Thursday, December 09, 2004

Mongolia in the 1990s: from Commissars to Capitalists?

Mongolia in the 1990s: from Commissars to Capitalists? - Detailed analysis of recent Mongolian history (from the overthrow of the Communist government in 1991) to the present.

From the site:

T he Mongols' natural environment has shaped their history. Their location in North Asia, with its extremes in temperature and resultant short growing season, precludes intensive agriculture. Grasslands in the central part of the country have traditionally sustained most of the Mongol population, who tended sheep, goats, yaks, horses, and camels. Mongol herdsmen traveled to seek water and grass for their animals. They migrated from two to as many as ten times a year to find sufficient pasturelands, and such frequent migrations dictated that the groups be relatively small and readily mobile. Similarly, the Mongols eking out their livelihood in the Gobi desert, south of the steppelands, or in the forest and lakes region, north of the steppes, journeyed around the countryside and were organized into small units.

Influence of the Past

Lack of UnityA country three times as large as France with a population of a few hundred thousand in early days, Mongolia encountered great difficulties in fostering a country-wide identity and in accepting unified rule. The enormous size of Mongolia contributed to localism and local identity, as individual herders naturally identified with their own groups and not with a larger Mongol entity. Unity under these economic and political circumstances offered few benefits. Organization centered around specific tribes, with leadership provided by a chieftain and occasionally a shaman. Defense against bellicose neighbors, the Turkic rulers of Central Asia or the more expansionist Chinese dynasties, would prompt the inhabitants of Mongolia to join together to safeguard their pasturelands or their commercial interests. A belligerent Mongol tribe facing threats posed by ambitious rival chiefs would also cause other tribes to form a confederation for self-protection. Finally, a charismatic leader could persuade tribes to band together for forays designed to obtain booty. These alliances were temporary; once they achieved their immediate objectives, they disbanded. Unity proved elusive because no overarching ethnic or national loyalty to one leader and his descendants existed. Loyalty to one specific individual did not translate into support for any dynasty or hereditary principle he might seek to establish.

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