Mongolian traditional culture has more than two and half thousand years history. Its beginning connected with Khunnu /Gun/ Empire that existed from 3rd to 1st century B.C. mongolian traditional culture consists from wide range of components, such as Mongolian original pastoral nomadic culture, Mongolian shamanist culture, Mongolian Buddhist culture, some elements of Chinese culture and etc; it also includes strong signs of ancient Turkish and Uighur culture. However, Mongolian culture acquired its unique specific characters.

To understand Mongolian traditional culture there is a need to understand and recognize Mongolian traditional society as a whole. The Mongols founded their state in the 3rd century B.C. First it was called the Khunnu Empire /3rd to 1st century B.C./, then it became the Xianpi Empire /1stto 4thcentury A.D./, and later the Nirun /Joujan/  state  /4th to 6thcentury A.D./.  Then Mongolians established their developed empire Khithan from 917 to 1125.  The Mongols established their strongest state in 12th century under the leadership of Great Chinggis Khaan.

Mongolian society is a historical product of activity of the Mongols as a nation on its own, at the same time the nation is a product of the surrounding nature and environment. The pastoral nomadic characteristic of the Mongolian society is a distinguished feature. It also has other features that are common in any other herding societies.[1] Nomadic characteristics of the society were acquired due to its existence within perimeter the Mongolian great steppes and the Gobi desert of the Central Asia. In this large ecological location, people inherited a nomadic style of living. Due to insufficient water resources in the great steppes and Gobi desert, agricultural growth is considerably low.  However, this vast area with wild grass is quite ideal for growing livestock and cattle breeding. Living in such an environment and moving from place to place the Mongols acquired their nomadic character and they produced their own unique nomadic Mongolian culture. This culture as any other culture consists from life style, specific social structures, stock-raising or animal husbandry production, own religion–morality and individual Mongolian mind etc.

What is the general nature of Mongol’s common life? They utilize everything from their cattle: milk, meat, leather and wool. Mongols use their cattle not only for food, but also as a transport, means of conveyance or communication, facilities of productive work and subsistence. Mongols produce various items from livestock and these methods of production have been transformed for centuries.

The Mongolian society had a special social organization different from other ancient societies, particularly from European societies. What was the nature of the social organization of the Mongolian society of that period? The traditional Mongolian society had a unique social structure.

The ancient Mongols had their Great Khaan /the King/, established in the Khunnu state more than 2.200 years ago, known as Shaniyu. Structured around the Khaan were his Khatan /the Queen/, Khagan Khubugun or Okhid /Prince or Princess/, and Khagan Uudomyt Noyod /the Lords, related with the King/.

The Great Khaan /or Khagan/ had several important lord who were named as Shadar Said /Minister/. The Great Khaan also appointed Noyons /Lords/, who had different ranks as Noyons or Noyod - responsible for units with thousand, hundred and ten soldiers.

In the ancient Mongolian society also existed different state servants such as Zarguchi /Judge/, Zahiragchi /Commander or Manager/, Dargachi /Representative/, Elchi /Ambassador/, Cherba /Chief/, etc. From the ancient period, Mongolian society also had different cultural and geographical communities such as tribes, clans, otags, etc. They were usually ruled by Noyons appointed by the Great Khaan or his ministers. In this ancient time all important decisions had been made by the assembly of the Great Khaan and his ministers or high level lords and noyons. Specialy appointed officials were responsible for taking notes these assemblies and writing protocols on stock-bond materials. This occasion was mentioned in several ancient Chinese historical sources.[2]

The communities in the ancient Mongolian society were divided into different sub-groups suitable for military activities and warfare. Therefore, for the ancient and medieval Mongolian society, the basic model of social organization had mainly a type of military model. This organizational model of Mongolian nomadic society had been developed successfully during the reign of the Great Chinggis Khaan and Ugedei Khaan in the 13th century. All these historical facts are demonstrating us fact that the Mongol’s state foundation had already been established and developed from the Khunnu Empire period.

Of course, after the reforms of Ugedei Khaan, the basic military model of pastoral-nomadic Mongolian society had been changed under the strong influence of agrarian societies, particularly the Chinese society, during the Yuan dynasty /1260-1368/ a number of enormous changes took place. However, during this period the traditional Mongolian society as a livestock–based nomadic social organization was not been destroyed, because Khaant Mongolian society existed from 1370 up to 1758, until Manchu dynasty started to dominate over Mongolia.

Historical changes in the traditional Mongolian society took place during the Manchu domination in Mongolia /1758-1911/ and after 200 years, traditional Mongolian livestock nomadic society’s organizational form was transformed into the religions model of a social organization. In Mongolia, several hundred religious centers and cloisters were built. North Mongolia alone had more than a thousand of them, and there lived about 120.000 lamas /monks/.

However, the traditional Mongolian society remained its existence until Mongolia’s first revolution in 1911. After this event, the history of the Mongol’s traditional nomadic society began a change under the influence of a new era. But these changes had been continued slowly up to the second Mongolian revolution in 1921. After the second revolution a new government ruled by Russian and Mongolian bolshevik-communists was established, and rapid changes started in Mongolia, including the Communist Cultural Revolution.

            Before the communist regime, towns and cities initially had been built as centers of religious activities, but people who served for the religion lived there as settlers of culture and trade, and thereby they became prominent in Mongolia.

The main settlers in Mongolian towns and cities were Buddhist lamas. Usually lamas had no family, and some lamas who owned livestock animals sent the animals to a herdsman’s family for rent. However, the arats (common people) and their leaders had, in fact, were fulfilling the functions of economic enterprises. Accordingly, some of the herdsmen worked for a monastery. Lamas who usually did not possess high degrees in religious studies, also worked as herdsman among the nomads, simultaneously attending important religious functions at monasteries. Mongolia had more than 100.000 lamas before the revolution of 1921. Over 30 percent of these lamas lived as herdsman or nomads. It meant that the lamas in Mongolia led a unique way of lifestyle. Hence, it was more convenient for nomads. The Mongolian life style had a religious character such as Tibetan way of life. For instance, main forms and rhythms of basic livestock production, cultural or educational activities of the people, and also Mongolian lifestyle had been connected with the Buddhist pagodas and monasteries.

Especially, education, culture and medicine had very close contacts with Buddhism. Actually, in the Mongolian society two forms of education existed. The first was the education system in the Buddhist Centers, which received pupils from their parents through lamas who had accomplishment religious teachings. These teachings and studies were taught in the Tibetan language.

The other from of education in the Mongolian society was an elementary civil education of nomads, particularly in the residences of the aristocratic lords who were taught Mongolian literature and elementary mathematics. Sometimes they studied Manchu or Chinese language.

By the process of education in the Buddhist Centers, were raised specialists, intellectuals, writers, artists such as musicians and scholars. Of course, some of the intellectuals were raised through the traditional home education. Intellectuals in medicine such as doctors, however, were specialized and trained at Buddhist Pagodas. They served for the Mongolian society before the People’s Revolution.

All these facts demonstrate that the Mongolian society had everything required in a normal civilized society. Of course, the degree of development and the method or advancement might be lower than in so-called educationally developed societies. Since Mongolia was more or less a rural society without any modern technology and scientific advancement, one could understand the dynamics of nomadic society under those prevailing conditions. Modes of production and distribution were certainly different. The traditional Mongolian society is regarded as one of the specific modes of Asian societies.

Mongolian revolutionaries from ethnic Buriat and Kalmyks had special political tasks and ideas on Mongolian problems, while they proposed hypothesis and solutions to the development of nomadic society. They viewed Mongolia as an underdeveloped and backward country. They had an important task regarding Northern Mongolia. For political reasons, communists described the Mongolian nomadic society as an underdeveloped and uncivilized society.

Unfortunately, some scholars explained facts such as a psychological interest or only theoretical attitude of mind, due lack of historical documents. For example, Prof. Robert A.Rupen wrote ‘’Communist do not like nomads, which means, in effect, they do not like typical Mongols.’’[3]

The communists did not like the Mongolian nomadic society, because they wanted to keep the Mongols under the influence of the USSR. They destroyed Mongolian nomadic civilization for their political interests in the Central, North East and Far East Asia. They enacted this policy since 1920 till the disintegration of the USSR. These hidden acts were analyzed by the author of his book.[4] I would like to highlight some facts from my book.

From 1937 to 1939, about 12.000 lamas were executed. However, there are various estimates about the number of executed lamas. The newspaper Undesnii Debshil reported:  ‘’The Mongolian revolutionaries have taken repressive measures against some 100.000 Buddhist lamas and killed almost 75.000 of them.‘’[5]According to newspaper Ardchalal: ‘’The communist terrorists executed 100.000 lamas.’’[6]

It is believed that during this period if there had been 100.000 Buddhist lamas in Mongolia, and about 90.000 of them were executed by the communist terrorists. I observed that in the middle of 1970’s every sumon (administrative unit) had 3 to 5 lamas who had been learning in monasteries. It can be therefore estimated that during this period (1970’s), there were about 2.000 lamas in Mongolia. Possibly 3.000 to 5.000 lamas died in Mongolia (up to the 1970’s) and what remained there was just about 8.000 to 10.000 lamas. That is how I made my hypothesis, which in my opinion gives some real basis for the facts.

Why I am talking about so many things, and especially about terrorized lamas? Because among them were a lot of Mongolian intellectuals, scholars, writers, traditional medicine doctors, famous historians and philosophers. Besides, during 20th century, in Mongolia were executed all nomadic aristocrats, including several dozen native aristocrat-lords, who were related to Chinggis Khaan’s successors. On the other hand, they were the real bearers of the Mongolian traditional culture. So, Mongolian culture was destroyed by the Communist revolutionaries. They destroyed all traditional nomadic towns, cities and Buddhist Pagodas. Out of 900 cultural centers, only 4-5 were left by the 1990.

The Communists abolished the Mongolian national script, which was in practice for more than thousand years. Actually, the Mongols founded and were using for their social life stock-bond scripts such as Uigur-mongoliian script, Kvadratic-mongolian script, Soyombo-mongolian script. Nowadays, Mongolians using Russian-cyrillic script.

Recently in Mongolia were revealed new historical documents about how Mongolian and Russian bolshevik-communists destroyed more than thousand religious cities, Mongolian Buddhist cultural centers, monasteries and religious temples. In the Picture ¹1 shown previous locations of the historical buildings or architectural constructions, which from 1930 to 1940 were completely destroyed only in one province – Arkhangai aimag, when at that time Mongolian state had more ten province like this Arkhangai aimag. With this occasion many thousands books and manuscripts of history, literature, medicine, mathematics, astronomy, philosophy, religion and so on were burnt. They were in Mongolian, Tibetan, Sanskrit, Manchu and other languages.

Also, Mongolian and Russian bolshevik-communists for several decades were prohibiting different Mongolian national festivals and holidays, for example the “White month” – the Lunar New Year and etc. If common people celebrate these festivals and holidays they were facing very hard penalties, including prison and jails.

Because some time I wrote about it as well as cultural terror. It was big fright and people were in terror for a long time.


Picture №2. North or Outer Mongolian all Buddhist monasteries and temples more than thousand in 1937. All of them ekopts 2-3-s destroyed by Russian bolshevic communists and Mongolian bolshevic  revolutionaries. Just before 1940.

Picture ¹1: This province /aimag/ has about 56 thousand square kilometers /km2/, Unfortunately from 1932 to 1940 completely had been destroyed all old Mongolian religious cities, Buddhist monasteries and temples in this province, which had marked in this picture.



[1]Gerhard Lenski. Human societies: A Macro level introduction to sociology. Tokyo. 1970. Pages 295-299.

[2]The Mongolian history’s  documents. 1992. Ulaanbaatar, Pp. 26-27.

[3] Robert A.Rupen. the Mongolian people’s republic and Sino-Soviet Competition. See, Communist Strategies in Azia, a Comparative analysis of Governments and Parties. Edited by  A.Doak Barnett. Greenwood Press, 1963, Page 256

[4]D.Dashpurev Reign of Terror and Repression in Mongolia 1920-1990. Revised second edition. Printed in USA. Charleston, SC. 2014

[5]UndesniiDebshil  no.10, 1990

[6]Ardchalal, no. 6, 1990. O.Zerendorj.