In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

Journal of Cold War Studies 4.3 (2002) 162-163

[Access article in PDF]

Book Review

Mongolia in the Twentieth Century:
Landlocked Cosmopolitan

Stephen Kotkin and Bruce Elleman, eds., Mongolia in the Twentieth Century: Landlocked Cosmopolitan. Armonk, NY: M. E. Sharpe, 1999. xx 1 313 pp. $75.00.

There is a dearth of recent scholarly work on Mongolia. Hence, this volume is a welcome addition to the field, particularly because it brings together authors from a wide spectrum of national and disciplinary backgrounds. It includes contributors from American, Mongolian, British, Japanese, and Russian academic institutions and research centers. The main focus is on Mongolia (formerly known as "Outer Mongolia," subsequently as the "Mongolian People's Republic"), but where appropriate the discussion is broadened to include Buryatia (within the Russian Federation) and Inner Mongolia (within China).

The book is divided into three sections. The first section deals with the early years of the twentieth century, emphasizing Sino-Soviet rivalries in Mongolia. The second section looks at Mongolia's position in the international sphere from the late 1920s to the early 1990s (the period of Communist rule). The final section, along with the concluding Epilogue, considers aspects of the transformation initiated in 1990, when Mongolia broke away from one-party rule and embarked on a policy of radical political and economic reform. Each section is prefaced by a brief survey of the main trends and events during the period under review. The introductory chapter, by Stephen Kotkin, helps to frame this broad-ranging study. Maps, tables, charts, and photographs add useful clarification to the text. A substantial bibliography completes the volume.

There is much that is praiseworthy in this book. The main weakness is that it tries to cover too much ground from too many different angles, without sufficient depth. The essays are mostly rather short and frequently do not go much beyond a fairly basic factual account of a given topic. For example, in the first section, the paper by Mei-hua Lan describes China's policy toward Mongolia, detailing the inception of particular measures. At the outset Lan contends that changes in the nature of the administration were a significant factor in mobilizing the Mongolian independence movement, but this is simply stated as a given: Lan makes no attempt to highlight a specific linkage between Chinese actions and the Mongolian response. Nor does the chapter provide any discussion of the movement's organization, leadership, and internal debates (if any) over tactics and goals. The result is a catalogue of events rather than a study of a key historical period. The chapter on Russian merchants in Mongolia, by Elizabeth Endicott, likewise presents a useful chronological survey of trade relations between the two countries but makes little attempt to explore the significance of this trade for Mongolian society. Endicott notes, for example, that the main imports from Russia included lumber, sugar, flour, and grain. But she gives no indication of the impact that these commodities had on the Mongolian economy or, indeed, on the local culture. Without this broader context the information provided here is virtually [End Page 162] meaningless. Even if these authors (and others in the volume) did not intend to produce anything more than concise, factual accounts, the results are frustrating. After reading these brief essays, the reader is left with more questions than answers.

The second section continues the theme of Sino-Russian (now transmuted into Sino-Soviet) rivalry and adds a new element, namely, the Japanese involvement. The three chapters in this section are all competently written and to some extent complementary. But, once again, they tend to be narrative rather than analytical in approach. The authors make no real attempt to establish a genuinely international context (by looking, for example, at West European and U.S. reactions to developments in this part of the world). A fuller account of the struggle by the Mongolian People's Republic to receive international recognition, culminating in membership in the United Nations, would have been helpful. The subsequent emergence, albeit slow and hesitant, of international trade and diplomatic links could also have been...