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History

Mongolia is one of the oldest nations in the world. Signs of human habitation in Mongolia date back to the Stone Age. By the 3rd century BC, tribal alliances had been formed which were looking to move south into China. Chinese historians record the repulsion of an invasion from the north by people known as the Xiongnu. Over the next 300 years, a series of fortifications – which eventually became the Great Wall of China – was built to repel the Xiongnu’s repeated incursions. A series of dynasties held sway over the Mongolian region during the next 1000 years, without ever truly dominating what was now a disparate group of nomadic tribes.

Aided by their mobility in warfare as mounted archers, these Mongol tribes came together as a confederation under the leadership of the Great Chinggis Khaan (Genghis Khan) in 1206 and the first Mongolian state was established. The Mongols, led by Chinggis Khaan and his successors, dominated a region that included most of Asia and much of Eurasia as the Mongol Empire. At its zenith, the Mongol Empire stretched from Vietnam to Hungary. While control of China lasted only about a century, the Mongols held sway over much of Central Asia for several centuries.

Chinggis Khaan’s grandson, Khublai Khaan, became the first Emperor of the Yuan Dynasty in China in 1279. From 1380, the Mongols’ possessions to the West were gradually reconquered and, by the end of the 14th century, the empire had disintegrated. Although there were brief periods of resurgence under some of the great Khans (Altan, Dayan, Galdan) who forged temporary unity, it never could regain the former prestige.

At the end of the 17th century, during which the Russians were preoccupied with developments in Europe, the Manchu Qing Dynasty in China took control over the historic Mongol territory, comprising what became known as Outer and Inner Mongolia. The former is now the independent state of Mongolia. The latter became an autonomous region within the People’s Republic of China.

With the collapse of the Qing Dynasty in 1911, an independent feudal monarchy under the leadership of the so-called ‘Living Buddha’ Jabzen Damba Khutugtu was established in Mongolia. China attempted to reassert its rule in Mongolia but was beaten back in 1921 with Soviet help and the Mongolian independence was achieved. China attempted to reassert its rule following the Russian Revolution of 1917 but was beaten back in 1921 with Soviet help. A short-lived restoration of the traditional feudal Buddhist monarchy was followed in 1924 by the declaration of a People’s Republic, under the Mongolian People’s Revolutionary Party (MPRP).

From the 1920s until 1990, the socialism under which the country was organized and governed was gradually strengthened. All citizens were guaranteed the right to work, health assistance, education, welfare in old age, and leisure. In 1990, following developments in the USSR, a new constitution set the goal of building "democratic humane society" based on a multiparty democracy. The MPRP has held power continuously ever since, with the exception of a brief hiatus in 1996-2000 when an alliance of opposition parties took power under the banner of the Democratic Alliance. At the most recent polls in 2004, the MPRP and the Democratic Alliance equally share the 76 seats at the Parliament.

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