Bataa


Basic information
Interviewee ID: 990223
Name: Bataa
Parent's name: Bayanbaa
Ovog: Öölgö
Sex: m
Year of Birth: 1939
Ethnicity: Urianhai

Additional Information
Education: higher
Notes on education:
Work: teacher, retired
Belief: Buddhist
Born in: Bulgat sum, Bayan-Ölgii aimag
Lives in: Nalaih sum (or part of UB), Ulaanbaatar aimag
Mother's profession: herder
Father's profession: herder


Themes for this interview are:
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democracy; literature; education / cultural production; urban issues; cultural campaigns;

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

Cuckoo Namjil;

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Please click to read the Mongolian transcription of this interview

Translation:



The Oral History of Twentieth Century Mongolia

Ariun-Undrakh -

Hello, Bataa guai?

Bataa -

Hello, my child. Are you having a good summertime?

Ariun-Undrakh -

Yes, I’m having a good time, and you?

Bataa -

I’m having a good summertime.

Ariun-Undrakh -

Let’s continue our previous interview.

Bataa -

OK.

Ariun-Undrakh -

Let me first ask you two questions.

Bataa -

Yes, please

Ariun-Undrakh -

The first question is - is there any such event that had a great impact in your life? If there is what is it?

Bataa -

The most special thing in my life was that I accomplished the tenth grade and at the age of 20 I entered the Teacher’s Institute in Ulaanbaatar. I had the chance to see the world and to see the capital city. I think it was a special thing for me. If I didn’t come to Ulaanbaatar having accomplished the tenth grade, would I have lived in Nalaih? Perhaps I would have been a strange person living in Bayan-Ölgii. So, it had a great impact in my life. I studied there for four years at the Teacher’s Institute. Within this time I saw all of Ulaanbaatar life with my eyes. Then I worked with the public. That’s it. That’s why I think it is the most important event in my life. If I didn’t come to Ulaanbaatar, who knows if I would be a teacher or not? I would probably have been an old countryside man. This is a special event in my life that influenced me greatly.

Ariun-Undrakh -

OK, the next question is – is there anything unique in your life?

Bataa -

Well. I consider the democratic society we have now a unique and special event in my life. In 1990 the old society was changed to a new democratic community. Before that we had a totalitarian society. Do you understand that? I was an intelligentsia therefore it was prohibited for us to have more than five head of livestock. Do you understand? I had many children. I have six children. In order to contribute to the food needs of my children I bought one cow. The next year I had to give the cow’s calf for meat. I should have slaughtered it for my children’s food. But I didn’t have the right to do that.

Ariun-Undrakh -

You couldn’t breed it, right?

Bataa -

I was a worker. Especially I was a party member. The workers and the officials were prohibited from having more than five head of livestock. So what did I do? Let’s say, this year my cow calved. The next year it will be a calf in the second year. Then with time it would have become more meat. But instead of slaughtering it for my children I had to give it to the collective. We used to give it as collective meat. It was very tough. Perhaps they thought we might get rich. If a worker or an officer wanted to have some livestock they would call us the bourgeois. They would note our names at the party sessions, you know. Everyone would tell us, ”You are a bourgeois, you are a capitalist” after reading our position. Therefore we got our teachers’ salary and we never did any kind of work besides our main job during the vacation time. That’s how it was. Then in 1990 the democratic revolution won. And everything became free. Everything became free. I had some livestock besides my teacher’s job. My sheep and goats’ number had reached 80 in a few years. I’m talking about the events taking place between 1990 to 1995, you know. As I have just told you, I had only one cow. Its number had increased to twenty. I had five cows for milking. It’s wonderful now, you know, compared to the totalitarian regime. That’s why I love and respect this democracy. My children do the jobs they want thanks to this democracy, you know. That’s it. Therefore I consider this democratic revolution a special event.

Ariun-Undrakh -

OK. In the previous interview we talked about some legends, didn’t we?

Bataa -

Yes, we did.

Ariun-Undrakh -

Ahaan. I want to ask you to tell me from those legends if you remember.

Bataa -

Let me add to what I have already said. It’s a fairy tale, a legend, a saga. I think everyone knows it. Once upon a time there was man named Cuckoo Namjil in the western land. He lived in our western land and he was in love with a young woman. He had a nice horse. He used to ride his horse every day and meet that woman. One day he came to the woman’s ger to meet her. He came to her to tell her about his feelings. In the neighborhood there was an evil person. What kind of an evil person was it? Cuckoo Namjil had a fast horse. A fast horse is called a horse with guurs. Secondly, that person wanted to kill both Cuckoo Namjil and his woman. That evil person was a female. She was envious about Cuckoo Namjil’s woman. He always goes in the morning and comes in the evening on his fast horse. She had it in mind to kill his horse. He tethered his horse before going to sleep. That maidservant went there and killed his horse. There was no horse in the morning. Cuckoo Namjil grieved about his horse for a long time and then he made a morin khuur. What did he actually do? He made the horse head the morin huur head and the bottom of it he made from a special what do you call it. In order to enliven his horse he took two pieces of hair from its tail. The morin huur has two strings, you know. He made two strings. So, he made such an instrument and composed a song dedicated to his horse. So it’s the story of Cuckoo Namjil. Since then the morin huur has a horse hair. That’s what I heard from the people.

Ariun-Undrakh -

Thank you. You are an Urianhai, right?

Bataa -

Yes, I am. There are many ethnic groups inside the Urianhais like the western residents and the eastern residents. I’m from Ölgii province so am a western resident from among them. In the passport it is written my ovog which is Öölgö. I’m an Urianhai with the Öölgö ethnic origin.

Ariun-Undrakh -

I see. Since you have taught for a long time as a teacher, let’s talk about the schools of that time.

Bataa -

OK. I first went to school in 1940. I think there’s no need to talk about going to school, right?

Ariun-Undrakh -

It was 1949, right?

Bataa -

Right. It was 1949 and I was born in 1939. To tell you again we had the sum physician who was quite an old person. His name was Gongor. He made me go to school because my mom wouldn’t let me go. She would never let me go. Then reaching ten years of age I went to school. At that time we didn’t have the collective movement, you know. We had private property like we have today. The children of the well off families mostly didn’t attend school. The reason was to have their children to tend the livestock. They wedded their son and divided the property to give him a share. They needed their children to tend the livestock. They didn’t let their daughters go to school, either. They used to collect the firewood and dried dung. That’s why the children of the rich families didn’t attend schools. My mom had several head of livestock and that was the reason she made me drop out of school for two years. I went to school at ten instead of eight and finished school at twenty. Ha, ha, ha. So, I went to school. I went to the second secondary school of Bayan-Ölgii aimag. It was the Mongolian school. At that time there were approximately 700 schoolchildren with over 40 teachers. Most of the children came to study from the countryside. Do you understand? The children of the first to fifth grades usually stayed at home, concerning the aimag centre children. The children used to finish fourth grade. Those who finished fourth grade came from all the sums of Bayan-Ölgii aimag to go to the fifth grade, you know. They all stayed in the dormitory. I have just told you that there were fifteen units. 4-5 people lived in a small room. In some places 20-30 people lived together. The schoolchildren were mostly from the countryside therefore they lived in the school dormitory. The dormitory life was tough. It was tough in general. We had no white bread like today. We had a kitchen cook who baked us bread or a kind of a cake from the Russian second-grade flour. In the morning we were given such bread with two lumps of sugar. We had the olden time cup that was called the ’army cup’. They gave us black tea in those cups. Having drunk it we went to the classes. At 1pm we had lunch break. Well, we had such a community then and our school was just the same – we ate mostly millet. We had meals with millet and sometimes with flour. Twice a week we ate noodles. The rest of the days we always ate millet. In the evening we had a meal, too. In the evening they gave us a kind of a pancake. It is called a pancake. They gave us a pancake, two lumps of sugar and black tea. It was very hard to live in the dormitory. Secondly, at that time the children were all infected with lice. It was terrible. We struggled a lot with lice. Our school struggled with lice. We didn’t have hot water then like today. Do you understand? We changed our clothes once in seven days. How could it be… There was no hot water. The school had a small room with hot water. The school workers made us hurry making us sit in a sort of a bath tub. There was ten liters of water and we had to wash our heads. Well the living conditions were very bad. The children had lice. That’s how we lived. But at that time the children strived to learn, though. Do you understand?

Ariun-Undrakh -

Did they do their homework?

Bataa -

Yes, they did. They studied and got excellent, good and satisfactory marks. Those who got satisfactory marks were called “bad students hung by a hair”. Some of the children were incapable and got bad marks. There were forty students in a class or thirty. Among them only three or five were poor students. Most of the students had excellent and good marks, you know. The children of those days were different. What did we do after classes? We worked on the maps in the classroom. I have forgotten. The dormitory children had no games to play. There was no volleyball, no tennis. There was nothing to play. So, we used to come into the classroom after the classes were over and ask each other, “Where is Kichnev? Which is the Atlantic Ocean? And later we asked about even very small places, you know. That map was in our mind. In order to challenge our classmate we asked very detailed questions, “Where is that river? Where is the river Volga? Where is the river Nile?” Since we knew those places already we used to ask later about very small towns and small nations. I think this was the reason we did well in Geography. We knew well the five continents, the rivers, the mountains and hills and the four oceans. The reason was that we had nothing else to do. We worked like that. In the later days we used to play with cotton balls. We made a ball from cotton and we kicked the ball. We had no volleyball. When I was in the eighth grade, the first volleyball appeared. We used to play it outside and not in the sports hall. Everything was difficult then but the students studied well. Their progress was special in the school. The schoolchildren of that time studied well, actually. We finished school in 1960. There were twenty three of us. From among the twenty three children Guntsennorov and who else was there? There were only two or three who didn’t get a higher education. The reason was that their parents were poor. Did you understand? The rest of them, 17-18 children, some of whom have now passed away and the rest are still alive. They are all educated and work in prestigious places. There are doctors among them. We watched TV yesterday. There was Chinaagiin Galsan, you know. Did you watch it? He talked well, you know. He graduated in Germany. He is a writer. He writes his works in poems. Do you understand? He writes them both in Mongolian and German. Such wonderful people have originated from our class. There are many doctors and other people, if I may say. Such were the people of that time. They were better than the present day doctors. It was a rare thing to become a doctor then. As far as I know there are only our Rinchen teacher and Chimidiin Damdinsuren who had become doctors, you know. Scientists and doctors were rare then, you know. Today we have plenty of them.

Ariun-Undrakh -

Which class most interested you in secondary school?

Bataa -

I used to think of becoming a literature teacher when I was in secondary school. Not a Mongolian language teacher but a literature teacher. We had wonderful teachers of that time. There was our Dashdorj teacher. He had graduated from the University. He had taught us from 1958 to 1960. There were grand teachers. We used to imitate our teachers. I was interested in literature and thus I graduated from the literature faculty.

Ariun-Undrakh -

What was it like when you first came to Ulaanbaatar?

Bataa -

My mom used to instruct me when I came to Ulaanbaatar. “You shouldn’t go carelessly in Ulaanbaatar. You will get lost and you won’t be able to find the street. Secondly, there are the so-called cheaters in Ulaanbaatar. The cheater will kill you”. So, I came here and it wasn’t like that. Ulaanbaatar looked very spacious to me then. We used to have the former supermarket. It used to be in the culture and art museum. It was a two storey building. I went up there and couldn’t come down, you know. It was like that when I came there. I recall back, there’s the State Department Store, right? It was built when we studied in the second grade. When you went in, you could get lost in there. The most beautiful places of that period were the government house and the printing workshop. There was also the Drama theatre. At the back of the Drama theatre there used to be our Teacher’s Institute. In the 1960s we had the present day Youth Palace, you know. It was built with the people’s funding. It was given into exploitation when I was either in the second or third grade. Then we had the ‘50 thousand’ and ‘40 thousand’ districts. They were built later. Then we had the industrial complex building. The rest were very scarce at that time, you know. I graduated from the Institute in 1964 and when I came to Ulaanbaatar before the 1970s. Ulaanbaatar had become very different. They say of the ‘First 20 thousand’ and ‘Sansar’ (parts of Ulaanbaatar) over there. That’s what it was like in Ulaanbaatar when I first went there. Last time I visited Ulaanbaatar it was very difficult to find the way there.

Ariun-Undrakh -

Was it easy to get lost?

Bataa -

Yes, it was easy to get lost. Our nation is developing rapidly.

Ariun-Undrakh -

OK. Did you have that cultural campaign thing when you were young?

Bataa -

It was an interesting thing that cultural campaign. I think mainly it was carried out from 1950 to 1956. Thanks to the cultural campaign the ’ails’ have acquired bed sheets. In the olden times there were no bed sheets until I finished tenth grade. We had our Mongolian deels. We wore them in the daytime and wore them in the evening to sleep, you know. Then every ‘ail’ acquired white bed sheets. Then radios appeared but not in every family. Only some rich families obtained them. There used to be old Russian radios Home Land from the Soviet Union. Suppose, an ‘ail’ had such a radio and everyone went to their place to listen to it, you know. Step by step mostly all the families acquired them. It was also a cultural campaign. Every family was reached by the cultural campaign. Before they used to sleep covered by their deels, you know. In the olden times, before that cultural campaign the countryside ‘ails used to have open hearths.

Ariun-Undrakh -

You mean a hearth?

Bataa -

Yes, it was an open hearth. It was quite a long time ago. From the 1940’s I think it began when the families quit having an open hearth and they all acquired the stoves with stovepipes. It was the beginning of one cultural campaign. Then, the gers had only black coverings.

Ariun-Undrakh -

Do you mean black?

Bataa -

Yes, they had black coverings. The ger coverings were black due to many years of use. Then all the families… they began all at the same time. The white ger coverings appeared nationwide and not only in our aimag. Everyone had a white swan-like clean and neat ger. It was also the cultural campaign. The cultural campaign required from all the ‘ails’ to have such things. Then the families living in the ger had acquired beautiful curtains hung on the ger walls. Before, we never had curtains and ger coverings. People used to say, “That family has acquired beautiful curtains and beautiful white covering”. Along with that it was required from all the families to have face towels for each individual in the family. In the olden times we didn’t have such beautiful face towels like we have today. We began by acquiring a ripped face towel. It was a ripped white cloth that the soldiers used to wrap their feet with. It was a cloth to wrap the soldiers’ feet. We used to bring it home and we didn’t wipe our faces with it.

Ariun-Undrakh -

You just kept it?

Bataa -

Yes, we kept it. In two or three days, sometimes in a week we had an inspection. The sum assistant doctor (bag emch) and the teachers used to visit us for inspection. The teachers had a great role in the cultural campaign, you know. Do you understand? One teacher was responsible for two or three families. He visited them once a week. We had towels then. But we didn’t have toothpaste or toothbrushes then. Isn’t it strange? Maybe in the city they had them. I’m talking about the countryside. The toothpaste and the toothbrushes were not like we have today. It was in a round box and when you opened it, it was like a powder. And there was the toothbrush. So, every family had toothpaste and soap. They used to sell what do you call it… In the countryside we didn’t have soap unless it was in the aimag centre. Our Kazakh families used to make very beautiful soap. I don’t know how to describe it. You know, there’s weeds growing outside. They collected them and they mixed it with various things and processed and you had laundry soap. It was thus big laundry soap, you know. The Mongolian families used to buy it. Some of them sold it.

Ariun-Undrakh -

Did you cut it to use it?

Bataa -

Yes, we used it both ways. So, even soap was very rare then. By 1960 the Cultural Revolution had fully won. It had won in Mongolia, in the city and in the countryside. The countryside ‘ails’ had acquired the Cultural Revolution, you know. Everyone had become civilized. After the Cultural Revolution the cooperative movement came in.

Ariun-Undrakh -

Aa, so at first there was the Cultural Revolution, right?

Bataa -

At first, the Cultural Revolution had begun from 1960. It had been carried out from 1960 to 1968. After that the cooperative movement came in 1969-1970. That’s it. It had also turned into a Cultural Revolution. The people’s livestock were privatized and by the totalitarian regime we went haymaking together. We did all the work together. It was the right thing to do then. The cooperation is a Lenin’s theory, you know. We always imitated them. Before that in the 1930’s there used to be the incorporation movement, you know. We had formed collective farms, you know. Since then it had turned into the cooperative movement and from the 1990’s we again had the private property.

Ariun-Undrakh -

What measures were taken against the families that didn’t meet the cultural campaign requirements?

Bataa -

First of all, caricatures were written about them at the party cell and the administration places. They put out caricature pictures of them. “Comrade Bataa’s cultural campaign is in a bad stage”. They would make me ride a hog. They drew a picture of a hog and a comrade Bataa, a comrade Dorj or Michid’s name were there. Their cultural campaign work lagged. We used to have ‘Woodpecker’ magazine. They published it in the magazine.

Ariun-Undrakh -

Was it a satirical magazine?

Bataa -

Yes, a satirical magazine. Last year it was published. It had quit coming out since 1990. I don’t think they charged in case somebody didn’t meet the cultural campaign requirements. They scolded us. The sum physician would come and scold. The bag darga would come and scold. Do you understand? That’s how it was. In the least case they would put out a big hog in the sum red corner, you know. They would write there. It was the right thing to do. There’s no ‘ail’ who wants their names to be written with the hog, you know. In such a way the people got used to it.

Ariun-Undrakh -

How did you spend your student years?

Bataa -

My student years were very busy. Everyone was busy then. The special years of my life are the student years. The four student years were wonderful years. We studied a lot. I liked dancing and I had learnt to dance from the eighth grade. What was the work I was involved in at that time? I used to attend lectures. I used to live in the dormitory. It’s the dormitory building of the Teacher’s University near the cast iron bridge, you know. I came here and on the weekends our dormitory students used to go to the iron plant and the construction builders’ cultural palace and the Ard cinema. I didn’t leave there.

Ariun-Undrakh -

Were there dancing parties?

Bataa -

Yes, there were. We used to get grants then. Because I was a good student I got 280 tögrögs and not 250. What did I do with it? I bought nice shoes. There used to be yellow pointed shoes.

Ariun-Undrakh -

What about them?

Bataa -

They were very narrow shoes. Recently we had them, you know. Yellow pointed shoes have appeared again on the scene. We used to wear them. Without them one didn’t go to the dancing parties. Maybe there were students who didn’t wear them. We almost didn’t call them students. Also we had trousers that were 14-16 cm. I used to wear 14 cm trousers, though I had bowlegs.

Ariun-Undrakh -

So you had the size, right?

Bataa -

Yes, we had the certain size. I’m talking about men, you know, young men. If you don’t wear them, you are not considered a student, a young man. We used to comb our hair in a nice way. We had really nice haircuts. In the beginning we had a loose short hair style, the loose short hair style that the youngsters have now. They were bold here and it was called a loose short hairstyle. After that we had the students’ haircut that the intelligentsia also had. It was called closed short hairstyle. Now the old and the young, the dargas and their subordinates shave their hair, you know. We used to comb our hair in a beautiful way. That’s how we spent our student years. And the grant the students had was the most vital thing.

Ariun-Undrakh -

Thank you very much for your precious interview.

Bataa -

Thank you. I wish you success in your work and hope you get many interviews. If you need me again I will tell you more the best I can. Thank you very much.

Ariun-Undrakh -

Thank you very much.

Bataa -

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.