British heritage in Mongolia

Written by G.Chingis

During socialist times, Britain had the first Western embassy in Mongolia.
Therefore, the life of British diplomats was very boring and depressing. There were no air flights to Beijing, Seoul or even Moscow. Access to the entire world was only by train to Beijing. Mongolian relations with China were strained for a lone time since the Cultural Revolution. Therefore, Mongolia had only one train per week to Beijing, which was the Moscow-Ulaanbaatar- Beijing train. The British Embassy was surrounded by a district which was occupied by Soviet/Russian civil and military personnel. Maybe this is the reason why the sign on the embassy was in Russian. Maybe British diplomats were worried about some unexpected intrusion of Russian soldiers.

The relationships between Mongolia and the United Kingdom were very fragmental. It was mostly limited to cultural and some small economic cooperation. Mongolians bought cap technology for the state owned vodka factory from them. Therefore, the Mongolian export version of vodka had a completely different cap than the local version. It was very difficult to find some Mongolian who spoke English in Ulaanbaatar. Russian was the only foreign language in schools and universities. Only high school # 23 had English as a second or third foreign language. Maybe this is the reason why their alumni were successful later in their studies in the United Kingdom and the United States. Mongolia also was sending a tiny number of Mongolians, mostly diplomats, for language studies to the United Kingdom. Therefore, our third President, Mr. N. Enkhbayar went to study at Leeds University in 1985/1986. Then, in 1990/1991 the current Prime Minister Mr. S. Batbold went for Master’s study either to the London Business School or to Middlesex University. After him, another Mongolian Prime Minister, current Member of Parliament, Mr. R. Amarjargal did his Masters in Economics at Bradford University in 1994/1995. Then, current Member of Parliament, Mrs. S. Oyun received her Ph. D. from Cambridge University in 1996. Then she joined the Rio Tinto Company. The sudden death of her brother, Member of Parliament, Minister of Infrastructure, Mr. S. Zorigt did not allow her to continue her career with that mining company and Mrs. S. Oyun took his seat in the Mongolian Parliament. By the way, the former President of Mongolia, Mr. N. Enkhbayar and current Member of Parliament Mrs. S. Oyun both graduated from high school # 23.

Until now, Mongolian-British relationships have been very stable and nice. Of course, Mongolia is not a Commonwealth country. Therefore, we do not expect to see Her Majesty in Mongolia. Other members of the royal family frequently visit us. Probably, being stationed in Mongolia for Foreign and Commonwealth personnel is still boring, unless you like hardships and extreme conditions along with other features of wild life. Of course, if you like driving a Russian SUV in the Mongolian steppes or you like hiking, Mongolia is a great destination. Otherwise, it is a very hard place to live, especially in winter. There is a relatively small British community, mostly of them old British gentlemen, who married relatively young Mongolian ladies. Two people are some exception from the entire local British community. One gentleman is putting enormous efforts to spread British English here, he even invited his brother hereto help. Another gentleman is busy with mismanaging a cashmere business in Mongolia along with promoting Mongolian whiskey/Scottish vodka.

The suddenly arrest of Mongolian intelligence official Mr. B. Khurts at Heathrow devastated the relationship between the United Kingdom and Mongolia at least in the Mongolian mass media. There has been much speculation in Mongolian newspapers and on Mongolian TV. In the end, Her Majesty’s Ambassador Mr. William Dickson went back to London, and Charge d’Affaires Miss Lynne Falconer was representing Her Majesty in Mongolia. Now, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office sent Miss. Thorda Abbott-Watt again. She took over from Mr. Christopher Osborne, when he left Mongolia due to health problems. Now, Miss Thorda Abott-Watt back after she left on July 2009. Now, the Mongolian media enjoys writing about the postponing of an official visit of the Prime Minister of Mongolia to the United Kingdom, and it connects this with the recent arrest of Mr. B. Khurts. Of course, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs cannot say directly that the main reason for that postponement is the incident with Mr. B. Khurts.

There is an Oxford tradition to give honorary degrees to all Prime Ministers who had been educated there. Maybe, the Prime Minister of Mongolia, S. Batbold was planning to receive his honorary degree from some mysterious London university or London Business School, or London School of Economics. Why is this so mysterious? In the Mongolian language version of the official Mongolian parliament website, it says London City Business Administration University. There is no such university in London, at least in London, United Kingdom. Unfortunately, the English version of the official Mongolian parliament website is still under construction. Probably, it will be finished by the end of this parliamentary term. Anyway, his Alma Mater Moscow State Institute of International Relations should give him his honorary degree during his upcoming official visit to Russia.

Another Mongolian Prime Minister, Mr. R. Amarjargal was luckier. He managed to receive his honorary degree from the University of Bradford during his official visit to the United Kingdom in 1999.

There is no doubt that Miss Thorda Abbott-Watt and her Deputy Miss Lynne Falconer will restore normal relations between the United Kingdom and Mongolia. Usually female foreign Ambassadors are more successful in Mongolia, even though it must be a huge challenge for any woman to live through the harsh Mongolian winters.
source: The UB Post


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