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 destroy 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 demands to perform purges against Mongolians were executed by Russians including Peljidiin Genden and Anandyn Amar. Choibalsan recognized the demand due to the 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 at the end of the 1920s as 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" those involved included Khiid Manjushri Manjushri Khutukhta and others allegedly supported the plan. As a result of the investigation on 30 September eight people were shot, 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 the Chovsgol uprising which was suppressed in only six months. Leaders of the uprising were put on public trial and were sentenced to death. During 1933–1934, in "the cause Lhumbe" (named after J. Lhumbe, a prominent party and state leader of the MPR, Buryat nationality, accused of counter-revolutionary pro-Japanese agitation for creating an illegal organization for the purpose of staging a military coup to overthrow 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, additional form of punishment was expulsion to the Soviet Union, followed by 5 years of imprisonment in the camps without the right to return to Mongolia.


On 22 March 1936 at the Plenum of the Central Committee of the Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party, Khorloogiin Choibalsan, with the support of Joseph Stalin, ousted chairman of People's Commissars of the Mongolian People's Republic, Peljidiin Genden, who opposed the deployment of Soviet troops in the country and the start of the country's large-scale repression of the clergy using the Soviet example.

In April 1936 Mongolia started the trial of lamas who were accused of "raising the prestige of religion," which was seen as counter-revolutionary and of spying for Japan (according to the indictment, lamas sent a letter to Mongolian immigrants, which presents a variety of information living in the border regions of Mongolia). The next process in October 1936, the defendants were accused of using Japanese help in planning an armed uprising and restoring the feudal system. Of the 17 defendants, six were sentenced to death and the others to various terms of imprisonment. During 1936 there were five public trials of the Buddhist clergy.

In 1937 Choibalsan sent several letters to the NKVD leader Nikolai Yezhov on the results of trials of lamas. In them, he thanked Yezhov for sending to Mongolia Mikhail Frinovsky, one of the organizers of the Great Purge in the Soviet Union. Choibalsan also pointed to the involvement of the lamas in counter-revolutionary activities and that he "carried out tips of Comrade Stalin," which are five show trials of top lamas on charges of treason, espionage and preparation of armed uprising. These processes are strongly compromised higher lamas. In May of that year, Choibalsan sent a letter-report to Yezhov, which cited the testimony of detainees and indicated Genden as a Japanese spy.

In July 1937 Genden, who lived with his family in the Crimea in the rest home "Foros," was arrested by the NKVD. NKVD fabricated a case where he allegedly operated in Mongolia Soviet Buryat Pan-Mongolist and pro-Japanese espionage organization, linked through the Soviet ambassador in Mongolia B. H. Tairov and military conspirators in the Red Army led by Mikhail Tukhachevsky. On 1 September secretary of the Buryat-Mongolian Regional Committee of the All-Union Communist Party (Bolsheviks) M. Erbanov was arrested on the case.

On 27 August Soviet troops were introduced to Mongolia. On 30 August Deputy People's Commissar of Internal Affairs of the USSR Mikhail Frinovsky handed Choibalsan copy of Genden readings and a list of 115 "conspirators." On 10 September in Mongolia, mass arrests began.

On 19 September 1937 the Politburo of the All-Union Communist Party (Bolsheviks) decided: "To accept the offer tons. Frinovsky about organizing a special troika composed of Choibalsan, Minister of Justice and the Secretary of the MPRP Central Committee to hear cases on the Mongolian lamas."

On 4 October 1937 a public hearing was held against the major figures of the clergy, including the abbot of Gandantegchinlen Monastery in Ulaanbaatar and high lamas, Tibetan Enzon Khambo - Ts. Luvsanhaimchig and Ded Khambo B. Damdin, members of the "Central counter-revolutionary group". They were accused of spying in favor of the Panchen Lama IX and participation in all former counter-revolutionary conspiracies. Of the 23 defendants, 19 were sentenced to shooting, including high lamas Ts. Luvsankhaimchig, B. Damdin and Manjushri Khutuktu Tserendorj.[3]

From 18 to 21 October 1937 at the State Theatre in Ulaanbaatar, a public demonstration was held against the former zamglavkoma MNRA Zharzhava Lamah, a former second zamsovnarkoma Gonchig Sambuu, a former nachgenshtaba MNRA Zhigdela Malget, the prosecutor of the republic M. D. Idamsuren, former Minister of Education and the other "members of the counterrevolutionary organization of Genden and Demid." Of the 14 defendants, 13 were shot. Within few months in 1937, 16 ministers and their deputies, 42 generals and senior officers, 44 senior officials of the state and economic apparatus were arrested.

On 20 October 1937, Emergency Commission was created, headed by Choibalsan to deal with cases of extrajudicial prisoners (by analogy with the "troika" in the USSR ). Shortly thereafter, in the Mongolian People's Republic, there began mass a repression against the clergy, including the destruction of Mongolian monasteries and the shootings of lamas. In 1938 Gandantegchinlen Monastery, declared the law in 1926 the center of the Buddhist faith in Mongolia was closed; During that time the largest Buddhist statue Megzhid Zhanrayseg disappeared (apparently dismantled and taken to the USSR to the smelter). Of the more than 800 monasteries in the vast majority of the country was destroyed. Lamas were almost completely eliminated.

Repression touched many members of the Mongolian intelligentsia declared "enemies of the people" (Buyanchuluun, Shachzhi, Huhte, Banzarov Yu, Byambyn Rinchen, Idamsuren, Tsendiin Damdinsuren etc.), who were accused of reactionary protserkovnaya and sabotage activities in the field of science and education. To the USSR were sent people suspected of Pan-Mongolist activities. Standard followed in "the case of the German spies," "cause of Japanese spies", "Port Arthur case" were accused of espionage, subversion, sabotage and subversive activities, the preparation of attacks on the leadership of the MPRP and the overthrow of the People's Government.

The repression also touched on members of national minorities: the Chinese were accused of spying for the regime of Chiang Kai-shek, and the Buryats accused of Pan-Mongolist conspirators and as Japanese agents.

After the removal of Genden as the head of government in 1936, Anandyn Amar was arrested in 1939 and his 28 closest associates. All of them were taken to the Soviet Union in July 1941 and were shot by the sentence of the Military Collegium of the Supreme Court of the USSR on the site "Kommunarka."

Mass repressions continued until April 1939.

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.[4] 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.[5] According to one estimate, by 1939 the purges had killed 27,000 Mongolians (about 3% of the population; about half the victims were monks.[6] 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 statues shipped to the USSR for scrap."[4]

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[7] and 35,000 people,[8] or about three to four percent of Mongolia's population at that time. Nearly 18,000 victims were Buddhist lamas.[7] Some authors also offer much higher estimates, up to 100,000 victims.[8]

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

Mass graves were investigated in 1991 in Mörön,[9] and in 2003 in Ulaanbaatar.[10] The corpses of hundreds of executed lamas and civilians were unearthed, all killed with a shot to the base of the skull.[10]

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.[11] One of the exhibits is a row of skulls with bullet holes dating from the time of the purges.[12]

The number of victims[edit]

The total number of people killed during the repression is estimated to be 22,000 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]


External links[edit]