Batmönh


Basic information
Interviewee ID: 990412
Name: Batmönh
Parent's name: Sumiyaabaatar
Ovog: Görööchin
Sex: f
Year of Birth: 1978
Ethnicity: Halh

Additional Information
Education: higher
Notes on education:
Work: Tariat sum director
Belief: Buddhist
Born in: Tariat sum, Arhangai aimag
Lives in: Tariat sum (or part of UB), Arhangai aimag
Mother's profession: herder
Father's profession: herder


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childhood; education / cultural production; privatization; travel; urban issues;

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Translation:



The Oral History of Twentieth Century Mongolia

Buyandelger -

Today is the 6th of October, 2009. I am at the office of governor of Tariat Sum in Arhangai Aimag. There are only a few female governors, right? How many are there?

Batmönh -

There are three.

Buyandelger -

Three? Oh yes, that’s right. The majority are men. That’s why this is a great pleasure for me. Since I am a woman myself I support female governors. I am very pleased to meet a female governor. You are from here, right?

Batmönh -

Yes, I am.

Buyandelger -

Your name is Batmönh.

Batmönh -

Ah.

Buyandelger -

What is your surname?

Batmönh -

Sumiyabaatar.

Buyandelger -

Who? Sumiyabaatar? Is that your surname?

Batmönh -

My surname is Sumiyabaatar.

Buyandelger -

Well, governor, Batmönh darga, I would like to ask you a question. You are from here, so eh….have you been living and studying in a boarding school?

Batmönh -

Ah.

Buyandelger -

Did you study in Tariat Sum?

Batmönh -

I was at the boarding school in Mörön Sum.

Buyandelger -

Ah.

Batmönh -

Later it became Mörön bag.

Buyandelger -

I see. Please tell me more about it.

Batmönh -

All right.

Buyandelger -

I’m a city dweller and honestly I know relatively little about life in the countryside, even though I have traveled there a lot.

Batmönh -

Ah. There used to be the three-year elementary school of Mörön.

Buyandelger -

Mmh.

Batmönh -

I started to go to elementary school when I was eight, and beginning from the fourth grade I went to the ten-year school in Tariat.

Buyandelger -

Ah.

Batmönh -

When we were little our parents were herding the livestock of the cooperative. They were herders. They were very busy people.

Buyandelger -

Ah.

Batmönh -

So as soon as we turned seven or eight they brought us to the boarding school.

Buyandelger -

I see.

Batmönh -

We didn’t even know how to comb our hair or wash our clothes. Such children used to go to the boarding school.

Buyandelger -

Mmh.

Batmönh -

They brought us directly to the boarding school.

Buyandelger -

Mmh.

Batmönh -

And well, that school, the elementary school in Mörön had very strict rules.

Buyandelger -

Mmh.

Batmönh -

It was a very disciplined, wonderful school.

Buyandelger -

Mmh.

Batmönh -

It was really quite good. When the first-graders came, the third-graders were responsible for them.

Buyandelger -

Ah. Well, that is a nice thing.

Batmönh -

Every section had six children.

Buyandelger -

I see.

Batmönh -

Six children, that is three first-graders and three third-graders, who were responsible for the younger ones, who combed their hair and changed their clothes.

Buyandelger -

Ah.

Batmönh -

It was like that.

Buyandelger -

Ah.

Batmönh -

Generally speaking, third-graders were like today’s 11th-graders

Buyandelger -

Ah.

Batmönh -

They were the seniors of the school.

Buyandelger -

Mmh.

Batmönh -

In spring, the third-graders stayed on to plant vegetables. For them the holidays started seven to ten days later than for the first- and second-graders.

Buyandelger -

Mmh. They were all very principled and industrious.

Batmönh -

When the autumn came, the third-graders who had planted the vegetables left and the second-graders started the third grade.

Buyandelger -

Yes, and it continued like that.

Batmönh -

So they harvested the vegetables the others had planted.

Buyandelger -

What kinds of vegetables did you plant?

Batmönh -

Potatoes, cabbage, carrots and turnips.

Buyandelger -

Huh.

Batmönh -

So we harvested them. The school had very big schoolyard with a hill. It was called ‘Onion Mountain’.

Buyandelger -

Mmh.

Batmönh -

In autumn they made the children collect the seeds, just at the time when the plants shed them.

Buyandelger -

Mmh..

Batmönh -

They made us collect the seeds and then spread them in the schoolyard. The school precincts looked like a mountainous area.

Buyandelger -

Mmh.

Batmönh -

We was full of trees, poplars, willows and larches.

Buyandelger -

How beautiful!

Batmönh -

And in between there were flowers and bushes with berries.

Buyandelger -

Mmh. What kinds of berries?

Batmönh -

We had blackcurrants and ribes.

Buyandelger -

Mmh..

Batmönh -

Those two we had for sure.

Buyandelger -

Mmh.

Batmönh -

Between the trees there was a one-meter wide paved path.

Buyandelger -

Mmh.

Batmönh -

We always stayed on that path. In winter we stayed on it, we usually did.

Buyandelger -

Ah.

Batmönh -

If we left the path, well, we would immediately know what to do.

Buyandelger -

Mmh.

Batmönh -

‘Oh no, bagsh, I left the path. Let me water the trees!’ Then the children would fetch water in a can and water the plants. In the mornings, the dormitory porter was very interesting.

Buyandelger -

Mmh.

Batmönh -

In the morning our classes started at 9am. At seven…the dormitory porter’s name was Janchiv.

Buyandelger -

Mmh.

Batmönh -

He would ring a bell and call ‘Are you awake? Are you awake? Wake up!!’

Buyandelger -

(laughs) Ah. What did he call? Do you remember?

Batmönh -

He would go into the rooms, ring the bell and, as I said, he would call ‘Wake up! Wake up! Are you awake? Are you awake?’ We would stretch, get up and say ‘We are awake, we are awake.’ They said that stretching was good and that we had to stretch, so we always did it.

Buyandelger -

Ah.

Batmönh -

We would get up, and he would go into every room, beginning from the first. There were about ten sections.

Buyandelger -

Mmh.

Batmönh -

The first had five to six children. There were three classes with 20 to 25 children, each divided into four groups.

Buyandelger -

What year was that?

Batmönh -

I started school in 1986, so 1987, 1988, and in ’89 I came here.

Buyandelger -

Mmh. And then…

Batmönh -

As soon as we got up, we would stand in a line, beginning from the first section, to wash our hands.

Buyandelger -

Mmh..

Batmönh -

After having washed our hands we waited for the call to go to have breakfast. The section on duty would call us.

Buyandelger -

Ah.

Batmönh -

We queued in front of the door to the kitchen.

Buyandelger -

Mmh.

Batmönh -

We were greeted in Russian and had to count in Russian, so that when we started studying it it would be easier to learn the language.

Buyandelger -

Mmh.

Batmönh -

Two children from the section on duty…

Buyandelger -

Did the Russian teacher teach you?

Batmönh -

No, just the dormitory teacher.

Buyandelger -

The dormitory teacher. I see, mmh.

Batmönh -

In the morning we would all stand there and greet together in Russian ‘Dobrij utrom, dobrij utrom!’

Buyandelger -

Mmh.

Batmönh -

Then we counted odin, dva ecc. and then we went to have breakfast

Buyandelger -

Mmh.

Batmönh -

When we were eating there were always four people at one table. And the seats were assigned, like this is Bat’s seat, this is Dolgor’s, this is Dorj’s.

Buyandelger -

Mmh.

Batmönh -

If someone was absent they would see it immediately. ‘Oh, at that table that seat, which belongs to that person, is empty. Why didn’t that person come? Maybe that person is ill or is on leave?’

Buyandelger -

Mmh.

Batmönh -

After breakfast we stood up, take our four bowls and plates…

Buyandelger -

Mmh.

Batmönh -

We brought them to where they collected them in the kitchen, to the people who served us breakfast. We thanked them and greeted them, then we went out, changed our clothes and then we lined up in the corridor. In the dormitory corridor.

Buyandelger -

Mmh. I see.

Batmönh -

We lined up in the corridor and carried out the Young Pioneer’s ceremony.

Buyandelger -

Ah. What was that?

Batmönh -

The captain of the dormitory pioneers would salute, wish everybody a good morning and show them respect. After that we would sing the pioneers’ song and then go to class.

Buyandelger -

What song was it? Was it ‘Bühii l olon bagachuud’?

Batmönh -

Yes, we sang ‘Bühii l olon bagachuud’ and there was another one ‘Neg hoyor gurav zereg alhaad’.

Buyandelger -

Mmh.

Batmönh -

We would sing that song.

Buyandelger -

Do you remember the lyrics from ‘Bühii l olon bagachuud’?

Batmönh -

I do, but my voice is out of tune…

Buyandelger -

That doesn’t matter! Just say a few verses. We used to sing it, too, but I have completely forgotten it. How does it go again…how was it?

Batmönh -

We would sing that song while we walked and also at parties and dances. The captain of the dormitory pioneers, who was a third-grader, would be in the front, then the third-graders, then the second-graders and the first-graders, all walking in single file.

Buyandelger -

You were so disciplined.

Batmönh -

We would march in lock-step, stomp stomp, and as soon as we entered the school…we wouldn’t enter with our boots, each of us had a number.

Buyandelger -

I see.

Batmönh -

We had overshoes with that number. If I had number one, then my overshoes would be in a bag hanging on hook no.1.

Buyandelger -

Ah.

Batmönh -

We would slip them over our boots and then go to the classroom.

Buyandelger -

Did you make the bag and overshoes yourself and bring them from home, or did the school provide them?

Batmönh -

The school provided them.

Buyandelger -

Mmh.

Batmönh -

We had four hours of class.

Buyandelger -

Mmh.

Batmönh -

After two hours, beginning from 10:40 we had a tea break. It was a small break and the school gave us light snacks.

Buyandelger -

I see.

Batmönh -

That one…

Buyandelger -

The break at 11?

Batmönh -

Yes, at 10:40. The pupil on duty would go and fetch the tea. All the children staying in the dormitory were given summer assignments for the tea, and they always carried them out.

Buyandelger -

Mmh.

Batmönh -

They had to bring berry juice, bread with jam or a little bit of compote, and in return they were given tea.

Buyandelger -

Mmh.

Batmönh -

After the tea and at the end of the day we had to wash our hands and rinse our mouth with salted or sodium carbonated water.

Buyandelger -

Mmh.

Batmönh -

We washed our hands and lined up for lunch.

Buyandelger -

Mmh.

Batmönh -

We went in and then we proceeded in the same way, in which we had come in. In the afternoon we had lessons, too.

Buyandelger -

Mmh.

Batmönh -

In the warm seasons, we spent our free time outside on the sports ground.

Buyandelger -

Mmh.

Batmönh -

Inside the dormitory we spent our free time playing games in a play room.

Buyandelger -

Mmh.

Batmönh -

And precisely from this to that time all children would be in their rooms studying.

Buyandelger -

Mmh.

Batmönh -

Everything was scheduled.

Buyandelger -

Mmh. It almost seems like in the military, no? (laughs).

Batmönh -

We were very disciplined, but because we went there from when we were little we became used to it.

Buyandelger -

Mmh.

Batmönh -

When we came back into the dormitory from having played outside we washed our hands immediately, and we washed our hands when we entered our dorm rooms.

Buyandelger -

Did the dormitory teacher organize all this?

Batmönh -

Yes, the dormitory teacher and the headmaster.

Buyandelger -

The headmaster? What kind of person was the dormitory teacher?

Batmönh -

His name was Janchiv. He had only one arm.

Buyandelger -

Mmh. And how about the headmaster?

Batmönh -

The director’s name was Davaasüren and his wife’s name was Sambuu. She was an elementary school teacher.

Buyandelger -

So these people organized all the activities, right?

Batmönh -

Right. Those three usually organized everything.

Buyandelger -

And then?

Batmönh -

We used to wash our hands, but in spring they became terribly rough.

Buyandelger -

Yes, of course, because of the wind. Ah…

Batmönh -

So the bones from the meals, you know…

Buyandelger -

Yes.

Batmönh -

They would boil them in unsalted water and then make us wash our hands with the greasy broth.

Buyandelger -

Mmh.

Batmönh -

They would told us to rub our hands with it until they had absorbed it. That’s what we did and after that we washed our hands with warm water.

Buyandelger -

Mmh..

Batmönh -

We did that every day. In the evenings when we came back inside from the playground we washed our hands with that greasy broth.

Buyandelger -

Mmh. If you wash your hands in greasy broth the skin becomes very soft, right?

Batmönh -

Yes.

Buyandelger -

Yes. Mmh.

Batmönh -

Then we rinsed our throats and mouths with salted water, then we went all to our rooms and at 6pm we had dinner. Later at 8pm we had some light aarts or something similar. Inside the dormitory there was a special service room.

Buyandelger -

Mmh.

Batmönh -

Those third-graders who had some influence were responsible for it.

Buyandelger -

Mmh.

Batmönh -

Inside the service room, there was a sewing machine, needles and thread and shoe wax. They would use it to polish the boots of the first-graders or when children of the lower grades had torn their clothes or lost a button. In those cases the third-graders would help.

Buyandelger -

Mmh.

Batmönh -

When we had a cold or some other ailment, they made us line up in the service room and gave us hot milk with a piece of brown sugar. They offered such services. When children tore the collars of their uniforms and couldn’t fix it themselves, the third-graders would help them. All these services were offered in that special room.

Buyandelger -

Mmh.

Batmönh -

We also had a special play room in the dormitory. Outside of class we would always wear a deel. The girls wore deels made of green drill and the boys deels made of blue drill. Once a girl from the Altai bag came with a pink deel and she was scolded and her parents were informed.

Buyandelger -

I see.

Batmönh -

‘Why are you wearing a pink deel? Wear a green one!’ she was told. Everything was like a uniform. Ah, and then we were not allowed to wear any ornaments or nice hairpins. Our hair was always braided into two plaits. At that time we ironed our uniforms with a hand iron, because we didn’t have electric ones. Or we folded them in between a newspaper, put them under our mats and slept on top of them. In the morning they would perfect with nice creases.

Buyandelger -

Didn’t you have electric irons in 1980s?

Batmönh -

No, we didn’t.

Buyandelger -

No?

Batmönh -

No.

Buyandelger -

‘86 was a rather good period though.

Batmönh -

Yes, but at that time we didn’t have electric irons.

Buyandelger -

Yes, I see. We had electric irons when we went to elementary school.

Batmönh -

Did you have electricity?

Buyandelger -

Yes, we did. It came from a generator.

Batmönh -

We had a generator, too. At eleven at night it went on twice and then it was switched off. With regards to our clothes, during the lessons we wore uniforms and outside of the classroom we wore our deels.

Buyandelger -

Mmh. What kind of shoes did you wear? Your own shoes or were they all the same, too?

Batmönh -

The shoes were our own.

Buyandelger -

What other clothes that you wore were yours?

Batmönh -

We had boots with white soles, because there weren’t enough leather boots for children.

Buyandelger -

At that time boots with white soles were very popular. I wanted to buy a pair, but they were sold out. They were soft and comfortable.

Batmönh -

It was the time when Russian shoes appeared, pretty manufactured shoes.

Buyandelger -

Mmh.

Batmönh -

We wore these kinds of things and in winter we always wore felt boots.

Buyandelger -

Of course. It is very cold here, isn’t it?

Batmönh -

Yes. We always wore felt boots.

Buyandelger -

Was it warm in the dormitory?

Batmönh -

Yes, it was very nice and warm. For each building there was one staff member who was in charge.

Buyandelger -

Mmh.

Batmönh -

They were made to compete with each other. They furnished the dormitories, they were responsible for the activities and the hygiene of the children.

Buyandelger -

Was there hot water?

Batmönh -

Yes, there was.

Buyandelger -

Certainly once a week…

Batmönh -

Yes, once a week we had an official registration.

Buyandelger -

Ah.

Batmönh -

All children had to go. Then they washed their bodies and soaked their hair with good-smelling thyme. They boiled the thyme in a 40-liter container and then they washed the children’s hair with the infusion.

Buyandelger -

Against lice.

Batmönh -

Yes, it was in order to protect us from lice and the hair absorbed the aromatic smell.

Buyandelger -

It was all so well organized.

Batmönh -

The laundry was done separately. Every child had two sets of pillow covers, hand towels, bed sheets and bed-nets. They were all numbered. The first dorm room had six children, so the numbers 1 to 6 belonged to the first room and 6 to 12 to the second dorm room. The head of the room had number one and the others had 2, 3 and so on.

Buyandelger -

It was well organized.

Batmönh -

Every week we changed the bed sheets and they were washed and disinfected with chloramines or with Farlent in the washing machine.

Buyandelger -

Did you have washing machines?

Batmönh -

It was an old Russian washing machine.

Buyandelger -

Well, they were good. Russian things last almost forever.

Batmönh -

They washed and disinfected our things and the children of the higher grades washed the clothes of the first-graders. Usually the heads of the dorm rooms and a staff member were responsible for washing the clothes.

Buyandelger -

How many children were there? How many classes and how many small children were there?

Batmönh -

There were three classes, the first, the second and the third grade with about twenty children each, so all together there were sixty children. Children from the countryside did not live with other families, but they were sent straight to the dormitory. Only the few children of the teachers and workers at the school could live outside. And we were never allowed to take days off outside of the holidays.

Buyandelger -

We had holidays for New Year and for the October Holiday.

Batmönh -

We could go home only during the official holidays. At the end of the vacations the parents would bring their children back and at the beginning of the vacations they would all come to pick them up. During the Tsagaan Sar we had only three days of holiday and we didn’t go home. We celebrated the Tsagaan Sar in the dormitory. The school brought a thermos full of milk tea to each room, and they brought us steamed buuz for lunch and for dinner. In those three days the children drank tea and exchanged candies and handkerchiefs.

Buyandelger -

Mmh. How cute.

Batmönh -

This is how the three days passed. Since we didn’t go home for Tsagaan Sar, on the fourth day of the new lunar year we had classes. In the morning of the first day of the new year we would all line up and all the staff members lined up, too, beginning from the headmaster. They would kiss each child and we would great one after the other in the line. When we finished we would stand there holding up our skirts.

Buyandelger -

Mmh.

Batmönh -

And the school would place a present in our skirts.

Buyandelger -

Ah. What did they give?

Batmönh -

They gave condensed milk and some candies of those sold in one-kilogram bags. We would take them and then run back to our rooms.

Buyandelger -

Condensed milk was a very important thing at that time, right?

Batmönh -

Right. They gave us gifts like that. We would take them and for three days we would share our tea. Also on the 8th of March we showed our respect, and the girls received a present in their skirts as a way of celebrating them.

Buyandelger -

It’s very cute, isn’t it?

Batmönh -

This is how it was.

Buyandelger -

You became used to it.

Batmönh -

Then after such a strict and disciplined school, beginning from the fourth grade I went to this school.

Buyandelger -

By ‘this school’ do you mean the one in Tariat?

Batmönh -

Yes. We never left the path or fought with each other. Then I came here. There was a big schoolyard, but even though there was a concrete path in the middle it was filled with rubbish flying in the wind on both sides of the path. It seemed strange to me, I thought it shouldn’t be like that. And I thought ‘What are these children doing?’ I always walked on the path, while the others were running beside it. I was surprised, but then in the end, being among them….hihihi

Buyandelger -

It was very well organized and much attention was paid to the children (laughs).

Batmönh -

They paid much attention to education, a very disciplined education.

Buyandelger -

They protected you from lice and they prevented throat and mouth infections, colds and all sorts of infectious diseases by making you gurgle with salted water. That’s a good thing, isn’t it?

Batmönh -

They worked for us, to make us feel at home in the school. The children got used to it and didn’t feel homesick. The environment was very good.

Buyandelger -

What did you eat for dinner?

Batmönh -

In the evenings we always had one course, and for lunch we had a first and a second course. In the mornings we had thick slices of bread with jam made from the berries gathered by the children. Sometimes we had bread with liver pâté and in the evenings we had aarts. They always gave the children food with a lot of vitamins.

Buyandelger -

Were you ever hungry?

Batmönh -

No, we were never hungry. We were told not bring boov and boortsog from home. It wasn’t necessary and hardly any child ever did. Only those from far-away bags did. They kept them in a box and they were scolded, because it wasn’t necessary to bring them.

Buyandelger -

So the Mörön elementary school is in Mörön Sum, right?

Batmönh -

It is the Mörön bag now. It used to be the fourth brigade.

Buyandelger -

From there you came to Tariat, to the ten-year school in Tariat, right? Something very interesting happened there. You didn’t stay in the dormitory, but you lived with a family.

Batmönh -

I came in the fourth grade and the general environment as well as the children’s discipline seemed very strange to me. In the fourth grade I was class representative. I did the 4th and the 5th grade there, and I went back to Mörön in the 6th grade. At that time Mörön had gotten a six-year school. Then I came back here for the 7th, 8th, 9th and 10th grades. After I finished school, I studied at the Mongolian National University to become a teacher of Mongolian Language and Literature. Following my graduation, I taught here and then I went on maternity leave. In between I also did some business and then I graduated from the Academy for State Management. After the local elections last year I began to work as governor.

Buyandelger -

You must have a lot of funny memories from your time at the ten-year school. Could please talk a little bit about that?

Batmönh -

I was a very modest, mature and silent child, who didn’t partake in many things. Once I went to the shop during the break and I was late for class. The physics teacher didn’t let me in and chased me away. I was afraid and ran away. I ran through the hall and was spotted by our class teacher. I ran away from him and wanted to jump a fence, but my skirt got caught and tore apart. I had to change my clothes and went back to class. My classmates started to play a game named ‘lifting the skirts’, where we tried to pull up each others’ skirts. I was sitting in the third row, closest to the door and I was imitating the others. I said I would lift the skirt of the person who came into the classroom last and it was our teacher. So I pulled the teacher’s skirt. It was funny, but I was also very scared.

Buyandelger -

How were the lessons? What subjects were you good at?

Batmönh -

I was good in Russian, I was good in all subjects. I was good, but in the sixth grade in Mörön we didn’t have any vocational teachers for some time. It was a strange time and my performance deteriorated. I chose two or three subjects and in the end I prepared Mongolian language for the provincial Olympiad and I won the first place. Later I continued to prepare for that and was admitted at the faculty of Mongolian Language and Literature at the National University.

Buyandelger -

Do you remember teachers who taught amazingly well? The period from 1986 to 1996 was when democracy came and everything was in flux, it was a very difficult time.

Batmönh -

In that difficult period we came here to take our exams and we prepared some food to express our respect for the teachers. Some children brought tea and others some yoghurt. The shops were completely empty, there was nothing except for dry, woody multicolored sugarcoated candies. We bought some of those for the refreshments, it was a strange time.

Buyandelger -

How did you get through the coupon period, when the stores were empty. Please tell me about that, you must have many memories about that.

Batmönh -

We were kids then. There was nothing. Those who had cattle somehow survived. People had to queue very much for the goods that could be bought with coupons.

Buyandelger -

Do you remember what exactly you could get with the coupons?

Batmönh -

We got one bottle of arhi, several kilograms of rice and flour and cloth for edging deels. We used to get it through an agent, and soon after people started to trade. Red tobacco appeared and people exchanged it for a tölög, that’s a two-year old sheep. This year the livestock price has fallen to 20,000, last year it was 40,000. I don’t remember how many thousand a tölög was at that time. People bartered a cow or a horse for Chinese silk, velvet or speckled silk. It was a strange time, people bartered a horse for four meters of drill for their wives to make a deel. The material for a deel cost a horse, a cow and the cheaper kind a tölög or a sheep. This is how trade was done then. At that time, the flour tasted like woodworms or sand and all sorts of other things, but people took it nevertheless because there wasn’t anything else. They used it even though they complained about it. For a short period of time it was that difficult.

Buyandelger -

Did you get meat?

Batmönh -

No, we didn’t.

Buyandelger -

Those who had animals slaughtered them for food. But what about the civil servants in the sum centers, what did they do, poor things?

Batmönh -

I don’t know well whether civil servants received a share in the course of the privatization. In any case, one child got seven sheep or a cow, it was all counted, so I remember that families with many children got a lot of animals.

Buyandelger -

So you finished the tenth grade and then?

Batmönh -

I enrolled at the Mongolian National University.

Buyandelger -

Did you have to take entry exams? How did you enroll?

Batmönh -

We had to take three kinds of written exams. Mongolian language, Society, Russian and two other subjects.

Buyandelger -

What year was that?

Batmönh -

1996.

Buyandelger -

So in 1996 you went from Tariat to Ulaanbaatar. How did you go there?

Batmönh -

My mother and I got a lift after the holidays. We sat on a an open ‘30’ truck, we turned all black sitting there. Two or three days before the truck left my father met the driver and asked him to spare a space for his child. That’s how we went.

Buyandelger -

Did you give a sheep or money for the lift?

Batmönh -

We gave money, at that time you gave would you had.

Buyandelger -

What did you give? Sheep or money?

Batmönh -

We gave money, but at that time you gave what you had. The parents always accompanied their children when they went to the city. There were more than 30 people together with their children sitting on that ‘30’ truck. We took a trunk full of clothes, it was chilly and there was no ‘30’ truck anywhere. If you were late, you had to ask other people for a lift. People who took you didn’t have nice means of transportation. They only had ‘24s’ or ‘69s’, trucks like that. When I studied here, cars were very rare. Of the 14 days of holidays in the 7th grade I spent seven with another family, because my father couldn’t find a means of transportation to pick me up. During the holidays, the dormitory sent the children away, so I stayed with a family for seven days. On the seventh day I went home, stayed for four, five days and then I came back. At that time a tractor used to go between the bags. There was only one, and it used to pick up the children from school and bring them back.

Buyandelger -

Did the tractor have trailer?

Batmönh -

Yes, it had a trailer. We sat on the trailer, rattling along the whole day. Before that, during the cooperative period, ‘30’ trucks brought the children from Tariat to the River Mörön. On the truck, the smaller children sat in the middle and the older ones along the edges. The ‘30’ trucks were ordered by the administration and would come right at the beginning of the holidays to bring the children back home. Later, in the ‘90s the issue of transportation became more complicated.

Buyandelger -

Did Tariat Sum have a bus station? The province center had a big station called station no.6.

Batmönh -

Yes, it did. There was a big square with many vehicles and drivers. They had gotten the vehicles in the course of the privatization...

Buyandelger -

In socialist times the level of organization and the sense of responsibility were relatively high, right? The children were brought to school and back home, right?

Batmönh -

Yes, if the truck arrived in the evening it would bring every child home, because it would have been tough for the children if they had been left somewhere on the street. The school administration registered the number of children that were going and where they lived. It was organized really well. Later, when the economy was privatized means of transportation became less. Families with private property moved away from the sum centers to the bags, like teeth that were falling out. Some moved to Mörön, some to Zahiral and some I don’t know where. They took down their fences and went away.

Buyandelger -

Why did they do that? Does it mean that they stayed here during the socialist period and that once they got private animals they moved back to their homeland?

Batmönh -

Yes, the property of the brigades was distributed among their members, they had to go to their brigades to get their share.

Buyandelger -

In other words, if a person from Ulaan Tugt in Battsengel Sum worked in Tariat, he or she had to go to Ulaan Tugt in Battsengel Sum to get his or her share of livestock and property…this is how it was organized, right?

Batmönh -

Yes. They took down fences and buildings and then they privatized everything. For example, if ten people had been working together in an organization, they took down everything and shared it between them without any regulations. Today I think that if the public buildings in the sum hadn’t been privatized, but still existed and continued to offer their services, if people hadn’t taken things for themselves there would have a great opportunity for small and medium-sized enterprises and artisan shops. Hairdressers, shoemakers, photographers, clothes, it was all there together with nice equipment, but it was all destroyed. There was the so-called fodder center, really big with an enormous storage and it was demolished. There was a nice garage, it was a very nice building and it was demolished, too. Today I think that the process of privatization was organized and thought through very badly. If people had thought about the future and left those buildings, the sums could now have great things. But it all became rubbish and dust, it disappeared.

Buyandelger -

There was a big hüree in Tariat sum with many monasteries. During the socialist period it hosted branches of several public services. What else was in there?

Batmönh -

There was the public service center and the fodder center, really big. It contained the hay fund and the fund for all kinds of fodder. The garage was called Bureau for Drivers and Motor Vehicles. The drivers used to park their cars there.

Buyandelger -

It wasn’t a proper bus station but a small place for drivers, right?

Batmönh -

Yes. The hospital, the school and the cultural center have remained as they were before.

Buyandelger -

In the cultural center there was hot water, right?

Batmönh -

We used to have hot water, but it has all been demolished. We used to have a big steam boiler and central heating and now it’s gone. Such things are necessary. If we still had the boiler or the fodder center it would have been great capital for the future generation. But privatization was carried out without any organization or future vision.

Buyandelger -

Because privatization was carried out in a completely wrong way, the sum center became almost like a ruin, right.

Batmönh -

That’s right. But beginning from the year 2000 our sum has become rather well-equipped and the streets and districts are becoming full.

Buyandelger -

For instance, if I was from Öndör Ulaan I could not get any property from Tariat, right?

Batmönh -

That’s right. Everyone was affiliated to a sum or a bag brigade.

Buyandelger -

So of course people would move to the place to which they were affiliated. Privatization has been carried out in a truly regretful way.

Batmönh -

Many workplaces disappeared and all those who had work became unemployed. However, the herders got their private herds. It’s good that people have got private property, but the organization was very bad.

Buyandelger -

Everything that had been created in 70 years of socialism was destroyed.

Batmönh -

It was all divided and destroyed in the name of privatization.

Buyandelger -

If the factories had continued to work despite privatization, people could have shared the profits.

Batmönh -

If people had received good advice from the beginning, things could have developed very nicely.

Buyandelger -

And perhaps unemployment wouldn’t have been so high.

Batmönh -

By today people would have gotten back on their feet and built a basis.

Buyandelger -

Right. Everywhere people say that only for the herders privatization was a success because they got private livestock, but the industry and the services broke down.

Batmönh -

Yes, everything broke down. At that time the steam boilers stopped working and we heated the classrooms with fires. We put smoke pipes through the windows, but the rooms were full of smoke. We went to school wearing deels. It was like that.

Buyandelger -

It means that you finished the tenth grade in a difficult time. You must be a very hardworking person and a fighter.

Batmönh -

We didn’t have electricity, it wouldn’t come in the morning. We didn’t have cold meat in the section. I lived in the dormitory then. The porter used to make a fire at night to heat the kitchen. We used to study by the light of the fire.

Buyandelger -

It was like reading a book by the light of incense.

Batmönh -

Yes. The candles and matches had finished so I studied for the entry exams by the light of the fire.

Buyandelger -

This seems a very beautiful memory. I think there is popular tale entitled 'The Incense Light' or something like that.

Batmönh -

Yes.

Buyandelger -

What other memories do you have from this difficult period?

Batmönh -

I was a child, so I don’t remember well. Everything was scarce, the shops were empty and my parents bought goods with coupons. Clothes had become scarce. We made our underwear ourselves with a sewing machine. Later, beginning from when I was in the 7th grade, jeans appeared. Those who wore them looked really rich and beautiful. One child was wearing a leather jacket, which looked really cool. It was a period like that. At that time Chinese goods came in, some of good and some of bad quality, trousers, socks, all sorts of things. They weren't very expensive compared to today.

Buyandelger -

Beginning from which year did the situation in the province improve thanks to the suitcase traders?

Batmönh -

I think beginning from 1993, 1994.

Buyandelger -

Did many local people become traders?

Batmönh -

Oh, quite a lot of people. Those who started early live really well now.

Buyandelger -

Those who started at that time?

Batmönh -

Yes, those who at that time went back and forth trading, they have a good life today.

Buyandelger -

What has been restored now? Beginning from the year 2000, things have become better, right?

Batmönh -

Generally, people don’t live much in gers anymore, but they built small private houses and flats. A lot of shops have been built, too, and TÜTS. Before we had only one brown store and people could rent space by the meter there. One person would rent two or three meters, so there were more than ten people standing inside, each with his or her own counter. Later, when people earned more and life became better, they left one after the other and took private shops. That brown store has been sold and it has only one owner. Before they did things together and were all standing inside. They brought their small goods here by bus.

Buyandelger -

What did they sell at their small stalls?

Batmönh -

Well, all sorts of everyday items, like detergent, soap, tobacco, flour, rice. When the range increased, there were quite a lot of consumer goods.

Buyandelger -

How many shops are there today? Yesterday when I arrived I searched for a hotel for an hour and I saw only food shops and mini markets.

Batmönh -

We have 22 stores and 32 service enterprises.

Buyandelger -

I think there are more shops than customers. 22 out of 32 service enterprises are shops? What about the others?

Batmönh -

The number of taverns and hotels is increasing and people offer small services. Our sum attracts many people because of the beautiful natural environment. In this way, nature has an impact on people’s living standard. People come by car to see the natural environment and they considerably contribute to the profits of the shops. Some want to ride horses and in this way herders can earn some money. If people want to stay in a ger they generate income. People earn some money with the many plants, berries, onions and nuts that we have here. And a lot of people make money by bringing people to the Horgo.

Buyandelger -

Are there many tourists?

Batmönh -

Yes, we have many tourists.

Buyandelger -

How do they come, by plane?

Batmönh -

No. They all come with company cars. This year we had more Mongolian than foreign tourists, this shows that Mongolians’ standard of living is improving. They drive jeeps and come here with their families for holidays and to see the Horgo.

Buyandelger -

Does the money generated with the Horgo go to the sum administration?

Batmönh -

Only the fee for the tourist camp and the vehicle fee, that’s all. Foreigners pay 3000 tögrög and Mongolian citizens 300. This money goes to the Ministry for the Environment.

Buyandelger -

Is there a fee to see the Horgo?

Batmönh -

Yes, people have to get a permit to see it. Our sum has just transferred about 10 mio tögrög.

Buyandelger -

This is very interesting. So after you finished the tenth grade you went to the city? Did you go immediately? What were your impressions? How many days did it take you to get there?

Batmönh -

It took us two days and one night and the road was very bad. It wasn’t like today. It took us two days on that ‘30’ truck. Today the infrastructure has improved a lot, today you need half the time to go to the city. When I went to the city, the bus tickets were 50 tögrög and then they increased to 100. I never took public transportation and the trolley buses seemed to me so weird. I thought ‘It’s so slow, you become stupid inside, I don’t take it.’ I got lost very often and people had to show me the way back. I was living with a family. In my first year I didn’t know the city very well and I didn’t know where to go. The family lived really close, just three stops away from the university, but I got disoriented because it took the drivers a long time, maybe because I was new. I didn’t take the bus again, but then I decided to become acquainted with the city and drove the whole day from one end to the other. And in the end little by little I got to know it.

Buyandelger -

Did you study in the second building of the University?

Batmönh -

Yes. In the second building on the third floor.

Buyandelger -

How were the teachers at that time in your opinion?

Batmönh -

When I became a student, I didn’t manage to keep up with the lectures. The teachers weren’t like the ones at the ten-year school. They were talking and reading and we had to take notes. In the first seven days, I managed to write down only half of everything. But the next week I managed to keep up. We had to study on our own, once we became students we had to become independent. It was very selective. About 45 of us finished the first year. In the first two years quite a few were failed. In the third year only one or two people went on pregnancy leave, in the third and fourth years only one or two were failed.

Buyandelger -

Maybe those students didn’t like to study or they were doing trade?

Batmönh -

No. The students’ level was poor. It was the difficult time of the transition. Many students dropped out, some didn’t have teachers. No-one was studying well. If you didn’t pass three exams, you were expelled.

Buyandelger -

You probably have a lot of funny stories from your student life. You are so tall and slender, at that time you were probably running around tall and even slimmer.

Batmönh -

I was very modest. I never went out. I was always in the dormitory, in the library or in the classroom. I didn’t go out with my friends on the various festive occasions.

Buyandelger -

Were books difficult to find then?

Batmönh -

The books were generally all right, even though there weren’t enough, so we had to take turns to read the textbooks.

Buyandelger -

Who were the teachers then? Was there Hulan bagsh?

Batmönh -

Yes, Hulan bagsh taught us oral literature.

Buyandelger -

Who else was there? I don’t know very well.

Batmönh -

There was Dulam bagsh. And Badamragchaa who had been the director of the Japanese school and then came to the National University. Badamdorj bagsh taught semasiology. Among the older teachers there were Dashtseden and Galbaatar, who taught literature. Bataahüü was a linguist, he was from Tariat. Janchiv was a professor for linguistics, too. He is still there. We always had senior teachers like the writer Dagva bagsh. Or Hishigsüh, who was a semasiaologist, too. He was senior, too.

Buyandelger -

Were you appointed after your graduation?

Batmönh -

We graduated and that was all.

Buyandelger -

In the old days, people were appointed to jobs, but of course that ended.

Batmönh -

I came back to my homeland and the secondary school lacked personnel then. Private schools were rare. New graduates were few and there was a vacancy. There was only one teacher for Mongolian language and literature and there were many classes. I taught to the 5th grade. The students were lagging behind, so I would be in the school from 6am to 10pm. I would two two-hour repetitions, at two I would have my lunch break, then I would teach the lessons and then I would prepare the children for the Olympiad and the ones from the graduating class. Today we have plenty of teachers. Recently, the number of private schools has increased, but their quality is not very good.

Buyandelger -

What about the teachers’ salary? How were they paid?

Batmönh -

Teachers and their recompense receive a lot of attention today and their salaries are generally fixed. There are no extra hours. One teacher teaches between 19 and 22 hours.

Buyandelger -

A week?

Batmönh -

Yes, fives days according to the plan. Social issues pertaining to teachers receive great attention. The interests they have to pay on loans have greatly decreased. But the most important question is that of quality.

Buyandelger -

Students usually have big parties after the graduation. Did you have one?

Batmönh -

After I graduated from university, I celebrated to some extent. At that time I had just had a baby and I left the hospital three days before the exams.

Buyandelger -

How did you meet your husband? Did you meet him here? Was he from your homeland?

Batmönh -

He had been a friend of mine since secondary school. We were very close and good friends.

Buyandelger -

How many children do you have?

Batmönh -

I have two children, two sons. My student life was like that.

Buyandelger -

Was it difficult to teach the children in your homeland after you had graduated in Ulaanbaatar?

Batmönh -

I was stiff and I didn’t manage to speak up, it was difficult. The difficulties started already with memorizing the pupils’ names. The pupils chewed paper and threw it at me….I was new and I was young…But later they accepted me as their teacher.

Buyandelger -

How many families live in Tariat?

Batmönh -

There are 1322 families, all together Tariat has a population of 5022 people. The school has around 1000 pupils, who study in shifts. The extension building is under construction now.

Buyandelger -

Is the construction being financed through foreign aid or by ourselves?

Batmönh -

We got 694.5 mio tögrög from the state. It has a sports hall and space for 320 children. It will be inaugurated in the 4th of November.

Buyandelger -

Is the heating private or under the authority of the sum administration?

Batmönh -

It is under the administration of the school, that is of the state.

Buyandelger -

In Arhangai, heating has been privatized. The prices have increased and they do not switch it on unless people pay.

Batmönh -

No, we don’t have such a thing. Every organization has a small steam boiler. The hospital has one inside and one outside, the school’s is outside too. Just recently it has been overhauled with the money we got from the state in the course of construction work. The dormitory for 75 children is heated and the old and the new sports halls are heated together.

Buyandelger -

Heating is important. This is the next coldest place after Zavhan, right?

Batmönh -

Right. We are very high, the second after Toson. The peak of the Bogd Uul in Ulaanbaatar is as high above the sea level as Bulgan Mountain in our sum. It is a very high and all steppes, that’s why it’s very cold.

Buyandelger -

How many heads of livestock do you have?

Batmönh -

184 000.

Buyandelger -

Is this a lot compared to other sums?

Batmönh -

It’s average. Sums with livestock usually have around 300 000 head of livestock. In fact, Öndördalai Sum has 220 000 heads of livestock. Erdenebulgan Sum has over 300 000 heads of livestock

Buyandelger -

Wow!

Batmönh -

So we just have an average number.

Buyandelger -

But it has increased compared to the socialist period. How many heads of livestock did you have at that time?

Batmönh -

It has increased a lot, only in the last year the number has increased by more than 30 000 heads. However, it has increased beyond the carrying capacity of the pastureland. If we don’t regulate things like in Inner Mongolia, people only go for quantity and not for the quality. They run after empty things and breed low-quality animals. They take some land and think only about increasing the number, but not about the meat and the milk. They breed a lot of animals just to become myangat malchin. If livestock is bred for meat production, the output is much better. The time frame is also shorter, because animals get slaughtered every year, so we are talking about this kind herding with the herders. In October, there will be a training for herders organized by the province, and there we will run seminars to give advice.

Buyandelger -

Is it organized by the sum or the aimag administration?

Batmönh -

It it organized by the Provincial Department for Agriculture together with the Planning Department. All together 20 people are involved.

Buyandelger -

How did you become governor? Women are usually kept in the lower ranks.

Batmönh -

With regards to the governor, we have a Citizens’ Assembly with 21 people, three for each of the seven bag. The MPRP has the majority with 13 seats. The party that won the majority, the old governor convened the assembly and checked everybody and all worked together. At the first session of the Citizens’ Assembly I decided to run for office, and the party supported me. They said that I was new and that they stood behind me 100%. I went to visit more than 10 families on behalf of the president of the Citizens’ Assembly with potatoes in order to make them do agricultural work, but nobody wants to. They only want cash, ‘I want money for firewood.’ ‘I want child allowance.’ ‘I want a new ger.’ They don’t learn anything else, they never ask whether there is work. They never say ‘Give me something to do.’ I don’t know how to get rid of such a mentality.

Buyandelger -

Is there much poverty in the sum centre?

Batmönh -

Yes, very poor people. There is one bag where 70% of the population is poor. When you look at them, they ride Chinese motorcycles, drink arhi and go around visiting other families. It’s like that in almost every bag.

Buyandelger -

Do those who ride motorcycles have private animals?

Batmönh -

Most of them don’t. They are very poor, families that live below the poverty line.

Buyandelger -

What will be renewed and established next in Tariat? What is the policy? On the blackboard I saw a proposal to support agriculture. How is that coming along?

Batmönh -

We have implemented that project long ago and its now in its final stages. Also the project for restocking the herds is in its final stages. That’s a project of 70 mio tögrög. That one seemed to have a lot of potential. But people don’t return the animals, they just sell them and that’s it. They are irresponsible. After they have returned them, after they have received them for restocking, they should go to the next person, but once they get a few animals they just sell them, they waste them.

Buyandelger -

How many heads of livestock does each family receive for restocking?

Batmönh -

Three cows, five cows, and various kinds of animals.

Buyandelger -

So they keep the young ones and give the mothers back?

Batmönh -

Yes, after a few years they have to pay them back.

Buyandelger -

So instead of giving them back they sell them, right?

Batmönh -

Yes. They just waste them.

Buyandelger -

The government is investing several billion tögrög into a credit program for developing small and medium enterprises. In the sum and the brigades, this…

Batmönh -

Yes, the province received 800 mio tögrög. People from the sums who want to start a small or medium-sized business write a project and send a written request to the province. At the provincial level, the request is considered, but at the last stage many are turned down because the applicants cannot provide sufficient guarantees or because they are indebted.

Buyandelger -

Is there anyone from Tariat who has sent a project for a small and medium-size business?

Batmönh -

We had two requests. One was the a project around a spring, which received support. The second project was for growing vegetables for poor families. It was also approved, but unfortunately they ran out of money.

Buyandelger -

Do vegetables grow in this cold and high place?

Batmönh -

Right here in our sum it grows, but there is the danger of frost, so it stays small. 55-60 km away from here there is the Mörön bag. They grow vegetables there. It’s a warm place, so they engage in agriculture.

Buyandelger -

What did you plan on doing in the year when you became governor?

Batmönh -

In order to make the work and living environment more comfortable, we had started to set up street signs here and in the bag, to clean the streets and districts from garbage, to solve the toilet problem and to merge rubbish dumps. The sum government will work very intensively from the 10th to the 20th of October, when we will mark all the roads and set up the street signs. We will also establish a children’s park in the south and right now we are fixing and painting the fence. We have established a service center with a few office buildings. There are some good tailors, and we will give them a workspace. Since this is financed by World Vision with the goal to provide a workspace to the most vulnerable, we have included 10 poor families into the project.

Buyandelger -

There used to be the provincial food factory, which was wonderful for bakers. Wouldn’t it be good to establish smaller facilities at the sum level?

Batmönh -

Yes, but we have to create the workspace first and then prepare people who can work there…

Buyandelger -

Is the administration responsible for creating workspaces?

Batmönh -

We are trying to do this through a project, because the sum doesn’t have the capital. The sum doesn’t even have 100 tögrög to improve the environment. The sums do not receive any funds from the state. We only have a small budget for salaries, stationary, electricity and a small amount to organize meetings in the bags. This year our budget is very restricted because of the economic crisis, and we are working very hard to make ends meet. We have to try to increase our income by 20 mio. tögrög compared to last year.

Buyandelger -

Does it mean through taxes? What kinds of taxes are there?

Batmönh -

There are many kinds of taxes. There are taxes on guns, on livestock, on motor vehicles and motorcycles, on the use of natural resources, on the use of the forest, on mineral springs etc. In addition we receive a small support from the state, because we have been given such a hard budget. The sum budget is mostly spent on salaries and social insurance.

Buyandelger -

Were there kindergartens and the nurseries during the socialist period?

Batmönh -

Yes, there is one which was built in 1984. No major repairs have been carried out there, so it is not in a very good condition. We sent a request for state support for the kindergarten to three members of parliament from this area through the governor of the province.

Buyandelger -

Gonchigdorj, Lambaa and Batbayar.

Batmönh -

We have sent a request to these three members. If it will be approved, in 2010 it will be refurbished. We have all these plans. There are many things to do. The only problem is money. But where there is a wish there is a way, so we continue to pursue our projects. At the moment, the budget for repairing the bridge further down is being discussed. And there is also a 20 mio. tögrög project for the management of pastures on the small hills.

Buyandelger -

The doctor in pasture studies Lhagvadorj from Öndör Ulaan has been working there for his whole life. Now that the pastures are so damaged, he is using a very effective method to make the grass grow through the use of fertilizers

Batmönh -

We have people from his team working in our sum. We asked the administration of the conservation area to give us four areas for experimentation of one hectare each. One is for haymaking, one for fertilizing and in the middle it stays untouched. This year it was very dry in our sum, we had very little rain, so it has grown very little, but maybe it will grow better next year. The final results of the study will show us. The four fields are fenced.

Buyandelger -

Can’t the local youths mix manure and propose a fuel factory together with the darga?

Batmönh -

They certainly can, but the problem is again transportation and money. Plus we don’t know how much it will cost. It can be done for households, but not for larger organizations. The school, for example, burns 150 truckloads of firewood a year. When the extension will be inaugurated, it will need two truckloads of firewood a day, which makes 60 a month. In five, six months, in needs around 300 truckloads of firewood, which is already twice the amount needed in the previous years. We made a proposal for using coal beginning from 2010. The school alone needs 300 truckloads of firewood, the hospital 90 and the government building 35.

Buyandelger -

How many tons is one truckload?

Batmönh -

8 cubic meters of wood. If you consider only the larger organizations, we don’t have any firewood reserves, so we have to cut down the small trees. Our budget is not sufficient to buy it from far-away places. In order to stay within the limits of our budget, we buy wood from not too distant places, but they are also running out of trees. So we have been thinking to adapt and made a proposal to use coal. We made a budget that allows us to buy coal within a radius of 300km. In our sum there are three, four people who make pre-cast blocks and we want to support a block factory. The newest houses have been built with blocks. Maybe this is one way to protect the forest? Blocks are a necessity. We have put in a request, and within the framework it should be approved. People steal a lot of trees. You get up in the morning and the trees along the river and on the mountains are gone. They cut them at night.

Buyandelger -

In fact, our provinces should also think about fuel other than coal. They should think about such small kinds of fuel.

Batmönh -

Mixing dung with sawdust works for the household level, but not for the larger organizations.

Buyandelger -

Thank you very much. I wish you a lot of success.

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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.