Mongolia (part 1 | up to 1921) | “States and ethnicities influenced by the Russian history” series
This article is part of the series “States and ethnicities influenced by the Russian history”. State and ethnic boundaries in areas affected by Russian expansion may appear nowadays as a given, with a reality of their own, but lots of them were shaped, trimmed, sprinkled, disjointed or mixed and melted together as a result of Russian influence. This influence derives both from intentional decisions of Russian authorities and from unexpected unintentional twists in the Russian history.
Nowadays Mongolia in its current territorial shape is an independent state recognized by the international community, but its very existence is a rather unintended result of a chain of butterfly effects during the Russian Civil War. Otherwise, it would have likely shared the fate of the rest of the Mongols that remained under Chinese rule, as well as of other populations like the Uighurs or the Tibetans.
Earlier on, most of the Mongol populations had been dragged in another chain of unintended consequences, when the Manchu Qing dynasty began conquering both the Mongol and the Chinese territories. This brought both the Mongols anf the Han Chinese in a common governmental framework. Some of the Mongol groups were co-opted and enjoyed significant autonomy, with the Han Chinese banned from immigrating into their territory. Others, like the Oirats in Dzungaria were massacred by the Manchu authorities and new people brought to colonize their lands.
The Manchus were originally a Tungusic population with a nomadic lifestyle similar to that of the Mongols. Most of the Mongols ended up under this Manchu rule of the Qing dynasty, except the Buryats around the Lake Baikal who were conquered by the Russians in the 17th century and the Kalmyks who emigrated in the same century in the steppe north-west of the Caspian Sea, who ended up too under Russian authority. Regarding the Mongols under Manchu rule, the issue was that all those Manchu conquests turned into the benefit of the subsequent Han Chinese authorities when the Qing dynasty crumbled down. Thus the Mongols ended up under Han Chinese rule, even though some other political structure conquered them.
Even before its crumbling, on its last leg, the Qing dynasty itself decided to scrap the previous Mongol autonomy, assimilate them and open their land for Han Chinese immigration. The intention was to increase the population density and make more difficult a likely Russian expansion that has already gobbled up large territories from the Qing.
This promotion of Han immigration already happened for some time in their own homeland of Manchuria after they lost half of its sparsely populated territory to Russia. Initially the Manchu leadership banned Han immigration in their homeland too, with provisions similar to those kept for the Mongol lands. They were too few and they wanted to avoid the prospect of being colonized by the much more numerous conquered Han people.
However, the thing was that after that conquest in the 17th century most of the Manchus ended up too assimilated in the Han Chinese culture. And when they lost about half of their own homeland to Russia by the middle of the 19th century, they reversed the previous policies and encouraged Han Chinese immigration in order to make the rest of Manchuria harder to swallow.
With sustained Han Chinese colonization, the density of the population in the remainder of Manchuria indeed increased significantly, even though the Manchus themselves soon became a minority there. The same happened to the area called Inner Mongolia, which is closer to the Chinese heartland, where the Qing also permitted for some time the immigration of the Han Chinese. And by the beginning of the 20th they were seeking to do the same thing in Outer Mongolia.
As a side note, the geographic designation and concept of Inner and Outer Mongolia was determined by the Gobi desert stretching through the middle of the Mongolian lands. On the southern side of the desert there is what is called Inner Mongolia, closer to the Chinese territory. On the northern side, towards Siberia, there is what is called Outer Mongolia. This double denomination appeared as seen from the Chinese geographic perspective, which was assumed by the Manchu Qing dynasty too.
The Mongol worldview did not have this focus, they were rather concerned with the traditional divisions between the east dominated the Khalkha Mongols and the West dominated by the Oirat Mongols. Some level of practical division between north and south appeared after the death of Dayan Khan in 1543. This Khan managed to unite the Mongols to some extent, but after his death, the lands north of Gobi were ruled by the descendants of his younger son, while those south of Gobi were ruled by the descendants of his elder son.
The latter Mongols south of Gobi were then defeated by the raising power of the Manchus and, in 1638, they accepted the Manchu ruler as their Great Khan, with provisions for significant autonomy. By the end of the 17th century the Mongols north of Gobi accepted too the Manchu rule, also with provisions for significant autonomy. The Manchu then fought with the Western Oirat Mongols in Dzungaria (nowadays the northern part of Xinjiang) until they almost exterminated them and then colonized other people in their territory.
As mentioned earlier, the arrival of the Russians in the area as well as the need for a modernizing reform, determined the Manchus to scrap the previous autonomy of the Eastern Mongols living in what the Manchu called Outer and Inner Mongolia. Since Inner Mongolia south of Gobi is easier to access by Han Chinese and the Qing dynasty already relaxed the rules in this sense, by the end of the 19th century it was increasingly flooded with colonists. They displaced the nomadic Mongols in order to cultivate the land and soon it turned into violence, like the Jindandao incident from 1891, in which the Han massacred dozens of thousands of Mongols and determined the migration of many others north of Gobi. In 1907, the local Mongols displaced from their pasture lands began rioting too.
This was the context in which, by the beginning of the 20th century, the Qing sought to actively encourage Han Chinese colonization north of the Gobi Desert too. This put in motion the chain of events leading to the current independent Mongolian state that covers only Outer Mongolia. At that time, those from Outer Mongolia were already aware of the disfranchising results of the Han Chinese colonization and assimilationist policies south of of the desert. And the news of expanding the same policies to the north only added to the discontent and alienation already on the rise as a result of the increased taxation that was impoverishing the people. This while the Han Chinese colonists already began arriving in the eastern parts, entering from Manchuria as an easier access route without the troubles of crossing the Gobi Desert.
Additionally, from the north the Russians too were increasingly active, although more in the areas of trade and political clout, seeking to bring the Mongolian lands in their own sphere of influence. By the beginning of the 20th century, practical Russian colonization happened on a significant scale only in the north-western parts of Outer Mongolia inhabited by Tuvans, a population of mixed Turkic and Mongolian background. Thus, in the absence of prospective large scale colonization, the Mongols tended to see the Russians as the lesser of the two evils.
From 1910, a few Mongols started to make preparations to do something about the situation and the context was precipitated in 1911, when the Qing dynasty was collapsing. A group in Outer Mongolia declared the independence as a theocracy, with the highest authority of Tibetan Buddhism in Mongolia as the sovereign. He was titled Bogd Khan, translated as “Holy Ruler”.
The fact that they had a connection with the Manchu Qing dynasty and now that the authority of this dynasty was crumbling fanned support for the proclamation of independence. In a similar manner, Tibet too proclaimed its independence. The problem was that the new Han Chinese authorities, after initially framing their Revolution as a Han ethnic liberation from the Manchu oppression, once they became independent, they saw themselves as the successors of the Manchu Qing Empire, laying claim on all its territories.
The newly emerging Mongol structure sought to unify all the Mongol lands under former Manchu occupation, but in practice they managed to do this only in Outer Mongolia. They had some support in Inner Mongolia and they made some military inroads, but they could not manage to sustain practical control in that area. And the practical consolidation in Outer Mongolia was made possible to some extent with some level of Russian support. The Barga Mongols from Manchuria also proclaimed their independence and also managed to sustain it with some Russian support.
The Mongols sought international recognition, but nothing came to fruition, except a mutual recognition with Tibet. They sent a delegation towards the larger world through Russia, but the Russian authorities sought to impede any significat connections. They did support them to some extent, but it was a dosed, calibrated support. They did not want to see them independent, since they were seeking to bring them in their own sphere of influence.
The Russian state already occupied centuries earlier the Buryats, a Mongol subgroup around the Lake Baikal, in a moment of conflict between the Eastern and Western Mongol branches. But they were not in a hurry to really conquer the vast steppes to the south that did not have significant resources and would likely turn into an ongoing economic drain to govern them directly. They considered a more gradual process. In contrast, in Tuva, a territory that was part of Outer Mongolia under the Qing, at that moment there was already significant Russian infiltration and colonization. In that case, the Russian authorities opted to push for separating it from Outer Mongolia and turn it into a protectorate in 1914. More about this in the video about Tuva.
In the rest of Outer Mongolia, at that moment there was not much Russian colonization. The best scenario for the Russian authorities, for the time being, was to keep it in the Russian sphere of influence, while autonomous under the Chinese nominal rule. The Chinese central authority was in an ongoing state of weakness at that time and such arrangement was suiting best the Russian leadership. Independence would have made the Russian interests more complicated.
Such a process of gradual integration was already the staple of Russian expansion, like for example the 19th century quest for gradual expansion in the Balkans, by creating autonomous regions in the weakened Ottoman Empire. And you can see it at work even nowadays with the plethora of rebellious de facto self-governing regions they support around Russia. The important aspect is to keep them clearly in Russian influence and, depending on the context, quick independence may not suit this goal.
In the specific case studied in this video, the Russian authorities gave some support to the emerging Mongol political organization, but only up to securing some level of autonomy within the new Chinese state that emerged after the collapse of the Qing dynasty. Also, from another angle, in the Third Russo-Japanese Entente of 1912, Japan recognized Russia’s interest in Outer Mongolia, while Russia recognized Japan’s interest in the eastern part of Inner Mongolia.
There followed negotiations between the new Chinese Republic and the Russians. The Mongols argued that their previous connection was with the Manchu Qing dynasty, not with the new Chinese Republic, but they were not taken in consideration. Then, under pressure and given the lack of military strength, they signed the Kyakhta Treaty in 1915, which granted autonomy only for Outer Mongolia within the Chinese Republic and commercial and railroad rights for the Russians on this territory.
A provision of the treaty stated that China binds itself to not keep army and also civil and military officials in this territory, as well as to not colonize it with Han Chinese. The Russians too had formally committed to retreat their troops from Outer Mongolia, but informally they still kept a few hundred for a while, also with the intention to create and train a Mongolian army loyal to Russia.
The Russians were basically seeking to start again something similar to the process of gradual integration of the nearby Inner Manchuria some decades earlier. In that case, however, the process was interrupted and taken over by the Japanese, in the aftermath of the 1905 Russo-Japanese War. As for the Barga Mongols who managed to sustain some level of de facto independence in Manchuria with Russian support, they were not included in the borders of the newly minted Mongol autonomous region. A separate Russian-Chinese treaty handed them back to the Chinese authorities with some provisions for ongoing Russian influence there.
In the meantime, it looks like the British got too the idea and they pushed too for a treaty with China, in which they separated Tibet into an inner part that would remain under direct Chinese control and an outer part closer to British India that would enjoy autonomy and ongoing British influence.
Thus, after the 1915 treaty, in practice, Outer Mongolia remained out of Chinese control and they continued to function as a de facto separate theocratic state, as proclaimed in 1911. The practical result of the Mongol self-administration was a mixture of a theocratic tradition with the Bogd Khan as the supreme ruler and a quest for rapid modernization to turn it into a modern state with a capital, a parliament (Ulsyn Khural), a cabinet with ministries etc. The isolation and the lack of experience determined rather poor results in these attempts to modernize. But some of the civil servants that tasted the concept of modern organization would be the ones who would resent later on the Chinese reoccupation and would seek again independence. When Imperial Russia collapsed in 1917 and the situation turned into a civil war, the Chinese authorities took advantage of the Russian weakness, reoccupied Outer Mongolia and in 1919 forced the formal abolition of the Mongol autonomy. They also partially reoccupied Tuva that had been incorporate earlier in Russia as a protectorate.
This was not to be the end of the story however. Two Russian warlords engaged in the ongoing Russian Civil War on the White side also happened to have designs for Mongolia. One of them was Grigory Semyonov, a Baikal Cossack with partial Buryat Mongol ancestry. As mentioned earlier, the Buryats are a Mongol subgroup on the northern fringes of Outer Mongolia on both sides of Lake Baikal, who were conquered by the Russians in the 17th century. Early in 1919, Semyonov proclaimed a Greater Mongolia in the Buryat territory and this was in fact the pretext for the Chinese troops to intervene more decisively and abolish the autonomy of the Bogd Khanate in Outer Mongolia. Semyonov personally did not do much practically, but another warlord, namely Roman von Ungern-Sternberg, really intervened later on and defeated the Chinese.
This was a very unusual intervention, as it did not follow any of the typical ideological interests of that ongoing Russian Civil War, while it came out of the nowhere for the context of Outer Mongolia too. Here it is necessary to give some more context about who was this Baron Roman von Ungern-Sternberg. He was born into a noble Baltic German family from present-day Estonia. Since young age he was a misfit and a bully, with an unruly behavior and violent tendencies towards humans and other animals. He was pressured to leave school for his behavior and entered army service.
He discovered and grew a passion for Buddhism and for the nomadic people of northern Asia. After graduating the military school he asked to be sent to serve in eastern Siberia, where he became even more fascinated by the local Mongolian populations. In the First World War, he met the aforementioned Grigory Semyonov on the Caucasian front. This turned into a friendship, as both of them had an interest in Mongolian topics and some involvement in the Mongolian quest for independence a few years earlier.
Semyonov likely precipitated the 1911 Mongolian movement for independence when he was sent with a Cossack detachment to protect the Manchu administration from the local Mongol crowds, but instead he disobeyed the orders and disarmed the Manchu garrison. Ungern too was at that time in the Baikal region and entered as a private person in Mongolia to fight for the Mongols against the Manchu authorities. He was however brought back by the Russian authorities, who were weary of uncontrolled involvement.
And now, a few years later, they met on the Caucasian Front of the First World War. Besides the common areas of interest, another aspect that was helping them relate to each other was that they were rather oddballs among the Russian officers, with propensities to do unexpected things beyond the typical established patterns.
This materialized quickly even on the Caucasian Front, when they set up a volunteer army unit of Assyrian Christian refugees in northern Persia, in the wake of the Ottoman genocide perpetrated against this population. Then it appeared the idea that they can repeat the same thing with the Buryats in Semyonov’s homeland. So they relocated to eastern Siberia.
Soon the 1917 Russian Revolution happened and the civil war broke out, in which they both supported the White monarchist side. Each of them developed a personal army. The Buryats comprised a significant share, but there were also many other nationalities. There were Russians, as well as non-Buryat Mongols, but also Tatars, Japanese, Tibetans and Chinese. Both Semyonov and Ungern were nominally part of the White Russian front, but they acted largely independently. This was considered high treason by the top White leaders, but the latter could not do much given how overstretched their resources were.
Like many other units in this civil war, they resorted mostly to plunder and banditry to supply their troops. Both of these two leaders were very harsh and cruel and this alienated much of the local population from the White cause. But they were not too far from the cruelly of other individuals who managed to impose themselves as leaders, on both sides of the civil war.
Semyonov’s problem was that his harshness was too pointless and aimless, the same as the case of other Cossack leaders in the east who rather harmed the White cause. As for Ungern, he had some unusual personal plans going beyond the scope of the issues of the civil war. He got nicknames like “the Bloody Baron” or “the Mad Baron”, but it is not entirely clear if and to what extent he was mentally unstable.
Much of his public image grew from the 1921 book Beasts, Men and Gods by Ferdynand Ossendowski, in which Ungern is portrayed as a mystic who believed he was the incarnation of the Mongolian god of war. The book had tremendous success in those times and captured the public imagination. It’s magnitude was compared to something like the contemporary Da Vinci Code of Dan Brown.
Ossendowski took part and became personally involved in Ungern’s campaign in Mongolia and, in the context of a dearth of information about what happened there, the depiction from that book took a larger than life dimension. There are also suspicions that during the campaign Ossendowski himself redacted some of orders of Ungern’s army responsible for some atrocities.
Some American military reports, on the other hand, described Ungern as “a very quiet, outspoken, pleasant gentleman”. It is not clear to what extent this perception was determined by the fact that the Americans supported the White side in the civil war. Although it may indicate at least that he was someone the Americans saw as a military leader they can practically and rationally work with. Otherwise, there is not much information about him and it is not entirely clear what to think of him.
Later on, the Soviets sought to portray Ungern as a mentally unstable person, in order to disqualify him post-mortem, and this was another source that contributed to his subsequent public image, especially in the Communist world. The Soviet authorities did the same with Ja Lama, an Oirat Mongol aspiring leader with unusual ideas from the same tumultuous years. This while the Soviet leaders themselves were in about the same league of fantastic worldviews and of willingness to implement them harshly.
Regarding the practical results of Ungern’s leadership, he was certainly a capable, at times brilliant military leader. It is also obvious that he had some designs for the Far East and he built up some momentum. He got the respect of many Mongols with his military prowess. He also married a Manchu princess who was a relative of a warlord in Manchuria.
As for the chronological unfoldment of the events, after their relocation from the Caucasian Front to the East, initially Grigory Semyonov registered a success of leadership in Manchuria in mediating a peace between the Khorchin Mongols and the Barga Mongols who were fighting for some pastures and co-opt both their military forces to his political designs. Then, in co-operation with Buryat intellectuals and self-governing structures that emerged after the 1917 Revolution, it grew the project of a Greater Mongolia, proclaimed in a congress in Chita, in Transbaikalia, in February 1919, with the aim to unite all Mongol subgroups.
This project already gathered representatives from Inner Mongolia, Barga Manchuria and Buryatia. But the leadership in the geographical central part of this project, namely Outer Mongolia, was vacillating. They saw themselves as the descendants of Genghis Khan, with some entitlement to leadership, only to be presented with this project created in the north by the Buryats. Then the Bogd Khan of Outer Mongolia was offered the leadership of the envisaged Greater Mongolia. He still vacillated, as he was not sure this project would be permitted by the major powers around.
Additionally, this was exposing internal problems in Outer Mongolia. The theocratic government created a few years earlier in 1911 was disrupting the balance that the Qing dynasty in the past was able to maintain between aristocracy and clergy. And now the aristocracy was increasingly displeased with the power of the clergy and some of them instead appealed to the Chinese to intervene. This vacillation was used by the Chinese, who occupied Outer Mongolia in that context of lack of Russian military clout and put an end in 1919 to its de facto independence.
In the meantime, in Transbaikalia, the project itself was facing difficulties. The Japanese support Semyonov relied on was tepid. At that time Japan intervened militarily in the Russian Far East and Semyonov was one of the loyal warlords they cultivated locally. He got some support from a few Japanese individuals with power, but other factions were weary of antagonizing too much Russia and China and ordered only some unofficial assistance. Even more, some months later, he was ordered by his Japanese sponsors to reconcile with the Kolchak government of the White Russian front, which meant that he had keep too a low profile around this project.
Nevertheless, the proponents of Greater Mongolia continued with their endeavor and the various regional factions gathered their armies to enter Outer Mongolia in order to bring it to the fold. But when the armies gathered, divergences of views around the project appeared even more to the forefront and they started to fight among themselves. In the meantime, Outer Mongolia was occupied by the Chinese, who used the prospect of Greater Mongolia intervention as a pretext to reoccupy it. Even worse for this project, in the Siberian part of the former Tsarist Empire the White front was collapsing.
The Bolsheviks registered significant advances towards Transbaikalia and everybody had to make and proceed with contingency plans. Semyonov retreated further east towards the Russian Pacific coast. In this context, in 1920, Ungern, who all this time acted as a semi-independent associate of Semyonov with his own army, rather opted to move into Outer Mongolia in order to liberate it from the Chinese. This would have also opened new fronts and new possibilities for gathering strength in the ongoing civil war.
It was a rather unexpected decision, given that the Chinese military presence there was much stronger. Plus the fact itself of moving too much beyond the scope of the fight for the territories of the former Tsarist Empire. He really had an interest in Mongolia. He was initially defeated by the Chinese or it may have been just an initial reconnaissance activity, according to other interpretations. Then he regrouped and, with a well-thought and inspired range of military tactics, some of them harking back to Genghis Khan, he managed to defeat a significantly stronger Chinese force. The Chinese defense crumbled and, in February 1921, Ungern restored the Bogd Khanate and supported the development of Mongol state structures.
Soon he issued a flurry of proclamations towards other populations in this area, envisaging a political project aiming at creating a federation of the ethnicities with a steppe nomad background, maybe with a revived Manchu dynasty and maybe with him as the new Manchu emperor, after he married that Manchu princess. In his views, this political structure would counter the spread of European ideas, especially socialism and liberalism. The Europeans were presented as decadent, his army also had the consignment to kill every Jew they find without a special dispense from Ungern. Who knows, he may have been a Hitler avant la lettre if he had success with his political project. Given that he was so harsh and unpredictable in general, the Mongols themselves started to become weary of him and not very participative.
Additionally, the thing that put soon an end to his plans was the fact that the Bolsheviks could not afford to have active White Russian enemy forces nearby and decided to intervene themselves in Outer Mongolia to defeat Ungern. Another aspect that opened the way for the intervention was the clarification of the stand of the Chinese authorities towards them. Initially, the Bolsheviks were hoping for good relations with the Chinese, as they could not afford another enemy. But, in September 1920, the latter announced that their attitude towards Soviet Russia would be guided by that of the Allies victorious in the Great War. Then, after Ungern chased the Chinese out of Outer Mongolia, initially the Soviets tried some discussions about the terms of an intervention to eliminate him, but the Chinese were reluctant, while they were themselves unable to commit more troops and do something. In this context, the Soviets just set in motion the intervention plans without any further agreement with the Chinese authorities.
They still took care to not frame their action as a direct Soviet military intervention on Chinese territory. They got back to an already existing small Mongolian political group with revolutionary tendencies from this area of Outer Mongolia. Up to that moment, this group kept asking for Soviet support, but it was just fed with empty promises and kept in limbo just in case. The Bolsheviks brought them in the Soviet sphere of influence and cultivated them in order to look like they were just supporting local forces. And then they invaded. They had a huge advantage compared to Ungern’s army in terms of equipment and numbers. Additionally, Ungern’s stand was increasingly weakened by his harshness. By August 1921, his troops were defeated or just deserted, he was captured and in September executed. Then, in the next year, the increasingly stregthened pro-Bolshevik Mongol troops themselves captured the White general Andei Bakich who was seeking to escape with a small remnant of his army from another direction, from the south-western Xinjiang across the Chinese border.
The unexpected successful intervention of Ungern in Outer Mongolia precipitated the subsequent Bolshevik intervention, which otherwise would likely not have happened. And also the integration of the Communists from Outer Mongolia in the Soviet structure, dislodging them from a possible absorption by the Chinese Communists, like those from Inner Mongolia. Once the Bolsheviks occupied the territory, they set in motion the usual process of installing a puppet Communist regime, with the so-called Mongolian Revolution of 1921.
Given the weakness of the Chinese state in those years, Outer Mongolia escaped again from their clout, only to turn into a satellite state of the Soviet Union, the so-called unofficial 16th republic (the Soviet Union was comprised of 15 republics). The Soviet authorities did not outrightly annex it, probably for not antagonizing the Chinese even further. They re-annexed only the territories inhabited by the Tuvans, which already had some significant Russian population.
If it weren’t for Ungern’s successful defeat of the Chinese, now Outer Mongolia would most likely be part of China, with lots of Han Chinese colonization, sharing the same fate of Tibet and of other territories that managed to get for a while a de facto independence in the context of the crumbling of the Qing Empire and of the disarray of the Chinese central authorities assuming its legacy.
The Bolsheviks were so overstretched and tired at that time that intervening in Mongolia would have made no sense otherwise. That Mongol group with revolutionary tendencies was already asking them earlier to intervene and defeat the Chinese, but such a prospect was very low on the list of the Bolshevik priorities, given their precarious situation. When Ungern himself was initially defeated by the Chinese, the Bolsheviks scrapped the plans they put in motion to follow him. They thought they got rid of him and that was it. But when he was victorious later on and chased the Chinese out, they had to revive those plans and invade Outer Mongolia too. And, if they occupied the territory, they could not pass the chance to install a Communist puppet regime.
A strong grip on Outer Mongolia had strategic importance from the Russian perspective, since it was a useful buffer zone increasing the protection of the thinly populated Siberian territory and its communication lines with the Far Eastern Pacific coast. Besides the realities of a thinly populated territory, the longitudinal Lake Baikal reaching south almost close to the border poses some aditional serious geostrategic problems. Initially, by the beginning of the 20th century, the Russian Siberian railway was stopping on one shore and was resuming on the other shore, with transportation in between by boat or, during winter, on ice. During the 1904–1905 Russo-Japanese War, this turned into a major bottleneck and they resorted to lay a temporary railway line on top of the lake’s ice during the winter.
Later on, they built a connecting rail line by the south of the lake, but it is so exposed and a foreign occupation of that area would strangulate the communication with the Russian Far East. Even later on, as a result of the ongoing animosity with the Communist China, the Soviet authorities took the decision to build with great effort another rail line branch by the north of the lake, in order to have other options in case the Chinese manage to occupy the bottleneck by the south of the lake. Still, the issue with this lake, as well as the general issue with this vast and underpopulated Siberian territory makes the Russian authorities to appreciate an Outer Mongolia out of Chinese control.
As for the historical evolution of the situation, the Soviet leaders may have sought some involvement and control over Outer Mongolia even without Ungern’s butterfly effects, but they may not have had the chance to consolidate it as a de facto long-term Mongolian self-government disconnected from China. They controlled Xinjiang too for a while, but in that case they worked with the Han Chinese warlord controlling the area. They stirred up a separatism of the local Turkic populations when that arangement did not work anymore, but it was too late and then they simply entrusted the area to the Chinese Communists with whom they were ideologically allied at that time, still unaware of the state of conflict that was to follow. In Outer Mongolia, Ungern first dislodged for the Soviets the significant Chinese military force and administration present there.
Overall, Ungern’s activity and its results were such a ridiculously unexpected chain of butterfly effects. A chain of effects starting with a misfit German child from present-day Estonia, going through an army unit of Assyrian Christians in northern Persia and ending up with the creation of a personal army in eastern Siberia to pursue the liberation of the Mongols. It was something coming out of the blue for the Mongolian context, which moved the situation in a direction that otherwise would have been unlikely to happen if everybody was just pursuing their straightforwardly obvious goals in those geopolitical circumstances.
Its consequences were further on taken over and systematized by the Russians, turning into one of those cases in which they conquered only partially an ethnic group, to the extent their military and political clout made it possible and necessary. This determined different evolutions for those under Russian occupation and the larger number of those that remained outside of it. Something similar to the partial conquest of Moldavia or the partial conquest of the Shia Turks in the Caucasus. In the next episodes I will get into more detail about these topics, as well as about the process of Communist regimentation and of international acceptance of the Outer Mongolia as an independent state, a process stretching several decades. In that period of time, Outer Mongolia was something like Taiwan nowadays, with the Chinese authorities reacting angrily whenever it was mentioned or depicted on maps as separated from China.