Mongolia is a nation that is famous for Genghis Khan, the war-lord who conquered China, Central Asia and large parts of Eastern Europe in the 11th century AD. But the last 90 years of this nation are written not by a great Khan, but by the class traitors of the Mongolian People’s (Revolutionary) Party. Founded as a communist party in 1920, the MPRP embraced the Stalinist ideology around 1927 and led the Mongolian People’s Republic. Although stalinism was dropped in 1990, the party has remained a ruling party of capitalist Mongolia. It abandoned Marxist socialism and now claims to be a social democratic center-leftist party!
The Mongolian revolution started in 1921 against the theocratic: Bogd Khaanate. Revolutionaries with the help from the Workers and Peasant Red Army of Soviet Russia, defeated the anticommunist White Armies in Mongolia. With their defeat came also an end to Chinese domination over the region. The revolutionaries were united in the Mongolian People’s Party (MPP). Although part of the Communist International, they were not implementing revolutionary socialism. In fact the MPP was very divided and power struggles were common. It would take three years before the party ended the theocracy and proclaimed a ”socialist” republic!
In 1924, the Mongolian People’s Republic was established. At the advice of the Communist International, the MPP renamed itself into the Mongolian People’s Revolutionary Party (MPRP). From the start it was clear that the new people’s republic, needed support from the USSR in all matters. Soviet leaders officially respected the independence of Mongolia, but the MPRP was under heavy pressure to follow the new Stalinist line. Moscow was however right on one thing: the old revolutionaries who led the 1921 revolution, were not true communists. They lacked Marxist thinking, many were Buddhists and slow to implement revolutionary changes. Unlike Soviet Russia, the revolution did not originate from workers councils. This is why the people’s republic was more or less deformed from the start. Workers were a tiny minority as most Mongolians were peasants in a deeply feudal society!
With Stalin’s rise to power, the Mongolian People’s Revolutionary Party slowly started to bind to his will. The 1930’s were marked by increasing Stalinist politics, including repressions against Buddhist monks and the closing of ancient monasteries. Peljidiin Genden was the last prime minister who stood against Soviet influence over Mongolia. He was arrested by Soviet NKVD forces stationed in Mongolia. Eventually Genden and many old revolutionaries were called ”enemies of the revolution ” and shot under orders of the Mongolian Stalin: Khorloogiin Choibalsan!
In 1931, this Khorloogiin Choibalsan was made Minister of Livestock and Agriculture. It allowed him to carry out forced collectivization of the economy. Like Russia, Mongolia was a peasant feudal nation, with wealthy farmers and Buddhist monks owning most lands. Under Soviet influence, the Mongolian government wanted a planned economy and they (like Russia) imposed this in a top-down bureaucratic way. Traditional herders were forced off the steppe and into badly managed collective farms, destroying one third of Mongolian livestock. Farmers and peasants had nothing to say in the day to day management. State mangers (who had no idea how to run a farm) were put in charge. Mismanagement was now common, but anybody who criticized this fact was branded a ”enemy of socialism” and arrested. Choibalsan left the Ministry of Livestock and Agriculture in 1935, because he wanted more power!
The great terror against the old revolutionaries started in 1936. Choibalsan was a key player who alongside Gelegdorjiin Demid was made Marshal of the Mongolian People’s Army. Choibalsan also became head of the newly elevated Ministry of Internal Affairs, 26 percent of whose staff were NKVD agents. Stalin wanted to purge the Mongolian state like he did in Soviet Russia. So a wave of terror was unleashed by Choibalsan and his NKVD contacts. It is said that over 20.000 to 30.000 Mongolians were murdered. Many of the victims were shot only because they were either monks or members of the government bureaucracy, that were called ”class enemies”. When the Procurator General spoke out against the mass executions, he too was arrested and then shot!
But the ”Mongolian Stalin” wanted more power and got it in 1939, when he was made prime minister. As puppet of Stalin who had ordered the terror against old revolutionaries, Buddhist clergy, intelligentsia, political dissidents and ethnic Buryats and Kazakhs, Choibalsan was the right man to lead the puppet state. Like his master in the Kremlin, the new boss started to build his own cult of personality. Under his rule the Mongolian writing system was changed to the Cyrillic alphabet and Russian army uniforms were introduced. By the dawn of the 1940’s, the Mongolian People’s Republic was transformed from a feudal Buddhist nation into a classic Stalinist state, with Choibalsan as supreme leader!
To keep himself in power, the ”Mongolian Stalin” needed a loyal group around him. Following the Soviet method, Khorloogiin Choibalsan started to glorify himself as a ”national hero”. His portraits were shown on all public buildings, he was also praised as the ”savior of socialist Mongolia”. In the USSR, Stalin portrayed himself next to Lenin, in Mongolia this was done with Damdin Sükhbaatar, an old revolutionary and founding father of the Mongolian People’s Party back in 1920. Choibalsan took on the role of Stalin and his propaganda portrayed Sükhbaatar as the Lenin of Mongolia. Sükhbaatar did not lived to see the birth of the Mongolian People’s Republic. He died in 1923 and like Lenin, never saw the horrors of stalinism!
The first test for Choibalsan’s regime came during the border war with the Japanese puppet state of Manchukuo. This nation was created by Imperial Japan in 1934 to create the illusion of a independent northern Chinese state. Mongolia was also a puppet state at the time, since Choibalsan did not dare to act independently of his Kremlin master Stalin. The border war started when Mongolian troops crossed a disputed border. Troops from Manchukuo opened fire and drove the Mongolians out. In response the Soviet Union ordered the 57th Special Corps under the command of Grigori Shtern and Georgy Zhukov, to aid the Mongolian People’s Army. As both armies build up along the border, the Imperial Japanese Army decided to strike first!
Four nations fought over the disputed border from May 1939 until September 1939. In the end it was a failure for Japan and Manchukuo, since they were unable to brake the Red Army. The border war was the first major victory for Georgy Zhukov, who would become legendary during the second world war, when he commanded the Red Army in its drive towards Germany. Choibalsan’s regime supported the USSR during the war by delivering raw materials and financed several army units, like the “Revolutionary Mongolia” Tank Brigade, the “Mongolian Arat” Squadron and half million military trained horses were donated to the Soviet war effort. 300 Mongolian volunteers fought on the side on the Red Army during the 1945 campaign!
After the war in Europe ended, the USSR turned towards Japan and its puppet state. 16.000 soldiers from the Mongolian People’s Army aided 1,5 million Soviet soldiers in attacking the Empire of Manchukuo. Although the Japanese Army had over 700.000 men under arms, it lacked a good communication infrastructure. After only a few days of fighting, the Japanese high command had lost contact with its forward units. Unable to deliver orders, their soldiers were overrun by Soviet forces. In just one week, the Red Army and Mongolian People’s Army had almost completely conquered the Empire of Manchukuo. As defeat was now clear, the Japanese soldiers started to murder civilians at random. Mothers were forced to kill their own children before killing or being killed themselves. 11 days after the start of the invasion, the red banner was raised over Lüshun Port!
Now that the war was over ”Great Leader” Khorloogiin Choibalsan ,wanted international recognition for his nation. Mongolia was seen since 1921 as a part of China called Outer Mongolia. Inner Mongolia is still part of the People’s Republic of China and called the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region. Unlike modern Mongolia which uses the Cyrillic script, the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region is using the old Mongolian alphabet. Stalin made it clear to the world that they had to recognize the Mongolian People’s Republic. The Republic of China under Chiang-Kai-Shek rejected this since they saw Mongolia as part of Nationalist China!
However Chiang-Kai-Shek was defeated in the Chinese civil war and driven to Taiwan. China became a Stalinist state under Mao Zedong, who recognized the Mongolian People’s Republic. Choibalsan hoped that Mao would allow unification of both Outer and Inner Mongolia. But Mao was a nationalist too and wanted to keep what he controlled. Stalin agreed with China which was a huge disappointment for the Mongolian leader. He grew bitter and refused to participate in Stalin’s 70 birthday celebration in Moscow. In 1950, the Tuvan People’s Republic asked to join the Russian Socialist Federative Soviet Republic as a ”autonomous” republic. Stalin agreed on Tuvan and Choibalsan was asked by die-hard stalinists to do the same. Choibalsan reacted furious and refused!
In January 1952, Khorloogiin Choibalsan died of kidney cancer in Moscow. He was 56 years old. Yumjaagiin Tsedenbal became the next prime minister. Like Choibalsan before him, Tsedenbal needed the support from the Kremlin in order to gain legitimacy in the Mongolian People’s Revolutionary Party. Stalin choose to support Tsedenbal which allowed him to remove all of his critics. Tsedenbal worked with both Stalin and his successor Nikita Khrushchev. It is said that the Mongolian leader asked almost six times to allow his nation to join the USSR. Unlike Khorloogiin Choibalsan who had grew bitter over Soviet politics, Yumjaagiin Tsedenbal was a loyal dog who made sure that he was very close to ”Mother Russia”. Moscow however never allowed Mongolia to become a republic of the Soviet-Union. Both Khrushchev and Brezhnev wanted to keep the Mongolian People’s Republic as a buffer zone, between them and Mao’s China!
During the Sino-Soviet split in the 1960’s, Mongolia choose Moscow over Beijing. This angered Mao Zedong who’s propaganda denounced Yumjaagiin Tsedenbal as a ”social imperialist rat”. At home Tsedenbal elected himself as general secretary of the party. Now he was both prime minister and head of the MPRP. In 1974, he also was named Chairman of the Presidium of the State Great Khural. His rule was of moderate stalinism in comparison with Khorloogiin Choibalsan. There was more cultural freedom and mass killings were a thing of a dark past. It would take however until 1961, before Mongolia was allowed into the United Nations. The Republic of China (on Taiwan) had vetoed all attempts to join in the 1950’s. Moscow was needed to threaten Taipei before they agreed on allowing Mongolia to join the UN!
After ruling for more then 32 years, Tsedenbal became more erratic and authoritarian as he grew older. A new wave of purges happened which alienated many politburo members. Also Moscow was not happy with the outright rejection by Tsedenbal on the Sino-Soviet rapprochement in 1982. With full Soviet support, the politburo moved against its leader. On 24 August 1984, Yumjaagiin Tsedenbal was removed as general secretary. Officially it was because of old age and mental weakness. Next Stalinist boss in line was Jambyn Batmönkh, who ruled for six years before the collapse of the single party system!
The pro-democracy movement grew with the popularity of perestroika and glasnost in the Soviet-Union. By 1989, many students were demanding political changes. Batmönkh was already making plans for the return of capitalism and the MPRP slowly moved away from marxism-leninism (stalinism). But for many the economic reforms were not what they wanted. A capitalist system was not what the students asked for. For them socialism had to be democratic. As the protests grew, some in the politburo wanted to use force to end the civil unrest. But Batmönkh rejected violence. As a calm personality, the last Stalinist leader decided to abandon the monopoly of the party on state power. Free elections were held in July 1990!
Unlike other Stalinist states that were created by the USSR, the Mongolian People’s Revolutionary Party was not hated by the majority of the people. The party won the first democratic election, while liberals and conservatives were only winning a minority in the new parliament. In theory the MPRP could have build democratic socialism, it had won the trust of a full majority. However socialism as a political and economic ideal was considered ”outdated” and ”failed” by new leaders. Although still named the Mongolian People’s Revolutionary Party, socialism would never be constructed. Worse, the MPRP moved towards implementing capitalist law and order. Mongolia privatized its economy in the hope of attracting foreign capital!
The collapse of the Soviet-Union in December 1991 led to a economic crisis. Mongolia lost 1/3 of its gross domestic product. The 1990’s were brutal years and many workers suffered as they lost their jobs and pensions. As the nation was no longer a official socialist republic, the Mongolian People’s Republic changed it name in 1992 to just: Mongolia. Again this was done by the same party who had created the people’s republic in 1924. The reformed ”democratic socialists” were dropping all references to revolutionary socialism. Marxist ideas which they had called ”holy” and ”sacred” under Khorloogiin Choibalsan and Yumjaagiin Tsedenbal, were now a thing of the past. Still the years 1992-1996 were harsh for working class Mongolians!
Angered by the way the MPRP had carried out its capitalist transformation, the people voted the ex-Stalinist party out of office in 1996. A liberal capitalist coalition called the Democratic Union Coalition came to power. It was made up by the Mongolian National Liberal Party and the Mongolian Social Democratic Party. The coalition’s main goal was to speed up austerity, which resulted in deep disillusion among working class people. Four years later the coalition had split up and the MPRP was back in power. The voter turnout had dropped from 95% in 1992 to 82,4% in the year 2000, showing that already -13% did not vote!
The drop in turnout would only increase over time. During the last parliamentary elections in June 2016, the voter turnout was 74%. Not a bad score compared to eastern Europe, but it is a drop when you consider that in the 1990’s the turnout was above 90%. The Mongolian People’s Revolutionary Party has only been a opposition party for two periods in Mongolian history, during the four years of the Democratic Union Coalition (1996-2000) and between 2012 and 2016. As the party was no longer revolutionary it decided to rename itself back to Mongolian People’s Party (MPP) in 2010. Also they declared to be social democratic and no longer ”democratic socialist”. Some did not liked this change and a split occurred. Around 80.000 members left the MPP and created a new political party under the old name. The current MPRP is led by Nambaryn Enkhbayar, former prime minister between 2000 and 2004!
Both the Mongolian People’s Party and the Mongolian People’s Revolutionary Party are pro-capitalist and no force for socialism. They are ideological empty, serving charismatic personalities instead of a clear political idea. Still there is little to no trust in the opposition parties created after 1990. Most voters have remained loyal to the party that led the 1921 revolution and created the first independent Mongolian state. This is the only true claim the MPP has left. Like the African National Congress in South Africa, the Mongolian People’s Party can claim to be the party of national liberation. Revolutionary socialist have no illusions and openly reject the MPP as a socialist party. Mongolian workers need to understand that the old-Stalinist party never worked in their interests. What they need is a workers party on a genuine socialist program. Such a party could rally the masses and win elections. Then a socialist Mongolia can be build under democratic management of workers councils. Like all workers of the world, the Mongolian proletariat has nothing to lose!