Courtesy Reuters

Inside Outer Mongolia

THE Mongolian People's Republic, better known as Outer Mongolia, a purportedly independent country of over 600,000 square miles and less than a million people, is not administratively a part of either the Soviet Union or Communist China, and its location between these two countries lends it special political importance.

Direct Russian influence in Outer Mongolia has clearly declined, but major legacies remain of the many years of Soviet dominance. Most important are the single Communist Party (called the Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party) which dominates the political life of the country, and other concomitants of a Communist system: high degree of centralization and discipline; an official line of interpretation of history, art and other aspects of life; a tightly-controlled press, with Mongolian equivalents of Pravda, Red Star, Krokodil, etc. Terror, too, has in the past been an instrument of government, nor has Mongolia been spared the curse of secret police and purges. An internal passport system does not now exist, but is being seriously discussed, and labor books have become important documents for many Mongols. The Party comprises 3 to 4 percent of the total population, and it operates an extensive set of mass youth organizations with nearly universal membership.

Molotov still serves officially as the Soviet Ambassador in Mongolia, although he has apparently been absent much of the time. The U.S.S.R. also maintains a consulate in the city of Choibalsan (formerly Bayan-tümen) in the eastern part of the country, where direct Russian-Mongolian trade makes use of the rail cutoff from the Trans-Siberian line constructed for military operations against the Japanese in the late 1930s. Russian-Mongolian trade also employs shipping on Lake Khubsugul in northwestern Mongolia (personal observation confirms this) and the old Kobdo-Biisk-Barnaul route in the far west also reportedly continues to operate. Russian goods are sold in Mongolian shops, although Chinese-made clothing and textiles occupy an important place, along with increasing amounts of products from East European countries. Russian machinery is the rule in the few industrial enterprises.

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