Foreigners about Mongolia

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Foreigners about Mongolia


Nizovtsev B.E., Russian scholar, 1966
Mongols are very curious, well natured and hospitable people. They speak beautifully using many aphorisms. Often they would express their feelings in poems and verses…

William Douglas, Deputy Judge of the Supreme Court, USA, 1962
When you wave a hand greeting a nomad herdsmen or a city dweller you will definitely receive a broad smile in response. Each time you say ‘Sain bain uu’ you will be rewarded with a heartfelt, sincere grin.

Mongols are great dancers as if they do have music in their blood. My wife Mercedes once joined a group of dancers in their traditional dance. Later she told that Mongols feel the rhythm impeccably and she could easily do hardest pa as her partner led her all the way.



Owen Lattimore, an American Sinologist who visited Mongolia in 1969
On our way we stayed overnight in a gher (nomadic felt covered tent). For every traveler in Mongolia this is an interesting experience. Mongols are glad to have a guest and speak openly about their life. In one gher we met an old man of about 60 who could represent a true Gobi nomad man. Though he was old he had excellent eyesight and shining, healthy teeth. His nine-year-old grandson has had a natural talent for music. Somebody gave him a harmonica as a gift and though there was no one to teach him how to play it, he learned many Russian and Mongolian songs just by listening to the radio. 


Roy Chapman Andrews, American explorer
Excerpts from The National Geographic. No. 6, 1933
Hospitality is the law of nomads. In many respects life of nomadic Mongols is similar to that of first American pioneers. To help a lone traveler is an unwritten rule. A guest can enter any gher, sit down and take food without asking a permission from hosts. Guests can stay at a place for days, even without thinking of payment.

Mongols are excellent in finding their way around. Sometimes I chased blacktailed antelopes for hours, shooting one after another. And it was enough for my local guide to have a quick look around to guide me later on back to a fallen antelope. He could always find right way back home in a wide-open steppe.

Free life in wild steppes made Mongols very independent. In surviving he relies on himself only. In ordinary circumstances Mongols are usually lazy. But not always so. Looking after grazing cattle does not require much effort. But when the time comes, they can display amazing energy and stamina. Modern Mongols, I think, in terms of courage and stamina are no less than the warriors of Chinggis Khaan times.

When they run short of meat or coumyss, they would simply tighten their belt and walk as if nothing happened. Thirst is usual for them, but they won’t consider themselves to be a man if not be able to endure 36 hours without water or fight to the end.



Kozlov P.K., a Russian explorer of Central Asia, 1907
from personal diary, November 27, 1907
Three naked children were heading towards a small ice pond that set up on a nearby spring. Two elders decided to cheer up a younger one, a boy of about three. They broke out a piece of ice, attached rope around it and took off pulling the ice cube. The toddler seated on it was laughing happily and shouting with joy all the way.

The sun was rising and it was warm around, but one could feel cold coming from the valley down. I stood there in a sheepskin coat, so I did not feel any cold. I was amazed at the physical fitness and stamina of Mongolian children.



Kimura Ayako, a Japanese researcher who lived a decade in Mongolia in early 90s
From ” The Intellectual Poverty” article, Il Tovchoo newspaper, April 1999
Watching Mongols, I often worry if they just imitate the outside appearances. It’s really a cultural downturn. Nobody reads, and no new books are available anyway. Their knowledge often is not learned by themselves but overheard.

A brain dystrophy. They simply do not care if told they have not done their homework properly, even they know it is true.

Perhaps, the people are also to be blamed for such a distorted development of democracy. Instead of doing it themselves Mongols wait for somebody to come and fix it. And who should change the Mongolian society for better? They always look for handouts. The principle “your problem – you fix it” does not apply here.

No one thinks about the nation’s future, about being a patriot, to learn for the betterhood of the country. Only business, money, vanity fair….

Many think and some say, “Let’s first fix our individual lives, then we can think about the nation and the country.” Unfortunately, they forget that there is no limit for satisfying human desires and wishes.

The longer I stay in Mongolia the better I understand Mongols. The longer I live among egoistic individuals the stronger I feel the human emptiness.



Paul Theroux, from his book Riding The Iron Rooster,1987
An excerpt from the author’s travel across Mongolia on a Trans Siberian train.
My first impression of the city (Ulaanbaatar, the capital) was that it was a military garrison; and that impression stayed with me. Every apartment block looked like a barrack, every parking lot like a motor pool, every street in the city looked as though it had been designed for a parade. Most of the vehicles were in fact Soviet army vehicles. Buildings were fenced in, with barbed wire on the especially important ones.

A cynic might have said that city resembled a prison, but if so the Mongolians were very cheery prisoners- it was a youthful, well-fed, well-dressed population. They had red cheeks, they wore mittens and boots: In this brown country they favored bright colors-it was not unusual to see an old man with a red hat and purple frock coat, and blue trousers stuck into his multicolored boots. But that way of dressing meant that Russians were more conspicuous, even when they were not soldiers. I say the city looked like a garrison, but it was clearly not a Mongolian one-it was Russian, and there was little to distinguish it from any other military garrison I had seen in Central Asia. We had been passing such big, dull places all the way from Irkutsk.

…Once Mongol armies had conquered the world. Now there was no army. Mongols had been Chinese emperors- the Manchus were a Mongol dynasty. That had ended. Once, these people had lived on the plains and in the mountains. Now they lived in two- room apartments in this lifeless and stark city. They were in sense a subject race, and in this- one of the largest and emptiest countries on the earth-they lived cheek by jowl. They lived out of the world, almost totally cut off. It had not made them angry. It had kept them innocent in many ways. There was something very sweet about the Mongolians.

Perhaps that was the whole point about Mongolia: that after a Soviet-inspired revolution in which everything was destroyed and swept away- religion, the old economy, the army, the social order- the country was so changed that could not function without Soviet help. The Mongolians had been reduced to state of infancy. All their old habits and institutions were gone. The Soviets stepped into this vacuum: They brought Soviet buildings and urban structures, soviet railways and roads, Soviet schools, and the Soviet ideology displaced Buddhism The Mongolian script was abolished and the Russian Cyrillic alphabet introduced.

…All this Soviet authority, meddling, advise and financial aid had profound effect: It turned the Mongolians into children. It is hard to imagine a more dependent and helpless people. And they are dependent on the Soviet Union in a sort of frantic way, because they cannot be dependent on anyone else. They have no other friends in the world, no family ties. The very country that turned them into orphans adopted them and – since one of the grimmer features of the country is the permanence of the Soviet presence-won’t let them grow up.

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