Mongolia became independent from China on 1 December 1911, with a theocratic government under the leadership of the 8th Jebtzun Damba (Living Buddha). On 25 May 1915, the Treaty of Kyakhta, which granted Mongolia limited autonomy, was signed by Mongolia, China and Russia. It took until 26 November 1924 before the Mongolian People's Republic (MPR) was declared and Mongolia became the world's second communist country.
Mongolian communism remained fairly independent of Moscow until Stalin gained absolute power in the late 1920s. The Stalinist purges that followed swept Mongolia into a totalitarian nightmare. As the Soviet regime faltered in the early 1980s, Mongolia came under the leadership of Jambyn Batmonkh. Batmonkh instigated a cautious attempt at perestroika and glasnost in 1986. By 1989 full diplomatic relations were established with China. The unravelling of the Soviet Union resulted in decolonisation by default. Few in Mongolia were ready for the speed of the collapse or prepared to seize the moment.
In March 1990, large pro-democracy protests erupted in the square in front of the parliament building in Ulaan Baatar. Things then happened quickly with elections resulting in a victory of the Mongolian Democratic Coalition on 30 June 1996, ending 75 years of unbroken communist rule. Over the next few years, successive Mongolian governments pursued western-style policies of reform and privatisation and courted foreign investment but by 1998 poverty were still on the rise. Foreign aid relieved some of the economic burden but Mongolia is still struggling with the fiscal implications of its new-found freedom.
Mongolia is about the size of Western Europe (1.56 million sq km) with a population of about 2.6 million. A couple of particularly harsh winters impacted badly on the nomadic Mongolian way of life and brought the country to its knees.
Mongolian People's Air Force
Formerly Soviet controlled, this small air force is administered by the army, and is operated along former-Soviet lines. Under a 1993 Law of Defense of Mongolia, the armed forces are divided into five branches:
The foundation date of the Air Force is considered to be on May 25th, 1925, the day of the first landing of a Yonkers Y-13 freight aircraft. The first jet-fighters, being MiG-17/MiG-15UTI arrived in 1969 followed by a small batch of MiG-21PFM and MiG-21US in late 70's and some 12 Mi-24 helicopters some years later. No more jet fighters have been received since and even the remaining MiG-21s have been grounded for some years now.It has been reported that initiatives were taken in 2001 to get the MiG-21s flying again.
With a vast, sparsely populated country with little infrastructure, Mongolia relies heavily on air transport. There are over 80 airports, few of which have paved runways. The Soviet forces that were based in the country until 1992 also used many of these airports.