Outer Mongolia (1911–1919)

Outer Mongolia (1911–1919)
Bogd Khaanate of Mongolia



Capital Niislel Khüree (modern Ulaanbaatar)
Language(s) Mongolian
Religion Buddhism
Government Absolute monarchy, Theocracy[1]
 - Outer Mongolia declares its independence from the Qing Dynasty. 1911
 - Republic of China occupation and abolition of Mongolian autonomy 1919
History of Mongolia
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On December 29, 1911 the Khalkhas of Outer Mongolia declared their independence from the Qing Dynasty, and installed a theocratic leader, the 8th Jebtsundamba Khutuktu, as Bogd Khaan or "Holy Ruler".[2] This ushered in the period of the Bogd Khaanate[3] or Theocratic Mongolia.[4]

Three historical currents were at work during this period. The first was the efforts of the Mongolians to form an independent, theocratic state that embraced Inner Mongolia, Barga (also known as Hulunbuir), and Tannu Uriankhai ("pan-Mongolia"). The second was Tsarist Russia's determination to achieve the twin goals of establishing its own pre-eminence in the country but, at the same time ensuring Mongolia's autonomy within the Chinese state. The third was the ultimate success of China in eliminating Mongolian autonomy, and restoring its sovereignty over the country.


Bogd Khaan government

The new Mongolian state was a fusion of very different elements: Western political institutions, Mongolian theocracy, and Qing imperial administrative and political traditions. December 29 was declared to be independence day and a national holiday. Urga (modern Ulan Bator), until then known to the Mongolians as the "Great Monastery" (Ikh khüree), was renamed "Capital Monastery" (Niislel khüree) to reflect its new role as the seat of government. A state name, "Mongolia" (Mongol uls), and a state flag were adopted. A parliament (ulsyn khural) was created, comprising upper and lower houses. A new Mongolian government was formed with five ministries—internal affairs, foreign affairs, finance, justice, and the army. Consequently, a national army was created.

The new state also reflected old forms. The Bogd Khaan adopted a reign title, "Elevated by the Many" (Olnoo örgogdsön), a style name used (it was believed) by the ancient kings of Tibet. He promoted the ruling princes and lamas by one grade, an act traditionally performed by newly installed Chinese emperors. Lay and church princes were instructed to render their annual tribute, the "nine whites". By tradition the "nine whites" were eight white horses and one white camel. On this occasion, they consisted of 3,500 horses and 200 camels[5] sent to the Bogd Khan instead of the Qing Emperor as in the past. Again, the Bogd Khaan appropriated to himself the right to confer ranks and seals of office upon the Mongolian nobility.[6]

The Bogd Khaan himself was the inevitable choice as leader of the state in view of his stature as the revered symbol of Buddhism in Mongolia. He was famed throughout the country for his special oracular and supernatural powers and as the Great Khan of Mongols. He established contacts with foreign powers, tried to assist development of economy (mainly agriculture and military issues), but his main goal was development of Buddhism in Mongolia.

The new state was theocratic, and its system suited Mongols, but it was not economic efficient as the leaders were inexperienced in such matters. The Qing had been careful to check the encroachment of religion into the secular arena; that restraint was now gone. State policy was directed by religious leaders, with relatively little participation by lay nobles. The parliament had only consultative powers; in any event, it did not meet until 1914. The Office of Religion and State, an extra-governmental body headed by a lama, played a role in directing political matters.[7] The Ministry of Internal Affairs was vigilant in ensuring that senior ecclesiastics were treated with solemn deference by lay persons.[8]

The head of the Bogd Khaan's Ecclesiastical Administration (Shav’ yamen) endeavoured to transfer as many wealthy herdsmen as he could to the Ecclesiastical Estate (Ikh shav’), resulting in the population bearing an increasingly heavy tax burden. Ten-thousand Buddha statuettes were purchased in 1912 as propitiatory offerings to restore the Bogd Khaan's eyesight. A cast-iron statute of the Buddha, 84 feet tall, was brought from Dolonnor, and a temple was constructed to house the statue. D. Tsedev, pp. 49–50. In 1914 the Ecclesiastical Administration ordered the government to defray the costs of a particular religious ceremony in the amount of 778,000 bricks of tea (the currency of the day), a gigantic sum.[9]

Diplomatic maneuvering over Mongolia

Throughout the Bogd Khaan Era, the positions of the governments of China and Russia were clear and consistent. China was adamant that Mongolia was, and must remain, an integral part of China. The (provisional) constitution of the new Chinese Republic contained an uncompromising statement to this effect. A law dealing with the election of the Chinese National Assembly provided for delegates from Outer Mongolia.[10] For their part, the Russian government accepted the principle that Mongolia must remain formally part of China; however, Russia was equally determined that Mongolia possess autonomous powers so substantial as to make it quasi-independent. Thus, in 1912 Russia concluded a secret convention with Japan delineating their respective spheres of influence: South Manchuria and Inner Mongolia fell to the Japanese, North Manchuria and Outer Mongolia to the Russians.

In spite of Chinese and Russian opposition, the Mongols were tireless in their efforts to attract international recognition of their independence. Diplomatic notes were sent to foreign consulates in Hailar; none responded. A delegation went to Saint Petersburg the purpose of which, among other things, was to contact European ambassadors expressing the desire for diplomatic relations. The Russians did not permit these contacts. A later delegation to Saint Petersburg sent notes to Western ambassadors announcing Mongolia's independence and formation of a pan-Mongolian state; again none responded. The Mongols attempted to send a delegation to Japan but the Japanese consul at Harbin (Manchuria) prevented it from proceeding further.[11]

While these efforts at obtaining international recognition continued, the Mongols and Russians were negotiating. At the end of 1912 Russia and the Mongols signed a treaty by which Russia acknowledged Mongol autonomy within the Chinese state; it also provided for Russian assistance in the training of a new Mongolian army and for Russian commercial privileges in Mongolia. Nevertheless, in the equivalent Mongolian version of the treaty, the terms designated independence were used. Both verions have the same value; so it was formally recognition of Mongolia as an independent state and its name State of Mongolia. In 1913 Russia agreed to provide Mongolia with weapons and a loan of two million rubles. In 1913 Mongolia and Tibet signed a bilateral treaty, recognizing each other as independent states.

In November 1913 there was a Sino-Russian Declaration which recognised Mongolia as part of China but with internal autonomy; further, China agreed not to send troops or officials to Mongolia, or to permit colonization of the country; it was also to accept the "good offices" of Russia in Chinese-Mongolian affairs. There was to be a tripartite conference, in which Russia, China, and the "authorities" of Mongolia would participate.[12] This declaration was not considered by Mongolia to be legitimate as the Mongolian government had not participated in the decision.

To reduce tensions, the Russians agreed to provide Mongolia with more weapons and a second loan, this time three million rubles. There were other agreements between Russia and Mongolia in these early years concerning weapons, military instructors, telegraph, and railroad that were either concluded or nearly so by the outbreak of the First World War in 1914.

In April 1914 the region of Tannu Uriankhai was formally accepted as a protectorate of Tsarist Russia[13].

The tripartite conference convened at Kyakhta in the autumn of 1914. Negotiations were difficult. The Mongols were determined to stretch autonomy into de facto independence, and to deny the Chinese anything more than vague, ineffectual suzerain powers. The Chinese sought to minimize, if not to end, Mongolian autonomy. The Russian position was somewhere in between.[14] The result was the Kyakhta Treaty of June 1915, which recognised Mongolia's autonomy within the Chinese state. Nevertheless, Outer Mongolia remained effectively outside Chinese control.[15]

The Mongolians viewed the treaty as a disaster because it denied the recognition of a truly independent, all-Mongolian state. China regarded the treaty in a similar fashion, consenting only because it was preoccupied with other international problems, especially Japan. The treaty did contain one significant feature which the Chinese were later to turn to their advantage: the right to appoint a high commissioner to Urga and deputy high commissioners to Uliastai, Khovd, and Kyakhta. This provided a political presence in Mongolia, which had been lacking.

Decline of Russian influence

In 1913 the Russian consulate in Urga began publishing a journal titled Shine tol’ (the New Mirror), the purpose of which was to project a positive image of Russia. Its editor, a Buryat-born scholar and statesman Ts. Zhamtsarano, turned it into a platform for advocating political and social change. Lamas were incensed over the first issue, which denied that the world was flat; another issue severely criticized the Mongolian nobility for its exploitation of ordinary people.[16] Medical and veterinary services, part of Russian-sponsored reforms, met resistance from the lamas as this had been their prerogative. Mongols regarded as annoying the efforts of the Russia to oversee use of the second loan (the Russians believed the first had been profligately spent) and to reform the state budgetary system.[17] The Russian diplomat Alexander Miller, appointed in 1913, proved to be a poor choice as he had little respect for most Mongolian officials, whom he regarded as incompetent in the extreme.[18] The chief Russian military instructor successfully organized a Mongolian military brigade. People from this brigade manifested themselves most efficient soldiers in Mongolian troops later, in the time of fight with Chinese invaders.

The outbreak of the World War I in 1914 required Russia to redirect its energies to Europe. By the middle of 1915 the Russian military position had deteriorated so badly that the Russian government had no choice but to neglect its Asian interests. The Bolshevik Revolution in 1917 resulted in the collapse of the Imperial government, followed by the Russian civil war several months later. China soon took advantage of Russian distractions.

Chinese attempts to re-establish power

In December 1915, Yuan Shikai, the President of recently established Republic of China, sent gifts to the Bogd Khaan and his wife. In return, the Bogd Khaan dispatched a delegation of 30 persons to Beijing with gifts for Yuan: four white horses and two camels (his wife Ekh Dagina sent four black horses and two camels). The delegation was received by Yuan Shikai himself, now the self-proclaimed Hungxien Emperor.[19] The delegation met Yuan Shikai on 10 February 1916 [20].In China this was interpreted in the context of the traditional tributary system, when all missions with gifts to Chinese rulers were considered as signs of submission. In this regard, Chinese sources stated that a year later, the Bogd Khaan agreed to participate in an investiture ceremony — a formal Qing ritual by which frontier nobles received the patent and seal of imperial appointment to office; Yuan awarded him China's highest decoration of merit; lesser but significant decorations were awarded to other senior Mongolian princes.[21] Actually, after the conclusion of the Kyakhta agreement, the Chinese president sent a telegram to the Bogd Khaan informing him that he was bestowed a title of Bogdo Jevzundamba Khutuktu Khaan of the Outer Mongolia and would be provided with a golden seal and a golden diploma. The Bogd Khaan responded: "Since the title of Bogd Jevzundamba Khutuktu Khaan of Outer Mongolia was already bestowed by the Ikh Juntan, there was no need to bestow it again and that since there was no provision on the golden seal and golden diploma in the tripartite agreement, his government was not in a position to receive them".[22] The Bogd Khaan meant the seal and diploma received by him at the Qing time.

Revolution and civil war in Russia

The Bolshevik revolution in 1917 and the resultant outbreak of civil war in Asiatic Russia provided new opportunities for China in Mongolia. The Bolsheviks established councils (soviets) in Siberia, a process essentially completed by the summer of 1918. The presence of the Bolsheviks so close to the Mongolian border unsettled both the Mongolians and the Chinese High Commissioner, Chen Yi. Rumours were rife of Bolshevik troops preparing to invade Mongolia. The Cossack consular guards at Urga, Uliastai, and Khovd, traditionally loyal to the Romanov family, had mutinied and left. The Russian communities in Mongolia were themselves becoming fractious, some openly supporting the new Bolshevik regime.[23] The pretext was the penetration of the White (pro-Tsarist) troops from Siberia.[24] Chen Yi sent telegrams to Beijing requesting troops. After several efforts, he was able to persuade the Bogd Khaan government to agree to the introduction of one battalion. By July 1918 the Soviet threat from Siberia had faded and the Mongolian foreign minister told Chen Yi that troops were no longer needed. Nevertheless, the battalion continued to move and in August arrived to Urga.

Anti-Bolshevik forces in Asia were fragmented into a number of regiments. One was led by the Ataman (supreme commander) of Russian Transbaikal Cossacks Grigory Semyonov, who had assembled a detachment of Buryats and Inner Mongolian nationalists for the creation of a pan-Mongolian state. Semyonov and his allies made several unsuccessful efforts to encourage the government of Bogd Khaan's to join it. The Khalkhas regarded themselves as the natural leaders of all Mongols and feared being submerged into a new political system that likely would be led by Buryats, whom the Khalkhas deeply mistrusted.[25] When inducements failed, Semyonov threatened to invade Mongolia to force compliance.[26]

The Mongols were in a difficult position. On the one hand, they lacked the strength to repel a pan-Mongolist attack; on the other, they were profoundly disquieted by the thought of more Chinese troops in Mongolia. The first detachment of Chinese troops arrived to Urga in July 1919. Prince N.A. Kudashev, the Russian ambassador (sent to Beijing while Russia was a monarchy) indicatied violation of the Kyakhta Agreement by China.[27] This violation of the Kyakhta agreement was considered by the Chinese as the first step toward Chinese sovereignty over Mongolia.[28] In any event, the threatened pan-Mongolian invasion never materialized because of dissension between the Buryats and Inner Mongolians.[29] Semyonov's dream of a pan-Mongolian state died.

Abolition of Mongolian autonomy

On August 4, 1919, an assembly of princes took place in Urga to discuss Semyonov's invitation to join the pan-Mongolian movement; this was because Khalkha was threatened by a pan-Mongolist group of two Buryat and one Mongolian regiments advancing from Dauria.[30] That military campaign failed, but China continued to increase troop numbers in Mongolia. On August 13, 1919 Chen Yi received a message from "representatives of the four aimags," requesting that China come to Mongolia's aid against Semyonov; it also expressed the desire of the Khalkha nobility to restore the previous Qing system. Among other things, they proposed that the five ministries of the Mongolian government be placed under the direct supervision of the Chinese high commission rather than the Bogd Khaan.[31]

Pressure from Chen Yi on Mongolian princes followed; representatives of the Bogd Khaan also participated in negotiations. Eventually, the princes agreed on a long list of principles, sixty-four points "On respecting of Outer Mongolia by the government of China and improvement of her position in future after self-abolishing of authonomy". This document offered the replacement of the Mongolian government with Chinese officials, the introduction of Chinese garrisons and keepeng of feudal titles. According to Kudashev, the majority of princes supported removal of autonomy. The Bogd Khaan sent a delegation to the President of China with a letter complaining that the plan to abolish autonomy was a contrivance of the High Commissioner alone and not the wish of the people of Mongolia. On October 28 the Chinese National Assembly approved the Articles. The President of China sent a conciliatory letter to the Bogd Khaan, pledging respect for Mongolian feelings and reverence for the Jebtsundamba Khututktu and the Buddhist Faith.[32]

A few months earlier the Chinese government had appointed a new Northwest Frontier Commissioner, Xu Shuzheng, a general and prominent member of the Anfu party in China. Xu had a vision for Mongolia very different from that reflected in the Sixty-four points. It presented a vast plan for reconstruction. Arriving with a military escort in Urga on 29 October, he informed the Mongolians that the Sixty-four points would need to be renegotiated. He submitted a much tougher set of conditions, the "Eight Articles," calling for the express declaration of Chinese sovereignty over Mongolia, an increase in Mongolia's population (presumably through Chinese colonization), and the promotion of commerce, industry, and agriculture.[33] The Mongols resisted. Concluding that more vigour was needed, Xu threatened to deport the Bogd Khaan to China if he did not immediately agree to Xu's conditions.[34] To emphasize the point, Xu placed troops in front of the Bogd Khaan's palace.[35]

The Eight Articles were placed before the Mongolian Parliament on November 15. The upper house accepted the Articles; the lower house did not, with some members calling for armed resistance, if necessary. The Buddhist monks resisted most of all. The upper house prevailed.[36] A petition to end autonomy, signed by the ministers and deputy ministers of the Bogd Khaan government, was presented to Xu.[37] However, the Bogd Khaan refused to affix his seal. The office of the high commission was abolished, and Chen Yi was recalled. Xu's success was broadly celebrated in China. January 1 and the next day were declared holidays and all governmental institutions in Beijing and in provinces were closed.

Xu returned to Mongolia in December for the Bogd Khaan's "investiture", which took place on January 1, 1920. It was an elaborate ceremony: Chinese soldiers lined both sides of the road to the palace; the portrait of the President of China was borne on a palanquin, followed by the national flag of China and a marching band of cymbals and drums. Mongols were obliged to prostrate themselves before these emblems of Chinese sovereignty.[38] That night herdsmen and lamas gathered outside the palace and angrily tore down the flags of the Chinese Republic hanging from the gate.[39]

Xu moved immediately to implement the Eight Articles. The doors of the former Mongolian ministries were locked, and Chinese sentries posted in front. A new government of eight departments was formed. The Mongolian army was demobilized, its arsenal seized, and both lay and religious officials banned from using the words "Mongolian state" (Mongol uls) in their official correspondence.[40]


The late Qing government had embarked on a grand plan, the "New Administration", aimed at an integration of Mongolia into China and opened Han Chinese colonization and agricultural settlement. Many Mongols considered this act as a violation of the old agreements when they recognized authority of the Manchu dynasty, particularly the preservation of traditional social order on Mongolian lands, and thus began to seek independence. The collapse of the Qing Dynasty in 1911, conducted under the nationalistic catchwords of the Han Chinese, led to the formation of the Republic of China; later the initial concept was called "Five Races Under One Union".[41] The newly founded Chinese state laid claim to all imperial territory, including Mongolia. Mongolian officials were clear that their subordination was to the Qing monarch and thus owed no allegiance to the new Chinese republic. While some Inner Mongols showed willingness to join the Republic of China, Outer Mongols, together with part of Inner Mongolia, declared independence of China. The Outer Mongols were helped by the White Russian troops of Baron R.F. von Ungern-Sternberg incursions following the Russian Revolution of 1917.[42][43] The abolition of Mongolian autonomy by Xu Shuzheng in 1919 reawakened Mongolian the national independence movement. Two small resistance groups formed, later to become the Mongolian People's Party (renamed the Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party), which sought independence and Russian protection.


  1. ^ Timothy Michael May, Culture and customs of Mongolia, Greenwood Press, 2008, p. 22
  2. ^ Thomas E. Ewing, Revolution on the Chinese Frontier: Outer Mongolia in 1911, Journal of Asian History (Wiesbaden), v. 12, pp. 101-119 (1978).
  3. ^ William Elliott Butler-The Mongolian legal system: contemporary legislation and documentation‎, p.255
  4. ^ Академия наук СССР-History of the Mongolian People's Republic‎, p.232
  5. ^ Ts. Nasanbaljir, Jibzandama khutagtyn san [The treasury of the Jebtsundamba Khutukhtu], Tüükhiin sudlal [Historical studies] (Ulan Bator, 1970), v. 8, p. 150.
  6. ^ Thomas E. Ewing, Between the Hammer and the Anvil. Chinese and Russian Policies in Outer Mongolia, 1911-1921 (Bloomington, Ind., 1980), p. 36.
  7. ^ Sh. Sandag, Mongolyn uls töriin gadaad khariltsaa, 1850-1919 [Foreign relations of Mongolia, 1850-1919], (Ulan Bator, 1971), p. 284.
  8. ^ A contemporary, "Old Jambal," in the Soviet time has supplied a fascinating description of the sordid affairs of the Bogd Khaan's court and his court. Ts. Damdinsüren, ed., Övgön Jambalyn yaria [Tales of Old Jambal], (Ulan Bator, 1959).
  9. ^ Tsedev, pp. 40, 46.
  10. ^ Jou Kuntien, Bienjiang chengtse [Frontier policy], (Taipei, 1962), pp. 42-43.
  11. ^ Ewing, Between the Hammer and the Anvil, pp. 49-50.
  12. ^ John V.A. MacMurray, comp., Treaties and Agreements with and concerning China, 1894-1919 (New York, 1921), v. 2, no. 1913/11, pp. 1066-67.
  13. ^ Istoriya Tuvy [History of Tuva], v. 1, pp. 354-55.
  14. ^ Chen Lu, the Chinese representative, has provided a detailed chronicle of discussions in Jishi biji [Reminiscences], (Shanghai, 1919), pp. 16-41.
  15. ^ Batsaikhan, O. The Last King of Mongolia, Bogdo Jebtsundamba Khutuktu. Ulaanbaatar: Admon, 2008, p.290-293 - ISBN 978-99929-0-464-X
  16. ^ Korostovetz, p. 251.
  17. ^ Korostovetz, p. 286.
  18. ^ Ewing, Between the Hammer and the Anvil, p. 81.
  19. ^ Bügd nairamdakh Mongol ard ulsyn tüükh [History of the Monglian People's Republic], (Ulan Bator, 1966-69), v. 2, pp. 536-37.
  20. ^ Badarchi, O.S. and Dugarsuren, Sh.N. Bogd khaany amdrallyn on daraalyn tovchoon. Ulaanbaatar: Khadyn san, 2000, p. 125
  21. ^ Chen Chungzu, Wai mengu jinshi shi [The modern history of Outer Mongolia], (Shanghai, 1926; repr. Taipei, 1965), bien 2, p. 69.
  22. ^ Batsaikhan, O. The Last King of Mongolia, Bogdo Jebtsundamba Khutuktu. Ulaanbaatar: Admon, 2008, p.293 - ISBN 978-99929-0-464-X
  23. ^ Burdukov, pp. 151, 393.
  24. ^ Kuzmin, S.L. 2011. The History of Baron Ungern. An Experience of Reconstruction. Moscow: KMK Sci. Press, ISBN 978-5-87317-692-2, p. 128
  25. ^ B. Shirendyb, Mongolia na rubezhe XIX-XX vekov [Mongolia on the eve of the 19th and 20th centuries], (Ulan Bator, 1963), pp. 173-74.
  26. ^ Zhung-O guanxi shiliao: Wai menggu [Historical sources on Chinese-Russian relations: Outer Mongolia], (Taipei, 1959),, no. 159, p. 415.
  27. ^ Kuzmin, S.L. 2011. The History of Baron Ungern. An Experience of Reconstruction. Moscow: KMK Sci. Press, ISBN 978-5-87317-692-2, p. 134
  28. ^ Ewing, Between the Hammer and the Anvil, p. 118.
  29. ^ Ewing, Russia, China, p. 407.
  30. ^ Kuzmin, S.L. 2011. The History of Baron Ungern. An Experience of Reconstruction. Moscow: KMK Sci. Press, ISBN 978-5-87317-692-2, p. 134
  31. ^ Zhung-O, no. 253, 461-61.
  32. ^ Thomas E. Ewing, Russia, China, and the Origins of the Mongolian People's Republic, 1911-1921: A Reappraisal, The Slavonic and East European Review (London), v. 58, pp. 407-08 (1980).
  33. ^ Ts. Puntsagnorov, Mongolyn avtonomit üyeiin tüükh [History of Mongolia in the autonomous period], (Ulan Bator, 1955), p. 205.
  34. ^ Zhung-O, no. 420, p. 593.
  35. ^ D. Gongor, Ts. Dolgorsüren, eds., D. Sükhbaataaryn tukhai durdatgaluud [Memories of D. Sukhbaatar], (Ulan Bator, 1965), p. 71.
  36. ^ L. Bat-Ochir, D. Dashjamts, Damdiny Sukhe-Bator. Biografiya [Biography of Damdin Sukhbaatar], (Moscow, 1971), pp. 31-32.
  37. ^ Chen Chungzu, pien 3, pp. 5-7.
  38. ^ Xu Daolin, Xu shuzheng hsien-sheng wenji nienpu hokan [The life of Mr. Xu Shuzheng], (Taipei, 1962), p. 261.
  39. ^ Bat-Ochir, Dashjamts, p. 34.
  40. ^ Bügd nairamdakh Mongol ard ulsyn tüükh [History of the Monglian People's Republic], (Ulan Bator, 1966-69), v. 3, p. 65.
  41. ^ Esherick J.W. 2006. How the Qing became China. — В кн.: Empire to Nation. Historical Perspectives on the Making of the Modern World (eds. J.W. Esherick, H. Kayali, E. van Young). Lanham, Maryland, p.240-255
  42. ^ See also Thomas E. Ewing, Ch’ing Policies in Outer Mongolia 1900-1911, Modern Asian Studies, pp. 145-157 (1980).
  43. ^ Kuzmin, S.L. 2011. The History of Baron Ungern. An Experience of Reconstruction. Moscow: KMK Sci. Press, ISBN 978-5-87317-692-2, p. 120-199

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