Mongolian Studies

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Mongolian Studies


a group of scholarly disciplines devoted to the history, economy, archaeology, ethnology, language, and literature of the Mongol peoples. The works of Mongol writers of the 13th through 17th centuries, Chinese dynastic chronicles, works by Chinese, Persian, Arab, Armenian, and Georgian writers and Russian chroniclers, and the memoirs of such travelers and ambassadors to 13th-century Mongolia as Piano Carpini, William of Rubruck, and Marco Polo provided the basis for the development of Mongolian studies.

Mongolian studies in Europe originated in the 18th century, when the French missionaries and sinologists J. P. Du Halde, J. Deguignes, and J. Mailla first brought to scholarly attention material about the Mongols in several Chinese chronicles and historical works.

At the same time, in Russia, the historians G. F. Miller and I. E. Fisher made use of documents dealing with Mongolia in the Russian archives, and the sinologists I. K. Rossokhin and A. L. Leont’ev translated from Chinese and Manchu several works on Mongolia and its subjugation by the Ch’ing dynasty in China.

Territorial proximity and long-standing, many-faceted RussoMongol contacts made Russia the generally recognized center of international Mongolian studies in the 19th century. I. la. Shmidt’s Mongolian grammar, written in the early 19th century, marked the beginning of Mongolian linguistics and Mongolian philology in general in Russia and Western Europe. Mongolian studies in Russia at this time emphasized the study of sources, the publication of written records, philology, and medieval historical studies. The publications of Shmidt, S. V. Lipovtsev, P. I. Kafarov, G. Gomboev, A. V. Popov, D. Banzarov, and A. M. Pozdneev made accessible to scholars a number of Mongolian chronicles. The works of N. la. Bichurin, I. N. Berezin, K. P. Patkanov, V. P. Vasil’ev, V. M. Uspenskii, D. Z. Pokotilov, G. N. Potanin, V. V. Radlov, E. V. Bretshneider, N. I. Veselovskii, and W. L. Kotwicz made available numerous Chinese, Persian, Armenian, and Arabic sources and material gathered on ethnological and archaeological expeditions. The linguists and philologists A. A. Bobrovnikov, O. M. Kowalewski, K. F. Golstunskii, and Pozdneev made a significant contribution to the study of Mongolian languages, folklore, and literature.

A prominent 19th-century Western European scholar was the Swede A. d’Ohsson, who wrote a history of Mongolia using for the first time the Collection of Chronicles by Rashid al-Din, the works of Juwaini and other Persian writers, and a number of sources in Armenian, Arabic, Georgian, and other languages. The French scholar A. Remusat published Chinese sources on Mongolia. A three-volume work on the history of the Mongols was published by the British historian H. Howorth. In the late 19th century F. von Erdmann in Germany and K. Douglas and D. Carruthers in Great Britain published works on the history of Mongolia.

The works of many bourgeois scholars were marked by objectivism, Europocentrism, and vindications of colonialism.

At the turn of the 20th century the works of V. V. Bartol’d, who was one of the first to devote considerable attention to the socioeconomic aspects of Mongol history, were acclaimed throughout the world. The explorers P. K. Kozlov and G. E. Grumm-Grzhimailo wrote about their expeditions to Mongolia, and M. I. Bogolepov, M. N. Sobolev, A. P. Boloban, and lu. Kushelev published works on Mongolia’s economy.

The Great October Socialist Revolution ushered in a new phase in Mongolian studies. The Soviet scholars I. M. Maiskii and A. D. Kallinnikov studied socioeconomic relations in feudal Mongolia, the national liberation movement, and the People’s Revolution of 1921. B. la. Vladimirtsov’s book on the Mongols’ social structure laid a firm foundation for the Marxist study of the history of prerevolutionary Mongolia and of nomadic peoples in general. Vladimirtsov’s works on Mongolian philology foreshadowed the subsequent division of philological research into linguistics, textual analysis, and literary criticism.

S. A. Kozin published the text and a Russian translation of the 13th-century literary work Secret History of the Mongols. The work was also studied by the Hungarian L. Ligeti, the French scholars A. Mostaert and P. Pelliot, the German E. Haenisch, and the Mongolian philologist M. Gaadamba. The Secret History was published in modern Mongolian by Ts. Damdinsuren in Ulan Bator. Kozin also studied the epics Geseriada and Dzhangariada. N. P. Shastina published translations and studies of the 17th-century Mongol chronicles Shara Tudzhi (anonymous) and Alton tobchi (by Lubsan Danzan).

Soviet Mongolian studies have developed in cooperation with the new scholarly institutions of the Mongolian People’s Republic that emerged after the People’s Revolution of 1921 and that now study their country’s history, economy, language, and material and intellectual culture. Much attention has been devoted to Mongolian studies in various republics of the USSR, including the Buriat ASSR, Kazakh SSR, and Kalmyk ASSR, where many specialists in Mongolian studies have emerged during the Soviet period. Aspects of Mongolian studies have been treated by the geographers V. A. Obruchev and E. M. Murzaev; the archaeologists S. V. Kiselev and A. P. Okladnikov; the philologists G. D. Sanzheev, lu. N. Rerikh, T. A. Bertagaev, G. N. Rumiantsev, G. I. Mikhailov, L. K. Gerasimovich, and A. V. Burdukov; the historians A. lu. lakubovskii, L. S. Puchkovskii, S. D. Dylykov, I. la. Zlatkin, P. P. Staritsina, A. T. lakimov, N. P. Shastina, N. Ts. Munkuev, L. N. Gumilev, L. M. Gataullina, and M. I. Gol’man; and the economists S. K. Roshchin and G. S. Matveeva.

Major contributions to Mongolian studies are being made by Mongolian scholars, for whom the field represents the study of their country’s past and present. Under the people’s government, basic works on the history of Mongolia have been written by B. Shirendyb, Sh. Natsagdorzh, Kh. Perlee, N. Ser-Odzhav, Sh. Bira, B. Tudev, D. Gongor, and S. Purevzhav. N. Zhagvaral and D. Dugar have studied Mongolia’s economy, and Sh. Tsegmid and B. Gungadash, its geography. Scholars working on Mongolian literature include Ts. Damdinsuren, Sh. Luvsanvandan, B. Rinchen, and P. Khorlo, and others are studying the country’s art. The Academy of Sciences of the Mongolian People’s Republic and its social science institutes, established in the 1960’s, have become leading centers of Mongolian studies. Documents and other sources are published in Ulan Bator in the series Monumenta historica, Studia Folklorica, and Corpus scriptorum mongolorum. Scientific expeditions are conducted regularly by Mongolian scholars, both independently and jointly with Soviet scholars and scholars from other socialist countries.

Mongolian studies have been flourishing in a number of socialist countries since the late 1940’s: Hungary (L. Ligeti, D. Kara, A. Rona-Tas), Czechoslovakia (P. Poucha), the German Democratic Republic (K. Guber, H. Vietze, E. Taube, R. Bauwe), and Poland (S. Katuzyriski, M. Lewicki, P. Racznewski, W. Dynowski). The field is developing in Bulgaria and Rumania.

The achievements of Mongolian studies in the socialist countries have contributed to the establishment of advanced scientific methodology in international Mongolian studies. The International Congresses of Mongolian Scholars (1959, 1970; Ulan Bator) confirmed the leading positions of the Marxist school in Mongolian studies. The Second International Congress of Mongolian Scholars formed a Permanent Committee to coordinate the work of Mongolian scholars. The Permanent International Conference of Altaists, which has its headquarters in the USA and has held annual meetings since 1954, has also played a considerable role in strengthening international cooperation in Mongolian studies.

In the bourgeois countries the basic trends in Mongolian studies continue to be the study of sources, linguistics, philology, and the publication of sources, chiefly in the USA and the Federal Republic of Germany. Works on Mongolian history, language, and literature have been written by W. Heissig in the Federal Republic of Germany; H. Serruys, F. Lessing, J. Krueger, and J. Bosson in the USA; and K. Sakamoto, M. Murakami, S. Iwamura, G. Abematsu, S. Ozawa, and S. Hattori in Japan. Since the mid-1950’s in Great Britain, the USA (O. Lattimore, G. Friters), and Japan (K. Tanaka), there has been growing interest in the study of the contemporary history of the Mongolian People’s Republic—its policies, international position, economy, and government. Some of these works are biased, particularly in dealing with Mongolian-Soviet relations (R. Rupen, W. Ballis, and G. Murphy in the USA and C. Bawden in Great Britain).

The centers of Mongolian studies in the USSR are the Institute of Oriental Studies in Moscow and its Leningrad division; the Institute of Ethnology, the Institute of Economics of the International Socialist System, and the Institute of Archaeology, all of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR; the Institute of Social Sciences of the Buriat Branch of the Siberian Division of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR in Ulan-Ude; the Institute of Language, Literature, and History under the Council of Ministers of the Kalmyk ASSR in Elista; and the Institute of History, Literature, and Philosophy of the Siberian Division of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR in Novosibirsk. Mongolian scholars and specialists are trained at the Institute of the Countries of Asia and Africa attached to Moscow State University, at the Moscow Institute of International Relations, at the Oriental faculty of Leningrad State University, and at the University of Irkutsk.

The centers of Mongolian studies in other socialist countries are the institutes of history, language and literature, philosophy, sociology, and law of the Academy of Sciences of the Mongolian People’s Republic; the Oriental studies centers in Bulgaria, Hungary, the German Democratic Republic, and Poland; and the Universities of Ulan Bator, Budapest, Berlin, and Warsaw.

In the USSR problems of Mongolian studies are treated in the journals Narody Azii i Afriki, Problemy Dal’nego Vostoka, and Aziia i Afrika segodnia and in several other periodical publications. Journals in other socialist countries include BNMAU-yn Shinzhlekh ukhaany akademiin medee (Ulan Bator, 1961—), Ediin zasgiin asuudal (Ulan Bator, 1956—), Acta Orientalia (Budapest, 1950—), Novy Orient (Prague, 1945—), and Rocznik orientalistyczny (Krakow, 1914—).

In the capitalist countries there are Mongolian studies programs at Indiana, Columbia, and Harvard universities in the USA, the University of Leeds in Great Britain, the University of Paris in France, the Universities of Bonn, Munich, and Wiesbaden in the Federal Republic of Germany, the University of Copenhagen in Denmark, the Universities of Tokyo, Osaka, and Kyoto in Japan, the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London; the Ecole des Langues Vivantes d’Orient in Paris, the Asiatic Research Association at Ann Arbor, Mich., in the USA, and other research centers. Questions relating to Mongolian studies are treated in the Journal Asiatique (Paris, 1822—), Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies (London, 1917—), The Far Eastern Quarterly (Lancaster, 1941—); and The Mongolia Society (Bloomington, 1962—).


Bartol’d, V. V. Istoriia izucheniia Vostoka v Evrope i Rossii, 2nd ed. Leningrad, 1925.
Shastina, N. P. “Istoriia izucheniia Mongol’skoi Narodnoi Respubliki
(kratkii ocherk).” In Mongol’skaia Narodnaia Respublika. Moscow, 1952.
Shastina, N. P. “Izuchenie istorii Mongolii posle Oktiabria.” Narody Azii i Afriki, 1967, no. 4.
Gerasimovich, L. K. Literatura Mongol’skoi Narodnoi Respubliki 1921–1964 godov. Leningrad, 1965.
Mikhailov, G. I. Literaturnoe nasledstvo mongolov. Moscow, 1969.
“Vostokovedenie v Leningradskom universitete.” Uch. zap. LGU: Ser. vostokovedcheskikh nauk, 1960, no. 296, issue 13.
Vostokovednye fondy krupneishikh bibliotek Sovetskogo Soiuza. Moscow, 1963.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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