After World War II China regained the parts of Inner Mongolia it lost to Japan; Soviet-Mongolian military units moved into Inner Mongolia and Manchuria; and Stalin and Chiang Kai-shek signed an agreement that recognized Mongolia as an independent country. After Chiang Kai-shek fled to Taiwan, Chiang’s Chinese nationalists denounced the agreement. Maps in Taiwan today show Outer Mongolia as a province of China. The Communist Chinese recognized Mongolia in 1946 (formally in 1950) and Mongolia was admitted to the U.N. despite opposition by the U.S. and Taiwan.

During the Communist revolution the Communists had more important things to worry about than the reunification of Mongolia. When the Republic of China was established in 1949, the Soviets had firm control over Outer Mongolia and Communist China was not ready to fight the Soviet Union for it. It was not until after the Soviets rejected political unification that the majority of Inner Mongolian leaders agreed to back the Chinese Communist party.

The Mongolians were ambivalent about the Soviet presence. On the one hand they didn’t like the way the Soviets controlled the government but on the other hand they didn’t overrun the country with Russians and other Soviet nationalities as the Mongolians have always feared the Chinese would do if they gained control. Chinese did overrun Inner Mongolia, making Mongolians a minority there. The Soviet Union was a useful protector against China.

After World War II, Tuva was absorbed into the Soviet Union. When the Tuvan leader suggested to Choibalsan that Mongolia do the same Choibalsan is said to have slapped the Tuvan across the face.

Post-World-War-II Development of Mongolia

Peacetime brought additional Soviet and East European economic aid (and eventually membership in the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (Comecon) and a new relationship with the People's Republic of China after its establishment in 1949. Mongolian-Chinese relations resulted in still more economic assistance to and trade with Ulaanbaatar. Mongolia's external policies, however, were founded on those of the Soviet Union, and relations with China, always influenced by suspicions over real or imaginary claims by China to "lost territories," faltered in the wake of the Sino-Soviet rift that developed in the late 1950s. By the late 1960s, Mongolia had become an armed camp, as Soviet and Chinese troops were poised against one another along the Sino-Mongolian border. Tensions between Ulaanbaatar and Beijing lessened only when Sino-Soviet rapprochement began to evolve in the mid-1980s. The issue of Soviet troop withdrawal from Mongolia still constrained Sino- Mongolian relations in the late 1980s.[Source: Robert L. Worden, Library of Congress, June 1989 *]

On February 27, 1946, Mongolia and the Soviet Union signed the ten-year renewable Treaty of Friendship and Mutual Assistance and the first Agreement on Economic and Cultural Cooperation. With the war over and Chinese and Japanese threat eliminated from Mongolia, the way for renewed assertion of Soviet influence in Mongolia was clear. Mongolia was a strong defense buffer, a trading partner, and a dependable ally in international conferences for the Soviet Union. A further indication of close ties was Mongolia's adoption in February 1946 of the Cyrillic alphabet for use in schools and military units. *

In its shift to postwar development, the party and the government reduced defense expenditures and shifted personnel from military to civilian enterprises. Rationing was curtailed, and prices for some manufactured items and foodstuffs were reduced. Attention was given to redeveloping the livestock and the agrarian sectors at the same time that modern mining, industrial, transportation, and communications sectors were being established. Initiatives also were taken in raising education and health levels and in improving the general well-being of the people. The First Five-Year Plan (1948-52), presented at the Eleventh Party Congress in December 1947, was important in carrying out postwar construction (see Socialist Framework of the Economy). The first session of the national hural held since 1940, was convened in February 1949 as the Ninth National Great Hural.

Modernizing Mongolia

Traditional values and practices have made modernization of Mongolian society a difficult task. Once they had eliminated the "feudal" aspects of society, Mongolia's communist leaders still had to take radical steps to modernize their country. Scientific methods were applied to animal husbandry and agriculture and new industries, such as copper and coal mining, were developed. Herding and agricultural collectives, mines and factories, and educational institutions became the focal point of a social organization controlled by state administrators, most of whom were members of the ruling Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party. Modernization inevitably brought greater differentiation and mobility in Mongolian society as party functionaries, white collar administrators, factory workers, and increasing numbers of urban residents (who typically have larger family units than those in the countryside) surpassed in numbers and opportunities the once self-sufficient pastoralists, who remain at the bottom of the social system. [Source: Robert L. Worden, Library of Congress, June 1989 *]

The development of the economy has been closely associated with social modernization in Mongolia. Beginning with the 1921 revolution, the government took increasing control over the economy. Mongolia has a planned economy based on state and cooperative ownership. Annual planning began in 1941, and five- year plans began in 1948. The plans have been closely integrated with the five-year plans of the Soviet Union since 1961 and with Comecon multilateral plans since 1976. In the years since 1921, Mongolia has been transformed from an almost strictly agrarian economy to a diversified agricultural-industrial economy.

Soviet Domination of Mongolia

Mongolia was like a republic in the Soviet Union even though technically it wasn’t. It was dominated by the Soviet Union until 1990 through the Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party (MPRP), the 20th century's longest reigning political party (1924 to 1990). The MPRP governed through a National Assembly and a Council of Ministers. The party had about 70,000 members.

During the Communist era, Mongolia was essentially a Soviet colony and a buffer zone between China and the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union kept as many as four infantry divisions in Mongolia, with many of the soldiers stationed along the Chinese border. The Mongols, who once ruled the world, had no real army of their own. Mongolia's links to the outside world — international phone calls, mail an cables — went through the Soviet Union first. Most of Mongolia's wool ended up in Soviet factories.

Mongolia and the Soviet Union had a number of long-term economic and “friendship” agreements. Beginning in 1962, when Mongolia became the only Asian member of the Communist bloc's Council of Mutual Economic Assistance, Mongolia pursued a program of industrialization and large-scale agricultural development. Eastern Europeans helped build factories in return for receiving a large share of the finished goods they produced.

Soviet Influence on Mongolia

The Soviets built Mongolia’s first real road, spurred industrialization and turned a large illiterate population into a literate one. Thousands of young Mongolian were sent to the Soviet Union for training and theaters opened up where Russian dramas and music were performed. Drab Soviet-style concrete structures, railroads and roads, power plants, new factories including textile mills, leather- and meat-processing facilities and grain mills were built. Many Mongolian developed a taste for Russian vodka and food. Lots of Russians as well as Czechs, Poles and East Germans were visible in cities.

The Soviets spent a lot of money on social services, which were mostly free. Clinics and hospitals and veterinary clinics opened up. Doctors and engineers were trained. Education was made compulsory and a university was opened up. Even camel and goats herders were promised a pension, provided with opportunities to attend boarding schools in towns, and given free vacations at minerals spas. Life expectancy doubled, the population tripled and literacy rose to nearly 100 percent.

Russians condemned Genghis Khan as an imperialist; Buddhism was replaced by Communist ideology; and Mongolian script was displaced by the Cyrillic alphabet. Soviet forts and missile installations were built and the Mongolians were encouraged to hate the Chinese. The highest honor was the Polar Star.

One Mongolian man told the Washington Post, “Most of us think being a Soviet satellite was far better than being a Chinese colony.” One Mongolian woman told the New York Times in 1998, "We miss the Russians a bit. There is a whole district city built by Russians and given to Mongolians., and we can't say the Russians did nothing for us." Many of the Russian-built buildings in Ulaanbaatar are known as "Brezhnev's Gift."

A joint Mongolian-Soviet space mission was launched in 1981. Mongolia’s first and only man in space, the cosmonaut Gurragchaa, spent eight days in space with the mission of doing a detailed survey of Mongolian topography. On May Day almost the entire population of Ulaanbaatar turned out not just to watch the parade honoring Guragchaa but to participate in it. In the early 2000s, Guragchaa, then the Mongolian defense minister, gave himself the family name Sansar, the Mongolian word for Cosmos.

Transformation of Mongolian Society in the Soviet Era

Under the Communists, Mongolia transformed from a traditional feudal society of pastoral nomads into a modern society of motorcycle-mounted shepherds and urban factory workers. The reshaping of Mongolian society reflected both strong guidance and a high level of economic assistance from the Soviet Union. The relations between Mongolia and the Soviet Union have been extremely close. The ruling Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party has so faithfully echoed the line of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union that some Western observers have doubted the reality of Mongolia's independence. [Source: Library of Congress, June 1989 *]

From Ulaanbaatar, however, issues of autonomy and the path of social development were seen differently. Of all the peoples of Inner Asia-- Uighurs, Uzbeks, Kirghiz, Tibetans, Tajiks, and others--only those in Mongolia retain any degree of independence. As a small nation of barely 2 million people, caught between two giant and sometimes antagonistic neighbors, China and the Soviet Union, Mongolia had to accommodate itself to one or the other of those neighbors. Twice as many Mongols lived outside the boundaries of Mongolia (3.4 million in China and .5 million in the Soviet Union), as lived within it, and the fate of the larger Mongol population of China, who have become a 20 percent minority in Inner Mongolia demonstrated that alternatives to the pro-Soviet alignment might well be less attractive. In the opinion of most Western observers, most Mongolians traditionally have tended to view the Soviet Union as a model of modern society, and the Russian language has been the vehicle for the introduction of science and modern technology and for contacts with the larger communist world. *

Against such a historical foundation, claims that Soviet Mongolia represented a completely new society were quite plausible. In many ways, the society had been transformed, and in the 1980s rapid social change continued. The ruling party saw the nation as having leaped directly from feudalism to socialism, bypassing the capitalist stage of development. Many of the forms of socialist organization, particularly in the rapidly growing urban and industrial sectors, appeared to be direct copies of Soviet models, with some modification to fit the Mongolian context. The population has nearly tripled since 1920, as the government pursued a pro-natal policy rare among developing nations. Mongolia's herds of livestock, which outnumbered the human population by at least ten-to-one, had been collectivized, and herders in the 1980s worked as members of pastoral collectives that drew up monthly and annual plans for milk and wool production. *

By 1985 a slim majority of Mongolia's population was urban, working in factories and mines, and increasingly housed in Soviet-model, prefabricated highrises. Public health and education had been the objects of intense development, which by the 1980s had produced vital rates approaching those of developed nations and nearly universal literacy among the younger generation. Much of Mongolia's industrial development and urban growth has taken place since the mid-1970s and has been so recent that the country was only beginning to recognize the problems attending rapid industrialization, urbanization, and occupational differentiation. *

The drive for modernization along Soviet lines has been accompanied by an equally strong, but much less explicitly articulated, determination to maintain a distinctive Mongolian culture and to keep control of Mongolia's development in Mongolian hands. Although the topic was politically sensitive, Mongolia's leaders were nationalists as well as communists, and they aspired to much more independence than was permitted to the "national minorities" of the Soviet Union and China with whom the Mongolians otherwise had so much in common. *

International Relations in Mongolia in the 1950s and 60s

Secure in its relations with Moscow, Ulaanbaatar expanded its other international ties. Diplomatic relations were established with the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea) and the new communist governments in Eastern Europe. Mongolian participation in communist-sponsored conferences and international organizations increased; Mongolia applied for membership in the United Nations, but representatives from Ulaanbaatar were not seated until 1961.

Foreign inputs and expansion of international contacts were important to Mongolia's development plans in the 1950s. Ulaanbaatar also subscribed to the anticolonial stance of the 1955 Bandung Conference and adopted the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence (see Foreign Policy). Relations were developed with countries beyond the communist bloc--for example, India, Burma, Cambodia, nations in Africa and the Middle East, and, later, Cuba. [Source: Library of Congress, June 1989 *]

Soon after the July 1961 Fourteenth Party Congress, Mongolia had garnered enough support from communist countries and from the Third World to be admitted to the United Nations in October 1961. The following June, Mongolia joined the Soviet-sponsored Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (Comecon). *

Mongolia When Soviet-Chinese Relations Were Friendly

Mongolia was among the first countries to recognize the new People's Republic of China in October 1949. When China and the Soviet Union were on friendly terms in the 1950s, China sent thousands of workers in blue uniforms to Mongolia to work on public works projects, build factories and develop irrigation projects. Know in Mongolia as the blue bees, they built a department store, a sports stadium, a hospital a hotel and apartment and helped in the construction of the railroad through Ulaanbaatar, finished in the 1950s, that shortened the distance between Beijing and Moscow.

A result of the close alliance of China and the Soviet Union during this period was Sino-Soviet cooperation in developing Mongolia. In 1952 a ten-year Sino-Mongolian Agreement on Economic and Cultural Cooperation marked an important step in developing relations between the two long-estranged nations. China helped build railroad lines, gave ruble aid and loans for construction projects, and even sent large contingents of laborers in the mid- 1950s. [Source: Library of Congress, June 1989 *]

Soviet troops were withdrawn in 1956, increasing Mongolia's control over its own internal affairs. There were residual fears of a renewed Chinese ascendancy, however, despite Mongolia's signing of the Treaty of Friendship and Mutual Assistance with China on May 31, 1960, and the improved state of bilateral affairs. Memories of Chinese claims to "lost territories"--a theme, in Chinese foreign policy toward Mongolia, raised by Sun Yat-sen in 1912; reiterated by Chiang Kai-shek in the 1920s and by Mao Zedong in the 1930s; and, although rebuffed, raised at the 1945 Yalta Conference, when Chiang asserted China's claim to suzerainty based on the 1924 treaty with the Soviet Union--were strong in Mongolian consciousness. *

Mongolian-Soviet ties continued to be close during the 1960s; additional aid was granted to Mongolia, and repayment deadlines were extended. Soviet troops were sent to Mongolia in 1966 as tensions between the Soviet Union and China rose. In October 1965, a new three-year Agreement on Economic and Cultural Cooperation was signed. A twenty-year Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation, and Mutual Assistance, which replaced the 1946 treaty, was the culmination of a state visit to Ulaanbaatar by the Soviet leader, Leonid Brezhnev, in January 1966. Soon after the signing of the friendship treaty, which included a defense clause, there was a buildup in Mongolia of Soviet troops and military infrastructure (including bases, roads, airfields, sheltered fighter aircraft sites, radar detection networks, communication lines, and missile sites). Mongolia, more than ever, had become a front line of Soviet defense against China. As part of its alliance with the Soviet Union, Mongolia signed the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty in 1963. *

Mongolia When Soviet-Chinese Relations Were Not So Friendly

As relations with Moscow grew still closer, there was a corresponding coolness in those with Beijing. Although a difficult bilateral question was resolved with China in December 1962, when a border demarcation agreement was reached, by 1966 serious Mongolian-Chinese differences had surfaced. Chinese aid was stopped; trade decreased to low levels; relations cooled. The Chinese were angry over Ulaanbaatar's siding with Moscow in the Sino-Soviet rift; Mongolia, observing the excesses of China's Cultural Revolution, was concerned anew over China's designs on its sovereignty. *

When hostilities erupted between the two Communist giants in the 1960s, The Chinese were kicked out and 100,000 Soviet soldiers were moved into Outer Mongolia. The country was transformed into a "huge military base,” with many troops stationed along the Chinese border. All tanks and rockets were positioned for attacks of the Chinese, who the Mongolians were taught were :ruthless torturers and imperialists." The Chinese called Mongolia a state of "rampant and reactionary hegonism."

During the Cold War era, Outer Mongolia was a gloomy Soviet garrison with large numbers of Russian soldiers and missiles pointed at China and Inner Mongolia was a gloomy Chinese garrison with missiles pointed at Russia. In both places the nomads were rounded up and placed on communes.

More than 100,000 Soviet troops were garrisoned in Mongolia in the early 1970s. Ulaanbaatar's anti-Chinese criticism intensified during this period, ostensibly because of increased numbers of Chinese military exercises along the frontier and alleged anti-Mongolian subversive activities. Mongolia received assurances that Soviet troops would remain; Brezhnev himself, when in Ulaanbaatar, said that Beijing's demand for withdrawal of Soviet troops from Mongolia, as a precondition for the normalization of Sino-Soviet relations, was "absolutely unacceptable."

The closeness of Mongolian-Soviet relations was manifested by meetings in October 1976 in Moscow among Tsedenbal, Batmonh, and three other party Political Bureau members and the Soviet Communist Party general secretary Leonid Brezhnev; the president, Nikolai Podgorny; and the premier, Alexei Kosygin. While the talks were described as "fraternal," they also were characterized as "frank," probably because of increased Mongolian demands for economic aid. Soviet aid was forthcoming for the Sixth Five-Year Plan (1976-80), primarily in support of agriculture, mining, fuel, power, food, and light industries. *

Mongolian relations with Beijing--following Moscow's lead--were less hostile in the years after the 1976 death of Mao, but fears of China's "predatory aspirations" still lingered in Ulaanbaatar. In 1980 Chinese nationals were expelled from Mongolia on charges ranging from gambling and drug use to public disorder and espionage. By the late 1980s tensions had eased, the number of Soviet troops was down to 50,000 and Gorbachev was talking about removing these. Flights between Ulaanbaatar and Beijing and full diplomatic relations between China and Mongolia were restored in 1986. *

Mongolian Military in the 1960s During the Sino-Soviet Rift

The 1960s saw quite altered prospects for the army. The SinoSoviet rift occurred in 1960, and China adopted an increasingly hostile policy toward the Soviet Union and Mongolia. As the new threat from China was perceived and then grew more ominous, the Soviet Union and Mongolia again became militarily close. Soviet troops once more entered Mongolia in strength. Military, and other, national celebrations provided opportunities for the exchange of top-level military delegations, for consultations on defense matters, and for public hymns of praise, loyalty, eternal friendship, and cooperation. Marshal Rodion Yakovlevich Malinovskiy and other top Soviet military leaders, together with senior Chinese generals, visited Ulaanbaatar on People's Army Day, March 18, 1961. The Soviets were honored with high Mongolian decorations, whereas the Chinese were snubbed, receiving none. [Source: Library of Congress, June 1989 *]

Significantly, while Mongolia and the Soviet Union reacted to the perceived Chinese threat much as they had to the Japanese threat in the 1930s--that is, by deploying Soviet troops and strengthening Mongolia's defenses--the magnitude of the measures taken in the 1960s was not so great. This circumspection probably reflected the policies of Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev and Tsedenbal, versus those of Stalin and Choybalsan, as well as the strengthened internal and global positions of Mongolia and the Soviet Union. Soviet assistance enabled the Mongolian army, while continuing to equip and train for modern war, to carry on with its construction projects at Darhan and elsewhere.*

Chinggis and ancient Mongol warriors were used as symbols to inculcate patriotism and a military tradition as early as 1927. Feeling pride and confidence in their new national viability, Mongolian leaders, despite Soviet disapproval, celebrated the 800th anniversary of the birth of Chinggis on May 31, 1962, with ceremonies and the unveiling of a monument at his purported birthplace. The Soviet Union took exception to this display of nationalism with its pan-Mongol overtones, and the Soviet press vehemently attacked Chinggis as a reactionary and an evil person. Whether connected or not with this demonstration of independent thought and the Sino-Soviet rift, a bloodless purge of a number of top Mongolian defense officials took place. Those replaced were the commandant of Ulaanbaatar, the minister of public security, the chief of the general staff, and the head of the army's political department. Just as past purges had missed Choybalsan, this one passed by Colonel General Jamyangiyn Lhagbasuren, longtime minister of people's army affairs and commander in chief of the army. Again, suspected nationalists and those with pro-Chinese leanings were purged. The military tradition to be fostered was not that of ancient Mongol military heroes, but that of the 1921 revolution and the battles against the Japanese in the 1930s and the 1940s. These events always stressed the cooperation and close comradeship in arms of the Soviet army.*

Chinese border incidents, though not serious, continued through the 1960s, and they were accompanied by a strengthening of the Mongolian troop presence in border areas. China, in turn, charged that reconnaissance flights from Mongolia and Siberia had violated its airspace. Meanwhile, the Soviet Union and Mongolia continued their public display of political and military affinity. In 1966 the Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation, and Mutual Assistance was renewed for another twenty years; it was extendable for an additional ten. It included a clause permitting the stationing of Soviet troops in Mongolia. A parade in Ulaanbaatar in 1967 honored the fiftieth anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917 and showed off new weapons, including Mongolian army-manned SA-2 surface-to-air and SNAPPER antitank guided missiles. In his address, Lhagbasuren gave high praise to Soviet military aid. In May 1968, at the forty-seventh anniversary of the founding of the Mongolian People's Army, Lhagbasuren spoke similarly of the "fraternal disinterested" aid of the Soviet Union. These panegyrics, while intended to instruct Mongolians in the current policy and to reassure the Soviets of Mongolian solidarity, nevertheless amply demonstrated the degree of Soviet influence and the subordinate Mongolian position in the Soviet mutual defense agreement.

Economic Development Under Tsedenbal in the 1950s

Choybalsan died of cancer on January 26, 1952, and Stalin died in 1953, and a major era in modern Mongolian history came to an end. Choybalsan was succeeded as government leader by Yumjagiyn Tsedenbal who continued to be party general secretary as well. Under Tsedenbal, repression was eased and the Mongolian gains a little more autonomy from Moscow, Tsedenbal was forcibly retired in 1984.

Economic developments and extensive purges of party and government personnel marked the transition to Tsedenbal. In March 1953, a party Central Committee plenum was convened to review the results of the First Plan, and in November 1954, the Twelfth Party Congress belatedly approved guidelines for the Second Five-Year Plan (1953-57). A continuing major economic target included in the plan was the development of the livestock sector, and a 72 percent increase in grain production over 1952 levels was envisioned. Special attention also was paid to expanding electrification and international economic cooperation. Also at the Twelfth Congress, Dashiyn Damba was elected general secretary, replacing Tsedenbal as party leader. [Source: Library of Congress, June 1989 *]

In 1956 the party Central Committee condemned the "personality cult" of Choybalsan, specifically pointing out the excesses of the 1937 to 1939 period. Claiming success for the Second Plan, the Thirteenth Party Congress, March 17 to 22, 1958, adopted a special Three-Year Plan (1958-60), aimed at raising Mongolia from a livestock economy to an agricultural-industrial economy, all with Soviet aid. New emphasis was placed on stepping up industrial capacities--particularly in the coal mining, electric power, and construction sectors--and on increasing output of petroleum industry products, minerals, and nonferrous ores (see Industry). Damba was reelected at the Thirteenth Congress, only to be dismissed for ideological reasons and replaced by Tsedenbal several months later. On July 6, 1960, the government adopted the national Constitution that continued to be in force in 1989. In January 1962, Choybalsan's "personality cult" again was attacked by the party Central Committee. *

Nomadic Life During the Soviet Era

Before the arrival of Communism, most Mongolians were nomadic serfs in a hierarchal feudal society. When the Communists came this hierarchal system was adapted easily into the hierarchal state farm system. What changed was mobility. The nomads were no longer able to roam freely over a large area, they were relegated to provinces drawn up by the Soviets.

Under Communism, nomads were organized into government-controlled cooperatives, animals were nationalized and became property of the state, and gers were sometimes transported on trucks rather than pack animals. Nomads were called breeders and they were regarded as the richest people in Mongolia. They were told by the government how many sheep, goats, yaks, camels and horses to raise, and sometimes told where to graze their animals and how long to stay there. Children attended boarding schools.

The state bought animals at a stable, guaranteed price or they were paid a wage. Sheep were taken to the cities by the state. Incomes were secure. The government made all the decisions.

The individual ownership of animals was forbidden. People were allocated a certain number of animals. If any of the animals died the nomads were punished. If nomads didn't meet their quotas or their animals were underweight they didn't receive full payment.

Traditional communities were broken down and traditional skills were lost. Families were encouraged to specialize. Some produced camel hair. Some produced wool. Other raised horses. Instead of being jacks of all trades and taking care of themselves traditionally nomadic people began to rely on the state for things like helping sick animals or fixing the felt on their gers.

The Moost collective in the Altai Mountains covered 1,500 square miles and was home to 4,000 nomads, Cynthia Beall and Melvyn Goldstein wrote in National Geographic: "The communist collective, or negdel, was little more than the classic Mongol pastoralism overlaid with centralize planning. each herdsman still made the everyday decision—where to graze, when to move camp...while he government handled marketing and set product targets." One nomad told National Geographic, "The collective was good to us. We had enough food, free health care for our children, free education." They enjoyed luxuries such as Russian sugar cubes, East German strawberry and dumplings made with wheat flour.

Mongolian Economy in the 1960s and 70s

After the Fifteenth Party Congress had approved new economic plans in June 1966, Mongolia continued to try to transform its nomadic economy into ranch-style livestock herding and to expand its industrial sector. The economy, however, continued to have severe problems. For example, poor weather plagued the country; in 1967, blizzards caused a US$37 million loss in livestock alone. Severe winters were followed by drought and by plummeting harvests and exports. Planned increases in agricultural and industrial production did not materialize, and the lack of raw materials continued to hamper even light industry. Some of the blame was placed on the pullout of Chinese economic and technical assistance and the end of trade with China in consumer goods. It was admitted, however, that the economy envisioned in the Fourth Five-Year Plan (1966-70) had "not developed as rapidly as those of fraternal socialist states," and, indeed, achievements fell notably short of goals. [Source: Library of Congress, June 1989 *]

Large infusions of Soviet and Comecon aid eventually had salutary effects in the early 1970s. High-level state visits were exchanged in the 1969 to 1971 period, with the result that Moscow agreed to underwrite the Fifth Five-Year Plan (1971-75). Soviet economic difficulties in the early 1970s, however, had repercussions for Mongolia. The Soviet Union started insisting that trade quotas be honored, a move that caused economic disruption just as Mongolia was recovering from the economic distress of the late 1960s. Nevertheless, some economic progress was achieved between 1971 and 1974, a period during which gross industrial production rose by nearly 45 percent. Severe winters continued to hurt the anticipated growth of livestock herds. By the mid-1970s, direct business and other cooperative links had been established between corresponding Mongolian and Soviet ministries, departments, research institutes, and industries, and cooperative ties also had been established between neighboring Mongolian aymags and Soviet oblasts. *

Severe weather in the winter of 1976 to 1977 caused some of the worst damage to animal husbandry in a decade. Heavy snowfalls, severe frosts, disease, starvation, and mismanagement combined to create a perilous economic situation. Recovery was slow, and livestock targets were overestimated continually throughout the rest of the 1970s. Developments in other economic sectors, such as mining and irrigated farming, saw some improvement during the period, however.

Ouster of Tsenbal

After a decade of steady growth in party membership, a dramatic change occurred in the composition of those attending the Sixteenth Party Congress in July 1971. Although membership on the Political Bureau, the Central Committee, and the Secretariat remained stable, 82 percent of the delegates were new. As the decade continued, changes at the top began to emerge. In June 1974, Tsedenbal, while retaining his position as general secretary of the Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party, resigned as chairman of the Council of Ministers--the premiership--to become chairman of the People's Great Hural, the de facto president of Mongolia. The former rector of the Mongolian State University, Jambyn Batmonh, in a move presaging the succession a decade later, was appointed premier; he also was elevated to the party Political Bureau. After these changes, the party leadership was more stable. [Source: Library of Congress, June 1989 *]

The 1980s began with some improvements in the economy, but also with a number of top party and state leadership changes, culminating in the end of Tsedenbal's rule. While Tsedenbal was in Moscow in August 1984, special sessions of the party and the People's Great Hural were held to announce his retirement. Batmonh replaced the reportedly ailing party head, amid tributes to Tsedenbal's forty-four-year career as an "outstanding leader" and "very close friend." In December 1984, Batmonh also was elevated to the chairmanship of the Presidium of the People's Great Hural, and Vice Premier Dumaagiyn Sodnom became premier as Mongolia embarked on historic reforms.

In the late 1980s, Tsedenbal was criticized for having had a "dogmatic interpretation of socialism" and having rushed to the conclusion that the period of socialism had begun. The Mongolian leadership, blamed Tsedenbal not only for the problems of the past but for having contributed to their own inability to determine the level of economic construction because of his earlier flawed analyses. In an effort to push blame back still farther, Tsedenbal's reputation was linked with that of his predecessor, Horloyn Choybalsan, whom Batmonh had criticized at the Fifth Plenary Session of the Nineteenth Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party Congress in December 1988.

Image Sources:

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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