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The Lama QuestionViolence, Sovereignty, and Exception in Early Socialist Mongolia$
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Christopher Kaplonski

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780824838560

Published to Hawaii Scholarship Online: November 2016

DOI: 10.21313/hawaii/9780824838560.001.0001

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A Tale of Two Lamas

A Tale of Two Lamas

Gonchigjantsan and Agvaanjamyan

(p.164) Chapter 8 A Tale of Two Lamas
The Lama Question

Christopher Kaplonski

University of Hawai'i Press

The cases of two lamas illustrate the shifting attitudes of the socialist government and the reception their policies received. Gonchigjantsan was a reincarnation, arrested and jailed in the early 1930s as a counterrevolutionary. He was released in 1934. The archive documents point to the official reason for his release: health concerns. Other sources indicate he was released because his incarceration was causing unrest. Gonchigjantan’s case shows the complex interplay between presentation and political expedience in the lama question. The concern over unrest suggests the precariousness of the socialist state, while the archive documents showcase the inadmissability of such an acknowledgment. In stark contrast to Gonchigjantsan stands Agvaanjamyan, a high-ranking lama who was executed as a counterrevolutionary in April 1936, after a previous investigation had been dropped. His case provides a hint of the approach that would be taken during the turn to physical violence that was soon to occur.

Keywords:   political violence, state of exception, Mongolia, political anthropology, Buddhism, socialism

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