Vintage Mongolia: Photos Of Life Before The Soviet Purge


Buddhist monks in the Mongolia capital as it was over 100 years ago. Source:

Nearly one hundred years ago, the Bolsheviks in Russia revolted. Mongolia, the cold, massive country lodged between Russia and China, had its own Communist revolution in 1921. Though Mongolia remained outside the Soviet Union, Joseph Stalin brought Mongolia heavily under Soviet influence with violent incursions into Mongolian life and politics.

During the Soviet purges in the 1930s, Stalin’s forces slaughtered between 3 and 5 percent of the entire Mongolian population. The Soviets showed particular disdain for the country’s rich Buddhist history, killing tens of thousands of monks and destroying around 2,000 monasteries and temples.

The photos in the gallery below show the world that existed before Stalin smashed it. As you’ll see, it was a world of tradition and religious exuberance, but also of cruelty and desperation. While much of Mongolian tradition survived the violence of the 20th century, much was destroyed. Through these photos, we can see shadows of what was lost.

Vintage Mongolia: Photos Of Life Before The Soviet Purge
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John has been writing for All That Is Interesting since 2014 and now lives in Madrid, Spain, where he writes and consults on international development projects in East Africa.
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