1206-63 - Genghis Khan launches a campaign of conquest. His sons and grandsons create the world's biggest land empire.
1380 - The Golden Horde is defeated by the Russian Prince Dmitriy Donskoy. Ming troops destroy the Mongol capital Karakorum.
1636-1911 - The Manchu (Qing) empire dominates both Inner and Outer Mongolia
First Soviet satellite state
1911-1924 - Mongolia declares its independence, but soon thereafter comes under Russian influence.
1924 - The Mongolian People's Republic is proclaimed.
1928-39 - Purges of religious and cultural leaders and suppression of ancient traditions occurs.
1961-63 - UN Security Council approves Mongolia's UN membership, recognizing the country’s autonomy.
Soviet buffer against China
1966 - Soviet Communist Party General-Secretary Brezhnev signs a friendship treaty in Ulan Bator allowing secret stationing of Soviet troops in Mongolia.
1986 - Gorbachev's Vladivostok speech opens the way to detente with China and the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Mongolia.
1990 - Street demonstrations serve to catalyze government transitions
1992 - Mongolia's new constitution gives first place to human rights and freedoms.
1993 - The first direct presidential elections are won by Ochirbat, nominated by the National and Social Democrats.
1997 to present - periodic government transitions and rapid economic growth shape Mongolia’s ever-changing and developing landscape.
Portrait of Genghis Khan
Mongolia is a nation of extraordinary cultural and environmental legacy, and one that evokes powerful images in most of our imaginations. Most know Mongolia as the birthplace of Chinggis (Ghengis) Khan, arguably the most prolific ruler the world has ever known. His empire stretched from the eastern edge of Asia to the far reaches of central Europe, and from parts of southern Indonesia to the fridged arctic of Siberia. This is the largest of any empire in the world’s history
Contrary to his infamous reputation in the western world, Chinggis promoted religious freedom, cultural pluralism, diplomatic immunity, and impressive innovation in his empire. He is credited with the development of the first passport system, paper currency, and for pioneering concepts such as diplomatic immunity, religious tolerance, and artistic and environmental conservation. He viewed diversity of talent, culture, and language as strengths of his empire, and strived for global peace through the unification and integration of every culture he came across. While his means were often harsh, the underlying virtues that characterized his legacy make him a man that continues to be revered, more than 800 years after his death.
In the centuries that followed the height of the Mongol empire, the nation experienced multiple periods of transition. After the fall of the Mongol Empire in the 14th century, Mongolian history was dotted with few significant events for nearly two centuries. The rhythmic lifestyle of nomadic herders set the pace of life, as opposed to the warring hordes that had dominated the region in previous centuries. Then in the 17th century, an extended period of Chinese influence and occupation began, fueling a rivalry between these two nations that endures even today. Not until the early 1900s did Mongolia gain complete autonomy from China, but this autonomy was quickly undermined with the commencement of Russian occupation just a few years later. From 1921 to 1991, Mongolia was under Soviet control and influence, and was the second communist state in the world after the Soviet Union, though Mongolia was never officially part of the U.S.S.R. But upon the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, Mongolians wasted little time in manifesting their autonomy once again. Today, Mongolia is an independent democracy with a free-market economy that has made an impressive transition from its Soviet socialist occupation, to a burgeoning nation with an ambitious and optimistic outlook on the future.
Mongolia is a geographically immense nation, at nearly 2000 miles across, but with a population of just over 2 million, it has the lowest population density in the world. Nearly half of this population continues to practice nomadic pastoralism, while virtually all the rest live in the quickly-growing capital city, Ulaanbaatar. Mongolia’s vast and largely unspoiled land has helped to make it an increasingly popular spot for tourism, which has become one of the fastest growing industries in this developing nation. Indeed its spectacular landscapes, colorful culture and religions, and low rates of crime and negative incidence, make Mongolia an appealing gem for visitors.
But Mongolia is not without its struggles. In the years following the 1991 political and economic transition, Mongolia and its people have confronted an array of social, environmental, political, cultural, and economic challenges. To name a few: The mixed effects of the extractive mineral industry, the process of revitalizing religious and cultural traditions stifled and suppressed by the former regime, the loss of state-provided services, and the relentless influences of globalization.
These factors have often taken their toll on the cultural and environmental legacy of the nation and her resilient people. For indigenous minorities, new socio-political systems have meant incompatibilities with traditional activities and values. For sensitive ecosystems, rapid development and resource exploitation have triggered threats to biodiversity and the potential for irreversible environmental degradation. And for a nation with low per capita income and a modest GDP, adequate resources are not always available to mitigate such threats.
Civil society organizations, in particular NGOs such as The Itgel Foundation, play an important role in the sustainable development of Mongolia in this time of great transition and rapid development. Itgel picks up where domestic capabilities or resources leave off or have been exhausted, aiding in the protection of threatened traditions, providing support to those in need, and revitalizing communities through capacity building and grassroots action.
- Morgan Keay