Sukhbaatar Museum

The Sukhbaatar Museum, Altanbulag soum, Selenge aimag, Mongolia

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 expidite 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.

So, back to the museum. It is a museum devoted to Sukhbaatar and the 1921 Independence War although it does contain other exhibits. The day my favourite Mongolian family took me there was the day the tour guide was on holiday so the young lady that sold the tickets escorted us around the museum and explained the exhibits.

Cannon makers mark and Thomo's Toes, Sukhbaatar Museum

The exhibits include a diorama of the area showing Sukhbaatar’s struggles with the Chinese. There are some old weapons of the time, including a couple of wonderful old machine guns. Unfortunately I was not permitted to photograph inside the museum. Also on display are some uniforms worn by the Mongolian troops of the time as well as a number of paintings and the furniture from Sukhbaatar’s office.

Upstairs is an heroic statue with Sukhbaatar and Lenin meeting. Also upstairs are some paleantological exhibits (old bones, including part of the front tooth of a Sabre-Toothed Cat (Sabre Tooth Tiger)), archeological finds from the area and some anthropological exhibits showing how Mongolians lived 100 years ago or so.

The museum is inexpensive to visit and worth the look. If you have made the effort to go to Selenge Aimag, Sukhbaatar Aimag Centre, then you may as well travel the few extra kilometres to the border and visit the museum.

Oh, the cannon picture included on this blog was the barrel from one of the cannons used during the 1921 War of Independence (and yes, they are Thomo’s toes in the picture as well).

Fences

Fences are a reasonably new phenomenon in Mongolia. Most of the country is unfenced and the herders live a nomadic lifestyle. Even near the Aimag Centres and the Soums and Bags there are no fences. However, this changes when you get into the Soums, Aimag Centres and such, with fences now enclosing parcels of land that Mongolians now own. The rest of the country is still unowned (I guess this means that the government owns it) and people and animals roam as they will.

The Soums and Aimag Centres are becoming more like everywhere else in the world now with property fenced.

The Hunter

It was while we were visiting Dadal in Khentii Aimag (the Dadal area is thought by the Mongolians to be the birthplace of Chinggis Khaan) that Thomo was feeling a little blue. We had been travelling for a few days, covering a fair bit of territory (by this time we had travelled south almost to the Chinese border and then north almost to the Russian Border). I had been away from showers, comfortable beds and what have you and I was missing contact with family and some friends (the ever faithful translator and Aide Confidante, Baggy, was at least with me and that eased some of the blues).

“Let’s go to the hunting museum!” was the call after we had visited Chinggis’ birthplace. Off we went then. I must admit, I had no idea what to expect. However, I met a truly wonderful man by the name of Zunduidorj. He was (or rather still is) a hunter. He is 86 years old and is a truly inspiring person to talk to. He has hunted bear, wolf, deer and such and he has examples in his museum (see behind the picture). However, he is not at all wanton in that hunting, killing enough to feed his family and provide food for the local Soum, or what was required from the government licenses.

He does, however, have a wonderful love and respect for the environment, the trees, the animals, the weather and the spirits. Talking with him was for me a most uplifting experience. He finished our visit with him by presenting me with a container he had made himself. It was full of dried milk (if you give a container to someone in Mongolia as a gift, it should not be empty when given). He also called a wolf for me (after making me promise I would not try to do this, record the sound or to copy it).

I promised him that if I returned to Khentii after being back in Australia I would bring him something for his museum, something related to Australian animals, perhaps some shark teeth or crocodile teeth.

I should finish with a note about promises in Mongolia. A promise should be kept. If, for example, you say “I promise to buy you dinner tomorrow” and you you do not buy dinner, then this is bad. You will lose respect from a Mongolian. Better to say “I will TRY and buy you dinner tomorrow” and make sure the word “try” is emphasised.

To the hunter, however, all I can say is that he is a truly remarkable man and if you travel to Mongolia and Khentii in particular, visit the museum. Leave him 5,000 tugrigs as well as a “gift” to help him get his book written and published.

Two Camels, No Roadsigns — Hell, No Roads

A couple of Mongolian camels looking for the goat to come and return the horns

I had to travel last week. The job required me to get out and about in our branches so we packed the car, and set off. The troop was our driver, his son who accompanied us as it was school holidays, Baggy, the faithful and long suffering translator and aide confidante and Thomo. We left Ulaanbaatar around lunchtime on Monday and headed south to Sukhbaatar Aimag (province/state). From Sukhbaatar, we would head north, passing through the edge of Dornod and then into Khentii Aimag, after which, we would return to Ulaanbaatar five days later.

Wonderful trip. We stopped and looked at bank branches in nine Soums (towns), one Aimag Centre (main provincial town) and a small village. The country folk were wonderful and some of the scenery was just totally inspiring.

At one point as we travelled along, two camels atop a hill watched our progress. It should be noted too that in the countryside, there are no road signs pointing the next town. Hell, there are no roads – just tracks – and some of them are hard to see if they are not travelled often.

Come visit Mongolia, but if you want to get off the beaten track (that would be the main north-south highway) then connect with one of the local tour people – or drop me a line and I’ll put you in touch with some reputable groups. Come see the countryside though, it is an experience you will remember. I will get some more photos up in Thomo’s Hole Proper soon – in the meantime, here is the highway we followed from Baruun-urt, the Aimag Centre of Sukhbaatar Aimag to Norovlin in Khentii Aimag.