Photo exhibit captures 19th Century Mongolian lifestyle

Once scientific records, the photos are now valuable cultural items

On October 5-25, a photo exhibition ‘Mongolia-Looking through time’ by Russian photographer N.A. Charushin is open to the public at National History Museum of Mongolia. The exhibition displays 50
very rare photos that show the lifestyle, traditions and anthropological features of Mongolians as well as images of Urgoo, Kyakhta and Maimaa cities around the 1880s.

The exhibition is being coorganized by the Ministry of Culture, Sport and Tourism of Mongolia, Culture Minister of the Republic of Buryat, Kyakhta city museum and the National History Museum of Mongolia.
At the opening of the exhibition, present were MP G. Bayarsaikhan, Deputy Minister of Culture, Sport
and Tourism M. Tumenjargal, Culture Minister of the Republic of Buryat Mr. Timur Gombojapovich Tsybikov, advisor at the Russian Embassy Mr. Arjeev Igor Nikolaevich, Cultural Attaché at the Russian Embassy Ms. Rakshaeva Olga, and S.S. Petushkeev, chief of the Kyakhta Museum.

M. Tumenjargal, Deputy Minister of Culture, Sport and Tourism said, “In 1888, N.A. Charushin saw the Tsam Dance of Mongolians. Mr. Charushin wrote “I have had a chance to take part in the festival called ‘Tsam’. It seems like the Olympic Games in some ways. Fast horse racing and wrestling competitions were run and many fast horses from Bogd Khaan’s abundant horses raced. In the valley where the festival ran, Mongolians wore many kinds of colored national garments made of silk and rode horses. Bogd Khaan and his queen consort arrived at the Naadam followed by aides.””

Mr. Timur Gombojapovich Tsybikov said, “During the past 125 years, these photos were scientific
facts; but now, they are valuable cultural items. Through the exhibition, we believe it can be one of the bridges of cooperation between Mongolia and Buryatia”. In 1888, N.A. Charushin first arrived in Mongolia as a member of a field expedition led by Mr. Potanin. His photos ‘A Mongolian family of the steppe,’ ‘Caravan’ and ‘Woman collecting dried droppings’ make people feel like they returned to Mongolian lifestyles in the19th Century. He also took a photo of the brother of Bogd Khaan and his consort. In the other words, he took many photos of Mongolian nobles and commoners. However it was difficult
to take these photos and keep them for a memorial. Mr. Charushin once said, “In the beginning, my objective to take photos that showed anthropological features of Mongolians was very complicated and I only took a few photos. Since Mongolians never had an understanding about photographs before, they were very suspicious. They had a thought that if someone has his photos taken, he will lose his heart to others. Finally, I found some old friends from Potanin’s field expedition. Afterwards, people started allowing me to take their photos, following others. Overcoming such difficulties, I could build a collection of many photographs that absolutely meet the research of Potanin’s field expedition while being in Urgoo city.”

N.A. Charushin opened his first photo studio in 1886 in Troitskosavsk. In 1887, he actively participated to
establish a Public Library together with some intellectual people in Kyakhta. The same year, he travelled
through the Lena River Valley with his assistant I.F. Fedorov to take photos of gold placers owned by Ya. A. Nemchinov, a merchant of Kyakhta.They travelled through the vast area including Irkutsk, Uduginski,
Baikal Lake, Yakutia and took many historical photos. Mongolia was one of the countries they studied.

In 1937, prominent photographer N.A. Charushin passed away in Kirov. His collection of photographs became a valuable cultural heritage in the world and is now being preserved at the Kyakhta Museum. He perpetuated very rare photos of Mongolians,Buryat, Chinese and Mongolian people, and Russian and Chinese economic relations. The collections of photos being preserved at the museum show images of Mongolia’s old capital city Urgoo, tea trades, inner Baikal, Uduginski, Baikal Oblasti, Troitskosavsk, Kyakhta and Maimaa cities as well as lifestyles of merchants. As times goes by, these professionally-taken high-quality photos are becoming more valuable.

Below are some of the photos of the N.A.Charushin.

Gate dedicated to 9th Bogd Khaan of Mongolia

Mongolian wrestler

Mongolian woman collecting dung
Younger brother of 9th Bogd Khaan

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