out the Chinese troops, and declared an independent Mongolia. [Source: Library of Congress, June 1989 *]

In February 1921, Sukhe Bator, Choybalsan, and their followers were joined in Irkutsk by a Mongolian delegation from Moscow. In March 1921, they moved to Kyakhta, where they formed the Mongolian People's Party and a provisional national government. Sukhe Bator was named minister of war. The partisan forces, now numbering 400, were combined to form the Mongolian People's Revolutionary Army, with Sukhe Bator as commander in chief and Choybalsan as commissar. *

In mid-March 1921, Sukhe Bator drove the Chinese out of the trading settlement now known as Amgalanbaatar across the Mongolian-Russian border from Kyakhta, and he established a provisional capital under the new name of Altanbulag. In April 1921, the provisional Mongolian government announced the conscription of all males older than nineteen in the territory under their control. At the same time, they asked for the assistance of the Russian Red Army in op posing the White Guards. *

Von Ungern-Sternberg's force struck north against the new Bolshevik-sponsored government in May. The provisional government, assisted by a division-size task force from the Fifth Red Army, resisted. The White Guard offensive began May 22, 1921, and Altanbulag was attacked June 6, 1921. The Red Army force divided to meet this two-pronged attack; there was a Mongolian contingent in each column, one under Sukhe Bator at Altanbulag, and the other under Choybalsan. The attacks were repulsed, and the combined Red Army-Mongolian People's Revolutionary Army force swept toward Yihe Huree. Yihe Huree was captured on July 6, 1921, and it was renamed Niyslel--capital--Huree. A provisional national government was proclaimed on July 11, 1912, under close Bolshevik supervision. Von Ungern-Sternberg escaped with a remnant of the White Guards. In late August 1921, Mongolians in his own forces seized him and turned him over to the Red Army for execution. *

The Mongolians are extremely proud of these revolutionary feats. On every public patriotic occasion--such as the anniversary of the founding of the Mongolian People's Revolutionary Army on March 18, 1921, the day marking the expulsion of Chinese forces from Maimaicheng--speeches of national leaders invariably refer glowingly to the events of 1921 and to the virtues of the participants, as well as to the fraternal help of the Red Army. Sukhe Bator died suddenly, and, some thought, mysteriously, in 1923 while still a young man. The tragedy of his early death assisted in his immortalization as the great young hero of the revolution. A heroic-size equestrian statue of Suhke Bator stands in the main square of Ulaanbaatar (Red Hero). *

The Mongolian People's Revolutionary Army of Sukhe Bator and Choybalsan provided a convenient patriotic symbol to inspire Mongolians and established a new military tradition. This army also formed the nucleus of the eventual Mongolian People's Army, which was to expand to a strength of 10 percent of the population by the late 1930s in response to the Japanese threat. It also acted as a modernizing force and gave the nation a generation of political leaders. Choybalsan led the nation militarily in the 1920s and the 1930s as commander in chief of the army, and he was premier and top party leader from 1939 until his death in 1952. *

Russian Communists Move Into Mongolia

Mongolian nationalist believed that their best hope for independence was to seek help from the Russian Bolsheviks (Communists under Vladimir Lenin). In July 1921, the Red Army (the Bolsheviks) and Mongolian fighters drove the White Russians from northern Mongolia. In the meantime the Chinese had established themselves in what is now Inner Mongolia.

The improved Soviet position in Siberia enabled Moscow to respond to the appeals of the Mongolian nationalists. Earlier, in the 1918 to 1919 period, Moscow had renounced all agreements regarding Mongolia that had been reached with Japan and China. The First Party Congress of the newly formed Mongolian People's Party, was held at Kyakhta (in Siberia, near the Mongolian border) on March 1 to 3, 1921. [Source: Robert L. Worden, Library of Congress, June 1989 *]

On March 13, the new party Central Committee formed the Mongolian People's Provisional Government, and, after Sukhe Bator's Mongolian Partisan Army (established in February 1921) captured the Mongolian city of Khiagt (across the border from Kyakhta), a new capital was established. A Mongolian Soviet military force also had been formed, and by early July it had driven von Ungern-Sternberg's forces out of Niyslel Huree and had occupied the city. On July 11--the date recognized as Mongolia's national day--the Bogd Khan government was replaced by a new People's Government of Mongolia, a limited monarchy nominally headed by the Jebtsundamba Khutuktu under the title of khan. Bodoo was named premier and foreign minister; Sukhe Bator continued as commander in chief and became minister of war, with Choybalsan as his deputy. The government was bolstered by Soviet troops, who virtually occupied the country. *

Revolutionary Transformation of Mongolia, 1921-24

In 1921, the Mongolia’s People’s Party was founded in Kyakhta, and Damdin Sukhbaatar, a former Mongolian military commander, was declared its leader. The same year the People’s Government of Mongolia took power with the support of the Bolsheviks and “constitutional monarchy” was installed. The Bogd Khan was kept on as figurehead leader with no real power.

Fighting against the White Russians culminated in the capture of von Ungern-Sternberg in August 1921; the rest of his forces were defeated by January 1922. On September 14, 1921, the independence of Mongolia was proclaimed, and on October 26 a legislative assembly, the National Provisional Little Hural, opened. The formalization of Mongolian-Soviet relations then was accelerated. On November 5, 1921, a bilateral Agreement on Mutual Recognition and Friendly Relations was signed in Moscow. It recognized the People's Government of Mongolia, and it facilitated the exchange of diplomatic representatives. Furthermore, it provided for the self-determination of Tannu Tuva, a region in northwestern Mongolia that had been a Russian protectorate between 1914 and 1917. [Source: Library of Congress, June 1989 *]

At this juncture, discord emerged among the Mongolian factions. When supporters of the Bogd Khan regime expressed displeasure with the limits placed on the monarchy, the Mongolian People's Party levied further restrictions on it, while giving more power to the party-controlled government. At the same time, some members of the new regime were concerned about Mongolia's close relationship with the Soviet Union. Even Premier Bodoo sought to distance himself from Soviet influence. In August 1922, however, he and forty others were arrested and charged with "counterrevolutionary activities" and with wanting to restore an unlimited monarchy. Bodoo and fourteen others were executed.

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Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, U.S. government, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, and various books, websites and other publications.

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© 2008 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated April 2016

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