Mongolians and New Year celebration

Photos tell a history
2020-01-06 14:10:46

In the early 1900s, locals of Erdenebulgan soum in Khuvsgul aimag saw the western Christmas tree for the very first time with a surprised look on their faces when a Danish family put up a tree in their log house and lit it up using a power generator.

‘Nobleman Natsagdorj’s Banquet’, Ulaanbaatar, 1931

The photograph depicts D.Natsagdorj, D.Namdag, and D.Navaan-Yunden celebrating the New Year’s Eve with Russian expats for the first time at writer D.Natsagdorj’s home on December 31, 1931.

On December 31, 1931, D.Natsagdorj with 12 of his friends celebrated the New Year. Later, the Internal Security Directorate brought a case against those people for celebrating the first anniversary of the establishment of Manchukuo, calling the event ‘Nobleman Natsagdorj’s Banquet’ and detained all of them for questioning for several months after their arrest in May, 1932.

In his memoirs about the event, State Prize laureate, writer D.Namdag wrote, “On May 16, 1932, I was arrested by the Internal Security Directorate to be interrogated over a major political case. But it was not only me, there were a total of 12 people, namely, D.Natsagdorj, translator Looroisambuu, photography expert of the Institute of Science M.Gombojav, foreign trade expert Namsrai, engineer Khurlaat and his spouse, Galaan and Namnandorj with their Russian spouses, as well as those who studied in Germany, T.Natsagdorj, Gombo, and me. T.Natsagdorj was hard to approach and was looked up to by me as an adult who was much older and had abundant knowledge. I respected photographer Gombojav in that way too. All the rest were just acquaintances to me. Those involved in the case were all intellectuals, among whom I was the youngest and the least knowledgeable… Let me tell you how everything happened. I went to Natsagdorj’s home by chance as director of local theatre Gombojav invited me, saying, “Some folks are celebrating the New Year in Natsagdorj’s home. I will be there. Come with me” Among the guests there was even a soviet health professional. Food and drinks, prepared by Russian women and a Chinese cook, were nicely placed on the table. We ate, drank, had conversations, danced, and raised our glasses in a toast when the clock struck twelve. Our party lasted for two hours and it was extremely fun. There was no disruptive conduct even though all of us were very drunk.

However, firstly, this must have seemed to the Internal Security Directorate like a celebration of the first anniversary of Manchukuo rather than a New Year’s party.  Secondly, after everything happened, we found out Bat-Ochir nicknamed Berlin who came with his spouse and was taking a photo wrote ‘Nobleman Natsagdorj’s Banquet’ on the backside of a copy of the photo he sent to the Internal Security Directorate. Thirdly, they said a guy named Chinbat found a blank sheet of paper with a government stamp from my home and handed it over to the Internal Security Directorate. Even though everything was false, it was decided that D.Natsagdorj would be accused as the mastermind behind the case and I as the second in command. 

 “However, in July 1932, thanks to a liberal policy called the New Turn, which halted the extremists’ doings and led to re-examinations of past events, 10 of the total 12 people were set free and Natsagdorj and I were held back until they chased both of us out one day in October. Natsagdorj was extremely happy, but I was not, in the slightest. When I asked, “Now, we have to ask their authorities why we were arrested and then released, do we not?” He said, “We shall not. What if they arrest us again and put us in prison”

It can be seen from here that among the New Year’s celebrants was an informant named Bat-Ochir and the people came under suspicion of marking the first anniversary of Manchukuo, not the New Year’s Eve. Incidentally, it was written that, “Those who studied together in Germany, D.Namdag, N.Navaan-Yunden, Dorjtseren, Batsukh, G.Irina, and Khurlaat, celebrated the New Year with a bottle of champagne and a feast.”