| by Irene Fernald

Prof. Kruchkin lecturing
Prof. Kruchkin lecturing to MIIS students.

Seasoned diplomat, professor, and author Yury Kruchkin shared his expertise on Mongolia with students in DTRA, the Defense Language Institute (DLI), and Middlebury Institute advanced Russian courses on October 18 and 21 in two lectures about Soviet-Mongolian relations based on declassified FSB materials and features of Mongolian foreign policy in the last 30 years.

Dr. Kruchkin introduced Mongolia as a site of archaeological expeditions, intersecting Christian, Muslim, and Buddhist religions amid ambiguous borders 120 years ago. After outlining Mongolia’s journey to internationally recognized sovereignty, Dr. Kruchkin described historical economic ties between Mongolia and Russia, China, Japan, Korea, and the U.S.

Dr. Kruchkin shared his personal experiences living through the forced retirement of the Communist Party boss in the mid-1980s and recounted fascinating stories from his time in government, including when he was forced to tell the leader of Mongolia that General Secretary of the USSR Konstantin Chernenko was “fit as a fiddle” hours before officially informing him that Chernenko had passed away.

He also discussed recent internal political developments in Mongolia with an emphasis on Chinese and Russian influence, noting the dramatic decrease in Russian envoys to Mongolia from one-third of international diplomatic staff during the USSR (about 300 people plus visiting party bosses) to 7 or 8 people today. He fielded questions from students on Russia-Mongolian environmental cooperation and national attitudes towards indigenous minorities.