Skip to main content Accessibility help

Local Government in the Mongolian People's Republic 1940–1960

  • George Ginsburgs


The twenty years which have elapsed since the adoption of the 1940 Constitution of the Mongolian People's Republic have witnessed important social, economic, and political transformations in the life of the Mongol nation and in the structure of its public authority, especially in the field of local government. All these changes have in a direct way affected the substantive rights and duties of the mass of the citizenry and are intimately tied to the continuing progression of the Mongol society, under the paternalistic guidance of Moscow and its native disciples in Ulan-Bator, along the socalled “non-capitalist path of transition to socialism.” As reflected in the organizational evolution of the instrumentalities of local rule, the record of the legislative and governmental reforms of this period furnishes valuable evidence on the prospective course of the country's future development following the promulgation on July 6, 1960, of a new, “socialist-inspired” Constitution and the inauguration of an era of fundamental reorientation in all areas of public and private activity in pursuance of an official campaign to complete the building of “socialism” in Outer Mongolia.



Hide All

1 For an authoritative commentary on the new Constitution by the First Secretary of the Central Committee of the M.P.R.P. and Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the M.P.R., see Tsedenbal, Yu., “Novaya Konstitutsiya Mongolskoi Narodnoi Respubliki,” Sovetskoe gosudamvo i pravo, 1960, No. 10, pp. 312.

2 For the text of the 1940 Constitution, see Sovetskoe gosudarstvo i pravo, 1947, No. 8, pp. 36–49.

3 There is no national autonomy in the M.P.R. from the administrative standpoint; however, the aimak of Baian-Ulugei seems to have been specially created in order to provide the Kazakh minority with its own territorial division. The aimak does not enjoy a separate status of any kind under the Constitution, but the Resolution of the Council of Ministers of the M.P.R. of September 3, 1942, did provide for the introduction of a new Kazakh alphabet in Baian-Ulugei and a cultural-linguistic autonomy of sorts has been operating there ever since. For text of the decree of September 3, 1942, see Sbornik zakpnov i osnovnykh postanovlenii pravitelstva MNR, 1942, No. 2, and Demidov, S. S. (ed.), Konstitutsiya i osnovnye zakpnodatelnye akty Mongolskoi Narodnoi Respubliki (Moscow, 1952), p. 248.

4 The data on the territorial size of the aimaks is derived from the table in Tsapkin, N. V., Mongolskaya Narodnaya Respublika (Moscow, 1948), p. 66. The figures on the population of the provinces are given in Maslennikov, V., Mongolskaya Narodnaya Respublika na puti k sotsializmu (Moscow, 1951), table on p. 37, citing 1944 estimates quoted in Denisov, I., Zhivotnovodstvo Mongolskoi Nardncri Respubliki (Ulan- Bator, 1946). As far as is known, post-1944 figures have not been released.

5 N. V. Tsapkin, op. cit., p. 67; Demidov, S. S., Mongolskaya Narodnaya Respublika (Moscow, 1952), P. 35.

6 In Mongolia, the terms bag and somon seem to be indiscriminately used to denote both the territorial division and its administrate capital, although only the former usage is correct. E.g., Montagu, Ivor, Land of Blue Sky, A Portrait of Modern Mongolia (London, 1956), p. 96, writes that “Mongolians speak of these centres casually as if they were themselves somons and bags, though properly these designations belong to the territorial divisions of which they are the headquarters.”

Aimak. centers are permanent sites. Somon and bag centers, headquarters of territorial units generally peopled by nomads are themselves only semi-permanent or entirely nomadic. Farberov, N. P., Gosudarstvennoe pravo stran narodnoi demokratii (Moscow, 1949), p. 321.

7 N. P. Farberov, loc. cit., and S. S. Demidov, op. cit., p. 35. V. Maslennikov, op. cit., p. 38, puts the number of households in a bag at between 50 and 300–350, which seems excessive.

8 S. S. Demidov, op. cit., p. 35.

9 In addition, a special session of any Khural could be convoked upon the demand of not less than half the voters in the territorial unit which it governed, or upon the petition of not fewer than two-thirds of the Khural's membership, or upon the recommendation of the Presidium of the Little Khural of the M.P.R.

10 Every member of a Khural had the right to nominate his choice for membership in the executive organs or his candidate for deputy to the next highest Khural. Candidates receiving a simple majority of the votes cast were declared elected.

11 For the conduct of elections, central and local electoral commissions were to be created which would function in accordance with special instructions and regulations approved by the Presidium of the Little Khural of the M.P.R.

12 For text of the law, see Sovetskoe gosudarstvo i pravo, 1947, No. 8, p. 50.

13 Thus, according to N. P. Farberov, op. cit., p. 317: “The fact is that the overwhelming percentage of individuals who had been deprived of their electoral rights because they did not work have adjusted themselves to socially useful labor and in fact have become workers. Moreover, if previously these persons represented a certain organized force opposing the national revolutionary regime, then by 1944 they have ceased to constitute any kind of a danger to the Republic.”

14 Preamble to the Resolution of the Presidium of the Little Khural of September 28, 1944.

15 Thus, according to Maslennikov, V., Mongolskaya Narodnaya Respublika (Moscow, 1955), p. 30, by the middle of 1955 the number of somons had only risen to 328.

16 A first step in the equalization of the provinces in size and population was taken on February 6 1931. Prior to that, the disparity between the khoshuns into which Mongolia was then divided was even more extreme. According to Zlatkin, I. Ya., Mongolskaya Narodnaya Respublika—strana novoi demokratii (Ocherk istorii) (Moscow, 1950), p. 214, there were khoshuns with an area of 61,000 and of 30,000 square kms, with a population of 40,000 and a population of 4,000. Even after the reforms, however, substantial differences continued to exist between aimaks in both respects.

17 The former Eastern aimak was liquidated and four new aimaks created: Baian-Khongor, Choibalsan, Sukhe-Bator, and Central Gobi.

18 In line with this, the Khurals were renamed from Khurals of arat workers to Khurals of workers' deputies.

19 Makhnenko, A. Kh., Gosudarstvennyi stroi Mongohkoi Narodnoi Respubliki (Moscow, 1955), p. 44.

20 For text of the Constitution as amended in 1949, see Konstitutsiya (Osnovnoi zakon) Mongolskoi Narodnoi Respubliki (Moscow, 1952); Unen, 1949, No. 47.

21 Moreover, extraordinary sessions of any Khural could now be convened at the demand of not less than half of the Khural's members or at the initiative of its executive directorate, as well as upon the directive of the Presidium of the Great National Khural.

22 E.g., directing the cultural-political and economic development within their jurisdiction, determining the local budgetary needs, supervising the activities of subordinate administrative agencies, and assuring the maintenance of public order, the observance of the laws, and the protection of citizens' rights.

23 Naturally, the difference in the number of participants in local self-rule was greatest at the bag and khorin level where Councils now supplanted the local general meetings.

24 Including, inter alia, the abolition of the citizenry's former right (see fns. 9 and 21 supra) to demand, by petition of half of the voters of a given territorial subdivision, an extraordinary session of its local Khural. To compensate somewhat for the repeal of popular initiative in this field, the rule on a two-thirds vote of the Khural's membership previously required to convene a special session was now reduced to a vote of half of its members, thus presumably simplifying and facilitating the procedure.

25 These changes, together with the elimination of the Little Khurals and their Presidia and the replacement of the latter by smaller executive organs, besides betraying the Mongolian Government's desire to streamline the overly complex and top-heavy bureaucratic apparatus, also brought the M.P.R.'s administrative system closer to the Soviet model. At the same time, they first introduced into the Mongolian public system the Soviet-inspired principles of democratic centralism and dual subordination, which, subsequently, received further elaboration. See Farberov, N. P. in Kotok, V. F., ed., Gosudarstvennoe pravo zarubczhnykh sotsialisticheskikh strati (Moscow, 1957), p. 454.

26 Thus, prior to the 1949 reforms only the Little Khurals in the aimaks and the capital and their Presidia and only the executive committees of the somon and khoron Khurals had had the right to revoke the decisions and directives of all lower organs of Government. After the 1949 revisions, therefore, not only was a clear line drawn between the powers of the executive and the legislative agencies at the lower levels, but rights were also bestowed on the plenary chambers of aimak, the Ulan-Bator, somon, and khoron Khurals which heretofore they had never possessed.

27 Instead, since all the cities then in existence in the M.P.R. were simultaneously the administrative centers of the aimaks in which they were situated, with the lone exception of Sukhe-Bator in the Selenga province, they continued to be governed directly by the aimak. Khurals which sat there and were not endowed with an independent municipal management of their own. See N. V. Tsapkin, op. cit., pp. 67–68, and S. S. Demidov, op. cit., pp. 35–39, for a description of the towns and populated centers of Mongolia.

28 Every deputy was obliged to report to his constituents on his own work and that of the Council in which he was a representative and could be recalled at any time at the decision of a majority of the voters in his district in accordance with procedures established by law.

29 For the text of the M.P.R. Constitution with the 1952 amendments, see Unen, 1952, No. 64; S. S. Demidov, ed., op. cit., pp. 37–57; and Zlatkin, I. Ya., ed., Mongolskaya Narodnaya Respublika, sbornik. statei (Moscow, 1952), pp. 349366.

30 A. Kh. Makhnenko, op. cit., pp. 45, 47.

31 Ibid., pp. 45–46.

32 It has been said of these community gatherings that “they encourage the expression of criticism and self-criticism, aid in the discovery and elimination of defects in the work of the executive organs and help strengthen the close ties between the agencies of State authority and the people,” ibid., pp. 46–47.

33 Zakpnodatelnyi sbornik MNR za 1952g. (Ulan-Bator, 1956), pp. 188189; Osnovnye normativnye akty o mestnkh organakh gosudarstvennoi vlasti i upravleniya Demokraticheskoi Respubliki Vietnam, Koreiskoi Narodno-Demokraticheskoi Respubliki i Mongolskoi Narodnoi Respubliki (Sbornik. dohumentov) (Moscow, 1960), pp. 185193.

34 Mandatory instructions issued by local Khurals can remain in force for two years only and upon the expiration of that deadline they automatically lose effect. In the concept of applied “democratic centralism” the preeminent role is played by the “centralism” factor. Law-making activities of local Councils are tightly controlled. Thus, no local ordinance can enter into force before the expiration of a 15-day period of grace from the date of its publication in all places affected by its provisions. Within two days of being signed, copies of such directives must be sent to the corresponding organ of the procuracy and the superior Khural. Should the procurator find the instructions unlawful, he must send a protest to the issuing body within 15 days of receipt and the aimak, city, somon, and khoron Khurals and their executive directorates are, in turn, obliged to examine the procurator's protest within 15 days of its receipt and inform the procurator of the results of their deliberations. Failure to deal with the protest within the established deadline automatically entails the suspension of the regulations under challenge.

35 The maximum of fines which could be levied by aimak and city Khurals and their executives was set at 200 tugriks and at 100 tugriks for somon and khoron Khurals and their directorates.

36 The commissions were to be comprised of the chief of the local militia as chairman, and such other members as were appointed to them by the executive directorates of the aimak and city Khurals. Commission hearings were conducted by the head of the general affairs office of the corresponding Khural executive directorate.

37 Such fines, collected on the spot by the responsible official, could not exceed five tugriks, but upon the refusal of the offending party to disburse on demand, the payment of a similar fine could be directed by the chief of the local militia who then had the right to raise it to 15 tugriks.

38 If the case was taken under advice by a court, all administrative proceedings stopped immediately, but the defendant himself did not have the right independently to resort to the courts in seeking relief from an administrative action.

39 Uncn, March 21, 1954; Osnovnye normativnye akty, pp. 202–203 (extracts).

40 Unen, May 9, 1954; Kazantsev, N. D., ed., Osnovnye zakonodatelnye akty po agrarnym preobrazovaniyam v zarubezhnikh sotsialisticheskikh stranakh (Moscow, 1958), Vyp. I, Kitaiskaya Narodnaya Respublika, Korciskaya Narodno-Demokraticheskaya Respublika, Mongolskaya Narodnaya Respublika, Demokraticheskaya Respublika Vietnam, pp. 193–196. Inter alia, the new tax law revised the earlier rules for assessing taxes in rural districts, altering the procedure from that of calculating tax dues on the basis of the planned size of the herd to that of levying taxes on the actual headcount of animals registered in the past year. In order to encourage the cooperative drive, toward the end of 1959 the regime abolished entirely the livestock tax on collectivized families.

41 Households adversely affected by natural disasters entailing loss of livestock could be exempted from tax disbursements in whole or in part by order of the executive directorate of the aimak Khural, subject to subsequent approval by the Council of Ministers of the Republic.

42 Unen, July 17, 1954; Osnovnye normativnye akty, pp. 194–200. The 1954 Regulations superseded the Regulations on sections in aimak, city, somon, khoron administrations, put into force by the Decree of the Presidium of the Little Khural of the M. P. R. of December 3, 1946.

43 Separate commissions were to be established for industry, livestock breeding, budget, education and cultural-informational work, public health, city improvement, commerce and cooperative trade, and transportation and communications, although given special local conditions yet other commissions could be created if needed.

44 This was further underscored by the rule that members of the local executive directorate or the chief management of an administrative office functioning in a related field were barred from serving as chairmen or secretaries of permanent commissions, in order to prevent the formation of interlocking directorates and to strengthen the supervisory role of the commissions vis-a-vis the local executive and administrative branches. Moreover, the decree specified that the executive bodies had no right to issue directives to the commissions, give them instructions, demand reports from them concerning their work, or seek to approve or amend the commissions' agenda.

45 Unen, August 14, 1954; Osnovnye normativnye akty, pp. 157–178.

46 Furthermore, the lists of voters in military units were made up by the unit commanders, while military personnel not on active duty were carried on the rolls of their place of residence. Protests against the exclusion or omission of a person's name from the electoral list had to be submitted to the executive directorate of the corresponding bag or khorin Khural and, as a last resort, could be appealed to the local people's court.

47 I.e., the People's Revolutionary Party, youth groups, cultural associations, conferences of workers and employees at enterprises and institutions, military personnel in army units, rural workers' committees, agricultural cooperatives, and State farms.

48 In addition, military units are organized into independent electoral precincts, each embracing not less than 25 and not more than 1,500 voters, and are registered as such in the electoral districts in which the troops are stationed. Special precincts may also be formed in hospitals, sanatoria, homes for invalids, and other such institutions, provided they contain more than 50 voters and in large facilities of this kind a number of precincts may be organized, each embracing at least 50 voters.

49 Candidates for deputy posts could not be members of the electoral commissions of districts, bags, khorins, and precincts in which they were running for office.

50 To win, an absolute majority of the votes cast in the district had to be garnished, failing which a run-off election was held not later than two weeks after the first one. Any interference with a citizen's right to vote is punishable by imprisonment for up to two years and any official tampering with the ballots in any way faces a possible jail sentence of up to three years.

51 Zakpnodatelnyi sbornik MNR za 1957g., pp. 56–61; Unen, March 17, 1957; Osnovnye normativnye akty, PP. 179–184. It superseded Art. 3 of the Resolution of the Plenum of the Little Khural No. 23 of March 27, 1933.

52 E.g., deciding all questions of local importance, participating in discussions on problems of somon, town, khoron, or national significance, directing the economic development schemes within their competence, completing their quota of the State plan, fostering improvements in the economy and production of their communities, supervising and controlling the activities of the local enterprises and institutions, of the industrial installations and socio-cultural clubs, with conducting periodic censuses of the population, encouraging educational work among the masses, and ensuring the timely shipment of obligatory deliveries of agricultural produce to the State.

53 For the text of the Constitution with the 1957 amendments, see Durdenevskii, V. N., ed., Konstituttii stran narodnoi demokratii (Moscow, 1958), pp. 225253.

54 The aimaks of Baian-Ulugei and Arakhangai were smaller in size than Selenga, but the first represents the national aimak of the Kazakh minority and the second is the most populous aimak in Mongolia. The Bulgan aimak. was the same size as Selenga, but had twice its population (36,900 versus 17,000).

55 For text of the changes see V. N. Durdenevskii, he. cit.

56 The original text of Art. 12 proclaimed that in the M.P.R. aimaks were administratively divided into somons and somons were, in turn, broken down into bags, while the city of Ulan-Bator was apportioned into khorons and the khorons into khorins. The new version simply read that for administrative-territorial purposes the aimaks and towns of the M.P.R. were partitioned into somons, bags, khorons, and khorins and the city of Ulan-Bator divided into khorons and the khorons into khorins.

57 The bureau of livestock breeding was renamed the commission on rural economy, in line with the regime's abandonment of its earlier policy of almost exclusive concentration on Mongolia's pastoral sector and its latter-day interest in the country's agricultural development; the existing military departments were abolished outright; two new departments were created, a cultural office and a bureau on organization and instruction, the need for the latter also arising from the large-scale economic transformation in the countryside, the drive for cooperative associations and the nation's recent industrial expansion.

58 Unen, July 1, 1958; excerpts in Osnovnye normativnye akty, pp. 206–211.

59 Murphy, George G. S., “Planning in the Mongolian People's Republic,” Journal of Asian Studies, XVIII, No. 2 (February, 1959), 245.

60 For instance, the executive directorates of the aimaks had already been entrusted with some duties vis-à-vis cooperatives following the passage of the Resolution on the organizational-managerial strengthening of agricultural cooperatives by the Council of Ministers of the MPR and the Central Committee of the Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party, October 7, 1955, Unen, October 15, 1955, and N. D. Kazantsev, ed., op. cit., pp. 213–222 (extracts). However, these tasks amounted only to supervisory and advisory assistance, like sending the best cadres available to the cooperatives, aiding them with educational and informational work, etc. Initially, the collective farms were almost exclusively under the effective jurisdiction of the central authorities and upper party organs and almost completely independent of the local bodies of State power.

61 Osnovnye normativnye akty, p. 161, fn. 1.

62 Unen, April 2, 1959; for extracts of provisions dealing with local government of the Constitution as amended through 1959, see Osnovnye normativnye akty, PP. 153–156.

63 Furthermore, Art. 45 of the Constitution no longer spoke in general terms of towns with populations of 30,000 and their own city management, but specifically named Ulan-Bator and Sukhe-Bator as the only urban centers in that category. For the amendments to the electoral law, see Unen, August 27, 1959, and Osnovnye normativnye akty, P. 165.

64 Unen, August 8, 1959; Osnovnye normativnye akty, p. 201 (extracts).

65 Thus, Makhnenko, A. Kh., Gosudarstvennoe pravo stran narodnoi demokratii (Moscow, 1959), p. 415, mentions that after the enlargement of the agricultural producers' associations, each of the cooperatives exceeded in size the former bags.

66 Ibid., in the Gobi-Altai aimak, for instance, the number of somons was increased from 20 to 32.

67 Ibid., pp. 415–416, and Ulymzhiev, D. B., Mongolskaya Narodnaya Respublika stroit sotsializm (Ulan-Ude, 1959), p. 108.

68 Unen, August 25, 1959; Osnovnye normativnye akty, p. 154.

69 For text of the 1960 Constitution (in Russian), see Osteuropa-Recht, 1960, No. 4, pp. 251–263.

70 For an analysis of some of the characteristics common to all Asian Communist regimes at various levels of ideological evolution from a Soviet point of view, see Shchetinin, B. V., “Predstavitelnaya sistema v narodno-demokraticheskikh gosudarstvakh Azii,” Sovetskoe gosudarstvo i pravo, 1955, No. 2, pp. 3341. For a Western analysis of the Soviet impact on the drafting of the Mongolian Constitution of 1940, see Hazard, John N., “The Constitution of the Mongol People's Republic and Soviet Influences,” Pacific Affairs, XXI, No. 2 (June, 1948), 162170.

71 For first-hand reports on conditions in Mongolia by recent visitors to that land, see, in particular, Salisbury, H., New York. Times, August 3–7, 1959, and To Moscow—and Beyond (New York, 1959), pp. 196204; Rupen, R. A., “Inside Outer Mongolia,” Foreign Affairs, January 1959, pp. 328333. See, too. Geisler, R. A., “Recent Developments in Outer Mongolia,” Far Eastern Survey, December 1959, pp. 182188, and Rupen, R. A., “Outer Mongolia, 1957–1960,” Pacific Affairs, XXXIII, No. 2 (June 1960), 126143.

72 Cf. von Stackelberg, G. A., “Mongolia and the XIIIth Congress of the Mongolian National Revolutionary Party,” Bulletin of the Institute for the Study of the History and Culture of the USSR (Munich), II, No. 4 (April 1955), 1117. From a Soviet viewpoint, see Yakimov, A. T., “XIII s'ezd MNRP— vydayushcheesya sobytie v zhizni mongolskogo naroda,” in Mongolskii sbornik (Uchenye zapiski Instituta Vostokovedeniya, Tom 24) (Moscow, 1959), pp. 310.

73 E.g., Agitation among the Arats in the Mongolian People's Republic,” World Marxist Review, I, No. 2 (October 1958), 90, and III, No. 3 (March 1960), 74–75.

For a historical survey of the MPRP and its role in the development of Outer Mongolia, see A. T. Yakimov, “Mongolskaya Narodno-Revolyutsionnaya Partiya—organizator i vdokhnovitel pobed Mongolskogo naroda,” in I. Ya. Zlatkin, ed., op. cit., pp. 56–100, and Staritsina, P. P., “Perekhod MNR k sotsializmu, minuya kapitalisticheskuyu stadiyu razvitiya,” in Mongolskii sbornik, pp. 1130, for its current program and future plans.

Local Government in the Mongolian People's Republic 1940–1960

  • George Ginsburgs


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed