Mongolia: Ancient and Modern

Charles Bawden discusses the shifting borders and evolving cultures of the Mongolian nation.

At the present day only a minority of the Mongol people live in their own independent state, the People’s Republic of Mongolia. This huge tract of land, lying approximately between latitude 50 and 42 north and longitude 90 and 120 east, owes its current independence to a series of historical accidents that began with the inability of the Manchu conquerors of China to extend the alliance they made with the Mongols of Inner Mongolia to the inhabitants of the more distant Outer Mongolia.

The remoteness from China of Outer Mongolia, which is now the People’s Republic, and the intervening barrier of the Alashan and Gobi deserts, prevented the Chinese from establishing a complete domination there, although they long exercised an oppressive . overlordship.

Chinese merchants settled in Urga and elsewhere, taking advantage of their superior commercial skill and diligence to fleece the simpler and more indolent Mongols; but large-scale settlement, and the resulting alienation of pasture land to Chinese farmers, was limited to the more accessible province of Inner Mongolia.

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