Thursday, January 19, 2017

Is Pan-Mongolism Making a Comeback -- or Only a Stalin-Style Accusations?

Paul Goble

            Staunton, January 19 – Pan-Mongolism, the idea that peoples with links to a common Mongol culture should expand cooperation or even unite into a single country, has become the subject for discussion in Russia only when the Russian state is too weak to dominate the Trans-Baikal or alternatively when a strong Moscow uses it as a charge against its opponents.

            At the time of the Russian Civil War, when a weak Soviet Russia was fighting for its survival, for example pan-Mongolism attracted numerous followers not only in the Transbaikal and among anti-Soviet leaders like Baron Ungern-Sternberg but also among some Eurasian intellectuals who viewed it as a way for Russia to oppose the West.

            And then 20 years later, at the time of Stalin’s Great Terror, Moscow charged almost anyone it didn’t like in Buryatia or elsewhere in the Russian Far East with Pan-Mongolism, a charge usually joined together with the accusations that these “Pan-Mongolists” were “Japanese spies and wreckers.”
            This week, an investigation launched almost a year ago ( into the ideas of Buryat blogger Vladimir Khagdayev has been completed, and his case has been handed over to the courts for trial (

            Specifically, the 34-year-old activist has changed charged with making “public calls for separatism via the Internet” – something that can bring a five year prison term – and illegal possession of drugs that were supposedly found when his apartment was searched – which can result in ten years of incarceration.

            But behind those provisions of Articles 280 and 228 of the Russian Criminal Code is something more as indicated by the investigators’ report. It says that the blogger “’has personal convictions directed at the unification of the Mongol peoples into a single state,’” something that would inevitably “’violate the territorial integrity of the Russian Federation.’”

            Over the last few years, Khagdayev had hosted an online discussion group to the discussion of Pan-Mongol ideas in which inter alia he was sharply critical of Moscow’s decision to amalgamate the Ust-Orda Buryat District with the predominantly ethnic Russian Irkutsk Oblast. Russian officials have blocked the site, but it is still available via anonymizers.

            Among those taking part in this discussion group is Ulan-Ude activist Erdem Gomboyev who stresses that “present-day Pan-Mongolism doesn’t call for the unification of all Mongol peoples into a single state but only for the re birth of the cultures of the Mongol peoples and their cultural cooperation.”

            In Putin’s increasingly authoritarian and xenophobic Russia, of course, even that kind of interest can bring charges of separatism; and the power of the FSB and Russian siloviki would seem to rule out any possibility that pan-Mongolism could become a real force and not just a useful criminal charge for the Kremlin to make.

            But pan-Mongolist ideas are indeed enjoying a revival and gaining currency not only among Mongolian peoples but also among Russians – and for some of the same reasons albeit in a new vocabulary that were the case a century ago.

            The AsiaRussia portal has just published what it describes as “the manifesto of the descendant of Chingiz Khan” (  That document was prepared not by Buryats but rather by ethnic Russians who believe that the system Chingiz Khan created corresponds to the demands of the “post-modern” world.

            It declares that “the task of our era is, while preserving the advanced principles of liberalism, freedom of conscience and convictions, to reconcile the millionaires and the poor and the Christians and Muslims to ensure a single World for the coming centuries. Whatever else Chingiz Khan was, he destroyed the ethno-tribal states of Eurasia and achieved his mission long before the European Union of ‘a model of a single world market without borders.’”

            “A single large Eurasia of Chingizides,” it continues, “is for us an example of the unique synthesis of natural traditional society and the contemporary era of globalization. It has today much greater prospects than others like Soviet or Islamic socialism” and can be a way forward to a more peaceful and just world.

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