Country Listing

Mongolia Table of Contents


Cultural Unity and Mongol Identity

Implicit Nationalism

The result of Mongolia's economic development and urbanization was a population that was, on the one hand, increasingly and unprecedentedly divided by occupation, education, residence, and membership in well-defined and fairly rigid status groups, but that was, on the other hand, less clearly distinguished from that of other economically developed and urbanized countries. If being Mongolian meant living in a ger in the midst of a sheep herd and being good at riding horses, then the Mongolian identity of those who lived in highrise apartments, rode buses, and worked at desks or in factories where knowledge of the Russian language was required was problematic. Mongolian nationalism, clearly a politically sensitive topic, continued to be a strong although implicit force in Mongolia. The Mongol language, the cultural trait most obviously shared by all Mongolians, continued to be fostered. Much effort was devoted to translating foreign literature and textbooks into Mongol, and teams of Mongolian scholars carefully replaced Russian loan words with new terms developed from ancient Mongol roots. The goal appeared to be to ensure that Mongol did not become a dialect restricted to shepherds or preschool children and that the educated elite did not speak mostly Russian or Russian-influenced Mongol.

Apart from the significant omission of Buddhism and the Buddhist church, much of traditional Mongol culture was studied, preserved, and transmitted to the younger generation as a source of national pride. In early 1989, party general secretary Jambyn Batmonh told a Soviet interviewer that the harmful errors of the 1930s included destruction of the monasteries and with them the priceless cultural heritage of the Mongolian people. In 1989 the party called for overcoming indifference to the national cultural heritage, and efforts were under way to change the negative evaluation of Chinggis, who had been condemned as a bloodthirsty and aggressive conqueror of, among other places, Russia. Higher secondary schools began teaching the traditional Mongol script, replaced by Cyrillic in February 1946. In early 1989, the trade union newspaper Hodolmor (Labor) called for mass production of the traditional Mongol gown, the deel, and suggested that all Mongolian diplomats wear it.

Data as of June 1989