BRIEF HISTORY AND RELIGION OF MONGOLIA
The first Mongolian state was established in 209 BC by Huns or Hunnu people. The name Hunnu comes from two ancient Mongolian words. “Hun” means “man” and “nu” translates as “sun”. The Hun’s first king was Modun Shan Yui, whose father Tumen was chieftain of Hun’s most influential tribe. The Huns territory stretched from Korea in the Far East to Tian Shan Mountian in the northern China and from the southern section of the Great Wall to Lake Baikal in southern Siberia.
From 200 BC until its collapse in 98 AD, the Hun state was the most powerful nomadic nation residing in the sprawling Central Asian steppe and mountain. But, after three hundred years of domination the Hun state imploded, ruined by internal conflicts between powerful chieftains. After the Hun state collapsed several other ambitions clans established their own states and dominated Mongolian territory up until 1200 AD. The first domination state after the Hun’s collapse was the Sumbe State, which lasted until the 3rd century BC. The Toba finally took over the Sumbe state inn 250 AD and established its own state with a number of tribal allies. In turn the Tobas were defeated by the Nirun, who were forced to hand the state over to Turkic tribes who established the Tuger Kingdom On Mongolia in 552 AD. Thousand of Turkic people has arrived from the far west via the Altai Mountains during the 4th century AD. They extended the ancient feudal system, but were also defeated by their own internal conflicts in 745 AD. The Uigar tribe then became the most powerful in Central Asia, but were unable to dominate the whole of Mongolia. It was the Kidans, who had peacefully coexisted with several previous ruling tribes, who took over Mongolia in 907. Their dominance lasted until the 12th century when a number of Central Asian tribes invaded at the same time. There was now no ruler in Mongolia and this vast territory was divided and subdivided into tribal areas.
Temujin was born into the Esuuhei in 1162 and is best known as Chinggis (Genghis) Khaan. His father was a chieftain of one of the numerous tribes ansd was killed by the Tatars when Temujin was just 9 years old.
With the support of his father’s friends, Temujin established the Great Mongo State in 1189. By 1206 he had united 81 different Mongolian tribes and established the Great Mongolian Empire in 1206, when he was crowned as Chinggis Khaan. 2006 is the year of 800th anniversary of the establishment of Mongol Empire. Chinggis Khaan died in 1227. Subsequent Mongolian Khaans were chosen from following generations of Chinggis Khaan’s children.
During the 13-14th centuries, Mongolia developed in terms of its economy, culture, military strength and politics. It was a huge, sprawling empire which encompassed many separate Asian and European nations. Still known as the Golden Era of Mongolian history, during this time the Mongol Empire was the most powerful nation on earth. Chinggis Khaan was a great military general, statesman and Mongolian national hero. The Mongol Empire began to fall apart in 1368. This was bound up with the collapse of the Mongolian Yuan Dynasty, which had been established in China after Khubilai Khaan named Beijing the new Capital of the Mongol Empire. The Manchurians conquered Mongolia in 1691 and the Manchurian colonization lasted for 220 years. By the beginning of 20th century Mongolians were embroiled in a straggle for national liberation, which finally came to fruition in December 1911, when the Manchurians withdrew and Mongolia’s independence was proclaimed in Urguu (as Ulaanbaatar was previously known), Mongolia’s theocratic ruler Bogd Khaan was awarded power across the entire country.
On 11 July 1921, the socialist revolution, known as People’s Revolution took place. In 1924, the Mongolian People’s Party proclaimed Mongolia a People’s Republic’s first constitution. As Mongolia maintained strong links with the former Soviet Union, the socialist era continued until 1990, when democratic changes first started in Mongolia. The country’s first multi-party election was held in June 1990. The new parliament adopted Mongolia’s first democratic parliamentary republic operating with a President. Both parliament and president have to be directly elected by the general public. Throughout these political changes, Mongolia has slowly been paying its way towards a free market economy and way from the old economic system.
Mongolia’s religious roots are bound up in Shamanism. However this religious phenomena doesn’t match the conventional description of a religion in the same way as Buddhism or Christianity. Shamanism has no founder from whom its teachings originate. There is no collection of sacred sutras or a bible, as it doesn’t possess any monastic communities to preach or distribute its doctrines. The origins of Shamanism are still unclear, but historians are certain it emerged at the same time as the first human artistic concepts of fetishism, tokenism and animism to name just a few. Shamanism was the major religion during both the ancient Mongol states and the Mongol Empire until Tibetan Buddhism (also called Vajrayana Buddhism) gained more popularity after it was introduced in 13th century. Tibetan Buddhism shared the common Buddhist goals of individual release from suffering and reincarnation. Tibet’s Dalai Lama, who lives in India, is the religion’s spiritual leader, and is highly respected in Mongolia. Shamanism has continued to be practiced by a few of the ethnic groups living in northern and western Mongolia, including the Tsaatan, who are more commonly known as the reindeer people. Mongolians practice ritualistic magic, nature worship, exorcism, meditation, and natural healing as part of their shamanistic heritage.
Buddhism was introduced to Mongolia from Tibet by Khubilai Khaan during the late 13th century. Khubilai Khaan invited an eminent Tibetan lama, Pagba, to be empire’s religious representative. From the late 14th century onwards hundreds of Buddhist temples were rapidly built across Mongolia. Thousands of Mongolian males vowed to live as lamas at one point almost one seventh of the male population has taken robes. Until the beginning of the twentieth century Buddhism developed and spread across the country, playing an important role on both religions and intellectual spheres of life. The 1921 People’s Revolution swiftly installed a socialist regime, which officially prohibited any religious practice. During the 1930’s political purges under resulted in the destruction of more than 700 temples and the death of around 10.000 lamas. It wasn’t until the early 1990’s that, as part of the rise of democracy, Buddhism was revived as Mongolia’s major religion. Mongolia’s largest monastery- Gandan-is in Ulaanbaatar. In October 1996, Gandan hosted a massive opening ceremony for its newly installed 25 meter high, 60 ton Megjid Janraisag statue, which is the symbol of the revival of Buddhism in Mongolia. The statue’s name translates as “the all seeing Lord”. Meanwhile Mongolia’s Kazakhs are Muslims. Islam is mainly practiced in Bayan Olgii, the most westerly province in Mongolia. Since the mid nineties large number of Christians, Bahais and Mormons have arrived in Mongolia seeking to convent Mongolians from Buddhism to their various faiths. There has recently been concern about missionaries working mainly as English teachers and seeking to convent in and outside of classrooms.