Modern Mongolia, 1911-84

Mongolia Table of Contents

Period of Autonomy, 1911-21

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 Bogdo 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. 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. On May 25, 1915, a second, tripartite agreement (among China, Mongolia, and Russia), the Treaty of Kyakhta, formalized Mongolian autonomy. Russia's involvement in World War I, however, 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 Japanesefostered pan-Mongol movement was established under the influence of the Buryat Mongols. 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, emboldened by the demise of the tsarist regime, occupied Niyslel Huree and received an acknowledgment of Chinese sovereignty from the Bogdo Khan government. The Mongol army was disarmed and disbanded.

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.

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.

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.

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. 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 MongolianSoviet 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 Bogdo 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.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress