Sugir


Basic information
Interviewee ID: 990046
Name: Sugir
Parent's name: Hüühendüü
Ovog: Ih Ölziit
Sex: m
Year of Birth: 1963
Ethnicity: Halh

Additional Information
Education: higher
Notes on education:
Work: sumyn zasag darga
Belief: Buddhist
Born in: Manlai sum, Ömnögovi aimag
Lives in: Manlai sum (or part of UB), Ömnögovi aimag
Mother's profession: herder
Father's profession: herder


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education / cultural production; childhood; work; family; privatization; military;

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democracy; contemporary Mongolia; military service; 7th meeting of the federation of cooperatives; education; boarding school; socialist awards; climate change; place names; childhood; education; army; brigade; socialism; democracy; morality; press; cultural centre; hunting; climate change;

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Translation:



The Oral History of Twentieth Century Mongolia

Oyuntungalag -

I’m with Mr. Sugir Hüühendüü, the leader of Manlai Sum. I’ve just explained the purpose of the study and asked for your permission with regards to two things. If you give your permission, would you please start talking about you life history?

Sugir -

You can publish what I have said. Well, there’s nothing to hide, you know. Shall I start right away?

Oyuntungalag -

Yes, please.

Sugir -

Well, I was born on the 22nd of June 1963 as the sixth child of Hüühendüü. There are eleven of us, I am the middle child. I have five elder and five younger brothers and sisters. So, I was born in 1963, and in 1972 at the age of nine I went to the elementary school here in Manlai Sum. At that time children usually went to school at the age of eight, and the reason that I went to school at nine is…My parents were herding cooperative camels in the countryside, they had 300 to 400 camels. For some time, in our family there were seven children aged zero to ten. So our parents had 300 to 400 camels, and they were bringing up seven children between the age of zero and ten. It was like that. Looking back at it from today, many times one wonders how they could do so much work. When bringing up those seven children, my mum made the clothes for all those seven children all by herself. At that time, there were almost no clothes made in factories, you know. Children’s underwear, the summer gowns, trousers, shirts, all the clothes we wore until we finished elementary school, except for the boots, were made by our mother. And not only did our mother bring us up and clothe us, but she also did all the cooking for more than ten family members, she milked all the she-camels and watered the animals. As for dad, he herded and watered the camels, well, he did all the hard work, that’s how it was. Therefore, an 8-year-old child already helped our parents a lot and was already riding camels.

Oyuntungalag -

So they were making the children do all the easy work?

Sugir -

Yes, the children did easy tasks, they could ride a camel and would go back and forth between the nearby water places. That’s why our family didn’t let their children go to school at eight, but made them miss one year and sent them to school at 9. Because we missed one year, the governmental, administrative organizations in charge would exert a lot pressure. Families whose children missed one school year had to pay a fine of 200 Tögrög. Back then 200 Tögrög were a lot of money.

Oyuntungalag -

Yes.

Sugir -

Our family had to pay a fine of 200 Tögrögs every year, and us children we all went to school at the age nine. Yes, it was that way. Well, I started school at 9, I finished after the 9th grade in Tsetsii Sum and then I joined the military.

Oyuntungalag -

After the 9th grade?

Sugir -

Yes, after the 9th grade. And well, you know, there’s an interesting story. When I finished the 9th grade I had already turned eighteen. In our class, we had three kids who had already turned eighteen. So the three of us together with the young people from Tsetsii Sum went to the aimag center for the army physical at the military commission. The school director and the others are all from Tsetsii, so they didn’t go to that military commission, and three of our teachers were drafted together with us.

Oyuntungalag -

(laughs)

Sugir -

Yes, and well, one of those three teachers went in before me and said that he couldn’t see. The eye specialist examined him, while all the doctors of the commission were sitting in a circle in a room. And then there was an eye doctor from our province, Mönhchuluun, she stood up. I was right behind the teacher who said that he couldn’t see, and we stood there in a line and I can’t see either, I have -2 diopters and wear glasses. Before I went into the examination room, that eye doctor stood up and passed by the doctors asking ‘What’s wrong with that young teacher whose eyes were all right last year?’ She turned around and after that I went in and said ‘I can’t see. I can’t see those tiny letters.’ It was mostly because I didn’t want to join the army. I was determined to finish 10th grade and to continue to study. And when I went to the commission, the head of the commission, from Ovoot, we served in Ovoot, so that Ovoot officer asked me whether I was going to finish the 9th and the 10th grade. And I said ‘yes’. Three days later we were called to the military department. And I was thinking to myself, I won’t join the army, I haven’t passed. Then three days later, when I came naked to the military department, they drafted me straightaway and put me on a truck. The three of us, who were 18 and in 9th grade, were all loaded on the truck. Then later I heard that our three teachers had been drafted but did not want to go. They told them to find substitutes and so they sent their three 9th grade students.

Oyuntungalag -

Alright (laughs)

Sugir -

And the teachers…

Oyuntungalag -

So you replaced your teachers, right?

Sugir -

Yes. Later one of the three teachers died, and one had started to serve in the 31st provincial unit when I was discharged and came back. He is now in the city, Tseren-Ochir is is name. The third is now working at the provincial department for education and culture, he was our math teacher. We had nobody to protect us, so we went from 9th grade to the military, but I think there was nothing wrong with that. I served three years in the border troops, the first year I wаs a guard at the new military school, the last two years I was a lance corporal. I was mainly working in the brigade centre, in the national defense.

Oyuntungalag -

In which province did you serve?

Sugir -

I served in the Ovoot military unit in Ömnögov’ Aimag. Then, well, after I was discharged, I worked for the Ögöömör bag brigade of my own sum. At that time the cooperatives had work brigades. In that brigade, I did a job related to economics. I worked as an accountant for two years and during that period I went to Tsetsii Sum and finished the 10th grade as an external student. I had in mind to continue my studies, but I couldn’t take the entrance exams, so, well, I couldn’t continue studying. So, you see, I worked for 17 years at this Ögöömör bag brigade, and for fourteen and a half years of those seventeen I was the brigade leader. And from 2000 until today I have been the sum leader. After I was discharged I had my own goals, everyone does. I wanted to start working under strict supervision, like in the military. I thought that in this way I would discipline myself a little and get to know the taste of labor. The leader of the cooperative made me do that accounting work. I did that for two years. And, you see, our brigade leader wasn't a very demanding person. Nowadays people say bad things about the socialist period and authoritarianism, but in my opinion it was a good period. Generally, if there is not a little bit of control, Mongolians tend to do whatever they want. Today development is lacking in our country. In my opinion, since 1990 the infrastructure hasn't really developed in Mongolia. It developed until 1990. With the assistance of the Soviet Union and the Comicon countries, railways, paved roads, buildings and factories were built. In 1990, you know, Mongolia processed 100% of its demand for food and of the skin of dead animals. We produced leather and almost 100% of the boots worn by Mongolian people were made in Mongolia. Then there were the felt factories, food, grain and so on, Mongolia had so many factories that we were generally able to satisfy the demand for the most common consumer goods domestically. But unfortunately since 1990 no new factories and enterprises have been established, with the exception of Buyangiin Jargalsaihan’s wool-processing factory. But you see, I’m not blaming democracy, it’s just the global standard. Mongolia has always been sandwiched between the two great nations China and Russia, so the orientation of its development depended on those two countries’ situation. Our grey-headed seniors are really wise people, they succeeded in making Mongolia an independent nation. Those two nations are members of the UN Security Council, they have nuclear weapons, and yet our grey-headed seniors made this country with its abundant wealth, its vast territory and its population of merely two million Mongolians independent. I think that this is a great deed. And well, as for today’s people, if we take advantage of this achievement and put the independence of our country above everything else, and if furthermore we give priority to human rights and move on like that, I think there is nothing we won’t be able to achieve. Therefore, for me, I don’t think that the socialist period, or authoritarian period, communist period, as they call it, I don’t think it was a bad thing. The reason is that since Mongolia is landlocked and sandwiched between those two great nations, which both developed under a socialist regime, it didn’t have another choice but to follow their footsteps. And thanks to following them, today we are a great nation with a vast territory and a pure-blooded population. I think of my nation in this way. During the authoritarian, the socialist period, you know, people respected their seniors, they were disciplined and they approved of their leadership. And in the families, children obeyed their parents and their elder brothers and sisters, it was like that. After 1990 some people misunderstood the so-called democracy, they thought that they could do whatever they liked and behave how they whished. They didn’t really understand that my freedom is limited by the freedom of the others. That’s how some people came to this point. That’s why they think if I have a freedom, it’s up to me whether I work or not, it’s up to me whether I violate other people’s freedom or not. People hardly think that if I fight someone, he’ll be hurt, he’ll be damaged, they hardly think about loving other people and caring for them. And, in general, if you don’t respect a government that was elected by the people, it seems useless to talk about respecting our parents and relatives. As I understand it, democracy means to solve the problems of the majority while listening to a minority, it means showing respect to a few and following the decisions made collectively by the majority. Therefore, you see, due to the new Constitution, by shifting into a democratic society, Mongolian people started to enjoy the right to govern once every four years. Otherwise, people wouldn’t be able to say that we are the highest agency of state power, that everyone has the right to govern and so on. So, every four years we have the right to vote, and once the majority has elected a president and a parliament, we have to follow the decisions taken by the elected, and when they are wrong we should of course say it. But as I understand it, this aspect of following and executing decisions is lacking. During the socialist period, you know, when I worked in the bag brigade, when I think about it now, we really did a huge amount of work, we worked a lot. In the countryside, there was nobody without work and there was a yearly and monthly quotas that applied to those over 18. There were minimum requirements, and if you did not fulfill them you were fined, you were punished. Today people say that they can’t find work, and at that time those who didn’t work were fined. You know, when I was working in the bag brigade, when I was working as brigade leader, every month we counted the cooperative’s livestock to calculate the wages. In that period, for example, our bag brigade counted more than one hundred families, and the leaders had to count all camels, all sheep of these families, that is all animals of the cooperative, in order to calculate the wages. We used an abacus to calculate each case, you know, there were no calculators or anything like that. There was a standard rate for herding per camel per month, then we would multiply it, then we would express it as a percentage and add ten, right? Yes, ten percent for watering the animals. Then there was extra money for strength and fatness, for young camels and so on, and all this we calculated with the abacus. In addition, we visited all the families of our bag several times a month. There was a loss of newborn animals, so all those families were given hay and rugs for the young one-year and two-year-old animals. All together we distributed over 100 different items that were taken from the cooperative. There were rugs for the one-year old camels, rugs for the two-year-old camels, water troughs and well-buckets for those who didn’t have any, then fodder troughs, so all together some families that herded small animals were given more than 100 different items. So if you think about it, what accounting work was done in every brigade? Every herder’s wage had to be calculated, then the wages had to be given to the families, all items given to the families by the cooperative had to be catalogued, they were registered and then distributed among the families, then herders would sell the milk and aaruul they produced themselves and hand the money over to the economist. Then the economists would collect that money coming from the sale of the goods produced by the herders and pay it into the cooperative’s account. When the winter came, in one bag three to four hundred camels and a few thousand heads of small livestock (bog mal) were slaughtered and the meat was measured in kilograms and distributed among the herders as winter stock. We would give the meat on loan, and the herders would pay back the money when they got their wages. Then we would guard the property of the bag, we’d clean, we would do the repairs in the buildings that were being built in the brigade center. If you think about it, in the socialist period one person would do the work of three or four people today. As for education, as I have mentioned before, if a child skipped a year of school, the family had to pay a fine of not less than 200 Tögrög. In the previous society, much attention was given to granting everybody an education. When we were at school, well, we were a herding family, and almost five or six children were at school at the same time between the first and the 8th grade. We all lived in the dormitory. The children who lived in the dormitory were given three meals a day. During the day we would get the first and the second meal for sure. At that time, the first meal was soup and the second was tsuivan or something like that. The children who live in the dormitories today, they eat only once, there is no mention of two meals. We don’t know whether they eat enough, but when we lived in the dormitory the food supply was good and on weekends the children were always given buuz and hushuur. You know, that’s how it was. But even with that kind of food, the children’s hearts weren’t full because it wasn’t home food and they were away from their families. Well, and the bed sheets of children living in the dormitory were changed twice a week, you know. When we lived in the dormitory, there were two or three washers working there. They would change all the bed sheets two times a week, they would iron all of them, well, and two to three times a month they provided us with toothpaste and soap. When you think of it now, we had a high standard in the dormitory. That’s how we studied. In order to make children use their free time in the right way, in a civilized manner, they organized sport and art activities among the children. In the dormitory, every section did so-called 100-point-contests. And the dormitory had a council made up of children from average families. They would conduct a 100-point-contest, as they called it at that time, almost every day. And they take some cotton and check whether there was dust or soil under the beds. They would make us clean the floor, there were rugs like this and at that time I also worked as dormitory leader. We wouldn’t let the children walk on those rugs with their boots, if you walked with your boots you would leave white footprints on the rugs, so we made them take off their boots at the door. Nowadays, some people say that the socialist society was dark and primitive and that everyone lacked everything and that it was such a careless society, but I would say it was much more resourceful than the present one. Twice a week, you know, a green airplane would land in the sum and we used to fly two hours to the aimag center twice a week. And you know, after 1990 the things that were once created by our grey-headed elders have been partially destroyed, even though now it’s becoming better. Now communications, news coverage, TV, and the radio, these things are developing with greater speed than in the socialist society, but as I understand it, the care for other people has become less. Today, the herders’ children who live in the dormitories are given only one meal a day, and their daily meal is far from satisfying their caloric need. When we were living in the dormitory, our sum had hot water and the children always took a bath once a week. And now neither the sum center nor the dormitory have hot water and the children cannot take a bath. And in the school, there used to be a sink and all children used to get up in the morning and wash their hands and faces under the water tap. Today, they put a thing into each dorm room and the children go themselves to fetch water. With regards to hygiene, food and bed sheets, things have become much worse nowadays. The reason why I am talking about this is that once they can’t provide everything from above like it was under socialism, then everything has to be adapted to the market and the power to govern should be held locally. At present, the budget for the sum schools is under the Ministry of Education, and that of the hospitals under the Ministry of Health. The sum and the aimag leaders have no idea about the local budgets, it was like that before and it remains like that now. Now that the finance and management law has been approved, the local citizens’ assemblies have become useless, and the elections for them are just a waste of time and public money. The same applies to the citizens’ assemblies at the sum and aimag level. The only two major functions they have is to elect the their own head and to nominate one person for zasag darga at their level, and that’s it. In general, if local governments don’t have any authority over their local funds, then whatever other rights they are given legally won’t be exercised. Therefore, if the finance and management law was abolished and all powers given to the local authorities, in this way the issues of the dormitories and of the herders’ children could be discussed by the local citizens’ assemblies, then there would be a possibility to see in which way to improve things. Otherwise, if we can’t provide everything from above like under the socialist regime, there is no use to leave things in between like that, like a half-dead snake. Now when we compare the present with the past, previously there were a lot of good things but also a lot of bad things. Talking about bad things, I really don’t like cursing our seniors. Those people were much wiser than we are, they were not stupid, you know. I think that compared to them we have indeed very little wisdom, and especially those fools who talk bad about the past they are far less wise than the previous generation, that’s why they say bad things. In fact, if people had become wiser, they wouldn’t talk bad, but they would have found a way to maintain and further develop what the previous generation has created, without destroying a single brick, that’s what I think. In the socialist period there was not one unemployed person in the countryside. Maybe some of the children of the ministers and leaders they didn’t work and did a bit what they wanted, you know. Back then people said that the two sons of the late Sambuu guai were undisciplined, that no law worked for them, two terrible people. There might have been many leaders, whose children were brought up in a fancy way and who were allowed to do whatever they wanted. Especially Tsedenbal’s entourage was talked about a lot, their children might have been a bit spoilt, uselessly wandering about within the country and abroad. In 1990, when the democratic revolution was won and we shifted into a new society, at that time those who had traveled a bit and had a rough idea of what shares are, if you ask for whom the quick privatization of Mongolian property was useful, well, I think it was precisely those who had been ministers during the socialist period and their children who had traveled abroad, those gentrified people who became rich, I think that it was maybe most useful for them. You see, at that time everyone was penniless, and if they had said ‘Let’s share the wealth among the Mongolian people and give everybody let’s say 10000 Tögrög’, if they had said ‘Let’s share the wealth and make the Mongolian people rich’, then everything would have been very different I think. At that time, I voiced critique, I wrote a letter to the parliament. Who knew what shares were? Nobody. Giving those shares without explaining what they were, I think it might have been an attempt by those who did know to distribute them fast and seize the opportunity to benefit from them before others found out. In the countryside sums, herders got a few animals, but doctors, teachers and civil servants they couldn’t get anything. Today, when they talk about dividing those 10000, well the reason is that those who made the stock exchange work took, spent and wasted wealth without the permission of the owners. Now that Russia and China have shifted to a market economy, Mongolian has no choice but to follow them. That’s why it’s nonsense if some people today try to claim the transition to a market economy and a democratic society for themselves. Well, really, it was Gorbachov who implemented reforms in the USSR in 1984, and following that from 1986 in Mongolia there has been talk about economic reforms, they talked about economic reforms completely ignoring politics. The reason why I understood that Mongolia had started to implement market reforms is that I participated at the 7th meeting of the Federation of Cooperatives. There the Political Bureau and Prime Minister Batmönh were all present. There was a comrade from Töv Aimag who stood up and voiced a bit of criticism, and then Gungaadorj Guai, the Minister of Agriculture who had been Prime Minister and Vice Prime Minister, he kind of answered back saying that his words had a bad influence on people, and then Batmönh Guai scolded him and said: 'Let him speak. The distance between the property of Mongolia and its owner has increased, and we are organising this meeting in order to bring them closer together. The significanc of this meeting is to listen to the voice of the comon people and then make a decision about how to bring the property and the owners closer together, that's why we are here, therefore you have to let these people talk.' And looking back, really lease agreements started to develop in Mongolia beginning from 1986, 1988. So herders got ten percent of the young animals as a reward if they managed to raise all their young animals, and ten percent of the herds if they managed to bring them safely through the winter. This is how property was privatized through lease agreements, it was privatized exactly like in China today. Factories or animals were given to truly capable people as a reward. If, for instance, there was a shoe factory, a certain percentage was given as a reward to the skilled people. Those factories wouldn’t have closed their doors today, because those who could do the job would have continued to work. Today Zanaa, who this year runs for parliament independently from the Democratic Party, so this Zanaa said on a live TV show ‘These nice boots of mine have been made Mongolian people, and they cost around 400.000 Tögrög. If you ask who made them, a Monoglian, and if you ask who this Mongolian is, it was a young man who kept some tools to make such boots when the shoe factories were closed. And that young man makes boots that aren’t any worse than the expensive foreign ones. I have them made by him on order and I wear them.’ If one person can make such nice things with a little bit of equipment, if that shoe factory had continued to work fully, I think that today Mongolia would have the possibility to produce good things. Today, if you work for the local administration, there are a lot of difficulties, because our young generation doesn’t like to listen to others anymore. And the reason why they don’t like to listen is that the mass media that exist today in Mongolia corrupt them. They make young people become disinterested in the Mongolian principle that says: ‘Every person has an older brother, every deel has a collar’. Young people have become interested in all the bad things because these news spread too widely. That’s why they don’t think that leadership is of the leaders, and we don’t scold them or exert any pressure on them. So they lag behind in terms of social work, and all sorts of disreputable things take place in public, they gain ever more ground. I think that if nothing bad was written in Mongolia, if all news were like ‘this highly-qualified doctor saved the lives of that number of people’, or ‘that person proposed something new, which in the past would have been called a SHBOS, and now animals can be milked faster or the milk can be processed better’, or ‘that person who suffers of this and that disease has been taken care of… ‘ There are so many good things in Mongolia, right? If there were only good news, well, it might sound like a Christian newspaper, but if newspapers and television reported only about good things, maybe a little light would get into people’s heads. Otherwise they subscribe to newspapers such as ‘Notstoi Medee’, or ‘Serüüleg’, or ‘Hümüüs’, where they write that these two people quarreled, or that somebody was killed, that there was an accident, and if people read those kind of news hardly anybody reads that a new development plan has been worked out in order to develop Mongolia over the next four years and so on. As I understand it, there is a lack of positive information that gives hope and belief for the future, you see. And in the schools, why don’t they teach some nationalistic views, respect for the elders, and morals, maybe beginning from the first grade? During the socialist period, they gave us a very wide range of knowledge, so that it seemed that everyone was becoming a doctor or an engineer. And you know, I think they are just fully bankrupting the educational system. Now Mongolian children’s education, really, every time the minister changes they change the education law. For some time, the sum leader didn’t have the right to appoint the school directors, you see. If the director was drinking or didn’t come to work, the sum leader had no right to do anything about it, to replace him or dismiss him. The province leader could, but not the sum leader. That’s how ridiculous things were. Beginning from last year or two years ago, they abolished the final exams after each grade, the so-called state exams. And what are they doing? For instance, in the first grade the teachers of Mongolian language or the math teacher prepare their own final exam materials, and how? They prepare two or three pages of text, make the children memorize them and take the exam and that’s it. And a senior teacher who has been formed in the socialist period and might be a little bit honest says that they can’t always compose their own two, three pages and circulate them, because then teachers in other sums use their own material,too. If you fail an exam here, it’s a problem, so they hold back for a while and then two, three days before the exam they do a little revision and teach the children the text they have prepared. It’s nonsense, you see. In Manlai Sum, in the 9th grade final exams, students get 90% in algebra and more than 90% in Mongolian language, and that’s all a lie. The Mongolian teacher prepares a two, three pages long test, trains the students on that test for 10 to 20 days, and then takes the exam. What is honest about that? Moreover, the math teacher is drunk for some months, for several quarters, and then for the state exams he puts together two, three things, makes the students learn them by heart, and takes the exam. So the value of education has really been bankrupted nationwide, they teach exactly nothing. Well, and the textbooks, those schools nowadays say that they will use their own textbooks, can you imagine. So the children of Manlai Sum would have one textbook and study one thing in first grade. Maybe the parents work for the government and have to move to, let’s say, Ömnögov’, there they use a different textbook. They have to buy another textbook, and it turns out that what they teach has already been taught before. You see, this nonsense should be stopped. Mongolia has a very small population, so they should use only one book and one curriculum nationwide. The Mongolian way of thinking and the Mongolian society are not ready for imitating that far-away America and having children choose their classes. They don’t know what to choose, and with closed eyes they say, ‘Well, Russian language is really difficult, let’s leave it, let’s choose English’, and after a while they say ‘Well, it’s hopeless, let’s leave it’, so in the end they are left with nothing. Well, you see, there are many things to be criticized nowadays. And well, if little by little the constitution becomes amended and changed, there are many things to consider at the local level. That’s how I understand it.

Oyuntungalag -

When you went to school, what did you learn most of all? How was school like at that time?

Sugir -

Well, we, the school, well, we were afraid of our teachers. If I, well, didn’t do my homework, the teacher would punish me, punishment didn’t mean that he’d beat me or anything, but for example that he would make me hold up a chair. Or that he would make me stay after class to repeat. Especially for first grade students staying longer after class meant a big punishment. Especially having to stay on when the quarterly vacations began was a very big punishment, so all children would strive to do their homework. And the teachers would always check the homework. When I was in 9th grade in Tsetsii, there was a Chemistry teacher called Hajid. Usually children who were taught chemistry by Hajid bagsh would become physicians or chemists, entering higher education did not cause them any headache. So I had that teacher, he would never distinguish between good and bad students, and he would leave only after you had understood what he had taught. And the exams of the fourth term would include things that had been studied during the first term, so we would have a firm knowledge, that’s how it was. Generally, teachers required a lot. You know, sometimes we would take a day off to visit our relatives, and when we left and the class teacher was walking along there, we’d hide. Nowadays, students smoke in front of their class teacher, you see. So, for my part, from school I got quite a bit of endurance and an education that taught us to be hard on ourselves. And I lived in the dormitory for 8, 9 years, that’s how I have learned to live on my own far away from my parents.

Oyuntungalag -

Were your brothers and sisters also there in the dormitory?

Sugir -

Yes.

Oyuntungalag -

So because you are children of one family, were you given one room together independently from gender and grade? How were you accommodated? Did your parents visit you?

Sugir -

Generally, children of one family were put together in one dorm room. At that time, there were over ten children in one room with bunk beds, more than ten, fourteen, fifteen children. And older brothers and sisters were there together with their younger siblings. Later, in 1978, a new building was opened, where there were 4-5 or 5-6 people in one room. Our parents didn’t visit us at school, they didn’t have the time. They would bring us back to school at the end of the quarterly vacations, and until the end of the next vacation it was out of question that they’d visit. They didn’t even come to the sum to pick us up. We would be brought to the bag by truck. We would go to the brigade on top of the number 53 truck. The people from the Ögöömör brigade would sit on it. Some of us would vomit and retch. And at the brigade, our parents would come and pick us up with a motorbike, we would be 5, 6 children sitting on one motorbike. And sometimes after 10km, two, three children would be taken off and come home walking. Or our father would go back and forth and take us home in shifts.

Oyuntungalag -

So, they wouldn’t send you food? Would they send you some winter food stuff if they couldn’t visit themselves?

Sugir -

No, there was no need for that in the dormitory. Generally, at that time there was enough food.

Oyuntungalag -

Did the government provide everything, all the dormitory food? Or did they take a certain quota from your parents, like a certain amount of fuel, or a contribution to transportation?

Sugir -

No. no. The government paid 100 percent of all the expenses. Food, accommodation, water, hygiene articles, well, everything. The families were responsible only for the items used for school, like bags and clothes.

Oyuntungalag -

What were the dormitory regulations? Were there cases when older children would maltreat the younger ones?

Sugir -

Well, yes. You know, boys in the 5th or 6th, the 7th or 8th grade would maltreat those in the 2nd and 3rd grade. Those were trifles like taking away pillows and stuff like that. But once the teachers found out about it, they would be punished very severely, you know.

Oyuntungalag -

Generally, did you miss home when you lived in the dormitory? Did you miss your parents?

Sugir -

Well, in elementary school I missed them very much. When we were at school there was a monument. When you climbed on top of it, you could see the road to my home. The road would take us to the brigade and it looked so dear to us.

Oyuntungalag -

Yes (laughs)

Sugir -

And when countryside people came who lived near to where I lived, it was just as if members of my family had come.

Oyuntungalag -

Did you write letters to your parents?

Sugir -

No. We lived from term to term, and during the vacations we went home. But we skipped classes a lot. Because my parents had many cooperative camels, we would go home during the vacations and usually skip once every seven, or every 14, 15 days.

Oyuntungalag -

You’d take off too much time?

Sugir -

Yes, we did. And when we came back, well, the teachers would scold us, and we would come back all worried. And mother would say ‘Offer milk’, and it seemed that the teachers scolded mildly when we made an offering of milk before leaving our mother. You see, it was like that. I skipped class a lot, because my parents couldn’t bring me to school, they were too busy, so they would make me skip school and be scolded.

Oyuntungalag -

What were the dormitory teachers like at your time? How did they treat children whose parents lived far away?

Sugir -

Well, you see, the dormitory teachers were mainly elderly people. They would also teach us, and they were very responsible. In the socialist period, people had a very high sense of responsibility. The porters would do what they were supposed to do and sit there, they would clean and they would summon us in the mornings and in the evenings. The dormitory teachers would organize competitions, they would work a lot with the children, but they were not professionals. There was that elder called Gungaa. In recent times, also young people work as dormitory teachers, but I don't see any concrete initiative on their behalf to make the children spend their free time in a good and cultured way. I think that nowadays dormitory teachers should be professionals.

Oyuntungalag -

Were there cultural and educational activities in the dormitory at that time?

Sugir -

Yes, there were very many of them. Every weekend we had meetings, parties and art and culture competitions between the dorm rooms.

Oyuntungalag -

And did the dormitory children differ from those children who came from the sum center or whose parents had moved to the sum center? Were they generally different?

Sugir -

Well, in terms of performance, those who lived outside the dormitory didn’t seem to learn a lot more than the dormitory children. There were many children in the dormitory who studied very well. The conditions for studying were all there, really. But probably the children who lived outside the dormitory studied better, because they didn’t miss their homes. Who knows.

Oyuntungalag -

Which child are you in your family?

Sugir -

I’m the sixth child.

Oyuntungalag -

Were you together in the dormitory with your elder brothers and sisters?

Sugir -

Only one elder brother and one elder sister of my five older siblings were in school together with me, the others were younger.

Oyuntungalag -

They would be of great support, wouldn’t they?

Sugir -

Oh, yes.

Oyuntungalag -

Your children, your parents and siblings, have they all been to school?

Sugir -

Well, there is nobody who graduated from any institute of higher education. I am the only one who completed a degree externally. My brothers and sisters finished school after the 8th, 9th grade, and my eldest brother, the eldest two brothers and my elder sister finished after the 4th grade and went to the countryside. That was because Manlai Sum only had an elementary school. Secondary school began from the 5th grade, and we had to go to Tsetsii Sum which was far away. So they couldn’t be sent to school so far and started herding right after elementary school.

Oyuntungalag -

And what advice did your parents give you when you went to school, what did they teach you?

Sugir -

Well, my parents had been herders all their lives. They worked for the cooperative and for society, and they encouraged us a lot when we got good marks. They would praise us. And our parents wouldn’t beat us. And because there were so many of us, we made our parents suffer a lot growing up. My heart really goes out to them now.

Oyuntungalag -

When you came home, did they want to know the marks?

Sugir -

Yes.

Oyuntungalag -

How was the relationship between children and their parents at that time? How close was it?

Sugir -

Well, herders in general did not have a lot of possibilities to pay attention to their children’s studies. They looked after a great number of animals, and if they lost or ruined them they would be in debt, you know. It wasn’t their own livestock, right? That’s why they couldn’t visit their children once every ten to twenty days, once a month, just because their children were homesick. And in the dormitory there was enough food and enough of everything, so if students didn’t study enough it was mostly because they missed their parents, especially the younger ones.

Oyuntungalag -

Would children generally tell their parents about their studies and their experiences when they came home during the holidays? Would the parents ask questions?

Sugir -

‘What marks did you get?’, they’d ask you the moment you came in. Those with good marks would answer confidently, and those with bad marks probably answered with a feeble voice.

Oyuntungalag -

You said that in the dormitory there were children who maltreated the younger ones, who stole their pillows. Was it like that also in the school? Were there bullies, or how would you call them, at that time?

Sugir -

Well, there weren’t many unreasonable things like stealing children’s money or beating them up, but when we were in 1st, 2nd and 3rd grade, those who were stronger than the others and had nicer clothes, we thought of them as bosses. But with regards to really bad behaviors, like unwarranted beatings or drinking, there weren't that many, you know. Generally it was quite all right.

Oyuntungalag -

Were there any other places besides the school where you could receive an education at that time?

Sugir -

No, there were only the EBS, there weren’t any private schools.

Oyuntungalag -

Were there any study groups or circles, any courses outside of the school at that time?

Sugir -

No, there weren’t any. Things like that were organized only at school, there weren’t any competitions or anything else outside of it. Well, the cultural centre in the sum was separate and it worked so much better than today. They organized concerts and visits to families in the countryside in camel carts. They brought books from the library to the herders, they were distributing books among the herders and some read books during the breaks. Today the service of the cultural center is constrained by the budget and it organizes activities in the sum center only. They don’t have any possibility to offer cultural services to the herders, they don’t have the financial means.

Oyuntungalag -

What was the best movie or play you’ve seen during your childhood? What was the first movie you ever watched? Which movie or play impressed you?

Sugir -

Well, when we were in the dormitory, especially in the dormitory, there were a lot of film screenings. I wasn’t very much interested in movies, I was a little bit distant from all those entertainment things. But there were a lot of movies, a lot of screenings.

Oyuntungalag -

What clothes did you wear in school, did you have uniforms?

Sugir -

We wore uniforms, we used to wear velvet uniforms, brown velvet, all the same. And the girls always wore dark brown uniforms, yes, all alike. Then we would wear ties and white collars.

Oyuntungalag -

At school, were you a member of any of the various organizations, like the pioneers, or was it the League? What did you think about that?

Sugir -

Yes, I was. We would become pioneers and take an oath, it was a very nice thing. I was a member of the pioneers. And in the dormitory, there were the members of the dormitory council and a lot of other such publicly elected positions.

Oyuntungalag -

You joined the League, right?

Sugir -

We usually joined the League after the 8th grade, right? So we were 16 or maybe 18 when we joined. Anyways, we became League members and participated very actively in the meetings and the activities they organized.

Oyuntungalag -

Were the children afraid of the class president?

Sugir -

Yes, we were. Especially, when I was in 9th grade in Tsetsii, there was that president of the dormitory council, a certain Baigalmaa. Now she works as a Chemistry teacher at the school no.1 in Ulaanbaatar. All children in the dormitory were afraid of that girl, they would do whatever she said, and she put down tough requirements.

Oyuntungalag -

How did your childhood differ from other children’s childhood?

Sugir -

Well, my childhood was just like other herders’ children’s life. Whatever they experienced and went through, I did too. Besides that there was nothing especially good or bad compared with others. We would herd the camels in the cooperative, and during the holidays we used to help our parents, we watered the camels, we watched them and we rode them, that’s how we grew up. My father was a State Champion Herder as a result of his many years of productive work for the cooperative. He had become a Distinguished Member of the Cooperative, and at that time he received the award because he was the household head. His wife was seen as a kind of assistant. Looking back at it now, actually our mother did most of the work. She would make all the children's clothes, cook, and sell the milk and all the dairy products. And dad, well, he would do all the hard work, ride the horses and watch the animals.

Oyuntungalag -

So the award was given to the best herder or to the household head?

Sugir -

To the household head.

Oyuntungalag -

But actually the whole family was in the background, working and herding the animals, right?

Sugir -

Yes.

Oyuntungalag -

The award didn’t mean that the household head watched the animals and increased the herds all by himself, right?

Sugir -

The award would bear only the name of the household head, but the money and other things that came with it would be used by everybody in the family.

Oyuntungalag -

So you said your parents were cooperative herders. Did they tell you when the collectivization movement started and how they joined? What did they say about collectivization in general?

Sugir -

Well, my parents joined the cooperative in 1959, they were that kind of people. After their own few animals were nationalized, they herded the cooperative’s animals. So I never heard them say anything bad about the cooperatives. At that time, society was like that, therefore I never heard them say that the cooperatives were bad, or that they exploited their labor. Certain things happen in a certain period, and they just lived following the events of their time.

Oyuntungalag -

Did your parents talk about the cultural campaigns? What were the cultural campaigns actually? Do you know anything about them?

Sugir -

Well, I actually haven’t heard much about them.

Oyuntungalag -

OK.

Sugir -

I don’t know much about them. My parents wouldn’t talk much about the cultural campaigns. In fact, there were things that needed to be civilized. When we were at school, every family was to have a sink and two changes of bed sheets. There were a lot of requirements, a lot of things that were pushed for. But I don’t know very much about the cultural campaigns.

Oyuntungalag -

When you think back, which events or happenings influenced your life deeply?

Sugir -

Well, the most important event was that I entered school at the age of 9 and that then I couldn’t finish 10th grade and joined the military. Joining the military really turned my life upside down. If I hadn’t gone to the military, I would have finished the 10th grade and gone to some other school. Maybe after that I would have joined the military, or maybe I would have continued my studies, graduated and learned some profession. As I see it, joining the military turned my life around by 180 degrees.

Oyuntungalag -

You went to the military when you were still a student as a replacement for your teachers, right?

Sugir -

Yes, not being able to finish 10th grade and joining the military changed my life completely. Whether for better or for worse, I don’t know, that’s just what happened.

Oyuntungalag -

Is there anything peculiar in your life, anything that is unique?

Sugir -

Well, there isn’t really anything special, anything unique in my life.

Oyuntungalag -

Was there anything memorable, what do you remember the most?

Sugir -

Well, I have a photo album of my school years, and a photo album of my time in the military, of the clothes that I wore when I was discharged. At that time those clothes were really strange.

Oyuntungalag -

I see.

Sugir -

I wore kind of a overall when I was discharged.

Oyuntungalag -

Talking about the military service, how was it in general? How many years did you serve?

Sugir -

Three years.

Oyuntungalag -

At that time, were the new recruits bullied, as it is being talked about today? Was there anything like that?

Sugir -

Well, during socialist period there was order in the military, and there obviously was such a thing. I heard that in the National Army it happened a lot, but the border troops were relatively tolerable. During the socialist period, the border troops received a lot of supplies, and it was said that border troops only ate mutton. I heard that girls tried a lot to get married with border patrol officers. So it was a very good service. At that time they had a lot of supplies and it was highly regarded. And I think that among the many soldiers those with an education were chosen for the border troops. In the military, well, I became a new soldier and had to go through the military quarantine. After that did a course for lance corporals. After a year, I served two years in the national defense. Once I was received an award for ‘Best Border Guard’, and I was discharged with the rank of first sergeant. Well, I think I served my three years maybe not better than others, but I had a rather good reputation.

Oyuntungalag -

During your time with the border troops, you would patrol along the border, right?

Sugir -

Yes.

Oyuntungalag -

Were there any border incidents? Any cases of violations?

Sugir -

Well, there weren’t so many. From our side, well, there was one fellow, Shaazanhüü was his name, who had escaped from prison many years earlier and made an attempt to flee from the country by crossing the Mongolian border strip. It caused a big commotion, a helicopter came from the city to search for him, and they captured him. From the Chinese side, at Ovoot there were very few people trying to cross. Most of the Chinese border trespassers would come through Sühbaatar and Dornogov’ province in the east. The west was rather peaceful. And, well, we would go on patrol along the border. The border troops were very alert, in winter they would ride their camels and in summer they would walk checking for traces.

Oyuntungalag -

Were there cases of livestock crossing the border at that time?

Sugir -

Well, it wasn’t too bad. Since all animals belonged to cooperatives and were looked after a lot, compared to today they were fewer cases of our animals crossing over to the Chinese side or of animals coming over to us from China.

Oyuntungalag -

Was is same with wild animals?

Sugir -

It was the same with wild animals. In the west there were none, but in the east they eventually put up nets. A lot of animals and people would cross the borderline there, but not in the west, that’s why until today there are no nets.

Oyuntungalag -

And that border outpost is still there, right?

Sugir -

Yes, it is now a border brigade, the 163rd border division.

Oyuntungalag -

And so, after you left the military, when did you get married? What was the family policy during the socialist period? What impact did it have on your family?

Sugir -

Well, during the socialist period they tried to increase the population. Mothers with many children were given a lot of money, according the number of children. Our family, you know, the money we earned by herding the cooperative’s animals was just enough for food and clothes. Families with many children would buy a motorcycle with the money they got for the children. During the socialist period, generally only families with many children would be able to buy a motorcycle or the like. As I understand it, the government was paying a lot of attention to increase a pure-blooded population. At that time, young families wouldn’t receive 500.000 Tögrög like today, there wasn’t such a thing. But, you know, the cooperatives had their own financial resources and would take measures to help people whose ger and belongings had been damaged in a storm or a blizzard or burnt down.

Oyuntungalag -

Was there any policy that aimed at encouraging marriage between cooperative members?

Sugir -

Well, no. But, you see, all herders of one sum belonged to one cooperative, and for special occasions such as the anniversary of the cooperative they would all gather and celebrate. They were sum festivities all the time. On September 1st, when school started, they would always organize a horserace with 100 two-year-old horses. The children would compete riding the two-year-old they rode during the holidays. It was a tradition. And when there were the cooperatives, young people who worked well with the animals would travel a lot, in Mongolia and abroad.

Oyuntungalag -

Oh, I see.

Sugir -

Yes, when there were cooperatives, the factories, unions and cooperatives would award people with excursions to beautiful sights in our country, like traveling along the Halha River. So there were tours organized at the provincial level and one person from every sum would go, and there were those at national level for five people from every province. There were many things like that at that time. And many of the young men and women, who excelled in their work, would travel in the USSR. In our sum, there was Jaalhüü, the son of Baatarbandi guai, a woman called Baaji and Oyuntsetseg. During the socialist period, they organized a lot of tours in Mongolia and abroad to show good young workers the territory. But since 1990, only those who have money can travel in Mongolia to see the beautiful nature, all those official tours organized by the state don’t exist anymore. One can only hope that with time it will somehow happen again.

Oyuntungalag -

Were there other ways for common people and families to become friends with foreigners? How were relations with foreign people? What is the future tendency?

Sugir -

Foreign relations, well, in general, there weren’t any foreign things. There weren’t any tourists, nothing at the borders, people didn't have passports, so herders, countryside people, they didn't have have any possibilities to establish contacts with foreigners in Mongolia or abroad. Well, as for institutions of higher education, there were fair competitive examinations to enter both domestic and foreign ones during the socialist period. A lot of people from our sum, for example, have studied in the USSR, in Bulgaria and those COMICON countries. But since 1990, not one single person from our Manlai Sum has managed to enter a foreign school, to graduate and to get a qualification through an official competitive examination. In these 18 years, the training of highly educated staff has been interrupted.

Oyuntungalag -

You mean abroad, right?

Sugir -

Yes, there is almost nobody who studied abroad. And there is no fair competitive examination anymore, only people with money study at Mongolian and foreign institutions of higher education. There is no entrance exam anymore that depends only on the intelligence. They don’t send those with the highest marks to Russia and America anymore, only those who have money can go. If it was just about intelligence, well, I think that the intellectual potential of the children from our sum, of our people isn’t bad.

Oyuntungalag -

Have you often traveled abroad?

Sugir -

No, I didn’t travel during the socialist period.

Oyuntungalag -

I see.

Sugir -

Yes, but this year, well, our provincial citizens’ assembly organized a trip to Singapore and Malaysia for the representatives so that they could gain experience. We didn’t go anywhere else. But we often visit China.

Oyuntungalag -

Well, in the socialist period, were there foreign people or experts in some official capacity or working for foreign organizations in your area?

Sugir -

Well, no. Even though we had a lot of military units during the socialist period.

Oyuntungalag -

I see.

Sugir -

There were many Russian military units, our sum had a Russian reconnaissance division. We used to go to the Russian stores, and there were a lot of Russian troops in Choir and Dornogov’. We would ride motorcycles from here to get stuff from the Russian shops, you know. And they would let us in. They had really nice and cheap goods. And the Mongolian military units always had Russian advisors, who were better than our Mongolian commanders. In Ovoot we had this Makarov, a Russian advisor. In winter, no matter how cold it was, he would pump up the water with the electric pump and stand there naked in the water. They were people like that, you know. I think that those Russian advisors were leaders by being exemplary people.

Oyuntungalag -

How did the local people interact with those Russian soldiers? What was their relationship like?

Sugir -

Well, in fact, our sum people would often visit the Russian military unit that was here, and some young people of our sum and some leaders became friends with them.

Oyuntungalag -

I see.

Sugir -

Yes, and the military units weren’t in closed areas, so their officials would meet local people. It wasn’t a problem if soldiers wandered outside. And there were two military units, a Russian and a Mongolian one, together in one place.

Oyuntungalag -

What attitude did local people have toward the military people?

Sugir -

Well, the attitude towards the soldiers actually wasn’t that bad, you know. In times of need, when infectious animal diseases broke out, we needed 2-3 people to pour the medicine down the camels’ throat. We would force the camel down by binding its legs, one person would hold its head and the other would administer a herbal medicine. The troops in the area would help a lot with this kind of work. And on Sundays, the soldiers would come to the cultural center and organize dances. And many soldiers married girls from Manlai Sum.

Oyuntungalag -

They were from other areas, right?

Sugir -

Yes.

Oyuntungalag -

So were the soldiers who served in Manlai young men from Manlai Sum or did they come from other places?

Sugir -

Well, they mostly came from other places. Only very few came from Manlai, I think.

Oyuntungalag -

In cases of natural disasters, would the Russian troops assist the local population, too?

Sugir -

I don’t know well about the Russian military units. But the Mongolian ones helped a lot.

Oyuntungalag -

The Russian military units had Russian stores that were intended only for Russian military people, right?

Sugir -

Yes, and…

Oyuntungalag -

Mongolians generally liked Russian consumer goods, right?

Sugir -

Yes, they did.

Oyuntungalag -

In other words, local people would consume a lot of foreign goods thanks to the presence of the military units, right?

Sugir -

Yes. And during the socialist period, you know, we could estimate in advance what we could buy with the amount of money we had in our pockets when shopping. Silk was 8 Tögrög, candies were 9 or 11.20. So with the money in my pocket I would buy 1kg of candies for 11.20, one pack of sugar, and one bottle of vodka. The prices were stable, and all goods were named by their prices.

Oyuntungalag -

And now?

Sugir -

Now the price is determined by the market, and some people are able to buy what they want and others can’t because they don’t have enough money.

Oyuntungalag -

When and how did you get married?

Sugir -

Well, I was working for the brigade, and I guess I didn’t think much about getting married. So I married when I was 31. I didn’t get married nor have children before that. And I worked day and night for the sake of the cooperative and society.

Oyuntungalag -

Was it difficult to get married at that time? Did your parents pass some of their property on to you?

Sugir -

Well, after I was discharged my parents bought me a motorcycle. I worked for the brigade with that motorcycle. At that time they would provide petrol, but no spare parts. I would use it for the work in the cooperative saving a lot of time, and I would use it a lot for hunting.

Oyuntungalag -

Talking about hunting, there were lots of wild animals, right? There used to be lots of antelopes. Just now on our way here, we haven’t seen a single animal, I remember. So did wild animals have become rare? What’s the reason?

Sugir -

Before 1990, there were herds of hundreds of antelopes. And the people from our sum never ate the white antelopes nor used them otherwise. They said that their meat tasted of earth and that they were dirty animals, so they never killed and used them. But we hunted and ate the black-tailed antelopes. The herder’s children in Manlai Sum grew up eating that antelope’s meat, we ate a lot of it. And yet, their number never decreased. But recently, since 1994, ‘95, they suddenly disappeared. Some say that they crossed the border and that the Chinese fenced them in. Others say that they died in a zud. In any case, all of a sudden they disappeared. One year there were so many of them, and the next year they disappeared, they became very few. I think that they have migrated somewhere, because if they had died we would see their carcasses, but there aren’t any. So I think that they weren’t just slaughtered without a reason. They might have either migrated to foreign countries and been caught and fenced in, or they might have migrated somewhere to the mountains and been killed in great numbers. It happens. There are plenty of wolves and dogs, you see. There are still wolves, but the hunting has generally decreased, so I think that the antelopes have become less not because they were killed. But technological possibilities have increased, so that might have killed them. Before, when we were little, we drove them on camels and killed them. Either with camels or horses, a hunter would hide at one side of the horse or camel, and then he would let the horse or camel loose and once he came close to the grazing antelopes he would shoot them. And sometimes they were also chased with a motorcycle.

Oyuntungalag -

So, were people free to hunt and eat antelopes, was it permitted? Or was it forbidden?

Sugir -

It was prohibited, people were told not to kill them. At that time, the authorities of the legal system hunted and ate them hiding from the people, and the commoners ate them hiding from the officials and the police.

Oyuntungalag -

So, everyone was eating them hiding it from each other?

Sugir -

Yes, everyone was eating them.

Oyuntungalag -

Talking about hunting, besides the wild animals what other environmental changes occurred here?

Sugir -

Well, you know, perhaps, I’m not that watchful, but I don’t think that the land of our sum has become more arid and herding more difficult compared to how it was in my childhood. When I was little, there were many droughts. We weren’t moving much north or south and before the eighties we were herding a lot of camels. And there wasn’t one with a flat hump. Maybe it's because they were looked after so much and fenced in that today wild camels have almost disappeared. In any case, I can't say that camels eat well when they are left to their own pace, or that when I was little there was a spring with a lot of water which doesn't exist anymore, or things like that. The Bayanbulag spring, the muddy spring I know and the Alag River in the southeast, they are all still there. The water has become less, but usually it doesn't dry up completely. People talk about desertification, but I think it just has to do with the weather. After two three years of drought, everything becomes dust and the roots become uncovered. There is nothing but brown uncovered roots and you think that nothing will grow anymore. But when the weather improves, like it did in the summer of '93 after a terrible zud in the winter of '92, all kinds of plants started to grow, which neither I and not even the old people had ever seen before. So the way I understand it, the roots of plants don't just disappear, and when the weather becomes better they grow and come out instantly and when the weather is bad they don't. There isn't that much danger that the roots disappear completely not even when the weather is really bad. But according to scientists there is a lot of desertification. When we were little there was no sand at all in the sum center. They say that a lot of sand is moving, but you can see very little of that. It accumulates just behind the fences. I'm not sure there is an exceptional desertification, and in some cases they might exaggerate a little bit in order to get projects and other kinds of things from abroad and from within the country. We never planted trees before, and all the trees, bushes and elm trees that were there before still are. So with regards to Manlai Sum I don't think that there is any hardship because of desertification.

Oyuntungalag -

Have the names of places and rivers changed?

Sugir -

Well, you see, those geologists, they give names as they like. In the territory of Manlai Sum there are five licensed exploration companies, and among the five names they give there is not one that corresponds to the names people from Manlai Sum use for the mountains and hills. They are all new. But as for the herders who live and work permanently in the local area, they haven’t changed place and river names just like that. The names that we used before like Ölziit Mountain and so on are still the same, just like before. Names haven't changed so much.

Oyuntungalag -

That means that geological teams give various names and tend to change the names of places and rivers, right?

Sugir -

Yes, they give names as they like, you know. In the eastern part of our sum, for example, there is a licensed place called Brown Fox.

Oyuntungalag -

Brown?

Sugir -

Fox, fox it is called. When we said that there is no place with such a name around here and asked why they had called it such, they said that when they came to the place they saw a beautiful red brown fox, that’s why. That’s an example.

Oyuntungalag -

That’s how the names change?

Sugir -

Yes, that’s how they change, but what can we do about it?

Oyuntungalag -

Do local people extract and use the natural resources themselves, do they extract gold from the land and the water?

Sugir -

Well, in the territory of our sum there is no placer. Since none has been discovered for the time being, we don’t use it. There is a stone field, but it doesn't yield much, just small things. Some people have dug a little, but that doesn't damage the environment.

Oyuntungalag -

That’s Iraq hill, isn’t it?

Sugir -

Yes, it is.

Oyuntungalag -

Is it situated in your territory?

Sugir -

It’s in the territory of Hatan Sum in Dornogov’ Province. Well, it lies on the border between Manlai, Hanbogd and Hatan Sum. But it’s further from our sum, on the boundaries of Hatan and Hanbogd Sum.

Oyuntungalag -

Why it was named like that?

Sugir -

People named that hill after the quantity of gold that comes out of one ton of stones. It’s called Iraq Hill, but it’s original name is Süüj Mountain. Miners extracted gold from three different places there. The place with a rather large quantity of gold in one ton of stones was called Iraq, the one with a little less Baghdad and the one with the largest quantity of gold was called Kuwait. So first Kuwait, then Iraq, and then Baghdad, according to their gold output. It’s because Iraq and Kuwait are considered to be rich countries and those places are rich, that’s why people called them that way. So generally, the name Süüj Mountain has disappeared, people know the place by Iraq, Kuwait and so on, based on their output.

Oyuntungalag -

Ok. Thank you.

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Interviews, transcriptions and translations provided by The Oral History of Twentieth Century Mongolia, University of Cambridge. Please acknowledge the source of materials in any publications or presentations that use them.