Economic Gradualism and National Defense, 1932-45
The New Turn Policy, 1932-40
The new policy of socioeconomic gradualism--the New Turn
Policy--continued until the mid-1940s, when Mongolian socialism
entered its modern stage of collectivization and economic growth.
The Ninth Party Congress in September and October 1934 pronounced
the New Turn a success, but it became obvious that this
gradualism actually had been determined by the basic Soviet need
to maintain Mongolia as a stable buffer state against either
Japanese or Chinese expansion. At the beginning of this period,
the Soviets did not want to enlarge Mongolia's small-scale
industries because this might provide a further incentive for
Japanese invasion. Instead, Mongolia's raw materials were used to
strengthen the Soviet Union, while Soviet Red Army units and a
large cavalry-oriented Mongolian People's Revolutionary Army were
deployed to defend Mongolia against attack.
On November 27, 1934, a Mongolian-Soviet "gentlemen's
agreement" was reached that provided for mutual assistance in the
face of Japanese advances in Manchuria and Inner Mongolia. In
January 1935, Soviet troops reentered Mongolia as Japanese forces
began to probe the Mongolian-Manchurian border. On March 12,
1936, the 1934 agreement was upgraded when the ten-year
Mongolian-Soviet Treaty of Friendship--which included a mutual
defense protocol--was signed. The pact did not mention Chinese
sovereignty over Mongolia, and Moscow ignored Chinese protests.
In addition to concluding defense treaties with the Soviet
Union, Mongolia concentrated on building its army with Soviet
guidance and military aid. In 1936 military expenditures were
doubled, and by 1938 more than half of Mongolia's budget was for
defense. The government built paved roads, extended railroads,
and established military air bases and communication lines, all
with Soviet aid. Military equipment and training also were
supplied by the Soviet Union. It is estimated that during World
War II the Mongolian Army numbered between 80,000 and 100,000
troops, a huge percentage of the total population of 900,000.
Security concerns and a more conservative economic approach
prevented major advances in stock raising and other internal
development during this period. A few small Mongolian-Soviet
enterprises were initiated to support the war economy. The
abandonment of agricultural communes and the return to private
enterprise signaled a trend toward gradualism. Voluntary
producers' cooperatives were encouraged, but they remained small
until the 1950s
(see Peacetime Development, 1946-52
, this ch.).
Only a few state farms were started. Apart from some veterinary
and credit assistance, the government made few efforts to support
the nomads, and by 1941 herds had reached the highest recorded
growth in Mongolian history. Consumer cooperatives continued to
expand, and the state controlled the rest of internal trade.
The policy of gradualism was particularly ineffective in
education. In 1941 an estimated 90 percent of the people were
illiterate. In 1942 the country's first university--Choybalsan
University, later renamed Mongolian State University--was
established in Ulaanbaatar, but the spread of general education
had to await the late 1940s and the 1950s. The first large-scale
literacy program did not begin until 1947
, ch. 2).
Despite the government's official policy of not overtly
persecuting religious beliefs, its antireligious campaign
continued slowly but relentlessly. Emphasis was placed on
ideological and economic persuasion, which curtailed monastic
growth and induced monks of lower rank to return to secular life.
Government representatives were attached to monasteries to
monitor their activities, construction of new monasteries was
forbidden by law, the enrollment of minors was disallowed, and
monks became eligible for military service. Many monasteries were
destroyed; others were converted to secular use. Methods of
suppression became especially bloody in the second half of the
1930s. In 1935 abbots and monks of higher rank were tried
publicly; in 1937 and 1938, about 2,000 of them were executed.
Thousands of others were arrested and jailed. The financially
shattered monasteries gradually were closed in the period 1938 to
The campaign against the Buddhists was largely successful.
Within two decades, the resident monastic population was reduced
from about 15,000 to approximately 200 monks. A handful of small
monasteries and one large institution were all that were left
physically of what had been, at the century's start, the best
organized and most intellectual force in Mongolian life.
There also were renewed purges in the inner party ranks in
1937 to 1939. Minor rebellions continued to plague the
government, and uncooperative political leaders increasingly were
accused of aiding the opposition or the Japanese. One after the
other, many top party and government officials fell from power
and were executed or were imprisoned. By 1939 Choybalsan had
emerged as the premier, the minister of war, and the undisputed
leader of Mongolia. It later was acknowledged, in 1956 and in
1962, that Choybalsan had "committed serious errors" and had
established a "personality cult" during this period
(see Socialist Construction under Tsedenbal, 1952-84
, this ch.).
In March and April 1940, the Tenth Party Congress met.
Although it confirmed Yumjaagiyn Tsedenbal as general secretary,
Choybalsan continued to be the predominant force in the party.
The ensuing Eighth National Great Hural adopted a new state
constitution, which, however, made no basic alterations in the
1924 constitution. Although it emphasized the new Mongolian
authority structure, the bypassing of capitalism, and the
necessity of overall state planning, the 1940 constitution did
not change the policy of gradualism. Private ownership,
especially of livestock, was allowed until the turn to total
communization began in late 1947.
Data as of June 1989