Russian-Japanese Rivalry in Mongolia in the Sphere of Education
(The Beginning of the 20th Century)
47th Meeting of the PIAC, Cambridge 2004
In the beginning of the 20th century military and political, as well as ideological counteraction between Russia and Japan increased. Its arena became Mongolia. Japan started its active penetration into that country. It couldn’t help disturbing the Russian authorities, as the policy of Russia was aimed at the strengthening of its positions and political influence in Mongolia.
One of the spheres of the Russian-Japanese rivalry was education. The both countries realized, that the development of the bilateral relations with Mongolia would depend on how deeply one of them could strengthen its positions and influence in that field.
The Japanese influence was the strongest in the southern khoshuuns of Mongolia. The Japanese came there for purchases of cattle and horses. There were quite a lot of Japanese scouts, who often pretended to be lamas or dealers. The princes of some khoshuuns sent the young Mongols to Japan for training at military schools; Japanese schools were opened in some khoshuuns. Despite the protection of the Mongolian authorities towards the Japanese many officials and the population opposed to the expansion of the Japanese influence. In 1905 wishing to resist to the oppressions of the Chinese officials and to secure themselves from the intrusion of the Japanese, the senior officials of several Mongolian southern khoshuuns offered the Russian government their friendship and addressed to it with the offer to assist in the war against Japan. Realizing “the advantage of the Russian influence in Mongolia”, they requested to admit their sons into Russian educational institutions.
But the Russian government considered, that in the international situation of that time it would be premature to render active support to the southern khoshuuns of Mongolia. However, understanding, that the activity of the Japanese in the field of education could seriously undermine the positions of Russia in Mongolia, the Russian government decided, that it would be expedient to admit young Mongolian men into Russian educational institutions, as later on they could become “the conductors of the Russian influence”. The aspiration of the Mongolian princes and officials, who wanted to give their children education in Russia, was welcomed and supported. Besides it was considered, that Russian-Mongolian schools with Russian teachers, for instance in Urga and Khailar, would be very useful. The preparation of the Mongols with the knowledge of Russian could be rather useful for the expansion of the Russian-Mongolian commercial relations. After finishing such schools, Mongolian pupils could be sent to Russian secondary educational institutions or military schools.
However before the proclamation of the independence of Outer Mongolia such schools were not opened; some Mongolian children studied at Russian school in Urga. Only in 1912 two schools were opened in Urga. There were not many schoolboys at those schools — about several dozens. A few Mongols studied in Siberia.
Training of educated Mongols at Russian schools in the beginning of the 20th century allowed to accustom them to European education and culture.