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date: 24 February 2024

Pastoralism in Mongoliafree

Pastoralism in Mongoliafree

  • Sandagsuren UndargaaSandagsuren UndargaaSchool of Culture, History & Language, Australian National University


Equestrian mobile pastoralism and its governance form in contemporary Mongolia date back to the 13th century Mongol Empire. The Mongol Empire succeeded a series of predecessor nomadic states in Inner Asia. The rulers of the empire adjusted the sociopolitical institutions of these preceding nomadic polities and turned the limitations imposed by the existing geographical environment to their own advantage, drawing benefits from pastoralism. They governed both pastoral and agricultural people and obtained political and economic benefits from Eurasia. After the empire collapsed, the remaining independent states encountered enormous change to their sociopolitical order, though certain aspects of the preceding political institutions for governing pastoral people and their production continued. In the early 20th century, the rulers of Outer Mongolia, while securing their geopolitical positions and independence, encountered pressure to modernize with the global trend of political and socioeconomic development via socialism and later capitalism. Looking at pastoralism in Mongolia from a historical perspective, it is important to acknowledge the dynamic relationship between pastoral governance and path-dependent historical changes to governance institutions within a narrative of the larger political history of Mongolia. Historical and contemporary states in different periods employed various statutory mechanisms to define basic sociopolitical and primary production units and their social and resource use boundaries to manage human and natural resources. Historical changes in these institutional arrangements more often maintained interdependent relationships between state rulers, local jurisdictional authorities, and their residents to pursue formal and informal control over the integrated governance of livestock, labor, and land to benefit from pastoralism. The changes at the end of the 20th century, however, resulted in dismantling the historical governance institutions in an attempt to adjust to market economy and to benefit from alternative economic development. Hence, Mongolia faces enormous public and environmental governance challenges in unpredictable socio-economic, geopolitical, and ecological contexts, in which pastoralism is now combined with urbanization and intensive agriculture.


  • Central Asia

Overview of Pastoralism in Mongolia

The Mongols succeeded a series of predecessor nomadic states in governing pastoral people, centered roughly in the same territory as current Mongolia in Inner Asia during and beyond the past two millennia. In this region, pastoralism emerged following the trait of an unpredictable dry-land ecology with extreme and harsh climatic conditions due to its elevation and distance from the ocean. The Mongolian plateau embodies a combination of different ecological zones including desert, steppe, and alpine forest as well as other zones (figure 1).

Figure 1. Ecological zones in Mongolia.

Source: Courtesy of ANU Cartoservices.

The Altai mountain range stands at an elevation of 4,374 m in the west and the lowest point is at 552 m in the northeast of the country. In central Mongolia, the Khangai Mountain range has an elevation of 4,000 m, and the Hentii Mountain range is approximately 2,800 m. These high-altitude alpine forest and steppe zones trap most of the clouds, and precipitation is often rare and unpredictable throughout the year, especially in the southern Gobi Desert zone. The high mountain ranges with their glaciers and snow peaks feed a few large river systems, namely the Selenge in the north, the Orhon and Tuul in the center, and the Herlen and Onon in the east (figure 2). These large and dynamic ecological and climatic variations result in different levels of vegetative cover. The alpine mountain forests and rivers in the north allow for lush green pastures in smaller territories, whereas the steppe broadens out to drier pastureland, eventually becoming scarce in vegetation in the semi-desert and desert zones, allowing for the occasional oasis.1 Exacerbated by mainly cold and unpredictable Arctic wind from the northwest, this region often experiences extreme temperatures throughout the four seasons, ranging from approximately 45°C in the summer to −35°C in the winter. Changing global climatic conditions are altering the conventionally short summers and long winters in Mongolia, affecting vegetative growth. Thus, this dynamic rangeland presents a natural environment “as fragile as an infant’s fontanel,” as the Mongolian saying goes.2

Figure 2. Geographical map of Mongolia.

Source: Courtesy of ANU Cartoservices.

However, instead of being determined by these environmental limitations (baigalaas haraat bus), pastoralists, specifically the steppe rulers drew benefits from pastoralism.3 This was largely shaped by their sociopolitical institutions (niigem uls turiin togtoltsoo) and the ways in which these were adjusted to historical changes to continue the flow of benefits. In fact, pastoral nomadism in Euroasia emerged between the fourth and eighth millennium bce and mobile pastoralism perhaps by the middle of the second millennium bce, whereas equestrian mobile pastoralism in Inner Asia emerged even later.4 This was somewhat later than the emergence of settled agriculture in the region, which occurred long before the sixth millennium bce.5 Although small in scale, prerevolutionary agricultural practices and settled towns existed to serve as political and economic centers for steppe rulers, while equestrian mobile pastoralism seem to prevail as the dominant production system.6 Perhaps environmental conditions played a role. Lattimore depicted “where much land could not quite be used better to feed men than to feed animals, . . . the less successful farmers had the largest number of animals at pasture to supplement their inadequate grain crops.”7 Yet, Khazanov argued that the origins of pastoralism need to be explored as a complex and multifaceted phenomenon dealing with “adaptation and re-adaptation in different ecological zones, specific social transformation, the interaction and influence of different forms of pastoralism and other kinds and forms of economic activities.”8 Pastoralism relies on various sociopolitical and ecological variability factors: (a) diverse natural animal and plant resources in different ecological zones, and (b) diverse herding practices that mobile pastoralists observed to move both human and natural resources when and where necessary depending on their sociopolitical needs.9 The richness of pastures appears to be valued by the fact that each zone offers large numbers of different types of vegetation and medicinal herbs. Hence, instead of being constrained, mobile pastoralists obtained the best out of this diverse environment.10 Notwithstanding their common characteristic of mobility, however, pastoralism varies broadly depending on the governance and its effectiveness in creating concentration of wealth and power, determining its similarities or differences to agricultural societies. Equestrian pastoralists, in Mongolia, herded multiple species of livestock and employed various mobility technologies to access a diversity of plant species, perhaps along the longitude of different ecological zones, north and south or vice versa, depending on the seasons.11 Livestock species included five types (tavan khoshuu mal)—sheep, goat, horse, cattle/yak, and camel with the exception of reindeer herding in the north.12 Herders can control where livestock graze, and thus climate exposure, by moving to warmer southern pastures or sheltered valleys in the winter or cooler upland pastures in the summer. Thus, the value of the pasture is manifested in one’s capacity to allow or afford flexibility in movement.

In terms of governance, mobilities and production strategies in equistrian pastoralism, by and large, were coordinated by steppe aristocratic sociopolitical institutions, which functioned based upon statutory enforcement mechanisms as in agricultural societies.13 Rulers of the Mongol Empire adjusted the preceding steppe nomads’ sociopolitical institutions, as much as it inherited, toward developing statewide public and environmental governance. The empire eventually collapsed and was divided into several independent khanates and then eventually dynasties in its later days, undergoing many other changes to their practices, forms, and ideologies of politics and religion. Simultaneously, these aristocratic rulers had carried on with certain critical aspects of the preceding governance system up until contemporary times to continue drawing socioeconomic and political benefits from pastoralism. Beyond being limited to subsistence, they were engaged in yield-focused pastoral production to maintain their wealth, status, power, and authority.14 In the early 20th century, Outer Mongolia (or contemporary Mongolia), witnessed a major shift in governance, transitioning from what was left of the aristocratic order (i.e., sociopolitical privileges and status) to the development of a contemporary statehood nation. The first contemporary state introduced centralized reforms of public and environmental governance toward building state socialism. However, to a large extent, it still relied on the few critical aspects of public and pastoral governance institutions that were inherited from the past, for instance, state territorial administration and control over the movement of pastoral people and livestock. Alternative to the customary (ulamjlalt) pastoral economy and lifestyle, the state also introduced agriculture and extractive industries geared toward industrializing the rural economy and urbanization. Later, at the verge of the 21st century, Mongolia witnessed another major ideological shift, transitioning to market-based democratic governance. The state liberalized the pastoral sector to some extent by introducing exclusive property rights and developing land markets, and with conservation-oriented biodiversity protection by committing to expand exclusive state-run protected areas to 30 percent by 2030.15 Hence, a few critical aspects of what remained from the historical pastoral governance institutions are undergoing a dismantling process. This created institutional challenges for different state and non-state based agents regulating pastoral land, labour, and livestock, and affected the the pursuit of variability and flexibility, one of the primary principles that enable pastoralism, resulting in a dilemma of public and environmental governance in both urban and pastoral contexts.16

In brief, this article aims to capture the dynamic relationship between pastoral governance and path-dependent historical changes to the governance institutions and place them within the narrative of the larger political history of Mongolia. In particular, this article provides a historical background, exploring key agents, factors, and mechanisms that were essential in building pastoral institutions and their adaptation to different sociopolitical orders and climatic conditions. It also presents questions and concepts analytically that are worthy of attention in understanding pastoralism in Mongolia. Employing a historical approach to the governance of pastoralism contributes to theoretical debates of property regimes—whether to determine an adequate institutional form (private, state and communal, or open) or recognize the historical, sociopolitical, and ecological functions that supported socioeconomic and environmental viabilities.17 The proponents of collective action institutions in managing common pool resources (CPRs) are concerned with why some communities are successful in managing CPRs, while others fail during changing socioeconomic and political orders.18 Contextually, this debate leads to why Mongolia succeeded in CPR management in some periods and failed in others.19 This article employed a historical lens in exploring changes in social and resource use boundaries, regarding their implications on collective management of CPRs (namely pastoral land and water). Recent theories on pastoralism highlight various resource governance regimes such as resource acquisition, open access, or mosaic (combination of various) regimes. This brought the debate of CPR management beyond the concept of property regimes or [small size] sociopolitical units with well-defined social and resources use boundaries, which are designed to achieve exclusive collective action.20 However, this article highlights the notion of [large size] sociopolitical units with somewhat clearly defined social and resource use boundaries with characteristics of flexibility, which are still relevant in academic debates regarding their profound role in the history of pastoralism as a political economy in Mongolia. Simultaneously, these recent theoretical models also highlight the concepts that have a profound effect on shaping pastoral institutions—external and internal or formal and informal multilayered institutional arrangements for pursuing socioecological variabilities, either as a group or an individual.21 Hence, in line with all of these theoretical insights, this article contributes to addressing issues of the CPR dilemma—historical ways to deal with difficulties to pursue exclusion—because of the costly management of large and migratory CPR resources and extractability (someone’s use diminishes another’s benefit).22 In particular, highlighting questions and concepts pivotal in understanding pastoralism in Mongolia, this article presents a systematic analysis of the ways in which historical and contemporary states in different periods employed various statutory mechanisms to define basic sociopolitical and primary production units and their social and resource use boundaries for managing pastoral resources. To enable the pursuit of variability and benefit from pastoralism, historical changes in these institutional arrangements more often maintained at least two or three fundamentals of historical pastoral institutions: (1) interdependent state/ruler, lords/local government, and subjects/residents tri-management depending on the prevailing centralized or independent states, enforcing (2) formal and informal control mechanisms over (3) the integrated governance (movement and market) of livestock, labor, and land (hereafter called the production components).23 Recent changes, however, resulted in dismantling the historical governance institutions in an attempt to adjust to market economy and benefit from alternative economic development. Hence, Mongolia faces enormous public and environmental governance challenges in an unpredictable socio-economic, geopolitical, and ecological contexts, in which pastoralism is now combined with urban and intensive agricultural lifestyles.24

Pastoral Governance under the Mongol Empire

The pursuit of pastoralism—obtaining socioeconomic and political benefits from dryland ecology—entailed working with a sociopolitical institution that governed human and natural resources. Yet, the type of society and the governance institutions that were attributed to representing Inner Asian mobile pastoralists are subject to debate. Some regard that due to low technological capacity these were kinship-based societies governed under a prestate tribal system that was stagnant or dependent on colonial or agrarian societies for its sociopolitical evolution, or the development of a nomadic state.25 Others argue that the mobile pastoralism in Inner Asia was ruled by an aristocratic society preceded by the earliest steppe dynasties, which were involved in military and political development facilitated by the environment, and was governed under state-like territorial administrative and sociopolitical institutions.26 In fact, Sneath argued that “But the exotic image of the nomadic pastoral lifestyle and the dominance of notions of kin-organized tribal society meant that scholars were inclined to contrast steppe polities with agricultural and urban-based states, rather than exploring their common features.”27 In particular, the author highlights, governance of Mongolian equestrian pastoralism functioned based on aristocratic governance as in agricultural societies. These included “many of the power technologies associated with states—stratification, forms of territorialization, taxation (tatvar, guvchuur/govchuur) and corvee labor and military services” (alba), vassalage and land allocation for generating concentration of wealth and power. Whereas, its economic production strategies and mobilities varies broadly even among different pastoral societies, not to mention in agricultural societies.28 On the Mongolian plateau, the Orhon, Tuul, and Herlen river valleys functioned as the cradle for a series of nine to twelve different steppe empires or state polities, beginning with Hsiung-nu (not the Huns in the 4th century bce Europe) in the 3rd century bce (figure 2).29 These powerful and sophisticated dynasties were the dominant political power in the steppe, and emerged one after another. These nomadic states or empires each ruled over large aristocracies and thousands of subject mobile pastoral households from diverse steppe polities.30 In the early 13th century, succeeding these steppe polities was the Mongol Empire. Chinggis (Genghis) Khan or Khagan - the King, his military retinues, allies and his children and grand children conquered and ruled as a central power various different pastoral polities and many of the agricultural societies throughout Eurasia toward establishing their rule of law for sociopolitical order and trade.31 Here, it is worth mentioning that the term Mongol referred to the formal name of their ulus, a political unit—a realm, people or nation united under one ruler, or state, under which different ruling houses and steppe polities organized, rather than the name of a distinct tribal people.32 Vladimortsov argued that Temujin and his retinue of aristocratic lords (noyod-noyon-singular) reclaimed the term Mongol, commemorating the once powerful Hamag Mongol Ulus, under which the ancestor Khabul Khan (Khagan) ruled different steppe polities.33 The author elaborated further that Mongols ruling different steppe polities became as famous as their powerful adversary Tatars, due to “The habit of minor tribes of adopting the appellation of some powerful and related neighbors. . ..”34 This may well have happened to both steppe and/or agrarian societies as occurred elsewhere in the past.35 Mongols were also referred to as “Tatars” in the west, regarding the latter’s fame, as Chinggis would send them out as the lead of his army.36 Pastoralism was ruled under an aristocratic order, which was built upon people from different social hierarchy and strata and the servitude of its vassals.37 Although arguably defining steppe nomads as tribal as opposed to aristocracy, Lattimore clearly described its social strata:

the Mongols were people of nobles and commoners, and sometimes also of slaves and war captives, and of subordinate tribes which, without being enslaved, lived under the protection and at the order of stronger tribes. Poor families often owned no cattle at all, but pastured the herds of nobles, the rich, or the tribal chief or lord; others, who did own livestock, paid tribute to those above them. It was therefore the ruling families, whose executive head was the chief or prince of the tribe, who dominated the whole complex—the allocation of pasture and assignment of families to this duty and that.

Having emerged from the Herlen, Onon, and Tuul River valleys, and following conquest to the west, the ruling elites moved the imperial capital to the Orhon River valley in Har Horin (Qara Qorum), the ancient capital of its predecessors (figure 3).38

Figure 3. Mongolian Plateau in early 1200 ad.39

Source: Courtesy of ANU Cartoservices.

To establish state-level public and environmental governance, the ruling elites adjusted the preexisting socioeconomic and political institutions it inherited from the preceding states. They inherited the state/military territorial administrative system under which they managed human and natural resources and pastoral production. The system was composed of a series of decimal units ranging from groups of ten, hundred, thousand, and ten thousand soldiers, with direct orders coming from the largest to the lowest unit.40 Leadership was based on the preexisting aristocratic order in which hereditary lords ruled over political subjects under the state-like centralized governance.41 Each lord probably controlled a large territory within which pastoralism could be managed. This territory provided (probably with many exceptions over the years) a large variety of vegetation, which supported different types of livestock and the movement of pastoralists inhabiting different ecological zones. To manage their territories, the ruling elites, as in agricultural societies, maintained the steppe political institutions, for instance the state territorial administration in its various forms (i.e., territorially extensive aristocratic estates), to continue to draw sociopolitical benefits (strengthening their own wealth, status, power, and authority) from this complex environment.

However, the extent of changes made to the preceding sociopolitical order, particularly to the social (membership) and resource use (territorial) boundaries, is a matter of debate. Some have argued that upon conquering other steppe dynasties, Chinggis reorganized the preexisting groups, dismantled the ruling linage, atomized group membership, and mixed subjects under the preexisting unit of a thousand (myangan - plural -myangat).42 The latter was an appanage community of a thousand households with defined social and resource use boundaries as the basic sociopolitical unit. This was done with the exception of the Chinggisid family members, for instance, his mother and wives managed to keep their people intact.43 The inner circle of the Chinggisid family, royal members, and his military retinues also remained, exclusively, in close proximity to access and benefit from central power, as the core of the Hunnic rule from the preceding steppe empires might have done in the past.44 They also changed how myangat lords now ruled (instead of owned) subjects and territory since Chinggis also bestowed lordship titles to loyal generals or colleagues from a common background, rather than only to hereditary aristocratic members.45 Others have argued against the idea that Chinggis instituted a major reform; rather that he continued with some modifications and, perhaps, formally recognized what was already in place in the preceding dynasties—imperial powers conquering rival people and reorganizing mixed members under hereditary decimal civil-military administrative units and ruling these as top-down military subdivisions controlled by aristocratic houses as their domains.46 Atwood, for instance, argued that myangat lordship was hereditary, bestowed upon by the Haan’s favor, on the basis of primogeniture. Also, even when Chinggisid immediate family members controlled their subjects and territories, it was managed under the myangan system in which some lords maintained both his immediate and extended family and kinsmen as well as small or large majority members from previously different polities.47 Nevertheless, they continued employing statutory tax mechanisms (livestock rent and tax, military mobilization, and postal and corvee services) that the lords levied on their subjects and to pay for services from Haan’s centralized power.48 These modifications maintained the steppe custom of attaching subjects to myangan jurisdictional lord to enable flexibility in mobility, mobilization, and resettlement for military, trade, and political missions. After the collapse of the Mongol Empire, the basic socio-economic unit shifted from myangan appanage to an otog, the function of which may have pre-existed or at least rooted from appanage ownership by preceding type of lords (olon van), who were mostly son-in-laws to the rulers. Nevertheless, the actual term appeared in usage by fifteenth (1400) century.49 Each otog was supposedly different in size as private ownership of subjects and territories prevailed, as opposed to the fixed number of a myangan unit.50 In these appanages, commoners and nobility did not seem to trace common descent. Various appanage units were not necessarily permanent but were subject to changing personnel for reasons of war and/or noble marriage. In other words, eventhough rulers continued hereditary succession roles, commoners maintained hereditary service roles, yet to different lords throughout their lifetime.51

Although not egalitarian in nature, the relationship between lords and commoners was deemed to be interdependent for the aristocracy to function. For instance, after Chinggis Haan, his son Ogodei Haan reestablished the rule of law, took several measures to ease the life of his subjects, and secured their access to abundant pastoral resources. He ordered vassal people to annually supply a certain number of livestock to provide for the very poor. Ogodei also forbade his lords to impose all of their expenses on the subjects of a jurisdiction where they were organizing assemblies. Instead, he assigned each myangan to provide these assemblies with food and herding services upon payment. Moreover, Ogodei reorganized equestrian postal service into a faster and more efficient government service, creating fixed stations and assigning specific guides and envoys (zamchin and ulaachin). This was also to lighten the burden on his subjects (ard irgen or olon), who were previously forced to provide for zamchin and ulaachin, anywhere necessary, when the latter imposed upon their demands for horses, food, and a place to sleep.52

For pastoral governance, the imperative was perhaps to maintain preexisting arrangements of integrated governance over the movement of livestock, labor, and pasture (migratory resources) within a designated territory to enable yield-focused pastoralism. Here, command and corvee labor services and taxes also seemed to work as a mechanism to draw a clearly defined social boundary of each lord’s jurisdiction, in which subjects were worthy of their labor, skills, and services, rather than being displaced without jurisdiction. Although no accurate linear border was present, resource use boundaries between different jurisdictions were defined, recognized, and respected by respective members and their obedience to lords.53 Borders may well have been marked by landmarks.54 Also, after dividing pastoral territory (nutag us) to its conquered people and subjects (ulus irgen), Ogedei pursued what might have been preexisting—assigning land official (nutagchin) in each myangan to allocate pastoral territories to its subjects. He also assigned nutagchin to dig wells and expand pastures, especially to the Govi (Gobi) region, in order for subjects to access spacious (uujim) pastures.55 Although defined, these institutional arrangements were flexible in nature; social boundaries were potentially fluid in which ruling lords could send subjects out or bring them in as they saw fit as were the resource use boundaries as lords and officials could change them when they ordered/agreed to. Yet, this flexibility was commanded by strict supervision, which was far from unorganized, random, or chaotic. For instance, Rubruck (1253–1255) noted, “And every captain, according to the great or small number of his people, knows the bound of his pastures, and where he ought to feed his cattle, winter and summer, spring and autumn.”56 This strict control over people and territory coordinated by flexibility was, perhaps, to enable statutory territorial control, to divide and distribute aristocratic rulers and their subjects to be relocated (nutag zaah), and to administer a large enough or manageable territory that contained variabilities of vegetation and geographical features necessary for pastoral production. Rubruck also noted, “At the time of our return Batu commanded him [Berta under his command] to remove himself from that place, and to inhabit the east side of Volga ...”57 Within this large sociopolitical unit, pastoral production was managed, potentially, at the level of a single household (ail) or a few ails, and/or huree (an aggregation of ails), sometimes hundreds of them, camped in a circular formation for defensive purposes and may have pursued similar pasture use and mobility patterns. There may have been a considerable internal division of labor within the huree, as a unit, or just a residential formation with most work organized at the domestic level. Here, ruling lords and their officials may have organized and directed herders’ joint activities and prevailed at both the myangat and huree levels depending on the military and/or economic activities.58

Overall, from the perspective of property relations, social and resource use boundaries at both the jurisdictional and pastoral production level unit may have been informed by fluid and dynamic patterns of mixed membership residing in an assigned territory. This arrangement was to accommodate the flexibility that was required for pastoral production but under strict subjugation of human, animal, and natural resources to the ruling elites. Far from egalitarian bottom-up communal ownership, land tenure may have been characterized by multilayers of agents and institutions—a ruler’s subjugation of its myangat lords to control or oversee their respective subject households and their pastoral territory. At the lords’ jurisdictional level, its subjects and commoners exercised usufruct rights to access jurisdictional pastures that provided their livelihood and paid taxes and provided services to the lords. These lords were more often seen as “proprietors” rather than the sole beneficiary, as they paid services and taxes to the Haan.59

Pastoral Governance under the Rule of the Manchu Qing Dynasty

After the collapse of the Mongol Empire and the post imperial independent Khanates, pre-Qing period witnessed an emergence of independent states— Western Oirad (Oirat) Mongols, Khalkha Northern Mongols and Southern Mongols. In the 16th century, the Khalkha Mongols inhabited most of the territory of current Mongolia, which was divided into the following dynasties: Setsen Khan, Tusheet Khan, and Zasagt Khan .60 Each territory was large with specific social and resource use boundaries for managing its pastoral people and the production.

After the Qing government came to power, in general, they kept the preceding Mongol institutional framework for political and pastoral governance but with some adjustments. Prior to Qing rule, lords independently controlled their otog subjects and territories.61 The Qing subjugated the Mongols, halted independence, and brought them under direct control.62 The Manchus, who came to establish Qing Dynasty based in China, were a mobile people with a small population that could mobilize the Mongol army as a military reserve or back up, used as a political buffer between Tsarist Russia and the Qing Dynasty .63 Hence, the Qing also banned the mass migration of Chinese peasants from settling in pastoral territories.64 Although they reenforced the strict subjugation of human, animal, and natural resources to the lords, the Qing changed the basic sociopolitical unit and introduced a demarcation of its border so to reorganize Inner and Outer Mongolia toward serving its sociopolitical needs. This involved replacing the preceding civil administrative otog unit with a military-administrative banner (khoshuu), a form of which preexisted and may have been used along with a myangan unit or for a leader (khoshuuch) of a cavalry unit. Khoshuu was also used interchangeably with an otog, for instance, the [Halh] Doloon (seven) otog or Doloon Khoshuu.65 In fact, an otog seemed to remain in usage, referring to some lords’ subjects and territory, or sometimes referring to a sum.66 Under Qing, each dynasty was divided up into khoshuu and 86 of 137 of these khoshuus were in Outer Mongolia.67 Each khoshuu was divided into a district or sum ( soum) of 150 households.68 The sum was divided into a microdistrict or bag of fifty households, which was then divided into an horin of twenty and an aravt of ten households. Although these units each had leaders, these were not strictly territorial units and neither had their own specific territorial boundaries or legal claims to the resources, except the rough territorial location.69 Hence, it is necessary to highlight that these units functioned more for civil administrative tasks, such as tax collection (livestock and silver), mobilization for the military, and public service than for exclusive land management. However, highly sophisticated herding management and supervision was observed regarding when and where to herd on a daily and seasonal basis, particularly regarding winter encampment and pasture. Also, tending to various species of livestock with differing ages and gender required a flexible distribution of rangeland between households as opposed to all herds restricted to exclusive fixed plots of land as in an agrarian context.70 For instance, occasionally, depending on the nature of the terrain, some pastoral areas were divided on an annual basis among jurisdictional families but whether it was enforced on the basis of statutory exclusive individual ownership was unclear.71 Nevertheless, these smaller units were governed by the khoshuu noyod (lords), who were governed under a higher jurisdictional authority of princely assembly (noyodiin chuulgan). A chuulgan was, as Munkh-Erdene described, “an assembly of the ruling princes of several khoshuus grouped together by the Qing.”72 In 1725, the Qing government divided the Mongol territory into four princely domains or aimags (a pre-existing term, now used as a division subordinate to ulus), adding the Sain Noyon Khan aimag with twenty-four khoshuu by taking nineteen khoshuu from the Tusheet Khan aimag and more from the Zasagt Khan aimag.73

Each khoshuu territory reflected characteristics of preceding jurisdictional territories to some extent, with north to south positions embedding some characteristics of different ecological zones.74 Lords and rich commoners, if not all herders, perhaps, pursued longitudinal pastoral mobility throughout the year, moving south and north, to enable yield-focused and specialized herding to benefit from the variability of vegetative and geographical advantages that the rangeland offered.75 The Qing formalization or hardening of the khoshuu border led to much dispute, which led to reflecting pre-existing customary boundaries to some extent between khoshuus by following the natural terrain and marking these with stone cairns.76 Hence, the hard border on paper remained fluid for those living in border areas as herders continued to utilize preexisting natural landmarks.77 The hardening of the border also reenforced what appeared to be preexisting rule, for instance, the 1640 Khalha-Oirad Treaty rules.78 This was to discourage territorial disputes triggered from uncontrolled and unpermitted cross-border movement back and forth, even though the control over movement mainly served for collecting taxes and other dues.79 The Qing also continued the preexisting pattern that khoshuu lords be selected from direct descendants of Chinggis Khan upon their confirmation, in contrast to myangat lords, who were selected from non-Chinggisid lines. Although khoshuu lords had hereditary entitlement to control their subjects and territory, their authority to use, rent, transfer, and sell khoshuu resources was subject to abiding by Qing permission, laws, and regulations.80

Therefore, an age old historical debate is attributed to the Qing policy changes in Mongolian political and pastoral governance institutions. Some have argued, for instance, that dividing the aimag into smaller khoshuu territories with hardened social and resource use boundaries led to a reduced size of the basic sociopolitical units and obstructed mobility.81 Some argue that it may have had no effect at the beginning, but eventually did. In the 18th century, in addition to the nobility-controlled territories, many different specialty jurisdictions emerged and controlled their respective and exclusive territory (e.g, army, relay stations, border stations, and monastery territories for Qing use).82 In contrast, others argue that instead of colonial reform, the Qing continued with the preceding institutional arrangements but with stricter adherence to existing rules and norms (e.g., control over the movement). The proponents of the latter position further question to what extent the new sociopolitical order had changed the preceding civil or military administrative units since the Mongol Empire, and particularly questions its effect on mobility.83 These questions are a part of another age old complex debate in general regarding whether Qing rule supported Mongol lords in Inner and Outer Mongolia in their efforts to reclaim authority in the struggle with Oirad Mongols under the alliance, or treated them as a colony for exploitation, particularly when the Qing became less Manchu and more Chinese in administration, as described in Bawden.84 In 1901, the Qing introduced governance reform, which led to the resettlement of Chinese peasants in Mongol territories and to the establishment of a Chinese administrative system, potentially following the influence of Chinese ministers and eunuchs at the court.85 Although some lords in both Southern and Northern Mongols supported reforms to strengthen the Mongol position, Lattimore argued in the Southern Mongol context, these policies led to a resultant “destructive contest” between agriculture and pastoralism.86 This occurred, contrary to “Chinese pressure of population,” from “those [commissioners and landlord’s hands] who saw a chance of making a profit on famine refugees from China.”87 They expropriated land from Mongol princes, who had acted for their own benefit as opposed to the interests of their subjects for almost nothing or a bribe, and imposed harsh terms of tenantry on poor resettlers, whom they imported.88 Although some lords benefited from the Chinese peasant resettlement, some—who initially allowed that this resettlement experienced some personal losses, for instance in the case of aristocrat- Tochin Taij, who later turned against the Chinese in Mongolia.89 In Outer Mongolia, some lords individually introduced certain aspects of a settled lifestyle and agriculture. For instance, Ja Lama Dambiijantsan incorporated some Russian cultural aspects into pastoralism. Much to the reluctance and irritation of his subjects and neighbors, he ordered them to dig an artificial lake, adopt agriculture, and use Russian housing, clothes, and footwear.90 Nevertheless, a state-level-organized agricultural colony was more visible by 1881, mostly occupying the valleys of numerous major rivers.91 Similar to what happened in Inner Mongolia, Chinese merchants expanded their trade and controlled many lords and entire banner subjects with a debt system, even to the extent that herders reduced their herd size to avoid taxes. This was despite the Qing’s earlier attempt to restrict large numbers of Chinese merchants from entering Mongolia.92 In 1892, Pozdneyev observed numerous agrarian fields, which were rented by both Chinese and Mongol lords or the monasteries, employing both Chinese and Mongol workers. In one case, several lords grew grain on their khoshuu border territories and rented some territories to other lords, who resided far away.93 Morozov also observed that the Chinese rented large amounts of land from Mongol lords, cultivating on quality pastures, which was irrigated from local rivers, affecting local herders’ access to water resources.94 However, some lords, for instance, led by Chin Van Handdorj, presented some resentment, objecting to the Qing survey for exploring potential areas for mineral deposits and agricultural development and asserted how it would affect their pastoral land.95 Mongolia may have remained largely pastoral due to introductory level agricultural (and mining) industries, which were limited to growing wheat, barley, and millet and which halted after collapse of the Qing rule.96

The Qing period also witnessed the emergence of Lamaist saints, who owned the official seal (Tamgatai Hutagt) over monastery jurisdictions (Shaviin Gazar), a parallel sociopolitical and pastoral institution. Although some khoshuus had their own monastery settlements and Lamaist saints without holding official seals, a few state-level high-ranking lamas were in charge of their own subjects and territory, both of which were sometimes donated from different khoshuu lords or upon the request of high ranking lamas, and were established on border territories between several khoshuus.97 Although clearly defined, social and resource use boundaries between these jurisdictions remained flexible, allowing cross-border transactions of human and natural resources. Khoshuu imposed compulsory taxes, military, guardian, and postal services, whereas monastery jurisdictions imposed lighter taxes and exemption from conscription for military, guardian, and postal service duty. Hence, it was more likely for subjects to transfer to monastery jurisdictions than the other way around.98 In fact, many lords were mindful about losing control of subjects and territory. Occasionally, nobles would collect subjects (nutag huraahui), who had wandered off from their khoshuu, aravt, bag, or sum, since the Khalha Juram (Legal code of 1709) had forbidden them from abandoning their lords.99 This was mainly related to protecting the tax base for private revenue and for governing a khoshuu, since the state did not allocate a governance budget to these lords.100 Both princely and monastery jurisdictions continued yield-oriented production via both mixed and specialized species herding, whereas poor herders’ production was limited to subsistence levels.101 Lords preferred hiring wealthy commoners and experienced herders because of the latters’ ability to pay when faced with loss of livestock. In turn, these wealthy commoners would hire poor herders.102

Although nonegalitarian, these were interdependent relationships. Both princely and ecclesiastical authorities remained dependent on their subjects and vice versa despite the nature of the relationship. In fact, the survival of the poor and the prosperity of commoners was relative to proximity to wealthy aristocrats, some of whom, indeed, did support poor households, for instance restocking them in times of emergency (e.g., livestock disease, family sickness) or for donations to the monastery and holiday celebrations, in return for latter’s service.103 The former maintained power, authority, and status, whereas the latter kept their livelihood (ami zuuh, zalguulah) by having jurisdictional residency and use rights to pastoral resources. For instance, commoners worked to help their lord’s pay debts and other services, or they worked for wealthy commoners, who were responsible for a lord’s herds. Wealthy commoners worked for payment, whereas poor commoners worked for little or nothing in return except perhaps some food or the use of livestock to pull a cart (huch heregleh) or for milking (shim heregleh). In return, lords would potentially reduce the livestock tax and/or let them graze their livestock on a better pasture.104 Sometimes, lords would pay for necessary funeral ceremonies for poor subjects, maintain responsibility over his social demeanor, or arrange extra help for livestock production or family support.105 Pozdneyev actually reported an incidence in which a khoshuu authority donated a number of livestock worth a fortune in the eyes of some of the station attendees who were struggling due to the loss of livestock the previous winter.106

Ruling elites controlling pastoral production were directly dependent on the ways in which officials and subjects balanced livestock numbers and labor needs with the availability of pastoral resources.107 These resources were managed within an ail or khot ail (khoton) - an encampment of one or more households-through the following arrangements: (a) mobility and camping patterns, (b)the ability to pursue customary rules and norms of resource sharing, (c) joint activities on both subsistence and yield-oriented pastoral production and management, and (d) rehabilitating seasonal pastoral resources or reserving off-short or distance mobility (otor) within and between jurisdictions. The first way the resources were managed was through camping and mobility patterns, and camps were organized into ail (or khot ails), which was composed of one or two households in the Gobi region, or two or more households in the steppe and forest regions. “Khot” mainly refers to the area where livestock bedded down and contained a lot of livestock dung. The number of herding households in each camp indicated the availability of vegetation and water in the area, which in turn controlled the number and types of livestock.108 In each encampment, manageable herd size altogether did not exceed one thousand livestock .109 For instance, manageable herd size was a maximum of five hundred sheep head in areas with scarce pasture, and a maximum of one thousand head in areas with better pasture or when they (tuuvriin mal) headed to a trading center .110 Khot ail was composed of both related and nonrelated households, to complement each other’s need for extra labor, herding skills, hunting, and first aid, and to enable access to social and pastoral resources. These households would own similar types of livestock, but overall herd size was limited so as to not overcrowd the khot ail and overgraze the pasture. Households would come and go depending on suitability with one another, lasting for a few days or seasons or years. This indicates that akhot ail was hardly a permanent organization. Although a khot ail probably had no specific administrative role, wealthy families required poor families to do most of the tasks of herding and processing livestock products from joint herds in return for what the latter lacked. When a khot ail was comprised of two households with a similar herd size, then the most experienced would lead the encampment. Some larger khot ail relied on elders or experienced (often wealthy) herders as leaders; the latter appeared to have an advisory role on family matters, individual or joint production, and relationships between khot ail households. He could advise on interactions with authorities or could even represent all khot ail members with the authorities, without any specific mention of land management matters.111 Two different khot ail would also camp temporarily, usually in the summer, as a saahalt ail, a term used in this period and potentially mentioned in the Khalha Juram.112 These were located approximately 500–1000 m or up to 3 km from each other to collaborate on labor-intensive work, specifically to exchange and herd each other’s lambs and to save milk from the ewes.113 This was to maximize the efficiency of human and natural resources and manage production-related liabilities.

Regarding mobility, herders maintained “freedom of movement” as described by Lattimore. This term refers, more precisely, to flexibility of movement in a controlled time and space. Here, for example, “go where and when you are told, but choose how to go” is rather different from “you are free to go wherever you want.” Highlighting the flexibility in movement is vital for the purpose of distinguishing the former from an anarchistic movement elsewhere in open rangeland, despite the existence of rules and norms. Otherwise, misconceptions about freedom of movement leads to depictions of pastoralism in Mongolia as unregulated and problematic open access. In fact, some historical records from this era questioned the concept of freedom of movement and have helped conceptualize this as a controlled action. For instance, Gilmour observed that local herders carefully watched everyone’s movement including missionaries, predicting their intentions, and when their actions and movements seemed out of the ordinary, they were regarded with suspicion and with that the news would spread fast.114 Freedom of movement, which involved “tight organization” in a controlled time and space, was also described in Lattimore in the context of pastoral production. Herders at camp or out on the pasture would often remain on the lookout throughout the day, watching and informing about one another’s movements, including the grazing of livestock, information about herding camps, and the comings and goings of others in the vicinity. This was/is the way to figure out other herders’ mobilities, to maintain that flexible manner, and to be able to share rangeland for the day, season, or year. Furthermore, flexibility of movement is so essential to production that any outsiders intruding were viewed as obstructing local herders’ flexibility to move about their controlled jurisdictional territory, rather than their right to land.115

Existing available sources led to the following best-guess general picture regarding mobility. To access good pasture with a variety of plants, herbs, and salt licks or geographical features (mountains, rocks, hills, or broom grass to shelter from cold or flooding) for climate control, herders, especially those who could afford it, pursued more than two migrations each year, or off-seasonal distance otor movements strictly within their jurisdictional boundaries. During severe weather conditions or to fatten livestock during summer and autumn and as preparation for winter, they also pursued long distance otor, within and between different jurisdictions, based upon a consensus of reciprocity, potentially agreed upon a payment between lords and subjugate herders.116 Geographical location and distance for seasonal movement, in fact, differed greatly depending on the region and ecological zone, regarding access to pasture, water, salt licks, and mountain shelter from wind, storms, insects, bugs, mud, and so on. For instance, Simukov defined six movement types based upon geographical location.117 In the west, summer camps would be high in the mountains to access mountain pastures, which were otherwise inaccessible in other seasons (and probably to avoid the summer heat as well). In autumn, they would move down to the bottom of the mountain to open valleys. Winter camps would be on the lower slopes of the mountain for sheltering from the cold wind. In spring, they would stay near the winter camps. Altogether, they would move around 100 km. In contrast, steppe type movement stretched for about 30–50 km. Winter camps on the southern slope of the mountain provided shelter from wind and storms, and mountain snow was used for water. Summer camps would be in a valley near a river to access water, and during autumn they would camp near nutritional salt licks for strengthening livestock for winter. In the Gobi, movement would usually be about 30–40 km unless forced to move long distances (150–200 km) due to drought. Winter camps would be in the mountains or hills, whereas summer camps were on the open plain near streams, with the exception of camel herders, who camped on the plains for the winter. Another interesting type was on the steppe with movements of 100 km and the Ovorhangai type of about 150–200 km, both involving movement south to the Gobi Desert for the winter and then in summer to the river valleys and mountain ranges in the north. To access extensive pastures, herders used encampments and established natural or wooden shelters, using layers of sheep dung as warm bedding (buuts) for livestock in the winter and spring. For access, herders observed the principle of sharing well-established encampments to balance production components and protect pastures. In particular, winter and spring encampments often took years to establish quality shelters made of wood and rock, with bedding formed from multiple layers of dried dung that provided warmth. In summer and autumn, herders could establish new camps, often near older established camps depending on the availability and abundance of fresh pastures.118

Second, to exercise flexibility of movement to access these encampments and the surrounding pastures, herders followed several informal rules and norms. Some were formalized and recorded in historical documents, and others were inherited as customary (ulamjlal), thus also recorded in contemporary research. Herders observed the “first come, first served” rule, which was formally recognized in the “Khalha Juram.”119 This referred to the idea that the first family within a khoshuu to erect its mobile felt tent (gher) had the right to stay there.120 Others would come and camp at a distance (often 3–5 km) depending on their production needs, which was also relative to balancing available pasture, livestock, and labor. In fact, lords and wealthy commoners with big herds and plenty of labor would likely get the pasture they needed, under the assumption that small sized herds did not need as much pasture as large herds.121 Herders had locally recognized use rights to encampments. However, some lords and wealthier herders claimed access to more than two encampments (and thus, the surrounding pasture) to accommodate larger herds.122 In fact, Vreeland, who owned several such encampments, reported that any family “which built a stone corral at a winter site and returned to that site year after year had prior claim to its use.” Although such locally recognized use rights were not deemed as exclusive property rights to an encampment and the pasture, the owner could object when others’ livestock grazed “uncomfortably close.” However, when an encampment was not suited for a particular herd for that time, the owner would move elsewhere and leave a marker (usually a large rock) at the encampment indicating its availability for others to use.123 This principle probably functioned well for the informal rule of “camp and graze as many as the pasture allows” (haya bagtahaar buuj hamar bagtahaar belchine) and enabled herders to share available pasture and campsites in a flexible manner, but within grazing capacity and comfortable spacing, during emergency conditions. When herds of different households got closer while sharing open rangeland, herders would keep them separate and pass by each other (zuruulj hariulah) within a considerable distance.124 Although unclear of the origin and the level of enforcement, these customary (ulamjlalt) rules and norms of sharing campsites and pasture were widely reported from contemporary research in all ecological zones, represented by the provinces of Hentii, Uvs, Zavhan, Govi-Altai, Umnugovi, Bayanhongor, and Arhangai.125 These flexible rules and norms may have enabled mutual assistance between herders from different jurisdictions. For instance, upon negotiation, agreement, or even payment, lords and herders as the host would share pastoral resources in their jurisdiction with outsiders with the expectation that one day, when necessary, those visitors would reciprocate in their jurisdiction. The process and outcome of such negotiations may have differed case by case, but occasionally would lead to disputes over claiming access to jurisdictional pasture between governmental/ecclesiastical and jurisdictional lords or between lords and subjects in the same jurisdiction.126 Third, herders collaborated in labor-intensive activities with neighbors, or with a broader network of households within a relatively large hoshuu jurisdiction. Vreeland noted that commoners approached neighboring camps, if available, or went much further to seek relatives or friends, or even to households a half day distant. Without being dependent on specific neighboring camps, wealthy families would solicit for help in the vicinity and provide some sort of compensation.127

Nevertheless, livestock ownership was concentrated in the hands of ruling elites (the government or Qing Emperor, lords, monasteries), and wealthy herders, who thus controlled the benefits that come from the land and pastoralism.128 These ruling elites rented (sureg tavih) livestock to their subjects or serfs (hamjlaga ard), who were mostly prosperous herders and lived independently elsewhere. They also hired others, who own fewer livestock but were experienced in herding, to work at their lords’ residences (horoo hiih). Although the former were subject to some immunities (reduced tax and other labor duties), herding for the lords in general served as part of paying taxes, duties, and services including working for relay stations, guarding borders, and herding for the ruling elites.129 Hence, state/monastery jurisdictional authority and policies, in return, facilitated the pursuit of flexible and informal rules and norms, especially when there were disputes and conflicts. Some lords did abuse their authority, allowing outsiders to graze in their jurisdictional territory after receiving a bribe, or imposing severe taxes on jurisdictional members to pay off their own debt and expenses. Commoners and subjects would plea or appeal to higher authorities or the state. Some appeals would often fail resulting in the subjects facing further punishment by the authorities or lords.130 Occasionally, an appeal would result in the authorities punishing a lord by dismissing him from his post.131 When lords were unaccepted by subjects, the post would be transferred to the next in hereditary line who was more widely accepted. Otherwise, some herders might leave and join another lord of their preference.132 This was because punishment for commoners resisting a lord would be much more severe.133 Yet, Larson Duke noted, not all lords were wealthy or “vile-dispositioned.”134 In fact, disputes occurred not only between lords and subjects, but between princely and ecclesiastical lords regarding territorial and jurisdictional claims. For instance, herders from princely lords would complain that herders of ecclesiastical lords would come and graze in their pastoral territories, which affected their flexibility in movement. This was because herders of princely lords could not leave their territory to seek pasture elsewhere without prior official arrangement, whereas herders of some high ranking ecclesiastical lords (shaviin ard), for instance those who herded for Javzandamba Hutagt as the ruler of Outer Mongolia, could or did graze in any territories they chose. A princely lord solved the matter by allowing grazing rights in his territory to only those ecclesiastical herders who originally came from his jurisdiction prior to joining the ecclesiastical lords, and demanded others leave his territory. This was perhaps because some lords had a hard time supporting their subjects production and livelihood, thus allowing them to become ecclesiastical herders. This indicates that even in a dispute situation, flexibility and fluidity was exercised between different jurisdictional authorities regarding social and resource use boundaries.135

In fact, a lord’s authority over human and natural resources led to a major debate regarding whether land or livestock was the primary productive resource in the pastoral context.136 This question was of particular importance within a specific Marxist debate of social class hierarchy and strata, particularly regarding notions of “feudalism.” Since Marx was focused on agricultural examples in distinguishing feudalism, there was much debate as to whether the pastoral equivalent was about the ownership of land as the primary base for the means of production, or whether they owned livestock but did not really own the land itself. Vladimortsov considered Mongolian pastoralism as “nomadic feudalism” in his attempt to elucidate it from the perspective of sociopolitical progression and in comparison with European aristocracy.137 In a sensible compromise made by some, like Natsagdorj, argued that pastureland and livestock were both the productive base. In particular, he argued that a large territory was key to increasing livestock, and only lords could allocate rights to subjects, who were dependent on access to pastoral resources within his domain.138 Others considered that without livestock there was no production, thus land could be considered a secondary resource for pastoral economy.139 This point of view was, however, limited to describing pastoralism as a subsistence economy constrained by environmental factors and lacking technical progress and hence being incapable of developing into a feudal relationship or was dependent on neighboring agricultural societies for socioeconomic development.140

However, a historical framework of the pastoral institution appears to be much more complex, involving multilevel agents (state-centralized or independent, lords, and subjects) interdependent from each other to obtain benefits from pastoralism.141 Some also argued for the significance of the pursuit of dual (formal and informal) control mechanisms.142 Others, moreover, argued about control over, not just land or livestock, but all human and natural resources (land, livestock, and labor) in an integrated manner as a necessary prerequisite for coordinating and balancing economic resources, as observed in various forms of mobile pastoralism and potentially even in some agrarian societies.143 Another significant characteristic was an inclusive as well as an exclusive paradigm.144 The central government assigned a local government, which was watched by its jurisdictional members to exclude outsiders’ access to jurisdictional resources, and if necessary allowed them access after negotiation and payment.145 Altogether, the pastoral institutional framework has so far relied on, at least, three historical fundamentals—(a) interdependent tri-management pursuing (b) formal and informal control mechanisms over (c) integrated governance (movement and market) of land, livestock, and labor (production means or components).146 Since aristocratic control over population movement and distribution was closely managed, perhaps with the exception to those who fell into the destitute, issues of displocated people remaining without any jurisdictional attachment probably occurred mainly from instabilities triggered by war or political turbulence during the transition from one sociopolitical order to another.147

Pastoral Governance under State Socialism

In the early 20th century, the Mongols survived massive sociopolitical and economic turmoil, which emerged as an effect from changing global political (world war) and economic orders rooted in Western colonization, the Industrial Revolution, and modernization in the west . Mongolia, then referred to as Outer Mongolia, reclaimed its independence from the Qing Dynasty, as well as a brief period of Chinese control. Consequently, as the Mongols sought to save its independence, it also dealt with complex global geopolitics and domineering political and economic influence from its neighbors. While attempting a gradual transition of shifting power and authority (e.g., allowing commoners seats in the local government and people’s assemblies), Mongolians experienced serious political friction in determining its future sociopolitical governance and development trajectories among emerging so-called “nationalist,” capitalist, or socialist forms. This effort eventually fell into the iron hands of Soviet Russia. Soviet Russia, at the beginning, was largely defensive of its Siberian fronts and saw Mongolia as a dependable buffer rather than direct Sovietization or annexation.148 Later, it may have exploited the Mongols’ political friction in its militaristic and expansionist political campaign toward spreading communism to the East, expanding Soviet Russia’s political and economic domination under Stalin’s rule.149 Here, it is critical to highlight that establishing single-party state socialism in Mongolia was possible only after wiping out the preceding aristocratic and governance effort to transition to a new sociopolitical order, and with the pursuit of a nationwide bloody purge that took place in Mongolia under the direct facilitation of Soviet Russia. Included among the purged was anyone accused of opposing the party-state regardless of gender, including aristocrats, clergymen, intellectuals, government officials, commoners, and wives, mothers, and daughters.150 In a Stalinist-style purge, Montefiore described that “when a man fell, all those connected to him, whether friends, lovers or proteges, fell with him.”151 Mongolia lost many who had inherited past knowledge of law and order, social norms and etiquette, culture and tradition of statehood public governance over pastoral people, including production practices and managing hostile natural and political climates. Those who were left behind were subjected to the ultimate fear of even contemplating opposing the party-state.152 A few, like Dilav Hutagt Jamsranjav, survived to leave behind a wealth of information regarding the aristocratic control over pastoral governance in the precollective period.153 This period also resulted in chaotic and detrimental pastoral, environmental, and cultural practices, and mass reductions in human and livestock resources. These were triggered by a series of turbulent events that came one after another—abolishing the autocratic governance of human and natural resources, deadly political purges, the massive funds and livestock products donated to Soviet Russia’s effort of combatting World War II, and forced collectivization and sedentarization via industrializing the rural economy based on five-year intensive plans. During these events, a one-party state changed the basic sociopolitical units to accommodate the intensification of pastoral production, and introduced state-level, mass-scale crop cultivation and extractive industries to diversify the rural economy and contribute to building international socialism.154 Here, it is also critical to highlight that these development efforts, however, were possible only when the Mongolians received tremendous amount of financial, technical, and mechanical engineering support from Russia. In other words, Mongolia’s transition to new socio-political order was an extension of the Soviet Russian social engineering experiment of industrializing and modernizing the rural economy in the context of pastoralism.155

In its effort to modernize Mongolia, the new state employed a historical approach to adjusting pastoralism to a new sociopolitical order, but by reforming the basic sociopolitical unit and redrawing its social and resource use boundaries. First, the former large territory of four aimags and 86 hoshuus were eradicated and the whole territory of Mongolia was divided into 18 much smaller aimags (figure 4) and 300–304 sums (soums). These aimags were divided into rural districts (sums), which then became the main sociopolitical unit, embedding collective (negdel) enterprises, which managed pastoralism within a sum territory. Negdels were composed of approximately one thousand households, which in turn were composed of herders and specialized service workers in the collective center. Each negdel was then divided into brigades, which sort of replaced the preceding bag-level unit, but not necessarily with the same social and resource boundaries. The social and resource use boundaries of each negdel was redrawn differently depending on geographic features.156 This was done several times, mainly for merging and reducing the number of negdels, eventually to reflect the sum territory.157 In contrast to the preceding large aimag and hoshuu boundaries in the precollective period, these much smaller sum and brigade boundaries were unable to accommodate herders’ flexibility of movement for seasonal mobility, for rotation to access variabilities of vegetation, and to rehabilitate, spread seeds by livestock hooves and fertilize the rangeland. To address these limitations and facilitate movement, negdels and state enterprises introduced mechanized technologies like trucks and deep-engineered wells to open up and access unused rangeland within a brigade territory. Hence, they organized repeated cross-border movement during summer and autumn for less used pastures, and more mobility for specialized herding (e.g., for cow milking unit ).158 Moreover, they built additional covered livestock shelters for use during winter and spring, trained professional veterinarians, and provided mass supplies of grain and fodder, which were prepared at collectives as well as at state-owned agricultural enterprises. The latter was a parallel institution, established, as Humphrey described, for “agricultural experiments opening up virgin lands, [the] cross-breeding of animals and preparation fodder.”159 It was inhabited by both agricultural and pastoral people, who worked for the enterprise’s dairy farms to provide dairy products to the cities and fodder to the collectives.160 In times of extreme weather negdels organized state-level, cross-border, long distance otor movement to other jurisdictions with better pastoral conditions or to reserve pasture areas managed by state-owned enterprises. Hence, replacing the hoshuu with smaller sum and brigade units, and further, allocating some jurisdictional territories for various other state use (military and state enterprises) led to reduced jurisdictional territory.161 However, in general, the technical capacity and mechanized support of negdels made it possible to continue pursuing extensive mobility, combined with carefully allocated and controlled mobility routes, and repeated seasonal and/or cross-border long distance movement under strict supervision.162

Figure 4. Aimag administrative divisions of Mongolia, mostly reflecting the collective period borders.

Source: Courtesy of ANU Cartoservices.

The state also made changes to the first two fundamentals of the pastoral framework—tri-management pursuit of formal and informal control—by weakening the stability of the interdependent relationship - granting state agents more exclusive authority to micromanage the integrated governance of production components. Although the state maintained the historically integrated governance of production components, it nationalized the land and natural resources, which was legitimized under the 1940 Constitution as state property, as opposed to no mention of “state” and “property”, except ‘ard niitiin hurungu’ (people’s asset or ownership) in the 1924 Constitution.163 These constitutions were passed under the duress from Soviet Russia, abolishing the preceding aristocratic system and introducing the Soviet-style public governance in its satellite Mongolia.164 Also, in both state and collective enterprises, private ownership of livestock was restricted to fifty to seventy-five sheep, depending on family size, for household consumption for herders who worked on a monthly salary and were responsible for delivering livestock production to meet the negdel’s five-year plans.165 When herders lost livestock to predation or accident or were unable to meet the quota, they faced the party controlled state or collective punishment. Some called the negdel or state livestock as herding “yalny mal” or “yaltai mal” (livestock worth weighing punishment).166 This may have been a preexisting pattern since rulers, lords, and wealthy commoners, who had harvested most benefits themselves, would impose heavy taxes on subjects to pay off debts to Chinese traders, especially at the later end of the aristocratic regime.167 Nevertheless, the state also changed the preexisting khot ail into suuri, which consisted of two or more often nonrelated households pursuing specialized herding of small herds, horses, cattle, or camel separately.168 Collectives provided occasional labor support to suuri in times of severe weather or labor-intensive activities. During summer and autumn, they also organized often temporary heseg units of ten or more households to prepare hay or build shelters to complement the extra labor needs and seasonal dairy farming units. Collectives also assigned grazing territories to these units within a brigade territory under the supervision of the brigade leader. Although this assignment created less flexibility in movement, production was possible due to the small number of herders and livestock in each brigade. Perhaps due to this small resource use boundary, each suuri was only allowed a maximum of five hundred livestock in order to enable exclusive grazing within 3–5 km around the encampment.169

Besides centralizing the production of livestock, the state also centralized the labor market, imposing much stricter control over the movement of labor. This is due to the fact that labour had always been one of the critical means or components of the pastoral production that Mongolia had been facing shortage of labour in supporting collectivization and other industrial development.170 The state dispersed nomads throughout the country, relocating individuals to urban areas as well as to different state and collective pastoral and agricultural enterprises. Once relocated, these individuals were no longer able to transfer again unless approved by a collective or state enterprise party leadership, for the purpose of balancing human resources in line with the centralized production plan.171 Seemingly, this depicts ultimate control by the collectives over all aspects of production and pasture management, however, it should be emphasized that collectives still had to rely on herders’ customary knowledge and experience in pursuing mobility and selecting convenient encampments and pasture for specialized production. The leadership of many collectives lacked experience when introducing Soviet-style initiatives of intensifying pastoral production. These included, for instance, the cross-breeding of livestock for more productivity, which may have contributed to less mobility; badly constructed wells, which resulted in improper maintenance and use; poor choice of locations for campsites or uncomfortable small designs of winter and spring shelters, which caused livestock overcrowding and casualties; challenges of producing fodder and hay due to a lack of labor for fertilization, irrigation, harvesting, and transporting; and calculating the distance of hayfields from migration routes.172 Hence, they consulted with herders to adjust these to customary production rules and norms, particularly when rangeland conditions became less flexible and/or were restricted to the smallest brigade territory.173 In other words, the collective administration strictly oversaw the enforcement of tasks and duties of collective members, including controlled rotational and cross-border movements to rehabilitate pastures. This micromanagement also affected herders’ informal joint activities , which used to occur at the inter- and intra-household levels within the much larger hoshuu jurisdiction in the precollective period. Now, collectives restricted herders’ collaboration and networking within the brigade level.

Overall, beginning in this period, one could see the foundation for a systemic repeated use of pastoral resources coupled with rigid and small social and resource use boundaries and herders being fully dependent on the state and its formal mechanisms for micromanaging pastoral production. Hence, herders were left with either nominal (voting controlled by the party guidance in each enterprises) or minimal responsibilities of informal control over production. In other words, changes to what was left from the historical pastoral governance institution perhaps began with the contemporary socialist party-state, instilling a crack that led to initiating an imbalance in the historically interdependent tri-management, pursuing formal and informal control, and imposing stricter state control over the movement of production components.174

Pastoral Governance under a Market Economy

At the threshold of the new millennia, a dramatic change occurred in the nature of the Mongolian state and its way of adjusting pastoral and environmental governance to a new socioeconomic and political order. In the 1990s, Mongolians transitioned from a socialist totalitarian government with a centralized economy to a multiparty democratic government with a capitalist free market economy. Politicians, advised by international financial and bilateral institutions (e.g., the Asian Development Bank and United States Agency for International Development), introduced literal application of neo-liberal economic policy reforms which are largely based on Western development.175 They implemented the reforms without considering the fact that exclusive property regimes were built based on centuries long historical process of accumulating concentrated wealth in western societies, and how a version of this process in Mongolia had been misinterpreted and later interrupted abruptly in the twentieth century. Hence, the literal application of the reforms also lacked careful in-depth examinations of the socio-economic, political, historical and ecological contexts and backgrounds in Mongolia. The argument was to bring economic growth as a pillar to maintain Mongolia’s political independence in the postsocialist context.176 This contemporary state introduced exclusive property rights to natural resources, especially by prioritizing land privatization for the development of a land market, as opposed to the historical patterns of adjusting preceding governance of managing pastoral people.177 Highlighting the significance of the historical governance institutions, Sneath argued that

Mongolian pastoralism involves a series of specialist artifacts, skills and techniques, many of which are located in the pastoral domestic group (ail). But these practices are utilised as part of wider sociotechnical systems that includes the jural framework of rights and obligations, the district authorities, institutions of land-use and associated concepts of land itself. These configurations were also hierarchical political formations, and there is no doubt that the religious and political ideologies of the pre-revolutionary and collective eras served the interests of the managers of these structures. But these systems were not merely structures of domination, they reflect the technical constraints on production imposed by an externality—be that conceived of in spiritual or materialistic terms. Based as they were on pastoral mobility these sociotechnical systems tended to maintain and support it, and this seems to have provided a number of very real benefits for pastoralists.178

However, liberal policy initiatives essentially dismantled the pastoral governance institutions, disrupting the historical patterns of institutional arrangements to a changing sociopolitical order. These eventually came face to face with opposing interests of maintaining certain aspects of a historical pastoral and natural resources governance. The result was more likely incoherent and conflicting pastoral legislative, executive, and institutional environment.179 The aimag, sum, and bag units —the socialist period fragmentation instilled in the state territorial administration, was in general maintained, perhaps, to bring modernization into another level via industrialization and intensification of the rural economy (figure 4). Also, the state decentralization program recreated local comanagement governance (central government and self-governing local assembles) at each level. This worked only to the effect of weakening the responsibility and authority of local government over pastoral territory without historical supporting mechanisms such as control over the movement of labor and livestock and its taxation, and control over encampments as part of pasture.180 The state also created a legislative environment in which the local government’s financial autonomy was weakened and thus dependent on the central government. This is because (a) all major enterprises operating in local jurisdictions are registered in major urban centers, thus revenues from taxes do not contribute to local budgets, (b) local authorities have little or no means to raise revenue, especially when herders were exempted from livestock taxes, and (c) the central government system of allocating and transferring budgets to local jurisdictions, to which the latter are dependent for most of its budget, are unpredictable and inequitable.181 Hence, the decentralization program resulted in reconcentrating public and financial authority in the hands of top-level state actors, leaving local governments dependent on the central government, as occurred elsewhere.182

These reforms led the way to further dismantling the three fundamentals of the historical pastoral framework: (1) the interdependent tri-management pursuing (2) formal and informal control over (3) integrated governance (movement and market) of production components. In particular, the dismantling happened due to the removal of the statutory control mechanisms over the production components. First, regarding the livestock, the state removed the historical statutory mechanisms that worked to define the responsibilities of the agents in the interdependent tri-management enforcing formal and informal control in balancing the production components. In doing so, they privatized state and collective livestock along with its infrastructure and mechanical assets, leading to decollectivization. With the exception of allowing private ownership of livestock, the rest of the privatized assets ended up being broken down or lost due to an absence of state and collective control and maintenance and the private looting that took place during the chaotic and corrupt privatization process in Mongolia, as occurred in Russia.183 The collapse of the state and collective infrastructure ended up reducing the availability of pastoral resources within an already small territory and obstructed herders’ access to previously accessible pastoral areas. The privatization of livestock resulted in individual herding households controlling and micromanaging pastoral production. The preceding suuri, then, reverted back to a khot ail. Although the latter may have resembled its precollective form in terms of the herding of multispecies of livestock, individual households now served their own separate interests in micro-managing production needs and mobility as opposed to the collective micro-management. They were no longer under a command economy and functioned without any coordination or support from negdel party leadership as during socialism or an aristocratic lords’ control as in the precollective period.

The historical livestock tax was also removed. This statutory mechanism worked to balance the ratio of livestock to pastoral resources. The livestock tax changed from a 90 percent-waived benign tax to no tax by 2009. Herders do not pay a grazing fee, but only a tax on livestock (maliin huliin tatvar). After privatization the government adopted this more benign tax policy in order to avoid imposing an excessive tax burden on herders, and levied a special reduced income tax on herders. Thus, herders paid only 50 MNT (4 percent by 2000) per sheep unit with 100 percent exemption of tax from a twenty sheep unit per family member for the purpose of dealing with risks from severe weather conditions.184 Under the 2006 law, the amount of tax increased and fluctuated between 50–100 MNT per sheep unit depending on the province, with fewer and fewer exemptions being allowed. Under this law, they could obtain a discount on taxes by creating wells and for paying tuition fees for children attending university.185 However, in 2009, the government exempted herders from tax on livestock, due to heavy losses of livestock during the 2009 dzud (severe weather conditions - snow or dust storms - blocking access to pasture). The livestock tax did not earn a significant amount of revenue for the central government as it only covers 2 percent of the national budget, but it is important for the revenue of the sum government.186 This seemingly benevolent policy approach also meant that herders could now operate without the support of historical mechanisms to balance production components and secure access to pastoral resources. In particular, herders began to focus more on increasing livestock numbers in response to an ineffective market. Middlemen has been paying herders much lower prices for livestock products (e.g., for cashmere, or no value for some products, e.g., for sheepskins, cowhides, or wool) due to a lack of access to markets and microcredit schemes. They then sell at a much higher price in the urban markets, especially in China. Hence, keeping livestock numbers high, especially goats despite being harmful to pastures, would enable herders to sell more or use them as recovery from the aftereffects of severe weather, financial loss, or disease conditions.187 Also, they have been accommodating an increasing number of livestock within a small bag territory with no mechanical support to use pastures as effectively as they had during the collective period. This has led to a decrease in recovery time and rehabilitation for pastures, causing overgrazing and disputed use of all available pastoral resources.188

In fact, the eradication of the livestock tax diminished the historically interdependent relationship between the state, local authorities, and herders in demanding accountability from each other. Herders, paying no tax and allegedly causing land degradation, are now depicted as free riders on so-called “state land” or “public property”.189 This depiction perhaps justified the fact that some political and business elites called for promoting alternative economies to attain benefits from the land and reduce dependency on backward and economically ineffective and environmentally harmful pastoralism, or pursuing state appropriation of jurisdictional territories for exclusive rangeland management.190 Ironically, these problems were actually the outcome of state liberal reforms, eradicating the historically essential statutory control mechanisms (movement and market) of the pastoral institutions and abandoned critical sectors of the livestock and labor markets. For instance, the abandonment of socialist period factories for processing and using livestock products and veterinary services, not to mention mechanized pastoral mobility equipment. The development of these facilities and technical experts along with other sectors cost socialist Mongolia a massive amount in technical and financial aid (US$3 billion by 1986, worth US$8 million a year) from and in debt (9.5 billion roubles (Russian currency) by 1989) to Soviet Russia.191 These facilities were privatized, disbanded, and looted due to the corrupt process of privatization.192 These processes resulted in the preconditions for such detrimental socioenvironmental outcomes.193 In 2020, the state reintroduced the livestock tax to address issues of increasing numbers of livestock and overgrazing. It will take some time to gauge its effectiveness in balancing production components. In particular, decoupling the production components by removing the historical control mechanisms resulted in unorganized migration of livestock and labour between jurisdictions, which led to a shortage of herders and an increasing number of livestock (67.3 million in 2022), especially in the context of reduced pastoral resources.194 As of 2023, the state is brainstorming about levying grazing fees along with the draft pastureland law, and which is something quite different from a livestock tax.195 Combined, these tax initiatives could easily increase the burden on herders and may lead to an increase in livestock numbers as a response or additional pressure to give up the herding lifestyle.

Second, regarding the labor, the historical statutory control mechanism over herders’ movements was abolished, possibly for the first time in the history of the Mongolia, to liberalize the labor market. Privatization of state and collective assets led to massive unemployment, insecurity, and displacement. Many chose to go back to pastoralism as a safety net. This unorganized migration was legitimized by an amendment to the 1992 Constitution, the abolishment of control mechanism for labor, which allowed citizens the freedom to migrate and reside anywhere they wished.196 The latter, potentially, was based on the misconception of “free nomads” in order to abolish very strict, inflexible labor controls exercised during the socialist period. Massive migration trends since the 1990s, particularly from remote provinces, also indicate that removing labor controls could also be a reaction to preexisting sociopolitical friction toward who would control state central power that was embedded in the political history of Mongolia. Nevertheless, the state imposed only civil registrations of in-and-out migration for statistical purposes instead of controlling herders’ movements for balancing production components and for public and environmental governance. As opposed to the past, this resulted in unorganized migration, displacement, and resettlement, which are often subject to no jurisdictional control, leading to a massive concentration of population, urbanization, and urban environmental pollution. In particular, by the mid-1990s, the small bag territory was inhabited by increasing numbers of herders, made up of two categories: those with generations of herding experience or those with limited or no experience. By the 2000s, many who had lost their livestock to dzud severe weather had returned to the urban areas. This speedy urbanization came with another wave of rural-to-rural migration, especially after 2010. Herders from remote provinces followed urban relatives and came to reside in large urban areas or nearby centrally located aimags and sums. These three different waves of uncontrolled migration took a significant toll on hosting jurisdictions by artificially increasing human and livestock populations and caused disputes over access to pastures and water resources.197 Migration also led to a shortage of human resources in both the public and pastoral sectors in rural areas. This has already affected herders in all living conditions, albeit for establishing a broader pastoral network, reciprocity, pooling labor, social safety nets, marriage and securing access to pastoral resources within and between different jurisdictions.198

Third, regarding pastures, statutory control over pastoral territory shifted to control land or natural resources, dis-embedding pastureland management from pastoral production management as in the past. Hence since 1990s, the state has become responsible for land, whereas herders have been responsible for balancing the production components. However, the latter have been struggling due to large numbers of livestock coupled with less mobility, restrictions within small jurisdictions, and a lack of support of pre-collective time statutory coordinating mechanisms or collective time mechanized supports. In particular, the state exercises exclusive authority over land, while the weakened financial authority of sum government (comanagement of local government and local self-governing people’s assembly) is further restricted only to cadastral survey, mapping and record keeping of land, and civil registration toward developing the real estate market.199 Hence, the local government exercises largely nominal authority over labor and pastoral territory without the significant ability to balance production components or maintain pastoral territory and its productivity. The demise of a historical formal authority is exacerbated by the fact that politicians wrangled about introducing land reforms toward developing real estate markets. This is reflected in another liberal initiative—the introduction of exclusive individual rights to encampments, while leaving the surrounding pasture as a public resource under the authority of the sum and bag government. This dis-embedded the concept of encampments and pasture as an inseparable migratory pastoral resource. It also resulted in increasing the number of encampments and a semi-sedentarization, reducing distance between encampments and leading to overgrazing. For instance, highlighting the impact from legal possession of encampments, herders from the Herlen Bayan-Ulaan case were concerned that many new encampments were too close to each other, sometimes less than 500 m. An experienced herder also articulated that there were not and are not supposed to be this many encampments so close to each other as it obstructs the spaciousness of the pasture.200 Regarding the interdependent relations, the state abandoned its legislative responsibility to balance production components and maintain the variability in herd species, mobility, and vegetation in different ecological zones. By employing a mechanism of cadastral survey mapping of jurisdictional territory and land taxation for a developing land market, they promoted economic diversification via exclusive and alternative uses of land for tourism, and/or extractive industries, agriculture, or state special use areas such as protected or reserve areas. For instance, as done in Africa, they attempted to adjust pastoralism to capitalism mainly by promoting intensive ranch-style livestock husbandry, ironically claiming large pastoral territories for planting fodder (forage for the latter) and for other agricultural purposes.201 This is in response to losses of livestock from extreme weather events and disease, to ensure food security, and to meet market demand.202 This would require exclusive land ownership or entitlement to address disputes between pastoralists and agriculturalists, thus already confronting land disputes due to the existing complexities that emerge from transforming pastoral land to alternative uses.203 In other words, the state is shifting from its historical approach of adjusting pastoralism to reforming the institutions when transitioning to a changing sociopolitical order. This time around, these manifestations appear rather unsustainable and antagonistic toward obtaining benefits from dry-land ecology.

In fact, these liberal reforms provided an avenue for international development advocates who interpreted pastoralism from the perspective of a contemporary exclusive property regime. Following the popularity of the concept of community-based natural resource management among development programs, the Mongolian government introduced group tenure, in which pastoral resources could potentially be leased (currently under a usage right) to a small number of neighboring herders, upon the condition that they organize themselves as an exclusive group. Despite Ostrom highlighted the need for going beyond one approach for strengthening the management of common pool resources (pastoral land among others), they conformed to her institutional design principles for collective institutions, arguing that herder group is based on traditional (customary) collective action. Nevertheless, these herder groups were advocated to be much smaller in size than a bag, and have clearly defined social and resource use boundaries.204 This involves a fewer number of neighboring households controlling their immediate seasonal pastures as a customary neg nutag usniihan unit (people who use the same territory and water resources) and pursuing collective management, thus could potentially function as a new basic sociopolitical unit.205 In other words, changing the form of state or public property to a form of exclusive nested group tenure may appear to be a particularly sound option, especially when formal authorities have lost the ability to control the movement of human, livestock, and natural resources.

However, whether exclusive herder groups reflect a customary collective action institution, or arguably a neg nutag usniihan or local community, or even historical units of aravt and horin, is a matter of debate. In particular, historically, the questions of forms that herders’ joint activities took, who was involved, and whether these constituted a collective action institution remain a matter of debate. Some argue that herders collaborate as a neg nutag usniihan, a customary unit or local grouping, which could represent a collective action institution.206 For instance, on hishig udur (the day of receiving share, fortune, grace, gifts, honor, or donations, usually from wealthy lords or commoners to inferiors), Bazargur argued herders from a neg nutag usniihan collaborated under the supervision and facilitation of their lords and monastery offices, and corresponded to their jurisdictional socioeconomic and political centers.207 Some also argued that neg nutag usniihan derived from the term nutag or “family territory.”208 In contrast, others argued that herders did/do collaborate on joint activities, but there were/are no such stable institution as a neg nutag usniihan, as the latter is an abstract term and the stable units were attributed only to the state territorial administration. Herders’ informal joint activities were based on a kin or social network of herding households beyond the neighborhood.209 The latter could easily be realized in the context of aimag or hoshuu with large social and resource use boundaries that prevailed in the precollective period, or in a cross-border context between much smaller bags and sums, which prevails in the postsocialist period. Also, such exclusive tenure by small size herder groups contradicts with jurisdictional needs of all bag or sum herders, regardless of their wealth, for broader and various patterns of joint pastoral activities (going on otor, trade, and other labor intensive activities) and diverse seasonal and distance herding (family splitting, seasonal herding, and the control of absentee herd owners) and mobility patterns within and between different jurisdictions.210 This is not to mention the challenges of herder groups addressing issues of equity and equality within the groups in securing access to pastoral resources as envisioned in the project design without external support.211 Besides, herder group initiative faces further challenges of addressing in-migrant or visiting herders with powerful political connections pursue cross-border mobilities at the expense of local herders, regardless of wealth. Hitherto, it has been challenging for broader pastoral communities to conform to exclusive group tenure form.212 Moreover, the concept of a neg nutag usniihan is problematic for elucidating community or a collective action institution, particularly when the term nutag (roughly “homeland”) is rather abstract. Lattimore defined nutag as “the territory within which you are always moving about” instead of a fixed place.213 This definition is still attributable, especially since in-migrant herders these days consider their destinations as “new” nutag.214 The 1990s freedom of choosing residential areas expanded the horizon of herders’ territory for seasonal and distance mobilities beyond one jurisdiction.215 Therefore, the concept of neg nutag usniihan or whatever the “community” stands for requires further investigation as to whether it constitutes a collective action institution.

Additionally, literal interpretion of pastoral institutions from the perspective of Western-oriented property regimes approach also face challenges of defining what sort of resource-governing regime prevails in Mongolia. The property regimes approach often regarded natural resources to be managed under exclusive forms of either state, private, communal, or open access, or a combination. For instance, Griffin suggested specifying property rights as clearly as possible, since “No one in Mongolia owns the vast grassland of the steppe: no one regulates the use of land. Anyone may graze their livestock on this common land and everyone is free to graze as many animals as they wish.”216 Ickowitz defined it as “traditional open-access property rights” in Mongolia, which would lead to a “Tragedy of the Commons” under an incentive-oriented market system.217 However, Upton argued for a combination of regimes “while pastureland [in Mongolia] remains under state ownership, it is de facto managed as common property.”218 In fact, instead of the absence of a property institution, the author continued, the institutional arrangement currently portrays institutional bricolage, where, in postsocialist Mongolian land tenure, custom was contested in terms of enforcing pasture use rules and norms.219 Further, in expanding the debate beyond the property regime, Undargaa argued for a production-oriented regime, which involves multilevel agents pursuing formal and informal control mechanisms (e.g livestock tax , labor control and pasture use rules and norms) over the movement of human and natural resources.220 In 2020, the constitutional amendment changed “state property” to “state public property,” formalizing that which was already in the 1996 law on state and local administration property.221 These debates indicate the ambiguities, which prevail in defining the resource governance regime in Mongolia. In other words, it leads back to the very debate of understanding primary means or productive resources in pastoralism.

Meanwhile, the central government maintained a macroeconomic policy approach to deal with pastoralism. They subsidized or lobbied, for instance, the cashmere industry to benefit from foreign markets, or promoted livestock increases by reducing or halting the livestock tax, microfinancing or restocking, and later demanding the “best herders” prioritize quality over quantity to balance available pastures.222 Considering the absence of a supporting legislative environment and the extent of damage caused from dismantling the national-level pastoral governance framework, these measures are counterproductive to addressing the actual challenges. These include herders’ unorganized intermigration, some of which has been supported and facilitated by powerful business and political elites or absentee herd owners in urban areas, increasing livestock numbers, indebtedness, pastoral resource disputes, and overgrazing, affecting many local herders on the ground.223 These policy reforms, overall, resulted in detrimental social and environmental outcomes as well as institutional dilemma. Resource disputes occur among herders (in-migrant, visiting otor and local herders, regardless of wealth) within and between jurisdictions. Hence, it also occur between herders and other agents due to appropriating pastoral territories in murky processes and/or converting pastoral territory into alternative economic use. For instance, these actors have been disputing over access to winter campsites or agrarian cultivation on summer pastures in the Herlen Bayan-Ulaan Reserve Pasture case. These disputes often build into triggering resource conflicts within and between different state and non-state agents, and jurisdictional authorities at local and national levels due to historically contested claims over rural jurisdictional territories.224 In reality, this indicates that open access prevailed more within the formal framework—state-level legislative and management environment.225 As a result, this left local authorities and herders exposed to vulnerability, often having to persevere on their own—relying on informal rules and norms and depending upon the collaborative ability of herders within their networks and beyond with formal agents at the local, national and even international level.226


In Mongolia, besides changing climatic conditions (also caused by human induced activities), 1990s liberal reforms have also contributed to creating socioeconomic vulnerabilities and environmental degradation. It dismantled a historic pastoral institutions by radically changing the historical approaches of adjusting the institutional framework to new political orders. In particular, the poorly applied liberal reforms contradicted enduring patterns of historical governance of mobile pastoralism, creating a conflicting legislative and executive environment.227 These are partly due to initiatives promoted by international development, and bilateral and financial institutions, which promoted and financed one side of the debate more than the other regarding the subject matter and exacerbated power imbalances between political and economic factions over introducing resource liberalization reforms or biodiversity conservation at the expense of dismantling pastoral institutions. Perhaps these external influences have exploited (a) preexisting deeply historical, conflicting interests of controlling access to central power or factionalism as a historical trait in Mongolia, and (b) competing development trajectories between resource liberalization to promote alternative economies by developing the land and labor market or maintaining historical territorial claims under the state territorial administration to practice pastoralism. These liberal reforms resulted in diminishing the roles of national- and local-level authorities and the pastoral residents in resource governance by overlooking the historically interdependent responsibilities between rulers, local governors, and the residents in the past. Instead of adjusting pastoralism to market economy by weighing the primary productive resources, the current state prioritized alternative economies (e.g, agriculture and intensive livestock husbandry), which are largely dependent on land market and exclusive individual or state property forms over natural resource management. This has major implications for dismantling the functions of historical pastoral institutions, significant for supporting variability in herding modes of multiple livestock species in different ecological zones to maintain old growth rangeland conditions, and deteriorating public and environmental governance at both the pastoral and urban context in Mongolia.

Discussion of the Literature

Pastoralism in Mongolia is filled with many puzzles, and misconceptions, beginning with questions of its efficiency, productivity, and resilience as an option for supporting livelihoods, the political economy, food security, and the natural environment in an Arctic dry-land ecology. Among many unexplored areas, a few essential aspects of pastoralism draw particular attention. First, engaging with the question of whether land or livestock is the primary productive resource, or all of the above, including labor, that shape pastoral governance is critical for those who devise development research and policy initiatives toward working with mobile pastoral people. Here, gaining insight into formal level institutions, for instance, the debate of whether Inner Asia was tribal or state-like in governance, would contribute to unpacking a universal misconception about so-called “customary institutions” in Mongolia and elsewhere.228 This is particularly true when international development often relies on so-called “customary institutions” when transforming pastoral institutions to changing socioeconomic orders. They have heavily relied on literal interpretation of Western-oriented exclusive property regimes to apply individual, state and group regimes to address the problem of open access, which arguably prevailed in Mongolia to some extent. However, without exploring, beyond the property rights approach, the underlying issues to how and why open access may have happened, and without questioning what constitutes state and customary or group institutions in the context of Mongolian pastoralism, they struggle to reform pastoral and property institutions and protect pastoralists’ property rights and access to natural resources.229 Examining the concept of customary institutions is also crucial to understanding what constitutes a community in the pastoral context. This enquiry, particularly in the pastoral context, would lead to examining changes of basic sociopolitical administrative units and implications of whether or not historical state/military administrative units, especially the smallest units of sum, horin or aravt households, had ever represented in the ancient past a community group and defined its social and resource use boundaries, and fulfilled functions of public administration or land management. These inquiries into community sociopolitical roles have particular implications in strengthening public and environmental governance of contemporary Mongolia in the pastoral context.

Ambiguities instilled in the concept of community and its role in resource governance also reflect uncertainties in understanding the primary production unit, as existed, in an informal level institution. Much contemporary research has been dependent on historical enquiries about huree (a large group of households), or when khot ail really emerged and whether these were really a primary production unit.230 If they existed, if they were a primary production unit composed of more than two herding households, if they were purely kinship-based or non-kin-based networks, and if these households pursued similar mobility patterns seasonally or all year around are questions of great importance for determining the extent of flexibility and the temporal nature that would characterize the primary production unit. In fact, enquiry about household-level governance also concerns the question of leadership: who among elders, or experienced and respected ones who acted as leaders, acted for land management or just within specific administrative or social responsibility roles.231 Further, in what form did these households pursue collaboration—based on a small number of neighborhood households as a neg nutag usniihan or a network of nonneighborhood-based herding households, or in a pattern of informal joint action?232

These discussions on multilayered resource governance institutions inevitably touches upon the theme of property relations in pastoralism. First, understanding mobile pastoralists’ joint activities within and beyond jurisdictions at an informal level elicits questions of herders’ mobility as an essential aspect of mobile pastoralism. In fact, regarding historical control over the movement of labor in the pastoral context, herders’ operating in an open rangeland and pursuing free-range grazing with freedom of movement, or really, the flexibility in movement, is subject to further study. This could help unpack misleading ideas about pastoralism which inevitably shaped the outcomes of the ways in which critical aspects of historical governance institutions in Mongolia were misinterpreted in the past.233 Second, to a great extent, the theme of property relations in Mongolian pastoralism is concerned with the ways in which an interdependent relationship between the state, jurisdictional authorities, and their residents in owning and/or managing not just livestock and/or land, but all three essential production components including labor, have changed during the course of history. In particular, exploring details of who, among the state and local authorities, were/are responsible for which resources (livestock, land, and labor) and governing mechanisms that enabled flexibility in movement or the pursuit of open access is essential. Third, it is critical to acknowledge the fact that it has been challenging to define which property or resource governing regime prevails in Mongolia. Fourth, debate about a systematic interpretation of pastoral institutions in Mongolia regarding an overall production-oriented regime and its framework is also subject to further examination, in its historical and contemporary contexts. The particularities are of exploring more or less potentially critical fundamentals, and the formal and informal control over integrated governance of livestock and labor, and their movements, markets, and the tax issues, other than land. Last but not least, upon understanding which type of regime prevails, is how to consider whether to maintain the functions, or to change the form of the regime when promoting socioeconomic and climate change adaptation.234

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2007 SER72 Mongols in the 20th Century (2) (in Mongolian).

2007 SER67 A.D. Simukov; Works about Mongolia and for Mongolia Vol.2 (in Russian).

2007 SER66 A.D. Simukov; Works about Mongolia and for Mongolia Vol.1 (in Russian).

  • Larson, Frans A. Duke of Mongolia. Boston: Little, Brown, and Company, 1930.

MIASU, University of Cambridge, its library, database and catalogue, Lattimore collection and field data collection

Institute of history and ethnology, Mongolian Academy of Science

American Center for Mongolian Studies

Further Reading

  • Atwood, Christopher. “Banner, Otog, Thousand: Appanage Communities as the Basic Unit of Traditional Mongolian Societies.” Mongolian Studies XXXIV (2012): 1–76.
  • Charles R Bawden, The Modern History of Mongolia. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1968.
  • Bazargur, Damba. Belcheeriin mal aj ahuin gazar zui [Geography of pastoralism]. Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia: Mongolian Academy of Science, 1998.
  • Bold, Bat-Ochir. Mongolian Nomadic Society: A Reconstruction of the “Medieval” History of Mongolia. Richmond, UK: Curzon Press, 2001.
  • Broadbridge, Anna F. Women and the Making of the Mongol Empire. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2018.
  • Endicott, Elizabeth. A History of Land Use in Mongolia. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012.
  • Erdenetsogt, Nalgar. Mongolyn nuudliin mal aj ahui (Mongolian Pastoralism). Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia: MMM Association, 1998.
  • Fernandez-Gimenez, Maria E. “Sustaining the Steppes: A Geographical History of Pastoral Land Use in Mongolia.” The Geographical Review 89, no. 3 (1999): 31–336.
  • Humphrey, Caroline. “Pastoral Nomadism in Mongolia: The Role of Herdsmen’s Cooperatives in the National Economy.” Development and Change 9 (1978): 133–160.
  • Humphrey, Caroline, and David Sneath. The End of Nomadism? Society, State and the Environment in Inner Asia. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1999.
  • Jagchid, Sechin, and Paul Hyer. Mongolia’s Culture and Society. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1979.
  • Khazanov, Anatoly M. Nomads and the Outside World (1983). Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1994.
  • Lattimore, Owen. Mongol Journeys. New York: Doubleday, Doran, 1941.
  • Mearns, Robin. “Decentralisation, Rural Livelihoods and Pasture-Land Management in Post Socialist Mongolia.” European Journal of Development Research 16, no. 1 (2004): 133–152.
  • Munkh-Erdene, Lhamsuren. The Taiji Government and the Rise of the Warrior State: The Formation of the Qing Imperial Constitution. Leiden, The Netherlands, and Boston: Brill, 2022.
  • Natsagdorj, Shagdarjav. “Main Characters of Feudalism: The Mongolian Society as an Example.” XIV International Congress of Historical Sciences. San Francisco, 1975.
  • Simukov, Andrei D. “Bazy Sovmonbunera1) v svyazi s administrativnym deleniyem MNR i sushyestvuyushimi administrativno-economicheskimi tsentrami.” In Trudy o Mongolii i dlya Mongolii Tom 3, Chast (Simukov Works about Mongolia and for Mongolia). Edited by Yuki Konagaya, Sanjaasurengiin Bayaraa, and Ichinkhorloogiin Lkhagvasuren, Vol. 2, 61–64. Osaka, Japan: Gosudarstvyennyi muzei etnologii, 1933.
  • Sneath, David. “Social Relations, Networks and Social Organisation in Post-Socialist Rural Mongolia.” Nomadic Peoples 33 (1993): 193–207.
  • Sneath, David. The Headless State. New York: Columbia University Press, 2007.
  • Undargaa, Sandagsuren. Pastoralism and Common Pool Resources: Rangeland Comanagement, Property Rights and Access in Mongolia. Oxon and New York: Routledge, 2016.
  • Upton, Caroline. “‘Custom’ and Contestation: Land Reform in Post-Socialist Mongolia,” World Development 37, no. 8 (2009): 1400—1410.
  • Vainshtein, Sevyan. Nomads of South Siberia. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1980.
  • Vreeland, Herbert, H. Mongol Community and Kinship Structure. New Haven, CT: Human Relations Area Files, 1954.


  • 1. Charles R Bawden, The Modern History of Mongolia (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1968).

  • 2. The infants’ fontanel is used broadly and metaphorically for many things thin and fragile. For instance, the poet D. Purevdorj, in his well-known poem “Segs Tsagaan Bogd,” also wrote that in Gobi “pasture is as small as belly button and is as thin as an infant’s fontanel . . .” (Huisen chinee zulgen gazraa huuhdiin zulai shig numgen bilee . . .). D. Purevdorj, “Segs Tsagaan Bogd,” in Mongoliin Uran Zohioliin Deejis (The best of the Mongolian Literature), ed. L. Tudev, Series 36 (Ulaanbaatar: Gazriin Zurag Ltd, 1998).

  • 3. The author borrowed the idea of “drawing benefits from pastoralism” from Sneath’s concept of pastoralism as a sociotechnical system in David Sneath, “Notions of Rights over Land and the History of Mongolian Pastoralism,” Inner Asia 3 (2001): 41–58.

  • 4. The earliest Eurasian pastoral societies are discussed as not being as “purely” nomadic as the mobile and equestrian mobile pastoral societies developed later in time. See David Sneath, The Headless State (New York: Columbia University Press, 2007), 123. Cavalli-Sforza (1996) cited in Sneath, Headless State, 122; Anatoly M. Khazanov, Nomads and the Outside World (1983) (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1994), 90–91; and Francis Allard and Diimaajav Erdenebaatar, “Khirigsuurs, Ritual and Mobilty in the Bronze Age of Mongolia,” Antiquity 79 (2005): 547–563.

  • 5. Sneath, Headless State, 122.

  • 6. Elizabeth Endicott, A History of Land Use in Mongolia (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012).

  • 7. Owen Lattimore, Nomads and Commissars: Mongolia Revisited (New York: Oxford University Press, 1962), 36.

  • 8. Khazanov, Nomads and the Outside World, 89.

  • 9. Saverio Kratli and Ilse Koehler-Rollefson, Pastoralism: Making Variability Work (Rome: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 2021), 1–9.

  • 10. Shagdarjav Natsagdorj, “Main Characters of Feudalism: The Mongolian Society as an Example,” XIV International Congress of Historical Sciences, San Francisco (1975), 1–19. Also see Kratli and Koehler-Rollefson, Pastoralism, 1–9.

  • 11. Gunj Suhbaatar, Mongol Nirun Uls (Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia: Erdem, 1992), 81; and Manual Komroff, Contemporaries of Marco Polo (New York: Boni & Liveright, 1928), 59.

  • 12. Suhbaatar, Mongol Nirun Uls, 81.

  • 13. Sneath, Headless State, 20 & 139.

  • 14. Caroline Humphrey and David Sneath, The End of Nomadism? Society, State and the Environment in Inner Asia (Durham: Duke University Press, 1999), 225.

  • 15. Gregory Myers and Peter E. Hetz. Property Rights and Land Privatization: Issues for Success in Mongolia (Washington, DC and Vermont: USAID, 2004), 14; also see William Easterly, The White Man’s Burden (New York: The Penguin Press, 2006), 270, for “the complicated mixes of international and domestic governance structure” in the context of political and economic instabilities; and Donald J. Bedunah and Sabine Schmidt, “Pastoralism and Protected Area Management in Mongolia’s Gobi Gurvansaikhan National Park,” Development and Change 35, no. 1 (2004): 167–191.

  • 16. Sandagsuren Undargaa, Pastoralism and Common Pool Resources: Rangeland Comanagement, Property Rights and Access in Mongolia (Oxon and New York: Routledge, 2016).

  • 17. Elinor Ostrom, “Reflections on the Commons,” in Governing the Commons: The Evolution of Institutions for Collective Action, ed. Elinor Ostrom (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1990), 1–28; and David Sneath, “Property Regimes and Sociotechnical Systems: Rights over Land in Mongolia’s ‘Age of the Market,’” in Property in Question: Value Transformation in the Global Economy, ed. Katherine Verdery and Caroline Humphrey (Oxford and New York: Berg, 2004), 161–182.

  • 18. Elinor Ostrom, Joanna Burger, Christopher B. Field, Richard B. Norgaard, and David Policansky, “Revisiting the Commons: Local Lessons, Global Challenges,” Science 284 (1999): 278–282.

  • 19. Undargaa, Pastoralism and Common Pool Resources, 7.

  • 20. Arun Agrawal and Elinor Ostrom, “Collective Action, Property Rights, and Decentralization in Resource Use in India and Nepal,” Politics and Society 29, no. 4 (2001): 485–514.

  • 21. Kratli and Koehler-Rollefson, Pastoralism, 1–9; Roy Behnke, “Open Access and the Sovereign Commons: A Political Ecology of Pastoral Land Tenure,” Land Use Policy 76 (2018): 708–718; ; and Mark Moritz, “Open Property Regimes,” International Journal of the Commons 10, no. 2 (2016): 688–708; and Lance W. Robinson, “Open property and complex mosaics: variants in tenure regimes across pastoralist social-ecological systems”, International Journal of the Commons 13, no. 1 (2019): 804-826.

  • 22. Ostrom, “Revisiting the Commons,” 278–282.

  • 23. See for ‘state governance’ at Sneath, “Notions of Rights over Land,” 41–58; See for ‘the two historical governance fundamentals’ at Undargaa, Pastoralism and Common Pool Resources, 236; See for ‘pre-collective and collective period informal/formal norms’ or ‘dual control’ or co-management at Maria E. Fernandez-Gimenez, “Sustaining the Steppes: A Geographical History of Pastoral Land Use in Mongolia,” The Geographical Review 89, no. 3 (1999): 321; Robin Mearns, Pastoral Institutions, Land Tenure and Land Policy Reform in Post-Socialist Mongolia. PALD Research Report No. 3 (Brighton, England: University of Sussex, 1993) ; Undargaa, Pastoralism and Common Pool Resources, 59; and see for ‘the integrated governance of livestock, labour and land’ at Nalgar Erdenetsogt, Mongolyn nuudliin mal aj ahui (Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia: MMM Association, 1998); Damba Bazargur, Belcheeriin mal aj ahuin gazar zui (Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia: Mongolian Academy of Science, 1998); and Owen Lattimore, Mongol Journeys (New York: Doubleday, Doran, 1941), 122.

  • 24. Another essential aspect of understanding pastoralism in Mongolia is the comprehensive understanding of the geopolitical context in Central Asia and the political relationship between agricultural and nomadic societies throughout the history.

  • 25. Anatoly M. Khazanov, Nomads and the Outside World, trans. Julia Crookenden (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1994), 198–262; Anatoly M. Khazanov, “Review of David Sneath, the Headless State: Aristocratic Orders, Kinship Society, and the Misrepresentation of Nomadic Inner Asia,” Social Evolution & History 9, no. 2 (2010): 206–208; and Nikolai N. Kradin, “Heterarchy and Hierarchy among the Ancient Mongolian Nomads,” Social Evolution & History 10, no. 1 (2011): 187–214.

  • 26. Christopher Atwood, “Banner, Otog, Thousand: Appanage Communities as the Basic Unit of Traditional Mongolian Societies,” Mongolian Studies XXXIV (2012): 1–76; and Sneath, Headless State, 123–156.

  • 27. Sneath, Headless State, 3.

  • 28. Sneath, Headless State, 2007, 20 and 139.

  • 29. The number of these military state polities differ from 9–12. Grousset (1970) estimated as: (a) the Hsiung-nu (of proto-Turkic) in the 3rd century bce, (b) the Hsien-pi (Mongol stock) in the 3rd century ce , (c) the Juan-Juan (Mongol stock) in the 5th century ce, (d) T’u-chueh Turks in the 6th century ce, (e) Uigur Turks in the 8th century ce, (f) Kirghiz in the 9th century ce, (g) the Khidan (Mongol stock) in 10th century ce, (h) the Kerayit or Naiman (Turkic) in the 12th century ce, and (i) the Mongols in the 13th century ce (p. xxiv). Also, reflecting what Grousset implied as some of these early groups were predecessors of Mongols, Suhbaatar (1992) estimated twelve of them and highlighted that the predecessors of 13th century Mongols used to live in the Orhon, Tuul and Herlen River valleys and later moved east to the Onon River valley (p. 7). Rene Grousset, The Empire of the Steppes: A History of Central Asia (New Brunswick, NJ, and London: Rutgers, 1970); Suhbaatar, Mongol Nirun Uls, 7; and also see D. Tseveendorj, Mongol Ulsiin Tuuh: Terguun boti (History of Mongolia: Book I), Institute of History, Science Academy of Mongolia (Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia: ADMON, 2004). See for the 4th century Huns at Christopher P. Atwood, Encyclopedia of Mongolia and the Mongol Empire (Bloomington: Indiana University, 2004), 595–596.

  • 30. Atwood, Encyclopedia of Mongolia, 139; Sneath, Headless State, 168; and Lhamsuren Munkh-Erdene, “Political Order in Pre-Modern Eurasia: Imperial Incorporation and the Hereditary Divisional System,” Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, Third Series 26, no. 4 (2016): 633–655.

  • 31. Thomas T. Allsen, “Mongolian Princes and Their Merchant Partners, 1200–1260,” Asia Major, Third Series 2, no. 2 (1989): 83–126; and Elizabeth Endicott-West, “Merchant Associations in Yuan China: The ‘Ortoy,’” Asia Minor, Third Series, 2, no. 2 (1989): 127–154.

  • 32. Sneath, Headless State, 168.

  • 34. Boris Vladimortsov, The Life of Chinggis-Khan (1930) (New York: Benjamin Blom, 1969), 6–8.

  • 34. Vladimortsov, Life of Chinggis-Khan (1930), 6–8.

  • 35. Peter Heather, Empires and Barbarians: Fall of Rome and the Birth of Europe (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010), 230.

  • 36. Vladimortsov, Life of Chinggis-Khan, 5–6; and Komroff, Contemporaries of Marco Polo, 95.

  • 37. Vladimortsov, Life of Chinggis-Khan, 3–4.

  • 38. Nicola D. Cosmo, “Environmental Stress and Steppe Nomads: Rethinking the History of the Uyghur Empire (744-840) with Paleoclimate Data,” Journal of Interdisciplinary History XLVIII, no. 4 (2018): 439–463.

  • 39. See the alternative and detailed version of a map from the same period in Atwood, Encyclopedia of Mongolia, 390.

  • 40. Bat-Ochir Bold, Mongolian Nomadic Society: A Reconstruction of the “Medieval” History of Mongolia (Richmond, UK: Curzon Press, 2001); and Shagdarjav Natsagdorj, Sum, hamjlaga, shavi, ard (Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia: Academy of Science, 1972).

  • 41. Atwood, “Banner, Otog, Thousand,” 1–76; and Sneath, Headless State, 4.

  • 42. Natsagdorj, Sum, hamjlaga, shavi, ard, 12–14; and Anne F. Broadbridge, Women and the Making of the Mongol Empire (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2018)

  • 43. Broadbridge, Women and the Making, 108.

  • 44. Broadbridge, Women and the Making, 107–109, 128–129; and Heather, Empires and Barbarians, 227–237.

  • 45. Natsagdorj, Sum, hamjlaga, shavi, ard, 8, 15–17 .

  • 46. Atwood, “Banner, Otog, Thousand,” 19–20; Sneath, Headless State, 113; and Munkh-Erdene, “Political Order in Pre-Modern Eurasia,” 633–655.

  • 47. Atwood, “Banner, Otog, Thousand,” .

  • 48. Bold, Mongolian Nomadic Society, 116–129; and Natsagdorj, Sum, hamjlaga, shavi, ard, 53–122.

  • 49. Natsagdorj, Sum, hamjlaga, shavi, ard, 18–22; See also for the sixteenth century as the first recorded use of otog, according to Atwood, “Banner, Otog, Thousand,” 1–76.

  • 50. Natsagdorj, Sum, hamjlaga, shavi, ard, 9.

  • 51. For instance see many examples of subjects being distributed to different lords after the conquests in Tsend Damdinsuren, Secret History of Mongolia, ed. Sh Gaadamba (Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia: State Printing Place, 1976); and Sneath, Headless State, 97.

  • 52. Tsend Damdinsuren, Mongolyn nuuts tovchoo, ed. Sh Gaadamba (Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia: State Printing Place, 1976), 236–237.

  • 53. Bold, Mongolian Nomadic Society, 57.

  • 54. Owen Lattimore, Manchuria Cradle of Conflict (Toronto: The Macmillan Company of Canada, 1932), 49; and Mongol Journeys, 209.

  • 55. Damdinsuren, Mongolyn nuuts tovchoo, 236–237.

  • 56. Komroff, Contemporaries of Marco Polo, 58–59.

  • 57. Komroff, Contemporaries of Marco Polo, 96.

  • 58. Bold, Mongolian Nomadic Society, 67; and Natsagdorj, “Main Characters of Feudalism,” 1–19.

  • 59. Natsagdorj, “Main Characters of Feudalism,” 1–19.

  • 60. Sneath, Headless State, 182.

  • 61. Natsagdorj, Sum, hamjlaga, shavi, ard, 24–25; and Atwood, “Banner, Otog, Thousand,” 19–20.

  • 62. Elizabeth Endicott, Pages from the Past: The 1910 Moscow Trade Expedition to Mongolia (Manchester, UK: Eastbridge Books, 2007), xxxviii–xxxix; and Natsagdorj, Sum, hamjlaga, shavi, ard, 24–25.

  • 63. Natsagdorj, Sum, hamjlaga, shavi, ard, 24–25; Lhamsuren Munkh-Erdene, The Taiji Government and the Rise of the Warrior State: The Formation of the Qing Imperial Constitution (Leiden, The Netherlands, and Boston: Brill, 2022), 3.

  • 64. Natsagdorj, Sum, hamjlaga, shavi, ard, 55–56.

  • 65. Natsagdorj, Sum, hamjlaga, shavi, ard, 23–26; and Lhamsuren Munkh-Erdene, “The 1640 Great Code: An Inner Asian parallel to the Treaty of Westphalia,” Central Asian Survey 29, no. 3 (2010): 278.

  • 66. Natsagdorj, Sum, hamjlaga, shavi, ard, 22–24.

  • 67. Atwood, “Banner, Otog, Thousand,” 4.

  • 68. The National Statistical Office, Mongolia, 2022; Baterdene Baabar, Twentieth Century Mongolia, ed. C. Kaplonski (Kent, UK: Global Oriental, 2005) ; and Natsagdorj, Sum, hamjlaga, shavi, ard, 27.

  • 69. Sevyan Vainshtein, Nomads of South Siberia (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1980), 19; and Atwood, “Banner, Otog, Thousand,” 4.

  • 70. Herbert H. Vreeland, Mongol Community and Kinship Structure (New Haven, CT: Human Relations Area Files, 1954), 34–42.

  • 71. Vreeland, Mongol Community and Kinship, 42–45.

  • 72. Munkh-Erdene, “Political Order in Pre-Modern Eurasia,” 637–638.

  • 73. Munkh-Erdene, Taiji Government and the Rise, 315-325; Atwood, Encyclopedia of Mongolia, 5; D. Regsuren and A. Baljinnyam, BNMAU: Arhangai aimagiin Tuuh (Tsetserleg, Mongolia: ADH Guitsetgeh Zahirgaa, Arhangai aimgiin namiin horoo, 1973), 15; and Gunj Suhbaatar and Lhamsuren Jamsran, BNMAU tuuhiin deej bichig I (Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia: Suhbaatar Printing Press, 1968), 131.

  • 74. Natsagdorj, Sum, hamjlaga, shavi, ard, 55–56.

  • 75. David Sneath, “Spatial Mobility and Inner Asian Pastoralism,” in The End of Nomadism?, ed. Caroline Humphrey and David Sneath (Durham, North Caroline: Duke University Press, 1999), 225–235

  • 76. Vreeland, Mongol Community and Kinship, 10–11.

  • 77. Lattimore, Mongol Journey, 209.

  • 78. Sneath, Headless State, 185.

  • 79. Sechin Jagchid and Paul Hyer, Mongolia’s Culture and Society (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1979), 26; and Vainshtein, Nomads of South Siberia, 20.

  • 80. Natsagdor, “Main Characters of Feudalism,” 9, 29, 54; and Bawden, The Modern History, 92.

  • 81. Fernandez-Gimenez, “Sustaining the Steppes,” 321; and Maria E. Fernandez-Gimenez, Land Use and Land Tenure in Mongolia: A Brief History and Current Issues, USDA Forest Service Proceedings RMRS-P-39, 2006, 31.

  • 82. Bold, Mongolian Nomadic Society, 44–47; Bawden, Modern History of Mongolia, 89; and Shagdarjav Natsagdorj, “The Economic Basis of Feudalism in Mongolia,” Modern Asian Studies 1, no. 3 (1967): 270.

  • 83. Atwood, “Banner, Otog, Thousand,” 1–76; Munkh-Erdene, “Political Order in Pre-modern Euroasia,” 633–655; and Munkh-Erdene, “1640 Great Code,” 269–288.

  • 84. Bawden, Modern History of Mongolia, 3–6 ; and Lhamsuren Munkh-Erdene, The Taiji Government and the Rise of the Warrior State: The Formation of the Qing Imperial Constitution (Leiden, The Netherlands, and Boston: Brill, 2022), 525–526.

  • 85. A. Ochir, Ch. Dalai, N. Ishjamts, Sh. Natsagdorj, B. Shirendev, J. Boldbaatar, L. Jamsran, Ts. Ishdorj, and D. Tseveendorj, Mongol ulsiin tuuh: Tavdugaar boti (Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia: Admon, 2003), 36–37; and Demberel Ulziibaatar, Mongolchuud: Tusgaar togtnolyn tuuh (Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia: Olloo TV Studio, 2016).

  • 86. A. Ochir, Mongol ulsiin tuuh, 37–39; and Lattimore, Mongol Journeys, 16, 60–61.

  • 87. Lattimore, Mongol Journeys, 61.

  • 88. Lattimore, Mongol Journey, 61.

  • 89. Frans A. Larson, Duke of Mongolia (Boston: Little, Brown, 1930), 198–199.

  • 90. Fred Adelman, “Preface: On the Authority and Significance of Pozdneyev’s Mongolia and the Mongols,” in Mongolia and the Mongols by A. M. Pozdneyev, ed. John R. Kruger (Bloomington: Indiana University, 1971), xx.

  • 91. Alexey M. Pozdneyev, Mongolia and Mongols, vol. 1, ed. J. R. Kruger and trans. J. R. Shaw and D. Plank, Indiana University Publications in Uralic and Altaic Series 61 (Bloomington: Indiana University, 1971), 39.

  • 92. Elizabeth Endicott, “From a Travel Diary by I. M. Morozov,” in Pages from the Past: The 1910 Moscow Trade Expedition to Mongolia, trans. the Russian and introduced by Elizabeth Endicott (Manchester, UK: Eastbridge Books, 2007), 106, 117–118; and Elizabeth Endicott, A History of Land Use in Mongolia: The Thirteenth Century to the Present (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012), 61.

  • 93. Pozdneyev, Mongolia and Mongols, 7, 15, 37, 39, 140.

  • 94. Morozov is the narrator of “From a Travel Diary by I. M. Morozov,” in Pages from the Past: The 1910 Moscow Trade Expedition to Mongolia (Manchester: Eastbridge Books, 2007, 94, 118.

  • 95. Debmerel Ulziibaatar, Mongolchuud (Ulaanbaatar: Olloo Television, 2014), part 4.8. Also see Suhbaatar and Jamsran, BNMAU, 167–168.

  • 96. Pozdneyev, Mongolia and Mongols, 140; and Endicott, “Travel Diary by I. M. Morozov,” 64.

  • 97. Vreeland, Mongol Community and Kinship, 16–17.

  • 98. Vreeland, Mongol Community and Kinship, 18; Lattimore, Nomads and Commissars, 5, 65; and Natsagdorj, Sum, hamjlaga, shavi, ard, 51.

  • 99. Natsagdorj, “Economic Basis of Feudalism,” 269; and Suhbaatar and Jamsran, BNMAU, 131, 136.

  • 100. Larson, Duke of Mongolia, 8.

  • 101. Humphrey and Sneath, End of Nomadism?, 225.

  • 102. Natsagdorj, Sum, hamjlaga, shavi, ard, 73–74.

  • 103. Andrei D. Simukov, Trudy o Mongolii i dlya Mongolii Tom 2, ed. Yuki Konagaya, Sanjaasurengiin Bayaraa, and Ichinkhorloogiin Lkhagvasuren (Osaka, Japan: Gosudarstvyennyi muzei etnologii, 2007), 502–503

  • 104. Natsagdorj, Sum, hamjlaga, shavi, ard, 73–74.

  • 105. Vreeland, Mongol Community and Kinship Structure, 23, 26–27.

  • 106. Pozdneyev, Mongolia and Mongols, 135–136.

  • 107. The author borrowed the idea of balancing livestock and labour to the available pasture within one’s jurisdictional territory from Lattimore, Mongol Journeys, 122; Also see Erdenetsogt, Mongolyn nuudliin mal; and Bazargur, Belcheeriin mal aj.

  • 108. Undargaa, Pastoralism and Common Pool Resources, 65–69.

  • 109. Vreeland, Mongol Community and Kinship, 34; and Pozdneyev, Mongolia and Mongols, 108, 139, 430.

  • 110. Pozdneyev, Mongolia and Mongols, 108, 139, 430.

  • 111. Andrei D. Simukov, “Bazy Sovmonbunera1) v svyazi s administrativnym deleniyem MNR i sushyestvuyushimi administrativno-economicheskimi tsentrami,” in Trudy o Mongolii i dlya Mongolii Tom 3, Chast 2, ed. Yuki Konagaya, Sanjaasurengiin Bayaraa, and Ichinkhorloogiin Lkhagvasuren (Osaka: Gosudarstvyennyi muzei etnologii, 1933), 61–64, 499–500.

  • 112. Saahalt is also mentioned in the article CLXXXII, in “1709 Khalha Juram.” See S. Jalan-Aajav, KHalha Juram (in Cyrillic) (Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia: Press Factory, 1995), 14.

  • 113. Vreeland, Mongol Community and Kinship, 37–38, 89; and Simukov, Trudy o Mongolii i dlya, 267.

  • 114. James Gilmour, Among the Mongols (New York: American Tract Society, 1888), 172–174.

  • 115. Lattimore, Manchuria Cradle of Conflict, 49.

  • 116. See, for instance, payment as ‘hearth tax’, especially in Inner Mongolia Atwood, “Banner, Otog, Thousand,” 5.

  • 117. Sneath, “Spatial Mobility and Inner Asian,” 220–223.

  • 118. Undargaa, Pastoralism and Common Pool Resources, 65–69.

  • 119. Bawden, Modern History of Mongolia, 89–90.

  • 120. Larson, Duke of Mongolia, 57.

  • 121. Pozdneyev, Mongolia and Mongols, 5.

  • 122. Vreeland, Mongol Community and Kinship, 42.

  • 123. Vreeland, Mongol Community and Kinship, 42–44.

  • 124. Undargaa, Pastoralism and Common Pool Resources, 14.

  • 125. Maria E. Fernandez-Gimenez, “The Role of Mongolian Nomadic Pastoralists’ Ecological Knowledge in Rangeland Management,” Ecological Applications 10, no. 5 (2000): 1320; Undargaa, Pastoralism and Common Pool Resources, 64, 126, 161; Undargaa Sandagsuren and NZNI, Community Organization (Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia: Initiative for People Centered Conservation, 2006), 34–35; Fernandez-Gimenez, “Role of Mongolian Nomadic,” 1323; and Caroline Upton, “Institutions in a Pastoral Society: Processes of Formation and Transformation in Postsocialist Mongolia,” in Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East, vol. 25 (Duke University Press, North Carolina, 2005), 596.

  • 126. See cases of subjects of Governmental Shavi Gazar versus lords and subjects of Hoshuu in Natsagdorj, Sum, hamjlaga, shavi, ard, 73–74, 47–48; and Larson, Duke of Mongolia, 10–11.

  • 127. Vreeland, Mongol Community and Kinship, 89.

  • 128. Pozdneyev, Mongolia and Mongols, 108.

  • 129. Natsagdorj, “Economic Basis of Feudalism,” 272–274.

  • 130. See a case of dispute between the Lord Dugartsembel and his subjects in Setsen Han Aimag at Suhbaatar and Jamsran, BNMAU, 157–160.

  • 131. See a case of Bawden, Modern History of Mongolia, 92–93.

  • 132. Lattimore, Mongol Journey, 317–318; and Dilavhutagt Jamsranjav, Ar Mongolyn uls turiin durtgal (Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia: Soyombo hevleliin gazar, 1991), 13.

  • 133. Bawden, Modern History of Mongolia, 92–93.

  • 134. Larson, Duke of Mongolia, 11, 33.

  • 135. Natsagdorj, “Economic Basis of Feudalism,” 46–51.

  • 136. Natsagdorj, “Economic Basis of Feudalism,” 265–281; and Vainshtein, Nomads of South Siberia, 233–248.

  • 137. Vladimirtsov 1934 discussed in Bold, Mongolian Nomadic Society, 21–22; and Sneath, Headless State, 124.

  • 138. Natsagdorj, “Economic Basis of Feudalism,” 265–281.

  • 139. Tolstov (1934), Tolybekov (1959), and Markov (1971) cited in Sevyan Vainshtein, Nomads of South Siberia, ed. Caroline Humphrey (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1980), 233.

  • 140. Markov (1976) and Tolybekov (1971) discussed in Sneath, Headless State, 124–129.

  • 141. Undargaa, Pastoralism and Common Pool Resources, 59, 227–230.

  • 142. Fernandez-Gimenez, “Sustaining the Steppes,” 321; and Robin Mearns, “Decentralisation, Rural Livelihoods and Pasture-Land Management in Post Socialist Mongolia,” European Journal of Development Research 16, no. 1 (2004): 133–152.

  • 143. Bazargur, Belcheeriin mal aj, 27–44; Erdenetsogt, Mongolyn nuudliin mal, 14–28; I. Bjorklund, “Sami pastoral society in Northern Norway-National Integration of an Indigenous Management System,” in Cultivating Arctic landscapes, ed. David Anderson and Mark Nuttal (New York: Berghahn Press, 2003), 124–135; and also see for agrarian context at Nancy L. Peluso, Rich Forests, Poor People: Resource Control and Resistance in Java (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992).

  • 144. Upton, “Institutions in a Pastoral Society,” 589.

  • 145. Atwood, “Banner, Otog, Thousand,” 5.

  • 146. Undargaa, Pastoralism and Common Pool Resources, 49–74.

  • 147. Atwood, “Banner, Otog, Thousand,” 1–76.

  • 148. Owen Lattimore, Nationalism and Revolution in Mongolia (Leiden, The Netherlands: E. J. Brill, 1955), 43–47; and Lattimore, Nomads and Commissars, 110.

  • 149. Ulziibaatar, Mongolchuud, Part 3–4; Peter Hopkirk, Setting the East Ablaze: Lenin’s Dream of an Empire in Asia (London: John Murray, 2006); and Simon S. Montefiore, Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2004).

  • 150. Demberel Ulziibaatar, Lhumbiin hereg: 1 boti (Ulaanbaatar: Interpress, 2019), 15–16.

  • 151. Montefiore, Stalin, 220.

  • 152. Ulziibaatar, Mongolchuud, Part 3–4; Ulziibaatar, Lhumbiin hereg, 21–211.

  • 153. Vreeland, Mongol Community and Kinship, 9–115.

  • 154. Lattimore, Nomads and Commissars, 148–201; and Ulziibaatar, Mongolchuud, Part 3.

  • 155. James C. Scott, Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed (New Haven, CT, and London: Yale University Press, 1998).

  • 156. Fernandez-Gimenez, “Sustaining the Steppes,” 331–336; and Caroline Humphrey, “Pastoral Nomadism in Mongolia: The Role of Herdsmen’s Cooperatives in the National Economy,” Development and Change 9 (1978): 133–160.

  • 157. Lattimore, Nomads and Commissars, 180.

  • 158. Humphrey, “Pastoral Nomadism in Mongolia,” 153–154.

  • 159. Humphrey, “Pastoral Nomadism in Mongolia: the role of herdsmen’s cooperatives in the national economy,” 141 .

  • 160. Undargaa, Pastoralism and Common Pool Resources, 92–100.

  • 161. Undargaa, Pastoralism and Common Pool Resources, 80–83; Maria E. Fernandez-Gimenez and B. Batbuyan, “Law and Disorder: Local Implementation of Mongolia’s Land Law,” Development and Change 35, no. 1 (2004): 144; and Fernandez-Gimenez, “Sustaining the Steppes,” 337.

  • 162. Sneath, “Spatial Mobility and Inner Asian,” 235–242; Fernandez-Gimenez and Batbuyan, “Law and Disorder,” 144; and Undargaa, Pastoralism and Common Pool Resources, 96–98.

  • 163. Article 5, Chapter 1, Constitution of Mongolia, 1940 (in classic Mongol Script); Article 1.3.1, Constitution of Mongolia, 1924; Undargaa, Pastoralism and Common Pool Resources, 75 & 78. Also see Ian Jeffries, Mongolia: A Guide to Economic and Political Developments (London and New York: Routledge, 2007), 77.

  • 164. Lhamsuren Munkh-Erdene, Mongol dahUlaan huvisgal,” Erdem Shinjilgeenii Baga Hural (Tuuhiin Tenhim: MUIS, 1999), 59–75.

  • 165. Lattimore, Nomads and Commissars, 180; and Sneath, “Property Regimes and Sociotechnical Systems,” 163.

  • 166. It was used when many herders struggled to pay off heavy taxes and meet demands to provide livestock and its products to the first state five-year plan (1949–1953), was which imposed on private livestock owners during the collectivization period. See also Lattimore, Nomads and Commissars, 123.

  • 167. Endicott, Pages from the Past, 106.

  • 168. Humphrey, “Pastoral Nomadism in Mongolia,” 133–160

  • 169. Humphrey, “Pastoral Nomadism in Mongolia,” 133–160; and Undargaa, Pastoralism and Common Pool Resources, 95–96.

  • 170. Lattimore, Nomads and Commissars, 185–186.

  • 171. Undargaa, Pastoralism and Common Pool Resources, 87 and 94–95.

  • 172. Humphrey, “Pastoral Nomadism in Mongolia,” 148–149; Sneath, “Spatial Mobility and Inner Asian,” 239–241; and Lattimore, Nomads and Commissars, 186.

  • 173. Humphrey, “Pastoral Nomadism in Mongolia,” 133–160; and Undargaa, Pastoralism and Common Pool Resources, 87–92.

  • 174. Undargaa, Pastoralism and Common Pool Resources, 49–105.

  • 175. Sneath, “Notions of Rights over Land,” 41–58; and Myers and Hetz, Property Rights and Land Privatization, 10–14; and Easterly, White Man’s Burden, 341–345.

  • 176. Dulam Bumochir, The State, Popular Mobilisation and Gold Mining in Mongolia (London: UCL Press, 2020), p. 21.

  • 177. Myers and Hetz, Property Rights and Land Privatization, 10-14; see also Easterly, White Man's Burden (New York: The Penguin Press, 2006), 343.

  • 178. Sneath, “Notions of Rights over Land,” 48.

  • 179. Bumochir, State, Popular Mobilisation, 7; and Undargaa, Pastoralism and Common Pool Resources, 243–244.

  • 180. Undargaa, Pastoralism and Common Pool Resources, 59, 227-230.

  • 181. Mearns, “Decentralisation, Rural Livelihoods,” 137.

  • 182. Jesse C. Ribbon, Arun Agrawal, and Anne M. Larson, “Recentralizing While Decentralizing: How National Governments Reappropriate Forest Resources,” World Development 34, no. 11 (2006): 1864–1886.

  • 183. Undargaa, Pastoralism and Common Pool Resources, 106–134; Easterly, White Man’s Burden, 63–64.

  • 184. The law on personal income tax, 1993.

  • 185. The law on personal income tax, 2006.

  • 186. Article 16, law on personal income tax 2009 amendments; and Swiss Agency for Development Coperation, Livelihood Study of Herders in Mongolia (Ulaanbaatar: Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, 2010).

  • 187. Andrei Marin, “Between Cash Cows and Golden Calves: Adaptations of Mongolian Pastoralism in the ‘Age of the Market’,” in Movement and Settlement among Mongolian Herders in China and Mongolia, special issue, edited by Carol Kerven and Don Bedunah, Nomadic Peoples 12, no. 2 (2008): 75–101; and Daniel J. Murphy, “We’re Living from Loan to Loan: Pastoral Vulnerability and the Cashmere-Debt Cycle in Mongolia,” Individual and Social Adaptations to Human Vulnerability 38 (2019): 7–30.

  • 188. Undargaa, Pastoralism and Common Pool Resources, 135–170.

  • 189. See for exclusive “state land” at Interview 16 and also an Eagle TV news episode during the author’s fieldwork in 2010; and see for “public property” at Ian Hannam, “International Perspectives on Legislative and Administrative Reforms as an Aid to Better Land Stewardship,” in In Rangeland Stewardship in Central Asia: Balancing Improved Livelihoods, Biodiversity Conservation and Land Protection, ed. Victor Squires Heidelberg (New York and London: Springer, 2012), 407–429.

  • 190. Bumochir, State, Popular Mobilisation, 123 and 130; and Sandagsuren Undargaa, 'Legal ambiguity and land dispossession: Multi-scale conficting views on territorial authority at the Herlen Bayan-Ulaan State Reserve Pasture Area, Mongolia', Nomadic Peoples, 27 (2023): 265-291. doi: 10.3197/np.2023.270206.

  • 191. Jeffries, Mongolia, 63–64.

  • 192. Georges Korsun and Peter Murrell, “Politics and Economics of Mongolia’s Privatization Program,” Asian Survey 35, no. 5 (1995): 481.

  • 193. Undargaa, Pastoralism and Common Pool Resources, 135–170.

  • 194. National Statistical Office, Mongolia, 2022.

  • 195. An audience questioned about the grazing fee, which is being promoted besides the livestock tax, at an online workshop, The National Human Rights Commission/Open Society Forum in Mongolia. Also, see Draft pastureland law_Final Report (43–44).

  • 196. Article 16.18 Constitution, 1992.

  • 197. David Sneath, “The Rural and the Urban in Pastoral Mongolia,” in Mongols from Country to City: Floating Boundaries, Pastoralism and City Life in the Mongol Lands, ed. Ole Bruun and Li Narangoa (Copenhagen: NIAS Press, 2006), 140–161; Robin Mearns, “Sustaining Livelihoods on Mongolia’s Pastoral Commons: Insights from a Participatory Poverty Assessment,” Development and Change 35, no. 1 (2004): 107–139; and Undargaa, Pastoralism and Common Pool Resources, 110, 116–118, 143–144, 216.

  • 198. For instance, young herders struggle starting a family due to a shortage of young women in pastoralism as many of the latter migrate to the urban areas for education or employments never to return. Hence, some young men run into a trouble in their attempt to find a wife. See in the newspaper article “Malchin zaluustai gerleltee batluulj, hurungiig ni huvaaj avaad saldag boljee’ (A trend of registering marriage with young herders and then divorce after claiming their [livestock] assets/property)’ in ‘Өдрийн сонин’ (Daily News), 2023.

  • 199. Tim Hanstad and Jennifer Duncan, Land Reform in Mongolia: Observations and Recommendations, RDI Reports on Foreign Aid and Development #109 (2001), 5.

  • 200. Undargaa, Pastoralism and Common Pool Resources, 157–158.

  • 201. Elliot Fratkin, “Pastoralism: Governance and Development Issues,” Annual Review of Anthropology 26 (1997): 235–261. In 2018, the government decree No. 131 (article 1) claimed rural territories from 158 bags (microdistricts), 61 soums (districts) in seven centrally located provinces, which are positioned along major rivers in central Mongolia. This is to promote industrial-level agriculture, involving crop cultivation and intensive ranch farming. Also, see government decree 200, article 2; 4.1.9 & 4.6.2 for developing intensive livestock husbandry along with agriculture for planting forages and fodders to support the ranches.

  • 202. The World Bank, Mongolia livestock sector study vol. I: Synthesis report 2009.

  • 203. For instance, see “Малчин, тариаланч хоёрыг эвлэрүүлэх цаг болжээ” (Time to establish reconciliation between agriculturalists and herders), Eagle News, 2021-01-21 at for disputes between herders and agriculturalists throughout Mongolia. The most sensational occurs in Selenge aimag. Also see “Тариаланч, малчин хоёрын маргааныг төр ингэж зохицуулна” (The state regulating the disputes between agriculturalists and herders) Sonin MN News (Зууны мэдээ) 2020-11-03 09:36 at

  • 204. Sabine M. Schmidt, “Pastoral Community Organization, Livelihoods and Biodiversity Conservation in Mongolia’s Southern Gobi Region,” Annual Meeting of Society for Range Management, Salt Lake City, USA, 2004, 21.

  • 205. Bazargur, Belcheeriin mal aj, 180–183.

  • 206. Bazargur, Belcheeriin mal aj, 180–183; Robin Mearns, “Territoriality and Land Tenure among Mongolian Pastoralists: Variation, Continuity and Change,” Nomadic Peoples 33 (1993): 79; and Marıa E. Fernandez-Gimenez, “Spatial and Social Boundaries and the Paradox of Pastoral Land Tenure: A Case Study from Postsocialist Mongolia,” Human Ecology 30, no. 1 (2002): 62.

  • 207. Bazargur, Belcheeriin mal aj, 181; and see about the interpretation of ‘hishig udur’ at Empson (2011) and Atwood (2010) cited in Elisa Myriam Kohl-Garrity, “The Weight of Respect Khündlekh Yos: Frames of Reference, Governmental Agendas and Ethical Formations in Modern Mongolia” (PhD thesis, Martin-Luther-University, 2019).

  • 208. Szynkiewicz (1982, 23) cited both in Robin Mearns; Mearns, “Territoriality and Land Tenure,” 99.

  • 209. David Sneath, “Social Relations, Networks and Social Organisation in Post-Socialist Rural Mongolia,” Nomadic Peoples 33 (1993): 201; and Bold, Mongolian Nomadic Society, 68.

  • 210. According to the Centre for Policy Research report on the draft Pastureland Law (2016), wealthier herders are hardly supporting the draft pastureland law. The center reported, “Rich herders are not interested in joining herder groups who will sign land use agreements, seek proper incentives for them to join the groups such as grazing fees” Pastureland law_Final Report, December 2016 (43). Here, it is critical to note that this is not just the matter of rich herders taking advantage of their wealth to expand their access to pastoral resources. They actually do enable distant mobility and its frequency. Also, many average and poor herders also reciprocate and pool labor with other herders regardless of their wealth status to enable their mobility. In fact, one needs to consider that: (1) Some wealthy herders supported their own production and increased their livestock within their own jurisdiction. Others herd livestock for absentee owners—wealthy political and business elites, relatives, or friends. With letters of support and information, these herders are often able to pursue cross-border movements to access alternative pastures regardless of the interests of local herders. The latter pattern can be referred to as an elite-capture or take over. Therefore, rich herders need to be examined regarding the implication of their background. (2) Any average or small herd size does increase to large numbers in convenient pastoral conditions, hence, there is a need to consider potential livestock increase among herders with average or less livestock (Undargaa, 2016). The author also acknowledges that this article discusses only the main concepts and debates regarding the collective action based on formation of herder groups in Mongolia.

  • 211. Sandagsuren Undargaa, “Re-Imagining Collective Action Institutions: Pastoralism in Mongolia,” Human Ecology 45 (2017): 221–234.

  • 212. Undargaa, Pastoralism and Common Pool Resources, 135–170, 205–234.

  • 213. Lattimore, Mongol Journeys, 208.

  • 214. Undargaa, Pastoralism and Common Pool Resources, 205–234.

  • 215. Undargaa, Pastoralism and Common Pool Resources, 151–162.

  • 216. Keith Griffin, Poverty Reduction in Mongolia (Canberra, Australia: Asia Pacific Press, 2003), 67.

  • 217. A. Ickowitz, “Poverty and the Environment,” in Poverty Reduction in Mongolia, ed. K. Griffin (Canberra, Australia: Asia Pacific Press, 2003), 97. See also Keith Griffin, Poverty and the Transition to a Market Economy in Mongolia (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1995).

  • 218. Upton, “Institutions in a Pastoral Society,” 586.

  • 219. Upton, “Institutions in a Pastoral Society,” 584–599.

  • 220. Undargaa, Pastoralism and Common Pool Resources, 235–245.

  • 221. Article 6.2, 1992 Constitution of Mongolia, with 2019 amendments; and Article 4.2, 1996 Law on state and local [administration’s] property.

  • 222. Marin, “Between Cash Cows and Golden Calves,” 75–101; Procedure to renew, amend, change, and re-approve. The government decree 8, January 5, 2022; and Procedure to reward best herders, Appendix 1, 2022.

  • 223. Some parliament members are wealthy absentee herd owners. See “Хамгийн олон малтай ба огт малгүй УИХ-ын гишүүд” (Parliament members, who owns the most or the least number of livestock), Ikon, 2021 at; and also see Avilgatai temtseh gazar (Independent Authority Against Corruption of Mongolia (IAAC)) This is not to mention the other unknown business elites who live in large urban areas but own large numbers of livestock in the countryside, namely horses and cattle. ,( For these wealthy political and business elites, there are rumors that their large livestock (bod or urt huliin mal) are likely to be herded in the eastern steppe, which faces a shortage of water, whereas their small livestock (bog or bogino huliin mal) are herded in the central river valleys. However, these are exceptions to many other independent herders in different living conditions throughout Mongolia. Undargaa, Pastoralism and Common Pool Resources, 205–234.

  • 224. Undargaa, Pastoralism and Common Pool Resources, 205–234; and Sandagsuren Undargaa, 'Legal ambiguity and land dispossession: Multi-scale conficting views on territorial authority at the Herlen Bayan-Ulaan State Reserve Pasture Area, Mongolia', Nomadic Peoples, 27 (2023): 265-291. doi: 10.3197/np.2023.270206.

  • 225. Peter Ho, “In Defense of Endogenous, Spontaneously Ordered Development: Institutional Functionalism and Chinese Property Rights,” The Journal of Peasant Studies 40, no. 6 (2013): 1087–1118; and Sandagsuren Undargaa and John F. McCarthy, “Beyond Property: Co-Management and Pastoral Resource Access in Mongolia,” World Development 77 (2016): 367–379.

  • 226. Ariell Ahearn, “The Role of Kinship in Negotiating Territorial Rights: Exploring Claims for Winter Pasture Ownership in Mongolia,” Inner Asia 18, no. 2 (2016): 245–264; and Sandagsuren Undargaa, “Bumochir Dulam, the State, Popular Mobilization and Gold Mining in Mongolia: Shaping ‘Neoliberal’ Policies,” Études mongoles et sibériennes, centrasiatiques et tibétaines 52 (2021).

  • 227. Undargaa, Pastoralism and Common Pool Resources, 243–244.

  • 228. Khazanov, Nomads and the Outside World, 198–262; Khazanov, “Review of David Sneath, 206–208; Kradin. “Heterarchy and Hierarchy,” 187–214; Atwood, “Banner, Otog, Thousand,” 1–76; Sneath, Headless State, 3 ; Sara Berry, No Condition is Permanent: The Social Dynamics of Agrarian Change in Sub-Saharan Africa (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1993), 28–31; and Undargaa, Pastoralism and Common Pool Resources, 16–48.

  • 229. Maria F. Fernandez-Gimenez, Xiaoyi Wang, Baival Batkhishig, Julia A. Klein, and Robin S. Reid, Restoring Community Connections to the Land: Building Resilience through Community-Based Rangeland Management in China and Mongolia (Croydon: CABI, 2012).

  • 230. Bold, Mongolian Nomadic Society, 67; and Natsagdorj, “Main Characters of Feudalism,” 1–19.

  • 231. Simukov, “Bazy Sovmonbunera1) v svyazi s administrativnym,” 61–64.

  • 232. Mearns, “Territoriality and Land Tenure,” 73–103; and Sneath, “Social Relations, Networks,” 193–207.

  • 233. Alexandre Ickowicz, “Poverty and the Environment,” in Poverty Reduction in Mongolia, ed. K Griffin (Canberra, Australia: Asia Pacific Press, 2003), 95–112; Caroline Upton, “‘Custom’ and Contestation: Land Reform in Post-Socialist Mongolia,” World Development 37, no. 8 (2009): 1400–1410; and Constitution (1992). The Constitution of Mongolia, Ulaanbaatar.

  • 234. Undargaa and McCarthy, “Beyond Property,” 367–379; Fernandez-Gimenez et al., Restoring Community Connections, 113–135.