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


Themes for this interview are:
(Please click on a theme to see more interviews on that topic)
work; NGOs; cultural campaigns; democracy; funerals;

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



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

Ariun-Undrakh -

How are you, Mrs. Tseren?

Tseren -

I am fine. How are you, my dear?

Ariun-Undrakh -

Let`s continue our previous conversation.

Tseren -

Ok.

Ariun-Undrakh -

I`ve got several questions.

Tseren -

Ok.

Ariun-Undrakh -

Your parents were literate people, weren`t they? Where did they learn? Were literate people rare then?

Tseren -

Who knows. My mother was an accountant. My father also had the same job. I do not know where and how they learned. Anyway, they did not go far away from their home. Nevertheless, they were literate and knew the new script. But we were herders, he had many camels and sheep. Delgerhangai is a sum bordering with the Ömöngovi (aimag). I was born in a place called Toliin bulag where a beautiful stream runs down the slope of a mountain. I grew up herding sheep and camels at that stream.

Ariun-Undrakh -

So then... when herding camels... you said in your previous interview. Did you give the camels to the collective ?

Tseren -

Yes. When I left to work as a teacher at the sum school my parents gave away the camels and the most of their livestock to the collective. But, it seems they did not give away all of them, they left a few for themselves. They reduced the number of their livestock in order to move to the city. I was so happy when 80 camels were delivered to the collective. Because we got rid of the livestock...

Ariun-Undrakh -

Which means that at that time collectives did exist.

Tseren -

Yes, there were collectives.

Ariun-Undrakh -

What were the collectives like? Especially when you were a child.

Tseren -

I do not know well. collectives were places that would give orders to people. I heard that people afterwards took shares and so forth. We did not take any. We were just happy to deliver the camels.

Ariun-Undrakh -

It seems that there were also people who were not happy to give away their livestock to collectives. Is it true?

Tseren -

Probably. As we did not like herding livestock we were happy to. So my mother and I came to the city when my husband entered the Medical college. So we got rid of our livestock, some of them we entrusted to other families, and moved to the city. My father passed away there in the countryside. My mother came to the city. She looked after all of my children.

Ariun-Undrakh -

So, your parents did not want you to go to school. At that time was going to school a compulsory thing?

Tseren -

No. My parents did not send me to school so that I could look after the livestock. They did not want me to go to school, but I was so eager to go there. Later, after arriving here I attended a course to get a political education in a place which is now known as the Party high school, or the Academy of Management. Otherwise, I only finished the Medical secondary school.

Ariun-Undrakh -

One more question. In your previous interview you said that you visited rural families to check the level of their culture. Was it related to the so called `cultural campaigns` ?

Tseren -

Yes, yes. When I was doing women`s work I would often go to the countryside. The women`s organisation used to manage and direct us clearly. It used to show us precisely what to do. So, call it the `inspection of the 11 ministries`, or the `cultural campaign`, we would go to all the aimags: Uvs, Hovd, Bayn-Ölgii.... I have not been to Hovd. I have been to and carried out inspections in all other aimags.

Ariun-Undrakh -

You were appointed from above...

Tseren -

Yes, appointed from above from the ministry. I was appointed by the women`s organisation. We used to travel and see a lot. At that time we would learn from experience and carry out a lot of work. People were so anxious about upcoming inspections of the cultural campaigns.

Ariun-Undrakh -

How were people perceiving the cultural campaigns at that time?

Tseren -

It seems that they understood it as being a cultural measure. On hearing about the upcoming inspection people would wash even the rafter and the wooden roof-ring of their ger and patch worn up things like bed coverings. Sometimes we would come across such clean households. For example, there was one woman in the Zavhan aimag, in charge of the household. I forget her name. For it was so many years ago.

Ariun-Undrakh -

Were people taught how to read and write during the cultural campaigns?

Tseren -

I think so. That time was quite a civilized period. The group I was working with was so active. Nearly 40 people would come to study at a time. They were all old people with horses and camels. Women, even if they did not see well, they would wear their glasses and do writing exercises. They were so active. As for the men, they would smoke their cigaretes and look around. I do not know how they managed it but they would go home as learned men. And then again another 40 people would come in.

Ariun-Undrakh -

What were the reasons for deciding that the cultural attack was necessary for Mongolia?

Tseren -

Perhaps it was time. It was the time to 'culturize' (soyoljuujah) households and people. I do not know very well about that time.

Ariun-Undrakh -

Besides being clean and organized what else was demanded of people?

Tseren -

It was necessary to learn how to read and write. It was time when illiteracy disappeared. People would learn in various study groups and circles ..

Ariun-Undrakh -

While travelling in so many aimags what was it that you saw the most?

Tseren -

I was so busy. There were a lot of cultured places like Zavhan and Högvsgöl. I learned a lot in these places. Even the children were studying well, the grown ups themselves were cultured, literate, polite, had clean households. We would come across such people a lot. We would visit various organisations as well. There were eleven of us in the group. Ex-prime minister Bat-Mönh was an instructor in the Central Committee of the Party. People carrying out inspections were welcomed in the way respectful foreigners are welcomed nowadays. On arrival we were given such good hospitality. Before departure also. While visiting various offices and organisations I saw a lot of things, learned a lot. Experienced people would go on inspection business frequently.

Ariun-Undrakh -

During the inspection how were people and households treated that did not carry out the given tasks?

Tseren -

Such things almost never happened. We would give assignments and leave. If we were asked to come back and see whether a given assignment had been fulfilled we would inspect again, before the final grade. People would generally fulfill their assignments. People were so cultured. That cultural campaign was necessary for the country.

Ariun-Undrakh -

You were the darga of a party cell. Were you a member of the MPRP (Mongolian People`s Revolutionary Party)?

Tseren -

Yes, I became a member in 1954. It was 56 years ago or so.

Ariun-Undrakh -

Could you tell us about how you became a party member as well as about your party?

Tseren -

The criteria for the admission to the party was high. In 1953 I entered the party as a deputy (орлогч) and was on this post for a year. During that period assignments were given to me and examined. The admission committee would ask questions like “do you subscribe to the party newspaper Ünen (Truth)? How often do you read the newspaper? How do you pay your taxes? How many times did you participate in the party meetings?” Only after all these criteria were met one was admitted to the party as a full member.

Ariun-Undrakh -

Was the admission committee a committee in charge of admitting people to the party?

Tseren -

Then it became known as the supervisory committee of the Party . The committee was attached to the Party headquarters . So, people had to enter the Party through this committee.

Ariun-Undrakh -

Was it beneficial and useful being admitted to the party?

Tseren -

Yes, a lot. I have been subscribing with the party newspaper for 55 years. My memory has worsened. There are no medals which I did not receive from the Party. I have got many medals, such as that of the Foremost Worker and so forth.

Ariun-Undrakh -

Being a member of the Party was it helpful for promotion?

Tseren -

Who knows, probably it was. Members of the Party used to go to many places on business trips. Yes, I have got many medals given by the Party...

Ariun-Undrakh -

Which religion do you adhere to?

Tseren -

I did not know about that. I did not pray. Now that I am retired I heard that turning prayer beads (эрхи) is useful for fingers. Now I’ve learned how to chant prayers. An old woman, good friend of mine, taught me that. I adhere to Buddhism. I have not visited even the monastery here in Nalaih. For I have bad legs. My work nowadays consists of turning beads in my hand and chanting prayers. I have nothing to do, actually there is nothing that I can do. My children look after me. I eat and sit just like this.

Ariun-Undrakh -

In your childhood were there any statues of Buddha on the chest in your ger? What religion did your parents adhere to?

Tseren -

They adhered to Buddhism. It seems that my mother was a very pious person. She would offer milk and tea to the sky/dieties and burn incense . My mother had a beautiful set of prayer beads (эрхи). Later it was given to my mother`s sister. This one is given to me by another person. I did not keep my mother`s one. It was a very elegant set of prayer beads . At that time I was preoccupied with my work, there was no time for religion. I have been to a monastery when my children celebrated a wedding there. I have not been to the central monastery in Nalaih.

Ariun-Undrakh -

You do not go there as a habit, do you?

Tseren -

I do not have a religion which I believe from the bottom of my heart. But, I do honour the sky and the earth. If I have a single bottle of vodka I offer the first sprinkle to the sky and to the earth.

Ariun-Undrakh -

You revere nature, don`t you?

Tseren -

Yes, I revere nature. I really don`t like it when people dig up the soil and destroy the trees. I couldn`t pass without saying “children, why are you destroying, you, what are you doing?”. You see?

Ariun-Undrakh -

In our previous interview you said that you organized a family holiday in your district, didn`t you? How did family life change during the socialist and the pre-socialist periods?

Tseren -

I do not know much about the previous (i.e. pre-socialist) period.

Ariun-Undrakh -

What sort of policies were carried out by the state concerning the family?

Tseren -

I cannot recall now how the state was dealing with the family issues. Foremost families were awarded and encouraged. Children from hard working familes were perceived as being good at school. Harmonious familes were regarded as cultured and so forth. Nevertheless, exaggerated support on the part of the state was not given to the families.

Ariun-Undrakh -

Women who gave birth to many children were given the medal of Mother-Hero , weren`t they?

Tseren -

Yes they were.

Ariun-Undrakh -

How else were children looked after and protected?

Tseren -

At that time there were so-called kindergartens. Children were not brought up by their parents themselves. As there were kindergartens children were sent there as soon as soon they were born. Children were brought up in kindergartens and schools. One good thing about socialism is that schools were free of charge. All my 6 children got a good education at the state`s expense. Such people marry other people with a good education. They choose among their classmates or schoolmates, it seems. Educated people are smart in many respects. Their lives are also prosperous.

Ariun-Undrakh -

I see that during the socialist period much attention was paid to education. Wasn`t it?

Tseren -

Yes, it really is one of the attributes of the socialist period. Free of charge. How did the state manage all that? I do not know. People were given education. Which means the winners were the people. If education had cost, then what would families with many children do? How would they give their children a good education? Education is necessary for people. Indeed that was the only strength of socialism.

Ariun-Undrakh -

How did the Mongols celebrate the traditional Tsagaan Sar during the socialist period?

Tseren -

People celebrated it well. As well as they celebrate it now. People would serve a sheep`s carcass , drink vodka, give presents, go for a walk. Tsagaan Sar was not abolished.

Ariun-Undrakh -

Wasn`t it abolished?

Tseren -

No. It was celebrated nicely. The New Year was also such a celebration.

Ariun-Undrakh -

As you worked for so many years in a women`s organisation I decided to ask you the following question. How has the situation for women changed during your lifetime?

Tseren -

Well, it depends on society. Women are the most encouraging and active people to work with. If you find ways to make them work. I would not treat them harshly. As I was such a person people respected me. My requests were carried out like a law. After thinking of “what if I do this or that” we had nearly 40 elementary women Soviets - I would call them and discuss the problems. They would say “ok, let`s do this, it is better this way or that way”. There was nothing which could not be done, for the final decision consisted of the unanimous opinions of many people. It was so.

Ariun-Undrakh -

Are modern women different from the socialist type women? What do you think?

Tseren -

Now children`s up-bringing is very lax. They spit, urinate, even in this hall they urinate, these appartments smell of urine... I always look through the window. From the office of the prosecutor they come out and without any shame urinate. They’ve become wild.

Ariun-Undrakh -

I have a rather strange question. How did funerals change over time? How was it conducted in the past?

Tseren -

My parents passed away during the socialist period, oh dear. Various religious rituals would not be carried out much at that time. Simple burial would take place, corpses would be placed in coffins, these sort of things. I do not know very much. At that time cremation did not exist. Corpses would be buried in the soil. Nowadays there is one good thing - cremation. In Nalaih there were two cemeteries. Even now people cover a graveyard with concrete then put a good stone on it.

Ariun-Undrakh -

Were there any films or theatrical performances shown in the place of your childhood?

Tseren -

Yes they were shown.

Ariun-Undrakh -

Did you watch a lot?

Tseren -

I did. In the city I used to watch a lot. I would not miss plays.

Ariun-Undrakh -

What is your favourite film, play?

Tseren -

Everything I watched seemed nice to me. I watched a lot probably because I was young. I also would go for walks a lot.

Ariun-Undrakh -

What do you think about how the films and plays you watched affected you?

Tseren -

I was fond of watching them.

Ariun-Undrakh -

Did the films of that time have an educational purpose?

Tseren -

Yes, they had. Even now they are retrieved from the archives and shown on TV.

Ariun-Undrakh -

Even ancient films?

Tseren -

Yes, ancient films. The `Three Hills` (учиртай 3 толгой) and so forth are quite old films. Many beautiful films are being retrieved from the archives and shown. These films had implications, you see.

Ariun-Undrakh -

When you were a child was Ulaabaatar referred to as Hüree? Ih Hüree?

Tseren -

No, it was called Ulaanbaatar. I came here in 1954.

Ariun-Undrakh -

You told a story about your travel to Russia.

Tseren -

Yes. I was invited to the 1980 Olympic games. We went to Moscow to see the games as foremost workers.

Ariun-Undrakh -

Besides that, did you have any contact with foreigners through mail and so forth? I mean during the socialist period.

Tseren -

No, there was not such a thing. Filatova... Wait, who was in charge of the Soviet women`s soviet ? I have her photo, I just forgot her name. People in charge of the Mongolian women`s sovet were invited to Moscow. Not just to Moscow, but we travelled all over that place. All expenses were covered by the state. We visited that border town of Irkutsk, Ulan-Ude. I thought it is where development and civilization were. While in Moscow during the Olympics I was astounded by the grass on the way to the stadium planted in the form of wrestlers and sprinters. In the evening outside our hotel parties and dances were being organized. There I would dance with many Russians. Later when I went there at the invitation from the women`s organisation, in the urban places like Ulan-Ude organisations in charge of elderly people and so forth received and fed us, introduced their work and held parties. Old people in their 80s came in loose clothes, they came and stamped their feet - that is to invite to dance. “What shall I do?”, As I did not know individual dances I grabbed their hands. Then the dancers started turning me round, it was so funny. The development of the Russians... Such Russian specialists were plenty in the mining plants and other places in Mongolia. The person in charge of the women`s soviet was a Russian woman. They had a shop. The shop for the Soviet specialists was in that building. I used to purchase as many goods as I wanted there. I befriended the person in charge of the specialists` soviet . I could understand Russian a little bit, she could understand Mongolian a little bit, so we managed somehow to understand each other. In 1989 or 1990 when goods became scarce there was nothing in the shops except some sort of terrible bread and macaroni. I found myself in such an anecdotal situation. I stood in bread queues. I said “Russians have left, it is so hard to stand in bread queues”. Enhbayar darga when he comes here he always participates in receptions. Once when he came for a reception he said to the audience ”Let me tell you an anecdote about Mrs Tseren.”: After the Russians left she was grieving and saying what nice goods Russian goods were. (When the Russian women in charge of the soviet [council] left for Russia all in tears) At that time Chinese thermoses were very rare, I do not know how I had two of them- so I presented her with a thermos before her departure. She gave me a chair or a sofa, something of that sort. We agreed to keep in touch but since then we lost contact with each other. Who knows where she went. The Russians are so friendly and good hearted people.

Ariun-Undrakh -

Why did the Soviet specialist return home? Do you know anything about that?

Tseren -

In 1990, when democracy appeared, they were sent back home. Who knows why. There is Gordok (corruption of Russian gorodok `town`) here. Russians used to live there. The buildings are now without windows, they look open. I do not know why they were sent back home. Maybe when democracy appeared it was decided to send the foreigners home. This did not stem from the Russians themselves. When the Russians left it is true that I grieved and said “Russians goods are so nice”. People mocked and laughed at my saying this.

Ariun-Undrakh -

What was in the specialists` shop? Were there any rare goods there?

Tseren -

There were a lot of Russian goods. Food, drinks transported from Russia. Nice things.

Ariun-Undrakh -

Were they quality?

Tseren -

Quality. I said “it is so difficult, the Russians left. Russian goods are so nice”.

Ariun-Undrakh -

After you retired the democratic revolution took place in 1990, didn`t it? What did you think at that time?

Tseren -

What can I think about it? This democracy, these young people did it. Some things they do are nice, some are not. As I have been a member of the Communist party all my life, I have inclinations towards it. I think this way, I do not hate the democrats. In my family there are a lot of children, the children support democracy, because of this I like it.

They would argue among themselves “what did democracy do to society?”

Ariun-Undrakh -

According to you what is the difference between the socialist period and democracy?

Tseren -

Nowadays they reached consent. I see him as a big child. Was his name Altanhuyag? He replaced...

Ariun-Undrakh -

Elbegdorj?

Tseren -

Yes. As it is an open society as long as people reach consent and do what they want to do everything will be fine. As I think this way I do not hate the democrats. I find Altanhuyag a serious man. I think if they collaborate and support each other everything will be all right. Bayar is indeed preparing himself. Although I do not understand very well, I read the Ünen newspaper- everything is written there. If we do not count the 1 June event which took a wrong turn, democracy won`t altogether do wrong things.

Ariun-Undrakh -

Besides the Ünen newspaper what other newspapers did you have during the socialist period? Was there only one newspaper, Ünen?

Tseren -

There was a newspaper called Zaluuchuudin Ünen (Youth`s Truth). It also came out long ago. There was another newspaper, not Zaluuchuudin Ünen, what was it`s name? Well, I do not know. I subscribed only to Ünen, there were probably many other newspapers I did not read.

Ariun-Undrakh -

Thank you very much for the interview.

Tseren -

You are welcome. If you don`t organise your notes I have chatted about a lot of relevant and irrelevant things .

Ariun-Undrakh -

Thank you.

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.