Selenge Province - Knowledge

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One of the things Mongolians take a great deal of pride in is the basis of their traditions in their national history. Every custom or practice has a direct connection to a story in Mongolia’s past and every Mongolian has a vast knowledge and respect for these national traditions. This knowledge and pride is present in all generations in society, children as young as age 10 have a deep-rooted respect for the origins of their practices. Many of these practices stem from the time of Chinngis Khan, one of Mongolia’s most well known historical figures, which has fostered a strong sense of national pride for his accomplishments. This sense of historical significance is not limited to solely the most predominant components of Mongolian society, instead it includes things as common place as the positioning of a family’s ger and the origination of components of every Mongolian’s regular diet. For example, when families are selecting a location to set up their ger camp, they never settle on a location any closer than 50 meters to the primary water source. In this instance, not only is there an element of tradition, but there is also a level of consciousness for preserving well-being. By living in an environment that fosters the passing on of tradition, younger generations learn to understand the origins of traditions at a very young age.

While general knowledge of Mongolian tradition is apparent in all the regions of Mongolia, in the rural areas of the country, the youngest members of a community are also taught the information necessary to lead a nomadic and agriculturally based lifestyle. In the Selenge province, the vast majority of nomadic peoples are involved in either cultivation or herding, sometimes in both. Because the population density in the countryside is so low, the agriculturally based society relies heavily on large families to provide the manpower needed to complete all of the daily tasks. As a result, relatives often settle in small clusters of two to four gers. Whether it is something as basic as going to get water from a nearby stream or a task requiring more skill and experience like shearing sheep, children as young as age four are either participating in or observing and learning about every aspect of nomadic life. In fact, children as young as three, participate in horse races further emphasizing the early immersion into agricultural life and the skills required in such a lifestyle.

Not only do children learn how to effectively interact within their own environments, but they also begin developing global interaction tools and skills once they begin attending school. Mongolia as a country has always been very aware of their foreign interactions, a necessity stemming from the fact that they are surrounded by two global giants: Russia to the North and China to the South. The Mongolian government has even adopted a “60/40” foreign policy, meaning that they allocate 30% loyalty to China, 30% to Russia, and 40% to the rest of the world. This global mindset combined with the prevalence of Communism resulted in the integration of the Russian language, both spoken and Cyrillic, into elementary and middle school curricula up until roughly fourteen years ago. Though communism was replaced with democracy in 1990, the Russian language still dominates as the desired second language. It was not until recently when English began to replace Russian in use and in schools. As discussed in the Custom and Culture section, it is currently common to see restaurant signs and road signs among numerous other things in Mongolian and in English.

Date Entered: June 2011