What is the historical perspective on Choibalsan’s legacy in Mongolia.
Kh. Choibalsan was a Mongolian political and military leader from 1930s to his death in 1952. He has lived through tumultuous times and was Mongolia’s leader through its darkest periods in the modern times. His legacy is complicated and needs a thorough understanding of the events that were occurring during those times.
In the recent years, a lot of information from those times have been de-classified and researchers got to work on these materials, both in Russia and Mongolia. We have a better understanding of what was going on. Before writing about his legacy, let me give a brief introduction.
Khorloohin Choaibalsan was born as Dugar on February 8th, 1895. He was a fatherless son of a woman named Khorloo. He grew up and got education in the monastery where he was given a different name, Choibalsan.
In 1911, Mongolia declared itself independent from the Qing dynasty and a monk, Bogd khan, became its leader. The new government worked hard to bring modernity to Mongolia. Choibalsan, among other young people were chosen to be sent to a Russian gymnasium in Irkutsk. After several years, Soviet Revolution of 1917 and the subsequent calamity forced all the Mongolian children to be sent back home. Choibalsan as a young man witnessed events occurring in Russia and became interested in Communism. When he came back, Mongolia was reoccupied by the Chinese Gomindan forces.
He and several young men decided to resist this and became revolutionaries. This is how the famous Revolutionary Seven became to be. Choibalsan, because of his knowledge of Russian played a crucial, albeit secondary role. Since the first repressions of 1920s, he rose in power and has subsequently became one of Mongolia’s longest serving leaders. So what are his legacies?
Choibalsan shortly after he became a Prime Minister
Some of his darkest legacies:
- Led the Extraordinary Committee that investigated people for anticommunist activity, being Japanese spies and being a monk. As a a chair of this committee has personally signed execution orders of 22,000 people. Many more were imprisoned.
- Besides executing monks, he was directly responsible for the destruction of more than 1000 temples. Our cultural heritage and the knowledge that was accumulated for centuries was lost.
- From 1929–1930, led a “Central Committee to Confiscate the Feudal Property.” This committee confiscated all the property and livestock from the nobility and the rich herders. More than 30,000 people left Mongolia to the present day Inner Mongolia because of this. Armed resistance was crushed. 
Some of his positive legacies:
- Worked for the recognition of Mongolia as an independent state. Mongolia as a small state was frequently at the mercy of the big players. He was able to persuade Stalin to push the Chinese to recognise Mongolia as an independent state. ROC officially recognised Mongolia on January 6th, 1946
- Led the Mongolian side of Armed forces in the Khalkiin Gol battle in 1939. This war served as a justification of the necessity of the purges done by the Extraordinary committee during the 30s. Recent de-classified materials from Mongolian Ministry of Interior (KGB equivalent) reveal that there were actual spies who worked for the Japanese. But the scale and amount of people involved was minuscule in comparison to the number of people who were executed for being spies.
- During the 1945 Manchuria offensive worked to return the Inner Mongolia back to our country.
- Worked for modernisation of Mongolia’s economy and society. Universal education was introduced. First Mongolian university was established in 1942. Railroad, car transportation system were established during this period.
So, what is the historical perspective on Khorloogiin Choibalsan’s legacy in Mongolia?
In the last decade or so, Mongolian researchers and historians were granted an unprecedented access to the materials and reports from that time period. Many of the secret archives, both in Russia and Mongolia, were opened up. There is probably decades worth of information to process. Some of the books that have been written recently are simply gems, and treasure trove of information.
Together with availability of this information, there has been a lot of interest about the time period. Books and a movie were made about the life of Choibalsan. It is probably too early to say how would the next generation would judge him. Is he going to be vilified or regarded as a hero? I think it is important to understand both sides of the argument to have a fuller picture.
Some of his lgeacies: the city named Choibalsan is still there.
This statue was built in 2016 in Choibalsan city.
the statue in front of National University of Mongolia is still there
the mausoleum in his and Sukhbaatar’s honor was torn down and rebuilt in other place, in 2006
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