Unique diplomatic correspondence and reports concerning Mongolia and the United States in Washington D. C. archival libraries

Unique diplomatic correspondence and reports concerning Mongolia and the United States in Washington D.C. archival libraries

Alicia Campi

(53rd Annual Meeting of the PIAC, St. Petersburg 2010)

East Asian and Altaic historians have assumed there were no substantive diplomatic exchanges between the United States and Mongolia until the establishment of formal bilateral relations in 1987. However, my new book with Mongolian diplomat Mrs. Ragchaa Baasan on The Impact of China and Russia on United States-Mongolian Political Relations in the Twentieth Century reveals many examples of diplomatic correspondence in original Mongolian script and other internal confidential reports in Washington DC libraries which shed light on a much more extensive relationship over the past 100 years. This paper does not even touch on the new archival materials discovered in the Government of Mongolia’s National Archives and in the archival collections of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Defense that also are utilized for the book.

The main American sources for research are found in two important U.S. government archival libraries—the National Archives and the Library of Congress. The National Archives’ materials are a treasure trove of declassified records on the U.S. consulate (1915-1927) in Kalgan—today’s Zhangjiakou, north China. These are bound in fifty volumes and include previously unknown diplomatic documents, such as original untranslated scrolls handwritten in the old Uighur Mongolian script. Among the documents is the secret request from 1918 of Mongolia’s last theocratic ruler, the Eighth Bogd Khaan, that a U.S. consulate be established in the Mongolian capital of Urga (now Ulaanbaatar). Also in the collection are the original Mongolian and Chinese language scrolls pleading for American military aid to resist the Chinese occupiers of Urga that were handed to U.S. Consul General Charles Eberhardt in the spring of 1920 by Mongolian Autonomous Government officials. Particularly noteworthy is the letter, in both Mongolian and Chinese, from Mongolian Prime Minister Bodoo requesting American recognition of the new revolutionary government, which was personally presented to the first Kalgan Consul Samuel Sokobin in September 1921.

In the Library of Congress are heretofore undiscovered materials from U.S. military intelligence and State Department sources, including Mongolist Owen Lattimore. Found in the microfiche version of Vice President Henry Wallace’s Diary of his 1944 trip to Siberia, China, and Mongolia was a confidential, never seen report to the U.S. Department of War from journalist Edgar Snow, known for his interviews with Mao Zedong, about secretly interviewing a high-ranking Mongolian delegation in Moscow in late 1943. Also discovered at the Library of Congress was a letter from Mongolian Premier Choibalsan to the U.S. Secretary of State after World War II.

Because the U.S. government’s archival records are so abundant, my book research was limited to the political relationship between the U.S. and Mongolia.. It is likely that even more primary documents can be uncovered in diplomatic correspondence from the American Legations and Embassies in Beijing, Nanjing, Taipei, Eastern European capitals, Tokyo, Moscow, and consulates in Mukden (now Shenyang) and Harbin.