Böhöö


Basic information
Interviewee ID: 990583
Name: Böhöö
Parent's name: Tseren
Ovog: Choird
Sex: m
Year of Birth: 1945
Ethnicity: Urianhai

Additional Information
Education: higher
Notes on education: sports teacher
Work: retired
Belief: Buddhist
Born in: Mönhhairhan sum, Hovd aimag
Lives in: Jargalant sum (or part of UB), Hovd aimag
Mother's profession: herder
Father's profession: herder


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Translation:



The Oral History of Twentieth Century Mongolia

Otgonbayar -

OK, Böhöö ah aa, let’s begin our second interview. I have a question. Is there someone from your close relatives who was repressed? How well do you know the history of the repression? Tell me about it.

Böhöö -

OK. My mother’s brother’s name was Bütemjiin Togjoo. He was arrested in 1938.

Otgonbayar -

Mmm.

Böhöö -

He was arrested in April and executed in October. Generally he was rehabilitated. I’m the grandson of his sister therefore we pursued his rehabilitation issue and met many people in various organizations. So I have sensed the home and life conditions of repressed people.

Otgonbayar -

Mmm.

Böhöö -

Let me first tell you about my uncle, my mother’s younger brother. I’ll tell you what my mom used to say. My uncle used to say he would never work for this people’s administration.

Otgonbayar -

Mmm.

Böhöö -

So we used to think what an opposing sort of a fellow he was. But then his father was killed undeservedly. My mom once said after she had watched the movie called ‘Before the Promotion’, “You know, aristocrats aren’t like that and religion and the state aren’t like that. They deliberately made such a movie, you know”.

Otgonbayar -

Deliberately …

Böhöö -

Yes, and she was sceptical generally. So when you think now, in the olden times … We just exaggerate things about religion and the state. Otherwise, I think the religion and the state were orderly and restricted and bounded, reliable. My grandfather’s name was Bütemjiin Togjoo. Bütemj’s surname was Iljir. An old man of this Duut sum whose name is Byambajav once told me that my mom’s relatives said the name Iljir was given by the lama teacher. Iljir means ‘to decay’. The name had a meaning ‘to get rich till decay’. Then Iljir’s son was named Bütemj meaning ‘to get rich till choked’.

Otgonbayar -

Mmm.

Böhöö -

Bütemj had a son whose name was Togjoo. That’s the history of your parents, sonny. Generally, he had nothing to resist. He had about 6000 heads of cattle.

Otgonbayar -

Rich ...

Böhöö -

Yes, he was rich. And rich people at that time had servants. He had many of them. Then he had the title of sum zangi (a Manchu military title).

Otgonbayar -

Mmm.

Böhöö -

When he was arrested he said it was because of his zangi title and the livestock. The sum secretariat’s officer whose name was Muuhai he came as a messenger and told him that he was called. He realized he was thus being arrested and thought it was due to his zangi title and the cattle.

Otgonbayar -

Mmmm.

Böhöö -

The most important thing was that all the names of the repressed in our homeland were written very carefully.

Otgonbayar -

I see.

Böhöö -

Forty to forty two people were repressed. Why they were repressed? The western territories were from the beginning the present Chinese territories. The Urianhai province territory, Bor tag, Daagan Ulingar, the lake Ulingar, the river Daagan Ulingar, all this territory was bordered with China. Why were they bordered like that? There was a river Ulingar that flowed beside the lake Daagan Ulingar that is now situated in the Chinese territory. At the other riverhead of the river Ulingar and the other side of the lake Ulingar there were Ahad sum, Servee sum, Myangad sum, Oortsog sum of the Urianhai province. The zangis of those four sums went there to guard the border. The territory was clear.

Otgonbayar -

Mmm.

Böhöö -

And the Urianhais of Altai that lived in the land of Altai lived on the south side of Altai when the weather was fine with green grass, and when the weather wasn’t good, they came to this side of the territory to live. But it was sort of a crossing territory of the Chinese, Kazaks and the Mongolians, therefore sometimes wars broke out and disorders there and they always moved back and forth.

Otgonbayar -

Mmm.

Böhöö -

The Urianhais began crossing the territory in the autumn of 1933 or 1932. It was clearly written in the book.

Otgonbayar -

Mmm.

Böhöö -

Some people who were related to this history were interrogated and even the children who crossed in the cargo were interrogated about it and it was written in the book.

Otgonbayar -

Mmm.

Böhöö -

There are few old people who are 85 or 86 years old. The last guess about why they were crossing the territory wasn’t because of weather conditions and it wasn’t that they were chased away, but actually they were trying to escape from the Muhar (‘Cut-off’, referring to short hair. see Glossary). In other words, they were trying to escape from the revolution. When they crossed …

Otgonbayar -

What did they call the revolutionists?

Böhöö -

Muhar

Otgonbayar -

Why did they call them Muhar?

Böhöö -

Because there were Kalmyks.(laughs)

The old woman -

Because the danger of being Muhar was coming.

Böhöö -

The danger of being muahr (cut off) was coming … and in the autumn of 1932 the first ‘ail’ crossed the territory. Then there had been a letter sent by the first crossed ‘ail’ Darjaa. Trying to rehabilitate that old man I met many people, you know.

Otgonbayar -

Sure.

Böhöö -

I’d met many people to find out if my grandfather was a real counter or not, what kind of a person he was and why he was sentenced to be shot.

Otgonbayar -

Mmm.

Böhöö -

So in order to escape the danger of being Muhar they came here … They heard the rumors that the children attended schools there and that there were military services and they joined the Russians. And generally they crossed the territory. The first family crossed in 1932 and they sent a letter to the remaining that life there was peaceful and pleasant and asked them to bring their ger toono.

Otgonbayar -

Mmm.

Böhöö -

Then my mom told that many people gathered in her father’s ger. She didn’t know whether they had especially gathered with a rich family or it was just an ordinary gathering. They considered, why the letter said the life conditions there were peaceful and pleasant but there was no ger toono? They negotiated and decided that the ger toono meant to bring the lama. The meaning of it was to bring the local sum governor.

Otgonbayar -

I see.

Böhöö -

Thus they so decided and the congress of 1924 … Chültem da lama used to administer that province then.

Otgonbayar -

I see.

Böhöö -

Was it the eighth party congress in 1924 or was it the third congress? I think it was the third Congress and they approved the Constitution.

Otgonbayar -

Mmm.

Böhöö -

He went to that Congress. I don’t remember who it was from the Tsahar province and the Urianhai province. People participated in the Congress by invitation. Those who were invited were Tagna Urianhai and that Chültem da lama from the Altai Urianhai. Chültem da lama was aware that the government was to be changed inevitably and that their life was to be started anew and ours was to be changed. So he came as the government representative officer to set up the western region. He agitated people but he didn’t like it himself.

Otgonbayar -

I see.

Böhöö -

He resisted crossing the territory. He said things happened that were supposed to happen and that the state of the CK?? Muhar was our state. That’s what he agitated people about. The letter was addressed to him but he didn’t accept it because he was the government representative officer. So because he didn’t accept it they took him directly instead of the ger toono. They tied him up and crossed that land.

Otgonbayar -

Do you mean the da lama? Mmm.

Böhöö -

And the counter-revolutionaries were mainly those who administered the province and the main people who owned much of a capital, a few lamas of the lamasery and plus my grandfather who had many heads of cattle. Such people were repressed. The old people of Mönh-Hairhan used to say … our Mönh-Hairhan was affiliated before to the Oortsog province. The Oortsog province was relocated to Bulgan sum of Bayan-Ölgii. There’s a Hujirt pass there. And there’s a hadag hargai there. Hargai means black wood.

Otgonbayar -

I see.

Böhöö -

People were called to gather at that tree that had more looming leaves than any other tree. Many people of the province were crowded there. And my grandfather whose name was Togjoo went there and they talked. Could they be happy in a foreign land? Once they grew up here to become men shouldn’t they stay here and end up here whether good or bad? Our forefathers had lived here so why should we look for a happier place to live? But some of them opposed that once they had moved, then they had to pass the Altai whether they were to be happy or not there. Thus they crossed the territory. The man named Togjoo seemed not to be a counter-revolutionary. That’s what those people told me, you know.

Otgonbayar -

Mmm.

Böhöö -

Then later he was rehabilitated. And I visited the state presiding (lit: erh bühii erönhii) Judge Ganbat and told him the story and showed all the documents. But he said, “There are many cheaters like you”.

Otgonbayar -

Do you mean Ganbat?

Böhöö -

Well, I suppose there were many cunning people who tried to get the rehabilitation money. Maybe that’s why he told me so. And I didn’t say a word to him. My rehabilitation materials were ready and the white book had been published already. My grandfather’s name was printed there. The rehabilitation document wasn’t handed out to me but it was given through the aimag rehabilitation committee. That’s the story of it.

Otgonbayar -

Mmmm.

Böhöö -

So, well, we asked some fortune tellers and at it seemed the time has not come yet. The valley they spent the winter time at is the Mönh-Hairhan sum collective valley. The ovoo they used to worship. They called the autumn ovoo worshipping the ‘eyer mörgönö’. I’m thinking of raising a hillock and a pagoda and a memorial board for the repressed. I’m thinking of doing it in the year of dragon together with my children. A fortune teller told me it was the right year. That’s what I think. I’m his grandson. My mom and my uncles and aunts had brutal lives. My mom almost never had a tear coming from her eyes.

Otgonbayar -

I see.

Böhöö -

My uncle becomes silent when we speak of our relatives. He was small then and the repression … It would be the same with my children if I was repressed. In this way we were taken by the black storm of repression. Well, I suppose, there had been these repressions everywhere. As for our land, our Urianhais of Altai lived in the mountains and the rocks. We had no [relay] station, we had no communication and we had no transportation. With whom and by what means we could conspire? … The counter-revolutionaries … there was nothing like seizing the monastery, you know. Actually, they were really victimized.

Otgonbayar -

Yes, really victimized.

Böhöö -

They were really victimized. Well, and at certain times our government … the small country …

The old woman -

It was something like, you know, the state Supreme Court sent us the rehabilitation …. what you call it … the rehabilitation decision … whose case it was?

Böhöö -

Well, it was clear, you know. My uncle was written about on the 15th. It was called the Ulaangom case, which happened in Uvs aimag.

Otgonbayar -

Yes.

Böhöö -

14 names of those who were involved in this case were written there. Fourteen Dörvöds and the last fifteenth was Bütemjin Togjoo. He was Urianhai.

Otgonbayar -

It was the Uvs case of 1930s, you know.

Böhöö -

I have found that Uvs decree and read it. I realized since that they had shot someone and they wrote someone else’s name. So our nation is small. We talk about 27000 people. Even if we risk the lives of this number of people the Mongolian territory has been left to us. We have the land of Mongolia. The Soviet people had … by Stalin … what you call it… At that time we found all this out from reading the newspapers, you know. But anyway history now remains history and what‘s the use of cursing now since our children are left in our beautiful Mongolian land. We have nothing to complain about. But there have might been some wrongdoing.

Otgonbayar -

Mmm. Did your mother tell you about the arrest and them taking away your father? Many old people ended their lives without telling anything for fear.

Böhöö -

She didn’t said a word.

Otgonbayar -

Really?

Böhöö -

My mom used to say, there’s no use telling anything to the boys. Who knows what she thought about it? My mom never told us or our uncles about her mother and father. And our uncle was a lama. But she never said a word about the religious issue and this repression. She didn’t give us any information. Perhaps she thought there was no use in it since everything had passed.

Otgonbayar -

You father was considered as a counter-revolutionary. How were his children repressed?

Böhöö -

Well, my mom was a poor countryside woman. What kind of repression could there be? We don’t know anything about it. It would have been different if she had a certain position.

The old woman -

IYour mother’s younger brother …

Böhöö -

Erhembayar …

The old woman -

Her two younger brothers were sent to the army directly. They weren’t grown-ups yet. Perhaps they were seventeen or eighteen. They were sent to serve in the army because they were the children of the counter-revolutionary. My grandmother used to tell me that her younger brother was forced to go to the army when he was seventeen or sixteen. And on the horse they went to Bayantümen and on the way the sixteen or seventeen year old boy got sick. He went for many days on a horse and when he came to the place he died.

Böhöö -

He had hepatitis.

Otgonbayar -

Oh, hepatitis

Böhöö -

Yes. And he was shaken around on the horse for such a long distance and he failed to stand the horse’s gallop, I think. So one brother died this way and his only uncle or my mother-in-law’s only younger brother was left. And he was sent to the Halh Gol war, you know. The Halh Gol war was going to break out and he was going to be sent there. One of them died on the way and only one son was left. Then his grandmother …

My mother’s mother.

An old woman -

His mother’s mother. Her husband was killed in a repression. Her two sons were forced to go to a war, one of which wasn’t a grown up yet. He was sixteen or seventeen. The other one was perhaps about twenty years old. That was his uncle. So her two sons were taken to a war. So his grandmother rode a post truck.

Otgonbayar -

Mmm.

An old woman -

… and she went to Ulaanbaatar.

Otgonbayar -

I see.

An old woman -

She went to Ulaanbaatar on a post truck and she looked for Marshal Choibalsan and came to his office door.

Otgonbayar -

I see.

An old woman -

She sat there to meet the Marshal.

Böhöö -

There was one man from our land who worked in the Ministry of Interior Security. His name was Tseveen-Ochir.

An old woman -

A young man used to work there.

Otgonbayar -

I see.

Böhöö -

So Ragchaa went to Ulaanbaatar …

Otgonbayar -

Your grandmother?

Böhöö -

Yes, my grandmother. She first looked for Tseveen-Ochir. She found him. I think they all had green caps then. Round green caps. She saw people with round green caps and asked them. She called him her son. She said her son Tseveen-Ochir worked in the Ministry of Interior Security. She said he wore the same uniform as they wore and asked if they knew anything about him.

Otgonbayar -

I see.

Böhöö -

… “We have Tseveen-Ochir in our ministry”. She said, “I want to meet my son”. Somebody told to Tseveen-Ochir that his mother was at the transportation station and he came there to take her.

Otgonbayar -

I see.

Böhöö -

He took her home and asked what her reason was for coming here. She said she came here to take her son, my uncle Chültem from the military.

An old woman -

The only son. One went and …

Böhöö -

She said she wanted to take him from the military and wanted to meet the Marshal.

Otgonbayar -

The Marshal?

Böhöö -

Perhaps Tseveen-Ochir got her introduced through the reception man. And he replied he’d meet her after working hours. So she sat there outside waiting for him. Then the Marshal came out and took her straight to his place.

Otgonbayar -

Wow! What an interesting story!

An old woman -

Right.

Böhöö -

So she came to his place. It was very interesting. Our grandmother … my mother’s mother had a white lamb skin. She was an elderly woman of a rich man, you know.

Otgonbayar -

Ahaan.

Böhöö -

She had a white lamb skin tanned and one brown lamb skin tanned. Perhaps she meant to give them as a gift to the Marshal. She said to Tseveen-Ochir that the Marshal was going to take her home after work.

Otgonbayar -

Mmm.

Böhöö -

Oh, really? Then after the work hour was over, the Marshal came out and said, “Let’s go, granny”. So she took the wrapped lamb skin and went to the Marshal’s and stayed overnight.

Otgonbayar -

I see.

Böhöö -

She stayed overnight there. It was written in the book. Tseveen-Ochir, young man form her homeland asked, “How did the Marshal welcome you?” “He welcomed me very well. He treated me to food. I told him my life story”.

Otgonbayar -

It’s your grandmother, right?

Böhöö -

Mmm. “I have told him my life story there. … Perhaps it has been worse. There are about three or four thousand head of livestock. My husband was arrested and taken away as a counter-revolutionary”.

Otgonbayar -

Mmm.

Böhöö -

He was a shepherd. I don’t know what he could oppose. Who knows what it is that he opposed?”

Otgonbayar -

Mmm.

Böhöö -

…”So he was taken away. There was hearsay he was killed. Well, he’s gone now. The dead won’t arise again. I need a master for those four thousand head of livestock. If Mongolia needs livestock I need a master there. I’m an old woman. One of my sons went and he died. The other one is in the military service in Bayantümen. I came here to take him out of there”. He said, “I will get your son out”.

Otgonbayar -

I see.

Böhöö -

He said, “I will get your son out”. Choibalsan understood what had happened and he realized things in the right way, you know. Choibalsan never wanted to kill people, you know. So he realized this woman was telling the genuine truth.

Otgonbayar -

Mmm.

Böhöö -

So she gave to Choibalsan the brown lamb skin and the white lamb skin she gave to his wife(laughs). “How did they act?” She said, “They took it”. (laughs) She gave them the gift, and he said to wait for him. He asked where she was staying. She said she stayed at Tseveen-Ochir’s. He told her to stay there and he would talk and get her son out. Then in four days he came from Bayantümen.

Otgonbayar -

Her son?

Böhöö -

Yes. Then she didn’t meet him again. There was a person sitting at his door. She thanked him and asked him to pass on that an old woman from the western region said thanks. Then she took her son and went home on a truck. She was still alive when I was in the fifth or sixth grade, you know.

Otgonbayar -

Your granny?

Böhöö -

Yes, my granny. I used to study at the Must school in the fifth, sixth and seventh grade. And I used to come to her in June.

Otgonbayar -

Mmmm.

Böhöö -

She kept for us all a round cake wrapped in a white cloth. The old people of the olden time …

Otgonbayar -

They were the tsagaan sar round cakes?

Böhöö -

… So she used to wrap them in a cloth. “I have some children coming”. And she divided and wrapped them separately in a white cloth and kept them. So when I came in June, and certainly tsagaan sar was celebrated in January or February. We used to strike it and eat it.

Otgonbayar -

It would become like a stone the tsagaan sar cakes … (laughs)

Böhöö -

So we’d go and take it and eat it. Observing from her tales my granny was a very talkative person.

Otgonbayar -

I see.

Böhöö -

She was a talkative person.

Otgonbayar -

Yes, she is.

Böhöö -

Yes.

An old woman -

That’s why she went like that.

Otgonbayar -

That’s why she met the Marshal, you know.

An old woman -

Yes, otherwise a poor countryside elderly woman couldn’t meet the Marshal and get her son out.

Otgonbayar -

She can’t even explain the reason for her coming.

An old woman -

Very smart …

Böhöö -

When Tseveen-Ochir asked her what she exactly said to him she said, “We have 4000 head of livestock. My two sons were both taken to the army. One died. I need the second one to get out of the army. My husband was taken away as a counter. I’m unaware what he opposed. I heard he was shot dead. He will not rise again from the dead. I need a master for the livestock”. That’s what she said.

Otgonbayar -

What happened to her son who was taken from the army?

Böhöö -

Oh, well, he was tending the livestock.

An old woman -

He was tending his livestock until recently. Yes. He died in the 1980s?

Böhöö -

He died in 1985 or 1986.

Otgonbayar -

He had three children, right?

Böhöö -

He had four children. One died of disease and the other son died while serving in the army. So my mom and my uncle were left.

Otgonbayar -

So they took your father but they didn’t confiscate the livestock, right?

Böhöö -

No, the livestock weren’t confiscated. It was mentioned about a small ger in the verdict, you know.

Otgonbayar -

I see.

Böhöö -

It was written about the small ger. But what I think is, when they were interrogated the livestock were … the materials from the Supreme Court and the espionage materials say, you know,… You know, the repressed people, received material from the Intelligence Department …

Otgonbayar -

I see.

Böhöö -

… the Supreme Court decision and also a decree came. It was written there Togjoo had a small ger, a few cows and few sheep. I think he wrote it because he was aware he was arrested. Otherwise he had over 4000 head of livestock. My uncle collectivized 3000 head of livestock, it is said. So he had livestock. Perhaps he said so because he knew he wouldn’t come back. That’s what I think. I had sat at the Supreme Court door for several days. For five or six days I went early in the morning to meet various people. There was an old man who had told me that there was repression material of an old man. He had over 1500 sheep and quite a number of Mongolian cows and horses. He had a lot of Mongolian cows and sheep. He had over 2000 and almost 3000 head of livestock. And he was given one million tögrögs just like the others. He refused to take them. He said his father gave to this state not money but he gave what he had saved. He wanted to take what his father had given. The present President Elbegdorj was the deputy head of the parliament then, you know. The deputy head of the parliament was in fact the head of the rehabilitation commission originally. They said Elbegdorj told them that sheep cost 50 möngös.

Otgonbayar -

The rate at that time …

Böhöö -

That man sounded very angry. I sat there listening to him. He said, “I won’t take 50 möngös. I will take my cattle, the cows and the sheep. I will take the cattle that were registered here. I don’t need anything else. I don’t need a million tögrögs, either”.

Otgonbayar -

… 1500 sheep and several cows …

Böhöö -

Yes. “I will take my belongings. I won’t go away till I get my property”. Thus he sat there.

Otgonbayar -

Then what happened?

Böhöö -

I don’t know.

Otgonbayar -

Perhaps they didn’t give them to him.

Böhöö -

They didn’t give them to him certainly. It is possible they gave him a million tögrögs or an apartment.

Otgonbayar -

Yes.

Böhöö -

They might have given him an apartment.

Otgonbayar -

Mmm. It’s a very interesting history you are talking about.

An old woman -

Yes, my husband’s parents have a very interesting history.

Böhöö -

I got the idea from that person and I meant to say the same thing at the rehabilitation thing of my grandfather, the father of my mom if there were many things confiscated. But then I didn’t have such things originally, so I thought it wasn’t proper to say extra words.

An old woman -

Our granny is the only woman from our homeland who went to meet the Marshal.

Otgonbayar -

Mmm. Yes, that’s right.

An old woman -

It is said, there’s no one in the western region who had met the Marshal.

Otgonbayar -

Had she told to the people in her homeland about her meeting the Marshal?

Böhöö -

Certainly she had.

An old woman -

Everybody knows about it. My homeland people all know about it. They know that she was the only one from the western region to meet the Marshal. … She went on a post truck …

Böhöö -

There was a post truck that used to go to Zereg sum. Riding a camel from Mönh-Hairhan and going to Zereg …

An old woman -

Then taking a truck from Zereg …

Otgonbayar -

She was also a smart woman. She took the lamb skin as a gift …

An old woman -

Right. She meant to visit him in his own place to describe her situation.

Böhöö -

… She thought there was no use bringing dried curds. They might be spoiled on the way. So she calculated what gift would be suitable for that person. And various…

Otgonbayar -

Mmm. Lamb skin line is very expensive, you know. It’s an expensive thing for the Mongolians.

An old woman -

Yes.

Böhöö -

That’s it, you know.

Otgonbayar -

How long did she live? When and how did she pass away?

Böhöö -

I think my granny died when I was in the sixth grade. I finished the seventh grade … in 1962. She died in 1962. She was eighty two.

An old woman -

She must have been over eighty.

Böhöö -

She was eighty two. She was over eighty.

A young man -

What happened with Höödei guai? You know that old man, don’t you?

Böhöö -

… he exchanged his party certificate for ten tögrögs …

Otgonbayar -

Really? Where is he from?

Böhöö -

He brought his party certificate … in the Duut …

Otgonbayar -

What’s his name?

Böhöö -

Höödei …

Otgonbayar -

Is it he or she?

Böhöö -

He is a man.

Otgonbayar -

I see.

Böhöö -

He is a herder of Duut. He knows Kazakh very well. In his childhood he was stealing something from a Kazakh family and he couldn’t get out of their ger so he had to stay over night hidden under the bed. He knows perfectly well the Kazakh language. It is said he speaks Kazakh without any accent.

Otgonbayar -

I see.

Böhöö -

Then at night he crawled back from their ger. There’s the dried curd, you know …

Otgonbayar -

Mmm. The Kazakh ‘ail’ unaware of him under the bed …

Böhöö -

Well, somehow he crawled out of that place. Then he joined the party. There was a reason to it also. He was travelling in Bulgan, poor thing. They fled from their province. Höödei’s wife, a young woman with almost no parents was traveling, following her relatives.

Otgonbayar -

Mmm.

Böhöö -

Then he told the young woman that her relatives lived in Mönh-Hairhan. He told her, “I will take you to your relatives. Sit here. Let me first inform your relatives”. Then he took her home and told his parents, “I have brought my wife”.

Otgonbayar -

I see.

Böhöö -

He told his parents to clean their ger and came out to bring her in. Then he made her his wife. Then he joined the party. There was a young rich man in Duut, you know. Old man Badrah used to talk about it. He sold it to that young man for ten tögrögs.

A young man -

Hadn’t he bought it?

Böhöö -

No, he had sold it.

Otgonbayar -

Though he joined the party?

Böhöö -

Yes, though he joined the party and he was the party member. Badrah ah used to tell me about it. He had a few cattle. The party members had some privileges. In the olden times consumer goods were rare. And the party members had rations. These kinds of things happened then. And that young rich man tried to join the party but he wasn’t allowed to. Then he bought Höödei’s party certificate for ten tögrögs.

Otgonbayar -

Then he was caught…

Böhöö -

Then he was caught… and his name was mentioned in the Party Congress report.

Otgonbayar -

Was he punished?

Böhöö -

He was chased from the party, you know.

A young man -

Then he also raged in his homeland that his name was included in the Marshal’s report…

Böhöö -

Yes. “Who are you? I’m the one whose name was mentioned in the Marshal’s …”

Otgonbayar -

… “I’m in front of you good-for-nothing …”

Böhöö -

Yes. (Laughs)

Otgonbayar -

This western region seemed to be a little bit different. Otherwise he’d be imprisoned, you know. The western region was different.

Böhöö -

We have many funny stories, you know.

Otgonbayar -

I see.

Böhöö -

The Mönh-Hairhan sum was established and the Zahchins from Manhan had been appointed dargas there. Originally there were plenty of Zahchin dargas there, you know.

Otgonbayar -

Mmm.

Böhöö -

Then Shar ah … There’s a man in this book whose name is Mijid. He attended the session and said later …

Otgonbayar -

Mmm.

Böhöö -

He inquired, “What’s the session news, Shar ah aa?” And he said, “Every stone has to be made a fence, and every Zahchin has to be made a darga”.(Laughs)

Otgonbayar -

He sounds like a person whose name was mentioned in the Marshal’s report.

A young man -

It is said he was mentioned in the report. “There are many people who distort the party ideology. For instance, there’s the herder of Duut sum Höödei who had sold his party ID for ten tögrögs”.

An old woman -

His party certificate…

A young man -

Isn’t he Erdenebaatar’s father?

Böhöö -

No, he isn’t. He isn’t that Höödei. He is another Höödei. His son is Chiibaatar. The local ideological … many times … H.Chiibaatar used to write poems and he wrote information and his entire life he had been the party cell darga. His son had been a League cell darga for his entire life.

Otgonbayar -

I see.

Böhöö -

He’d been a party officer his entire life. He had died recently.

An old woman -

His father was so unfortunate …

Böhöö -

His father was so unfortunate … His son became a League darga in his twenties and he had done it till he retired. In 2007 he died from heart disease. They had an only child. There are many stories and they are comics, you know.

An old woman -

Various different people had been in our homeland.

Otgonbayar -

Your mother’s … your uncle that was brought from the army. Had he ever talked about his life and about his father?

Böhöö -

No, almost never.

Otgonbayar -

Hadn’t he?

Böhöö -

No, he hadn’t. My uncle perhaps thought that this state hadn’t served for their sake and that it had been cruel to his family. Why did he think so? There’s a man from Chandmani, who used to be a party cell darga. His name is Davaadorj. There’s a man who had been a party cell darga in Mönh-Hairhan. His name is Davaadorj. He came there as a young veterinarian.

Otgonbayar -

I see.

Böhöö -

Then my uncle was made to tend some livestock. In the olden times old people didn’t have enough physical ability and …

Otgonbayar -

Tended billy-goats and rams.

Böhöö -

Yes, he tended billy-goats and rams. So he spent only a few days tending them. He spent ten days there. Then it was reported to the sum.

Otgonbayar -

Mmm.

Böhöö -

It was reported that his rams and goats were short. “I don’t know math”. It wasn’t true, you know. He said, “I don’t know math. Observing from the color of the livestock it seems the rams and the goats are short. Come and check”. Davaadorj guai rushed to him, to the rams and the goats. He counted them and said, “Chültem guai, the rams and the goats are all there complete”. He replied, “Take them all”. Then he mounted his horse and rode away. (Laughs)

Otgonbayar -

Wow. It happened in the socialist regime.

Böhöö -

It was strict, you know. He never told us anything though inside he kept many things, I think.

Otgonbayar -

They couldn’t do anything.

Böhöö -

No, they couldn’t.

Otgonbayar -

It’s a punishment though to tend the rams and the goats.

Böhöö -

Yes, it is. So he said, “Take them if they are all there”. I think he preserved a lot in his heart.

An old woman -

He was the eldest son in the family and he knew about his father. He knew all about his father. He certainly thought a lot inside. Then they were sent to the military on the horse as children of an oppositionist. His younger brother who wasn’t a grown-up died from disease on the way. So he viewed it all with great difficulty.

Böhöö -

Perhaps he thought it was useless to talk about it.

An old woman -

But his mother was a very smart and brave woman. That’s why she brought her son. If she hadn’t she met the Marshal then, we don’t know if he would have come back alive or not.

Otgonbayar -

Right.

An old woman -

He wouldn’t have come back. It was his fate to live. Otherwise he would have been killed in a war and the family would have been destroyed, you know.

Otgonbayar -

You said they had incorporated 3000 head of livestock to the collective, right?

Böhöö -

Well, it was over 3000 …

Otgonbayar -

It was your uncle, right?

Böhöö -

Yes, my uncle.

Otgonbayar -

Really? What do you know about the collectivization of the livestock in the collective period?

Böhöö -

Well, I know. I was in the first grade then. I went to the first class in 1956. And in 1957 when Tsast-Orgil was established my uncle collectivized his livestock. There was no other way than collectivizing it. My mom also… when I just began to toddle holding onto something my father died, it is said.

Otgonbayar -

Mmm.

Böhöö -

My mom also had an amount of livestock. She had over 300 cows. I don’t know about the sheep. She had 204 goats. I know well there were 204 goats. My elder sister and I drove the goats to be collectivized but they said we had no male livestock. So we bought a brown yak and gave it instead of meat to the collective. Then we gave the goats.

Otgonbayar -

Wow.

Böhöö -

Horses were also collectivized in some amount but the camels weren’t. Originally there were few camels. The number of sheep were greater than the number of the goats. My uncle…

Otgonbayar -

That means almost a hundred head of small animals…

Böhöö -

Yes. My uncle collectivized about 2000 heads of livestock. It was collectivized in the Brown end of Uliastai. For two days there was a bustle and the livestock had been marked. My uncle had many cows.

Otgonbayar -

Mmm.

Böhöö -

There were no less than 800 heads of cows for sure. Why do I say there were so many cows? There was an old man Byambajav. He told me all the history of my grandfather. He used to say, “Your only uncle’s cows give 100 liters of milk, you know”. There were official regulations.

Otgonbayar -

Mmm.

Böhöö -

And 100 liters of milk accounts for a cow and 100 liters of milk accounts for that year calf, too. 100 liters of milk accounts for a bull, too. Then 700 liters… everybody is aware of it.

An old woman -

They repressed with such a tax, you know.

Böhöö -

Everybody knows about it. Even my mom when the plant was closed went to the ‘ails’ to ask for milk hanging two ten-liter buckets from the saddle. I know about it. And my uncle was twice imprisoned for the shortage of the official regulations. So, if 100 liters accounts for a cow then a family who had an estimated 700 cows, how much milk should they have? It’s clear. Then that old man Byambajav said, “Your uncle’s ‘ail’s milk is equal to our sum milk. It was more than that. I had an only uncle. We know only about him. There was my mom’s youngest sister. She had passed away. She was married to Choiguu. He was my mom’s brother-in-law. There was a correspondent. Ts. Dondongotov was his name. He is the son of my mom’s younger sister. That Choiguu died recently. He came back from the patriotic war in the 1930’s. That Choiguu who was our uncle-in-law had told us that they tended 75 camel calves a year.

Otgonbayar -

Calves?

Böhöö -

Yes.

Otgonbayar -

Wow! In a place without camels …

Böhöö -

Yes, in a place without camels so that means there should have been a regular female camel and there should have been 75 on the other side. So you can imagine how many cattle they had. And you can imagine how many cattle they had collectivized. They had quite a lot of capital, you know. They quickly gave them away to the collective, you know, because my uncle had been imprisoned twice. He used to say that he with other prisoners visited one rich Ergel family in Öndörhangai sum of Uvs, I think. The prisoners were shipping wood there. The family killed a horse for the prisoners, and they ate it and were satisfied.

Otgonbayar -

I see.

Böhöö -

He lacked wool and was imprisoned once then he lacked meat and was imprisoned again.

Otgonbayar -

Mmmm.

Böhöö -

One year … my uncle said he drove 86 yak bulls to the Duut trade provisions unit, to the collective. He had a meat shortage and didn’t have anything to give instead. So, you see, he was in such a situation and his father had been in the same situation. The livestock capital … what’s the use of such punishable livestock? They were just forced by the tax to give them. But there’s an offence I have. And that is … my uncle, my mom, and my dad’s properties were all collectivized. We the children got educated and we became civil servants and when there was the capital privatization nothing was given to us.

Otgonbayar -

Why they didn’t give you?

Böhöö -

We are civil servants …

An old woman -

…the civil servants…

Otgonbayar -

That means privatization here was carried out in a different way. In some other places the sum teachers and physicians got a share, you know.

Böhöö -

…we the civil servants…

Otgonbayar -

Was it useless to say that there are about 5-6 thousands of your mom’s and your uncle’s livestock and that the sum got back on its feet due to them?

Böhöö -

Oh, well, there are many who talk about it.

An old woman -

It’s useless to say.

Böhöö -

But my sister got 40-50 cattle, I think. She tended the cattle and she was still alive during the privatization. She was given several heads of cattle. Once, the Mönh-Hairhan citizens litigated. I was then the school director. There were 42 or 43 people, the teachers and the school workers. We collected the signatures of those who wanted to get the livestock and those who didn’t. Two people signed that they didn’t want and 38 or 39 people signed that they wanted to get. There was Tsamba, a citizen of Darvi sum, the cooperative darga. The privatization law had been issued and he distributed the cattle among the population. Later, there was an old woman Sosor. She is from Mönh-Hairhan. She was also from quite a rich family. She said the civil servants didn’t get any livestock. Then Sosor avgai took out an indelible pencil. Do you know the indelible pencil?

Otgonbayar -

Yes, I know.

Böhöö -

She took out a paper written by the indelible pencil. Her father’s document on the collectivized cattle...

Otgonbayar -

She had preserved it?

Böhöö -

Yes, preserved.

Otgonbayar -

Wow.

Böhöö -

With a stamp at he bottom of the paper.

Otgonbayar -

I see.

Böhöö -

… “I thought you knew your job well and I expected you would give us the proper share but you discriminate against us because of our civil servant position”. She was a retired civil servant, you know.

Otgonbayar -

Mmm.

Böhöö -

…”You discriminate against us like this. Do as you wish, give our share or not. We have nothing to beg from you. We can manage with or without our father’s livestock. But eventually a person who had never incorporated anything gets livestock…”

Otgonbayar -

Right.

Böhöö -

…”but my parents gave this many livestock. Take it and be aware of it”. That’s what she said.

An old woman -

These people are very nasty.

Böhöö -

People are really nasty, you know. ….Written with the indelible pencil... that Sosor avgai lives here.

Otgonbayar -

Does she live in the aimag centre?

Böhöö -

No, she lives in Mönh-Hairhan.

Otgonbayar -

Perhaps she had preserved it.

Böhöö -

… “My parents said, ‘We had incorporated this many livestock to the collective. You might need it some time”. And they gave it to me. But I thought you knew what you were doing here. That’s why I kept silent. But it comes out …”

Otgonbayar -

Her father was a real strict old man. He was a grand person. Almost no herder would leave to his children such a paper.

Böhöö -

Oh, he was canny, you know.

Otgonbayar -

It is very wise of him…

Böhöö -

…it’s like that old man when he was told everything was complete, he said, “Then, take it as it is complete”. The olden time old people were very careful.

Otgonbayar -

It can’t be that they didn’t know math, you know.

Böhöö -

Certainly not.

Otgonbayar -

When did you say your uncle died?

An old woman -

Around 1986 or1987.

Otgonbayar -

He passed away just before democracy. Had he seen democracy …

Böhöö -

Democracy would have … in the first turn

Otgonbayar -

…..and at least be rehabilitated …

Böhöö -

Had my dad thought of rehabilitation he would have tears rolling from his eyes.

An old woman -

Yes, he would, poor thing. Unfortunately, he could not live to see it.

Böhöö -

Unfortunately, he could not live to see it.

Otgonbayar -

Had he seen democracy and …the collectivization …in the collectives …

Böhöö -

Well, even if he didn’t see it but at least if he had seen Togjoo’s rehabilitation certificate, he would have been happy.

Otgonbayar -

Right.

An old woman -

Regretfully, he couldn’t.

Böhöö -

No, he couldn’t.

Otgonbayar -

Mmm. You are talking about a very interesting story.

An old woman -

Well, very interesting things … things happen, you know.

Otgonbayar -

There’s a question. What are the peculiarities of your Urianhai burial customs? How do you bury the dead?

Böhöö -

Bury … in the olden times… was it the altan hairtsag?

Otgonbayar -

Ahaan.

Böhöö -

We didn’t have that. It appeared in the later days.

Otgonbayar -

Since the 1990s?

Böhöö -

It appeared recently. We didn’t have those 49 days and so on. My mom even told me before she died, “People are talking about 49 days. Don’t you do anything about it! Actually, the cemetery of mother was not visited for the first three years. Actually, father’s cemetery is visited and not mother’s, you know, ... A mother shouldn’t accept like that in the burial place”.

Otgonbayar -

Mmm.

Böhöö -

That’s what she told me. Before the funeral we have to check the days. We visit lamas to ask the day.

Otgonbayar -

Visit lamas?

Böhöö -

Ahaan. We visit the lamas and ask which day is fit for the dead.

Otgonbayar -

Mmm.

Böhöö -

Generally … on Sundays we don’t have funerals or on Thursdays.

Otgonbayar -

Mmm.

Böhöö -

Because Thursday is the grace day for a person. It’s a custom that has been followed since the olden times. Saturdays and Sundays are not fit for funerals. We made Saturday a rest day, otherwise it’s just a Saturday, you know.

Otgonbayar -

Mmm.

Böhöö -

The sixth day is Saturday. We have ceased nowadays, otherwise all other days besides these three days could be considered. The threshold day is prohibited from among those days. 10th, 20th and 30th are the threshold days. These days are prohibited. The eighth and ninth days of the Lunar Calendar are prohibited for funerals. The ninth day is the god’s cult day. The eighth is the grace and blessing’s day. Thursday is the grace day. Then we have Saturday and Sunday. The threshold day is prohibited for funerals. Tenth day, the end days of the month like 30th day is also prohibited. The rest of the days are fit and they are adjusted and the directions are adjusted.

Otgonbayar -

How about Tuesday?

Böhöö -

It’s OK.

Otgonbayar -

Really?

Böhöö -

We have funerals on Tuesday if it’s necessary, if the time coincides. The people of our land don’t consider Tuesdays much. But over there Tuesdays are prohibited for funerals. People even cease doing work on Tuesdays, you know.

Otgonbayar -

Mmm.

Böhöö -

But it’s not in our land. Then considering the age of the dead they are buried in not so high places. They are not buried in high places.

An old woman -

They aren’t buried at the top of the mountains.

Böhöö -

They aren’t buried at the top of the mountains. Mostly they are buried at the foothills where it is warm. Our Urianhais bury the dead in a wide valley. Then they mark the place. Today, I heard, people write on the tombs. The child could be left behind.

Otgonbayar -

Aaan, a little child…

Böhöö -

A small child is left behind. And the old people and the lamas are buried in places that look like lamp cups. Such is the custom. In other words, the hollow places like lamp cups.

An old woman -

It has the meaning of a hidden place.

Böhöö -

Our land people go to the burial range. At the burial range the outside land almost can’t be seen.

Otgonbayar -

Mmmm.

Böhöö -

But there are hollow places and when you stand in that place you can’t see out to the whole place around. In such places we bury. The head is turned upward to the mountain and the feet are laid to the direction of the gap.

Otgonbayar -

To the notch …

Böhöö -

He is not laid facing the notch. He is put away from the cattles ‘feet. This is considered in a burial.

Otgonbayar -

Mmm.

Böhöö -

Well, in the olden times we used camels for the burials and today we use vehicles. In the olden times people used camels, you know. And generally since the time of the collectives vehicles have been used, you know.

Otgonbayar -

Mmm. When did the custom of putting in the coffin began to be followed?

An old woman -

It began recently.

Böhöö -

It began recently. In the olden times when I was a kid, maybe because I was a boy in the family I was sent to the old people’s … what do you call it to represent my mom and my family. They used to wrap them in a felt called ‘hurmash’, you know.

An old woman -

Wrapped in a felt.

Böhöö -

Yes, they wrapped them in a felt and buried. That kind of funeral had just begun…

Otgonbayar -

It came back?

Böhöö -

Yes, it came back. Now you can hardly find anyone who puts them in a box. There’s one out of a hundred, I think. But they put it now in a felt.

Otgonbayar -

Wrapped in a felt they leave it …

Böhöö -

Aaan, they wrapped them in felt called ‘hurmash’ in the olden times. In my childhood it was an old felt turned yellow and it was called ‘hurmash’, you know.

Otgonbayar -

I see.

Böhöö -

It was kind of a roof sheathing that ’hurmash’. They wrapped them in it.

Otgonbayar -

Did they bury it?

An old woman -

Yes, they did.

Böhöö -

They also buried it in an open place. I don’t know much about an open burial. They put it in an open place and drew five pictures of a condor. Then they put the pictures at the head, on two hands and the feet. They put it on five sides on the stones and left it there. Then they said a condor came and took it away. I don’t know about it well.

Otgonbayar -

Mmm.

Böhöö -

People say so. But a condor didn’t come to take it. I have seen recently a corpse.

Otgonbayar -

Mmmm.

Böhöö -

Such things happen. They just leave it covered with a cloth and with a condor drawn, but no condor ate it. Maybe because it was oiled with various things or maybe the condors that ate flesh have disappeared. It is said in the olden times a condor came to take it away.

Otgonbayar -

I see. Mmm… How did you bury your granny?

Böhöö -

I didn’t go to my granny’s burial. I was in school … spring ….

Otgonbayar -

In the sum?

Böhöö -

That was when I was in Must school. I had the funeral of my mother in the 1980s.

Otgonbayar -

Ahaan. Was it the olden custom or the coffin …

Böhöö -

We made a coffin and a stone. I wasn’t able to come to my granny’s burial. In the school …

Otgonbayar -

You hadn’t heard about it?

Böhöö -

No, I hadn’t. Even if I heard, how could they come and take me from Mönh-Hairhan.

Otgonbayar -

No, no. Had you heard about her burial?

Böhöö -

No, I hadn’t.

Otgonbayar -

The Urianhai custom is different from the Öölds.

An old woman -

That’s right. The wedding and the funeral ceremonies and various other things are quite different, you know.

Otgonbayar -

The religious elements are very influential in the wedding and the funeral customs, you know, like day and time …

Böhöö -

It is strictly prohibited to go to the peak of the mountain.

Otgonbayar -

Mmm, you mean in burial?

Böhöö -

Yes, and bury mostly in the land …

Otgonbayar -

Under the hollow place … A young man: Under the hollow place … the bones won’t crumble. The hollow place was … by my father.

Böhöö -

Meaning the place will digest … A young man: … They used to say that it didn’t disappear. Peak of the mountain … actually, it is said, it’s good to put it pointing to the volcano peak.

Böhöö -

Yes, you put it pointing to the peak and not the open land.

Otgonbayar -

What does it mean not pointing to the open land?

Böhöö -

The notch …

Otgonbayar -

Aaan, not pointing to the notch …

A young man -

It means ‘just think that he is still alive’. He didn’t disappear completely. He is not limitless but he is limited. Being pointed to the peak of a mountain means physically he is … and his chest and head are placed a bit higher. It’s very good if he looks to his native homeland and the mountain. .

Otgonbayar -

Mmm.

A young man -

Then it is put pointed to the mountain of the pass …

Böhöö -

I usually go to the aimag centre when somebody dies. The people of our homeland put them pointed to the west side.

Otgonbayar -

Mmm.

Böhöö -

They call me to come.

Otgonbayar -

To find the place …

Böhöö -

Yes, they ask me to look for the place and I go there to engage. (Laughs)

Otgonbayar -

I see. Isn’t it a lama’s work to do?

Böhöö -

I go to engage and I go often to the funerals …

An old woman -

He goes to engage …

Böhöö -

Ours …

Otgonbayar -

What are the engagement customs?

Böhöö -

Well, I go for the sons of my daughter, for their engagements, you know. The engagement …

An old woman -

He goes for matchmaking.

Böhöö -

I go for matchmaking, you know. Nowadays it became very complicated to engage for a compact ‘ail’. There’s too much burden nowadays. In the olden times the two of us had seen off eight young women, because her brothers married four women.

Otgonbayar -

Your four daughters.

Böhöö -

Yes, our four daughters. During the engagement ceremony outside people come in threes and fours.

An old woman -

Today is different …

Otgonbayar -

With endless feast …

Böhöö -

With 30 or 40 people giving presents and gifts. Then they give again gifts during the feast. It became so massive and strange.

An old woman -

Massive things happening, you know.

Otgonbayar -

And drinking much?

Böhöö -

Yes, treating to arhi.

Otgonbayar -

Do they force you to drink?

An old woman -

Certainly, they do.

Otgonbayar -

In Arhangai it is a custom to make everyone drunk who had come for matchmaking.

An old woman -

It’s the same here.

Otgonbayar -

Is it?

A young man -

They nearly killed someone, you know.

An old woman -

That’s right.

A young man -

They made five liters of the so called ‘har nüden” for the feast guests …

Otgonbayar -

Mixing airag, arhi and distilled wine …

An old woman -

That’s right. They mix it.

A young man -

… making five liters of mixed Mongolian arhi, airag and the Russian vodka. ….You had to drink it, if not … and that person almost nearly died, you know.

Otgonbayar -

He was intoxicated …

An old woman -

Certainly he was.

A young man -

Since then they ceased it. It seems there had never been such a custom.

An old woman -

No, there hadn’t been.

Böhöö -

It’s just who can do what, you know.

An old woman -

They meant to knock down the other side. They did it to make the visitors faint, you know.

Otgonbayar -

OK, you gave a very interesting interview. You have told an exceptional and interesting history. Thank you very much. Egch ee, you have come and made the interview more interesting.

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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.