Arts & culture

An Unquestionably a Good Person

To the 110th birth anniversary of Dashdorj Natsagdorj – Founder of contemporary Mongolian Literature

A pre-eminent Mongolian scholar, academician Byamba Rinchen had simply characterized Dashdorj Natsagdorj as “An Unquestionably a Good Person”. Natsagdorj, who although lived a very short life of 31 years had accomplished more than once could ask for. He had worked for the Party, the Government and even the Defense Ministry. He served as an alternate member of the Party Central Committee. He was the first chief of the Young Pioneer’s Bureau (an organization of young communists). Natsagdorj had worked as a linguist and a lexicographer, a translator, a historian, a journalist. He was a great author, a poet, a playwright, a prose writer. Given the historical times he lived in, perhaps this is what gave him so much responsibilities, which he accomplished with honor.

Natsagdorj was born on 17 November 1906, at a place which today is called Gün Galuut in Bayandelger soum, Töv aimag. His father Dashdorj was of a noble descent, but lived a poor life. When Natsagdorj was 7 his mother Pagma died. He was raised by his father who during the reign of the Bogd Khan, and also after the People’s Government was formed in 1921, worked as a scribe.

Dashdorj would say “learning to read and write is the key to wisdom,” and when Natsagdorj was only 9 he asked his friend Altangerel to be his son’s house tutor – guru. The nine-year-old Natsagdorj not only learnt to read and write well, and together with his father and guru he made copies of many a manuscripts.

natsagdorj-and-pagamdulam-1

D. Natsagdorj and his first wife Damdin Pagamdulam when they were students in Berlin in 1927

No wonder, later when Natsagdorj was serving as a clerk with the War Ministry, he was promoted to become a principal clerk for his dedicated official discharge and when he was 15 years old the People’s Revolution won in the country.

In July 1921, after the People’s Revolution, Natsagdorj was appointed personal assistant to the revolutionary leader Damdin Sükhbaatar, which opened up opportunities before him. He worked in the Central Committee of the Party where he served as a Secretary, and was elected as a member of the Party Central Committee. He worked in the war and the interior ministries, the Government and later until his death with the Academy of Sciences of Mongolia.

Natsagdorj, who lived at an important crossroads of class struggle and two different regimes, becoming a witness to the old tyrannical and the new revolutionary life tempered his political will and shaped his world outlook, that all contributed to his creative life until his death in 1937.

Under the new regime, Natsagdorj had the opportunity to work, apart from D. Sükhbaatar with Kh. Choibalsan, former Prime Minister B. Tserendorj and revolutionary Magsarjav. Given his literary knowledge and skills, Natsagdorj played an important role in the process of documentation and writing in all positions he held then. The National Archive has a hand-written original copy of the First Constitution of the Mongolian People’s Republic, which was copied by Natsagdorj, who was also involved in its drafting.

Apart from high state and government offices, Natsagdorj played a key role in the education and cultural upbringing of his contemporaries. He was an active member of the Mongolian Revolutionary Youth Union, the young wing of the party, and in 1925 he was one of the founders of the Mongolian Young Pioneers’ Organization.

Natsagdorj was also educated overseas, giving him a new dimension to his world outlook and mindset. In 1925-1926 he studied at the Military and Political Academy in Leningrad, now St. Petersburg. Then from 1926 to the spring of 1929, together with his first wife Damdin Pagamdulam, he studied in Berlin and Leipzig, Germany as he had put it himself then “I am learning the language, newspapers and journals, and oriental studies.” He returned home in the spring of 1929 and until 1930 he led a normal life, writing and translating, when his fate suddenly made a nasty roundabout turn.

On 31 December 1931, Natsagdorj together with his second Russian wife Nina Chistyakova (they had a daughter Ananda Shiri) and a few friends celebrated the New Year in a European style. A photo from the New Year party, which was taken by his friend, had the following words written on the back of the photo print “Noble Natsagdorj’s banquet” (see photo below). This photo turned up in the hands of the Interior Ministry and on 17 May 1932 he was arrested and investigated as those were the days when the descendants of the nobility and so-called feudals were viewed with suspicion as enemy of the revolution. During his investigation, Natsagdorj had even said that “we were drinking and having fun, but we never had any political discussion of foul nature.” He was again arrested in 1936 and jailed and interrogated for almost a year, which told very badly on his health.

The notorious photo “Noble Natssgdorj’s Banquet.” 31.12.1931 Natsagdorj second from right, was taken by one his friend Bat-Ochir

Natsgdorj died on 13 July 1937 at a young age of 31.Although young he had accomplished a lot. He had translated one chapter of Karl Marx’ Das Kapital, Sergey Pushkin’s The Shot, Edgar Poe’s The Gold Bug from Russian and German into Mongolian. And many of his works have also been translated in India, Russia and Germany.

My Native Land by Dashdorj Natsagdorj

The fertile virgin-lands between Altai and Khangai

Lands of our eternal destiny where ancestors lie

Land grown mellow under the golden rays of the sun

Land grown eternal under the silver moon.

This is my native land

Mongolia the beautiful!

 

Home land of our ancestors since the day of the Hsiung-nu

Land of great might in the days of the Blue Mongols

Land we become more accustomed with every passing year

Land where now the crimson flags flutter

This is my native land

Mongolia the beautiful!

 

Beloved country of us all who were born and die here

The enemy who dares invade our soil shall perish

Let us build our democratic (revolutionary) state on the land ordained

Then let’s march head high toward the brave future new world.

This is my native land

Mongolia the beautiful!

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