Mongolian People’s Republic

(Mpr—bügd Nayramdah Mongol Ard Uls)
   Heavily backed by the Soviet Red Army, Mongolian revolutionaries were able to grasp control of their country in 1921, and three years later declare the existence of the MarxistLeninist Mongolian People’s Republic. Led by the domineering Mongolian People’s Revolutionary Party (MPRP—Mongol Ardyn Khuv’sgalt Nam), for the next 70 years the country wholeheartedly embraced Soviet orthodoxy and became one of Moscow’s most dependable satellite states. Having succeeded in repelling both previous occupiers, China and the anti-Bolshevik White Army, the Soviet Red Army assisted in the 1921 elevation to power of a selfstyled “people’s government” encompassing a broad array of leftwing individuals banded together in the Mongolian People’s Party. Mongolian acquiescence with Soviet will was formalized soon after with the signing between the two of an Agreement on Mutual Recognition and Friendly Relations.
   It was this alliance that enabled pro-Soviet elements within the Mongolian government to sideline those looking to curtail Muscovite intervention and in May 1924 declare the existence of the MPR. The word “Revolutionary” was shoehorned into the party’s title, and an organizational structure paralleling that of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) established. In November, the pronouncement of a radical constitution entirely sculpted from the same material as that of the Soviet Union signaled that the MPR intended to embark upon Sovietization with zeal. In following the Soviet economic model, feudal properties were confiscated prior to the collectivization of animal husbandry, and currency was nationalized through the creation of the Mongolian National Bank. Additionally, the government gave formal approval to a Soviet trade monopoly that provided, alongside the burgeoning cooperative movement, support for the transformation to a centrally planned economy.
   The formative years of MPRP rule were characterized too by further factional infighting between staunch pro-Soviets and their more cautious, “rightist” counterparts. With decisive backing from the CPSU, the former prevailed as the 1920s drew to a close and quickly instigated a series of purges against their counterparts. Prominent in this action was Horloogiyn Choybalsan, an ultra-orthodox MarxistLeninist, who used the conflict to lever himself into the highest echelons of government and party (effectively the same thing). Choybalsan, widely referred to in retrospectives as “Mongolia’s Stalin,” hastened the pace of repression against the “rightists” as well as other sections of Mongolian society. In the early years of Choybalsan’s administration, confiscation of monastic property and widespread brutality toward religious figures, subjugation of those resistant to collectivization, as well as a ferociously enforced outright ban on private industry were all commonplace. The latter two of these helped bring about famine in the MPR, and precipitated an unlikely response from the Soviet Union: 1932 saw an edict from Moscow demanding an end to Mongolian extremism and a move to “gradualism.”
   The result was a raft of “New Turn Policy” reforms that denounced the government’s recent undertakings as “leftist deviations,” dropped the collectivization and worker cooperative programs, and made allowances for the ownership of private property. Despite this, a fresh constitution in 1940 reaffirmed both the necessity of overall state planning and Mongolian commitment to Vladimir Ilich Lenin’s “road to socialism bypassing capitalism.” It was perhaps this underlying adherence to orthodoxy that led the MPR to become a noncombative Eastern buffer zone for the Soviets in World War II, and in August 1945 to send 80,000 troops by way of assistance to an offensive against Japanese troops in Inner Mongolia.
   Their loyalty was rewarded following Allied victory with a number of fresh friendship agreements with Moscow, and in addition with the newborn communist states of the Eastern Bloc. It was in this climate that the MPRP felt confident enough to abandon gradualism and embrace orthodox Marxism–Leninism once more. 1947 witnessed the outlawing of all private enterprise as a policy of absolute communization took hold, and the ratification of a Soviet-financed five-year economic plan aimed at “socialist construction.” The 1952 death of Choybalsan allowed Yumjaagiyn Tsedenbal to assume overall control of the government. Tsedenbal’s denunciation of the “personality cult” built up around his predecessor proved to be the first of many occasions on which his actions mirrored those of his opposite number in Moscow, Nikita Khrushchev, who was issuing a rebuke for his own former superior, Josef Stalin, at around the same time. The two relatively moderate leaders, and indeed Khrushchev’s successor Leonid Brezhnev, worked to accelerate the program of socialist construction in the MPR throughout the 1950s and 1960s, attempting to induce modernization through a series of economic and social plans aimed at speeding the country toward socialism. In return, the MPR became a vital military shield for the Soviet Union as tensions between Moscow and Beijing reached their apogee.
   However, the majority of Mongolians remained part of an illiterate, nonindustrial and certainly nonrevolutionary peasant class, and with an acute lack of natural resources inhibiting any semblance of modernization biting hard in tandem, socialist construction stagnated. The MPRP acted decisively, relieving the long-serving Tsedenbal of his duties as he undertook a state visit to Moscow in August 1984. Tsedenbal’s replacement as overall leader came in the shape of Jambyn Batmonh, a committed reformist whose ideas chimed with those of Mikhail Gorbachev just as Tsedenbal’s had with Khrushchev’s, and Choybalsan’s with Stalin’s. Embracing a Mongolian perestroika, for the first time since 1921 an oppositional group, the Mongolian Democratic Union, was formally recognized by the state, and anti-government street demonstrations broke out. It was this mood of unrest that forced the ruling MPRP Politburo to tender its resignation in March 1990, and two months later induce the endorsement of a new constitution that legalized all opposition parties and paved the way for multi-party free elections. The MPRP reneged on its commitment to Marxism, and re-branded itself as a dimly left-wing social democratic organization, a move that garnered a victory in newly renamed Mongolia’s first plural elections. The MPRP government made scant contribution to the development of Marxist thought and analysis, instead aping Soviet policy at its every turn. The one difference was presented by the natural habitat the regime inherited when it took power, that of a pre-agrarian society light years behind the Russia of the October 1917 Revolution. Any notion of “bypassing” capitalism was fanciful, and the Mongolians were obliged to slowly build up organized agriculture before they could even consider replicating the Soviet push to industrialization, with all its stage-hopping implications, they so idolized.

Historical dictionary of Marxism. . 2014.

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