Tseren


Basic information
Interviewee ID: 990115
Name: Tseren
Parent's name: Tseden
Ovog: Borjigon
Sex: f
Year of Birth: 1929
Ethnicity: Halh

Additional Information
Education: tusgai dund
Notes on education:
Work: midwife, assistant doctor
Belief: Buddhist
Born in: Delgerhangai sum, Dundgovi aimag
Lives in: Nalaih sum (or part of UB), Ulaanbaatar aimag
Mother's profession: herder
Father's profession: herder


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work; education / cultural production; childhood; family; travel;

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Translation:



The Oral History of Twentieth Century Mongolia

Ariun-Undrakh -

How do you do, Mrs. Tseren?

Tseren -

I am fine, how are you, my dear?

Ariun-Undrakh -

Ok. Do you agree to give this interview?

Tseren -

Yes. I do.

Ariun-Undrakh -

Ok. Would you like your name hidden or not?

Tseren -

I won`t hide it. Why would I?

Ariun-Undrakh -

Thank you. Could you introduce yourself?

Tseren -

I was born in 1929 in a place called Toliin Bulag in Delgerhangai sum, Dundgovi aimag. I grew up with my parents, herding life-stock until 1952. I did not even go to elementary school. I was the only girl in my family. My parents were both literate. When the darga of the sum would come to our ger, I hoped that I would be sent to school, I liked very much to study in school. I would put on my dress to get ready. Oo, we won`t send our only girl, my parents would say. So, I grew up herding sheep and camels. As my parents were literate I tried hard and learnt how to read and write. So, once when I was herding livestock an examination to test literacy came from the sum. Perhaps I did it well. I was appointed to the sum as a teacher of grammar. I was so happy. So, of course, my parents had to send me. Thus, in 1952 I taught one class as a teacher of grammar. By the way, a state-owned ger was erected near the school. I had to live there alone. I was afraid of being there by myself and I just could not stay there alone. I had girlfriends and teachers who were friends of mine. I would invite them to sleep at my place. At that time the state happened to allocate my husband to my tent. My husband had finished the Medical secondary school (анагаахын дунд) and was sent to the same sum. So when he came, can you imagine, the two of us were placed in the same tent. He was six years senior. I would wash his clothes, cook his meals, I stopped fearing him. My husband would always go away on calls. So, after a year and half, once, he set out for a remote place in the countryside. I thought `he will not come back today` and spent the night at the school dancing, playing and enjoying myself with my friends. When I returned home the next morning I saw his saddle. `He has come` I said to myself, I was afraid and could not come in. I went back to the school. Do you remember, there was a TV program teaching how to read and write. In my class it was just like in that program: nearly 40 old people always riding horses and camels would come to my lessons. They would finish the classes and go home. The men were not active. They would look through the door at the livestock like this. The women would write and were very proactive. And so, what I was talking about? In the morning when I returned there was his saddle. I was afraid and went back to my classroom. During the lesson I fell asleep with my head on the table and the pupils said `teacher, wake up, wake up`. I woke up. Once the lesson was over, of course, there was no point in not returning home. When I arrived he asked `where have you been?` So I told him the truth as he was the senior person. Then I told him that I wondered why he had not come to the school and things like that. `A female person should not behave like this spending the night outside` he said. I said `Ok` and things like that. Then he handed me a thing which looked like a letter. I was ashamed, I could not read it. I went to my class, taught the lesson, remained there afterwards alone and then read it. `Let`s marry` it said. It became even more difficult for me to return home. The teachers made fun of me. `Your parents, it is true, are negotiating with Haidav`s parents to marry you`, they told me. My husband`s name was Haidav. Oh, gosh, they said, are you marrying Peljee`s green [a nickname]: he (i.e. my husband) was such a fair skinned man. Afterwards they would ask `have you repudiated the green?` (ногооноо байчихаж уу? гэж асуудагсан) Anyway, we got married. In this way, the state married us by putting us in the same tent. I worked as a teacher until 1952 when I went to the city (i.e. Ulaanbaatar) to attend a course for midwives. My husband also went to the city to enter the Medical College (анагаахын дээд). So we went. I finished my course. At that time the course was only three months long. After finishing it I was allocated to the maternity hospital Number 1. My husband spent, as far as I remember, six years studying in the college. He spent many years there. At that time there were only three midwives in the maternity hospital Number 1. One was the midwife in the reception room (хүлээн авахын эх баригч), the other was in charge of new-born babies and their mothers, and the third one was working the night shift, that is the very person who actually midwifed. That was me. From the doctors who worked there with me only Dambadarjaa is still around. The others perhaps have all passed away. At that time we did not have GPs , nor other maternity hospitals. Therefore, a lot of women would be giving birth, more then twenty of them at the same time. So I worked there as a midwife. Perhaps I was quite stupid, for the doctors would take me for granted and say `do whatever is needed to be done` and then they would go to sleep. Those doctors were on duty, you know. If the perineum (хярзан) did not stretch enough it had to be severed and sewn up. I used to do everything. Of course, there were the doctors, only they would be sleeping. They would say “keep good records”. So I would write everything down. I learned a lot of things there. I worked for 6 years in the maternity hospital. Back then I had a good name, I used to be elected as a member of the party committee of Ulaanbaatar, as well as a representative of the city during various things. One time people said to me `at the central square a big picture of yours is on the board, have you seen it?` I said `no`. After work I ran straight away to that place and indeed saw a huge board with my picture on it. It is being kept in the archives. So, they had figured out from the diary that I had delived 3022 babies. I felt encouraged. Every year on 8 March Tsedenbal darga would receive leading workers at the valley (уулын аманд) [This presumably refers to Ih Tenger, the official residence, situated in a valley south of Ulaanbaatar]. At that time I would do a lot of other jobs: the darga of the League`s cell , the darga of the Women`s Council at the maternity hispital, also I was a member of Red Cross. I had a lot of additional duties. It seems that I was quite a capable and proactive person. So, I worked there for 6 years until 1960 when my husband finished his college and went to Dornogovi aimag. While in Dornogovi aimag I decided that I should study in the Medical secondary school (анагаахын дунд сургууль). After working there for three years, from 1960 to 1963, I guess, I entered the school and finished as a junior doctor-midwife. Then in 1967 I came to Nalaih. There I worked in the capacity of an emergency doctor, a midwife and so forth. I also was the darga of the Women`s Council there as well as the darga of Red Cross. That work was all part-time. From 1967 to 1968 I was appointed the organizer/manager (зохион байгуулагч) in charge of womens’ problems in the Committee of the Party. I did not know anything about political education, except for medical knowledge. So, I was sent on a three month management course at the Party Institute . There politics was taught so that one could understand what it was all about. After finishing the course I worked as the instructor in charge of womens’ problems at the Party Committee as well as the darga of the Party cell . While doing these jobs one day I attended a women`s seminar. In fact, I used to attend them quite often. There was a darga called Udval. One day Udval darga gave me a magazine called ”Sovyetskii jyenshin” (Soviet woman) and said “take this and make sure that you introduce it to everyone. Only you can do this. There is a border town called Karbotkon in Krasnodar region, in the Soviet Union. This town is a small one with not many inhabitants, just like your own town. The magazine tells about the experiences of this town. There they celebrate the so-called family holiday. Make sure that you introduce this holiday in your town”. At that time people used to be instructed clearly and nicely from above. So I carried it out. On arrival in my town I got it translated by a Russian language teacher, and discussed it with our women. At that time we had nearly 40 elementary soviets [councils]. We discussed “what if we do this or that”. I explained my plans for the coming year. Everybody agreed “ok, let`s do this” and pointed out things which were forgotten. Women, you know, are very active. So we agreed to implement a year program which included rewarding those individuals who fulfilled the criteria. The main duty of the Women`s organisation was to organise work and submit proposals to the Party Committee for discussion. Once approved... for example, whatever family was nominated for the award had to be a `cultured family`: the child had to be a good pupil, the husband and the wife had to have a harmonious relationship, and so on and so forth. As far as I remember, the family also had to have the hashaa painted. So we had this criteria. When we discussed it people said “this is a very good idea”. So we chose the leading family, say, of a sub-district, of a certain organisation, of a trade organisation, of a power station, and so forth. Everybody chose their leading families according to that criteria. We were to make the final decision. The administrative primary family (захиргаа анхан шатны гэр бүл) was to be selected among those chosen families. Peope were invited from the trade union, from the youth organisation, and finally from the centre to select `the family of the disctrict`. People approved our idea, Udval darga also approved it. Afterwards Mönhöö darga approved it. There was a darga called Dejee who was in charge of the City Women`s Council. All these people said “this measure will be a successful move” and conveyed the information to the people in charge of aimag and city councils during seminars. A book was also published. I had the honour to deliver 4000 babies. I think that this number did really reach 4000. I never counted, though. At least, 3022 babies plus in ten-odd years of work as a midwife. People in the country-side bear few children. By the way, while doing this communal job I made the family holiday a nationwide holiday. After a decade it became a tradition. The holiday was a job that contributed immensely to the improvement of environment in the urban areas and so forth. In all cities, towns and aimag centres even today it perpetuates. ’The mother of 9 jewels’ (9 эрдэнийн ээж) and so forth are still traditions. I would say that this is the continuation of the experience in various forms. So my main achievements are these two works. So what happened - the state paid me attention. Every year on 8 March, Tsedenbal, head of the state, would receive the heads of the women`s councils. Seminars and so forth would be organised. I was awarded Order of the Polar Star (алтангадас), the highest award. There is not any order or medal which I have not been awarded by the party. You see, over there my jacket is full of them. Yes. So when the state pays such attention a human being feels encouraged. I retired in 1986. So my deeds reached many people. Elementary organizations and women are active, indeed. So, nowadays what kind of people are there? . There is someone called Horolsüren, in charge of a kindergarten. She works double, poor creature [ Ter davhar hiideg yum - `works double` here perhaps means that she takes bribes or something]. She has not got money or property. The dargas of elementary councils do not listen to her, I heard. It seems only the women working in her kindergarten listen to her. It is not easy, for times are different now. Previously, people, if they were from the party committee, they would literally lark about, you know. People in charge of women`s problems would also be in charge of the party cells. You would send your words to the dargas of public offices by an administrative darga (захиргааны даргаар); to the dargas of the party cells by the darga of the party. And for dargas you are in charge of, you would organise seminars. Because of this, work would be carried out successfully and nicely. I worked this way. That’s the main outline. I cannot expand further into details. I am getting hazy in my mind with age. Now that I am 80.

Ariun-Undrakh -

During socialism how were people`s attitudes towards work?

Tseren -

Extraordinarily active. Once people were asked to do something they would say only `yes` and carry it out quickly. It was a time when nobody would be unwilling. For example, when you went along streets and districts and ordered hashaa to be painted, the people in charge would become anxious when informed about the inspection. We, as members of the inspection group consisting of people from the eleven ministries, would also go to the countryside, to the aimags for cultural inspection. There is even a funny story related to this. One day we were travelling to a sum in Zahvan aimag. There were more than ten people in our group. We visited a poor family where a woman was the head of the household. Batmönh darga was not then the darga (i.e. the general secretary of the party), he was just one of the instructors at the central committee. I was always made the head of our group. Because, probably, I was a competent person. So when we entered that household, everything - the outer covering of the shabby tent, even the bed coverings - were all covered with patches. Everything was so clean. The walls and the wooden roof-ring of the tent were all washed. There was a wooden teaspoon, you know. It looked yellow and puffy. Because it was washed up. The outer covering of the tent was patched. The bed coverings were all clean. So when we came in she unlocked the chest and brought us a plate with candies and biscuits which looked quite old as if left from the Tsagaan Sar. She had prepared for the inspection in such a way. A very poor elderly woman. I cannot recall her name now, perhaps her name was Dulmaa or something. So what shall we do, shall we give her the highest grade? I asked Batmönh darga. He replied ”Ok”`. In fact, I didn’t only ask only him, but I asked the other people as well. It was supposed to be discussed. Firstly we had inspected one construction organisation. As the windows there were broken and dirty we gave a poor mark. Afterwards we heard that people had talked about “what a serious inspection it is, the inspectors are very serious people, they gave a poor mark”. So after a while when we returned from the countryside and were about to give the final verdict the people from the construction organisation then asked “we did everything just as you have requested now. Could you inspect once more?` So when we inspected, everything had been done as we requested, the windows had been reglazed and looked very beautiful. So what could we do? As everything was done beatifully we gave the highest mark. When the time came to discuss the final mark, I was appointed the head of the commision. So I had to speak on behalf of it. People were giggling and smiling at our having chosen the household and the construction organisation as the highest mark holders. “No, we were asked not to inspect who was rich or affluent but to see who was clean, so we gave the highest mark to that household, while giving a poor mark to the construction organisation. When the organisation improved (its windows and so forth) we inspected once more and gave the highest mark” was my reply. “We discussed this matter together, more than ten of us,`- said Batmönh darga, and continued, “what are you laughing at?” and stood up. Then people stopped laughing. We even appealed to such a measure. People were indeed very active then. Everything was nice then, as I remember. Nowadays, people are different, even child education is very different. Look at how they spit, drink alchohol… And now, those benches, you know, they are impossible to sit on, because of mud left by children who sit on them. In the entrances of buildings here and there are empty bottles, saliva, cigarette ends. In the past you would not see such things. The attention paid by parents to their children has diminished. Schools and social workers must be working nowadays as well. But they are not working sufficiently. When summer is here I am a person who spends time in the outdoors. “No, children you did this, do not do this” I say. “Sorry, grandma, we will clean it up” they reply. Every child who hears me. I cannot tell every schoolchild. Because of this, I think, everything is like this now. Everything is somehow different nowadays.

Ariun-Undrakh -

What were the features of the families during the socialist period? How were they different from the contemporary ones?

Tseren -

What shall I say, at that time people would not divorce. People would marry those whom their parents told them to. We had 5 children, including the adopted one we had 6 children. How long were we married for? I think for more than 50 years. In 1997 my husband passed away. I am living with my children happily. So his parents and mine had had a discussion, I heard. We were put into the same tent on purpose, it seems. Oh, gosh, how on earth did you marry Peljee`s green, people would say. People would also ask “is not he anymore a green (person)?” Also he would dance with the teachers of his age - he was 6 years senior me. “So for such a long period of time, from 2 to 3 months, you were doing nothing? Why did not you marry? Why did not you tell us?” people would ask after we got married. My husband afterwards told me that he had thought the following of me: all she thinks all about is dancing and enjoying herself, she will not be a proper wife. As I would always make food, and wash his clothes, he afterwards thought “she is not that bad after all, what if I lose her ?”. So he gave me a letter. Afterwards we lived happily. The state constantly encourages me. There is no medal I have not been awarded. So my main achievement is that. There are, perhaps, many difficulties in life, indeed.

Ariun-Undrakh -

During the socialist period how did you manage your work and your private life?

Tseren -

As I had my mother, it seems that I was the kind of person who could not dedicate time to my private life. My mother passed away recently. As I lived with my mother, she would look after the kitchen and cook food. My husband also did that after he retired. I would know nothing about prices, though neither do now. I have not even bought a single loaf of bread. Simply, I was a person dedicated to my work. My mother was a skillful woman. She sewed nice deel and clothes. She used to tell me “my eyes don’t see clearly anymore, could you trim the border of a dress, and attach a button”, to which I used to reply “get it done at the service centre”. “When I die how are you going to deal with that?” she used to ask. I used to reply “I will get it done at the service centre, I do not have the free time”. Being scorned at, I learned how to attach a button and things like that. This proved to be useful later. My mother died. Of course, you could not go to the service centre all the time. So I had to do sewing myself. Things were like that. Speaking frankly, I could not participate in domestic life. When I retired, with a bag in my hand I went shopping knowing nothing about prices. Afterwards the children helped me out. I have 6 children.

Ariun-Undrakh -

During the socialist period how were people employed for jobs?

Tseren -

People would basically do whatever job they wanted to do. I do not know if employers had various criteria back then.

Ariun-Undrakh -

What was the exact procedure?

Tseren -

People would ask around for a job here and there. That was the way it was. There were no unemployed people. It seems everybody had something to do. I do not know whether there were less people, and plenty of jobs? There were a lot of plants. For example, in Nalaih there was a huge glass plant. There was a mine. The mine has almost disappeared now. It employed a lot of people. So the plant was a huge one, because of this there were no unemployed, everyone had a job

A third person -

. The plant had to employ people. Everybody who went there was accepted.

Tseren -

Yes. Everybody who went there was given a job. It was indeed a true plant that mine.

Ariun-Undrakh -

What do you think, how has the procedure has changed nowadays?

Tseren -

Are peoples’ qualifications poor nowadays? Or maybe people do not meet the requirements? Otherwise there are plenty of positions in the labour market. Not even having gone anywhere to find a job, people walk around saying that they are unemployed. People want to go abroad. I think of abroad in this way: instead of sending so may young workers abroad, why not to cease employing foreigners and employ our own people. This is just my thought. Probably, nobody is as stupid as me.

Ariun-Undrakh -

You said that initially you worked as a script teacher, did not you? How old were you then?

Tseren -

Ok, that was in 1952, now I am 80, so how many?

Ariun-Undrakh -

You were born in 1929, were you not?

Tseren -

Yes.

Ariun-Undrakh -

Ok, we can calculate it accordingly. Did you teach this new script, Cyrillic...

Tseren -

The new script. There is a film about elderly people on horses and camels attending a script course. It was exactly like that. In each class there were nearly 40 people. And the inspectors would come from the aimag centre. Now I think, how old they were! They would finish the course and leave. And then other old people riding horses and camels would come. The men would not write at all. They would look at the door, do things like that. Nonetheless, they would somehow manage to learn how to read and write...

Ariun-Undrakh -

People at that time, did they use the old Mongolian script? Were there a lot of illiterate people? What was the situation?

Tseren -

Not all people knew the old Mongolian script. But I myself knew it. Both my parents were literate. My mother was an accountant. So she knew both the old and the new ones. As my father was also such a person I learned the scripts. They were taught the new script, Cyrillic.

Ariun-Undrakh -

How keen were people in learning the new Cyrillic script?

Tseren -

Keen. People would come from the countryside on their own wanting to study.

Ariun-Undrakh -

So, people would come by themselves, wouldn`t they?

Tseren -

Yes. The bags (an administrative sub-unit of a sum) would send people. When it was ordered that so and so many people should come, approximately 40 people would turn up. The group had to pass the exams and then return home. The examiners would come from the aimag.

Ariun-Undrakh -

What do you reckon, how did these people make use of literacy in their lives?

Tseren -

Probably, it was used somehow. Who knows. Always herders would come.

Ariun-Undrakh -

Did young people come to learn how to write and read?

Tseren -

A few. Of course, there were young people as well. Most of them were young females. However there were no teenage boys. Most of the male students were old men.

Ariun-Undrakh -

Why would boys not come?

Tseren -

That is the point. Why did not they come? Young females would study well, maybe because they were all young.

Ariun-Undrakh -

You have mentioned before about your work at the Red Cross. Could you tell me more about it?

Tseren -

Ok. I was a volunteer at Red Cross. I worked only for three years as a full-time member. At that time we would work closely with an organization called the National Security. We would organize competitions and so forth, which were held in Ulaanbaatar... You know, doctors were sent to all institutions to teach how to deliver first aid. So, I along with 20 high school pupils went to the competition thinking that we would have to do this sort of thing. We went to Ulaanbaatar. It was a competition where all districts were represented. But a day before the competition they decided to check out how ready people were ) by organizing a parade. So I sent my children wearing nice sport suits. The participants from different districts were wearing different gowns. I decided that it would not be right that way and sent two of my children to buy some red cloth. Anyway, I had a good salary. I also gave the children a task to wear white shirts. As for the red cloth, with two children we sewed 20 red skirts the whole night long in the house of my acquaintance. The next morning when the children came their outfits looked so colorful, beautiful, all in white shirts and in red skirts. The parade went well.

A third person -

Were they all girls?

Tseren -

All of them girls. So the first competition consisted of delivering first aid. My children were good at that. Very smart children. We won the 2nd prize, I was awarded the silver medal as the coordinator. Odonchimeg darga, Sandandorj and others from the Red Cross committee were very kind to me. Even now I am their honorable member. Anyway, I have not done this work for many years. I have achieved nothing to boast about. I just did some work in the elementary cells (анхан шатны үүрүүд). People would become active once they were organized. Especially the youth were good. High school pupils and so forth. Even nowadays I am honoured by the Red Cross. This year, it is said, they are having a meeting. “You should participate” they say. Who knows? Is it in May or something. I am also granted a donation. Something like 10,000 tögrögs. If they are nice children, they give 20,000 tögrögs or so. That is the way it is.

Ariun-Undrakh -

This organization Mongolian Red Cross, since when did they start their activity?

Tseren -

Well, they are quite an old organization. Are they celebrating their 80th anniversary? Which anniversity is it? My dear, I have forgotten. Anyway, they are having an anniversary this year.

Ariun-Undrakh -

Here you have many medals.

Tseren -

These are all mine. Indeed there are many.

A third person -

She used to be awarded a medal wherever she went.

Tseren -

Yes. A medal was awarded if you went here and there on Red Cross related business. I used to go on women`s business quite frequently. Here, I have got many medals without pins. Many modern medals became like this. Yes, it is indeed interesting.

Ariun-Undrakh -

Most of the medals are from the socialist period, aren`t they?

Tseren -

I think so. Yes. There are also ones issued by the aimags as well. Some of the aimag medals were reclaimed by people from the aimags

Ariun-Undrakh -

Are these medals for achievements, or are they just given in memory? Are they all different?

Tseren -

Probably, they were given in memory.Those given for achievements are in my bag, those on the jacket are totally different.

Ariun-Undrakh -

Well. During the socialist period how was the attitude of employers towards emloyees. What was the relation between dargas and workers?

Tseren -

Dargas would direct very clearly. I worked under many dargas like Mönhöö darga, Siilegmaa darga, Udval darga. Directives were given during seminars. People were directed clearly. Therefore, things that were asked to be done were done. That was worth praise. The party committee as well as the organisation were you know so... Because of that people were satisfied.

Ariun-Undrakh -

What were the provisions and services provided to the workers?

Tseren -

I do not know very well. As my life was as it was, I did not depend on special provisions and so forth.

Ariun-Undrakh -

During the socialist period what was the average salary?

Tseren -

Maximum was, I think, either 350 or 550. I just forget, at that time it was enough. Everything was cheap, that is I suppose why...

Ariun-Undrakh -

Was your salary enough for you?

Tseren -

Yes. Moreover I had many children. They were all grown ups. I was never short of money.

Ariun-Undrakh -

Besides work, what did you do in your free time?

Tseren -

I barely had free time. Perhaps, I was madly enthusiastic about work. Even at home I would think about my work and write down plans on paper: if I do this seminar I will do this, ok let me go to that organization, at that organization I will do this and so forth. I would write things like this. Besides that, speaking frankly, I would not participate in domestic work.

Ariun-Undrakh -

For instance, in your free time would you go to cinema or go dancing, did you do things like that?

Tseren -

I used to get dressed up and go to parties. For my legs were ok. Since my retirement I have been looking after my grand- and great-grand children while sitting on the top of this tall building. Since then I have been sitting. Now, when I stretch my legs they hurt. As I have been to many health resorts like Shragaljuut, I got all possible diseases. My legs hurt when I stretch them like this. So I look after the children giving them my shrunk breast to suck. In fact, I ceased to be able to move since my retirement. I have got many grand and great-grand children. Now I have nearly 30 great-grand children.

Ariun-Undrakh -

You have a big family.

The third person -

She also adopted a child.

Tseren -

Yes. The director of the Railway Institute, now the darga of the Railway Depot, Iderchuluun. He is my adopted son. He received the medal of the Honored Transporter .

Ariun-Undrakh -

As you gave birth to 6 children, did you receive the medal of the Honored Mother?

Tseren -

I did. I have the medal of the 2nd degree. Mothers with 5 children were given the 2nd degree. One of my children was adopted.

Ariun-Undrakh -

To mothers with how many children was given the medal of the 1st degree?

Tseren -

Now, it seems, mothers with 5 children receive this medal. In the past it was given to those with 6 children. As I had an adopted child, I was not given it. The authorities would check it out. Only after that medals were given.

Ariun-Undrakh -

Families with many children were given help by the state, were not they?

Tseren -

Oo, yes. People would not expect this help, perhaps because the value of money was high then. People lived good lives. My children at that time were all pupils. Schools did charge money. At the times of socialism the main thing was that people were educated by administrative methods. So all my children have a good education. There was not any expenditure except buying note books. Men with high education, as I saw, took wives with high education. I have 4 sons, and 2 daughters. My 2 daughters married men with high education. The 4 sons are also the same. One of them has a PhD. He is Doctor Dolgor. Women with higher education are so nice, they look upon me as their own mother. I think that life was indeed good during the socialist period.

Ariun-Undrakh -

Do you have any thing to critisize about the socialist period?

Tseren -

The socialist period?

Ariun-Undrakh -

Yes.

Tseren -

I do not know. At that time...

Ariun-Undrakh -

Was that a good time?

Tseren -

As far as I remember it was a good time. Probably I did not pay much attention to such things.

Ariun-Undrakh -

You worked for many years as a midwife. So, how did you decide to become a midwife? Who adviced you?

Tseren -

When I was a script teacher I decided for myself to go to a course. My husband was about to go to the Medical College. I said to him that I wanted to go to school and become a midwife. He replied, “how shall we live? You, become a midwife and work”. So I became a midwife. After becoming a midwife I came to the aimag and worked at the aimag hospital.

Ariun-Undrakh -

What is the thing you are most proud of?

Tseren -

I think, the purpose of my life was in midwiving so many children. For example, when I go to the city people who have parents in their 80s, that is, of my age, know me. People with grey hair call me `umbilical mother` (хүйн ээж) and come to me so that I kiss them. I do not know. As they were small then, I do not recognize them now. Unless they are with their parents I do not recognize them, neither do they. They are what I am proud of. Secondly, I am proud because I organized that holiday under the directives given by Udval darga. In a book it was written that the holiday is being organized even now. There are books written by Gerelsüren darga and Siilegmaa darga. I am proud of that. The family holiday is celabrated nowadays under various names such as the `9 jewels mother` and so forth. I am proud that it continues today.

Ariun-Undrakh -

What was the most difficult thing when you were working?

Tseren -

I do not know, as I was young things did not seem difficult to me at all. I would think about how to accomplish work successfully rather than thinking that work was difficult. It was good times. Countryside women would give birth to children without complications. Women would come from the countryside to the maternity hospital number one. Back then it was so good, there were not any complications. 45 minutes was given to the mothers to breastfeed their babies. We lived in an apartment to the north-west of the Ministry of External Affairs. Our friend who had worked there left the flat when going to the north (i.e. Soviet Union). We lived there. So I would run home from the hospital with my dress buttons open, to breastfeed my baby. I would feed for 45 minutes my youngest boy. Now he works as a manager in Tedi Centre. He would not suck, only smile. I would feed him by pinching his nose and making him cry. Everything was so nice, I did not think that things were difficult.

Ariun-Undrakh -

Were you scared when you first midwived a baby?

Tseren -

We had a person called Nyamaa who was a member of the Ih Hural . Now, she has passed away, poor thing. She was a midwife. So I would watch her and do midwiving. People learn how to midwife by looking at how what others do. I also worked with the mother of Odonchimeg. She was also a midwife. She used to teach me. I did not find it difficult to do as she taught. When you are young you are brave. That is the way it is, I guess.

Ariun-Undrakh -

What was the easiest thing to do? What did you feel was easy when you were working?

Tseren -

Hospitals in comparison with public organizations are places where you have things to worry about. Therefore, being in charge of a public organisation was the easiest work, I suppose. There there was nothing difficult.

Ariun-Undrakh -

Could you tell me about your team of workers, please.

Tseren -

They were nice people. People in my team were all good friends of mine. As I was friendly with people, though I was in charge, the nurses and other people would listen to me. Here, there are many photos taken with them. We became friends. They are such people. It seems to me that I have not come across anything hard or difficult.

Ariun-Undrakh -

You worked during the socialist period and also retired during the same period. Didn`t you?

Tseren -

Yes. 1986 was, probably, when socialism was coming to an end.

Ariun-Undrakh -

You told me before that you did a lot for the women`s organization, didn`t you? How did the position of women change during the socialist period as well as during your lifetime? What exactly has changed?

Tseren -

Women by nature are hardworking. They would say “what shall we do”- then there were 40 committee dargas in all- “let us do this, let us do that”, and submit feasible proposals to the dargas. It was encouraging to work with them.

Ariun-Undrakh -

At that time what was the state policy towards women?

Tseren -

Seminars were carried out to culturize females. Women would say “let`s do that”, as they are so obedient and initiative taking. Because of this I appreciated women so much, I still do so.

Ariun-Undrakh -

How did the state policies change over time?

Tseren -

It seems to me that nowadays policies are linked to budget. As salaries are low women are not active. The committee dargas tell me so. It seems to me that this is true.

Ariun-Undrakh -

How did the changes affect your family? How did the state policies affect your life?

Tseren -

Being active means when you do eagerly what you are told to do. So, when you do your work actively you are encouraged, you are mentioned at meetings and discussions, and you are given prizes. This sort of things encourage people. As I am a proud person, I feel so elevated when my experience is mentioned during the discussions. I feel so happy.

Ariun-Undrakh -

You said before that Tsedenbal darga would invite women during 8 March and other occasions.

Tseren -

Yes, he would always welcome guests at the slope of the mountain, his winter residential palace. Along with his Russian wife Filatova. He would not receive just us, but moreover various ambassadors and their families. It was so nice. So encouraging. During the seminars Tsedenbal darga would come and just sit down. He would not come when Siilegmaa, Mönhöö darga, and Udval darga were present at the seminars. Otherwise he would come and sit down. What propositions do you have? he used to ask. He was such a man. Now I think that he payed much attention to women`s organisations.

Ariun-Undrakh -

Did you like that man called Tsedenbal?

Tseren -

Of course. He would always welcome us. I used to look forward to 8 March. Always at the mountain valley...

Ariun-Undrakh -

These receptions were with beautifully laid tables...

Tseren -

Of course. Mrs Filatova and he would come to the party. There, people would dance and join in the party. In the 1960s and 1950s women wore long woollen socks. So, I went to one of the reception with such socks, trying to look elegant. I saw Filatova wearing shoes with heels as high as small fingers. The wives of the diplomats were also dancing with such shoes. Oh, no, how can they manage to balance themselves on such heels, I thought. So, while there young diplomats invited us to dance. When I told my husband that I had had such ugly shoes he replied that once people were accustomed to wearing such shoes they would never get rid of them. As I had not seen or worn shoes with such a heel I behaved like I told you.

Ariun-Undrakh -

Did you see such shoes for the first time there?

Tseren -

Yes, I did. Women there were wearing such beautiful and strange shoes with a heel like a finger. Filatofa was, the wives of the diplomats were also. Look, I was wearing shoes without heel. There was noone with woollen socks. My husband brought the socks when I asked him. He was such a nice and ordinary man that Tsedendal darga. Nowadays, prime-ministers and so forth perhaps also come to women`s holidays. Now, I would not know.

Ariun-Undrakh -

When you were working as a script teacher, how were pens and paper supplied? What kind of note-books did you use?

Tseren -

People would obtain them themselves. As for me, I would also find them myself. Were then any pens with ink? Yes, anyway pens did exist.

Ariun-Undrakh -

So, did you have pens with ink?

Tseren -

Yes, there were also those.

Ariun-Undrakh -

Was it difficult to find note-books then?

Tseren -

No, it was not. Perhaps they were in abundance. Anyway, I did not happen to encounter such a problem.

Ariun-Undrakh -

Before, when I was looking at your photo-album there were pictures of you in Moscow. Could you tell us about that. How...

Tseren -

Yes. Many people such as old miners and so forth went from here to the Olympics. The 1980 Olympics. I also went there. Several people from the women`s organization went together. They were from several aimags. So we joined them and saw many nice things indeed. We stayed in one place in Moscow. There we saw a real sight. Images of people doing various sports such as wrestling, running and so forth were cut into grass. The decorations were just on the way from our place to the stadium. We all went to the stadium in a vehicle. In the evening we had dances and parties in the hall at our place. I saw many nice things. I would go shopping a lot, and saw the Olympic games itself very little. When I was sitting in the stadium the running competition was in progress. A man with a black face was running muttering something. Later I heard that that man was saying “I will win for my country, even if I have to die.” Then, at the stadium I had not understood what he was saying. He was saying something and running. Such patriotic people, I found out, participate in the Olympic games. Indeed, it was very nice being there.

Ariun-Undrakh -

So what did you buy in the shops?

Tseren -

While shopping I knew nothing about the prices. People would say “let`s go there” and we would go. I would just sit and watch the fountain. I knew not very much about the prices. I bought things I liked very much. Otherwise, I knew nothing about the prices, for I was not accustomed to going shopping. The women who went with me would come with big bags. I did not buy a lot, I did not know about the prices. Even now I do not know. That is what happened.

Ariun-Undrakh -

I see. So it was the olympics held in Moscow in 1980. Wasn`t it?

Tseren -

Yes. It was, as far as I know, called the 1980 Olympics. Yes, in 1980.

Ariun-Undrakh -

Have you been there since?

Tseren -

Many times. What was the name of the darga in charge of the Russian women`s council? At her invitation we also went there. We have been to all small towns in the vicinity, and visited an organization of old people. Was that the Fund of Old People (ахмадын сангийн аж ахуй) or something? Russians are so funny! They just come up to you singing, shouting and dancing. What could I do? I did not know how to dance individual dances. I would quickly grab their hands, and they would dance, the old people with grey hair. I was then younger than them). People as old as I am now would come and stamp with their legs to dance. So funny. I saw so many nice things. I have not been to other countries. I have not been to China, not even been to Erlian. But I saw many places in Russia. I saw Leningrad. I visited many times Irkutsk, Ulan-Ude and so forth. And all thanks to the women`s organization.

Ariun-Undrakh -

During the socialist period were people encouraged to go to school?

Tseren -

Yes. It was free of charge. People were sent by administrative measures. It is true.

Ariun-Undrakh -

You said that you studied in a course for midwives. Did you study there for free?

Tseren -

For free, yes.

Ariun-Undrakh -

How long was the course?

Tseren -

Three months. Within three months the students were sent to the maternity hospital to practice. Back then there was only one maternity hospital. The hospital number one.

Ariun-Undrakh -

After finishing the course were people given a certificate?

Tseren -

Yes.

Ariun-Undrakh -

On receiving that certificate people were allowed to practice midwiving were they not?

Tseren -

Yes.

Ariun-Undrakh -

So, you worked in the maternity hospital number one. Afterwards did you go to Dornogovi?

Tseren -

I did.

Ariun-Undrakh -

And then...

Tseren -

Then in Dornogovi I also worked as a midwife. While there I finished the 10th grade attending the evening classes. Afterwards, I decided to finish the Medical secondary school , came to the city and finished. Afterwards, I came here.

Ariun-Undrakh -

Why did you come to Nalaih?

Tseren -

My husband moved here from Dornogovi when I was doing my course. Upon arrival...

Ariun-Undrakh -

Did you follow your husdand all the time?

Tseren -

Yes.

Ariun-Undrakh -

Was your husband appointed from above?

Tseren -

Yes. After finishing the Medical college he came here as a doctor. He was a doctor who specialized in tuberculosis .

Ariun-Undrakh -

In your life did you have any extraordinary, unique things? What are they?

Tseren -

I do not think I have such things.

Ariun-Undrakh -

No, “my life in comparison with other people`s lives is....”

Tseren -

In my childhood I probably had this vision of the future, I always played games to command others. I would stand either on a pile of stuff or on a turned upside down arag (a basket for collecting dung). My parents would say that I had an obsession of being a darga . I used to play such games. We were rural people, from gobi. I would go herding. I had friends of my age, and made them sit around me. What I was talking about on the top of the arag, or if there was not any, on the top a pile of stuff... that was probably a dream or clairvoyance, who knows? I was doing such things.

Ariun-Undrakh -

Can you say that “my life is different from other people`s lives in this way or that”? Do you think that yours was an ordinary life like other people`s lives?

Tseren -

Ordinary alike. But I never was deprived, or suffered in material terms. This is all thanks to my children. The children,their grooms, their brides, )the wives of my four sons are not different from my own daughters. They have nice and beautiful characters.

Ariun-Undrakh -

Thank you for the interview. Let`s finish our conversation here.

Tseren -

Well, thank you.

Ariun-Undrakh -

Thank you.

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