Recently, two books bearing a common title appeared. Though their titles are similar, the books couldn't span a greater distance in viewing the same field. Yet I consider them ideal companions. One of the books offers an in-depth study (via a field survey, a structural analysis and individual case studies) of how transition is experienced --- the other book offers an overview of all facets of transition in Mongolia. Besides these two, a third book, though already available for a few years, shall be introduced here due to its close affinity with the two books prompting this review.
The first book is written by Susanne Schmidt: ``Mongolia in Transition. The Impact of Privatization on Rural Life''. Verlag für Entwicklungspolitik. Saarbrücken, 1995. ISSN 0171-7537. ISBN 3-88156-674-0. With glossary, 11 tables, 4 figures and one map. This book appeared as vol. 62 of the ``Bielefeld Studies on the Sociology of Development''. Available since spring 1996. Text in English.
The second book is edited by Ole Bruun and Ole Odgaard: ``Mongolia in Transition''. Curzon Press Ltd., St. John's Studios, Church Road. Richmond, Surrey TW9 TW9 2QA, Great Britain. (c) Nordic Institute of Asian Studies 1996. ISSN 0142-6208. ISBN 0-7007-0441-8 (paperback) and 0-7007-0418-3 (hard cover). With 11 figures and 18 tables. This book appeared as vol. 22 of the ``Studies in Asian Topics''. Available since November 1996. Text in English.
The third book to appear in this review is not a new book anymore, at least in comparison to the above-mentioned titles. In 1990 the Japanese researcher Masao Onuki published his ``Yuuboku shakai --- genzai to mirai no soukoku no naka de'' (Nomad Society --- in the conflict of present and future) in Mongolian translation (Takatsuki Bunko, 553 Osaka, Fukushima-ku, Ebie 3-1-7, Japan), a collection of articles and papers which had been written and partially published during the 1980s. Only the Mongolian translation was available for review: ``Nüüdliïn Mal Aj Axuïn Niïgmiïn Orqin Üe'' (Contemporary Aspects of A Society with Nomadic Economy). The Mongolian edition, made by Ü. Dashnyam and C. Xandsürän, comprises 353 pages, with over 50 tables and figures and a few black and white reproductions of paintings.
The term transition applied to Mongolia covers the time frame from approximately 1986 to the present time. The beginning of this period is marked by the introduction of perestroika and glasnost' in the Soviet Union, eventually leading to its collapse. Mongolia was affected in all imaginable levels by these events. In winter 1989/1990 demonstrations shook the rule of the MPRP (Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party) leading to the first elections in 1990. The accompanying dissolution of the CMEA led to a serious economical crisis from which Mongolia has not yet recovered. It is remarkable that the transition from one-party rule to a democratic system took place without bloodshed as it could be observed in so many countries during the period from 1989 to 1991. The term peaceful revolution became popular in consequence for describing these political, social, economical and legal changes. The early 1990s were marked by rampant inflation, scarcity of food, fuel, medical supplies and even the most basic consumer goods, shortages of public utilities (electricity, warm water etc.) as well as dramatically increasing unemployment. In February 1992, the parliament adopted a new constitution with general elections being scheduled for summer 1992. Due to the electoral law, the lacking support for the democratic forces in the countryside and other circumstances the MPRP gained a sweeping victory resulting in 71 out of 76 seats in the new parliament with only 56 percent of all votes. From 1992 to 1994, more inflation together with a decline of the domestic economy could be observed. Only since about 1994, the economy is recovering. New imports of consumer goods, this time provided through private channels and not anymore through CMEA distribution, fill the emerging market, yet the percentage of the national budget supplied by international aid resembles the former CMEA amount. In 1995 and 1996, Mongolia is still not independent from international aid but the aid is not so much used for emergency purposes, more for long-term development now.