Socialist Construction Under Tsedenbal, 1952-84

Socialist Construction Under Tsedenbal, 1952-84

Choybalsan died on January 26, 1952, and a major era in modern Mongolian history came to an end. He was succeeded as government leader by Tsedenbal who continued to be party general secretary as well.

Economic developments and extensive purges of party and government personnel marked the transition. In March 1953, a party Central Committee plenum was convened to review the results of the First Plan, and in November 1954, the Twelfth Party Congress belatedly approved guidelines for the Second Five-Year Plan (1953-57). A continuing major economic target included in the plan was the development of the livestock sector, and a 72 percent increase in grain production over 1952 levels was envisioned. Special attention also was paid to expanding electrification and international economic cooperation. Also at the Twelfth Congress, Dashiyn Damba was elected general secretary, replacing Tsedenbal as party leader.

In 1956 the party Central Committee condemned the "personality cult" of Choybalsan, specifically pointing out the excesses of the 1937 to 1939 period. Claiming success for the Second Plan, the Thirteenth Party Congress, March 17 to 22, 1958, adopted a special Three-Year Plan (1958-60), aimed at raising Mongolia from a livestock economy to an agricultural-industrial economy, all with Soviet aid. New emphasis was placed on stepping up industrial capacities--particularly in the coal mining, electric power, and construction sectors--and on increasing output of petroleum industry products, minerals, and nonferrous ores. Damba was reelected at the Thirteenth Congress, only to be dismissed for ideological reasons and replaced by Tsedenbal several months later. On July 6, 1960, the government adopted the national Constitution that continued to be in force in 1989. In January 1962, Choybalsan's "personality cult" again was attacked by the party Central Committee.

Foreign inputs and expansion of international contacts were important to Mongolia's development plans in the 1950s. A result of the close alliance of China and the Soviet Union during this period was Sino-Soviet cooperation in developing Mongolia. In 1952 a ten-year Sino-Mongolian Agreement on Economic and Cultural Cooperation marked an important step in developing relations between the two long-estranged nations. China helped build railroad lines, gave ruble aid and loans for construction projects, and even sent large contingents of laborers in the mid- 1950s. Ulaanbaatar also subscribed to the anticolonial stance of the 1955 Bandung Conference and adopted the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence. Relations were developed with countries beyond the communist bloc--for example, India, Burma, Cambodia, nations in Africa and the Middle East, and, later, Cuba.

Soviet troops were withdrawn in 1956, increasing Mongolia's control over its own internal affairs. There were residual fears of a renewed Chinese ascendancy, however, despite Mongolia's signing of the Treaty of Friendship and Mutual Assistance with China on May 31, 1960, and the improved state of bilateral affairs. Memories of Chinese claims to "lost territories"--a theme, in Chinese foreign policy toward Mongolia, raised by Sun Yat-sen in 1912; reiterated by Chiang Kai-shek in the 1920s and by Mao Zedong in the 1930s; and, although rebuffed, raised at the 1945 Yalta Conference, when Chiang asserted China's claim to suzerainty based on the 1924 treaty with the Soviet Union--were strong in Mongolian consciousness.

Soon after the July 1961 Fourteenth Party Congress, Mongolia had garnered enough support from communist countries and from the Third World to be admitted to the United Nations in October 1961. The following June, Mongolia joined the Soviet-sponsored Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (Comecon).

Mongolian-Soviet ties continued to be close during the 1960s; additional aid was granted to Mongolia, and repayment deadlines were extended. In October 1965, a new three-year Agreement on Economic and Cultural Cooperation was signed. A twenty-year Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation, and Mutual Assistance, which replaced the 1946 treaty, was the culmination of a state visit to Ulaanbaatar by the Soviet leader, Leonid Brezhnev, in January 1966. Soon after the signing of the friendship treaty, which included a defense clause, there was a buildup in Mongolia of Soviet troops and military infrastructure (including bases, roads, airfields, sheltered fighter aircraft sites, radar detection networks, communication lines, and missile sites). Mongolia, more than ever, had become a front line of Soviet defense against China. As part of its alliance with the Soviet Union, Mongolia signed the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty in 1963.

As relations with Moscow grew still closer, there was a corresponding coolness in those with Beijing. Although a difficult bilateral question was resolved with China in December 1962, when a border demarcation agreement was reached, by 1966 serious Mongolian-Chinese differences had surfaced. Chinese aid was stopped; trade decreased to low levels; relations cooled. The Chinese were angry over Ulaanbaatar's siding with Moscow in the Sino-Soviet rift; Mongolia, observing the excesses of China's Cultural Revolution, was concerned anew over China's designs on its sovereignty.

After the Fifteenth Party Congress had approved new economic plans in June 1966, Mongolia continued to try to transform its nomadic economy into ranch-style livestock herding and to expand its industrial sector. The economy, however, continued to have severe problems. For example, poor weather plagued the country; in 1967, blizzards caused a US$37 million loss in livestock alone. Severe winters were followed by drought and by plummeting harvests and exports. Planned increases in agricultural and industrial production did not materialize, and the lack of raw materials continued to hamper even light industry. Some of the blame was placed on the pullout of Chinese economic and technical assistance and the end of trade with China in consumer goods. It was admitted, however, that the economy envisioned in the Fourth Five-Year Plan (1966-70) had "not developed as rapidly as those of fraternal socialist states," and, indeed, achievements fell notably short of goals.

Large infusions of Soviet and Comecon aid eventually had salutary effects in the early 1970s. High-level state visits were exchanged in the 1969 to 1971 period, with the result that Moscow agreed to underwrite the Fifth Five-Year Plan (1971-75). Soviet economic difficulties in the early 1970s, however, had repercussions for Mongolia. The Soviet Union started insisting that trade quotas be honored, a move that caused economic disruption just as Mongolia was recovering from the economic distress of the late 1960s. Nevertheless, some economic progress was achieved between 1971 and 1974, a period during which gross industrial production rose by nearly 45 percent. Severe winters continued to hurt the anticipated growth of livestock herds. By the mid-1970s, direct business and other cooperative links had been established between corresponding Mongolian and Soviet ministries, departments, research institutes, and industries, and cooperative ties also had been established between neighboring Mongolian aymags and Soviet oblasts.

More than 100,000 Soviet troops were garrisoned in Mongolia in the early 1970s. Ulaanbaatar's anti-Chinese criticism intensified during this period, ostensibly because of increased numbers of Chinese military exercises along the frontier and alleged anti-Mongolian subversive activities. Mongolia received assurances that Soviet troops would remain; Brezhnev himself, when in Ulaanbaatar, said that Beijing's demand for withdrawal of Soviet troops from Mongolia, as a precondition for the normalization of Sino-Soviet relations, was "absolutely unacceptable."

After a decade of steady growth in party membership, a dramatic change occurred in the composition of those attending the Sixteenth Party Congress in July 1971. Although membership on the Political Bureau, the Central Committee, and the Secretariat remained stable, 82 percent of the delegates were new. As the decade continued, changes at the top began to emerge. In June 1974, Tsedenbal, while retaining his position as general secretary of the Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party, resigned as chairman of the Council of Ministers--the premiership--to become chairman of the People's Great Hural, the de facto president of Mongolia. The former rector of the Mongolian State University, Jambyn Batmonh, in a move presaging the succession a decade later, was appointed premier; he also was elevated to the party Political Bureau. After these changes, the party leadership was more stable. The closeness of Mongolian-Soviet relations was manifested by meetings in October 1976 in Moscow among Tsedenbal, Batmonh, and three other party Political Bureau members and the Soviet Communist Party general secretary Leonid Brezhnev; the president, Nikolai Podgorny; and the premier, Alexei Kosygin. While the talks were described as "fraternal," they also were characterized as "frank," probably because of increased Mongolian demands for economic aid. Soviet aid was forthcoming for the Sixth Five-Year Plan (1976-80), primarily in support of agriculture, mining, fuel, power, food, and light industries. Mongolian relations with Beijing--following Moscow's lead--were less hostile in the years after the 1976 death of Mao, but fears of China's "predatory aspirations" still lingered in Ulaanbaatar. In 1980 Chinese nationals were expelled from Mongolia on charges ranging from gambling and drug use to public disorder and espionage.

Severe weather in the winter of 1976 to 1977 caused some of the worst damage to animal husbandry in a decade. Heavy snowfalls, severe frosts, disease, starvation, and mismanagement combined to create a perilous economic situation. Recovery was slow, and livestock targets were overestimated continually throughout the rest of the 1970s. Developments in other economic sectors, such as mining and irrigated farming, saw some improvement during the period, however.

The 1980s began with some improvements in the economy, but also with a number of top party and state leadership changes, culminating in the end of Tsedenbal's rule. While Tsedenbal was in Moscow in August 1984, special sessions of the party and the People's Great Hural were held to announce his retirement. Batmonh replaced the reportedly ailing party head, amid tributes to Tsedenbal's forty-four-year career as an "outstanding leader" and "very close friend." In December 1984, Batmonh also was elevated to the chairmanship of the Presidium of the People's Great Hural, and Vice Premier Dumaagiyn Sodnom became premier as Mongolia embarked on historic reforms.

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