Kate Monk's Onomastikon

(Dictionary of Names)


Capital : Ulan Bator

Dornogovi, Dundgovi, Omnogovi, Övör, Hangay, Sühbaatar

Size: 605 000 sq m Popn: 2 310 000


The Mongol ethnic groups are nomads from northern Asia. They inhabit Mongolia, Russia, Inner Mongolia (China), Tibet and Nepal. During the C13th, the Mongol horsemen conquered a huge amount of land under Genghis Khan who became khan of the Mongol tribes in 1206. He extended the Mongol domains from Russia to northern China and built a capital city, Karakorum. Kubilai, his grandson, was also a powerful ruler, conquering China and using foreingers as well as subjects to administer his empire. It was his court that the Venetian traveller, Marco Polo, visited and which formed the basis for the poem 'Kubla Khan'. In 1367, the Mongols lost China and after suffering defeats in the west in 1380, the empire began to break up.

The area that is now Mongolia became part of China in 1689. It gained autonomy under the Lamaist religious ruler, Jebsten Damba Khutukhtu after the revolution in 1911-12. After 1915, it came under increasing influence from China and Mongolian nationalists only managed to cast off the Chinese yoke with assistance from the USSR in 1921. It adopted the Soviet system of government in 1924, proclaiming itself a people's republic, and began a 'defeudalization' programme which involved the destruction of Lamaism. After two provinces revolted against the Communist Party in 1931, religious buildings were destroyed and the Soviet dictator Stalin ordered mass executions. An armed uprising against the government in 1932 was put down with Soviet assistance. The former independence fighter, Marshal Horloogiyn Choybalsan, was the effective ruler of Mongolia until he died in 1952. China recognized its independence in 1946 but when Mongolia took the Soviet side in the Sino-Soviet dispute, relations deteriorated. In 1966, Mongolia signed a 20-year friendship, co-operation and mutual assiatance pact with the USSR and around 60 000 Russian troops were based in the country.

Yumjaagiyn Tsedenbal dominated the country from 1958 until he was deposed by Jambyn Batmuntch 1984. Mongolia began to develop urban industries and settled agricultural collectives. During the 1970s, it was politically isolated but after Mikhail Gorbachev became leader of the USSR, it was encouraged to make outside contacts, increasing contact with China, and establishing relations with the USA. In 1990, the number of Soviet troops in the country was reduced from 80 000 to 15 000. After the wave of anti-communism in in Eastern Europe, an illegal opposition group, the Mongolian Democratic Union, was formed to demand greater democracy.

The Mongolian Communist Party (MPRP) became committed to political and economic reform and free multi-party elections were held in July 1990. The MPRP won most of the seats with only 5% of them going to the main opposition, the Democratic Party, led by Erdenijn Bat-Uul. The assembly elected the MPRP members Punsalmaagiyn Ochirbat as president and Dashiyn Byanbasuren as prime minister. In March 1991, the conservative head of the MPRP, Gomojavyn Ochirbat, was replaced by Budragchaa Dashyondon. The word 'Republic' was dropped from the country's name in June 1991 and private land ownership was legalized. After the failed coup against Gorbachev in August 1991, Ochirbat resigned and 12 former members of the MPRP were charged with corruption during their time in office. In January 1992, a new constitution came into force and the MPRP won the parliamentary elections in June with free-market economist Puntsagiyn Jasray elected prime minister in July. The government began an ambitious and painful programme of transition between central planning and a market economy. Although prices were freed, the currency was devalued but a stock exchange was set up and Mongolia joined the IMF and the Asian Development Bank. Modern Mongolia retains much of the language and culture of the Mongols, including a deep interest in horses.

This collection of names was compiled by Kate Monk and is ©1997, Kate Monk.

Copies may be made for personal use only.

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