Courtesy Reuters

In November 1920, after Bolshevik armies had smashed White Russian forces in eastern Siberia, three young Mongolians went to Moscow to ask help against the recently reimposed Chinese control of Outer Mongolia. Vladimir I. Lenin received them. He advised them that the Soviets would help establish a separate state of Mongolia and it should be a Marxist one. "With the aid of the proletariat of advanced countries," Lenin had recently told the Comintern and paraphrased to his visitors, "backward countries may make the transition to the Soviet system and ... to Communism, bypassing the capitalist stage of development."

Few places were more

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