On October 25, the International Association for Mongolian Studies celebrated its 30th anniversary. On the occasion, we are presenting an interview with S.Chuluun, (Ph.D) Secretary-General of International Association for Mongolian Studies, and Director of Institute of History and Archaeology at the Mongolian Academy of Sciences, conducted in August.
“Mongolian studies are one of the oldest independent fields of research developed in the region. It represented the eastern region and Asian studies even when Mongolia was under the rule of Qing dynasty,” said S.Chuluun as he sat with us to discuss Mongolian studies, its development and the International Association for Mongolian Studies (IAMS) and its current activities.
On September 10, 1818, the first Mongolian studies department was established at Kazan Federal University, Russia. Next year will mark the 200th historic anniversary of Mongolian studies in Russia and worldwide. “We regard September 10 as a Day of Mongolian Studies,” Chuluun said, adding that the celebration will be grand in Russia. Speaking of Mongolian studies in the northern neighbor of Mongolia, Chuluun said, “Over the years, Russia has played a leading role in Mongolian studies and it still maintains the position today. Having produced the biggest number of Mongolists, Russia keeps texts and references about Mongolia from all times.”
Comprehending Mongolian studies on a broader horizon
“Nearly 200 years old, what is the status of Mongolian studies now?” I inquired into the state of development of Mongolian studies in the present. Chuluun views that the last 25 years presented quite a challenge for Mongolian studies and the next 25 years ought to be years of forward progress. “We need to look at this half century with its challenges and developments. There are people saying that Mongolian studies are declining and there aren’t good Mongolists anymore. But I suppose, it was said 100 years ago as well. I personally don’t think Mongolian studies have declined around the world. It is human nature to be critical of the younger generation.”
Chuluun asserts that Mongolian studies are at the doorstep of a rapid growth, linking it with the Mongolian Government’s policy and the efforts of the people enforcing and realizing it. “Moreover, Mongolia is a country with undeniable resources and potential. It is impossible to study the history of Inner Asia or the world without looking into Mongolia. Mongolia is a country that can be of interest to anyone.”
Then I sought to know about the development of Mongolian studies within Mongolia, and Chuluun elaborated on his insights on the subject. According to him, from 1990 to 2000, Mongolian studies heavily depended upon the works of Mongolists from the socialist era, and a new generation of Mongolists had not been produced. He then informs that those who went abroad for studies starting from the mid-2000s are to demonstrate the results of their works about now. Moreover, some 20-30 young scholars were sent abroad after 2010 and are graduating and coming back now. “We will see the outcome of their studies in about 8-10 years. As such, there is an up-and-coming generation of Mongolists who are ready to yield positive results in the coming years,” Chuluun assured us.
He continued to express his bright expectations for Mongolian studies. “I think, when it comes to the development Mongolian studies in Mongolia, scholars don’t have to be compared with B.Renchin or Ts.Damdinsuren, who in their times created remarkable works. Young Mongolists of today are also working hard to do a good job.”
On the other hand, Chuluun addressed government policy on Mongolian studies, and said, “Whether the Mongolian Government has pursued and implemented an integrated policy on Mongolian studies until now is debatable.” “Government policy on Mongolian studies must be precise and clear. We must define whose interest Mongolian studies protect, what it is studied for, and where we draw the outlines of Mongolian studies. By doing so, we can gain an outlook on Mongolian studies.”
Chuluun believes that the Mongolian Government needs to determine its general conception on Mongolian studies. “Mongolian studies can’t be limited within the current border of Mongolia which was determined only about 100 years ago. Mongolian studies are a regional phenomenon. Mongolia must look at Mongolian studies as the studies centered in Mongolia and covering Inner Asia.” He sees that Mongolian studies must develop on a wider scope, on the intersection of several cultures, histories and traditional relations, and furthermore, within the political and economic relationship on the frontier of Asia and Europe. “There is no future if one doesn’t look at Mongolian studies from this angle, and just engage with a specific and small aspect of Mongolian history or culture.”
“As such, the scope of Mongolian studies must be outlined on the basis of social demands from the past and in the present. It is really about the ability to anticipate the future directions, and Mongolia must express its position.” Despite being a major field of inquiry, Mongolian studies must correlate with studies of Inner Asia, Northeast Asia, Central Asia and Eurasia in order to move forward, he reiterated.
After hearing his approach to modern Mongolian studies, I proceeded to inquire into the new trends in the field. “What seem to be the main subjects young Mongolists are more interested in?” I asked, and he named religious studies. “Perhaps subjects like the Great Mongol Empire and Chinggis Khaan were heavily studied a decade ago. But nowadays, a number of religious sects are making their way into Mongolia with many khutuktus being newly identified and shamanism reviving. Scholars see that these phenomena could possibly explain the order and nature of Mongolian society. Second of all, religion is a relatively less studied subject in Mongolia.”
“Today, archaeological studies are going strong in Mongolian studies. Archaeological studies in Mongolia are wide-ranging and very extensive. Given the richness of archaeological resources in Mongolia and the capacity of the scholars working, Mongolian archaeological studies are strong in the region.” Chuluun also named the studies of Mongolian ethnicity, history and linguistics as the branches that are carrying Mongolian studies.
Update on the latest activities of IAMS
Then I delved into IAMS, the central organization uniting Mongolists all over the world which Chuluun tells me has an open membership policy. “Basically, we have some 800 members in about 30 countries.” The IAMS hosted the 11th
International Congress of Mongolists in Ulaanbaatar in August, 2016, and Chuluun was elected Secretary-General along with the new leadership including Hungarian Mongolist Agnes Birtalan as President, and seven Mongolists from the UK, the US, Japan, Russia, China and Mongolia as Vice Presidents. One of the two Vice Presidents from Mongolia is Kh.Battulga, President of Mongolia.
“The International Congress of Mongolists is the Olympics of Mongolian studies,” Chuluun said. He discussed his overview of the congress saying, “One could see the current state and future trends in Mongolian studies at the congress, and it was clear, the IAMS should intensify its operations.” The main directions of IAMS operations include providing needed information and data to international Mongolists, integrating the government policy on Mongolian studies with the cooperation between Mongolists, and assisting Mongolists in their research.
The next question on the current activities of the IAMS followed naturally, and Chuluun shared with the Mongol Messenger what the organization has been doing, and plans to do. A new website for Mongolists, found at mongolstudies.gov.mn
, has been launched to keep international Mongolists updated on the recent and upcoming events in the field.
The IAMS publishes a quarterly bulletin on scientific papers, academic conferences and activities which is distributed to its members. The organization is also working on obtaining international accreditation for its annual scientific journal ‘Mongolica’ with the support of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Science and Sports. “We will soon publish the first edition, and it will be the only scientific journal in Mongolia.”
In scope of IAMS’ objective to provide opportunities of conducting a research in Mongolia for two international Mongolists per season, two Russian Mongolists are currently in Mongolia, working on a catalogue of Ger Museum of Ts.Damdinsuren.
The IAMS is also working on an online encyclopedia of Mongolian studies which would be the extension of Encyclopedia of Mongolian History project (mongoltoli.mn) realized under the auspices of President of Mongolia and was launched in December, 2016. “Moreover with the support of the British Library, manuscripts of the Institute of History and Archaeology are being digitalized. In cooperation with Japan, we are creating an online collection of photographs. We are also digitalizing books and works in Mongolian studies,” Chuluun explained.
“We’ve made a request to the President of Mongolia and we are planning various works to promote Mongolian studies.” In particular, the IAMS plans to start holding an academic conference among Mongolists once a year in each Asia and Europe continents. It means that Mongolists will be meeting every year for a specific-themed meeting in addition to the Congress which convenes every five years.
As for 2017, the IAMS hosted an international conference on Ganjuur (Kanjur) which aimed to facilitate a productive discussion among those who specialize on the Buddhist scripture. “Next year, we will organize a history-themed conference, and the next year, a linguistics-themed conference. This will circulate fresh air of activity within Mongolian studies,” Chuluun said. There are four major institutions in Mongolia focusing on Mongolian studies – the International Association of Mongolian Studies, Mongolian Academy of Sciences with its institutes, the National University of Mongolia and the Mongolian State University of Education. Upon the 200th
anniversary of the establishment of Mongolian studies, let us hope the IAMS will put all of its visions into action.
The interview was published on the 35th issue of the Mongol Messenger.