The paper presents a comparative analysis of the resource-rich transition economies of Mongolia and the southern republics of the former Soviet Union. For Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, the ability to earn revenue from cotton exports allowed them to avoid reform. Oil in Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan was associated with large-scale corruption, but with soaring revenues in the 2000s their institutions evolved and to some extent improved. Kyrgyzstan and Mongolia illustrate the challenges facing small economies with large potential mineral resources, with the former suffering from competition for rents among the elite and the latter from lost opportunities. Overall the countries illustrate that a resource curse is not inevitable among transition economies, but a series of hurdles need to be surmounted to benefit from resource abundance. Neither the similar initial institutions nor those created in the 1990s are immutable.