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History of Mongolia

Mongolian history begins with the nomadic people on the plains. Their first step towards unity was in about 300 BC when the Huns united to create a loosely organized government. However after this unity, little changed as the people continued their lives as nomads on the plains. Even at times when political rule fell apart, life didn't change much for the people as they moved with their animals during the seasons.

The 700s brought the next wave of change as the Uighurs (an ethnic Turkish group) entered the scene and ruled over the Huns or Mongols, but never formed a strong government, although they did introduce communication and educational changes.

Again, life carried on until the 1100s when these people, now a mix of a number of ethnicities, united under a Mongol named Temujin (Genghis Khan). By the early 1200s he had united all the tribes and began overrunning neighboring peoples. Under his rule education expanded further and the Mongol culture was quickly changing as these tribes that once were separate were now communicating and working together.

During and after Genghis Khan's rule the Mongols became successful warriors as they overran dozens of people, including the powerful Chinese. Eventually, their empire became too vast to control and it fell into a number of kingdoms. The strongest of these was based in modern day Beijing and for some time was ruled over by Kublai Khan, who started China's short-lived Yuan Dynasty. The most significant impact this time period had on modern day Mongolia was that many of the Mongols converted to Buddhism with the encouragement from the Tibetans.

By about 1400 nearly all the kingdoms had fallen and the Mongols were retreating with the advance of the powerful Central Asian leader, Timur. This fall from power continued into the 1500s and 1600s. The Chinese regularly raided the cities and as each empire collapsed the Mongols left behind were isolated among the natives, only modern day Mongolia remaining primarily Mongol. It was during this time however, that Tibetan and Mongol relations blossomed and it was actually the Mongols who bestowed the title "Dalai Lama" on the Tibetan leader and current lama reincarnation.

The 1700s saw much of the same the 1600s saw, as the people essentially were under Chinese Qing rule confined to the fields as serfs. This did not change until the Qing was on the verge of collapse in the late 1800s and early 1900s. With their collapse in 1911, the Mongols quickly declared independence and turned to neighboring Russia for support. Due to revolution in Russia and in China, but with no military, Mongolia was at the mercy of their neighbors and after some setbacks gained full independence in 1921, which placed Mongolia in civil war.

The Mongolian civil war was short lived as the Soviets supported the communist movement in the country and this support led to a decisive victory. The new government imitated the Soviet government and began collectivizing and suppressing religious and political rights.

After World War II (WWII), in which Mongolia sided with the Soviets and Allied forced, they found a communist government in China and hence good relations on both sides. This ended with the Sino-Soviet split in the 1960s, which essentially forced Mongolia to pick a side and they chose the Soviet Union.

Under communist rule, the Mongols received improved infrastructure, communication, education, and healthcare, however their economy struggled. As much of the communist world fell in the late 1980s and early 1990s the Mongols protested their government and many people began a hunger strike. The government submitted after just three days and Mongolia has since been democratic.

Since the early 1990s Mongolia has been fairly stable politically, but still marred regular by economic problems, however none of which have been insurmountable.

This page was last updated: July, 2012