Skip to content
September 21, 2011 / availableworld

The Urban Clan of Genghis Khan – Photo Album


Photograph by Mark Leong

Leggy models and a child acrobat wait offstage at a pop music concert in Ulaanbaatar.

See Mor photos in Read More …

Photograph by Mark Leong

Newcomers living in white gers—traditional round dwellings—and other small houses now make up more than half of the capital’s 1.2 million people. Ger districts lack running water and other basic services. In the distance a coal-fired power plant helps make the city one of the world’s most polluted.

Photograph by Mark Leong

Ochkhuu Genen and daughter Anuka watch a video on an iPhone in a relative’s ger on the outskirts of Ulaanbaatar. Until recently, the family lived on the steppe. An unusually hard winter convinced Ochkhuu and his wife that they should bring their two young children to live in UB, the nickname for the capital.

Photograph by Mark Leong

With a sick heart, Ochkhuu (at left) and his father-in-law, Jaya, dispose of sheep and goat carcasses after the winter of 2009-2010, which killed millions of livestock across Mongolia. “These animals were my life,” says Jaya, who lost 800 of his 1,100 head to starvation and exposure—a fortune for a herder.

Photograph by Mark Leong

An ocean of green, Mongolia is the most sparsely populated country in the world, with just under three million people in a landmass larger than Alaska. Mongolian culture—physical, mobile, self-reliant, and free—developed out here on the steppe. “When people move to Ulaanbaatar, they bring that mentality with them,” says Baabar, a well-known publisher and historian.

Photograph by Mark Leong

Almost a mile under Mongolia’s south Gobi, miners tunnel into Oyu Tolgoi (Turquoise Hill), the world’s largest undeveloped deposit of copper and gold. Once the mine begins production in 2013, Mongolia—through its joint partnership with foreign mining companies—stands to double its gross domestic product, supplying 3 percent of the world’s copper.

Photograph by Mark Leong

Real estate magnate Bat-Erdene Khadbaasan instructs his racehorse trainer before Naadam, an annual festival outside the capital. “For an entrepreneur, UB is a great place to be,” says Khadbaasan, who rose from chauffeur to tycoon through street savvy, good luck, and the willpower of a nomad.

Photograph by Mark Leong

A horde of spectators pushes forward to watch the finish of the Soyolon horse race, centerpiece of the Naadam festival of traditional Mongolian culture held each year outside Ulaanbaatar. The sweat of the winning horse is thought to bring good fortune.

Photograph by Mark Leong

A sculpture of a mother and baby wearing gas masks is a comment on UB’s chronic air pollution in artist Munkhtsetseg Jalkhaajav’s “S.O.S.” at the National Modern Art Gallery. Mongolian artists are gaining international popularity, including in China, for taking on edgy subjects.

Photograph by Mark Leong

Well stocked with goods from Europe and Asia, the Mongolian supermarket chain Nomin has come a long way from its days as a state-run grocery store selling imports from Russia. After communism fell here in 1990, the company was privatized. As Ulaanbaatar’s fortunes gradually improved, so did the selection.

Photograph by Mark Leong

On a cold October night, police arrest the inebriated and take them to jail. Alcoholism is rampant among UB’s poor and unemployed. Later, when winter temperatures dip to minus 40°F, the stakes are higher. If police patrols don’t find those in trouble quickly enough, they freeze to death.

Photograph by Mark Leong

A Nazi German eagle trails ink across the tattooed back of a former Buddhist monk, now unemployed. Inspired by the ferocity of Genghis Khan, a growing number of young people are turning to nationalism and fascist symbols to express their rage. They blame government corruption—and foreign business interests—for the sorry state of the country.

Photograph by Mark Leong

Children from the ger districts cool off in the polluted Tuul River. Even as billions in mining profits pour into the capital, infrastructure projects remain underfunded and jobs hard to find. Nearly half of all ger dwellers live below the poverty line.

Photograph by Mark Leong

Making his rounds on a subzero day, Dorjsuren, at right, sells firewood and coal in the ger districts east of downtown but returns to the steppe near Altanbulag every summer to tend his livestock. “Mongolians always go back because we need this countryside,” says Baabar. “In our hearts, we’re all nomads.”

About these ads

Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

%d bloggers like this: