Rinchingiin Elbegdorj

Rinchingiin Elbegdorj (Mongolian: Ринчингийн Элбэгдорж; Russian: Элбе́к-Доржи́ Ринчино, Ėlbek-Dorzhi Rinchino; May 16, 1888 –June 10, 1938) was a Buryat nationalist revolutionary who played leading roles in the Outer Mongolian Revolution of 1921 and the early political development of the Mongolian People's Republic.[1] He was an important member of the Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party representing the Buryats and served as Chairman of the Revolutionary War Council of the Mongolian People's Army.[2]:185

Elbegdorj, back row third from left, next to Soliin Danzan, Damdin Sükhbaatar, Ajvaagiin Danzan, Boris Shumyatsky, ?, and Dogsomyn Bodoo

Early life and careerEdit

Elbegdorj was born on May 16, 1888 into a herding family in Barguzinsky District, Transbaikal. He became a communist around 1910 while studying law at Saint Petersburg State University.[3] He then moved to Troitskosavsk where he wrote for a local newspaper and traveled throughout Mongolia, becoming involved in clandestine Mongolian revolutionary activities. Elbegdorj befriended a young Khorloogiin Choibalsan in Irkutsk between 1914 and 1918 and became a strong early influence on future Mongolian leader.[4]

During his time in Buryatia, Elbegdorj was inspired by the moderate (advocating for greater rights for Buryats within the Russian Empire but not independence) Buryat politician Batu-Dalai Ochirov, whom Rinchino wrote an obituary about. Soon after the beginning of the Russian Civil War, Elbegdorj moved his activities to Outer Mongolia.[5]:387 In 1918, Elbegdorj, along with Cossack leader Grigory Semyonov and twelve of Elbegdorj's Russian-educated friends met in Chita, where they decreed that they had made a new pan-Mongol state with support from Japan. Initially hoping they would take this decree to the Paris Peace Conference, their hopes were dashed after the Japanese withdrew their support. Half of the people involved in this decree were invited to a "banquet" by a warlord in Manchuria, who had them executed on the spot.[6]:32

Revolution of 1921Edit

By 1920, Elbegdorj's connection to Mongolian revolutionary groups and his expertise on Mongolian affairs made him an indispensable part of Soviet efforts to steer Mongolia's early revolutionary development. Along with Tsyben Zhamtsarano, another Buryat nationalist who had studied in St. Petersburg University, Elbegdorj turned to the Russian Communists to try and gain favor for the Buryats. When the Russian Politburo published a decree guaranteeing Buryat autonomy from Russia, Elbegdorj stressed it as something with "great significance to Mongolia".[5]:388 In 1920 he organized the first meetings between Mongolian revolutionaries and members of the Revolutionary Military Committee of the Fifth Red Army and acted as the group's Russian interpreter. He also accompanied delegates Soliin Danzan and Dambyn Chagdarjav to Moscow where they met Russian communist leader Nikolay Bukharin. He was also a guiding presence at the first secret meeting of the Mongolian People's Party held in Troitskosavsk from March 1–3, 1921 (later known as the First Party Congress of the MPRP) where the provisional revolutionary government of Mongolia was established. When meeting Y. D. Yanson, head of the Siberian branch of the Soviet Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Elbegdorj proposed the establishment of a group dealing with Mongolian affairs within the Russian Communist Party. This plan came to fruition with the creation of the Asian Bureau (Aziatskoe Biuro) in Irkutsk in Spring 1920. In 1921, Elbegdorj worked as the secretary of the Mongol-Tibetan department of the Far-Eastern department of the Comintern.[7]:47

Following the Outer Mongolian Revolution of 1921 Elbegdorj was appointed head of the Mongolian army training and education department. He returned to Mongolia in 1922.[5]:388 Along with Choibalsan, he established the radicalized Mongolian Revolutionary Youth League (MRYL), through which he exerted a strong influence on the political orientation of Mongolian revolutionary policy in its early years. By this time he was recognized as one of the leading figures of Mongolia's revolutionary government[8] and with the backing he enjoyed from Moscow, he came to dominate the political scene in Ulan Bator, often emerging as victor from party infighting.[9] In 1922 he successfully collaborated with Soliin Danzan and Damdin Sükhbaatar to eliminate Prime Minister Dogsomyn Bodoo in a power struggle.[10]

Third Party Congress of 1924Edit

Soliin Danzan

After the purge of Bodoo, a rivalry developed between Elbegdorj and Danzan that came to a head at the Third Party Congress in 1924. Danzan had angered Elbegdorj and the Comintern when he sought to reduce the number of Soviet advisers in Mongolia, attempted to bring the radicalized Mongolian Revolutionary Youth League (MRYL) under party control, and resisted Soviet advice that Mongolia bypass capitalism and move directly to socialism. Recognized as leader of the party's leftist faction, Elbegdorj joined with rightists under Tseren-Ochiryn Dambadorj to orchestrate Danzan's the arrest and execution.[5]:388 At the Third Party Congress Danzan was Officially accused of representing bourgeois interests and engaging in business with Chinese firms.[11] Within a day Danzan and several colleagues were arrested and executed, sending a shock wave through the party that solidified Soviet dominance of Mongolian politics.

In the wake of the Third Party Congress, Rightists under Dambadorj assumed control and, during a period later referred to as the “Right Opportunism” (1925-1928), promoted rightist policies mirroring Lenin’s New Economic Policy in the Soviet Union.[12] Elbegdorj helped draft the country's 1924 Constitution (based largely on the Soviet constitution),[13] but soon thereafter saw his influence wane with the appointment of Turar Ryskulov as the new chief Comintern adviser in Ulaanbaatar in 1924.

During the Congress, when Elbegdorj was criticized for working for the Russians, he responded with the statement that "I have worked from the beginning of the existence of our People's Party. I went with the representatives of our Party to Moscow. I worked in the Far Eastern Secretariat of the Comintern (Mongolian and Tibetan Section) at Irkutsk. I led Mongolia to the Comintern, which supplied the Mongolian People's Party with instructors and indispensable funds. Later the Comintern dispatched me to Kiakhta for work during the most critical moment of the existence of our Party and Government.... The Comintern has dispatched me here."[5]:393

During the Third Party Congress, Elbegdorj stated his opinions on the expansion of Mongolia, stating that "millions of our race, the 'Inner' Mongols, are groaning under the oppression of China" (referring to Inner Mongolia), and during the First Great Khural of November 1924, he stated that "We must be the cultural center for our races, we must attract to ourselves the Inner Mongols, Barga Mongols, etc..." Baradin told this same Khural: 'Be firm in your work of uniting all Mongolian races...'"[5]:389 In the same year, Elbegdorj noted that he speculated that upon the full conversion of Mongolia to Communism, Mongolia should annex Buryatia and then focus on conquering Tibet, creating a Buddhist Mongol-Tibetan state. Facing criticism from the Russians that such a state would be too powerful, Elbegdorj replied that nevertheless, "In our hands, the all-Mongol national idea could be a powerful and sharp revolutionary weapon. Under no circumstances are we going to surrender this weapon into the hands of Mongol feudal lords, Japanese militarists, and Russian bandits like Baron Ungern."[6]:114


By 1925 Elbegdorj was accused of being a bourgeois nationalist and a Pan-Mongolist[14] whose pan-Mongolian sentiments, expressed at the Third Party Congress in 1924, were seen as contrary to communist policy. The power struggle between Ryskulov and Elbegdorj eventually resulted in both being recalled to Moscow in 1928. He then worked at NIANKP (Scientific-Investigative Association for National and Colonial Problems) and taught at the Communist University of the Toilers of the East training many of the young MPRP members who attended the school. Elbegdorj was arrested in 1937 during the Great Purge, sentenced to death by the Military Collegium of the Soviet Supreme Court on June 4, 1938 and executed on June 10, 1938 in Moscow.[5]:394

He was rehabilitated in 1957.


  1. ^ Alan J. K. Sanders Historical dictionary of Mongolia. Rowman & Littlefield, 2003, ISBN 978-0-8108-4434-6
  2. ^ Alexandre Andreyev (1 January 2003). Soviet Russia and Tibet: The Debarcle of Secret Diplomacy, 1918-1930s. BRILL. ISBN 90-04-12952-9.
  3. ^ Baabar (1999). History of Mongolia. Cambridge: Monsudar Publishing. p. 260. ISBN 9992900385.
  4. ^ Baabar 1999, p. 260
  5. ^ a b c d e f g Rupen, Robert A. "The Buriat Intelligentsia." The Far Eastern Quarterly 15, no. 3 (1956): 383-98. Accessed July 31, 2020. doi:10.2307/2941876.
  6. ^ a b Andrei Znamenski (19 December 2012). Red Shambhala: Magic, Prophecy, and Geopolitics in the Heart of Asia. Quest Books. ISBN 978-0-8356-3028-3.
  7. ^ FUTAKI, HIROSHI. "A Re-examination of the Establishment of the Mongolian People's Party, Centring on Dogsom's Memoir." Inner Asia 2, no. 1 (2000): 37-60. Accessed July 31, 2020. www.jstor.org/stable/23615470.
  8. ^ Bawden, C.R. (1989). The Modern History of Mongolia. London: Kegan Paul International Ltd. pp. 239. ISBN 0-7103-0326-2.
  9. ^ Baabar 1999, p. 205
  10. ^ Baabar 1999, p. 261
  11. ^ Sanders 2003, p. 52.
  12. ^ Lattimore, Owen (1962). Nomads and Commissars: Mongolia Revisited. Oxford University Press. pp. 119. ISBN 1258086107.
  13. ^ Baabar 1999, p 270
  14. ^ Rupen, Robert (1979). How Mongolia Is Really Ruled. Stanford, CA: Hoover Institution Press. p. 161. ISBN 081797122X.

Further readingEdit

  • Oleg K. Abramov. Moloch of GULAG: the similarity of the fate of the three leaders of the Siberian national republics. (Platon Oyunsky, Rinchingiin Elbegdorj, Michah Erbanov. Post-Revolutionary: 1921—1938). // Philosophical Faculty of the Tomsk State University. Tomsk, May 16, 2015. / Editor-in-chief V. Shutov. — Tomsk, 2015. — P. 106—120. — ISBN 5-87307-083-0. — Internet resource: vital.lib.tsu.ru (in Russian)