Stalinist repressions in Mongolia

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Skulls of victims that were shot in the head, displayed at a museum documenting the event

The Stalinist repressions in Mongolia had their climax between 1937 and 1939 (Mongolian: Их Хэлмэгдүүлэлт, Ikh Khelmegdüülelt, "Great Repression"), under the leadership of Khorloogiin Choibalsan by Russian instructions. The purpose of purge was to abolish Mongolian patriotic forces and Russia stopped Buryats migration to the Mongolian People's Republic in 1930. All leaders of Mongolia who did not recognise Russian demand to perform purge against Mongolians were executed by Russians including Peljidiin Genden and Anandyn Amar. Choibalsan recognized the demand due to Soviet threat. In 1952 he suspiciously died in Russia. Comintern leader Bohumír Šmeral said "The People of Mongolia are not important, the land is important. Mongolia is larger than England, France and Germany".[1] The purges affected the whole country, although the main focus was on upper party and government ranks, the army, Buryats, patriots, nobles, nationalists, intellectuals, the wealthy and especially the Buddhist clergy.[2] One very common accusation was collaboration with supposed pro-Japanese spy rings.


After the Revolution the Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party committed itself to 'socialist transformation', following the instructions received from the Soviet Union. In 1926 in the MPR, the Law on the separation of church and state, which noted that " our government is sympathetic to religion Blessed Sakya munis, so it is within the law firm defends business compliance, study and dissemination of the teachings ", but abolished the privileges the higher ranks of the Buddhist clergy - hubilganov and Hambo - and ordered each time for finding of a new rebirth to petition the government. Soon after, the MPRP and Revsomol led an active struggle for secularisation, representatives of Buddhist clergy, at the end of the 1920s, the country almost simultaneously with the Soviet Union began collectivization. It was the confiscation of property from the clergy and the old feudal nobility. In 1930 tayijis Eregdendagva wrote a letter to the Panchen Lama IX with a request to settle in the country of juvenile Bogd Gegen IX as a monarch, destroying the MPRP and stopping the secularization of the clergy with the assistance of the troops of the Chinese republic. One of the princes, which he showed this treatment, informed on him. According to the " Cause Eregdendagvy "were involved Khiid Manjushri Manjushri Khutukhta others allegedly supported the plan, and these treatment. As a result of the investigation on September 30 was shot eight people, led by Galsandashem. By the beginning of 1930 about 10 thousand monks have been expelled from monasteries. These processes and reforms displeased not only the well-off Arat, noyons and clergy, but for all the residents of Mongolia, which resulted in 1932 in Chovsgol uprising suppressed by only six months. Leaders of the uprising to a public trial was sentenced to death. In 1933–1934, for " the cause Lhumbe "(named after J. Lhumbe, a prominent party and state leader of the MPR, Buryat nationality, accused of counter-revolutionary pro-Japanese creating an illegal organization for the purpose of the military coup and the overthrow of the Communist regime) were repressed 317 people: "Chentij group" - 174 people (30 sentenced to death), "Dornod group" - 110 people (18 executed), "Ulaanbaatar Group" - 33 person (executed five people). Most of the victims were from the northern Buryats aimags - Dornod, Chentij - and Ulan Bator. In addition to the prison sentences of five to 10 years, and used this form of punishment as the expulsion of the Soviet Union, followed by 5 years of imprisonment in the camps without the right to return to Mongolia.


Repression of the Buddhist establishment increased in December 1934, when Mongolian law was amended to ban religious teaching in schools, prevent children from entering monasteries, and ending the lamas' evasion of military service. Heavy taxes were also imposed on the monasteries.[3] In the mid-1930s, before the Great Purge, there were some 800 Buddhist monasteries in Mongolia with 90,000 priests; in 1937 and 1938, most of the monasteries were ruined and between 16,000 to 17,000 priests were killed.[4] According to one estimate, by 1939 the purges had killed 27,000 Monglians (about 3% of the population; about half the victims were monks.[5] During the Stalinist repressions, "Mongolia's religious institutions were virtually all destroyed, their property appropriated, and the lamas either killed or secularized. All together, 2,265 monastery buildings were destroyed and over 71.5 tons of metal statutes shipped to the USSR for scrap."[3]

The Gandan Monastery in Ulaanbaatar was closed in 1938 at the height of the purges but reopened in 1944. It was the only monastery in Mongolia to remain functioning during the Communist era, and one of the very few that escaped destruction.

The number of people killed in the purges is usually estimated to have been between 22,000[6] and 35,000 people,[7] or about three to four percent of Mongolia's population at that time. Nearly 18,000 victims were Buddhist lamas.[6] Some authors also offer much higher estimates, up to 100,000 victims.[7]

The remains of one of the hundreds of monasteries destroyed in the purges

Mass graves were investigated in 1991 in Mörön,[8] and in 2003 in Ulaanbaatar.[9] The corpses of hundreds of executed lamas and civilians were unearthed, all killed with a shot to the base of the skull.[9]

One of the remaining yurt temples of the era

The "Victims of Political Persecution Museum" in Ulaanbaatar is dedicated to the victims of the purges. It was once the residence of executed Prime Minister Peljidiin Genden. In 1996 his daughter Tserendulam turned it into a museum.[10] One of the exhibits is a row of skulls with bullet holes dating from the time of the purges.[11]

The number of victims[edit]

The total number of people killed during the repression is estimated to be 22 to 33,000 people, which is about 3 to 5% of the population. Around the late 1930s the Mongolian People's Republic had a population of about 700,000 to 900,000 people.

Only from August 1937 to January 1938, according to the Soviet embassy in Mongolia, 10,728 people have been arrested including 7,814 lamas, 322 noyans, 180 army commanders and 408 Chinese. During this period, cases were heard on 7,171 people of whom 6,311 were executed. According to these data, the brunt of the repression was inflicted on Buddhist monasticism.

Between 1936 and 1939, two thirds of the members of the Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party were repressed, eight out of 10 members of the Presidium of the Central Committee. Pooled data for the same period of the Extraordinary Commission, headed by Choibalsan under the close supervision of advisers of the USSR condemned 25,588 people, of whom 20,099 were sentenced to death and executed. Proportion of victims in relation to the population of the country is much higher than the corresponding figures of the Great Purge in the Soviet Union. Afterwards 29,000 people were rehabilitated.

Notable victims[edit]

Monument dedicated to the victims of the repressions in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia


A number of prominent Buryats connected to Mongolia were imprisoned and killed during the purges in the Soviet Union, among them:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ History of Mongolia, 2003, Volume 5. Mongolian Institute of History
  2. ^ [1] /books?id=XPfcfF8LRWQC&pg=PA368]
  3. ^ a b Sanders, A.J.K. (2010). Historical Dictionary of Mongolia. Scarecrow Press. p. 405. ISBN 9780810874527. Retrieved 2014-10-03. 
  4. ^ Dani, A.H.; Adle, C. (2005). History of Civilizations of Central Asia: Towards the contemporary period : from the mid-nineteenth to the end of the twentieth century. Unesco. p. 368. ISBN 9789231039850. Retrieved 2014-10-03. 
  5. ^ Bacon, P. (2005). Escaping the Ice-Prison. Lulu Enterprises Incorporated. p. 58. ISBN 9781411648067. Retrieved 2014-10-03. 
  6. ^ a b Christopher Kaplonski, Thirty thousand bullets, in: Historical Injustice and Democratic Transition in Eastern Asia and Northern Europe, London 2002, p.155-168
  7. ^ a b Twentieth Century Atlas - Death Tolls
  8. ^ Mass Buddhist Grave Reported in Mongolia The New York Times, October 1991
  9. ^ a b Mass grave uncovered in Mongolia RTÉ News, Thursday, 12 June 2003
  10. ^ Memorial Museum of victims of political persecutions
  11. ^ Lonely

External links[edit]