India came to grief by counting on the Soviet Union's ability to hold Red China in check in Asia. Yet last week, a far more feeble Asian state, Outer Mongolia, was clinging firmly to the same policy.
A sprawling, empty land consisting of 615,000 sq. mi. of desert and steppe, lying between Russian Siberia and Red China, Outer Mongolia first showed its loyalty to Moscow by roundly condemning China's stooge, Albania. The Mongols went much farther last year, when Luvsantserengiin Tsende, the No. 2 Communist, charged that the "deep moral decay of the Chinese Communist Party" was evidenced by Peking's "groundless and malicious attacks on the Leninist party and the Soviet Union." In taking a hard line against Peking, Outer Mongolia was taking desperate chances, since its territory is surrounded on three sides by
China, and its 40,000-man army would be scarcely a bite-size morsel for the rapacious Red Chinese. So far, Russia's friendship has fended off the consequences.
Delicate Flavor. Until Khrushchev and Mao Tse-tung began their public brawling, Outer Mongolia was a country that made headlines only in the National Geographic fa magazine that some Mongols think is the only one published in the U.S.). It is so remote that only 16 U.S. citizens have visited the country in the past two years. The most recent was LIFE Photographer Howard Sochurek, who last week reported on his 30-day stay in one of the "most oddball countries in the world."
Outer Mongolia, says Sochurek, is basically two nations. One is the timeless meadowlands of Central Asia where nomads pasture their flocks and herds just as they did centuries ago under the rule of their great hero-king, Genghis Khan. Outer Mongolia has more yurts (circular, felt-covered tents) than houses, and more cattle (21 million) than people (1,000,000). Mongols are born to the saddle, lasso their horses with nooses at the end of long poles, make a strong wine from fermented cow's milk and feast on such dainties as yak butter delicately flavored with yak urine, and sheep intestines stuffed with dried blood. Every traveler on the steppes is welcomed as an honored guest entitled to the best food and accommodations in the yurt.
The Blue Ants. The other Outer Mongolia is a newly awakened land bursting wide-eyed into the jet age. The capital city of Ulan Bator (Red Hero) boasts a finer hotel than any in Moscow. A state hospital, equipped by Czechoslovakia, is superbly run by a staff of 35 doctors (25 Mongols, five Russians, four Czechs, one Chinese). Sturdy Mongol girls tend up-to-date British machinery in a large textile mill, and the sons of nomad horsemen study physics at the state university. Russia and its European satellites have poured nearly $3 billion into Outer Mongolia. Hungarian technicians operate 300 oil wells in the Gobi desert, and the crude oil is trucked to a Soviet-built refinery at Sain Shanda. At the town of Sukhe Bator is a paper mill and a factory that turns out prefabricated houses. The Russian metallurgical plant at Darkhan produces 300,000 tons of steel per year. Soviet geologists claim to have discovered important deposits of coal, copper, manganese fluoride, tin, zinc and wolfram.