Robert A. Rupen

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Robert A. Rupen, an internationally renowned expert on Mongolia, died peacefully at his home in Chapel Hill, North Carolina on March 27, 2015. He was 93.

Dr. Rupen joined the US Army Air Corps in early 1942, following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The wide variety of backgrounds of his fellow soldiers during his posting in the Phillippines, coupled with ample time for reading and discussion, sparked an interest in international studies which lasted throughout his life. Shortly after his honorable discharge with the rank of Staff Sergeant at the conclusion of the war in 1945, Dr. Rupen took advantage of the GI Bill to go to Williams College, graduating with a BA in 1948, and following up with an MA from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy in 1949. In graduate school at the University of Washington Dr. Rupen worked with the renowned Russian linguist Nicholas Poppe, from whom he inherited a lifelong passion for Mongolia, and a sympathetic interest in the experience of minorities living under communist rule. Dr. Rupen's 1954 PhD thesis was based on extensive interviews with Mongolian refugees in Germany as well as the relatively few documents available at the time. His landmark book, "Mongols of the 20th Century", was published in two volumes in 1964, followed by a political history of Mongolia, "How Mongolia is Really Ruled", in 1979.

The author of dozens of scholarly articles, Dr. Rupen taught in the political science department at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill for over 30 years, also serving for briefer periods on the faculties of Bryn Mawr College, Columbia University, the Institute for the Study of the U.S.S.R. in Germany, and both the Naval and the National War Colleges.

Always an enthusiastic traveller, Dr. Rupen visited Mongolia many times over more than 50 years, speaking at the first International Mongolia Congress in Ulaanbaatar in 1959, and receiving the Genghis Khan award (the highest honor bestowed by the Mongolian government) for contributions to the Mongol nation and people in 2004. He regarded his major contribution as providing the Mongols with an objective, independent view of their history over the 70 years of Soviet and communist rule. Regretfully turning down an invitation to speak at the 50th anniversary of the International Mongolia Congress in 2009 due to poor health, Dr. Rupen noted that he had "spent his entire professional life championing Mongolia and hoping for its true independence, prosperity, and recognition of its unique history and culture."

Dr. Rupen is survived by Alice, his wife of 67 years; his son Michael; and two grand-daughters, Lynn and Sage.

In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to the Mongolia Society (http://mongoliasociety.org ; [email protected]).
Published on NYTimes.com from Aug. 21 to Aug. 22, 2015
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