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History of Mongolia

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Chinggis (Genghis) Khan created the first unified Mongol nation in the 13th century. He and his descendants built an empire that stretched from Korea to Hungary, the largest continuous land empire ever known. His grandson, Khubilai Khan, founded the Yuan Dynasty in China in 1279. The Mongol Empire began to fragment in the early 1400s; Mongols retreated to their homeland. Returning forces clashed with the Oirad Mongolian tribe and civil war ensued. Dayan Khan’s imperial forces defeated the Oirads around 1500.

War between the loosely confederated Mongolian nobles in the 1600s led the Khalka Mongols to ally themselves with the Manchus of China. The Manchus, who established the Ch’ing Dynasty in China, eventually dominated all of Mongolia. Southern Mongolia became Inner Mongolia (now part of China), and present-day Mongolia was Outer Mongolia. The Manchus dominated the nation through the nobility and the church, but local fiefs (called banners) had a fair amount of autonomy.

By 1911, when the Ch’ing Dynasty collapsed, the Mongol-Manchu alliance had dissolved and the Mongols declared independence. Because the head of Buddhism in Mongolia, Bogd Khan, was the only unifying political and religious figure in the country, a theocratic monarchy was established under his leadership. It ended in 1919 when the Chinese invaded. They were driven from the capital by the White Russian Army in 1921, but the Red (Bolshevik) Army allied with Mongolian national hero Sukebaatar to liberate the country in1921. After Bogd Khan died in 1924, Mongolia was declared a Communist people’s republic. The Communists destroyed the nobility and Buddhist monasteries. Thousands of people died fighting the changes.

With communism’s 1989 collapse, Mongolia embarked on a peaceful transition toward democracy. Successive governments have implemented reforms designed to modernize Mongolia, increase economic development and foreign investment, and further strengthen democratic institutions. These reforms have at times been painful and unpopular. However, political and economic restructuring slowly continues.


Mongolia.” CultureGrams World Edition. 2008.

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