Suvdaa


Basic information
Interviewee ID: 990132
Name: Suvdaa
Parent's name: Damdin
Ovog: Halhad
Sex: f
Year of Birth: 1935
Ethnicity: Halh

Additional Information
Education: tusgai dund
Notes on education:
Work: retired / Milk production master, worked in Trade union and government
Belief: Buddhist
Born in: Halh gol sum, Dornod aimag
Lives in: Bayanzürh sum (or part of UB), Ulaanbaatar aimag
Mother's profession: herder
Father's profession: Dotood Yam


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milk factory; milk and dairy products; worker; salary - incentives; informal culture in factories; administrative unit;

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Translation:



The Oral History of Twentieth Century Mongolia

Tsetsegjargal -

Would you introduce yourself briefly?

Suvdaa -

I was born in 1935 in Halh Gol sum of Dornod aimag. I was brought up by my parents and in 1947 I went to elementary school. In 1954 I finished seventh grade and went to the Vazilinsky station in Lavinsk city in the Krasnodar region of the Soviet Union and studied at their vocational school in the field of milk and butter production. I came back in 1958 and went to work in the milk factory for the first time. When I first came to the milk factory the inside of the building and the apartments were all equipped. Actually the workers hadn’t yet been hired, there was only us, the technical workers. We received our workers in nineteen-hundred..., no, we received them in August-September. Well, I first came here to teach the milk vocational classes. The milk factory was started production on December 30, 1958. After the factory was opened, by October, we had one department. There were around 4, 5, maybe 10 people in one department, you know, inside the department. There were actually 4 departments in the factory. There was the milk reception department. The milk reception department had one reception machine, one for ice cream and butter and the curds. The curds department was separate. And then there were the milk and yoghurt packing departments, so altogether there were four departments. I received the curds in the main department. There were actually 5 people from the beginning.

When you make curds, in fact, how do you make curds? Well, we Mongolians simply make sour milk and we take the curds from yoghurt, you know. And that’s a completely different technology. Well, the product quality improves from sour milk, from the milk quality, you know. In fact, if sour milk is high the output quality is weak. So what is the milk quality? Milk fat, the milk fat of the Mongolian cow is 3.2, if it’s good the fat is 3.5. And sour milk is - we are used to saying that milk turns sour, right? If sour milk is 18-21 then it means good quality milk. If it’s from 22, let’s say in simple words, it means the milk turns sour and turns into curds. So at certain times we produced good quality products from good quality milk. So, how do we make curds? We take milk with 21 and we ferment it and then cool it. Then we take out the curds and add sugar, chocolate and produce various products. There weren’t any milk factories in the olden times, you know. In fact, we used to wake very early in the morning and horsemen would get up early and shout, “Buy milk, buy your milk. 5 tögrögs for a bucket!” Well, then there’s the Peace bridge, right? A big market was opened there. And there were dairy products, you know, dried curds, clotted cream, yoghurt, airag. But there weren’t actually factories.

At the very end, as I’ve just told you, in order to make use of the milk factory we were making ice cream. At that time the ice cream was very sweet and tasty. It wasn’t made using any technology, milk was just mixed with chocolate and water and sugar and frozen. It was very tasty. In fact, now the ice cream quality has deteriorated. In our time ice cream was of good quality. It was creamy ice cream, milk ice cream with a lot of chocolate. Ice cream tastes good when the milk is of good quality, if you make the right composition. Any kind of milk ice cream, when tasted, it tastes of milk. If it’s a creamy ice cream it tastes of cream. The milk ice cream that is produced nowadays is made by a new technology but, in fact, it can’t reach that quality or standard. On the other hand, the milk purification method is weak. What do the cattle breeders do? They milk the cows and filter milk through the gauze, you know. There’s a lot of contamination there. If there’s a little contamination in the milk, it is divided into four classifications. If the first group of milk is filtered through the gauze there’s some contamination. The contamination of the second group of milk is more. The contamination of the third group is even more. The contamination of the fourth group is too much. Therefore, the output quality will increase with milk purification.

The milk factory had its own policy when taking on specialists. When I first came to the vocational school there were Lhagvajav and Matar who were the first to study there. That place was 2,500 km from Moscow and 150 km from Sochi. In 1945 the Germans arrived there for the first time, it was such an ancient place. So when the first two milk trainees came, they were received very respectfully with a car that had a banner. I was the fourth generation to go there. The two people who graduated before me, they were both technology engineers and they have passed away already. After that the four of us came and after us there were two who graduated. And since then a food school has been established locally; it was the technical vocational school with a food class and it still operates there.

The milk factory was opened in 1953 in Ulaan Huaran with the assistance of the Soviet Union. The building was constructed by our military construction unit with the allocated budget. All the equipment was from the Soviet Union, Russia. It was opened with a capacity to receive 30 tons of milk and produce output daily. So what do we do now? Our equipment is ready. We receive milk, but there was no division to receive milk. We had eight divisions. Those eight divisions received milk from the dairy-farmers. There were places like Ayushiin Am, Batsümber, and Jargalant. The milk truck would go there and receive the milk and bring it here. One truck of milk meant around 1-2, maybe 3 tons of milk, you know. We would receive it. Those divisions all had refrigerating departments and they’d receive the milk, refrigerate it and send it here. If milk is not refrigerated it could go sour. So it such detailed organization was required. Well, in the olden times people would bring milk to the division. And the division had a unit where they’d give out milk, you know. It was like that from 1950 to the1980s, 84, 85, 89.. Then since 1989 those farmers seemed to vanish. There were Khar tarlan and Shar tarlan farms in Gachuurt. Those who had good factory cows, they had just dispersed. So it seems now it’s difficult to get milk. Well, some milk factories have their own farms. And it would come from there. But it’s no good selling milk produced by the laborers. Actually it’s beneficial for people’s health to sell milk through the milk factories. We have a special department for frozen milk. It would be melted and processed again. The Mongolians misunderstand the word ‘processing’. The fat is taken from the milk and melted and then all the contamination is removed. Then we produce pure products again with the remaining fat. Our people mainly say milk contains little fat. The fat in cow milk varies from 2.8% to 3.2%. The yak milk fat content is very high, you know. It has almost 4-5% fat content. We do not accept yak milk, only Mongolian cow milk. Well, the factory would receive milk high in fat and make, well, organize it. What does that mean? The fat is removed evenly and then mixed with low fat milk and blended. To blend means mixing and leveling and producing. In fact, there’s nothing wasted from milk, you know. We call it sharuuslah. Milk is soured and we make yoghurt. Then you have curds and whey. The whey is used. In the olden times we used to make jelly. We used to make a drink. Now it is still used, for its health benefits. In fact, those who worked at the milk factory, they never got sick, they used whey. They always used milk, they worked in a milk environment. In fact, milk has to be greatly respected from the time when we receive it, from the cattle, coming from the cattle breeders. Especially the milk milked from the cattle, the udder should be washed. The herder must wash his hands and the milk bucket. Milk should be filtered. If we get such milk, high quality products could be produced. That’s it.

Tsetsegjargal -

After you blend milk in which department did you used to process it?

Suvdaa -

Milk was received at the reception department. Milk received from outside was transferred to the machinery department and was warmed up. Milk which was the least bit contanimated was put in a machine and the contamination removed and warmed up. To warm it up means warming it up to 85 degrees. Then it was cooled from 85 degrees by 7 or 5 degrees and sold. Some of it could be used for ice cream and yoghurt. So milk is distributed for yoghurt, ice cream and curds. In 1958 the factory was enlarged and the big milk department was moved to the first district, you know. This December 31st it should be the 50th anniversary of the milk factory. But since that time it has been enlarged a lot. But I don’t know about the outputs because I haven’t been there to see. We used to make fat and butter. In fact, whatever comes out of milk, be it butter or cream, we’d produce it. Even today they produce it. Judging from my observations, only manual factories, private factories seem to have developed. Labor output has increased. Before it was receiving 30 tons daily, but now it has reached 50 and almost 100 tons. Sometimes there was no space for milk. Therefore, an extension was built.

Tsetsegjargal -

What year was it?

Suvdaa -

Was it 1989? In 1980. Then the extension was made in the first district. And since then the products are made by that standard, I think.

Tsetsegjargal -

At that time, how were the workers at the milk factory selected?

Suvdaa -

The milk factory, when they first began to employ us, they employed the workers just before the opening of it, you know. How they employed was, the masters and all the dargas would sit and they would come in and just look and see whether the particular person could do the job or not. There were over a hundred people coming and I was the youngest among them. That’s how I first went to work. When I first went to work I didn’t know how the products were made, how to make people work. I hadn’t had any practice. So what did I do? I had masters who had experience. They’d look and select the potential ones pointing out, “this and this”. They’d select the young ones. Then one of them said, “Suvdaa is young. I’m choosing young people. I wonder how they would work. Actually they don’t have experience. All those who are employed have no experience.” Then I said, “OK, you just chose the experienced ones. The inexperienced ones will learn from you.” And those five whom I’d chosen, actually all five of them worked well. In fact, those who were employed at that time at the milk factory were all of the same age, they were very obedient. We had two shifts and they would never miss their shift, they would come on time and work. Those who made good products, who weren’t absent, who didn’t miss political reports, who didn’t miss lectures and who participated in everything completely would be selected and awarded. The worker’s picture would be hung on the ‘honorable board’. There was one old master called Batjargal at that time. He worked there his whole life through. He would come in the morning and wouldn’t go home. The whole day he’d spend at the factory working. He would do all kinds of work there. I’d learnt quite a lot from him. Actually a young person trying to settle down to work is easily distracted. He forgets about what he is doing and he just gets up and goes. I’d learnt from Batjargal guai how to sit and do something, how to make better things, how to communicate with people, what to do with the products. Batjargal guai taught us a lot. Actually our milk factory began operating in 1958. There were many good workers. Before the opening of the factory in December, when the factory was opened in November we were taught special classes. In fact I myself taught milk technology. And the experienced people would ask Russian specialists how to use the equipment. Those who could speak Russian would then teach us, practising on the equipment. We would be taught how to push the button, when it is proper to put the milk in. When the specialist finished teaching us everything we’d take exams. Whoever did a good job would work as an apparatus operator. And those who were evaluated as average would work as an assistant worker. We worked as washers of cisterns and equipment. The person who had come via vocational training and who knew how yoghurt was made and who knew to what degree milk had to be cooled would become a yoghurt specialist. He’d be given a certificate and he’d work there. Those who could assist him would assist.

Tsetsegjargal -

How did the industrialization process take place in Mongolia at your time?

Suvdaa -

Well, at my time, you know, there was the candy and pastry factory, and there was the meat plant. These were the main two. And the third was the milk factory, I suppose. Well, the candy and pastry factory produced candies and pastry. And the meat plant would produce ham and so on. And finally in 1958 the milk factory was opened and it operated to produce dairy products. There are many private things nowadays, you know. Well, you know, there’s the flour plant. The flour plant, was it in 1959 or 1960, the flour plant was opened in Ulaanbaatar, you know. The meat plant was small and in nineteen fifty something or in nineteen sixty something it was extended. The candy factory was small and later it was also extended. And also in the first district one more factory was opened, you know. The candy factory and the bread factory were opened separately. I really only know about my own [factory]. The meat plant was said to be Russian. In fact, most of them were Russian, I suppose. And recently the milk powder department had been opened. It was said to be Canadian. It was opened using their equipment. I suppose it operated from 1970, 1980 till 1989. This factory operated till nineteen ninety something and after it was privatized it stopped operating. The children’s milk factory, you know, it was in the first district… no in ‘120’. The bread plant, just behind the bread plant there was a cute small department called the children’s department. They’d take milk from the milk factory and make yoghurt, curded, and children’s nourishment with carrot and so on was produced here.

Tsetsegjargal -

How did people used to become industrial workers during the industrialization?

Suvdaa -

I suppose, people voluntarily came to be employed there. They were not pushed to work there. People would come to work at the factories according to their own wishes. People would come to work voluntarily, especially to our milk factory. The milk factory was a good factory, and the meat plant and the candy and pastry factory were all the same. But after 1968, with the establishment of the food school, we had our own experts, you know. They were all vocational workers in candy, bread, meat, milk and so on. I don’t know how people were directed. As for our milk factory, it was announced that a milk factory was going to be opened. We were in Ulaan Huaran, so I think the announcement was spread around that area. And people from that area came to get a job. It was mainly people from Ulaan Huaran who came because they lived close by. Regarding education and age, they were young and had been through secondary education or some had finished elementary school. Actually, beginning in 1967 and 1968 there were people who finished special vocational schools, you know. Otherwise, before that, there were people who were not experienced and who came voluntarily. In 1968 various vocationally trained people came, like those who finished food and meat classes at vocational and poly-vocational schools, you know. Until that time we didn’t have any milk, no, meat vocational workers. Therefore, those who wished to work at that particular factory, they’d come and be employed. There weren’t any regulations at that time for taking on people to work. They’d just look at you and assess whether you could cope with the work. I said I could. There would be dozens of people standing around and they would never say this one is tall and slim, he is handsome and he is old. They would take the one who can do the job, considering only his work capacity, no matter whether young or old.

Tsetsegjargal -

How would they see that capacity?

Suvdaa -

The capacity could be seen in that person, you know. In fact, if he sincerely wants to work at the factory, he would say so. Light hearted and curious people could be seen from their appearance. A person who really wants to work at the factory and who wants to learn something is seen naturally without fail.

Tsetsegjargal -

Those who had newly become factory workers, how did they work and what impression did they have?

Suvdaa -

Those who come to work for the first time, they don’t know the factory’s internal rules. So when they first came to the ice cream department, I would teach them, beginning with the equipment and work safety. I’d instruct, “OK, you will work with this equipment, if you do this there’ll be an accident. You have to be careful when you boil or warm up milk, otherwise you’ll burn your feet and hands.” And the new worker would work just as instructed by the master. Otherwise there’s no way of working the way you want and pushing the buttons. We used to work like that.

In fact, in our milk factory people would say good things. They would never go to other departments and say bad things about their own department and say that because of that master or because of that department they didn’t work well. They would only say, ‘we are happy and, in fact, it’s really nice to have come to this factory, I’ve learnt a lot, I’ve changed a lot.’ They would put their hearts into it. They’d come early at eight o’clock, or at 7.30 on Saturday mornings for the political report. They’d never be late. They’d come earlier and change their clothes and get straight to work on their own. There’s no such thing as ‘you do this’ and the like. They are all satisfied, actually they are all only interested in the good of the work. In fact, they think of only work and not about going out shopping, going out somewhere, or visiting other departments. Inside of the factory, on the one side of it, there is the ice cream department which attracts most people’s attention. Chocolate ice cream, curds and butter are made there. While in the milk reception department you just wait for the milk to warm up and then take it out. Some people would think about eating ice cream and not so much about milk, you know. The person who was upstairs at the reception department wouldn’t look back and think of eating an ice cream. He would first finish his work, and, in fact, during the working hours there’s no walking through the departments.

The regulations were very strict, and either the master or the boss or whoever, we were all quite well disciplined actually. If the darga was to check our work in the morning, the department master and everyone would be ready at their working places. When the darga came in, the master would introduce his work, ‘today our work was unsuccessful on these things, these things happened and these things were done‘. It was a routine. And what did the workers do in the morning? When the darga came in, the evening shift worker would report what they’d done. If it was the cup (ice cream cone) master, at the cup department it would be reported to him that they were short of ice cream flour and that they had to stop work. And they would report it in a written form with all the accurate timings and then leave it.

Actually, we created by a work group (hamt olon). Our milk factory didn’t have a ‘red corner’. There was no office room, just the department. So what do we do? We established the ‘red corner’ on our own initiative. We had two shifts. The ice cream and milk departments had two shifts. One would begin in the morning and end at 4 pm, and those who began at 4 pm would finish at 12 am. So at the end of work we’d go voluntarily to sit in a comfortable office room and a ‘red corner’. It was in such a way that we worked and created. Even by this stage there was not a finished office room, but the old things we made with our hands, they could be seen there. A bit regretful that it hasn’t been used, that it was ruined. That milk factory in Ulaan Huaran is a very nice place that can be used. If it were not for the democracy coming and upsetting things, the children’s milk factory would have joined the milk factory there and it would have been quite a big factory.

Tsetsegjargal -

Were there any articles published in the press about the industry and industrialization at that time?

Suvdaa -

Well, yes. So, you see, we’d look for articles of interest to us, you know. If it was an article about the milk factory, we’d only find that one. In fact, there were materials about the milk factory, candy factory and the flour and meat plant. But our main interest was in our own factory case. We would find and read what shortcomings, what achievements were there at our factory, you know. (laughs) There was some information that milk quality was low. Sometimes those who went to the countryside, well, there were lies. There was a cistern for driving the milk. There was some information that the milk cistern would get to the river Tuul and water would be added to the milk. In fact, no such thing happened in reality, you know. They were kind of criticizing things. But here were materials that the factory quality, the factory output was of good quality. And the information about the master or the darga who worked at that time would be given to us.

Well, the departments would compete, you know. So, after announcing the competition whoever was selected as the best within the department would be given an incentive. And those selected from among the latter would be included in the factory reward list and their pictures would be put on the ‘board of honor’. Some of them even received state prizes. There was one from our factory who became the deputy of the Great Hural. There are people who were awarded an order of the Pole Star.

Tsetsegjargal -

How did you feel about working at the milk factory then?

Suvdaa -

When I went to the north after the seventh grade, I never had it in mind to become a milk specialist. I was just told to go. When I was in Moscow I was asked to choose between being a cook and working with milk. As I was a child being a cook was not so interesting. Milk was strange to me, so I chose it. So after choosing milk I attended milk classes in Russia. We didn’t know the language in the first year. There wasn’t translation like today. 1, 2, 3 months I would sit between the Russians and would copy from them. Well, I would comprehend with gestures when talking in the mathematics and physics classes. When we finished the first year, we were sent to the milk farm to milk the cows. It was really nice there. The Russian ladies in nice white gowns looked beautiful, they called those cows by their names ‘Mashenka, Alyushka’. They would milk them, and I liked the way they milked. So I was very interested. So I finished that year and began to make cheese. I liked the way they made cheese and I thought, ‘I will learn this, this is a really nice thing.’ So, in the first year I was taught only about milk, how to take care of the cows and how to get their milk in the farm. And the year I finished the second year we were sent to the milk factory. There we’d be taught how to make sour cream, how to receive sour cream and how to receive milk. When we arrived there we began working with the equipment. We used to wash buckets. I didn’t like it. I would think, ’what’s the use of washing buckets?’ Milk is not infected when the buckets are clean and the products are of good quality. As a child I didn’t understand about the product quality and thought of the uselessness of washing the buckets. But later when you put your sour cream into the clean buckets, you feel good. Then we went to Kislots after finishing the third year to work at a big factory. I was the first to arrive at Kislots and was received by the milk factory. I was received with honor as the first one coming from Mongolia. I would get shy and afraid since I was a child. So I was taken to the reception department and they began to teach me, beginning with the documents. At the milk machine I would be taught how to receive milk and the measurements. Then I would be taught how to clean the machine, how to dismantle it and clean it. They would teach me that the contaminated milk goes inside and the milk contamination thickens and becomes like gum. And they told me about all the contaminations. They’d teach me if you don’t clean it well it will become like gum, and they’d show it to me. After teaching all these I was sent to the countryside division. I was taught how to cool down the milk and to what degree milk should be cooled down. After that I went to the ice cream department. They taught me the recipe, you know. One specialist would support you, teach you how many kilograms of sugar are needed, how many kilograms of butter, how many kilograms of gelatin and how to blend it all if you received sour milk. The next day you would do it yourself. So beginning from here I realized that this work was really nice and clean for a woman and it looked good in others’ eyes. That’s why I chose this vocation, you know. So I love my vocation and I love my factory. So for some time we worked with a specialist after we came back home. He worked with us for about two, three months. He would control what we were doing and how we were doing it. I did the work myself. Lately we’d begun making sweet curds. After producing sweet curds, you know, there’s the syrup. When you really produce it, you know. My father once said, “Those square sour creams are being sold in the shops.” I said, it was not sour cream but curds. He said it tasted delicious like sour cream. Then I began making it with chocolate. I covered the curds with chocolate, and I made chocolate cakes. Then I went to the ice cream department. At the ice cream department I made milk ice cream, sour cream ice cream with nuts and chocolate. So the first product made by my hands was that. But I didn’t work at the yoghurt section. Though I know how to make yoghurt, you know. I used to initiate making ice cream and curds. Unfortunately, our initiatives weren’t well evaluated. In fact, they wouldn’t say he initiated this or that but they would just say, ‘oh, he is doing what he is supposed to be doing’. Now it’s different, the only initiative you have…At that time they would just say, ‘Very good. Your work is done well.” They’d never ask you, ‘Why have you done this? How did you do this? Well, it was two and now we have three.” The curds were produced as semi-finished products at that time. When you make semi-finished products you blend them with a little flour and send it to canteens. There they’d arrange it and put it into cakes.

Tsetsegjargal -

Was the salary sufficient for you when you worked at the factory?

Suvdaa -

Oh, it was stable, you know. The master would get 550 tögrögs, I think it was 550 tögrögs. The workers would get maximum 250 or 300. Additionally you have rewards and incentives. Lately rewards and incentives had been given a lot. At the end of the quarter a bonus was added to the salary of those who worked well. It was sufficient for that time. Now when I recall back, mutton cost 7 tögrögs and 50 möngö, you know. So 525 tögrögs was sufficient, we’d dress ourselves, we’d pay for our flat and feed our children. It was enough. Life was good, you know. When we worked at the milk factory there was nobody about whom you’d think, ‘he is poor, he might ask for something.’ In fact, the minimum salary was 250, it was pure standard. But still at that time it was sufficient. The factory would take care of its workers. What did the factory do? We used to work in shifts, you know. If we had a holiday, milk would be distributed to all the departments according to the number of the workers. This many liters for that number of workers, like that. There was a man called Tsendorj, he was a chief in the economic part. When we had Tsagaan Sar or something else, he would bring candies and things like that and sell it at the factory. Therefore the workers didn’t have to go shopping, everything was provided. We would buy things from our own money and we’d buy milk and everything necessary. In 1958 we were provided with food, they would give us sheep. But by the time of shifting to the market economy it was stopped, you know. The provision to the workers was really good. Actually, our workers, now that I recall, didn’t have to worry about food provision during Tsagaan Sar or new year. Milk was given out at the department by 3 liters or 4-5 liters. Yoghurt, sour cream, dried curds were given out. Therefore there was no need for the workers to go outside. Well, we had to buy meat from outside, though. In fact, the factory had great strengths, and it provided at least the industrial workers’ clothes. They were changed every three months. Within the three month period the gowns would have deteriorated as they were ironed and washed every day. So, they were changed every three months. We had waterproof boots, because we were always walking in milk. They were also changed constantly, every three months. It was sufficient.

Then our milk factory had a ‘red corner’ and every Saturday we’d organize parties, organized by the departments. The department would organize a party and sometimes some people would share their experiences. Artists and entertainers would be invited from outside. There were also amateurs inside the factory. Those amateurs would select talented people from each department. And the selected people would perform at the factory and wherever they were invited. They even used to go to the division in the countryside to give performances. Our women and young girls always used to play in the ‘Habitual Liar’ play. Elder ones would play male roles, becoming the lords and so on. When they played in the countryside division, people were interested and praised them. We did these kinds of things. During holidays we mostly gathered together down in the department and we wouldn’t drink alcohol like people do today. We’d eat dairy products and dance if we felt like it. Some experienced people would share their experiences, some elderly people would tell their life stories. We’d make them tell us about their lives, why and whom and when did they marry, how many children they had and so on. We had such interesting talks. Yes. When young women work at a factory it’s always clean and bright, both for the factory itself and from the hygienic point of view. The only troubled period is when they get pregnant and leave. We lost a person who worked on the machine. Then we had the problem of training someone. Therefore the masters would make estimations, like Batjargal guai, you know, ‘OK. Suvdaa is pregnant and she is leaving. Then she will leave after her.’ Exactly as he estimated, people would be gone. In such cases the factory’s work would be uneven. Otherwise there were no problems with drinking and misbehaving or work absences. At times of trouble and sickness the department people would collect money and visit and assist in the household and try to help in every way. In such cases we’d visit the troubled or sick person constantly. When I worked at the ice cream department I would visit my department people. Each department person would visit their own workers.But we wouldn’t try to get money from the factory to visit someone. The workers in the department had their savings. We saved 5 tögrögs each month and would visit each other using that money when somebody was sick or had had a baby. When somebody had a feast after receiving the mother’s order of honor, we’d all go and celebrate together.

Tsetsegjargal -

What kind of people were the dargas of that time?

Suvdaa -

When I worked there the darga was a man called Mandaahüü. Mandaahüü darga was there when the factory was opened and he had worked for a year and left. Then there was Ayushjav. In fact, our dargas gave most of their attention to their workers. What do they lack, what are they like? He would meet with workers. When walking through the department he’d greet people and ask, “Well, how are you? How is your health? Is there any problem?” People would be very happy with that. Let’s say a janitor was washing the floor and he would ask her, “Dulmaa, how are you? How is your health?” “Oh, very well, darga.” Then later she’d tell us, “Darga asked about me, you know. He didn’t ask about mine, I didn’t greet him, he didn’t greet me.” They would be overjoyed. In fact, our dargas, they are technology engineers. In fact, they would be in constant communication with their workers, actually. As for our part, you know, we graduated in the north and we’d come from the north. We were engineers and masters during working hours and at other times we were playful with each other. We had very simple relationships. But we were very friendly with each other. Our darga wouldn’t pick anyone out specifically; he’d be friendly with each of us. He’d go either to the plumbers or to the stoker. He’d greet a stoker, “Hey, how are you? Do you have coal?” And the stoker would be overjoyed with it, thinking ‘he said this to me’ and he’d strive not to ruin the milk or something else. What do the workers and the darga do in the morning? On Monday morning our darga would visit our department without fail. He’d first go through the reception department, then the machinery department and he would greet the master, of course, and ask the workers, “Hello, are you OK? How is the work?” And at the very end he’d call the masters to his office and talk over work issues with them. When our darga has such an attitude, it makes a real difference, you know. And the masters and workers are the same, too. They would never say, “If you don’t do this I will just leave it unfinished.” If they did something, they’d necessarily finish it first before going. A worker would finish it before going even if he had been told, “Stop it now. Your time has finished.”

The dargas were appointed only from the ministry, you know. The light industry darga was from the ministry, the engineer was from the ministry, the technologist was from the ministry, too. As for the technologist, you know, he finished school in his vocation and therefore he came because of his vocation. He would just be appointed, you know.

Tsetsegjargal -

What kind of events did you mainly organize during hours off or vacations at that time?

Suvdaa -

During the vacation, well, in summertime we were very busy. Beginning from May till October milk would be distributed non-stop. We would work in two shifts. Beginning from October or the end of September or the end of October, milk provision decreases. But one shift of workers would be sent to picnic. And we’d spend a whole day competing in sports, racing. So by the factory administration encouraging people they’d be refreshed, you know. And the other shift would be told to work a full day as the second shift was picnicking. And the remaining shift workers would do their work well and those coming back from the picnic would work energetically and they would not lose their energy. Actually, there was nothing bad written about our factory, you know. At our time there was nothing written about our factory that it had any shortcomings or that something happened there and so on. Only good things were written. The only gossip there was, I’ve just told you about, about the drivers of the cistern who went hunting marmots. You know, I don’t believe it. When they came back we’d check the milk. Well, there was one case when it was checked. Perhaps one driver hunted a marmot or whatever and there was an examination from the central committee. So the cistern came up and the examiner arrived from behind of it. He came and opened the lid of the cistern and checked the sourness of the milk. The driver’s sour milk was just normal. So what does the driver do? He had a rest for a while, you know. He would be driving for 24 hours, so he has 5-10 minutes of break. In fact, we had a place for drivers working on shifts and going in the evenings. At the division in the countryside there was also a place for them to have a two-three hour sleep. The factory was very keen on labor safety and concern for its workers. If there was a person going to work on a shift from here, he‘d be given meal by a cook, he’d have a few minutes rest. It was like that. And we would leave our children at the kindergarten. And when we finished at 4 pm, the other shift would take up the work. Therefore, the family background… sometimes the schoolchildren would lack some school items, we’d go to our master and say, “Master, what are we to do? We don’t have this and that.” In fact, we were only interested in the work. We just abandoned our families. In fact, if you had a granny, she would be there in the family background or your mother or 9th, 10th grade schoolchildren of 7-8 years of age. They were entrusted with the housework. Never mind our families in the background, as long as the state work goes well. And when you came home actually everything was OK. In fact, when I observe people nowadays after being retired, they strive only for their private matters and they don’t care about work, you know. In fact, when you sometimes meet people around and when you listen to what they are talking about on the phone, they talk about business only. Somebody is waiting outside for you, but you just keep on talking waving your hand like this /she waved her hand with a gesture ‘go, go’/. They are not interested in the work at all.

We would even go to work at the meat plant. The meat at the meat plant, you know, when spring comes the frozen meat outside has to be taken inside into storage, you know. So the meat is frozen and the plant management would bring workers from the candy factory and our factory to do subbotnik. So we’d come and do the work. And everything was OK. And the general clean up, you know, the department workers would come out and do the clean up of the factory environment in 50x50 square meters, you know. They’d clean the garbage outside of the factory hashaa. And what do people do nowadays? Nothing. For instance, in the countryside or at the market the market salesman could clean up the environment, you know. But no, there’s nothing of that kind. Paper is paper. Don’t litter, don’t walk on the grass, even a child wouldn’t walk on the grass, you know. It was said, don’t walk on the grass. Nowadays people just walk carelessly on furnished things and ruin them, you know. They are not thinking for the sake of society. ‘It’s not mine, I don’t care’ is the mentality today, you know. We obtained a lot from the political report and lectures in our time. On Saturdays we had that political report time, you know. People were invited from outside to talk about the international situation, the factory situation and all the issues of beauty. So people would listen to it and they absorbed whatever was good from it, you know. On Thursdays we had lectures. People would again come from outside and talk on the international situation and everything else. So in this way people with either secondary or elementary or university education, they listened to it, you know. There’s no such a thing nowadays, you know. We talk about the issuing of the Constitution but we know only what the Constitution is. We don’t know the content of it. We don’t even know such things like what is in the interests of the workers, what am I to do after I am employed, what kind of work will I do, how am I going to be paid, you know. I was employed, I agreed a contract. What was the contract about, what was the structure of it, there’s nothing of that kind. In the olden times we didn’t have any kind of a contract, you know. And now we have contracts, you know. We were employed and introduced to the internal rules or regulations of the factory, the department’s internal rules. All the discipline issues were introduced in those regulations. And today there’s no such thing. We had morals. Books were also brought to us. There was a book sale. A librarian would come from afar and we used to take books home to read. There would be various kinds of books, like literature. Twice a week we had them and we’d exchange the book and we’d read a new one. Is there such a thing today? No. There’s no one today who’d subscribe to the press, you know.

The trade union would protect the interests of the factory, the interests of the workers. They’d consider the shortcomings. The women’s organization would organize various events and measures concerning women’s issues. They would also organize a handcraft contest. These kinds of things were organized. Mainly things like handcraft and Red Cross events. People would come from the Red Cross and talk about health and about public organizations, you know. There was an international court. At the lecture or the giving of the political report an international court member would come and make a public speech about that organization. The lecturers would be invited one by one. That’s how it was, you know. The socialist labor brigades would include all ten departments of the factory actually. After work they would be taught dancing and Russian language. When teaching Russian they’d begin from the product’s name. They’d begin like, what is yoghurt, milk, sour milk and so on in Russian. So the socialist labor brigade would teach everything, you know. They’d make someone talk about his experience, about the factory experience, the brigade experience. They’d study that person’s experience and according to the individual’s experience the brigade would make a commitment, execute their duties. Then they’d make a year’s contract and after making the contract they’d execute their duties and then they would be examined. After checking the results they’d get the title and the credentials of the socialist industry brigade. This kind of work was done. It was very useful. All the departments had separate labor brigades but when united it would be the organization as a whole. So the organization would become the leading socialist labor brigade and so on, with the public organization done by those labor brigades, you know. Such things were organized a lot. There would be initiatives coming up “Let’s become the socialist labor brigade, let’s work collectively.” For instance, I might like to organize a brigade myself. We might have a particular shortcoming in the department, let’s eliminate it together. You do this, you do that and the department workers would accept it. Yes, it is definitely the right initiative, let us do it. After eliminating the shortcoming they had, the worker would make a real commitment. For example, within the period of the socialist labor brigade I will make the product quality this number, within this period I will learn to make ice cream if I couldn’t previously make it. I couldn’t make an ice cream cup, so I will learn to make it. And whatever development there was, the individual would make a commitment to do it all. Then all of his commitments would be integrated by the brigade senior and he would give to each person an assignment. Well, and additionally we’d learn songs, we’d dance, we’d sew, well, there’s nothing we wouldn’t do. In a month we’d gather and talk about the work process. We’d say things like, “Your duty is this. You have done this. This is OK. This is not OK in our department.” Things that didn’t work out had to be done till they were OK and then had to be checked. When being checked we were invited in one by one and asked, “Have you accomplished this? Have you accomplished that?” Then the brigade result would come out at the end. “OK, your brigade had taken on 10 duties and seven of them have been accomplished and three not. Therefore, your brigade is postponed”. We’d have a meeting; we’d join the meeting and get the title and the credentials and the certificate and come out of it. By that title and credentials we could show that we were the leading collective, you know. So wherever we went we were introduced as the leading collective. The work output is not one person’s but a collective’s. And you feel proud, you know.

Tsetsegjargal -

What in your life has had a great impact on your life?

Suvdaa -

Since 1990 life and the social situation, in fact, have deteriorated, weakened. People’s characters have changed. There’s no thought about helping people. In our time we’d be seated on the bus and if old people got on the bus, they’d be given a seat. And not today, people don’t respect each other. People’s behavior has deteriorated. I regret that very much, firstly. Secondly, the issue of the city’s accomplishment, in fact, this has deteriorated, it’s really bad. At that time we used to call Ulaanbaatar the White Diva of Asia. Wherever we went as students we would meet Russian and foreign students and they would say there was nowhere as beautiful as Ulaanbaatar. And now Ulaanbaatar is full of garbage. I’m very disturbed by it. There’s no one taking the initiative to do something for the sake of their society. They only think of their own well being, anything else is of no concern to them.

My time as a student was wonderful. There’s been no such wonderful time as that time as a student when I was young. There were four of us in the vocational school. The four of us would meet sometimes to talk. The best time was that time as a student. There was nothing to worry about. You go to your classes, you go to watch something and you have fun. It was a nice time. It won’t come back, you know.

Tsetsegjargal -

That means becoming a student was the most important event in your life, right?

Suvdaa -

Yes, the most important thing. Then comes my work. The milk factory was the golden start of my work, I would say.

Tsetsegjargal -

What special thing has happened in your life?

Suvdaa -

Well, how to put it? Actually, I’m not a sentimental type of person. I’m straightforward. In fact, my main interest is my work. Well, at the very end, you know, I’ve worked at the milk factory for 20 years and for ten years I’ve done different kinds of work. At the very end I came to Shar Had horoo in Bayanzürh district, it was the 9th horoo. I received the most complicated and the most difficult horoo. Shar Had was all covered by garbage and the people wouldn’t pay the hashaa and house insurance, the garbage or electricity bills. The people had a wild attitude towards women. I received it on January 4th in 1984. There was no office. The office and the ‘red corner’ were frozen. When I asked the previous horoo darga how she managed to work she would say, “I would receive the stamp and would go into a shop. And I would hit it.” [This last sentence is unclear, but involves some violent action.] I had a very unpleasant feeling about that. My intention was to work with the laborers and to improve working conditions. The stoker’s room didn’t operate, you know. The spacious ‘red corner was frozen, only the stoker’s room would be heated. They didn’t use the resources at that time. So I sent out the stoker (kachgar) and brought my table into the office. The stoker said not worry about him. It was a small room, you know. Then I began to get acquainted with the laborers. When I met the laborers I asked them first about their civilian duties and asked if they paid their hashaa insurance and the garbage money and whether they had any breaches in their passports. Starting with this I had a great number of problems. Some of those who fulfilled their duties would go away silently and some would shout at me, “Are you crazy? We are not going to be taught by you! What do you know? Before you came here this horoo was just like a white sheep, it became black once you came here.” “Be it a white sheep or black, today none of us is going to be superior to each other.” This was how my work began. Actually, there were 15 horoos in Bayanzürh district. And this horoo was the worst. It was the worst and it was the last I received. And I would just think, how can I improve it. Before I used to have supervisors that supervised me, there was management above me. Even at the factory I wouldn’t become a teacher and just teach the others from what I had read, you know. There’s management even at the trade union, you know. Therefore, I thought I had to do everything by my self. I will try this year and see if I can cope with it all by myself. So I used to get up at eight in the morning and come home at eleven pm. Within this period I met all the horoo people and I arranged the ‘red corner’. And at the end of April, March, it’s still cold, you know, I took a heater in and made it an office room. Then later I told the darga, “Darga, give me a communication unit. I need a communication unit (evidently, a two-way radio).” He asked, “What do you want it for?” “I need a communication unit. I can’t work without it.“ They laughed at me. “There were many other horoo dargas and nobody asked about it. Only you ask.” Then they provided me with it. And I connected the unit in my office and I would command people from my office. I would call them into the office and send them to do something. I would mention their duties to them and I would tell them to clean the garbage outside. By these means by the first quarter our horoo was in second place. It was a matter of pride to me. A man called Togoo was the horoo mayor. He would say, “I’m over fifty. I’m almost fifty-six. I wonder if this woman can cope with this horoo or not. Well, she is a Party member.” And he told me, “You are a member of the Mongolian People’s Revolutionary Party. I will give you three months. If you improve this work within these three months it will be improved, if not then you are jobless.” So I worked these three months and the first quarter came to an end and my work had to be evaluated. We were in second place. They congratulated me. They said it was the first time they had seen the 15th placed horoo move to the second place. I said, “No, darga. There are many who worked.” They evaluated me and said it was a result of tremendous work and they put my picture on the board of honor. I became the district deputy. I was evaluated as doing quite well and I was awarded with a flat. This is a second matter of pride to me. I’m always proud of it. And I observe these people who work, the horoo dargas, and somehow I don’t feel satisfied with them. Yes, I’m not satisfied. I make observations when I meet with the workers. When we sit like this, let’s say you are a darga, I won’t be able to talk freely with you, you know. I would say only what I meant to say. If a darga goes to their place to talk, they’d talk freely. They’d give their opinions. “Well, darga, you have such and such a shortcoming, you can fix it like this.” It’s really helpful. They’d say, life is difficult, there is this and that. It’s always different where you talk, in the office or in the street or at home. When you talk with people, when you adopt with them all an equal approach regardless of their age, regardless of whether someone is a high positioned person or just a worker, they change drastically. So what happened is a quarterly plan is given to every family, you know. Our horoo had a plan for 10 tons of hay. I was on vacation at that time. When I came back on August 15th, all the horoos had completed their plan, some completed 5 percent. The 9th horoo had nothing. What to do? I gathered everyone. And I found out those poor women pulled out the hay into the sack at the river bank. A sack of hay for the horoo, little by little. I thought, what to do? The deadline will be over soon. There’s the Lenin museum, the Lenin Club, and there’s a shop there. I went to see the director of that place. And suddenly he asked me, “Would you do me a favor? Why don’t you provide me with a car?” I said, “Yes, I will. I will bear the responsibility. I’m the horoo darga here.” So we agreed. The next day at 10 am a big truck with 10 tires came. He brought us 45 tögrög and 70 tögrög boots and children’s footwear. He said, “Be disciplined and take them in order. It’s not a shop or something. If anyone pushes forward, I’ll just show him.” So he just stood nearby while people came and bought those things. He came at 10 am and by 4 pm the products were finished. Then the next morning a horse cart full of hay came in. So in ten days I had fulfilled the plan. So it’s the result of excellent working with the collective, the result of working with people. My collective is always eager to receive me happily whenever I visit them, you know. Some would exclaim, “Oh, the horoo darga, are you still there?” “Well, I came because I’m there”, I would say.

Tsetsegjargal -

How many years ago were you a horoo darga?

Suvdaa -

I did it from 1985 to 1992. It was the end period of socialism. You can never think of that, you know.

Tsetsegjargal -

Thank you for an interesting interview.

Suvdaa -

Not at all.

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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.