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History of Mongolia
A large number of ethnicities have inhabited Mongolia since prehistoric times. Most of these people were nomads who, from time to time, formed great confederations that rose to prominence. The first of these, the Xiongnu, were brought together to form a confederation by Modu Shanyu in 209 B.C. They defeated the Donghu, who had previously been the dominant power in eastern Mongolia. The Xiongnu became the greatest threat to China for the following three centuries; the Great Wall of China was built partly as defence against the Xiongnu. Marshal Meng Tian of the Qin Empire dispersed more than 300,000 soldiers along the Great Wall to prevent an expected invasion from the North. It is believed that after their decisive defeat by the Chinese in 428431, some of the Xiongnu migrated West to become the Huns. After the Xiongnu migrated west, Rouran, a close relative of the Mongols, came to power before being defeated by the Göktürks, who then dominated Mongolia for centuries.
During the seventh and eighth centuries, Mongolia was controlled by Göktürks, who were succeeded by the ancestors of today's Uigur and then by the Khitan and Jurchen. By the tenth century, the country was divided into numerous tribes linked through transient alliances.
In the late twelfth century, a chieftain named Temüjin united the Mongol tribes to the Naiman and Jurchen after a long struggle and took the name Genghis Khan. Starting in 1206, Genghis Khan and his successors consolidated and expanded the Mongol Empire into the largest contiguous land empire in world history, going as far northwest as Kievan Rus.
After Genghis Khan's death, the empire was divided into four kingdoms, or "Khanates". One of these, the "Great Khanate," comprised the Mongol homeland and China, and its emperors were known as the Yuan Dynasty. Its founder, Kublai Khan, set up his centre in present day Beijing. After more than a century of power, the Yuan Dynasty was replaced by the Ming Dynasty in 1368, and the Mongol court fled north. The Ming armies pursued and defeated them in Mongolia, but were not able to conquer Mongolia. However, they were successful in sacking the Mongol capital Karakorum in 1380.
The beginning of the 15th century is characterised by struggle for the throne between the Genghisid taiji and non-Genghisid nobles called taishi. The taishi were represented by the Oirad nobles whose success led to an ascendance of Esen taishi to power. To end the Chinese economic blokade and open up a trade with Ming Dynasty, Esen taishi raided China in 1449 and captured the Ming emperor. Shortly after death of Esen, the Genghisids dominated the power again. In 1466 Queen Mandihai the Wise installed a young boy Batumonhe, a descendant of Genghis Khan, on the throne and then she defeated the Oirad. Batumonhe Dayan Khan later eradicated the separatism of the taishi of Southern Mongolia. During the 16th century, Mongolia was split between the descendants of queen Manduhai into Khalkha, Chaharia, Tumet and other domains. The ruler of Tumet proclaimed himself as Altan Khan beside the legitimate Mongolian khan. Raiding China, he besieged Beijing in 1550 and reached peace with the Ming Dynasty. Altan Khan established city Hohhot in 1557. Meeting Supreme Lama of Tibet in his domain in 1577, Altan Khan gave him title Dalai Lama and himself became a convert to Tibetan Buddhism. At the same time ruler of Khalkha Abtai rushed to Tumet to meet Dalai Lama. Thus, eventually most of the Mongolian rulers became Buddhists. Abtai Khan established Erdene Zuu monastery in 1586 at the site of the former city Karakorum.
The second half of the 15th and the 16th centuries saw the revival and flourishment of the Mongolian culture. Zanabazar (1635-1723), head of Buddhism in Khalkha, was a great master of the Buddhist art. He created the famous sculptures of Sita-Tara and Siyama-Tara, inspired by lively images of Mongolian women.
During the seventeenth century, the Manchus rose to prominence in the east. They conquered Inner Mongolia in 1636. The Khalkha submitted in 1691, bringing all but the west of today's Mongolia under the rule of the Qing Dynasty. For the next two centuries, the Manchus maintained control of Mongolia with a series of alliances and intermarriages, as well as military and economic measures.
With the fall of the Qing Dynasty, Mongolia declared independence in 1911. The new country's territory was approximately that of the former Outer Mongolia. The 49 hoshuns of Inner Mongolia as well as the Mongolians of the Alashan and Qinghai regions expressed their willingness to join the young Mongol Khanate. After the October Revolution in Russia, Chinese troops led by Xu Shuzheng occupied the capital in 1919. The Chinese dominance did not last: notorious Russian adventurer "Bloody" Baron Ungern who had fought with the "Whites" (Ataman Semyonov) against the Red army in Siberia, led his troops into Mongolia and forced a showdown with the Chinese in Niislel Khüree. Ungern's forces triumphed, and he briefly in effect ruled Mongolia under the blessing of religious leader Bogd Khan. But Ungern's triumph was shortlived; he was chased out by the Red Army, which, while at it, liberated Mongolia from feudalism and ensured its political alignment with the Russian Bolsheviks. In 1924, after the death of the religious leader and king Bogd Khan, the Mongolian People's Republic was proclaimed and was backed by the Soviets.
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