Mongolian President Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj Is A Good Guy

On June 28, 2014 by Tim Newman

Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj Riding Horse

If I asked you to give me the name of a famous Mongolian I expect you would say ‘Genghis Khan’, that’s the only famous Mongolian I knew about until today. It turns out that their current President Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj is well worth reading about too. There’s less impaling, but there’s a whole lot more good stuff.

Mongolian President Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj is exactly the sort of guy you would want to run your country. He has humble beginnings and a revolutionary spirit. I thought I would write a short biog for him because out of all the politicians I normally write about, he seems like one of the good guys. He paved the way for democracy and freedom of speech and seems to be unanimously liked, being elected to the Parliament four times, in 1990, 1992, 1996 and 2008.

Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj - In Poland

Elbegdorj was born in 1963 into a nomadic herding family in Zereg sumKhovd province. He was the youngest of 8 boys and spent the majority of his childhood herding on Mongolian hills. He completed his schooling in Erdenet and in 1981 went to work in the local copper ore mining facility as a machinist.

In ’82 he was drafted for military service and whilst there was commended for poems that he submitted to the army newspaper.  His writing and his prowess at leading a Revolutionary Youth Unit won him a scholarship to study military journalism and Marxism-Leninism at the USSR’s Military Political Institute in Ukraine. He graduated in 1983 and started working for the Ulaan Od (Red Star) newspaper.

It was during his time at the Russian centre of study that he first heard and became fascinated by Glasnost with its concepts of free speech and economic liberties. On his return to Mongolia he found like-minded people, which at that time was a dangerous thing to do. The oppressive government had no place for such wild ideas and he nearly lost his job at the paper.

At the end of a speech at the Young Artists’ Second National Congress in 1989 the chairman was so riled up that he told Elbegdorj to stop talking of such dangerous and wild ideas. At that point in time Mongolia had been communist for 68 years, everyone was a suspected spy and you couldn’t just band around ideas of freedom willy-nilly without ruffling some feathers.

Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj - With Obama

Soon after that speech Elbegdorj formed a group with 12 others which became known as the Thirteen Leaders of Mongolia’s Democratic Revolution. His boss at the paper said he’d get fired if he carried on with these dangerous types, so the group met in secret. They talked in private about democracy and other ideas that to most people seemed pretty out-there at that time.

In December 1989 this group of men organised the first pro-Democracy demonstration in Mongolia. They talked of multi-party elections, human rights, things that we take for granted. Elbegdorj announced the start of the Mongolian Democratic union. From then on these men planned strikes and other activities that before that time were basically unheard of in the stale political arena of Mongolia. Support grew in the cities and the countryside for Elbegdorj and his rabble.

Asia Collection

Thanks to their efforts the first multi-party elections were held in March 1990. Mongolia became the first Asian country to successfully switch from communism to democracy. From then on in Elbegdorj seems to have been a force for good in this huge Asian country. Here’s a short list of some of his impressive achievements:

  • Elbegdorj founded Mongolia’s first independent newspaper Ardchilal (Democracy)
  • He helped create Mongolia’s first independent TV station Eagle TV in 1994
  • In 1992 he co-drafted a new Mongolian Constitution which guaranteed human rights, democracy, freedom of religion, and free speech
  • He founded Mongolia’s first Entrepreneurs Association in 1991 which enabled herders to take ownership of  their flocks away from the collective farms
  • He organised apologies for victims and families of 36,000 people who had been wrongly persecuted, imprisoned and killed during communist rule
  • Elbegdorj was heavily involved in bringing in a new law that promised rehabilitation and compensation for political prisoners and prohibited future human rights violations
  • Between positions of power he made speeches throughout Mongolia inspiring youth and ensuring victory for the Democratic party even in his absence. Kind of like a Mongolian Tony Blair (except Elbegdorj works for good rather than evil)
Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj In North Korea

Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj In North Korea

  • Government controlled TV and radio were converted to free stations; and the ban on demonstrations on Ulaanbaatar’s Sükhbaatar Square was abolished
  • Elbegdorj made computers more affordable and available to schools
  • He was outspoken in requesting the release of Aung San Suu Kyi in Myanmar who had been under house arrest for years; she later personally thanked him for his efforts
Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj With Aung San Suu Kyi

Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj With Aung San Suu Kyi

  • He continues to speak in closed countries to encourage them onto the path of Democracy. He has spoken in Afghanistan, Myanmar, North Korea and Kyrgyzstan
  • Elbegdorj has made leaps forward for women’s rights. Three times as many women are now in parliament than before his reign. He says this of women in politics: “Have you ever heard of a woman bloody dictator or tyrant? I think not. If there were more women in power, I think we would have more harmony, more engagement and less suffering and less conflict.” Good point.
  • Thanks to the tireless efforts of Elbegdorj the death penalty is finally on the way out in Mongolia

And that’s just a partial list of the work he has done to improve Mongolia for the people who live there. It’s a breath of fresh air to read about a man who has worked so hard in politics, from a humble background who genuinely seems to be making a real effort to improve life for the people of his country and beyond.





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