Mongolia


Figure 1.--This is a scene from the Gobi area of southern Mongolia. We are not sure just when it was taken. The color photography suggests a fairly modern time. In front we see an Aimak camel boy. The Aimak are a group of Persian-speaking nomadic or semi-nomadic tribes. They are an ethnic mix of Mongolian and Iranian stock. Photographer: Wangchindorj.

Mongolia is nesetled in the heart of Asia between Russia and China. And in the mid-20th century, Japanese-controlled Manchuria. What mightvbe called a very dangerous neighborhood. Mongolia today is a relatively poor, sparsely populated country. This of course was not always the case. Mongolia in the medieval era under the leadership of Genghis Khan ammassed the largest empire in human history. It is fascinating to look back in history how countries which are today relatively minor countries were once at the very center of history. Mongolia andf Genhis is also an interesting example of how one individual can change history. HBC has a detailed page on Mongolian history. Mongolia from gime immemorial has had an economy based on grazing livestock on the vast Asian steppe. Mongolia's rise to empire was based on the fact that the steppe was crossed by the fabeled Silk Road between China and Europe--a huge source of wealth. Mongolia never adapted a culture that persued knowledge and technology and thus as these cultural elements became increasingly important, Mongolia receeeded to the backwaters of history. In the 20th century, the country's geographic position forced it into the Coomunist system and destructive socialist economics.

Geography

Mongolia is located on the vast plains of central Asia. Mongolia is nesetled in the heart of Asia between Russia and China. And in the mid-20th century, Japanese-controlled Manchuria. What mightvbe called a very dangerous neighborhood.

History

A basic problem for the Mongolian people is wether the history is that of the centeal Asian steppe with many different peoples of which the Mongolians were only one. Or is Mongolian history that of the ethnic Mongolian people. The central Asian steppe has been the crucible for forming war-like people that have played a major role in both European and Asian history. Perhaps it was the harshness of the environment that was the critical factor. War-like nomadic tribes frim central Asia have played amajor role in history, at times attacking west and at times attacking east toward China. It was pressure from nomadic tribes that drove the Germans toward the Roman Empire, eventually overrunning it. At times the nomads have focused on the riches of nearby China. The construction of the Greal Wall was a response to their depredations. Genghis Khan united the Mongol tribes (1205). Genghis from his Mongolian homeland conducted a series of military cmpaigns with built the largest empire in human history. Only his early demise prevented the Mongols from entering Western Europe. His descendents rulled China. China eventually threwoff Mongol rule. The Chinese seized Inner Mongolia (1635). And subsequently subgegated Outer Mongolia. As part of the Russian Revolution and subsequent Civil War which spilled into Siberia, Outer Mongolia broke away from China (1921). The Soviet-dominated Mongolian People's Republic was declared (1924). They never were formally annexed by the Soviet Union, but the government was controoled by the Soviets. The Chinese retained control of Inner-Mongolia. The Communists after the Revolution combined Inner Mongolia with Mongol areas of western Manchria and the former privince of Jehol to form the the Inner Mongolian Autinomous Region.

Economics

Mongolia is a vast landlocked country in East Central Asia, srounded by Russia on the north and China on the south, east and west. It is dominated by the vast Eurasian Steppe. While the country is vast, it has a very small population, only about 3 million people. Most in the West have given little thought to Mongolia and the Mongolian economy. In fact Mongolia in connection with China has played a pivotal role in world history and economics. When China was strong and united it pressured the Mongols and other steppe people to move west. This was the source of pressure on Europeans. It was attacks by Steppe people that drove the Germanic peoples west into the Roman Empire (4th-6th centuries AD). And some Steppe people actually reached Europe, including the Avars and Huns (5th century AD). The most famous of course were the Mongols themselves led by Genghis Kahn. In this case the Mongols had conquered China anf then turned west. Mongolia from gime immemorial has had an economy based on grazing livestock on the vast Asian steppe. Mongolia's rise to empire was based on the fact that the Steppe was crossed by the fabeled Silk Road between China and Europe--a huge source of wealth. The advent of maitime commerce between Asia and Europe undermined the Silk Road--the principal source of wealth for the Mongol Empire. Mongolia never adapted a culture that pursued knowledge and technology and thus as these cultural elements became increasingly important, Mongolia receeeded to the backwaters of worls history and its opeople descended intom poverty, becoming one of the poorest countries in the world. In the 20th century, the country's geographic position forced it into the Communist system and poverty entrenching destructive socialist economics. The country had been traditionally associated with China, but after the Russian Revolution (1917), the Soviet Union became the dominant influence. Socialist economic policies forced on Mongolia did little to midernize rge country, although the Soviers offered some aid. Russia abruptly stopped its aid after the disintegration of the Soviet Union (1992). This proved to be a benefit for ther country because it forced the adoption of free market reforms. For the next decade, Mongolia suffered a deep recession, following which it has made substantial progress with major economic reforms, centered around the adoption of free-market economic structure and privatization of the formerly highly inefficent state-run economy. As in the Soviet Union, state enterprises prodiced good and services that were worth less than the raw material inputs used to produce them. Mongolia's economy is still largely based on agriculture, but has rapidly grown in importance. Mongolia is rich in copper, gold, coal, molybdenum, fluorspar, uranium, tin and tungsten deposits, which has been attracting foreign direct investment. As a result, copper, coal, molybdenum, tin, tungsten and gold account for a large part of industrial production.

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Ethnicity

Several people grew out of the Steppe Crucible. Ethnic Mongols today account fot the grat bulk of the modern population of Mongolia, perhaps as much as 97 percenyt of the population. This includes Khalkh and other groups. They speak varied dialects of the Mongolian language. The Khalkhs are the dominan Mongol sub-group, about 85 percent. The remaining 15% include Oirats, Buryats and others. Actual ethnic (non-cultural) distinctions among the Mongol people and their various subgroups are minimal. And anguage or tribal differences are not a political or social issue in moddern Mongolia. The principal mon Momgol ethnic group are the ethnic Turkic speaker Kazakhs. Thre are also small numbers of Tuvan, Khoton, Chantuu, and Tsaatan. These are all people of Turkic origin, but speak Mongolian. Modern Mongolia comprises only part of the Mongolian plain which once had a more diverse population, including many Trukic peoples. The Turkic Tartars are another people that grew out if the Steppe Crucuble. They were once an important ethic group on the MOngolian plateau vying with the Mongols and other peoples for grazing lands. The term 'Tatar' was first noted on the Kul Tigin monument. The Tatars were still one of the five major tribal confederations (khanlig) in the Mongolian plateau (12th century). They were involved in Genghis Kjan's rise to power. Subsequently the geographic locus of the Tartars began shifting west. This process was completed in modern times by the Russians. As the Russian Empire spread east into Asia, at about the sme time America expanded West (19th century), they pushed most of the Kazakhs to neighboring countries leaving what is now Mongolia primarily occupied by ethnic Mongols. The Middle jüz Kazakhs were allowed to settle in Mongolia, Bayan-Ölgii Province (1860s).







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Created: 11:39 PM 11/28/2010
Last updated: 7:22 AM 2/15/2016