Last Updated: Thursday, 30 October 2014, 14:31 GMT

Government puts an end to partying in Mongolia

Publisher EurasiaNet
Author Nomin Lhagvasuren
Publication Date 23 March 2001
Cite as EurasiaNet, Government puts an end to partying in Mongolia, 23 March 2001, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/46cd80ae1.html [accessed 31 October 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Nomin Lhagvasuren: 3/23/01

A EurasiaNet Partner Post from Transitions Online

ULAANBAATAR, Mongolia – A resolution passed during a 13 March extra-governmental session ordered all authorities in Mongolia to conduct the 2001 round of autumn and winter preparations from 1 August until 1 October throughout the country – limiting as much as possible the local Naadam celebrations that normally coincide with those dates.

According to government officials, the extra preparation time will allow citizens to take full advantage of the autumn for harvesting, fattening livestock, and preparing feed – with the hopes that the extra work will help the Mongolian people make it through the winter without the major livestock losses and starvation that have plagued the country for the last two years. The government resolution is part of an overall action plan for implementing the recently adopted "National Program on Preventing Livestock from Summer Drought and Severe Winter" that is set to be followed from 2001-2005.

The program, which was implemented for the first time in 10 years after two consecutive severe winters and last summer's drought, consists of three major parts: prevention of severe livestock losses during summer drought and severe winter through increasing the quality of work and responsibility, the ability to undertake immediate actions if drought and dzud occurs, and effective measures to overcome the losses occurred due to drought and dzud . The dzud is a harsh, severe winter with extreme snowfall, ice, winds and low temperatures.

"By this action we aim to reach 1987-1990 levels in feed reserves. At that time, reserves amounted to 700,000 tons, compared with the only 300,000 tons that we had this winter," said T. Ganhuyag, a livestock and water expert at the Agriculture Ministry. According to Ganhuyag, there are several reasons for the drastic decline in winter fodder reserves, including the collapse of centrally planned feed preparations, the privatization efforts at the beginning of the 1990s when economic entities such as collective farms were dismantled and their machinery was distributed and split up among different owners, and a still-prevailing mentality of expecting someone else to make preparations for the herders.

The Agriculture Ministry has devised a standard of preparation for each herder family based on the amount of animal fodder that must be gathered during the autumn. Those personal supplies will be supplemented by preparations conducted separately by the provinces. Experts at the ministry indicated that the animal feed prepared and stored by the smaller districts and every herder family – according to the proposed guidelines – would be enough for approximately 10 days, if all the herders in Mongolia were forced to feed their animals with fodder alone, without grazing. Livestock in Mongolia normally graze for food, but that is highly dependent on weather and other natural conditions.

Due to insufficient winter preparations, as well as very severe weather, Mongolia has already lost more than 1.3 million animals this winter, according to preliminary statistics. Animal losses during the dzud of 1999 were even more devastating: 3 million head of livestock, which represented a $91 million loss for the country's economy – considerably lowering the living standard of a rural population completely dependent on livestock.

It's not only additional preparation that the government is asking of its citizens, however. The resolution also specifically limits the amount of celebration for Naadam, the ancient, traditional festival of the Mongols. Festivities generally include horse racing, archery and wrestling tournaments, widespread feasts, the drinking of airag (fermented mare's milk), singing, and parties. Though a beloved tradition, some officials have placed blame for Mongolia's recent winter hardships on excessive Naadam fetes.

"Since the beginning of the 1990s, Mongolians have misunderstood the meaning of democracy," said S. Myagmar, the head of the Governmental Press Office. He singled out the elaborate Naadam feasts that have increased in length and intricacy, especially when compared to those held during socialist times. "Mongolians, from ordinary herders to the president of the country, have had to beg for help every single winter [since then], and we haven't even prepared ourselves with a handful of feed to survive the dzud." According to Myagmar, the resolution will mobilize the rural population – free of distractions from Naadam – to complete winter preparations during the time most appropriate to do so. The resolution was also seen as anticipatory, since many provinces in Mongolia will be celebrating anniversaries this year – a fact that would have given rise to even more elaborate celebrations.

Though the opposition Democratic Party had no official comment on the resolution, some of its officials evinced skepticism about the governmental resolution as a method of improving winter preparations. Democratic Party official Y. Sanjmyatav said he was doubtful that better preparations for winter could be achieved by ruling away people's celebrations. "Instead of trying to stop celebrations by issuing an order," he said, "It would be better to think about assisting the livestock economy or mobilizing jobless people in brigades to help to conduct winter preparation."

Nergui, the party's information officer, even called the resolution a "proletarian dictatorship for too small of a matter," though he stressed that the view was his alone and not that of his party. He also said that people won't pay attention to the resolution, and the government will not be able to stop the celebrations. The ruling party has left matters of non-compliance up to the local governments.

The above story is reposted with permission from Transitions Online (TOL).

Posted March 23, 2000 © Eurasianet

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