In This Review

Modern Mongolia: From Khans to Commissars to Capitalists
Modern Mongolia: From Khans to Commissars to Capitalists
By Morris Rossabi
University of California Press, 2005, 418 pp

Mongolia was the first Asian country to adopt communism and the first to abandon it. Rossabi devotes the bulk of his book to the problems reformers have had since communism's collapse there. With the termination of crucial Russian economic support, free-market ideology, advanced by the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and the Asian Development Bank, replaced the old commitment to central planning. Mongolia was pressured to go the "shock therapy" route, and the resulting transition was rougher even than Russia's, with inflation as high as 325 percent and its vast state-owned enterprises transformed into 330 shareholding companies, 70 percent of which were owned by just 1,500 people. Still, although Rossabi argues that neither the central planners nor the free marketers appreciated the distinctive characteristics of an economy based on herding and animal husbandry, he ends by telling what amounts to a success story: through their skillful efforts, the Mongolian reformers brought their country into the international system. One has to admire the Mongolians as they struggle to reform (especially in the face of exceptionally cold winters that reduced the nation's livestock by some 10 million from 1999 to 2002). They have had problems with corruption, but they have also played well at democracy: after Rossabi finished his book, a national election threw out the rascals and gave power to the opposition.