|Mongolian Revolution of 1990|
|Part of the Revolutions of 1989|
|Date||10 December 1989 – 9 March 1990|
(2 months, 3 weeks and 6 days)
|Resulted in||Mongolia transitions to a multi-party system|
|History of Mongolia|
The Mongolian Revolution of 1990, known in Mongolia as the 1990 Democratic Revolution (Mongolian: 1990 оны ардчилсан хувьсгал, romanized: 1990 ony ardchilsan khuvisgal), was a peaceful democratic revolution which led to the country's transition to a multi-party system. It was inspired by the economic reforms of the Soviet Union in the late 1980s and was one of the many revolutions of 1989. It was led mostly by young demonstrators who rallied at Sükhbaatar Square, in the capital city Ulaanbaatar. The main organisers of the demonstrations included Sanjaasürengiin Zorig, Erdeniin Bat-Üül, Davaadorjiin Ganbold, Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj, Bat-Erdeniin Batbayar.
Although one-party rule in Mongolia officially ended with the adoption of a new constitution on February 12, 1992, the Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party (MPRP) remained in power until it was outvoted by the Democratic Union Coalition in the 1996 legislative election. However, the country had already begun transitioning to a market economy by 1991 with the creation of the stock market and the Government Privatization Committee.
Mongolia was previously a vassal state to the Qing dynasty. Starting with the pro-independence movements in 1911 against the colonisation policy of the late Qing dynasty, the country claimed its independence in 1921 with the help of the Soviet Union, after White Russian and Chinese forces had been expelled. However, the country was highly influenced by the Soviet Union, and would eventually become a one-party, socialist state by 1924. The Mongolian People's Party that played a crucial role in achieving independence from the Qing Dynasty would be renamed to the Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party due to pressure from the Soviet Union. Over the following decades, Mongolia would become highly aligned with the Soviet Union and considered its "satellite state". Various extreme measures were taken to establish the Mongolian communist state including the persecution and purges of democratic leaders, lamas, and intellectuals. The massive transformations in the country included a complete ban of religious practices and the destruction of 700 monasteries, but also the construction of Mongolia's largest cities, the establishment of major industries and, the education of the masses. The Mongolian People's Republic was led by Khorloogiin Choibalsan from 1939 to 1952, followed by Yumjaagiin Tsedenbal who served as the leader of the state from 1952 to 1984, both of whom were regarded to be highly agreeable with the Soviet Union's increasing involvement in Mongolia. After the resignation of Yumjaagiin Tsedenbal in 1984, 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.
The revolution of 1990 was primarily driven by young people who wanted a change in the country. One of the most critical groups that pushed for change was the Mongolian Democratic Union (MDU), a group of intellectuals influenced by revolutions in Eastern Europe. Concepts such as glasnost, freedom of speech and economic liberties that the intellectuals were exposed to abroad inspired the initial discussions that would lead to the revolution. The Mongolian Democratic Union was formed by the end of 1989. Many now-prominent figures such as Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj along with Dari-Sukhbaatar and Chimediin Enkhee were members of the union and would eventually come be known as the Thirteen Leaders of Mongolia's Democratic Revolution. Members of the Union and anyone associated with the movement had to be secretive to ensure their security. Members that were known to be associated with the organisation were laid off on the basis of "engaging in conduct inconsistent with communist and socialist ideology".
On the morning of 10 December 1989, the first open pro-democracy public demonstration occurred in front of the Youth Cultural Center in Ulaanbaatar where the creation of the Mongolian Democratic Union was announced.
The protesters demanded a multi-party system, free elections with universal suffrage, the replacement of a centrally planned economy with a market economy, private property, re-organization of the government, and protection of human rights, particularly freedom of religion. The protesters 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 that had imposed the Mongolian Cyrillic alphabet.
Demonstrations drastically increased by late December when the news of Garry Kasparov's interview with Playboy broke. The interview suggested that the Soviet Union may sell Mongolia to China in order to raise money. On 2 January 1990, Mongolian Democratic Union began distributing leaflets calling for a democratic revolution.
On 14 January 1990, the protesters, having grown from three hundred to few thousands, met on square in front of Lenin Museum. A demonstration on Sükhbaatar Square on 21 January (in weather of −30 C) followed. Protesters carried banners alluding to Chinggis Khaan, rehabilitating a figure which the socialist school curriculums had outright banned. They also 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 Khan's birth. The protestors carried a modified Flag of Mongolia which distinctly lacked the star representing the country's socialist beliefs; this flag would eventually become the official flag after the revolution.
In subsequent months activists continued to organise demonstrations, rallies, protests and hunger strikes, as well as teachers' and workers' strikes. Activists had growing support from Mongolians, both in the capital and the countryside and the union's activities led to other calls for democracy all over the country. The demonstrations expanded to the thousands in the capital city Ulaanbaatar, and to other major cities Erdenet and Darkhan, as well as to the provincial centers such as Mörön. The large-scale demonstrations were followed by the creation of the first opposition parties of Mongolia.
After numerous demonstrations of thousands in both the capital city and provincial centers, on 4 March 1990, the MDU and three other reform organisations held a joint outdoor mass meeting, inviting the government to attend. The government sent no representative to what became a demonstration of over 100,000 people demanding democratic change. On 7 March 1990, on Sükhbaatar Square, Democratic Union initially started a hunger strike of ten, urging the current government to resign. The hunger strike escalated as thousands gathered to join the strike, declaring that the strike would not end until the resignation of the current government.
The situation was tense. Behind the scenes within the Politburo there were serious discussions about cracking down on the protestors. Eventually, a decree was written awaiting approval from the party leader Jambyn Batmönkh that would effectively repress the protests. Batmönkh outwardly opposed the decree, maintaining that they must "under no circumstances resort to using violence" (Mongolian: Хэрхэвч Хүч хэрэглэж болохгүй). Those that were present there later recalled that Batmönkh said "I will never sign this. We few Mongols have not yet come to the point that we will make each other's noses bleed," smacked the table, and left the room." And on 12th of March 1990, Jambyn Batmönkh, the chairman of Politburo of MPRP's Central Committee announced his resignation along with the dissolution of the Politburo .
Elbegdorj announced the news of Politburo resignation to the hunger strikers and to people who had gathered on Sükhbaatar Square at 10:00 pm. The hunger strike stopped. The MPRP Politburo resignation paved the way for the first multi-party elections in Mongolia. The new government announced Mongolia's first free parliamentary elections, which were to be held in July.
Following the 1990 Democratic Revolution in Mongolia, Mongolia's first free, multi-party elections for a bicameral parliament were held on 29 July 1990. In 1990 Mongolian parliamentary elections, parties ran for 430 seats in the People's Great Khural. Opposition parties were not able to nominate enough candidates. The opposition nominated 346 candidates for the 430 seats in the Great Khural (upper house). The Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party (MPRP) won 357 seats in the Great Khural and 31 out of 53 seats in the Small Khural (which was later abolished) as well. The MPRP enjoyed a strong position in the countryside.
Nonetheless, the new MPRP government under Dashiin 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 food had to be rationed for a time. Foreign trade broke down, economic and technical aid from the former socialist countries ended, and domestic economy was struggling with privatisation. A thriving black market arose in Ulaanbaatar by 1988 to accommodate the needs of the populace.
The People's Great Khural (upper house) first met on 3 September and elected a president (MPRP), vice-president (Social Democrat), prime minister (MPRP), and 50 members to the Baga Hural (lower house). The vice-president was also chairman of the Baga Khural. In November 1991, the People's Great Khural (Parliament) began discussion on a new constitution, which entered into force on 12 February 1992. In addition to establishing Mongolia as an independent, sovereign republic and guaranteeing a number of rights and freedoms, the new constitution restructured the legislative branch of government, creating a unicameral legislature, the State Great Khural (SGK).
The constitution was amended in 1992. The first election win for the democrats was the presidential election of 1993, when the opposition candidate Punsalmaagiin Ochirbat won.
A Democratic Union Coalition co-led by Democratic Party chairman Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj for the first time succeeded in winning the majority in the 1996 parliamentary elections. The Democratic Party has been part of three coalition governments with the former ruling MPRP in 2004–2008 and in 2008–2012 respectively; and with the Civil Will-Green Party and new MPRP from 2012 and on.
In the 2009 Mongolian Presidential election, the Democratic Party candidate, Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj — one of the democratic revolution leaders — defeated the MPRP candidate, incumbent President Nambaryn Enkhbayar. Following this victory, in the 2012 Parliamentary elections, the Democratic Party won again. In the 2012 local elections of the capital city, provinces and districts, the Democratic Party won for the first time in the country's history. In the 2013 Mongolian Presidential election, the Democratic Party candidate, incumbent President Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj, won. Thus, the Democratic Party that stemmed from the Democratic Union — that is, the pro-democracy activists — has been in control of Mongolia's presidency, parliament and government between 2013 and 2016, when it was defeated at the Parliamentary Elections.
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.