Country Listing

Mongolia Table of Contents


Postwar Developments

In early 1946, Mongolia and the Soviet Union renewed the 1936 Protocol Treaty of Friendship and Mutual Assistance for another ten years, this time making it extendable. Although the provisions remained essentially the same, what had been a protocol treaty became a formal treaty to signify that, because China had relinquished claims of suzerainty, Mongolia was legally competent to handle its own foreign affairs. Thus Mongolia's close defense ties with the Soviet Union continued, as did Soviet military assistance in the form of training and matériel. This treaty encouraged Ulaanbaatar's intransigence against Guomindang (Kuomintang in Wade-Giles romanization), or Chinese Nationalist Party, troops in 1947, when violence flared along the ill-defined and disputed Mongolian-Chinese border in the Altai Mountain region. Indigenous Kazakhs and Mongols had been grazing their herds indiscriminately throughout the entire area, and the Soviets had developed gold and tungsten mines in areas the Chinese considered part of Xinjiang. Kazakh rebels opposed to the Chinese regime had declared their autonomy in 1944, probably with Soviet encouragement; however, when China reestablished control over Xinjiang in 1946, some of the Kazakh leaders redefected to China.

In June 1947, Mongolian cavalry with tank and air support attacked the Kazakh and Chinese troops, apparently in an attempt to take over the disputed territory. The Soviet Union and Mongolia denied that they were aggressors and claimed that the Chinese were 15 kilometers inside Mongolia; the Chinese countered that the Mongolian army had driven 200 kilometers into Xinjiang. The Chinese were driven back, and the Soviets continued to operate the mines despite a further outbreak of fighting in early 1948 (see Foreign Relations , ch. 4).

The Mongolian armed forces, with the close and continuous collaboration of the Soviet Red Army, came of age in the years after 1929. It had survived and had helped to suppress internal revolts, had successfully fought the Japanese and the Chinese, and had played a major role in the education, training, and indoctrination of the Mongolian people. The 1949 communist victory in the Chinese civil war eliminated the threat on Mongolia's southern border for the next decade. This development permitted Mongolia to begin reducing its 80,000-troop army, which had been maintained at about that level for 10 years.

During the 1950s, Mongolia was able to deemphasize defense. Defense expenditures dropped from 33 percent of the total budget in 1948 to 15 percent in 1952. Yumjaagiyn Tsedenbal became premier after the death of Choybalsan in 1952. Although he had been a lieutenant general and chief political commissar of the army during World War II, Tsedenbal was an economist, and he was less inclined to maintain a large army without a definite need. Thus, defense expenditures continued their steady drop in the next few years; soldiers went into the labor force and defense funds were diverted into neglected economic development and social services.

The nation's economic and social development required an infrastructure: public buildings, housing, factories, roads, and power plants. The army formed a mobile, disciplined, and partially skilled work force in a country that was short of labor. Units were apprenticed to construction gangs made up of technicians and workers from the Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, and China. By the late 1950s, the army's Military Construction Administration was building workers' apartments and public buildings, and it was in charge of constructing a large part of the industry around Darhan (see Labor Force , ch. 3).

The army continued to develop and modernize during the 1950s. It continued to use the two years' compulsory military training to provide Mongolian youth with Marxist-Leninist indoctrination, to ensure their literacy, and to teach them a variety of useful technical skills. Soviet troops continued to be garrisoned in Mongolia until 1956, at first to ensure against Chinese irredentist moves and later, probably, to discourage any deviation that might have resulted from the post-Stalin and postChoybalsan thaw. The combat elements of the now- smaller army were modernized; tanks, self-propelled guns, armored infantry, jet fighters, and surface-to-air missiles replaced the last of the cavalry. Soviet instructors and advisers served with the Mongolian army, but more and more, the Mongolian People's Army was standing on its own, except in the production of arms and heavy equipment.

The 1960s saw quite altered prospects for the army. The SinoSoviet rift occurred in 1960, and China adopted an increasingly hostile policy toward the Soviet Union and Mongolia. As the new threat from China was perceived and then grew more ominous, the Soviet Union and Mongolia again became militarily close. Soviet troops once more entered Mongolia in strength. Military, and other, national celebrations provided opportunities for the exchange of top-level military delegations, for consultations on defense matters, and for public hymns of praise, loyalty, eternal friendship, and cooperation. Marshal Rodion Yakovlevich Malinovskiy and other top Soviet military leaders, together with senior Chinese generals, visited Ulaanbaatar on People's Army Day, March 18, 1961. The Soviets were honored with high Mongolian decorations, whereas the Chinese were snubbed, receiving none.

Significantly, while Mongolia and the Soviet Union reacted to the perceived Chinese threat much as they had to the Japanese threat in the 1930s--that is, by deploying Soviet troops and strengthening Mongolia's defenses--the magnitude of the measures taken in the 1960s was not so great. This circumspection probably reflected the policies of Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev and Tsedenbal, versus those of Stalin and Choybalsan, as well as the strengthened internal and global positions of Mongolia and the Soviet Union. Soviet assistance enabled the Mongolian army, while continuing to equip and train for modern war, to carry on with its construction projects at Darhan and elsewhere.

Chinggis and ancient Mongol warriors were used as symbols to inculcate patriotism and a military tradition as early as 1927. Feeling pride and confidence in their new national viability, Mongolian leaders, despite Soviet disapproval, celebrated the 800th anniversary of the birth of Chinggis on May 31, 1962, with ceremonies and the unveiling of a monument at his purported birthplace. The Soviet Union took exception to this display of nationalism with its pan-Mongol overtones, and the Soviet press vehemently attacked Chinggis as a reactionary and an evil person. Whether connected or not with this demonstration of independent thought and the Sino-Soviet rift, a bloodless purge of a number of top Mongolian defense officials took place. Those replaced were the commandant of Ulaanbaatar, the minister of public security, the chief of the general staff, and the head of the army's political department. Just as past purges had missed Choybalsan, this one passed by Colonel General Jamyangiyn Lhagbasuren, longtime minister of people's army affairs and commander in chief of the army. Again, suspected nationalists and those with pro-Chinese leanings were purged. The military tradition to be fostered was not that of ancient Mongol military heroes, but that of the 1921 revolution and the battles against the Japanese in the 1930s and the 1940s. These events always stressed the cooperation and close comradeship in arms of the Soviet army.

Chinese border incidents, though not serious, continued through the 1960s, and they were accompanied by a strengthening of the Mongolian troop presence in border areas. China, in turn, charged that reconnaissance flights from Mongolia and Siberia had violated its airspace. Meanwhile, the Soviet Union and Mongolia continued their public display of political and military affinity. In 1966 the Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation, and Mutual Assistance was renewed for another twenty years; it was extendable for an additional ten. It included a clause permitting the stationing of Soviet troops in Mongolia. A parade in Ulaanbaatar in 1967 honored the fiftieth anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917 and showed off new weapons, including Mongolian army-manned SA-2 surface-to-air and SNAPPER antitank guided missiles. In his address, Lhagbasuren gave high praise to Soviet military aid. In May 1968, at the forty-seventh anniversary of the founding of the Mongolian People's Army, Lhagbasuren spoke similarly of the "fraternal disinterested" aid of the Soviet Union. These panegyrics, while intended to instruct Mongolians in the current policy and to reassure the Soviets of Mongolian solidarity, nevertheless amply demonstrated the degree of Soviet influence and the subordinate Mongolian position in the Soviet mutual defense agreement.

Data as of June 1989

Country Listing

Mongolia Table of Contents