What is now known as the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region was part of a border region often contested between the Chinese and Mongolian empires. After the collapse of the latter, it and many Mongols would firmly come under the sway of Chinese and Manchu rule early in the seventeenth century.
The Mongols also began adopting Tibetan Buddhism in the sixteenth century, after the conversion of their ruler Altan Khan. A firm link remains between Tibetan Buddhism and Mongol culture.
Han historical narratives attempt to paint this incident as evidence of the subordination of the Dalai Lama to the Ming Dynasty — , as part of its attempts to deny the history of a Tibet independent of Chinese authority. During the period when the Kuomintang exercised control as the government of the Republic of China after , there were efforts to boost the Han Chinese population of Inner Mongolia.
This contributed to the emergence of a separatist movement among the Mongolian minority, which was able to take advantage of the Chinese Civil War and proclaim independence in as the short-lived Mongolian Federation. This was brought to an end with Japanese control of the whole region in In , the Chinese Communists established the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, though this only included at the time Mongols living in the Hulunbuir region.
In , there was a further attempt by Mongolian nationalists to set up an independent Inner Mongolian government, which failed. Over the next decade, the IMAR was expanded to include most, though not all, areas with a majority Mongolian population giving the region its present-day elongated shape. It was particularly brutal during the Cultural Revolution, with the IMAR itself being dismembered and distributed among surrounding provinces until Official figures show 16, Mongols were killed, but some Mongols assert that the number of ethnic Mongols killed was much higher, nearing , for the whole period.
From this point onward, Chinese authorities reduced the use of the Mongolian language and adopted other measures that would lead to a gradual replacement of Mongolian cadres by Han Chinese officials. This and various other government policies gave rise to Mongolian protests in , which led to further large-scale demonstrations until , when the movement was crushed during the Tiananmen Square demonstration in Beijing. Mongols today are a minority in their own region. This is the result of government policies from the beginning of the twentieth century which became large scale from the s , which encouraged Han transmigration.
In , Mongols were probably 20 per cent of the population, though about 50 per cent in the eastern part of the region.
The majority of Mongols live in the IMAR, with additional populations residing in semi-autonomous prefectures such as in Qinghai and Xinjiang. In the IMAR, according to the Census, Mongols make up around 18 per cent of the population, although this number is actually likely lower due to the fact that Chinese soldiers and other Han migrants do not appear as part of the provincial population.
The massive conversion of grasslands to other agricultural uses considered more modern and efficient, overgrazing and industrializing activities have clearly contributed to an increased desertification process in the region. Mongolian efforts to raise grievances or conduct international advocacy are further complicated by the lack of a comparably organized political diaspora or representative organization similar to those which exist for Uyghur and Tibetan causes.
IMAR is a major source of coal and rich in deposits of rare metals and natural gas.
With farming practices from mainly Han farmers perhaps creating much of the environmental stresses which have led to increasingly barren fields, Chinese authorities have embarked on a population-transfer programme in which mainly Mongol herders are removed from the arid regions of Inner Mongolia. These arid grasslands were the last bastions where ethnic Mongols constituted a local majority.
Origin and growth
Resettling them on the outskirts of predominantly Han cities and new townships usually results in them no longer having access to Mongol-language schools, as only Chinese-language schools are provided. Recent reports indicate that, as a result, many Mongolian elementary schools are being eliminated, and most Mongolian middle schools at the Sum administrative level are being merged into Han schools, where Mongolian students must learn in Mandarin rather than in their own language. The Chinese-language domination in government, business and other fields of employment means that ethnic Mongols are often disadvantaged or excluded because they are less fluent in Mandarin.
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The Mongol Khans & the Oghullar of Rum
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