Interviewee ID: 990068
Parent's name: Gombo
Year of Birth: 1956
Occupations: university professor
Notes on education:
Belief: Buddhist (red hat), shamanism
Born in: Yosön-züil sum, Övörhangai aimag
Lives in: Bayanzürh sum (or part of UB), Ulaanbaatar aimag
Mother's profession: herder
Father's profession: herder
To read a full interview with Tseren please click on the Interview ID below.
Summary of Interview 081211A with Tseren by Ariun-Undrah
Gombyn Tseren was born in 1956 into the family of a herder in Esonzüil sum, Ӧvӧrhangai aimag. His paternal grandmother, Büted, was his midwife. In those days ordinary people did what today’s midwives do. Büted’s husband was a man called Genden, a former lama, who spent ten years in prison during the repressions. Genden, who was a lama in the Tseren san, named his grandson after the san he was affiliated to. In the past, Mongols asked respected lamas in the vicinity to give names to their babies. In three days after the birth, a ceremony was held in which the new-born child was washed in mutton soup and was whispered his/her name three times in the right ear. Relatives and friends of the parents were invited to the ceremony. Tseren means ‘longevity’. In the past, education in Mongolia was provided by the Buddhist establishment. As the repressions persecuted educated people, lamas suffered the most. As a prison sentence, the lama Genden cut trees and herded camels in what is today Selenge aimag. When the repressions were denounced after Stalin’s death in 1953, prisoners were set free. In Tseren’s words, ‘As Esonzüil sum in Ӧvӧrhangai aimag was the birth place of the first Bogdo Gegeen Zanabazar, there was a big monastery there. Many lamas from that monastery were repressed. Only few returned. Among them was Genden’.
Tseren went to school in 1965 at the age of ten. As the school was 45-60 km away from his home, he had to stay in a school dormitory, housed in a ger, for a long period of time. He missed his home, parents, and siblings very much. The dormitory had quasi-military rules, and the pupils had to wake up or get to bed after a whistle. Tseren escaped from the dormitory several times, but was brought back each time by his parents. In the dormitory where Tseren stayed for eight years, apart from formal schooling, the pupils learnt many other skills, such as how to work, socialise, and be independent.
Summary of Interview 081211B with Tseren by Ariun-Undrah
The territory of Esonzüil sum in Hentii aimag is a narrow, long strip of land. In the centre of the sum territory there is a mountain called Züün Hairhan, which was worshipped by people from three different hoshuus, namely Eldenbeiliin hoshuu of Sain aimag, Dalain günii hoshuu and Tse günii hoshuu of Tüsheet Han aimag. This mountain is also known as Urlagan Hairhan (lit. beautiful mountain), because of its beauty. People from this area have been famous for their craftsmanship.
The year when Tseren finished the eighth grade coincided with the construction of the Erdenet mining corporation, the biggest mining project of the socialist period. As there was demand for specialists in mining, Tseren was among those who were assigned to study in a mining technical school in Omsk, the USSR. In the autumn, Tseren, accompanied by his father, arrived in Ulaanbaatar from Ӧvӧrhangai. His relatives, however, were not happy, because they thought that a good student like him was sent to a technical school. Tseren could not go to the USSR but went back to his aimag to continue his study, for it turned out that there was no bilateral agreement between the two governments regarding sending Mongolian students to that particular school in Omsk. When Tseren was in his final year in secondary school, rumours had it that Tsedenbal ordered that children from the countryside be sent to study international relations abroad, pointing out that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had become a family-run organisation packed with the children of diplomats. That year children only from the countryside were supposed to study international relations. But when Tseren wanted to apply, he was not allowed, for no apparent reason. In 1975, he entered the Mongolian State University to study philosophy. When he finished his first year, a door was opened by the 128th decree allowing best university students to study abroad from their second year. Although Tseren was successful in the selection process and managed to secure a place in Moscow, he was asked to study philosophy at the Rostov University, for the number of foreign students in Moscow was being cut in preparation for the upcoming Olympics in 1980. Tseren studied in Rostov for five years.
Summary of Interview 090111A with Tseren by Ariun-Undrah
Tseren was admitted to the Philosophy Branch of Social Sciences Faculty at the National University of Mongolia after completing secondary school in Arvaiheer, the center of Övörhangai aimag in 1975. He was selected to go to the Soviet Union because he had studied successfully during the first year at university. According to the joint act 128 approved in 1972 by the Central Committee of Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party and Council of Ministers of the Mongolian People's Republic, the students who studied well in universities for a year had to study abroad for certain purposes if they were selected. Harboring belief, desire, and an aspiration to learn at the Moscow State University, he departed for Moscow in 1976. But the higher education committee of the Soviet Union reduced the number foreign students they approved and sent many foreign students including him to different cities and provinces because of the upcoming 1980 Summer Olymphic Game in Moscow. Consequently, Tseren was sent to the State University in Rostov-on-Don. He studied there for 4 years.
“Solidarity”, the Polish trade union federation, emerged in 1980 under the leadership of Lech Walesa who was a loader at that Gdansk Shipyard that was constructing a developed socialist society and he also ran the innovative/revolutionary process to changed the socialist construction of society into a different one. When this happened, Tseren reached the conclusion that it was inevitable that all socialist countries would be changed on the one hand and that the Soviet Union would collapse on the other. “I had discussed such social changes with my fellow students from different countries at Rostov University in the 1980s, and then returned home” he said.
After graduating university in 1981, he was appointed to the National University of Mongolia as a professor in the Philosophy Department and worked there until 1988. One of the many possibilities to receive information on what was happening in the Soviet Union was that there were chances to order all the newspapers and journals published in the Soviet Union. Between 1980 and 1990, Mongolians used to have ears to the ground listening carefully for what was discussed and how during Central Committee meetings of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. In 1989, the Mongolian Democratic Union was established. “University professors and students played important roles in the democratic processes in Mongolia” he said.
Since 1990, Tseren worked as part-time professor for Philosophy Department at the National University of Mongolia, an expert who was responsible for learning standards for social sciences at the Ministry of Education, Culture, and Science, and a chairman of Social Sciences Learning and Pedagogy Commission. In addition, he worked for the Education Monitoring Office at the Ministry of Education in 1999.
Summary of Interview 090111B with Tseren by Ariun-Undrah
Professionals who graduated abroad used to be appointed to places of art, culture, and state farms where they were needed. There was a regulation according to which State Central Institutions had to appoint those professionals to work. In obedience to the regulation, Tseren was appointed as a professor at the National University of Mongolia after graduating from Rostov State University and worked there for his whole life.
Being a member of Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party was an important factor during the socialist period. It was crucial for living and working in Mongolia. If you wanted to be a chairman in the future, you had to be a party member. In case the party member committed a crime with a sentence of being imprisoned for several months or more, they could be expelled from the party for this. Social sciences professors in universities were counted officially as cadres who were belong to Central Committee of Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party. In a word, professors were ideological agents. So, any assignments were ordered from the Central Committee to the municipal unit of the party, from the municipal unit to the district unit, from the district unit to the unit of the Party at the National University of Mongolia, from there to the professors, and then they used to do the work according to the assignments.
Within such limits, Tseren never joined the party. When democratic nongovernmental political institutions such as Democratic Union, Social Democrat Movement, New Progress Union, and National Progress Party were established, Tseren took part in the democratic socialist movement and became a Social Democratic Party member in 1990. Thus, Tseren with together intellectual professors and students of that time strove to carry out a democratic revolution in Mongolia. “Democratic change was not a thing some political forces or parties did. Few people should not try to own it. It is fair to say that democracy was created by all Mongolians together”, he said. He was one of those people who participated personally in the formation and development of democracy in Mongolia. As he concluded, however, democracy in Mongolia was not implemented as he wanted and expected. So he was quite dissatisfied with it.