The Memorial Day of the Victims of Political Persecution is annually observed on September 10. The following interview with Head of the Mongolian Association of Victims of Political Persecution (MAVPP) D.Tsogtbaatar delves into the real situation of the political persecution in Mongolia, efforts to acquit victims of persecution, and the Law on Acquitting Victims of Political Persecution and Granting Compensation to Their Families.
There was a times when Mongolians couldn’t mention or even reminisce about the victims of political persecution, which took place between 1937 and 1939. Now, families of persecutions are able to acquit and receive compensations. This can be considered an improvement, but how is the actual situation?
People talk about this topic in general, mentioning certain events and that 36,000 people were persecuted and killed. However, no one has assessed from the legal side or proven that bloody tortures and retributions took place. It’s been empty talk for over 20 years. I’m also at fault. The issue should’ve been addressed the moment a law for persecution victims and families was passed. This law was discussed since 1990. The MAVPP joined the Democratic Movement and became the first NGO. It contributed in establishing human rights, equal rights, democratic principles, and justice.
Members of our NGO worked day and night to promote and raise awareness of the Mongolian public about the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 10, 1948. The MAVPP has been raising its voice for recovering the reputation of the persecuted and granting compensations to their families. There were many protests and oppositions along the way until the law for persecution victims and families was enacted, but this information was never passed onto the Mongolian public. Our MAVPP members, seniors, and leaders and staff of the commission that managed acquittals of victims worked hard from 1990 to 1998.
In 1996, the Democratic Union Coalition won the parliamentary election and S.Zorig was elected as the Head of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on State Structure. In 1997, the development of the draft bill started smoothly and was passed on July 2, 1998. If we look back at history, 60 percent of Members of Parliament supported the bill. This is quite scary as it means that 40 percent of MPs disapproved when Mongolia had already become a democratic society. I view it was connected to their lack of understanding on basic human rights. There are still people who don’t accept the fact that a political persecution took place and some who believe to date that it was the right thing to do.
Although overcoming many obstacles and having the law approved was a very significant and historic achievement, there are plenty of things left unresolved. This is partially the reason why there are still so many who don’t understand or don’t wish to understand political persecution.
What is being done for acquitting the persecuted?
It naturally leads to the question whether the commission managing the acquittals of persecution victims were able to fulfill their duties. They did manage to acquit groups of victims at a time. It’s clear that they gained some research materials. Still, they didn’t do anything to prove that people were persecuted. This led to stagnation in acquittal related projects and wasted a great deal of time. Works are assessed by its result and significance, not by its duration. The first thing our association did was to figure out and research how many false accusations were made for political reasons. People who were falsely accused usually ended up as sacrifice. I regret that the commission only focused on acquitting people rather than identifying false accusations. Since 1922, there were more than 90 false accusations made. For example, 1,503 people were involved in the Lkhumbiin case. A fake leader named Lkhumbe and some people were acquitted but not everyone involved was. Since it was a false charge, everyone should’ve been acquitted.
I’d like to underline that the crimes that took place were aimed to destroy the whole nationality and destroy an entire province with bloody torture and retribution. Acquittals would’ve progressed much quicker had the matter been studied comprehensively, and then resolved as individual cases. We’ve only been acquitting certain number of victims every year and continued to do this to this day. In other words, it would’ve been more productive to carry out this work based on analysis and research by scientists and researchers.
The MAVPP organized over 20 conferences among researchers, academics and scientists and published some academic books. Yet, the state never paid attention or gave a tiny bit of significance to our work. Mongolia is the second country impacted by the principles of “red” communism and affected by its persecution. The fact that we didn’t recognize this earlier led to many suffering and unorganized structure.
…the crimes that took place were aimed to destroy the whole nationality and destroy an entire province with bloody torture and retribution. Acquittals would’ve progressed much quicker had the matter been studied comprehensively, and then resolved as individual cases…
Besides the persecution, how else can you explain that Mongolia became a sacrifice of communist principles?
The Mongolian public, our land, language, history and culture all suffered because of communism. Some of our land was lost, our population was reduced, our culture destroyed and the Mongolian history took a 360 degree turn. For instance, the history was altered and modified to become consistent with the principles of the time. The traditional Uigarjin Mongolian script was admired as the “vertical writing” but it was banned in 1945. The script hasn’t been reinstated to date. It’s pointless if a group of people make it look as if only a few people were persecuted while another group makes it seem that it was an extremely tragic event. This matter needs to be discussed on a national level. It’s better to determine how Mongolians suffered, which lands we lost, and how people were falsely accused. We need statistics and analysis.
Statistics will show how many people received the correct punishment. It’s said that 30,000 to 36,000 people received sentences but unofficial documents indicate it’s more than that. Out of all these people, 67 percent was executed. Families of nine high-level officials were wrongfully executed. Research shows that eight of them were 25 to 35 years old and one of them was a 63-year-old woman. Would we say it was a just judgment, bloody persecution or retribution? Also, the number of monks that died is still unclear. It’s said that the court gave sentences to 17,000 monks, out of which 82 percent, specifically some 14,000 monks, were immediately shot to death. We don’t know what happened to the rest. Almost every monk was killed back then. For sure, there were instances of annihilation of whole provinces and attacks on ethnical groups. Buryat and Barguud suffered the most. Some Buryat soums in Selenge and Dornod Provinces were left with very few men. It’s a tragic part of history. The Mongolian state must beg forgiveness from the Buryat people. A case named Lkumbiin case was fabricated to stop Buryats from moving to Mongolia by killing them in large numbers.
It seems that Mongolia perceived the criminal act we call persecution differently from other countries. There are several evidence that there were bloodshed, torture, persecution, unjust murders and retribution, and yet, we’re keeping quiet about it. Our fault is that we didn’t assess these events theoretically, practically or scientifically. We must change the way we think. We addressed this issue countless times and each time it was ignored. Neither the state nor relevant organizations want to understand this matter. The main problem is with political parties.
The MAVPP took legal actions in relation to this matter. Have you received any response?
This is one of the biggest steps we’re taking for the Mongolian public and the interests of our nation. We will not point fingers to certain people or parties while doing this work. The main purpose is to validate that a crime to destroy a whole nationality occurred in Mongolia and find out how it progressed.
As the head of the MAVPP, I will devote everything to completing this work. Last spring, I addressed the Supreme Court about this issue. The Supreme Court responded in a way that indicated it will shoo this matter from itself, find a convenient way to get around it, and have the Primary Court pass judgment. We will submit our materials to the Primary Court. I’m confident that the Mongolian court will past fair and just decision. Our research and statistical documents are very clear. We have photographs and videos so without a doubt, it will be viewed as a serious crime.