Border Post – or Thomo Gets Arrested

The Secret History of the Mongols ... er, rather the secret photo of the border area taken from inside the car - you can just swee the church in the middle of the windscreen

In Altanbulag soum in Selenge Aimag, up on the border between Mongolia and Russia, is the Sukhbaatar Museum. It is not a large museum but is significant as this part of Mongolia is where Sukhbaatar fought and defeated Chinese forces back in the 1920s, during the war that won Mongolia its independence. Just on the other side of the border is the Russian town of Kyakhta and between there and Altanbulag is a border crossing. The Mongolian government has also set aside an area here as a free trade zone to try and improve and expedite trade with Russia.

Kyakhta and Altanbulag are also significant as the location of talks in 1915 between the Russian, Chinese and Mongolian governments resulting is a treaty giving Mongolia a degree of Autonomy. This lasted until 1919 when the Chinese revoked the agreement which in turn led to the Chinese invasion of Mongolia and the later struggles for independence by the Mongolians.

Thomo in Mongolia away from the border crossing. You can see the church over my right shoulder

We went there.

In Kyakhta there is a beautiful old Russian Orthodox Cathedral which is now used as a customs post. Indeed, in the area between the Mongolian and Russian border points is a Khan Bank branch, used by the traders and what have you. Of course, I am the Chief Information Officer of the Bank. I mention this so that when I say, “I took a photo across the border of the church” you will understand that I do this out of a love of old buildings. There were many other people around (Mongolians and the odd Russian) some taking photos as well.

Thomo was detained by an over-zealous member of the Customs department. As I was a “third-country national”, therefore I may have been a spy or a terrorist and photographing there was plainly a breach of national security. Tseye then spoke with him and was also detained.

Memorial to Sukhbaatar in the Museum - secure Russian border behind

Needless to say, even after showing him identification indicating that I was an executive of a Bank, that I had every right to be there as one on my branches was “just over there”, and after Puujee had spoken to him gently (Puujee is a very patient and gentle man), this guy was not going to let us go until his boss arrived. Eventually he was prevailed upon to let us go after deleting the offending photos from the digital cameras (I think the fact that someone mentioned to him that he had no authority to do what he was doing, that there was no legislation preventing us from doing what we were doing along with being told that most of the people working around him relied on Khan Bank salary loans each month also persuaded him to release us).

In any case, for your amusement, a photo of the border area, another of the cathedral and one of the hero Sukhbaatar (behind Sukhbaatar is the Russian border, by the way).

2 thoughts on “Border Post – or Thomo Gets Arrested

  1. Jeffy 30 November 1999 / 8:00 am

    If only you'd mentioned. Just to piss them off I could have recovered those deleted photos for you. For someone who hates beaurocracy (sp?), I reckon I might be in the wrong city, but ah well. At least the Uni's good.


  2. Jeffy 30 November 1999 / 8:00 am

    *bureaucracy I am tired.


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