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Role of the Military

The Mongolian military establishment played only a minor role in the political system in the late 1980s. In 1989, no Political Bureau member or candidate member represented defense interests. Dejid served on the Political Bureau and the Secretariat, but not as a military leader. Rather, his responsibilities were civilian in nature, involving preservation of party and state unity and discipline in the course of carrying out the new programs of openness and leadership restructuring.

Dejid's career experience was typical of military leaders who had risen to positions of influence in party and state circles. Dejid was a former minister of public security and chairman of the Party Control Commission. During his active military service, he was involved in public security, censorship, and civilian control activities. Ancillary to these duties were his obligations to greet visiting Soviet military delegations and to participate in defense discussions with Soviet commanders.

The percentage of military representation on the party Central Committee was not reported officially, but the number was thought to be small. It was clear that military officers with direct and primary defense responsibilities maintained a low political profile. This was well illustrated by the fact that Colonel General Jamsrangiyn Yondon, minister of defense in 1989, was not a member of the Central Committee when he was selected for the senior government defense post in 1982. The well-documented career of Yondon's predecessor, Jorantayn Abhia, was characteristic of a member of the Mongolian military elite. Abhia held several key positions successively in police or militia work and in the court and procuracy system. Senior military officers often filled the key positions in government public security and in the civil and criminal justice system. In 1989 the minister of public security was Lieutenant General Agbaanjantsangiyn Jamsranjab, and the chief of state security was Lieutenant General B. Tsiyregdzen. Tsiyregdzen's duties included suppressing anti-Soviet propaganda and counterespionage as well as guarding against alleged Western subversion, particularly through censorship of the mails.

Probably the greatest impact the military has had on the Mongolian political process has been indirect - through its organizational and ideological activities. Beginning with the militarist period of leadership under Choybalsan and even in 1989, the military establishment contributed to the formation in the popular consciousness of the concepts of state and national polity (see Modern Mongolia). In addition, the army played a significant role in spreading literacy, and it served as an integrating agent by spreading the national language to minority groups. In the 1970s and 1980s, as a result of improvements in media and communications, the military probably has found it somewhat easier to fulfill the goal of producing a dedicated cadre of soldiers who will return to civilian life.

Last Update: 2010-12-07