The 1990 Democratic Revolution in Mongolia (Mongolian: Ардчилсан хувьсгал, Ardchilsan Khuvĭsgal, Democratic Revolution) was a democratic revolution that started with hunger strikes to overthrow the Mongolian People's Republic and eventually moved towards the democratic present day Mongolia and the writing of the new constitution. It was spearheaded by mostly younger people demonstrating on Sükhbaatar Square in the capital Ulan Bator. It ended with the authoritarian government resigning without bloodshed. Some of the main organizers were Sanjaasürengiin Zorig, Erdeniin Bat-Üül, Bat-Erdeniin Batbayar, and Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj.
This was the beginning of the end of the 70-year period of socialism in Mongolia. Although a multi-party system was established, the Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party (MPRP) actually remained in power until 1996. Nevertheless, reforms were implemented and the transition to a market economy begun. The revolution was inspired by the reforms in the Soviet Union, and by the similar revolutions in Eastern Europe in late 1989.
The Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party (MPRP) took power in Mongolia in 1921 with the help of the Soviet Union, after White Russian and Chinese forces had been expelled. Over the following decades, Mongolia was always very closely aligned with the Soviet Union, who in turn guaranteed Mongolia's independence from China. After the ousting of Yumjaagiin Tsedenbal in 1984, and inspired by Mikhail Gorbachev's reforms in the Soviet Union, the new leadership under Jambyn Batmönkh implemented economic reforms, but failed to appeal to those who, in late 1989, wanted broader changes.
Course of events
The first small-scale public protests occurred on December 10, 1989, in front of the Cultural Center for Youth. The protesters called for Mongolia to follow the Soviet Union and adopt perestroika and glasnost. Dissident leaders demanded free elections and economic reform, but within the context of a "human democratic socialism". The protestors injected a nationalist element into the protests by using traditional Mongolian script—which most Mongolians could not read—as a symbolic repudiation of the political system which had imposed the Mongolian Cyrillic alphabet. In late December, demonstrations increased when news came of Garry Kasparov's interview to Playboy, suggesting that the Soviet Union could improve its economic health by selling Mongolia to China.
On January 14, 1990, the protesters, having grown from two hundred to some 1,000, met at the Lenin Museum in Ulan Bator. A demonstration in Sükhbaatar Square on Jan. 21 (in weather of -30 C) followed. Protestors carried banners alluding to Genghis Khan, rehabilitating a figure which Soviet schooling neglected to praise. They celebrated Daramyn Tömör-Ochir, a politician who was purged from the MPRP in 1962 as part of the MPRP's efforts to suppress the commemoration of the 800th anniversary of Genghis's birth. And the rebels carried a modified Flag of Mongolia which lacked a star symbolizing socialism; this flag would become the new flag after the revolution.
After came weekend demonstrations in January and February and the forming of Mongolia's first opposition parties. On March 7, ten dissidents assembled in Sükhbaatar Square and went on a hunger strike. Thousands of supporters, mainly students, joined them. National Student Union played a crucial role. On March 9, the Communist MPRP government resigned. On March 11 and April 2, opposition leaders held Buddhist rallies at the Choijin Lama Temple, as another mark of anti-socialist symbolism and allusions to traditional "Mongol-ness". The role of women in the protest was low-key, such as providing food and drink to the demonstrators; all the visible protest leaders were men, mirroring the traditional subordinate role of women in Mongolia. The new government announced Mongolia's first free parliamentary elections, which were to be held in July. Unrest also spread to the other industrial centers in Erdenet and Darkhan, and to the province centers, notably Mörön in Khövsgöl.
A Monument to slain pro-democracy leader S. Zorig
The opposition parties failed to win a majority in the 1990 elections. There had been 430 seats in the Great Khural, and the opposition parties had been unable to nominate enough candidates - they mustered only 346. Also, the MPRP enjoyed a strong position in the countryside. Consequently, the MPRP won 357 seats in the Great and 31 (out of 53) in the small Khural. Nonetheless, the new MPRP government under D. Byambasüren shared power with the democrats, and implemented constitutional and economic reforms. As these reforms coincided with the dissolution of the Soviet Union, which had until 1990 provided significant economic aid to Mongolia's state budget, the country did experience harsh economic problems: enterprises closed down, inflation rose, and basic foodstuffs had to be rationed for a time.
The first election win for the opposition was the presidential election of 1993, when the opposition candidate P. Ochirbat won. In 1996, the opposition for the first time succeeded in winning the majority in the State Great Khural.
- ^ a b c d e Kaplonski, Christopher (2004). Truth, History, and Politics in Mongolia: The Memory of Heroes. Psychology Press. pp. 51, 56, 60, 64–65, 67, 80–82.
- ^ Fineman, Mark (1990-01-24). "Mongolia Reform Group Marches to Rock Anthem". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2012-12-26. "Mongolia-watchers in Beijing said that... the democracy movement is rooted more in nationalism than in dissent.... 'Watching it unfold, you get the feeling this is more a pro-nationalist and pro-Mongolian movement than it is anti-party or anti-government,' said a diplomat who left Ulan Bator on Monday."
- ^ Rossabi, Morris. Modern Mongolia: From Khans to Commissars to Capitalists. 2005, University of California Press, ISBN 978-0-520-24419-1. pp. 1-28
- ^ Peter Staisch, Werner M. Prohl, Dschingis Khan lächelt, Bonn 1998, p.38ff
- ^ Ochirbat was originally a MPRP member, but when his party nominated an orthodox communist as their presidential candidate, he agreed to run for the opposition