1990 Democratic Revolution in Mongolia

1990 Democratic Revolution in Mongolia
History of Mongolia
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The 1990 Peaceful Democratic Revolution in Mongolia (Mongolian: Ардчилсан хувьсгал, Ardchilsan Khuvĭsgal, Democratic Revolution) was a democratic revolution that started with hunger strikes to overthrow the Mongolian People's Republic and eventually moved towards the democratic present day Mongolia and the writing of the new constitution. It was spearheaded by mostly younger people demonstrating on Sükhbaatar Square in the capital Ulan Bator. It ended with the authoritarian government resigning without bloodshed. Some of the main organizers were people like Sanjaasürengiin Zorig, Erdeniin Bat-Üül, Bat-Erdeniin Batbayar, and Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj. Indeed, the peaceful revolution revived the thousand years-old parliamentary tradition of Mongolia.

This was the beginning of the end of the 70-year period of socialism in Mongolia. Although a multi-party system was established, the Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party (MPRP) actually remained in power until 1996. Nevertheless, reforms were implemented and the transition to a market economy begun. The revolution was inspired by the reforms in the Soviet Union, and by the similar revolutions in Eastern Europe in late 1989.



The MPRP took power in Mongolia in 1921. Over the following decades, Mongolia was always very closely aligned with the Soviet Union, who in turn guaranteed Mongolia's independence from China. After the ousting of Yumjaagiin Tsedenbal in 1984, and 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.

Course of events

The first small-scale public protests occurred on December 10, 1989, in front of the Cultural Center for Youth. The protesters called for Mongolia to follow the Soviet Union and adopt perestroika and glasnost. Dissident leaders demanded free elections and economic reform. On January 14, 1990, the protesters, having grown from two hundred to some 1,000, met at the Lenin Museum in Ulan Bator. A demonstration in Sükhbaatar Square on Jan. 21 (in weather of -30 C) followed. After came weekend demonstrations in January and February and the forming of Mongolia's first opposition parties. On March 7, ten dissidents assembled in Sükhbaatar Square and went on a hunger strike. Thousands of supporters joined them. On March 9, the Communist MPRP government resigned. The new government announced Mongolia's first free parliamentary elections, which were to be held in July. Unrest also spread to the other industrial centers in Erdenet and Darkhan, and to the province centers, notably Mörön in Khövsgöl.[1]


A Monument to slain pro-democracy leader S. Zorig

The opposition parties failed to win a majority in the 1990 elections. There had been 430 seats in the Great Khural, and the opposition parties had been unable to nominate enough candidates - they mustered only 346. Also, the MPRP enjoyed a strong position in the countryside. Consequently, the MPRP won 357 seats in the Great and 31 (out of 53) in the small Khural.[2] Nonetheless, the new MPRP government under D. 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 foodstuffs had to be rationed for a time.

The first election win for the opposition was the presidential election of 1993, when the opposition candidate P. Ochirbat won.[3] In 1996, the opposition for the first time succeeded in winning the majority in the State Great Khural.


  1. ^ Rossabi, Morris. Modern Mongolia: From Khans to Commissars to Capitalists. 2005, University of California Press, ISBN 978-0-520-24419-1. pp. 1-28
  2. ^ Peter Staisch, Werner M. Prohl, Dschingis Khan lächelt, Bonn 1998, p.38ff
  3. ^ Ochirbat was originally a MPRP member, but when his party nominated an orthodox communist as their presidential candidate, he agreed to run for the opposition

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