Peering Deeper Into Russia-Mongolia Relations

While most Mongolians appreciate and respect Russian culture, music & arts, and people, Mongolians are divided on their views on Russia as “big brother” to Mongolia, specially on politics and economy. Having had first-hand relations, many of the older generations are still quite fond of Russia. On the other hand, many of the younger generations, seeing some energy and infrastructure projects being not happening due to geopolitics, are not satisfied with Russian politics and our economic relations.

Below is a very interesting and insightful article written by a Russian author, who summarized his own prior article that is even longer. Google Translate was used to share the summary article in English in its entirety.

Personally, I am neutral on our relations and, of course, thankful to Russia for their works to develop education, health, and social sector in Mongolia. I also believe it is a must for Mongolia to have good, healthy relations with Russia, as it is only one of our two neighbors. At the same time, I believe below article is useful for providing another angle/view to help round out the whole view of our relations. Certainly, different people will point out different aspects and different opinions.

Please read on and share your thoughts.

Mongolia: an unloved colony

(Editorial by Eugene Trifonov; translated by Google; view original article here )

Initially, Soviet Russia seized Mongolia in order to destroy the white troops there — this country itself was not interesting to Moscow. The absence of serious interest is due to the preservation of a limited monarchy there, and the permission to work in this country is not very loyal to the Bolsheviks of the Buryats.

Since 1923, the USSR has been working closely with the Kuomintang Party in China: the Bolsheviks considered it an ally in the fight against imperialism.From 1924, Soviet arms were shipped to China, and Soviet military specialists arrived there. The Red China has long been a major target of Soviet military and ideological expansion. Under these conditions, Mongolia, in the eyes of the Moscow leadership, is gaining a new meaning — as a corridor for the supply of weapons to China and the transfer of specialists. From 1924 to the end of the 1930s. in the internal correspondence of Soviet workers of Mongolia is called — “Mongolian corridor” or even just “corridor.”

Speaking of Soviet-Mongolian relations, it is necessary to take into account the psychological factor. The Bolsheviks were extreme Euro-centrists: their ideal was industrial Germany, which was then supplanted by the United States on a scale of sympathy. Soviet propaganda aimed at non-European peoples (China, Iran, Turkey, Arab countries, etc.) was based on the perception of them as barbarians who could be used to seize domination of the world. In this picture of the world, the nomads-Mongols stood last: the Bolsheviks perceived them as absolutely backward savages, which is difficult to even use to win the world revolution. The Soviet Communists lacked the education and intellectual level to understand: the Mongols, whose jewelry was not inferior to the most advanced nations, and who created the most sophisticated fine arts at the same time as the European Renaissance, are neither wild nor primitive. But for the Bolsheviks only millions of tons of cast iron and cubic kilometers of concrete mattered, and they could not boast of a small steppe people.

The result of Soviet Eurocentrism was a neglectful, racist attitude towards the Mongols, characteristic of low-cultural and poorly educated people. Internal Soviet problems were imposed on it: corruption and theft at all levels, the irresponsibility and laziness of executives and executors. This was especially painful for Mongolia, which was completely dependent on Moscow, too weak and insignificant country to put pressure on a huge suzerain.

USSR, having mastered the role of “elder brother”, cut Mongolia from external contacts — political and economic: from Ulaanbaatar to the mid-1920’s. sent representatives of English, Japanese, American, Belgian companies. Mongolia’s scientific and cultural contacts with the outside world were cut off: in 1926, groups of Mongolian youth were sent to study in Germany and France, but in 1929, at the insistence of Moscow, the undergraduate students were forced to return to their homeland (Lomakina II, Mongolian capital, old and new. M .: Society of Scientific Publications of KMK, 2006, p. 162).

In 1924, Mongolia ordered a party of weapons in the USSR (several thousand rifles, a couple of hundred machine guns and a couple dozen artillery guns).Moscow rolled out a disproportionate price and demanded payment in advance, with gold; the Mongols agreed, since all contacts with other countries had already been interrupted by the Soviet authorities. When the already paid weapons arrived in Mongolia, MPA officers were horrified: they had received their non-recoverable weapons. Rifles with ripped and rusty barrels, broken butts, machine guns and cannons without locks. Angry Mongols agreed to supply arms with Italy, but Soviet officials managed to break the treaty. In the end, Mongolia still received usable Soviet weapons, but not on time or in full. It was not possible to get a refund for the shortages and the delivery deadline for Ulan Bator. This scheme of economic cooperation — the overestimation of the Soviet side of the cost of its products (sometimes at times), the disruption of delivery times, the provision to Mongols of old, worn out equipment in volumes smaller than specified in the treaties — became constant until the collapse of the USSR.

The telephone and telegraph network in Mongolia, built by Soviet communicationsmen, served primarily Soviet organizations, mainly the Soviet military, operating in the country. The few enterprises built by Soviet specialists, mainly construction and repair, belonged to Soviet organizations and worked primarily on themselves. Soviet Mongolia owned all the Mongolian mining companies. Until 1991, all specialists and most of the workers were Soviet: the Mongols were reluctant to train and take up work. Indicative fact: when in December 1989 the Mongols rebelled against the “people’s” authorities, in half a million Ulan-Bator could not find a single Mongolian crane operator to demolish the monument to Stalin …

In the 1950s. through Mongolia stretched the Moscow-Beijing railway: it worked in the interests of the USSR and China, and was fully owned by the Soviet Union. In 1974, Soviet organizations began construction in Mongolia of the giant copper-molybdenum combine “Erdenet”, which was presented as almost “brotherly assistance” of the USSR of Mongolia. The USSR forced Mongolia to take a loan to obtain a share of the property of the plant that was completely unnecessary to it, and which it did not ask for. As a result, the Mongols also had to pay on this loan! In no way related to the economy of agrarian Mongolia, the mining monster mined copper and molybdenum in the interests of the Soviet industry, and Mongolia received as miniscule sums of money: “Copper went to the USSR at below-market prices, feeding the Mongolian disappointment in connection with the semi-colonial relations” Russia’s share of EKD “Erdenet” Mongolia. Http://www.infpol.ru).

It is significant that in Mongolia having built a huge plant in Erdenate for its needs, the USSR refused to help build the steel mill necessary for this country — buy, say, steel in the Soviet Union — and Ulaanbaatar was forced to turn to Japan, which by 1993. built the Darhan Metallurgical Plant. The largest Mongolian factory that exported finished products — the Gobi factory, which processed goat’s down and camel’s wool into sweaters, pullovers, hats and blankets — was also built in 1981 by the Japanese. In the USSR, Mongolian leather jackets and coats were well known: they were manufactured by the Leather Goods Factory, built by Yugoslav specialists using Swiss, West German, Italian and English looms (Lomakina II Mongolian capital, old and new. , 2006, p. 272). So not “fraternal”, but quite commercial cooperation with the capitalist countries of Mongolia was much more profitable. The problem is that, as it was noted, Moscow struggled with it…

Mongolian exports, which were shipped to the USSR (exports to other countries were limited to Moscow), were sold at low prices, and Soviet imports were purchased at inflated prices. For example, Ulaanbaatar had the right to export only 20% of cashmere to capitalist countries, and 80% had to ship to the USSR. “Mongolia receives for each ton of goat fluff: from the USSR — 17 thousand rubles, from Hungary — 36 thousand rubles, from Japan — 85 thousand dollars, and England is ready to pay 90 thousand dollars” (Yaskina GS History of Mongolia: XX century. Institute of Oriental Studies, Russian Academy of Sciences, 2007, p. 241). The prices at which Soviet organizations purchased meat in Mongolia (which was the basis of Mongolian exports) were three times lower than domestic prices in the USSR. The fact that Mongolia, until 1991, had a passive trade balance with the USSR, is explained by the unequal conditions of trade imposed by the Soviet side.

The USSR repeatedly thwarted Mongolia’s attempts to establish cooperation with other countries — as early as the 1920s. Soviet representatives forced the Mongols to terminate contracts with German firms for the construction of several tanneries and textile enterprises. And in the late 1960s, Moscow achieved the closure of the only Mongolian refinery and the cessation of oil production — please buy oil and gasoline from the USSR. Of course, at inflated prices.

Up until the bloody “sweep” of the Mongolian political field by Choibalsan, all Mongolian prime ministers openly foisted Soviet leaders on the colonial nature of their policies. And only after all of them, one by one, were shot by the NKVD, the complaints stopped…

In order to get any significant help from the USSR, Mongolian leadership had to go for tricks, up to provocations. The provocation of 1939 at Khalkhin Gol was discussed above. In 1958, against the backdrop of a sharp exacerbation of Soviet-Chinese relations, Mongolia succeeded in making large Soviet investments in the development of agriculture in its country: grain farms were stocked in the north with Soviet machinery, fuel and fertilizers. The Mongols succeeded in threatening the transition to Beijing. I must say that the Mongols were able to use this success to the full: by the end of the 1970s. the cattle-breeding country, which had almost no grain of its own, came out to complete self-sufficiency with bread.

Once again Ulaanbaatar was able to use the Chinese card in the auction with Moscow in 1984: then, after many years of strife, having achieved the resignation and departure to Moscow of completely degraded by that time Tzadenbal, the Mongolian leadership of Zhambin Batmunha had acquired Mongolet’s ownership of Mongolia plant and the Ulaanbaatar Railway. The Soviet Union agreed to this after many years of refusing to even discuss the subject, owing to the weakening of its position on the world stage, the intensification of anti-Soviet attitudes and opposition movements in the countries of the “socialist community”. Moscow also had to take into account dissatisfaction in Mongolia itself, which was expressed in the clashes between the Mongols and Soviet citizens, including with the military, which seemed dangerous amid the war in Afghanistan.

Even Soviet researchers admit: “The Soviet-Mongolian economic cooperation proved unable to create modern industries in Mongolia capable of producing competitive products from agricultural and mineral raw materials. It remained mainly a commodity country… The economic efficiency of the MNR industry remained generally low. The available industrial capacity was not used sufficiently and effectively. The quality of products of many enterprises … remained low. There have been numerous violations of industrial and labor discipline, mismanagement ”(Yaskina GS History of Mongolia: Twentieth Century. Institute of Oriental Studies, Russian Academy of Sciences, 2007, pp. 247, 284). In other words, 60 years of construction of socialism, Soviet “aid” and membership in Mongolia in the CMEA did not bring her backward.

There can be no doubt that Mongolia was a Soviet colony: all social, economic, military, diplomatic and cultural policies of the USSR for this country differed little from the colonial policies of Britain, France, Belgium or the Netherlands regarding their colonies. But there was one difference, the most important being: the colonial oppression of the European powers was constantly weakening, undermined by the pressure of national liberation movements in the colonies, the growing influence of anti-colonial forces in the metropolises themselves, and the changing economic interests of companies that worked in the colonies. The socio-economic policies of the USSR against the colonies, which, in addition to Mongolia, included the GDR, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Bulgaria, were absolutely static and did not change for decades.Against the background of other colonies of the USSR, Mongolia was the most unloved and disrespected: with those, they were still more considered, fearing their getting out of control. And in respect of Mongolia, Moscow was dominated by a contemptuous attitude: yes, where does it go from us? Similar was the attitude of, for example, Britain to British Somalia: if India or South Africa are favorite colonies, then this is not the most interesting. Or France to Chad: not really needed, but where to go?

***

What did the USSR get from Mongolia? Fur coats, boots and woolen linen for Soviet soldiers in the Great Patriotic War. This alone is enough to respect the little people who gave the Soviet people something that they themselves lacked. The Mongols themselves during the war were starving, freezing in hole yurts and skinny clothes, considered the last Tugriks, sending not only half fur coats, but also live cattle, felt, money to the USSR. Did they do it voluntarily or at the behest of terrible Marshal Choibalsan? Rather, more by order; but what does it matter if our ancestors were warmed by their ancestors?

Mongolia’s notorious Soviet accounts, which Moscow is trying to obtain, are “generously” written off, accumulated as a result of an inequitable, colonial exchange between the two countries, and cannot be considered legitimate.The presence of Soviet troops in Mongolia, with intermittent periods of 70 years, did not protect Mongolia from external threats, but was carried out in pursuit of Soviet foreign policy goals.

Should the Mongols be grateful to the Soviet Union? Let them decide for themselves. Yes, almost everything is more or less modern — factories, buildings, infrastructure, logistics, education, health care, army, state apparatus — created with the help of Soviet specialists. But all this was built on Mongolian funds, or on a part of the money received by the Soviet Union from the non-equivalent trade: can it be considered “brotherly aid”? And all of this — deteriorated copies of Soviet samples, which in the originals were, to put it mildly, not the best in the world, but in the copies quite poor. For example, the multi-storey buildings of the 1960s. In Mongolia, they were partially built … without toilets (the stinking of the streets of “booths” crowded around them with stinking overgrown trees). But even these shameful structures were few — most of the capital’s inhabitants by 1990 lived in yurts, dirty-gray sea surrounding the city quarters, sinking in the chad and smog of thousands of primitive stoves. The quarters themselves, devoid of sidewalks and road markings, consisted largely of cluttered houses, among the dirty wastelands, and were a very aesthetic sight. Not so big Ulan Bator (1.4 million inhabitants in 2017) is one of the most environmentally disadvantaged cities in the world. 4 Soviet-built CHP plants, plus Soviet-type boilers stuck in the chaos of urban development, plus thousands of “bourgeois” in yurts (evidence of the extreme shortage of modern housing) still delay the Mongolian capital by smog more than Beijing, Novokuznetsk, or Krasnoyarsk. A huge number of toilets — “birdhouses” fills the air with horrific miasmas, poisons reservoirs. The provincial towns, built up by the very poor shacks and again by yurts, are unimaginably dirty and sad: they look about the same as the abandoned settlements of the Gulag on Kolyma or along Stalin’s “Dead Road” Salekhard-Igarka.

Soviet specialists who worked in Mongolia in the 1980s. they were simply amazed: if the revolution in this country happened 60 years ago, why is it so backward? Indeed, after 60 years of socialist construction, Mongolia has only marginally surpassed that in terms of development, in terms of living, the most backward countries of the planet — Chad, Mali and Haiti, and are inferior to, for example, Swaziland, Paraguay or the notorious Honduras.

… In 1990, parts of the Soviet Army were ordered to return to the USSR. They left the military camps set up — with multi-storey houses, power plants, schools, hospitals, garages, clubs and parks. To the officers, including the top officials, for some reason no one explained why and why the troops were leaving, and they decided that this was the result of the Mongols’ hostility. And those, including the country’s leadership, did not even know that Soviet troops were withdrawing; the decision was made personally by MS Gorbachev at the request of the leadership of the People’s Republic of China. And at the behest of the command, the soldiers brought the military towns transferred to Mongolia into a completely unfit condition. Apartments, elevators, doors were broken, windows were knocked out, everything was specifically broken, spoiled, flawed. Even the runways were destroyed: heavy machinery was used to open the concrete.

Is this all a reason for the Mongols’ gratitude to the Soviet “elder brothers”?And how should they remember the tens of thousands of compatriots killed by the Chekists and their Mongolian classmates (only ministers — dozens, and lamas destroyed by Stalin’s personal order — 17,000)? About the nomads shot and bombed by Soviet aircraft? About monasteries completely destroyed — centers of national culture, education and medicine, among which were real masterpieces of architecture?

***

History of “People’s” Mongolia 1921–90 Is a ballad about lost time. The Mongols are part of a great Eastern culture, along with China, Japan, Korea and Thailand. And this country could well have achieved a high level of socio-economic and cultural development in the decades of peaceful development: Mongolia has huge natural resources, and Mongols are a talented people, and after the collapse of socialism, they clearly demonstrate it in various fields.

And only after socialism and the corresponding “commonwealth” did not begin, did Mongolia begin to develop, as is the case with the modern country. The Soviet heritage is still felt there at every turn: the five- and nine-storey buildings are embroiled, the roads are just beginning to build (they were not at all — only “tracts” without coverage). The people drink very much; corruption is difficult to overcome; the professional level at all levels, from industrial workers to managers and senior officials, is clearly inadequate.

And the attitude towards the Soviet past and the present Russia in Mongolia as a whole remains quite tolerant: there remember thousands of Soviet people who worked on their land, among them were stupid, talented, insignificant hoppers and outstanding ascetics, arrogant racists and true friends. There were those who terrorized, taught, oppressed, and humiliated the “younger brothers,” but there were many who taught, sympathized, and helped. They remember those with whom they worked side by side, suffered, had fun, with whom they fought near. It must be remembered that in Mongolia, as in the USSR, generations have grown up that have been drawn into friendship with the USSR, Soviet aid, the successes of building socialism, etc. Hundreds of propagandists still making name, fame, money and scientific titles are still alive; their children and grandchildren are not ready to admit that their ancestors labored in vain and upheld false values.In this our peoples are alike — in the difficult return of historical memory, in the often cunning attitude to the truth.

In any case, after decades spent together, Mongolia remains a stranger to us. And Russia is no stranger to the Mongols. It is also necessary to remember the good and recognize the bad; it is necessary to treat the common history honestly, without pride and arrogance. Because our countries still have to live close by.

(Excerpt from article http://www.historicus.ru/mongoliya-ternistii-put/)

Published by

Mergen

Born in 1979. Lived, studied, and worked in the US from 1992-2007. Currently in Mongolia since 2007. Founder of Growth Summit Global (www.growthsummit.global), investor in BioAmidral Store (bioamidral-store.business.site), co-founder of Soaring Siblings, senior advisor at STS Capital... Personal achievements include dunking basketball from age 19-27 using plyometrics training to jump higher, scoring 97th percentile on GMAT after 4 tries, running around a lake (Ugii Nuur, Mongolia, 2012). Used to be a paper boy (age 14) and sold books door to door 80 hrs/wk (while in college). For full bio, please visit linkedin.com/in/mergenchuluun.

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