Wednesday, July 02, 2008


Suddenly today, worldwide attention has been drawn to Ulaanbaatar* as riots broke out yesterday over the election results. Although I was aware of the many election posters and roving loudspeakers in the streets, I was unaware of the tension brewing around Sunday's election.
(*note English transliteration of Mongolian name meaning Red Hero, the old 20thC Russian name Ulan Bator being as poor an anglicisation as 'Bombay' is for Mumbai)

In the current state of emergency, five have been killed near the central square, and we are instructed not to go out. I postponed today's meeting with the projects team, along with planned training on Participatory Teaching Methods with Bolormaa and Tsenguun, and advice to Technical and Technology College on recruiting an architecture volunteer.

Some colleagues in UB suggest the election result was illegitimate, but more likely, the electoral process had its own difficulties. Some friends who are not registered in a permanent place, for example, are disenfranchised from voting. Lonely Planet journo Michael Kohn on BBC news was attributing some of the tension to the provocation of seeing Humvee SUVs in the street, while so many are poor and homeless. Widely felt frustration about issues such as poverty and government corruption, but also alcohol abuse, must have contributed to the events.


Lisette said...

i was so surprised to hear about the riots in mongolia on the news, especially because the breakup from the USSR was peaceful.

i am going there next week for the naadam festival and am wondering - is it now safe to visit ulaanbaatar? do you think the riots are finished? what is it like there now and what should tourists expect?

nomadologist said...

Hi Lisette
I am not involved in tourism so I suggest you heed official travel advice and your country's advice for travellers. Things currently appear to be returning to normal, so after the four day state of emergency expires I will behave normally. G