Between mighty neighbours: from AD 1912

Shortly before the fall of the Qing dynasty in 1912, the province of Outer Mongolia declares independence from China. The Russians, hoping to ensure that Mongolia is a buffer state between themselves and China, support this claim and supply the Mongolian princes with large numbers of rifles and sabres. By the end of the year a treaty has been signed which in effect turns Mongolia into a Russian protectorate.

It is merely the first in a series of alternating shot-gun marriages for the unfortunate Mongolians.

In 1919 a Chinese army arrives, insisting that Mongolia sever all relations with the new Communist regime in Russia. In 1920 a Russian army reverses this situation. In 1924 the Russians and the Chinese make their own treaty above the heads of the Mongolians. The Mongolian People's Republic is to be technically independent, but the Russians now accept that it is for all practical purposes a part of China.

This is altered yet again, in the next decade, by the Japanese invasion of Manchuria in 1931 and of China in 1937. Mongolia now desperately needs a defensive alliance with Russia. It remains firmly part of the Soviet camp until the end of World War II.

In October 1945 the people of Mongolia vote overwhelmingly for independence, and over the next few years a genuine statehood is slowly achieved. The traditional Russian alliance prevails when relations turn sour between the Soviet Union and Communist China. Mongolia is admitted to the United Nations in 1961.

For more than six decades, from 1924, the Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party (MLRP) enjoys a guaranteed monopoly of power. But in the late 1980s the reforming mood in Moscow is echoed in Mongolia. The first multiparty elections are held in 1990. A new single-chamber parliament is introduced in 1992. The MLRP wins 71 of the 76 seats.