The following were culled from Mongolia's two English weeklies,
The UB Post and The Mongolian Messenger.
Three-Part Series On Mongolia
Star TV of Hong Kong will televise a serial documentary about Mongolia at the end of November – airing in many countries. This serial will be in three parts, each concerning the Prime Minister, the economy, and society, respectively. In the future, a documentary with Mongolian crime as its subject is expected from Star TV.
Jangar : A Historical Masterpiece
The Mongolian epic Jangar is one of the three fictional masterpieces of Mongolian classic literature. Jangar, which consists of 35,000 lines, can be compared to Homer’s Iliad, which consists of 15,693 lines, or Homer’s Odyssey, which consists of 12,110 lines. The three historic creations of Mongolian classic literature are The Secret History of the Mongols, Geser, and Jangar. These prized novels are titled “The Triple Masterpieces of Ancient Literature in Mongolia”.
Jangar relays brilliant stories with fictional heroes and characters. Each chapter,a completely new story, corresponds with the nomadic lifestyle of the Mongols. The stories tell of heavenly gracelands, blissful immortality, everlasting summers, and eternal youth.
Jangar, with 26 chapters, reflects the dreams of so many Mongols. Twelve of the cherished chapters were published in 1963. Furthermore, Dr. D. Tumennasan finished translating the remaining chapters from the Kalmyk language into Mongolian, and the full epic was recently published.
The epic can also be found in some areas of Russia, along the course of the Volga River, home to the Kalmyk Mongols. It can also be located in Xingjiang, in northwestern China, and home to the Oirat Mongols.
The first Jangar ever published was during the late 1950s by the Inner Mongolian People’s Publishing House. It was printed after the 13th chapter was discovered in the Oirat version. The full epic was soon after found written in the traditional Oirat script called Tod. Today, there are several copies of the epic which have been translated into numerous languages all over the world. Due to the fact that Jangar was passed down through the centuries orally, it is unclear who is the original author of this magnificient creation.
JANGAR Epic, compiled by T. Dugersuren, Poligraf Publishing Press, Ulaanbaatar, 2000, 704 pages. 140X195mm, US$18.00,ISBN:99929-5-032-2.
Games On Display
On August 13th, souvenir-export company Mo Tu Uv opened the Museum of Intelligence. The museum exhibits games of both Mongolian and international origin.
The director of the museum, craftsman and designer Z. Tumen-Ulzii, said, “games are at the root of education for people of all ages. Games influence the development of countries and civilisations through their expressions of philosophy, mathematics, and technique.
“The museum has over 5000 games, but due to lack of space, we can only display 1000 of them.” He also expressed the hope that the government would financially aid in the expansion of the museum.
“We are aiming to prove that chess originated in Mongolia. There are approximately 120 different kinds of chess in our museum. The Mongolian chess game Khosh is a masterwork of the human intellect. The game is considered to be quite unique. It consists of a three-dimensional assembly method.
“We are US$10,000 to anyone who can assemble the ‘King of Chess’. So far, people from 177 different countries have taken up the challenge, but no one has been successful.”
Mongols Dig Up Their Family Trees
A Buryat family recently proved that Mongolians can remember their clan names. At a recent genealogical competition, D. Handjav traced his family history back an impressive 13 generations.
Handjav was competing against 13 other families on the October 29 ‘Ulaanbaatar Day’. His effort was rewarded with a cash prize of T1.5 million. The competition was organised by the Cultural Section of the City Mayor’s office.
Handjav, from Dashbalbar soum, Dornod aimag, is from the Orgodoi Bodon family. His family history showed he was from a long line of herders.
The genealogical survey was impressive giventhat most Mongolians can only trace their history back two or three generations. Many have even forgotten their clan names. The recently implemented law which calls for Mongolians to take a last name has forced thousands to search out their clan name. For the past year, the project has sent urban Mongols back to their homeland to rediscover their names. The Ulaanbaatar Day competition was organised to promote such genealogical research.
The most successful families were ethnic minority groups from the furthest reaches of the country. Historian S. Idshinnorov says Khalkh Mongols have largely forgotten their clans.
“The minority groups have retained their culture and heritage far better than the Khalkh majority. This is not surprising. Minority groups anywhere cling to their past. Some clans in remote parts of Mongolia made their own Naadam last summer, which they recorded on video,” the historian said.
Idshinnorov added that many clans have their own seal and song, but because some have forgotten, clans have recently reinvented a personal seal and song.
Historical documents which recorded the clan the family events are hard to come by these days. Most records were destroyed or lost in the 1920s after the communists came to power. The government did away with clan names, believing that feudal ties might supersede allegiance to the state.
Clan names are believed to have originated in the 8th century. Historians say that clans took the name of a heroic warrior, a nearby mountain or popular animal. Some were named after their occupation. Zerdnoot, for example, means ‘horsecart driver’. Clan members paid special attention to the historical logs, careful not to marry within the same clan for nine generations – thereby keeping the blood clean to avoid inbreeding.
The Ulaanbaatar Day was also marked with an exhibition of family objects passed on through the generations. The collections included silver cups, chess boards, brass pots, drums, pipes, books, statues and sutras.
Such items were also confiscated in the 1920s and 30s. Some were taken as valued state property, and others were destroyed as feudal relics. Today, millions of sutra books, and scores of familytapestries, can still be found at the State Central Library.
One family book at the library includes 42 generations from a nobleman Borte to the Khan Gombodorj (b. 1594). Chinggis Khaan’s youngest son Tului (b. 1192) began a family chart with 15 generations of noblemen from seven soums of four aimags.
The Sacred Hadag of the Mongols
Mongols have a centuries-old heritage of the hadag (pronounced with the stress on the first syllable). A hadag is a scarf-like piece of fine, loosely woven silk. In Mongolian culture, the hadag expresses the highest form of respect and is frequently used when offering a “toast” to a respected guest or friend – symbolising peace and well-being. The term “hadag” originated in the Himalayas of Tibet. The hadag came to Mongolia from Tibet via nomadic tribes residing nearby – north of the Great Wall of China – and from Buddhist culture during the Middle Ages. In the 13th century, Khubilai Khaan welcomed Buddhist culture as a state religion and covered the books of sutras with hadags.
The hadag is widely used by Tibetans and Mongols, as well as other Altaic peoples. (Daniel & Sun-duk’s note: the Korean bride carries a hadag-type cloth during the traditional wedding ceremony, and the couple use it during the “pae-baek” ceremony to catch figs, symbolising offspring, cast by the bride’s mother) Hadags are made in several different colours – mainly white, blue, gold, and orange – and in different names and sizes. They are named as follows.
Dash is a hadag patterned with Eight Glorious Emblems of Buddhism: the protective umbrella, the fish, the vase, the flower, the conch shell, the lucky pattern, the victorious banner, and the wheel. Ayush, a hadag named after the Buddhist supernatural entity Ayush, one of three such entities; the other two being Judgernamjil and the White Tara. They are Buddhist personifications of immortality, representing in the form of the hadag a long life for those presented with it. The Ayush hadag is patterned in the Tumenjargalan pattern, an unending linear pattern of linked swastikas. These unending links represent that the hadag will continue unlimited and strong. Another hadag is the Namzhuvandan. It is named after an image found on the silk. The image is the “perfective ten layers”, consisting of seven lines of inscriptions with moon (white), sun (red), and nanda, or void (dark) at the top of the image. The layers have a deep meaning: the human spirit sees white and red lights followed by a darkness in the death of the human body. The Namzhuvandan is used in funeral ceremonies. Other hadags include Nanzad, Sonom, Baranzad, and Sambai (a loosely woven hadag).
Mongols have many traditional customs involving the hadag. Greeting with a hadag expresses great respect. The length of the scarf-like symbol is folded in half with the opening of the fold pointed towards the person of honour. It means, “I am presenting from the bottom of my heart good fortune to you.” The Mongols do not give hadags to each other meaninglessly – only for respectful purposes of asking someone for help, presenting a gift of donation, and in asking one to sing a song or say a blessing at celebrations and ceremonies. They are also presented at private affairs and for engagement at the bride’s family. Receiving a hadag signifies acceptance.
A hadag is kept in a kind of strongbox placed in the khoimor, the most respected side at the north end of a ger. Traditions forbids placing them on beds and floors, and people must never step over the hadag.
Used as money from the 17th century to the early 20th century, the hadag, depending on its type, colour, and quality, denominated different monetary values. It was also an important factor expressing the degree of wealth of a family.
Hadags are often used in lama temples draped over icons, seals, and stamps. In homes, they are draped over pictures of beloved ones who have passed away or over an image of Chinggis Khaan. Mongols tie hadags to the neck of race horses and first-born sheep and foals considered to be holy, never to be used or killed. Hadags are also frequently found draped over sacred trees and cairns (ovoos) in the wild. Ritual traditions of the hadag for peace, immortality and sacredness are passed down from generation to generation in Mongolia.
A Queen Fit for a King
They just don’t make movies like they used to. Except in Mongolia.
The Last Queen of the Khan, the newest film by the Mongol Movie Production Company, was produced over the past year. But if you didn’t know any better, you might guess that the movie was shot in the 1940s.
This grainy black-and-white film had all the aspects of a war-era flick – right down to the fuzzy focusing and occasional white-out when a roll ended. But the theme of the movie was only something that could have been made in a democratic Mongolia. The racy nude scenes and political purge clips would never have made past the old communist-era censors.
The movie describes the real-life story of Tsienpil, the young wife of the Eight Bogd Gegen. She was chosen as his queen shortly after the death of his second wife Dondogdulam in 1923. The ageing Bogd renamed her Genenpil, but the two were married for just one year before his death in 1924. She returned to her home in rural Khentii aimag, married again and raised a family.
Life changed dramatically for Genenpil with the steady growth of communism. As pressure mounted against the aristocrats and clergy, Genenpil finds her once majestic life spiraling away. The story, based on historical documentation, is the first film produced by Mongol Movie Productions in the past decade.The film premiered last week to a packed house at the Yalalt Cinema. The actors and production staff took the stage for introductions, and special greetings were issued to Dorjkhand, the 70-year-old daughter of Genenpil.
The movie is seen as the first documentation of Genenpil’s life – very little is said about her even at the Bogd Khan Museum. It also makes important documentation of life in Mongolia in the early part of this century. One scene shows how young women from the four aimags of Mongolia were selected by a panel of judges. Other parts show how Buddhism and nomadic herding dominated all aspects of life.
“Both of the queen of the Bogd Khan were selected from Khentii aimag, which is my native land. I was a neighbour of Genenpil, therefore I know the history of her very well. So I decided to make a historical movie about her,” said the author of the screenplay Ravdan.
Film director J. Solongo says the film is important for its documentation of the communist era: “The communists dominated Mongolia for many years; it was a black spot on the history of the country.”
The acting in The Last Queen of the Khan is superb, although the script is a bit slow at times. Long monologues have the tendency to bore, and dramatic scenes are few and far between. There are no subtitles, so if you don’t speak Mongolian, the film is that much more dull. But even if you can’t sit through the full two hours and ten minutes, it is still worth watching to get a feel for a ‘40s-era movie made in the 21st century.
Old Magazines Are a Special Buy
Mongolian National University bought from translator B. Dashtseren many editions of old newspapers and magazines published during the autonomous monarchy of 1911-1920. Included in the purchase are 20 complete issues of Shin Toli, or New Mirror magazine, 103 issues of the Nislel Hureni Sonin Bichig, or News of the Capital Huree, and over 260 hand-copied issues of the Mongolian Sonin Bichig, or News of Mongolia, published in what is today Harbin, China. The National Archives do not possess issues of Shin Toli magazine, and the National Library has only one or two issues of its, making the purchase extremely noteworthy. B. Dashtseren collected and copied these rare issues from Russian libraries while he studied there.
Wintertime Troubles: Coal Theft and Tree Felling
[...] Attempts to steal coal from power stations are not uncommon, but more frequent attempts are made at the railway freight yards. […] Ten people are fighting the robbers, and currently have caught 20 people.
As D. Songino-bayar said, “There are over 2000 people who steal coal, most of whom do this the whole year round. It is a business; they are not poor. […] They’ve been doing this for seven years. We give them to the police, but they free them after two or three hours’ time. Since we don’t have the right to sue them, we just punish them by making them clean the railway yards. That is all we can do to them. […] But there are also people who are doing this to protect their lives. They predominantly do this during the wintertime.”
[…] Another fuel-related problem occurring this time of year is people felling trees from the surrounding forests of Ulaanbaatar. As Ulaanbaatar’s Environment Authority inspector S. Gombojav said, “The number of people unlawfully chopping down trees from area forests increases substantially at this time of year. Activities to fight against tree cutting began on October 15 and will continue for two months. Currently, there are about 30 forest inspectors working to protect the forests. Also, there are one or two policemen from each district working in the same manner. During this time, we have confiscated four truckloads of wood.”
“According to the Law on Forests, the price for one cubic metre of wood is fixed at T1416. We charge people five time that of the fixed price. They pay T5,000-25,000, depending on how much damage they have caused to the forest.”
Blackmarket timber is usually sold to the public rather than kept for personal use. It is sold at the current rate at the markets. Wood now costs approximately T7,000-8,000 per cubic metre.
The Badge of Sovereignty
Statehood is a long-held institution for Mongolians; and a milestone of this longevity is the state seal. The state seal exemplifies a country’s independence and sovereignty: a symbol of self-direction.
Seals of the Mongol empire were created in accordance with an official edict and established rules. They were engraved in precious stones – usually jade –, in metal, and in sandalwood, as well. Mongolian seals from the 13th century up to the 1930s were square in shape, thought to symbolize complimentary opposites and the four points of the compass. Sizes of seals varied depending on the bearer’s rank.
The handle of seals often depicted powerful creatures or national patterns symbolising strength and stability. Ancient Mongolians in all likelihood commonly used seals having grips engraved in the form of dragons, lions and tigers. However, under the rule of the Bogd Khaan – ending with the Revolutionary Party’s usurpation in 1924 -, most government offices used seals inlaid with jewels (chandmani). Seals of clergymen were decorated with ornamental patterns.
A new seal was called for and received with ceremony. Seal holders received a seal on a silk scarf – the hadag – while standing on a stretched white felt carpet. State seals were then placed in a specially-designed box on a pedestal in a decorated ger set aside for it.
Opening ceremonies to remove seals from their boxes, have been observed by Mongols since antiquity. Ceremonies show respect and responsibility, and have special rules. For instance, the box of the state seal of Mongolia under the Bogd Khaan was only to be opened while the five major ministers were present. Stamping was done daytime only, and an auspicious day and hour were preferred
During the Great Khaan’s throne, Mongolia had broad foreign relations with European powers. Chinggis Khaan’s conquests in Asia brought hope to Christian crusaders obsessed with the idea of seizing the Holy Land from Islam.
On July 22, 1246, after a fifteen-month journey, the Italian messenger Giovanni da Pian del Carpini reached to capital of Karakorum just as a new khaan, Guyug, son of Ogedei, was to be enthroned. Bearing an invitation from Pope Innocent IV asking the Khaan to embrace Christianity – and also to measure the chances of gaining an alliance in the Crusades against the alleged Islamic infidels. Guyug said, as the story goes, that first the Pope and heads of Europe would have to come and swear loyalty to him. On November 13 of the same year, Carpini took leave of the Mongol ruler, carrying with him Guyug Khaan’s reply to the Pope. In November 1247, Carpini delivered Guyug’s reply to the Pope. It was, to say the least, discouraging: “… You must come yourself as the head of all your kings and prove to Us your fealty. If you disregard the command of God and disobey Our instructions, We shall look upon you as Our enemy. Whoever refuses submission to the Son of Gods and Lord of the World will be eliminated.”
Under Manchurian rule, seals represented inscriptions in both Manchurian and Mongolian languages. At this time, Mongolia split into smaller administrative units under military governance. Since 1692, Tusheet Khan, Setsen Khan, Zasagt Khan, and Sain Noyon Khan aimags began to be referred to as the Northern Route, Eastern Route, Western Route, and Middle Route, respectively; and banners (khoshuuns) grew in number, according to the many annexes of the Mongolian empire, each entitled to use seals.
Having struggled against Manchurian rule for centuries, the Mongolian people restored self-rule in 1911. Bogs Jibzundamba VIII was elevated to King of Mongolia and conferred the stated seal with the inscription “Seal of Bogd Khaan, Head of Church and State, the Sunlight” in Soyombo, Mongolian and Square scripts.
The national symbol, the Soyombo – represented on Mongolia’s present-day flag – was incorporated into the state seal under Bogd Khaan. The Soyombo corresponds to a comprehensive ideal of man and state. In particular, man is respected first of all, and is therefore placed on top of the emblem, represented by three flames connected to the sun and the moon below – an instance of cultural beliefs often embodied in seals of state.
(Daniel & Sun-duk’s note: Guyug Khaan’s stamp on his letter to Pope Innocent IV read, “When the edict of the Oceanly Khaan of the Great Mongol Dynasty under the power of the Eternal Heaven reaches its subjects, they will abide and be overawed.”)
Mongolians celebrated their 76th anniversary on November 26. It was on this date in 1924 that the first constitution was passed.
A wreath-laying ceremony in Sukhbaatar Square was held. In attendance were L. Enebish, the Parliamentary Speaker, N. Enkhbayar, the Prime Minister, and other government members. Foreign ambassadors also participated in the event.
President N. Bagabandi addressed the nation on national television.
A wrestling competition was held at the wrestling palace, and opened with a speech by L. Enebish:
“It has been 76 years since the first constitution of Mongolia was adopted. It’s been a long period of history for independence, renaissance and democracy for Mongolians.
“The adoption of the first constitution and the choice of Government at the first State Ikh Hural in 1924 was the first historical and significant event in the history of Mongolia. This must be remembered by every generation. Since it passed the first constitution, Mongolia has been developing its state system. In 1992, Mongolia passed its second constitution, which confirmed the renovation and democracy of the state system.
“To create a humanitarian, civil and democratic society in Mongolia is the purpose of the people of Mongolia and the responsibility of the government.
“This honorable purpose shall be fulfilled only by Mongolians. I take this as our task.”
A total of 128 wrestlers participated in the tournament.
Ganjuur Sutras Unveiled
On November 26, the day Mongolia declared independence 76 years ago, the State Central Library exhibited the Ganjuur Sutras – a collection of 111 volumes. The prize exhibit was the volume of the Ganjuur Sutras, decorated with jewels, including gold, silver, pearls and coral. It is the first time the Ganjuur Sutras have ever been displayed for the general public.
Among the Ganjuur Sutras displayed at the exhibition, the oldest was written in the Lanza script and dates back at least 2000 years. The display included Ganjuur manuscripts that were written in the 14th century, and Ganjuur Sutras that were written between 1908-1910. Each volume weighs over 20kg.
The Ganjuur Sutras are composed of Buddhist teachings, specifically about the orders of Shagjamunig Lama – for which the Tibetan name is Ganjuur, which means ‘the translation of orders’. The volumes comprise 1800 articles, including a dictionary, writings on literature, linguistics, philosophy, and geography.
It is believed that the Ganjuur Sutras were translated into Tibetan in the 7th century.
From the 14th century onward, Mongolians began to translate stories from the Ganjuur, and at the order of Ligden Khan, the complete text of the Ganjuur was translated in 1629.
About 100 years later, the Mongolian manuscript was printed on a wooden printing block. On its 80th anniversary next year, the State Library of Mongolia is planning to organize a series of public exhibitions, displaying rare and antique books.
“Many valuable and priceless books have been kept at the library for 70-80 years. However, the people are the real owners of this heritage, but don’t know about these books. The library is organising an exhibition called ‘Nomyn Hishig’”, states a library spokesman.
Limited access to the Ganjuur Sutras is assured – only those who have special permission from the library will be able to pore over its pages.
The library is home to over 500,000 such sutras that are written in Tibetan, Manchu and Mongolian, and these books are used by scholars, scientists and researchers.
The first public library was organised after the victory of the people’s revolution, by the decision of the Gaba Khural of November 19, 1921.
Since then, the number of repositories and readers has increased. Today, the State Central Library has the largest number of publications available to the public. It also is a center for librarianship, and holds volumes on the arts, humanities and sciences.
Over 3 million books and manuscripts are kept in the repositories, of which more than 2 million are manuscripts.
The Library exchanges publications with more than 100 libraries and scientific institutions in over 50 countries.
Statues Shed New Light On Old Claim
Mongolia was the hearth of ancient Central Asian civilisation. While historical research on Mongolia and its influence has been expanded from year to year, artifacts comprise a pivotal area for further knowledge.
Among the many artifacts found in parts of the former Mongolian Empire – such as pottery, tools and weapons -, the stone statue stands out as a significant source for information. These monuments of the nomadic clans are found throughout Central Asia: over 500 stone statues have been found on present-day Mongolian soil alone. Although the rub is often that many statues have crumbled over time, the National Museum of Mongolian History recently brought complete statues to their exhibition halls from Shonkh Tavan Tolgoi in Khalkh Gol, Dornod aimag.
Archaeologists have long promulgated the idea that these sculptures are from the ancient Turk era. Such a theory is based on early archaeological research in Mongolia, where monuments of an ancient Turkish culture were discovered in the Orkhon River valley, attracting the attention of researchers worldwide.
During the time these discoveries were being made – when Turkish anthropological studies were intensive in Mongolia -, speculations that these sculptures were of a Mongolian origin were peripheral. This is one reason why the statues found in Dariganga in 1927 were considered for many years to be artifacts of the Turks. In the past decade, though, archaeological sites have been revisited, and theories have changed. The statues under review are of people in a sitting position, whereas the majority of ancient Turkish statues were made of standing figures.
Decorative clothing carved on the statues has provided researchers with the sought-after signposts indicating the period of history to which the sculptures belong. It is presently believed that the statues found at Shonkh Tavan Tolgoi belong to the 13th and 14th centuries. A headdress documented by foreign travellers to Mongolia in the 13th century is found on the sculptures. The same headdress can be observed on the portraits of the emperors from the Yuan Dynasty court, as well as on Persian statuettes of Mongols of the 14th century. Another piece of evidence that these statues belong to the medieval Mongols is the tall headdress called Bogtag in Mongolian, with its diamond-shaped designs fixed to it, the analog of which can be found on portraits of Yuan empresses.
Mongolians’ Closeness to Nature
Lake Baikal covers 31,500 square km, and is 636 km long; at its widest point, it is 79.4 km. Its water basin occupies about 557,000 square km, and contains about 23,000 cubic km of water. This adds up to about one fifth of the world’s reserves of fresh water, and more than 80 percent of the fresh water reservoir in the former Soviet Union. Lake Baikal is the deepest lake in the world. The presently known maximum depth is 1,637 metres. However, this is far from the whole story: Baikal’s inscrutable depths hide huge underwater voids that are connected to channels that run deeply into the underworld.
Baikal is situated in Eastern Siberia, in the Buryat Autonomous Republic and Irkutsk Region of Russia, and is a natural boundary between Russian Siberia and Mongolia. It plays a momentous role in Mongol history. The Secret History of the Mongols relates, through its ancestral myth, how the Mongol people came into being. The ancestry of Chinggis Khaan, the blue-grey Borte wolf and his wife, the reddish-brown Go Maral deer, travelled together across the “inland sea” – that is, Lake Baikal. When these two reached the Ono River on the eastern side of Baikal, their first son, Battsagan, was born. Battsagan was then the first human ancestor of Chinggis Khaan. Metaphysically speaking, travelling across water is symbolic of transcendence, of reaching new stages. Lake Baikal was thus the catalyst of the emergence of the Mongol nation.
The meaning of “Chinggis” is something like “large body of water”, “ocean”, or “huge quantities of water”. Considering what we know about the symbolism and spiritual universe of the Old Mongols, it seems probable that Temujin chose to call himself by that name on the ground that water is the strongest, the only unconquerable, but at the same time, the most changeable and also the softest of all substances. Its peaceful, harmonic, imperturbable stillness can in a moment change into a frenzied demon of waves shattering to pieces everything standing in its way. This is characteristically accomplished by water’s utilising the forces existing in its environment.
Water is thus invulnerable and ubiquitous; it unites within itself all opposing qualities. Hence, it is not limited by any of them. In this way, it possesses incomparable flexibility, softness and hardness without rigidity. It can therefore anywhere, anytime, adapt itself to any new circumstance, then in a split-second completely unexpectedly take on a new quality. Chances are that Temujin called himself “Chinggis” for the very reason that he wanted himself and his people to adopt and use the unique qualities of water in their actions.
And the people of Temujin did indeed combine them all in a way hitherto unknown. In the battlefield, they did not meet hard force with rigid resistance; when Western armies fought the Mongols, they never answered the attack with rigid force; instead, they yielded softly, like the smooth, fleeting and dancing movements of a wave, precisely in a “watery” way. The Western ideal of manfulness with forced courage, outer demonstrations of rigid, but ephemeral and false strength, was not shared by the people of Chinggis Khaan. They let their opponents deplete their energy in futile shows and fierce, disorganised charges, while the Mongols, with an almost playful ease, followed their opponents’ movements in every detail. Intuitively, they without fail knew in advance what their opponent was going to do next; they absolved and evaded every attempt of attack with a nimbleness and surefootedness bordering on the impossible. When the time was right, they would envelop their doomed prey, exhaust him, and “drown” him. The Mongols operated in exactly the same way as water would envelop and slowly obliterate what it has trapped.
This extraordinary intuitive adaptability, flexibility and eerie perspicacity permeated their whole nature, all their thoughts and actions. All this tells us what water represents: simultaneous strength and indefatigable, invincible strength due to its adaptable softness. The insight in this is a main constituent of the secret of the Mongols.
We can easily guess from which ocean Chinggis Khaan took his name, and this implies that the real meaning of his title is “King from the Baikal Ocean”, once more emphasising the crucial role of Baikal in the Mongolian spiritual universe. As for the lake itself, water is a feminine element, and the name of the goddess and ruler of Baikal is Baikal-Ehe. (Baikal means “nature”, and Ehe means “mother” in Mongolian.)
The area around Baikal is diverse. Around it, we find the dark northern Taiga, which is the endless Siberian forest belt, as well as grassland steppes, mainly concentrated in its southeast areas. The mountains contain abundant mineral resources, so every kingdom of Nature is represented here – the animal, the avian, the botanic, the aquatic, and the mineral. Here they have found a natural meeting ground not found anywhere else on Earth. Nor surprisingly, the whole Baikal region is an extraordinarily fertile one. Accordingly, many types of animals roam in the mountains, valleys and forests. Likewise, Baikal itself, as well as the numerous rivers, streams and lakes around it, is plentifully filled with fish. To add to all this natural diversity, even hot springs are found around this sacred Siberian inland sea. Lake Baikal is the true repository of the spiritual principles of Chinggis Khaan and the Mongol Empire, and it was its amalgamation of the different forces and powers of Nature that gave the Mongols their matchless versatility and flexibility to successfully meet any new circumstances.
Baikal is unlike all other lakes in the world by virtue of its extreme depth, great volume, the high quality of its water, and its very old age. Average lakes exist for no more than some tens of thousands of years, whereas Baikal has dwelled in Central Asia for at least 20-30 million years. And she is, of course, incomparably the oldest lake on earth. It is also distinguished by its unparalleled wildlife. In the immense depths of Baikal dwell forms of life not found anywhere else on earth, many of which are certainly undiscovered.
The first sight of numinous Lake Baikal instills in you a profound and indelible impression of an enigmatic power, unforgiving purity, dignity, nobility and grandeur. You mysteriously perceive the presence of the divine, and immediately sense why indigenous people from Siberia and Mongolia have always spoken reverently of her as “The Ocean”. They rightfully consider her a conscious being, and they believe she might take umbrage if they showed the affront of calling her a lake instead of an ocean. She is the deepest, purest, and, in light of her uniquely multifaceted surroundings and wildlife, and the otherworldly atmosphere she radiates, greatest lake-ocean in the world.
Lawmakers Discuss Land Use Rights
The long debated argument on land use will be put to task before the close of the autumn session. Lawmakers will discuss land usage largely as it pertains to cropland and grazing areas.
The document, which defines the basic trends of development, says: “Mongolia’s land is a guarantee of independence, national security and essential for social development. It is the source of people’s livelihood and can ensure the stable development of the country.”
The Ministry of Nature classifies land according to different usage and purposes. Over 83% of land is designated for agricultural use. Urban areas lay claim to 0.26%. Roads and railways net 0.21%. Forested areas account for 11.68%, while the waterways claim 1.06%, and Land Reserve claims 3.43%.
Once the land is classified, further sub-divisions occur. Agricultural land includes over 130 million hectares, or 97.4 % to use for animal pastures, 0.7% for agriculture, and 1.6% for hay fields.
Mongolia is home to over 30 million heads of livestock, but according to the Minister for Nature, U. Barsbold, a more accurate figure would be 40 million, given the increased goat population. It is unknown if Barsbold’s calculations include the year 2000 zud, which killed nearly three million animals.
Increased goat numbers over the past five years have destroyed valuable pasture land, because goats eat the grass roots, whereas other animals don’t. In the same period, livestock population increased by 16.4%. Research shows that there is a danger of desertification of pasture land. Over 20 million ha of the pasture have been overgrazed, and 7.9 million ha of it has been turned to sand.
Mining also destroys the land. For the past ten years, 270,000-560,000 cubic metres of fertile earth is turned up annually. Tracks destroy one million ha per annum, and 600,000 ha have been destroyed from technical and military activities.
A total of 1.2 million ha of land is used for agricultural purposes today. Up-to-date research indicates that 370,000 ha of agricultural land has been left fallow because of the poor economy, lack of technical expertise, organisation, and financial difficulties experienced by agricultural businesses. The result is that 61% of agricultural land has deteriorated.
D. Ganbat, the Director of the Land Resource Authority, says that a balance between land reform laws, demarcation of territory and maintaining a sound ecological balance must be sought in order for Mongolia to prosper and not relinquish the ancient practices of the herders.
Mongolia Will Open an Embassy in Canada
[...] Another point of debate [in Parliament] was the opening of the Mongolian Embassy in Canada. L. Erdenechuluun, Minister of Foreign Affairs, stated that the “opening of a Mongolian embassy in Canada is important for diplomatic expansion as well as economic relations. The new embassy’s yearly budget will be US$160,000. This amount is not much more than the consular’s office that opened in Canada in 1998 in Toronto. The Canadian consulate was opened in Mongolia in 1997. Mongolia exports knitwear and sewn products into Canada. Mongolia began diplomatic relation with Canada in 1973.” A parliamentary majority supported the opening of an embassy in Canada.
Departing American Ambassador Challenges Mongolia to Shape Up
The United States Ambassador to Mongolia, Alphonse La Porta, gave a farewell presentation on October 30 at the Government House. The main thrust of his address concerned securing Mongolia’s economic future.
Key issues concerned Mongolia’s economic autonomy and the importance of economic growth, rather than bolstering the state purse through private enterprise and ‘Mongolia relying on donor aid.’ Excerpts from his speech are sumamrised below:
“Mongolia’s economy has shifted to the private sector (in 1995, 55.5% of the economy was in private hands, while in 1999, over 72% of the GDP came from the private sector). Mongolia’s national wealth is being created by the private sector, not the state enterprises – with few exceptions (e.g. Mongol Telecom), those creaking dinosaurs have disappeared.
“In 1999, it is a fact that Mongolia’s private sector grew by nearly 15%, while the state enterprises declined by over 13%. State enterprises must be privatised in order to modernise and obtain new investment capital (which can only come from outside Mongolia) and up-to-date management expertise in order to survive. It is overdue for Mongolia to shift to a true investment-led economic base.
“Mongolia has become too dependent on donor resources, and a favourable environment and institutions to attract foreign investment have not been established. A recent World Bank study shows that foreign direct investment in Asia was the most productive force in promoting economic growth and reducing poverty. In short, the freer the economy and the more democratic a society, the greater the prospect of significant and sustainable economic growth.
“My estimate is that Mongolia has foregone approximately $1 billion in new investment as a result of the failure to proceed with privatisation and energy deregulation, in addition to the worsening business climate. There is only one way for the Revolutionary Party government to restore confidence – just do it, and do it now while your government is new and can take bold steps.
“Mongolia must shift its tax policy from being punitive, arbitrary, unfair and discouraging to economic growth and investment. In economic terms, the government must turn away from the view that productive enterprise exists to maintain the state to one that emphasizes equity, honesty, and simplified administration.
“Your Parliament now has a chance to overcome the disputes and blockages of the past by taking bold action to put Mongolia on a sound growth path. The opposite if further stagnation, low growth, and permanent beggar status before Mongolia’s international friends and donors.
“If your Parliament does not move forward now, there will be a loss of donor confidence (already, there is ‘donor fatigue’). I want the United States to continue to be counted among those supporting Mongolia to refashion its economy on an economic growth course.
“Do not disappoint the Mongolian people, most of all, by failing to meet the present challenge.”
With regard to investment, La Porta gave strategic advice, namely:
“Keep Central Bank reserves high and make it independent of the government and political interference. Reduce interest rates by reforming and opening the banking system; secure a qualified strategic investor to take over the Trade and Development Bank.
“Do not interfere in money supply, interest rates and exchange rates. Resist temptations to enact high import duties, to give tax breaks to favourite businesses and sectors, and to create new distortions in the economy. Promote export and investment-led growth by improving regulatory performance, anti-corruption measures, and encouraging competition, not monopolies.”
La Porta maintains that the US will continue to extend humanitarian assistance to Mongolia, saying, “The United States and other foreign humanitarian assistance has helped cushion the reduction of social programmes during the transition period.” He gave special mention to the development of a regional political and security architecture for Northeast Asia.
La Porta departed Mongolia on November 3. He is succeeded by Mr. John Dinger.
Profile: America’s New Man in Mongolia
John R. Dinger is the new US Ambassador to Mongolia. Hailing from Riceville, Iowa, Dinger graduated from the University of Northern Iowa in 1974.
He held the post of Minister Counselor and Consul General in the US embassy in Tokyo from 1998. He was previously a member of the State Department’s Senior Seminar. Other positions have included Director’s Office of Press Relations, Deputy Director of Japanese Affairs, and National Security Fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution.
Earlier in his 25-year State Department career, Mr. Dinger served overseas in Johannesburg, Tokyo, Fukuoka, Rio de Janeiro and London.
Before arriving in Mongolia, Dinger engaged in Mongolian language study. His nomination was announced by President Clinton earlier than is customary, in order to ensure Mr. Dinger’s candidacy was approved by the US senate before its Spring recess.
Russia: Mongolia’s Old Friend
Twenty-six years later, after Leonid Brezhnev paid a state visit to Mongolia in 1974, Russia’s newly elected president, Vladimir Putin, came to pay a long-awaited trip to his neighbouring country. President Putin arrived in Mongolia on November 13 for a one-day visit. The atmosphere of Putin’s visit was warm and cheerful. The busy streets of Ulaanbaatar were welcoming, as they were decorated with colourful signs saying “Welcome Friends” in Russian. This reminded of the “old days”, when Russia and Mongolia were tight comrades during the communist regime. The close relationship cooled in the 1980s and has since slowly regained its spark.
Ulaanbaatar residents crowded Sukhbaatar Square as Mongolian President N. Bagabandi, his wife, and state officials greeted President Putin, his wife, and Russian delegates. The on-lookers stood by cheering as the modest ceremony commenced.
After the ceremony, President Putin paid tribute to the statue of D. Sukhbaatar, the leading Mongolian general during the first days of the Mongolian communist revolution.
Important documents, such as the Ulaanbaatar Declaration regarding the relationship between Russia and Mongolia and the two countries’ positions on global and regional issues, were discussed and signed during Putin’s visit. Part of this particular document states the hopes of the two countries in developing further friendly relations and their mutual beliefs in multilateral cooperation on global issues. It also emphasized the importance of forswearing alliances within any Asian development projects. The two sides reassured each other that neither side would join any military or political alliances that would inhibit the relationship between Mongolia and Russia, and each side agreed to not sign agreements that would jeopardise the sovereignty or independence of the other country.
Furthermore, the documents included issues concerning economic liberties by reducing tariffs by the year 2001. Visa issuances, Mongolian-Russian share-holding industries, cooperation in nature and environmental fields, and participating in North-East Asian relations were also among the extensive subjects discussed. The two countries shared the same views on expanding the UN’s involvement in international security, peacekeeping, and on nuclear weapons dismantling concerns. The issue of returning livestock that crossed over the Mongolian-Russian borders unwittingly or through smuggling is still not decided.
President Bagabandi noted the importance of the two countries’ relations by saying “best friends are old friends, and the best clothes is your old coat.” President Putin stated that “economic relations have dropped five times during the last ten years. This lets us know that it’s time to mend the problem.” Putin also met with State Ikh Hural Speaker L. Enebish and Prime Minister N. Enkhbayar. President Bagabandi was invited to visit the Russian Federation.
Putin’s visit did not just focus on official jargon: recreational events were also a part of his trip. During an award ceremony for President Bagandi, he was given a “Friendship” award by the Russian president.
President Putin surprised Bagabandi by announcing the Mongolian President’s characteristics while attending college, which were found in the St. Petersburg University archives. Bagabandi was an excellent student and had a good sense of humour. The amused Mongolian president later said that he never expected such a surprise.
During the state dinner on the 13th, Putin and his wife, Liudmila Putina, were given Mongolian traditional dresses – dels – and accoutrements. The silver knife and belt that Mongolian men wore in ancient times were among the most prized gifts from the Mongolian president.
Putin paid another tribute at the Russian soldiers’ monument. The monument stands in remembrance of those men who died in the Khalkh Gol War in 1939. The war was fought against the Japanese military. He stood silent for a few seconds and took off his hat for a respectful bow.
Security for the Russian president was high. Some local newspapers said that homes of Russian people who lived in Mongolia were checked before the Russian president arrived. The high-level security also restricted media coverage of the event.
Russia and Mongolia Cement Old Ties
Mongolia’s formal relations with Russia date back 78 years, with the opening of embassies in Ulaanbaatar and Moscow in 1922.
[…] Frontier boundary lines were redefined by Russia and Mongolia in 1987 to 1993. There are now 29 border stations along the 2000km steppe border. Their usage is divided up as follows: four are for international travellers and consignments, nine are for Mongolian and Russian travellers and cargo, nine are temporary stations, and seven are for transit stations.
Military cooperation was made by defence ministers from both sides in 1993. Today, twelve Mongolian military officers are studying in six military establishments in Russia. The head of the Russian Armed Forces paid a visit to Mongolia on October 17.
The path to good relations is paved with numerous intergovernmental negotiations. In 1991, Mongolia borrowed $84.9 million from Russia. An agreement was made on the payments in 1992, and a joint cooperation agreement was made in 1993, concerning trade, science and the economy.
Significant progress was made in 1993, when Mongolian and Russian presidents released a joint statement regarding their politically repressed peoples. The statement conveyed historical truths and aimed to correct past mistakes.
In the past two years, Mongolian and Russian businessmen have met regularly. Over 150 Russian representatives and 100 Mongolian companies attended the meetings. […] There are 170 businesses fully and partially funded by Russian investment. Companies such as Zarubejstroi, Burvodstroi, Zolotoi Vostok, are backed wholly by Russian investment, and Incon and Erdenetstroi are representative of joint ventures operating in Mongolia.
Bilateral cooperation extends to education. Since 1996, up to 90 Mongolian students, including post-graduates, were received by Russian institutes and universities annually. Over 300 students currently study in Russia with sponsorships. Student numbers for Russia during 2000-2001 have been increased by 30.
In diplomatic terms, Mongolia consular offices are active in Irkutsk and Ulan-Ude. Mongolia has raised a proposal to open a consul office in Kyzyl, the capital of Tuva, and is waiting for a response.
Democrats Unite to Create an Open Party
On December 6, 2000, four political parties will meet for a unification congress, which 1300 delegates will attend. They are the Mongolian National Democratic Party (MNDP), the Mongolian Social Democratic Party (MSDP), the Mongolian Religious Democratic Party (MRDP) and the Mongolian Democratic Renaissance Party (MDRP).
A fifth party, the Mongolian Democratic Party (MDP), will inform the alliance of its intention to join or not on December 5. The Mongolian Traditional United Party has announced that it will not be joining the alliance.
The merging parties have announced that they are joining forces “for further stabilization and development of an open civil society.” The party will be called the Mongolian Democratic Party on the international stage, but will otherwise be referred to as ‘the Democratic Party’.
The merger will create an opposition for the Mongolian People’s Revolutionary Party (MPRP), who were elected in 2000.
The MPRP won the 1992 elections, and it was this that spurred the MNDP and MSDP to form a DemCoalition, to fight for, and win, the 1996 elections. One of their parliamentary achievements was the introduction of the free market economy to Mongolia, before being ousted in 2000 by a disenchanted public. The partnership had splintered over four years, following infighting, catcalling, a lack of unity and the Social Democrats’ ambitions increasingly following a solo path, despite their official alliance with the MNDP.
Running as separate political entities in the 2000 elections, they conceded defeat to the ‘newly democratic’ MPRP.
The recent announcement of the alliance has caused some political observers to react warily, citing next year’s presidential elections as a likely motivating factor.
The new party has adopted the motto ‘United State 1206 and United Party December 6’, and intends to work closely with the public, although in exactly what capacity has not been specified.
“The party will be a public party,” announced former DemCoalition Prime Minister and MNDP member M. Enkhsaikhan, who now heads the parties’ working group.
A survey conducted amongst the MNDP members indicates that 41 percent actively want the party to ‘be an open party’.
Democratic history seems to be repeating itself – all the players in the political process assert that they are uniting for strength and will not replicate the divided factions of the late 1990s.
Enkhsaikhan states, “Democracy exists in Mongolia. However, the main purpose of democracy is that the public lead society. Today, society is lead by political parties. The party should be focused on the public. This will be implemented by those of us who have been experiencing all the good and bad aspects of democracy from the beginning. I am confident that we can do it.”
Guidelines issued by the party list their main objectives as being, “To strengthen the independence of the Mongolian state and sustain an open society, to create strong economic and administrative structures, and coordinate social development with the social progress of the world community.
“The party will value human rights, liberties and creative capability… The well-being of families and individuals… Democracy, justice, equality and unity… Nature’s virgin state and improve ecological consciousness.
“The main principles the party will adhere to are internal democracy, which is the fundamental principle of our policy, and activities enforcing the parties’ open image. Also, the party interests will always be subordinated to the national interests, and the people constitute the basis for our party, and the wishes and interests of the people are the sources of inspiration for the party.”
The most important Party organs will comprise the Democratic Party National Assembly (DPNC), which will meet every four years; the National Committee, which will meet no less than once a year; and the National Charter Committee, whose job will be to enforce the Party Charter.
The Democratic Party held a competition to design an emblem for them, and judges have selected a shortlist of ten, out of 100 submitted. The creator of the best emblem will receive T500,000.
The candidate for the 2001 presidential election will be determined at the congress, as will the leader of the Democratic Party. M. Enkhsaikhan and R. Gonchigdorj are regarded as potential candidates for the posts, although they have previously lead their parties to defeat. An unknown candidate, unencumbered by past political failings, may be the smart choice.
Parliament Faces a Constitutional Crisis
The Grand Sitting of the Mongolian Constitutional Court will meet today, November 29, to arbitrate a dispute relating to Parliament’s passing of the first ever amendments to its constitution on December 24, 1999.
The amendments became effective from July 15, 2000, and largely concern Parliamentary voting and activities. They were accepted by 96.7 percent of MPs in the December 24, 1999 sitting.
However, at a sitting on March 15, the constitutional court considered that the amendments violated the constitution, but Parliament disagreed with this conclusion in a debate held on July 28.
Prior to today’s meeting, the constitutional court had requested the Parliament Speaker to nominate a trusted representative of Parliament to work alongside the Court before the November 25 hearing.
Mongolia’s current political standing depends on the decision to be made by the Court. If the amendments are overruled by the court, the current ruling that says “Members of Parliament can concurrently hold government cabinet positions, but no other jobs,” will be cancelled.
If this is the case, a Parliamentary by-election or re-election of ministers may be necessary.
Parliament’s next step will depend on the decision made by the Constitutional Court’s grand sitting.
Fuel Price Increases Caused By Sub-Zero Weather
The first snowfall of the coming winter covered UB on October 20. The sudden snowfall was shocking, because it was such a hot Indiansummer just before the cold snap. Some offices, apartments, organisations, ger district inhabitants and livestock herders suddenly faced winter and were unable to prepare for it. They say this winter may be a harsh one again.
Countryside herders forecast the upcoming weather according to their closeness to and perception of nature. “Trees and grass became yellow very early this year. That is a sign that hard weather could occur this year,” said herdrs.
To overcome Mongolian extreme winters, a typical herder family and families living in ger districts outside Ulaanbaatar need fice tons of coal and one cubic metre of wood for each a year. One cubic metre of wood costs T12,000, five tons of coal costs T120,000. A sack of coal costs T1500-T1800, and a sack of wood costs T1000 these days in major UB markets.
“The sudden cold temperatures caused coal and wood price increases. It was T70,000 per five tons of coal in September. The colder it becomes, the more expensive coal and wood prices become,” said a coal and wood trader at “Tsaiz” market.
Mongolia’s Big Companies Back on the Trading Block
Mongolia’s scheme to privatise the nation’s biggest industries, on hold for most of the year, is up and running. The State Property Committee is again trying to woo foreign investors to take interest in Mongolia’s biggest companies.
On the trading block are Gobi Cashmere company, Neft Import Concern (NIC) and the Trade and Development Bank. The national airline MIAT, the last of the ‘big four’, was not on the list.
With the assistance of the American consulting company Barents, the last government readied the ‘big four’ for privatisation. But earlier this year, Parliament put these companies on a list of items not to be privatised. Analysts think the MPRP instigated this decision to slow down the privatisation until they came to power.
As expected, the MPRP, which won last summer’s Parliament election, is now keen to sell off the biggest state entities. Parliament is expected to cancel the list of companies not to be privatised. The task has been put to the MPRP’s newly appointed State Property Committee Chairman, L. Purevdorj. Policymakers say open tenders will be accepted in the new year.
Purevdorj said the privatisation will earn T20 billion for the state coffers. Sucha cash injection can only be made with privatization of NIC, T&D Bank and Gobi.
It is not entirely known what foreign companies would invest in Mongolia, but the American fuel giant Caltex has reviewed NIC.
“Privatisation should be done carefully. The affects of this will be felt across the whole national economy,” said Purevdorj.
In 1997, state property was valued in T1,041 trillion. In 2000, due in part to the sale of property, this valuation decreased to T526,8 billion. State-owned properties now include 77 partially privatised enterprises and 12 joint ventures. Twenty-three state property buildings house a total of 109 private businesses. During the first six months of 2000, 43 of these 109 businesses operated at a loss.
The losses suffered in all sectors caused the government to sit up and take note. The energy sector lost T14 billion. The Mongol-Bulgargeo joint venture once mined 120-130kg of gold a year, but now mines just 80kg. The Huns-Trade company reaped a profit of T1 billion in 1996, but during the first six months of 2000, the company operated at a loss of T24,3 million. Auto-Impex made sales of T47 million in the first six months of the year, but its losses were estimated at T51 million.
The directors of ten state companies have been replaced since the government took office in July, a trend that is likely to continue. The government says these personnel changes are based o ‘improvement of capacity and skills’.
Aside from closely examining company management, steps will be taken to prosecute individuals who abused their power. The government has already singled out Purevnatsag, the former Director of Mongol-Burgargeo. He allegedly hired private contractors to work at the company mine, an illegal procedure.
Recently privatized companies are also being inspected for irregularities. “Privatisation work previously made is legitimate, but some contracts might be cancelled if they were done incorrectly. We will review the former system to avoid future mistakes. Only ten of 5500 businesses will be checked,” said Purevdorj.
One inspection will be made on the privatization process of the MIAT airline ticket office. The state spent T102 million in renovations to the building, but it was sold for just T29 million.
Russian Levy Stymies Meat Exports
Mongolia exports roughly 50,000-60,000 tons of meat per year, and the country’s most reliable customer is Russia. Regrettably, because Mongolia has such a low population and Russia is so vast, not enough meat is exported to the neighbouring country for lack of Mongolian manpower. In 1997, Mongolia exported 3,600 tons of meat, in 1998, it exported 5,600 tons; and in 1999, Mongolia traded 1200 tons of its total export of meat to the Russian Federation.
Imported meat must be inspected for disease by an authorised food inspection agency when it reaches Russia. With regulations being what they are, it is difficult to obtain approval from these organisations. Authorisation must come from an agency located in Moscow. Russian customs recently introduced a new law for meat transportation throughout the country. The law states that for every kilogram of meat, a $0.5 EUR tax will be levied. Unable to meet the tax, Mongolia will cut back on meat exportation to Russia in the following year.
Federal Bonds Sale
On November 16, the Mongolian government sold 33,100 bonds at the Stock Market. Additionally, the government sold 20,000 bonds at 2 billion tugriks yesterday.
Bonds that are redeemable within 30 days are priced at T98,969, while 60-day bonds are T97,879.
ADB to Set Up Office in Mongolia
Mr. Tadao Chino, President of the Asian Development Bank (ADB), adn Mr. Chultemiin Ulaan, Minister of Finance and Economy of Mongolia, have signed an agreement for the establishment of an ADB Resident Mission in Mongolia. This paves the way for the official opening of ADB’s Resident Mission in Ulaanbaatar.
The Resident Mission will build up to full strength in the coming months. Its primary role will be to strengthen the ADB’s effectiveness in delivering its programme of assistance to Mongolia. “The new office would enable the ADB to develop a closer working relationship with the government, the private sector, community groups, and the civil society at large,” said Mr. Barry Hitchcock, ADB’s first Resident Representative in Mongolia. He noted that the office would also help to improve coordination with other donors supporting Mongolia’s development.
The ADB rededicated itself to the fight against poverty by adopting a new poverty reduction strategy in 1999. Mongolia was the first member country to sign a Partnership Agreement with the ADB, which sets specific targets for poverty reduction and improvements in social indicators over the medium term. This commitment to fighting poverty has been renewed by the government of Prime Minister Enkhbayar, which was elected in July 2000. The new government’s action programme emphasises growth to reduce poverty and strengthening the social sectors. The new government has also signaled its intentions to continue the process of reform, which has seen Mongolia make substantial progress in its transition to a market economy.
ADB adapted in May 2000 a new country operational strategy for Mongolia entitled A Poverty Reduction Strategy for ADB Operations in Mongolia (2000-2005). It stresses the need to foster economic growth and to incorporate elements of good governance in any project supported by the ADB, whose operations in Mongolia are now focused on five sectors: finance, agriculture, public, social and urban development.
The ADB has extended development assistance to Mongolia since it became a member in 1991. As of December 1999, cumulative lending to Mongolia consisted of 21 loans amounting to US$428 million. In addition, technical assistance grants for 89 projects amounting to US$45 million had been provided.
Canadian Dollar - Mongolian Tugrik Exchange Rate: CAD$1 = T709.07
A total of 11,470kg of gold was mined in Mongolia over the first ten months of the year and sold to Mongolbank. Compared with the same period in 1999, gold excavation increased by 1689kg or 17,2 percent. In October, over 100 mining companies mined 1725kg of gold.
The state-owned NIC petrol company jacked its price up by 4,3 percent last week in Ulaanbaatar. The situation is grimmer in the western aimags, where no petrol has been supplied for several weeks. Only limited supplies are being brought across the Chinese and Russian borders.
JICA will be distributing thousands of dollars worth of aid to needy herders as part of the zud relief project. The aid includes food, clothes, gas stoves, generators and handpumps for wells.
Thirty Mongolians are currently serving time at a prison in the Russian region of Mordovia, not far from Moscow.
Mongolia will not allow the importation of toxic waste. A bill to affirm such a measure was approved by Parliament last Friday. Some poor countries have been lured to accept toxic waste from industrial nations in echange for hard currency.
The public is now allowed to watch Parliament in session every Thursday. Reservations to observe the proceedings must first be made by phoning 325841.
Lonely Planet Travel Books has an on-line upgrade for their Mongolia book. Click on http://www.lonelyplanet.com/upgrades/up-mon.html. Then click on Mongolia, View.
Hollywood superstar Richard Gere will host a TV programme on Buddhism, to be broadcast on Mongol TV. The hsow, called The Way to Enlightenment, includes other American movie stars. It will be aired from the end of November.
Mongolia has been listed as a ‘non-polio country’. A total of 46 countries in the West Pacific region were recently handed certificates verigying that the disease had been eradicated in their areas. The World Health Organisation still maintains a goal of eliminating polio worldwide.
Eight foreigneres are currently being held at Zaisen Prison. Five are Chinese, one is Russian, and two are Tuvans.
Police are still searching for two prisoners who escaped from a maximum-security jail in Tov aimag on November 6. E. Hurelbaatar and B. Enkhbaatar made their escape while working at a coal yard. They had been sentenced to eight and twelve years, respectively.
Onoodor newspaper reports that in 2001, President Bagabandi will travel to South Korea, Singapore, India, Nepal and possibly the United Arab Emirates. Prime Minister N. Enkhbayar will visit Tokyo, Moscow and Washington. Parliament Speaker L. Enebish is likely to tour European countries, including Holland, Belgium and Luxembourg.
A census conducted by the Ministry of Nature and Environment showed ust 50 deer inhabiting the Bogd Khan protected area. Just ten years ago, there was an estimated 500 deer on the mountain. The deer have suffered from a loss of habitat and poaching.
The Hustai Nuruu Nature Reserve in Tov aimag is currently home to 123 Takhi (Przewalski) horses. Seventy-five other horses live in a protected reserve in Gobi Altai aimag. The Takhi horse became extinct in Mongolia in the late 1960s, and the animal was preserved only in European and Australian zoos. Takhis were first reintroduced to Mongolia in 1992, when a shipment of fifteen horses arrived from Holland.
A new runway costing T960 million has been completed in Muren, Khovsgol aimag. The runway is 2400 metres long and 35 metres wide, and will be extended next year. It will be large enough to facilitate the landing of large Boeing jets and serve as an emergency landing strip for foreign airlines flying over Mongolia.
A paved road is being planned to connect Erdenet, Bulgan and Muren. Part of the financing will come from the Kuwait Foundation, which assists Mongolia in exchange for annual shipments of Saker falcons. The Kuwait Foundation is also supporting a hydroelectric dam to be built in Gobi Altai aimag.
There are 1850 Non-Governmental Organisations registered with the Ministry of Justice.
Since 1996, about 80 NGOs have participated in 302 projects financed with T7 billion.
Discussion at a government meeting between MP L. Odonchimed and NGO representatives revolved around what NGOs can do to realise the government’s ‘programme of action’, build civil society and human development. Issues included delegating some governmental functions to NGOs and holding a national conference of NGOs.
MIAT’s fleet is nearing the end of its lifespan. “It is necessary to replace planes in the near future in order to insure flight safety,” said Infrastructure Minister B. Jigjid. MIAT’s Russian-made AN-24 planes have a design life of up to 25 years, while its two Boeing 727-200 planes are good for up to twenty-eight years. MIAT uses AN-24 planes for domestic flights, and Boeing 727’s for international flights.
The Ministry of Education, Culture and Sciences, in association with the Ministry of Finance, will allocate T2,8 billion from the State training fund to those students who pass exams to study for their Master’s or Ph.D. Students will receive credit from the fund. In previous years, T1 billion was granted to 2100 students.
An organisation from the United States intends to establish international secondary schools in Ulaanbaatar. The number of foreign officials living in Mongolia has increased considerably during the past few years. Coordinators for the project have chosen four existing schools in the capital for consideration.
A research laboratory for experimenting on animals opened in Ulaanbaatar on November 21. The laboratory will test new medicines, and students from the Medical and Agricultural Universities will be able to conduct research. Mainly rabbits and rats will be used for tests.
Residents from the Bayanhutag soum in Khentii aimag are seeking a public execution for convicted murderer Tugsjargal, who shot dead six people last month. The citizens have put forward their proposal to President Bagabandi. Tugsjargal is guilty of killing his 78-year-old mother; his two teenage children; and three neighbours, a young couple and their two-year-old child.
The National Folk Song and Dance Ensemble will celebrate its 50th anniversary in December. The Ensemble have performed in over seventy countries.
The National Academic Drama Theatre’s art director, B. Munkhdorj, says that their winter season will include new plays, such as Sh. Gurbazar’s Moon Smile, and classics such as Shakespeare’s King Richard III.
Buddhist lessons are free, provided by the Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition. The instructor is Australian monk Thubten Gyatso. In English, Thursday, 7pm, and translated into Mongolian Saturday and Sunday at 9am. The center is located next to Millie’s Café.
The 3rd Mongolian National Hockey League championships will be held in Nalaih district, UB, on December 4. A total of seven teams will participate in this year’s event. The Otgon-Od team will enter the league championships this year.
D. Bars, Press Officer at the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, reports the following results of this year’s harvest: 138,191 tonnes of crops have been harvested from 178,571 hectares of land. The potato yield was 55,222 tonnes, and vegetables yielded 41,752 tonnes. The potato yield was 4.3 percent higher than last year. The crop and vegetable harvest is expected to meet 60-70 percent of domestic needs.
2001 Budget (figures in billions) - Income: T314.1, Expenditure: T404.6, Income of Balance: T24.2, Expenditure of Balance: T90.5
2000 Budget (figures in billions) – Income: 304.8, Expenditure: T422.6, Income of Balance: T973.6 million, Expenditure of Balance: T117.7
Herders in Tsagaanuur, Khovsgol aimag, presented a reindeer to President Bagabandi.
Students and Administrator Die From Inhalation
On October 27th, four students and an administrator from Green Horse Art College lost their lives due to inhalation of poisonous fumes in the school building. Before this tragic event occurred, New Fire, a Mongolian-Korean venture company, installed a propane heater in the college. A leak in the tank emitted the toxic gas, causing the death of the five people
During the installation of the heater, Dalh-Ochir, director of the college, mentioned to the workers that he smelled something coming from the tank. He asked them if it was leaking propane gas. New Fire allegedly said that nothing was wrong with the heater.
The Ministry of Infrastructure said that New Fire was not authorised to install the gas heater in the school. According to a law established by the Ministry of Infrastructure, companies must receive permission from the Ministry before any possible hazardous equipment is placed in a building.
Police have brought criminal charges against the company.
November Weather Forecast
According to statistics, average air temperatures are between –16 C and –18 C in Zavkhan and in the north of Bayankhongor aimag, and –5 C and –8 C in the Omnogobi, Dornogobi, S. Khovd, and Gobi-Altai aimags during the month of November. Other areas generally range from –9 C to –14 C.
Six to nine millimetres of precipitation is expected to fall in W. Selenge. E. Arkhangai, E. Bulgan, N. Khentii, Khovsgol, Zavkhan, and Uvs aimags. Up to 3mm of precipitation is expected in the Gobi aimags, S. Gobi-Altai, and the Great Lake lowlands. Three to six millimetres of snowfall is expected in other locales.
Air temperatures for the month will be on average in Uvs and N. Zavkhan aimags, but warmer air, by 2-3 degrees Celsius, is predicted in other areas of the country.
Lower than average precipitation is expected in most places, but on average in the aimags of Dundgobi, N. Omnogobi, W. Khovsgol, Sukhbaatar, and S. Dornod aimags.
Snowfall will occur in scattered areas in the middle of the first week of November, and temperatures are to turn colder. The first week will bring temperatures in Altai, Khangai, Khovsgol, and Khentii mountainous areas ranging between –15 C and –20 C at night, -4 C to –9 C during daytime hours. Gobi aimags should be around –3 C and –8 C at night, +5 C and +10 C in the day. Others will average –8 C to –13 C during the night, +1C and +6 C during daylight hours.
First half of the second week: snow and cold temperatures of –23 C down to –28 C in the night, -12 C to –17 C in the daytime in Zavkhan, N. Bayankhongor, and W. Khovsgol aimags. Gobi regions will have slightly warmer air at –10 C to –15 C at night, -1 C to –6 C during the daytime. Other localities are forecasted for –18 C to –23 C at night, -7 C to –12 C during the day.
By the middle of the third week of November, snowstorms or duststorms are expected throughout the nation, and temperatures should plummet to –27 C to –32 C at night, warming moderately to between –16 C and –21 C during the day hours near river basins, -21 C to –26 C at night, -12 C to –17 C during the daytime in other regions.
By the end of November, strong winds and snowstorms are predicted. There will be heavier than normal snowfall in aimags with higher precipitations on average, which may result in a scarcity of pastureland.
The Hydro-Meteorology Institute warns countryside herders to take heed of their hay reserves for livestock.
Minibus Havoc in the Capital
Problems are once again occurring because of minibuses in Mongolia. N. Nyamdavaa, Director of UB’s Transportation Office, spoke on the issue.
“In Ulaanbaatar, there needs to be over 500 buses and trolleys to satisfy public transportation needs. There are currently not enough city buses to serve these needs. Thus, individuals see an opportunity for business by supplying an alternate transportation service. Since 1998, minivans, or minibuses, have been filling the transportation gap. At first, there were no problems with this ‘solution’; however, nowadays, the number of minivans serving the public has become quite a nuisance. They are causing uncontrollable traffic delays and numerous automobile accidents.
“The city buses are able to hold 110 passengers (Daniel and Sun-duk’s note: Only 60 comfrotably!), as opposed to the minibuses, which can only carry a minimal amount of people. It takes over ten minibuses to surpass the amount of passengers that a city bus can transport. As a result, where ten city buses are supposed to stop and serve the public, 100 minibuses are already there, taking away business from the government. Public transportation cannot continue in this fashion. We are currently trying to regulate minibus numbers. So far, we have measured the distances between bus stops, approximated rush hour times, determined thenumber of buses that are needed, and revised the bus schedule according to peak hours. After carefully planning this new solution, around 1000 authorised minibuses will be permitted to serve the public. The problem, however, is that unauthorised minibuses will continue to work because of the high unemployment rate. They will most likely serve the public in the late evening hours or in the early morning hours because there will be limited control at those times. This creates difficulty in regulating the city transportation system.
“The minibuses that have permission to operate are constantly complaining about unauthorised minibuses taking business away. Unauthorised minibus owners say that they have bought the buses with loan money; therefore,they must be allowed to operate to pay off their debt or else their vans will be repossessed and they will be left on the streets. Unfortunately, the government canot allow them to continue their service.
“People are also complaining that some minibuses begin their services too late in the mornings and stop too early in the evenings. If they are going to continue their transportation services, they should operate during the same hours as other minibuses and city buses. Contracts are not signed with each individual bus driver; contracts are signed with minibus companies. If the driver of the minibus does not comply with the transportation service’s regulations, the company gets the heat. Another problem is that minibus company directors and managers are usually people who do not understand how the public transportation service should be organised.
“Last May, a city ordinance was passed concerning private entities which owned minibuses and who were interested in running a public transportation service. 109 companies took part in the tender, and only 29 of them were selected. The 29 companies started their services according to the Mayor’s Act No. 173. The entities that were not chosen protested the ordinance. On June 21, the Prime Minister made an amendment to the ordinance. Since then, all private entities are serving the public. All minibus companies are currently serving the public, but something must be done about this soon.
“We will be accrediting minibus companies and we will regulate the running of public transportation services. We will also be inspecting minibus licenses monthly. If the minibuses pass the inspection, they will be permitted to continue serving the public.
Cuba Donates Rat Poison
Mongolia, always fond of celebrating anniversaries, will mark 40 years of diplomatic relations with Cuba on December 7.
To celebrate the occasion, Cuban Ambassador Pedro Moran said Cuba will donate one tonne of rat poison to Mongolia. In 1999, train officials discovered seven rats aboard the internatinal train from China. These rats were allegedly the first to appear on Mongolian soil. Presumably, the donated poison will be used to kill other vermin.
Moran also noted that Mongolian students currently study in Cuba on scholarships, and a Cuban medical group is scheduled to visit this country.
Carbon Monoxide – average: 0.4 (3 is unhealthy); Sulphur Dioxide – average: 0.005 (0.51 is unhealthy); Nitrogen Dioxide – average: 0.034 (0.4 is unhealthy); Dust – average: 0.085 (0.15 is unhealthy).
Will the Nation Face Another Calamitous Winter?
“Snows that started last week are forming an icy layer over 80 percent of Mongolia’s territory, and temperatures are dropping. In some parts, such as Tsetserleg soum of Khovsgol province in the north, the temperature is already reaching –36 C to –40 C. Animals are unable to go to pasture because of too much snow cover,” said Ts. Jadambaa, spokesman for the Civil Defense Office. Provincial authorities are taking measures now, he said.
Last year, approximately 2.4 million head of livestock died in the snow disaster. Four herders died of exposure while tending their animals in snow storms. Many herders survived thanks to emergency measures taken by the government and through the help of international aid. 2,369 families lost all of their livestock due to the disaster. This includes families with over 1000 head of livestock.
Snowfall this autumn, starting in western regions, has now moved east. Governors gathered in Ulaanbaatar to meet with the Prime Minister are saying that in some parts, snow depths have reached one metre.
Mr. Jadambaa went on to say that “weather forecasters are not predicting further drops in temperatures in November and December, although more snow is expected.”
Temperatures will plummet in January and February. The Meteorological and Hydrology Institute says that mountainous areas are susceptible to snow disasters this winter. “Now it is too early to name provinces which might get hit. But we should remember that conditions are not better than last year,” Mr. Jadambaa explains. After overcoming last winter’s catastrophe, herders encountered a dry summer – over 60 percent of Mongolia was in drought conditions. Domesticated animals lost strength and fat reserves through the winter and have since grazed on meagre grasslands. Preparing hay or fodder for winter was moreover a challenge this year.
The national government is allowing herders to migrate to protected reserves and to the border areas this winter for better pastureland.
Environmentalists Rally Round Steppe Animals
Over the past ten years, poaching has shrunk Mongolia’s wildlife population to alarmingly low figures. In order to resolve the crisis, the Eastern Steppe Biodiversity Project and the Protected Areas Administration recently hosted an anti-poaching conference in Dornod aimag.
The October 16 conference was attended by researchers, officials from the Ministry of Nature, protected area staff from the eastern aimags, and representatives from hunting organisations.
Conference members debated problems related to the illegal hunt of the Mongolian gazelle and the Siberian marmot, both of which are prized for their meat and skins.
The remains of a Siberian marmot are quite easily found in the central market of Choibalsan, where thousands of skins are illegally traded daily. This goes on despite an aimag quote of 3000 animals for the entire year. The gazelles suffers a similar fate. Hunters head out to the steppes armed with machine guns, mowing down hundreds at a time – a fact commonly denied by hunters, but proven by gazelle researchers.
Conference speakers discussed the difficulty of enforcing the hunting laws, including the lack of resources (petrol, vehicles, adequate salaries) available for rangers to patrol protected areas. Others emphasised the need to tighten enforcement in the marketplace and at border crossings, especially when the border with China is now open.
Recommendations were made for revisions to the hunting law, including a ban on marmot traps, and the restriction of hunting to only professional units. Other recommendations included allowing rangers to transfer profits from fines directly to fund patrol activities, and requiring sellers and buyers of animal products to hold official certificates verifying the legal origins of their products.
Taxi Driver Shot: Killer At Large
B. Batbaatar, a 29-year-old driver for City Taxi, was fatally shot at 1 a.m. on November 13 while on the job. The killing occurred in Bayanzurkh district, Ulaanbaatar. (Daniel & Sun-duk’s note: Sun-duk works in this district.) Mr. Batbaatar leaves a widow and two children.
That night, Mr. Batbaatar was driving cab number 7907 UBH. A security guard at a nearby building saw the murderer. The unnamed guard says that the culprit is 170-175cm tall, wearing white pants, a dark jacket and black boots. The killer fled on foot. Police found that the bullet fired was from a TOZ-8 rifle.
City Taxi (yellow cab) drivers are in a high-risk position due to cab fare they must carry with them. The taxi company has decided to discontinue nighttime service as a result of Monday’s fatality.
Protection Agency Calls for Half in Antelope Hunting
The World Wildlife Fund (WWF), an animal protection agency, has asked the Mongolian Environmental Ministry to stop the hunting of antelope until further notification. The WWF is seeking ways to make total use of hunted antelope rather than using only the meat and discarding the remains. The organisation is looking into Mongolia’s hunting statistics because young antelope were not tallied, making erroneous the reported number of hunted animals.
Though Mongolia limits yearly hunting to 20,000 antelope, little has been done to reduce the actual number of 80,000-100,000 killed annually.
[...] The project “Improving Roads in the Capital” will work to install a sewer system to take away flood waters from the roadways.
The Mongolian railway, built in the 1950s, is over 1100km long, running from Sukhbaatar to Zamiin-Uud. The embankments along the tracks have become eroded with time. In summer, the banks easily crumble during floods. Railway traffic, being of crucial importance to the Mongolian economy, is continuously stalled because of flood-related problems. The embankment project will mitigate the problem through improvement to these embankments.
Hepatitis A Epidemic in Gobi-Altai
A sharp increase of Hepatitis A in Gobi-Altai aimag is causing serious concern for medical personnel. Hepatitis is a disease of the liver which causes weakness, fever and jaundice in carriers. Hepatitis A is a form of the disease transmitted by a virus found in food or drink that has been poisoned by bacteria.
Ninety-seven cases of jaundice were registered throughout the aimag in 1999. Recorded figures for the first nine months of 2000 indicate an increase to 330, a rise of 4.2 percent against last year. Forty cases per day are currently diagnosed, and the aimag’s 40-bed hospital for contagious diseases now holds over 60 patients. Of these, 70 percent are children aged 0-8.
“This is a serious issue that these children have problems in their livers,” said B. Narantsetseg, Sanitary Inspector of Hygiene at the Mayor’s Office of the Gobi-Altai aimag. Narantsetseg says that they do not have access to a doctor specialising in the treatment of contagious diseases. “Therefore, the root of the contagious disease has not been found and killed.”
The aimag’s Hygienic Office was closed down four years ago. Narantsetseg states that since the closure, no preventative measures have been taken to stem the disease. “Therefore, there is a more pleasant environment being created for the contagious disease to spread.”
Meanwhile, comparisons abound. There are two doctors working for the Health Office in Gobi-Altai. The fact that residents of Ulaanbaatar have access to a Health Service Office rankles. “It means that local people will not have safe food, while the people in Ulaanbaatar can eat safe food,” said Narantsetseg.
She hopes that the new government take stock of the situation and intends to tackle the problem. “Health services with professional and bacteriological laboratories should be more developed regarding the market economy conditions.”
Plague of Taxi-Driver Murders Relentless
The police department recently located the body of a young man under teh Torkhurakh Bridge, in Bayanzurkh disrict. The body was of a taxi driver driving a cab with license plate number UBE 1318.
The attackers shot the driver in the head twice with a “Kaliber” gun, and then buried his body and fled in the taxi. The police found the stolen car in Nalaikh district two days after the crime.
Furthermore, on November 15, another man was shot to death in Nalaikh district. This man was also a taxi driver. Investigators have four suspects in this murder.
Cab Driver Crimes Continue
Three men mugged a taxi driver near the Narantuul cemetery last week. Twenty-three assaults on taxi drivers have occurred in the year 2000 alone. Out of this number, three drivers have been killed. The police were able to solve the three murders, but 14 assaults and battery cases are still awaiting closure.
The police department is cautioning drivers to be aware of their passengers and surroundings. If they notice a dangerous situation, they should take streets closest to police stations.
Mongolian Software Promotion
The Soft-Mongol 2000 exhibition will display the world of software programmes by Mongolian computer specialists on November 29-30 at the Science and Information Centre in Ulaanbaatar. Twenty businesses in the computer technology field are participating in the event.
The organisers, D. Bayasgalan, head of the National Association of Information and Communication Technology, G. Altan-Och, director of the Science and Information Centre, have noted that Mongolian specialists are valued abroad, while they are ignored in Mongolia. The world market estimation says that Mongolia is a competitive country in the sector, but at the domestic level, homemade software is not widely used.
Canis Peddling in Khovd
Montsame News Agency reported that an unnamed, yet renowned hunter sold wolf parts at the open market of the capital city, Khovd, Khovd aimag. One kilogram of wolf meat cost approximately T1000-1500, tongue is T600, kidney costs T400 (each), a claw is T900, and, yes, an eyeball goes for T300. Wolf skins are being sold at T12,000.