Batdelger


Basic information
Interviewee ID: 990124
Name: Batdelger
Parent's name: Darizav
Ovog: Borjigin-Dashnyam
Sex: f
Year of Birth: 1945
Ethnicity: Halh

Additional Information
Education: higher
Notes on education:
Work: retired / elementary school teacher
Belief: Christian
Born in: Bayan-Öndör sum, Övörhangai aimag
Lives in: Bayanzürh sum (or part of UB), Ulaanbaatar aimag
Mother's profession: herder, then stoker
Father's profession: herder, then worked at Barilgin zurgyn Institute


Themes for this interview are:
(Please click on a theme to see more interviews on that topic)
repressions; childhood; urban issues; work; family; military;

Alternative keywords suggested by readers for this interview are: (Please click on a keyword to see more interviews, if any, on that topic)

repression; city life; children's upbringing;

Click here to submit your own keywords for this interview

Please click to read an English summary of this interview

Please click to read the Mongolian transcription of this interview

Translation:



The Oral History of Twentieth Century Mongolia

Tsetsegjargal -

Thank you for taking part in the study and giving an interview. Would you kindly briefly introduce yourself?

Batdelger -

I was born in 1945 in Bayan-Öndör sum of Övörhangai province. My father’s name is Dari-Zav, and my mother’s name is Tsendsüren. I’m the second adopted child of theirs. My father had been repressed, therefore, his first marriage was broken and he got married again to a woman with a child. They didn’t have their own child, so I was adopted.

Tsetsegjargal -

Has anyone in your family or relatives been repressed?

Batdelger -

My father Dari-Zav was repressed. He became a soldier in 1930 and in the autumn of that year he left his homeland as a non-regular soldier to serve in the army. After he left his homeland he joined a group of soldiers at the military unit of Tamsag Bulag. From there he was assigned to patrol the border at Ereentsav. Then he went to military school, that’s what he used to say. And then around 1931 he was arrested. He told me that he was arrested in the morning, just when he was getting up. The reason why [he was arrested] is because of an old man from our homeland (nutag)_ called Damdinjav, whom he went to the army with. They went together. He used to say, Damdinjav was a horse driver of a Russian commander My father.., that Damdinjav guai was a party member and he had a good reputation in the sum. My father was not a party member, though he went with him to the army. And when I told my father, “Damdinjav guai served in the army with you”, he said. The party members and the initial cell members, the second cell was the Bayan-Öndör cell of Övörhangai province. It is one of the initial cells. And this cell member was a very respected person, he had good reputation. He was the kind of man who would always organize parties for children during the school holidays. And my father was not that kind of a man. They came from the army together as they were soldiers of the same year, though there were 4-5 of them who left their homeland. And some of them were granted leave, some of them by various deficiencies in life, and the two of them were left, my father used to say. I asked, ”And what happened with you? “ He would say, “I lost my party certificate and since then everything went down hill.” Then later, in 1964, my father asked me one day, “What kind of book you are reading?” I would read a lot of Mongolian history and literature books when I was in 9th, 10th grade. When I told him about that he asked me,” Is Zavaa Damdin’s book mentioned in the book you’re reading?” I said, “No, there isn’t a book written by that man”. And then my father would say, “Well, our government is still no good then. That Zavaa Damdin is a very educated person in the Gobi area, you know. He took part in both the old government’s affairs and the new government’s affairs. He is very educated in books and literature and he was a well educated person in the Gobi area. And since his books are not published, well, then this state and government is still raw,” he said. That incident caused my dad to say, “Well, don’t make too much effort in acquiring knowledge. There’s no need to, to become a member of that party, you know. There were wonderful great important leaders who were well educated, and they were all shot, you know, during the repression of the Thirties. Well, I think, he didn’t say exactly ‘repression’ at that time. And actually our state is a very harsh state to those who are educated and who have acquired knowledge, you know. Therefore, you don’t need to make much effort in acquiring knowledge and becoming a highly educated person. Just a teacher of an average school will be sufficient, my son,” he said to me. Then actually I worked as an elementary school teacher and then I thought to myself, “Well, I want to understand this state and this society.” I’ve read a lot of history and literature books. I thought, let me find out what is what, and I entered the history faculty of the Teacher’s Institute and studied for four years. Then I had an idea, “OK. So, things are like that. In fact, you’ll find there’s a lot of crises, so to say, logical black and white issues here and there. Then in sixty.. I myself entered the institute very late, when I was over thirty, and I was born late, that’s why I was very bright. And when I discussed with other people of my age at the history faculty, we’d find out there were a lot of such cases. What should we do? And we asked our teacher about it. Our teacher’s name was Sürenhorol. We told her, “Teacher, we have found some complications. Teacher, how can we say it, the works of Lenin and Marx, well, they are complicated, strange and not clear.” Our teacher said, “Just memorize what’s written and repeat what you have memorized.” We’d talk about it amongst each other and decided to memorize it since the teacher told us to do so in case the party central committee person comes and asks so we can tell what we’ve memorized from this book. Don’t get it wrong by trying to tell it in your own way, it’s difficult, you know, said the teacher. And we would just memorize what was in the book. It was the rehabilitation period and we thought our dad was involved in that kind of a thing. I considered it carefully and talked about it to my children. My lawyer son said, “Well, when the time comes, it could turn the wrong way. Once you’ve made a wrong step it will be noted differently by the law registration. Everything is possible. You just hold on a little, wait a while, don’t rush for anything in a particular timeframe.” Then, in 2003, the rehabilitation thing was almost over and I made up my mind to try to give a rehabilitation petition in December of 2003. I submitted it to the Intelligence Department archive by the, how do you call it, that military service unit and all of a sudden I found out there was a case of seven of them. “Your father was almost the leader” said the man coming out. And I once more submitted a petition to the Supreme Court and that court discussed the case, and somehow it came out that my father was sentenced by the 49th Resolution of the state of emergency (onts baidal) [this would have been referring to the Extraordinary Commission that handled most of the repression cases]. I was told that a person sentenced under such a decree usually dies. I spoke with people who were going through the rehabilitation process with their relatives who had a similar sentence. They said, people who were sentenced by that 46th decree almost certainly didn’t survive. I wondered how my dad would come out of it. Well the Supreme Court decided to rehabilitate my dad’s case. And since I went to the Supreme Court, I also met Tserendulam guai of Genden guai [Tserendulam was the daughter of Genden, Prime Minister in the 1930s]. This is because she is from Övörhangai province and she took some trouble to get information about the people of her homeland. She has been to many archives, and I, not knowing where to go, visited Tserendulam guai in 2003 when she was working at the museum [of political repression]. And Tserendulam guai told me, “Well, he was a military man, so his documents might be there. Lamas’ documents are not usually found. Documents of mixed people captured here and there are not found and it’s difficult. But the military people’s documents are usually there, you know.“ And she told me to go to the Central Intelligence Department. And they were there. I found them right away without any trouble, without any complications. By that time the Supreme Court had sent an inquiry to the military department of Övörhangai province and to the military department of Bayantumen to see if there was information on such a person. And the reply was that no such evidence was there. And when we searched through the interrogation papers of my dad, they were there. When the interrogation papers had been examined, I thought, my dad gave the wrong name of his sum at his first interrogation. It had said Bayanhongor. My dad’s mother might have originated from Bayanhongor, a tall woman carrying an arag, or basket for collecting animal dung on her back, came to Övörhangai, the then Sain Noyon Khan province towards the Gobi in charge of around ten girls of about ten years of age. She served rich families from the Gobi and had a hut. Well, people who are born in the same place as my father's mother in my nutag are called Ovoohoin /hut/ Genden and Ovoohoi Shar /yellow/, they have other names, you know. Shar is a nickname. Rich people who lived to the south of Bayan-Öndör knew them by the hut they lived in , that’s why they were called Ovoohoi. Therefore, “he is a yellow boy from a hut”. His wife’s name was Shatarchuluun. They were childless. They adopted a child from a Russian boy. He worked at the railway. Perhaps, he is no longer alive, he might have passed away. When they hear Ovoohoi Genden, they’d ask, Genden who? The eldest brother of my dad would always come to our place. We would go together with my dad to his place and milk his cows. His wife, I don’t remember her name now. She was such an elderly woman, one of twenty something children of one family from our Övörhangai province. They had an only child whose name was Norjinlkham. I don’t know whether she’s adopted or just their only daughter. My uncle Genden had a wife before. His only daughter was a school teacher and she died. Then he married this old woman, and I don’t really know whether their daughter is her adopted or biological child.

Tsetsegjargal -

Your father was said to be repressed. what was he accused of?

Batdelger -

When my dad said that he had lost his party certificate, I wondered why this happened. Then he said: we used to dig trenches during daytime a lot and did a lot of drill. And, exhausted, we would come back afterwards and be commanded to sleep. The party certificate would be placed at the highest point and the cap on top of that. That’s what I did. I had joined the party recently. And in the morning you were supposed to wear the cap and put on the party certificate [evidently worn as a sort of ID] but it wasn’t there. Thus, I lost my party certificate. And because I served at the border I would be questioned many times if I had destroyed my party certificate or passed it to a foreign spy. From time to time they would all say that somebody killed someone from the guards unit. They would say that his head had been cut off. There were many uncertain things, I don’t know if it was just gossip or if it was true. Then, somebody else from my section lost his party certificate. So, there were two of us who had lost it. We were arrested straight away. And we were detained in the trenches of the countryside border, although there weren’t any special prisons there. We were detained there for a few days and then we were taken to the city, that’s what he used to say. And there’s a place near what is now, let's see, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. We arrived at night. We were directed into a dug-out (zemlyank). It was quite a big dug-out. There were military people, lamas, women and children there, in fact, quite a rabble used to lie there. Well, they were brought there and left. Anyway, it took a long time and finally we lost the count of the days or nights that had passed. And due to bad clothing and bad food at the border, in fact, it was generally like that at the border, we were easily exhausted. And my four limbs went into spasm and I had a sore throat (my dad was said to be a good singer). Thus, I almost couldn’t distinguish day from night and couldn’t tell how much time I wasted there. Sometimes I walked and I would go to be interrogated. Later, I couldn’t walk and the two guards would lift me up by my four limbs and lead me to the interrogation. “Well, whom did you tell? Who is the person? Where you were supposed to go? Where did you intend to go?” and so on. I wondered why I would destroy my party certificate if I meant to cross the border. If I really meant to cross the border I could have done it any time, you know. And I didn’t have such a thought, that’s how it was, he used to tell me. He was interrogated and later he was just left there in such a condition that he didn’t know day from night or have any idea of time. And somehow some relatives came to visit him once from his homeland with a saddlebag (ganzgalgaatai) with airag, (fermented mare's milk), cheese, mutton, cream, yogurt and other dairy products. I was then at the prison hospital, I think. There was one Russian doctor. That fat doctor could only speak Mongolian badly. The convicts said he was also a, what you call, convict himself. They said he had been imprisoned in Russia and came to Mongolia as a prison doctor. When I couldn’t move, the doctor made a horse meat broth and poured it into a bath tub and bathed me in the broth. At that time there was nothing more than horse meat. You see, we, the convicts, ate only horse meat and millet. When you look back now, we have possibly survived thanks to the energy and the calories of horse meat and millet, so my father used to say. So thanks to a horse meat and the millet we have survived. Then I was completely incapacitated, and after that I was not even interrogated. Then it was summer. Well, my family visited me. And my case was thrown out, and I was so thin and weak that, I could barely stand on my feet. My four limbs that had curled up and had gone into spasm had become not so bad thanks to that doctor. But my voice remained hoarse as it was. I don’t know why but I don’t have these teeth, they fell out beaten at that time. Some would either beat or push me. It was a time when you just didn’t think about such trifles. And I was thrown down outside. In all respects, I was cast out. Then I went home, you know. I went to my homeland, I made contact with my homeland through those visit and I was clothed and came home, you know. They have never given me any paper or anything at all to say that I was released from prison. I was cast out and I was released in such a way, you see. And I was curled up outside, thrown out in such a way. And in the spring they neither told me I was not bad a person, nor I was a criminal. That’s what happened, so my father told me. And then I understood, because of that my father’s health deteriorated. His voice was hoarse. Later he passed away from lung cancer. Lung cancer it was.

Tsetsegjargal -

You mentioned the 46th decree. What kind of a criminal is punished with that decree?

Batdelger -

I never found out what it meant. A person was sentenced by that decree. I’ve heard people say that no one comes out alive sentenced with that decree. I’ve heard it was a very strict article of law. And, well, I have those decree papers, that 46th decree paper, you know. I’ve saved it in a folder, I’ve heard a criminal is never forgotten, so I’ve kept it. I was given a certificate, dated 25th something, 2003 that was.., what you say, certified. I thought I would not use it, but then I found out one million tögrögs were given out in compensation. When it came down to it, I took with me those original papers as I was told to do by the Bayanzürh District court. I thought, so what if I take them there? I was told, ”Well, take them to a notary and give them the notarized copy. They will be archived together with the court decree. And take this.” O.K, let me keep them here in the court as I won’t keep them. The next generation will keep them, so they might otherwise be thrown away thinking they’re useless. I thought, “Let them be here in the archive of the Bayanzürh District court. This is the right place to keep them,” and I left them there. I thought it was the right to copy everything and so I copied them. And I had the 25th certificate archived in the archive of the Bayanzürh District court together with the protocol of the court sitting and all that kind of stuff.

Tsetsegjargal -

Did your father mention the public opinion about the repressed people in the time when your father had been repressed?

Batdelger -

My father went to the army first, and he was captured from within the military unit, that’s why people of his homeland perhaps just kept thinking he went away to the army. And like Damdinjav guai, he never told anyone he had been taken prisoner when he returned to his homeland, he didn’t even tell his children, you know. Later, when I was finding out about my father’s case I also asked one of Damdinjav guai’s sons about it, and he said, ”Our Dandgai had never told about it at all, you know, is that what really happened? Was he with your father in the military? He didn’t tell us about that, either. At that time there were two-year and five-year long-term military services, that’s why we thought he had come back after military service. And his relatives, who visited him after realising he was in prison, might have spread a rumor that he came back having been released from military service or having been in a military hospital. I thought it was spread that he had been for many years in a hospital. Why I thought this is because his close relatives, when asked, used to tell me directly that he had never been repressed at all, that there was no such a thing. Therefore, I assume my dad hadn’t told his relatives about it at all. But I was told that there were two female relatives who visited him. They were two women from a rich family. These two female friends of him visited him in the hospital under the pretext of visiting their uncle. And it was understood that he had been checked out of the hospital. Then later after the repression was over and after the rehabilitation, I realized while thinking that there were no such temporary military drafts at all from his home sum. Well, and there was a section representative of our homeland named Davaadorj. There was a marmot plague once and our family was put on that post. And, well, we went there as long ago as late spring and the summer passed and throught until the late autumn the marmot plague post was not broken yet, you know. No cattle was allowed to be brought to that place. We had two milk cows, one yoghurt making cow and only one, two or three mares. And they were left there and they wasted. After the late autumn came, that section representative Davaadorj came and gave us news about the new contract, I don’t know which decree it was issued from, well, from which people’s session of that time, my mum just used to tell us about it. And, well, the time came for the quarantine to be lifted. The section representative Davaadorj had been telling people gathered there that a session decree was issued on the cancellation of those occasions when commoners were imprisoned for missing various cashmere items and so on. And the people gathered there were overjoyed and those who had been imprisoned for cashmere items, were released. Well, those various small cases, and those suspected were rescinded. Then the marmot plague quarantine work was also, what you say… Well, the winter was coming and the first snow had fallen and we were in extreme difficulty, my mom would say. Dad did talk about it. In fact, nobody knows that he was repressed, that he was imprisoned while in the military, you know.

Tsetsegjargal -

What was the people’s opinion about the repressed? People didn’t know about your father. Did he talk about the attitudes towards the individually repressed people?

Batdelger -

People never talk about that at all, you know. They were very scared, in fact, when that kind of thing was talked about, they would be silent. When children played at imitating interrogation and so on, their parents would scold them to keep silent, you know. They would say, don’t talk about such things, you know.

Tsetsegjargal -

Did your father discuss what kind of information was given to the public about the repression when the repression was under way?

Batdelger -

I don’t know of any such pressure from the state on the families of the repressed people at all. In our family, I haven’t sensed anything of that kind. I went to school according to all the regulations and lived through it accordingly. My brother used to be in the military. Actually, there was no difference for the children of the repressed . We weren’t aware of it at all, you know. And when I think back now, my father’s repression was not known at that time because the rehabilitation document had a Bayanhongor hoshuu, which is a subdivision of a province, mark on it. Most probably my dad’s mother was originated from Bayanhongor area and because it is poor he fled here. And then, well, because the Great and Small Land Stone and the Dundgovi province which are both situated in our Övörhangai province to the Gobi direction, they all were included in the subdivision of the Sain Noyon Khan province, he might have stayed there.

Tsetsegjargal -

Did the mass media of that time have articles about the repression?

Batdelger -

I don’t know, I don’t know about that. I was literate at that time, but was not interested in the repression issue. My dad hadn’t told me at that time about having been repressed. He told me in 1964, you know. In 1964, I was about to finish my 10th grade. In 1965 my dad passed away. His health condition had been deteriorating. Perhaps, he told me what he had kept inside just before he passed away for us to be wary. He told me not to become a party member, and I followed his word. He said, “You don’t need to acquire too much knowledge, you know. What’s the use of too much knowledge, being a school teacher of a small school would be sufficient.” And I fulfilled his wish, you see.

Tsetsegjargal -

Exactly how many years was your father imprisoned for?

Batdelger -

I don’t know, he never told me.

Tsetsegjargal -

Did he ever mention his life after being released from prison?

Batdelger -

I’ve heard about it from my mum when she was telling someone about it. I found out my dad adopted a child when he was with his first wife. Around 1951-1953 he came to the city to visit my brother who was serving in the military, and then he visited a family to bring them some meat. That was Rentsen’s family. And he adopted his daughter. Only then did I realise he had a previous wife. At that time I was eight years old, about to go to school. They proposed to my parents that I go to school in the city, but they objected to it saying I’d miss my home. So they didn’t let me go to school here, they said they’d let their son and daughter go to the school at the sum centre. And in 1954 at the age of nine I went to the school of Batkhaan.

Tsetsegjargal -

After your father had been repressed, did he have any problems with employment or in taking part in social life?

Batdelger -

My dad knew Mongolian script. He had known Mongolian script for a long time. Chimiddorj of our homeland, ‘wrong front’ Chimiddorj guai once told me, “Your father and me, the two of us, one - a twenty something year old young man and the other - a young boy not reached twenty, we used to go to a quarterly school to study Mongolian script.” My dad had drawn beautiful pictures since his childhood, therefore his writing was beautiful. My dad used to say that Chimiddorj guai was a boy who had nice writing. Later, after my dad had passed away Chimiddorj guai told me, “Your father used to be a man with a beautiful script writing. The two of us used to have the best writing in the class.” When I was seven years old, my dad taught me to write Mongolian script, you know. When we were neighbors with Chogsomsuren guai at the Nuramt camp site, from Botgon to Bayan-Öndör land, was it? Maybe it has become part of the Töv province territory now, has Botgon. The Nuramt camp site was south east of there. Our family, Chogsomsuren guai and Yadam guai’s families used to winter there. When we wintered at that camp site, dad taught me Mongolian script. So I could tell the letters of Mongolian script. There were no books to read in Mongolian script at that time, even if I wanted to, you know. Later, I taught Mongolian script for three years in elementary school classes. I’ve been to 45 day courses, but what can I learn, as a person who is over forty, you know? I had the fundamentals taught by my dad when I was seven years old, therefore, I could easily read and learn and when I taught children, my knowledge of Mongolian script was fairly good, in fact. And, now, printing block and handwriting in Mongolian script are very different, you know. It’s very complicated for those who learn it for the first time. In 1992, I took the initial first grade class without many problems or obstacles to teach them the Mongolian script. And I was taught Latin script too, although I never used it. I was told Mongolian was sufficient. Then on coming to the countryside, my dad became an ‘agent’ (something like a commercial agent). Some countryside people call ‘agent’. They would call them ‘agent’s mother’ and ‘agent’. As an old woman of that period who is over seventy years old recalled, “I would hold your keys in front of the agent’s chest with candies and sit there. Your parents would ask me, ‘Do you want to become our child?’ I would say, “Yes, yes.” And when they would give me a candy, I would take it and saying, “No, I don’t” I would leave, you know.” So, he was an ‘agent’, he also was an agitator (propagandist) to ten families. I also know he was the head of the milk section and of purchasing milk. He used to do it when I had grown up a little and was aware of things. Later, when I went to school my dad would be a fireman in the school board and a cook. While he was a cook he went to a seven day cook seminar in Övörhangai province. There was a man there called Jamsran, I don’t remember what kind of a province chief he was. My dad stayed at his place for seven days having come from his sum. And then there was our school director, Yunden was his name. He wrote a letter to his brother to let my father stay at his place and assist him in his studies. And my father would later say, “I stayed for seven days at the sum mayor’s home. It was a nice time, I enjoyed my time there, they live in a warm house with hot water, I used to bathe there.” When I was in the second grade, there was an old woman called Tserenhand. She was the wife of our teacher Yunden. She would remember my father, my father had a hoarse voice, “He would shout ‘lodging, lodging’ (bair, bair). And I would laugh, ”What are you doing? Darizav guai, shouting like that!” I would laugh and tell him later, “Why don’t you sound a bugle?” Poor man, he had a frog in his throat and he would force his throat, but the children would never hear, and he would keep on shouting ‘lodging, lodging’. I would split my sides with laughing, I was young then. And Darizav guai was shouting because he was calling children to eat. And what he meant by shouting‘lodging, lodging’, was to call the school boarding children, so they would come to have some food. And after that, the school had a teacher on duty to bugle on breakfast, lunch and dinner time.”

Tsetsegjargal -

What did your father do after being a fireman?

Batdelger -

He was a fireman and then he was a night watchman in the garage of the Construction Blueprint Institute and then from the garage watchman he was promoted to be a 'pole surveyor' (reichnik) at the Blueprint Institute Again, not sure what he means institute. A 'pole surveyor' is, well, one of the people who measure land. They go in directions with long poles with two even and odd numbers on them and they measure. That’s what he did, you know.

Tsetsegjargal -

When you first visited the city what was life like there?

Batdelger -

City life.., at that time I was in 2nd or 3rd grade and went to the 11th school to go to third grade. We lived on the Gandan hilltop. It was just above the place where the prey enterprise is. There weren’t buildings, you know. There weren’t tall buildings as the city should have. There was a supermarket called ‘tall cooperative’, and to the south from our place coming down to the Gandan prayer wheel there was a furniture factory. You pass along it and there you have only fences. And our 11th school had a few buildings built separately inside two-three fenced yards . And our room had a big, massive stove pipe. chimney. It was a furnace with black pipe, you know, a clay furnace covered with iron on the outside, yes, a clay stove, a wooden floor, the desks had wooden seats on iron . For a countryside person like me, the desks were of interest to me. They could be folded and go up and down. You put your bag inside them. Those iron black desks were called ‘German black desks’ by the old timers. They were black painted wooden desks, the seats were fixed and it was very difficult to clean and move those desks, it was like that. And we made a fire in the class. We’d put coal on it. We’d make a fire with wood and add some coal. When you arrive in the morning, somebody would have already made a fire. The class was over in the afternoon and in the evening the classroom was swept. We almost didn’t have two shifts, we had only one shift. After the lesson in the morning, the classroom would be tidied and there would be someone there on duty. Then the janitor would come in and sweep the floor. At that time we would help her and lift those desks to and fro. Then there was a building for teachers, a building for a family and a classroom nearby. There was also a building with a classroom and a shed yes. And there was a kindergarten nearby, and other such single buildings. Some of our classes used to be taken across from the kindergarten. The 11th school was being constructed at that time, and the labor volunteers worked without payment. There was only one engineer and a brigade chief who were paid. Then the laborers, who were jobless people from the housing and communal services, built this 11th school. And something went wrong and four big pillars were set up. Then a supporting pillar was added to the second floor roof. When the 11th school building was put into use , our class cleaned it. The secondary classes of our school used to have their lessons in a different place. Let’s see, where did they study? Was it the 6th secondary school? They used to study scattered around various different places. The elementary classes used to study at the building near the kindergarten, and the places with fenced clay houses. And the secondary classes used to study somewhere else.

Tsetsegjargal -

What do you think of a city life? What are the positive and negative aspects of city life?

Batdelger -

Well, my parents had fairly good jobs. For me, there was, in fact, nothing that backward with city life. My mother [sic, should be father] worked as a fireman and a night watchman in the garage of that Construction Blueprint Institute. And the chief of that garage was a very good person. He used to manage and organize his work well. He would bring trees down from the mountain and discharge the firewood from the truck to the homes of the drivers and night watchmen and to all the people of the garage base. And as for coal, the drivers, since they worked at the base, would drive to Nalaikh during their shift and bring up the coal. And my father, too, would go in on one shift and bring a truck of coal. They would go there on a night-shift. He would thus organize his own people to get coal. And that garage stayed there on the Gandan hilltop for several years. I went to school from there till I finished the 10th grade. Then the garage land later was given over for construction and all the bases were combined into the third base which was situated at the left side of Selbe river. My mother moved there with the base. My father worked at an institute which sent him to work to the countryside. My dad’s work was well paid and he would often go to countryside. My mum was a watchman and during the daytime she would clean. There was also a steam furnace. She would heat it and clean it. During the daytime she would be a watchman and then there was another watchman for night time. “Now, I’m doing the cleaning”, she would say and she would do the cleaning. She first came to the city when she was nearly eleven. At that time there was a big building, a housing administration across the road, right behind our school, it was called ‘cooperatives committee’. They showed movies there, there were dancing parties there. Well, as we lived on the hilltop, there was a club named the‘Red Corner’ there. They would show pictures there too, and had dancing parties. In fact, the Red Corner’s main activity was to run pictures and organize dancing parties, as I understood. Well, and around that place we had a big Red Corner club of Savkhini Gurav. There used to be dancing parties there, too. Then we sold our hashaa on the Gandan hilltop to my mother’s relatives. And we moved to the hashaa of the garage base and became affiliated to it. Wherever the base would move, we would be there. For some time we lived in front of the 5th school, well, our Construction Blueprint Institute base was where the nursing school and the fire station are now.

Tsetsegjargal -

In your opinion, what’s the difference between a Mongolian city and the cities of nations with a sedentary lifestyle?

Batdelger -

At that time we lived mainly in a ger, you know, though we used to call ourselves a city family. There were very few who lived in houses. Those who lived in houses used to heat their clay furnace with wood and coal. There was actually no particular difference between a house and our ger, except that it had windows. One had a toono (upper frame of the ger), the other had windows at the sides. That was the only difference, otherwise there’s no special difference between ger and the heated house, you know. Well, as for a ger, if it rains, you have to do things like opening the haya (the lower edge of a ger), cover the outer walls of a ger with earth, and pull up the urh (smoke-hole cover of a ger). And with a clay house, covering the outer walls with earth or pulling up the urh does not happen. That was the only difference, and as for heating or making fire, it was just the same.

Tsetsegjargal -

Do you like city life? What is the best thing about it?

Batdelger -

I like city life. The reason is, you see, that there are many of us living. Our family lived near the 5th school, at the back of the fire station and the first shop had just given into exploitation right then. The alcohol price was rising from 15 to 25 and right at that time we lived just in front of the 5th school, when we moved to that garage place. And because we lived close to the pioneer palace, I could study at the societies of the pioneer palace. In the evening, after 2 pm when the classes were over I would walk from the 11th school, the classes were over in the afternoon and before noon around 12 and 1pm. We used to walk, at that time because there were few buses, we would walk all the way to home and we managed to go to 3 o’clock circle. I used to go to the first geographic circle of the pioneer palace. The geographic circle would take us on trips. We even went to Central province. We took a trip to Chingeltei Mountain, and then we journeyed to the airport. That circle teacher’s name was Khand Ayurzana, he could speak Chinese and Russian at that time. He used to teach Russian at Selenge, he was a very gifted teacher with great knowledge. I went to that geographic circle. Besides that I used to go to a chess circle. The teacher’s name was Baldandorj and he used to make taxidermies in the geography room and he was an immensely good chess player. Purevjav and so on, those chess masters would come into the room and sit playing chess. We would watch them playing chess. Also, I used to go to a library circle club in the state central library. As a result, we never had any shortage of textbooks. We learnt from the children’s writers Ayurzana, Tsendsuren, Radnaa, Ariyasuren, Children's Writer Ariyasuren bagsh is still alive, you know. We studied all these books that were at the children’s library, then beyond that we studied at the circle and we used to look at the newspaper articles in the library collection. Then we did some practice work. We made, well, those lists (tov'yoog) . Well, I made a full file of a newspaper articles on the Korean War. I was asked to point out articles from the newspapers, and that was around 1957, 1958 and 1959, you know. Then, I knew that there was a great Korean war, I knew how many planes were destroyed, how they attacked and what happened. And at that time, thanks to working with the collection I found out there was such a big event as the war of 1950. We had the war of 1945 and I have found out there that there was a great war in 1950 and 1951 in Korea. In fact, when children attend such circles and other things like that, they get an education and acquire great knowledge. Besides the knowledge one gets in the class, freedom is granted. I went to the Pioneer Palace circle, the geographic , the weather circle then, well, when I became the elementary school teacher and when I was teaching the natural studies class, the circle notebooks and notes I’d taken at those circles turned out to be the most splendid manuals to use.

Tsetsegjargal -

What was the difference between your childhood and other children of your period?

Batdelger -

The big difference was that I read a lot. Who taught me to read books? What was his name who lived at Gandan hillside close to our hashaa …Sampildendev, Horloo Sampildendev was his name and he later became a great linguistics scientist. He read a lot when he went to school at seven. And Horloo was a relative on my father’s side. When I visited them, Horloo guai would show me books that his son Sampildendev would then read to me. I still didn’t go to school and I played ball and played with a rope in the city. And Sampildendev could neither play a ball nor play with a rope, he was a boy who only read books. Later when I went to the 11th school, Sampildendev finished 7th grade there and went to the 20th school. But there was a literature circle in our school. And there were many children like Yondon and Sampildendev and others who wrote compositions and poems, they attended the school circle, the literature circle. And out teacher was a teacher of literature. And he would tell us about them and also encourage us to go that circle. Because I attended the pioneer palace circle, I didn’t go to the literature circle of our school, you know. I was small then, and later, after I went to 2nd school, I went to the pioneer palace circle. As for my children, I would send my children to the circle of the young technician’s palace. And, also, there was a new circle. I myself attended a lot the pioneer palace circles and I’ve realized that, in fact, attending those circles widens your scope of knowledge. And, well, children of various schools who are not restricted by the school program attend the circles. There are either good, erudite children or those who come to the circle just to monkey around, you know. And just there and then you find out if the kid is good or bad natured. And once the teacher leads the circle, that teacher would tell the naughty children not to do this and that, that there’s no point in coming to such places, only those who want to learn something should come here. Either strict or mild words were used to approach them, therefore, right away you recognize the good and bad nature of the children and it is not limited to thirty something children for one class. And furthermore, there are many rooms there where children would have free access, you know. They would see by their own eyes what people do at the pioneer palace - various books and so on, the dances that the dancing group people do, the plays of the theatre group, the needle work and the embroidery etc. They would see it all in one spot.

Tsetsegjargal -

What changes have occured in the lives of Mongolian children since your childhood?

Batdelger -

Well, I sent my children to the young technicians’ palace. You see, our generation, from secondary school onward, we had labor camps and so we already had experience of planting vegetables, of harvesting potatoes and cabbages, of weeding and we practiced it all not in a small hall but in a big field. In fact, we knew how to grow potatoes, how to water them, how to weed, how to harvest. We knew from practice in normal life in fact, never having been taught in the class that if you leave a vegetable on the soil, its skin will thicken, you know. This much we were taught. If you include these kinds of things besides the school program, children would learn many things. Children would know everything, in fact, they would have basic knowledge. Oh, if you do this, that happens. If you don’t water and fertilize the cabbage, its leaves will become broad and flat and will not be folded. If you water it well, it will become stiff, you know. Children of people my age are mostly 1970, 1960 years’ children, therefore they’ve already seen all this, you know. They’ve all cut hay, gone harvesting, collected herbs. Well, we, for instance, never collected herbs while my children did. You see, I ask my children now if it’s the time to collect them, or not. Children would go with their teacher, the biology teacher, to collect them though there isn’t such a scope of work in the school program . At that time we would gladly let our children go for fresh air and from this noisy urban environment.

Tsetsegjargal -

What is the life of modern day children like?

Batdelger -

You see present day grandchildren behind the computers, you know. There’s a great worry that it will deteriorate their eye sight. If they want to go outside, there’s no single circle or course there, nothing. You have to stand in a long queue and only after paying money you can get to that circle. And you have to go along with the child otherwise there’s a danger of losing them. There’s a lot of trepidation nowadays. At our time we never had our parents going around after us. But for a third grade child, well, they would see him to the bus. They would cross the road with them get them onto the bus so they weren’t run over by a car. And the bus stop is on the other side, so they would just leave him. When coming back home, they’d instruct the child to be careful, to cross the road by the walkway, to watch carefully and follow other people. And they would come home. It was this easy to bring up our children in our time. And present day parents when they bring up their children… For instance, I would follow my children’s children, you know. I worry about what will happen if I don’t take them to and from school, you see? Well, and children are left at the back and front of the school, you know. Since they are children and when they are in a place with other children, their eyes roll and they say, it’s like this and it’s like that. And when children’s eyes meet, an interrelation forms between them, you know.

Tsetsegjargal -

What was the parent and child relationship like at the time of your childhood?

Batdelger -

Our parents would leave money and say, “The money is there. Take it from here and buy meat and milk. When the waterman comes, give the water money from here.” And we’d take it and go shopping with our school classmates, saying ‘mum told us to buy meat and milk.” There was the shop No.10, the present Gandan monastery, and we would stand in a queue during the day, you know, and our schoolmates would be standing in the queue. They would also spend their money as instructed. Those who were interested in sweets wouldn’t buy them and eat them. If they were told not to buy sweets, they wouldn’t do it, you know. And until that month comes, when dad would go to the countryside, and there would only be mother’s salary left. It should be stretched out for a certain period and we’d spend it till that time, you know. Mother would take the money in bulk and give it to someone or give me 10 tögrögs and say, “Buy a two days worth of meat for meals.” At that time there were few of us in the family, at that time there were no refrigerators and the like. We often used to buy a three tögrög piece of meat, you know. We’d buy a three tögrög piece of meat and cook and eat it the same day. The next day we’d buy again a three tögrög piece of meat, a little bit of meat each time.

Tsetsegjargal -

How did parents bring up their children at that time?

Batdelger -

My mother had taught me to sew since I was a kid. I can sew. An article about me was even published in the pioneer newspaper. A person named Sanjjav wrote it. I didn’t know about it, but one kid told me, “Hey, you know, it was written about you. It was written that you sew deel in the ‘Pioneer Truth’ newspaper.” When I saw it, it was by a man named Sanjjav, he used to write in the military newspaper. He is from Hövsgöl province. He used to live in our neighboring hashaa fence at that place that was good for hunting. And that elder wrote about me that I hand make my home curtains with my mother and that I sew deel for my father. My mother would do the basting and I would make. My mother’s near and far sight had deteriorated. Since then her eyes wouldn’t see, her eyes were covered. It happened when I was only five, six. So, when I went to school I could sew, and I would sew by hand. My mother would do the basting and say, “Now, you sew.” And I would sew. I learnt to sew when I was still small. I lived an average life that way. Otherwise, I haven’t burdened myself with acquiring too much knowledge to any extreme. I’ve completed the elementary class teacher program easily and have been an elementary class teacher for several years. I taught history after doing its program. But still, I didn’t overexert myself, you know. Well, I‘ve obtained a lot of good people’s assistance. So, I’ve graduated. Well, as for my work, I haven’t been the best. I haven’t been behind, just average. Actually, my father told me not to be in the lead and not to be incomprehensibly the last one. He said, “Don’t try to distinguish yourself from average people, and don’t be the rejected so that people wouldn’t look with an unfavorable eye. Well, this was the main method of upbringing children for my parents, you see. Keep to the common standard, don’t distinguish yourself from the norm, that’s what he said, and I just kept to the common standard. My parents have never taught me to dress up. In fact, when I put on something made from silk or the like, it seems to me I attract others’ attention. Well, you know, there are some average people who never attract others’ attention, I was brought up in such a way.

Tsetsegjargal -

What have you had in your life that you would say has been special or unique?

Batdelger -

Nothing. Nothing. I’ve never had anything special or unique. And that direction was given from my parents. I had a very strict warning not to be special; therefore, I have never said anything ahead of anyone, thinking I can manage it. And, in fact, I always think this is the life that fits me right, you know. I’ve never rushed to become very rich and well off. I’ve never strived for money. And, well, I’ve never thought, “it’s good to be a beggar, I won’t do this and that, the hell with that, I’ll just beg it from others.” This is the life I’ve come through. In fact, my parents would forbid me to ask from the neighbors for salt, or tea, if we haven’t bought today’s tea. It’s wrong to ask for salt and brewing of tea from others. Don’t do that. Actually it’s wrong to ask odds and ends, like, give me a needle, give me a tevne (a large needle used for sewing leather), give me thimble and things like that. It’s wrong, I don’t do that, and I was never taught such things. One who was martyred and suffered by his flesh for such a long time, whose life was ruined and who began his life anew. These were the words he said to me, his own son, and that’s what I think. He’s been through it by his own flesh, therefore he told me, “Don’t you bother yourself to get much knowledge. There’s no need to acquire much knowledge. In fact, smart people who have much knowledge get easily in trouble.” At the time of his imprisonment, actually; all those grand chiefs, the military commanders, the squadron commander who was trained in Tambov; the young fair and bright commanders educated here and abroad, with in the Russian language; in fact, they were all detained. Instead, clumsy, slow-witted creatures who were almost illiterate, who probably have never been even a bag chief, were placed as military commanders, you know, he used to say. That really held back our military potential, my dad used say, you know. He used to make birds and various things folding paper. And I wasn’t able to learn it. I was very bad and slow at it. When I see people doing it, I think, if only I had learnt it from my father, then I could have taught my children. My dad would make various kinds of things out of paper and, you know, he would blow it, you know, just like kindergarten children who fold their handkerchiefs, he used to make such things a lot. But I didn’t learn it. The only thing I’ve learnt from my dad is some Mongolian script letters, you see. Well, if hadn’t I learnt it, I would have quit my teacher’s job in 1992, you know. Within those forty five days not very many people would learn it well. Well, somehow it was done by the masses, poor things. Right then I did quite well and the teachers who were unaware would ask only me how to read the word ‘giingooloh’ or ‘hoop’. They would ask me what is that word, how to read the words in the textbook. And I would just read it straight away as ‘giingooloh’. You know, just by myself, without any supervision, just by looking at it. Right at that time I sensed what it is like to acquire knowledge from a young age. There was an elementary class teacher who knew Mongolian script, Baadai was his name. I used to ask Baadai, but then Baadai transferred to another school. So, with no one to ask, I used to read myself, you know. Then the teachers who had learnt it later on, would come to me and ask me, you know, and I would tell them, you know. Well, I learnt Mongolian script in forty something days not because I was that smart, you know. Before, when a teacher called Choimoo had been teaching it on TV, I would adore it from the bottom of my heart for it was the script that my dad had taught me, you know. For it was my dad, who had left me this script, you know. Oh, when Choimoo was teaching it on TV, I would copy it many times in my notebooks, and I would repeatedly copy it again when the notebook was finished, so I had many notebooks complete with writing, and it was the time when I hadn’t started learning the Mongolian script yet. So, that was very useful to me when I started the forty something days course.

Tsetsegjargal -

The parents of your childhood generation have taught their children by their own example, haven’t they?

Batdelger -

Well, for people with many children, poor things, how could they illustrate? They would just leave them home if they had classes or work to do. If the gers were locked, they’d come out from the toono (upper wooden frame of a ger). You know, the children of a large family would sit on the toono on top of their ger. And the sawing of wood, bringing of water, all of this work is done by children, you know. Children of a large family have little work to do. There are many of them, and every one would do it. And the child of a small family has all the burden of the work on his shoulders when their parents would go to their work, bringing water, cleaning, cooking, sawing the wood, preparing the meal in the evening when they came back. And he would saw the wood in cooperation with the neighboring child. Various kinds of work. And in order to manage it all, he’d do his best till his parents would come back home, you know, there’s a true saying that ‘a dog can swim well when the water comes to his nose level’. In the morning children would play together and when evening came, everybody would just quickly rush home like at the ‘march!’ command and would do the household work in an instant and when the parents came, they would be there with whatever meal they’d managed to do, be it good or bad.

Tsetsegjargal -

Thank you for your interesting interview.

Back to top

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.