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Home in Mongolia: from the 14th century

When the Yüan dynasty is overthrown in China, the great khan flees north - with his entourage and Mongol army - to the homeland of his people in the steppes. For a while warfare continues between the Mongols and the new Ming dynasty (a Ming army destroys the Mongol capital at Karakorum in 1380), but gradually the Mongols lapse into a more ancient habit of life on the steppes - armed hostilities between tribal groups, interpersed with occasional raids on the Chinese borders.

Excluded from China, the Mongols form close alliances with two other neighbours of the great empire - the Tibetans and the Manchus.


A link with the Dalai Lamas, from the 15th century, brings a strong revival of Buddhism among the Mongol tribes - and somewhat weakens their traditional passion for permanent warfare.

In the 16th century the Manchus, eastern neighbours of the Mongols, become increasingly powerful and aggressive. After some early attempts at resisting them, some of the southern Mongol tribes begin to submit - becoming accepted as Manchu vassals, with a considerable amount of intermarriage between the noble families of the two groups.


These Mongols become part of China again after 1644, when the Manchus invade the Ming empire and form their own Qing dynasty. The tribes of southern Mongolia are incorporated in the empire as the province of Inner Mongolia.

The more remote Mongol tribes, further north, are conquered by the Qing emperor half a century later, in 1691. Their region too is brought within the Chinese empire, but it remains separate - as Outer Mongolia.


This 17th-century division between Inner and Outer Mongolia proves a lasting one. Inner Mongolia becomes increasingly integrated with China, with much immigration of ethnic Chinese. When the Manchu dynasty falls, in 1912, Inner Mongolia stays in the republic of China.

By contrast Outer Mongolia remains largely free of Chinese interference or immigration. In 1912, with Russian help, the Outer Mongolians acquire semi-autonomy as a buffer state between Russia and China. Squeezed between two great powers, their progress is difficult. But they acquire full independence in 1946 as the state of Mongolia, or the Mongolian People's Republic.


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