Life could be seen as a series of moments. Every moment in our life has its reason, distinction and carries a bell that makes a unique sound exclusive for that moment. This year marks the 70th anniversary of the Mongolian Student Union. The first university in Mongolia was established in 1942, soon after which the Mongolian Student Union was founded. The bells of those moments rang for World War II, while Mongolian students were laying the foundations for future development by acquiring higher education diplomas on their home soil for the first time ever.
People from my generation were students during the 1970-80s, during which the bells of history rang for the Cold War. That was the time when I enrolled at the University of Tashkent to learn Russian. A year later I was studying geology at Lomonosov Moscow State University. After spending two years there, I changed my major to economics and graduated from the university.
Student council and student union were the same organization at that time. I was chosen as the Committee Chairman of the Revolutionary Youth Union of Lomonosov Moscow State University, where almost a hundred Mongolian students studied. Our union had three sub-groups depending on the location of dormitories. One of the sub-groups was led by Zorig Sanjaasuren, who was the former leader of the Democratic Union of Mongolia. Another was headed by Altai Zorig, who is the current Ambassador of Mongolia to Sweden, and the other was headed by Batmunkh Sukhbaatar, who was a renowned author and poet. Many talented young people went to Moscow State University, which produced many of the leaders of Mongolia and other experts whose names later became known worldwide in their respective fields of study.
In the second half of the 1980s, I was working in Prague after being selected as the representative of the Mongolian Student Union to the International Union of Students. When I worked there, I had a chance to travel to many countries and meet new people, including international students and professors. I participated in organizing an international event for students in North Korea and attended conferences in Delhi and Havana as preparation for the event. I also had an opportunity to meet Fidel Castro, Kim Jong-il, Rajiv Gandhi and many other influential political figures.
By the end of the 1980s, the communist regime was breaking down while the age of democracy and market economy were beginning. In the fall of 1989, there was a big demonstration innitiated by Czech students in the central square of Prague. The demonstration was also attended by Mongolian students who were enrolled in Czech schools. The square in front of the Prague Polytechnic University was sometimes referred to as “Sukhbaatar’s Square” by Mongolian students. During one of those demonstrations at the central square of Prague, I gave a speech that was published in the youth newspaper with the title, “A Mongolian student calls for the release of Vaclav Havel, a Czech poet, from prison” on the following day.
Democratic revolution and students
Every revolutionary change in the communist countries was contributed by Mongolian students who were studying there. The democratic movement that occurred in our country in the winter of 1989 attracted the hearts of every Mongolian no matter where they were. Many Mongolian students who were studying abroad came back to Mongolia to attend the First Conference of the Mongolian Democratic Union, which was held on February 18, 1990. Among those students were Khulan from Brno, Czechoslovakia, P.Tsenguun from Prague, and I.
The Mongolian Student Union organized a joint conference of democratic movements on February 24, 1990. This conference was attended by the Mongolian Student Union, Shine Devshilt (new progress) Association, the Democratic Socialist Movement and the Mongolian Democratic Union. We discussed the common ground that united us and talked about organizing a public demonstration on March 4, 1990. Ts.Elbegdorj, D.Batsukh, R.Gonchigdorj and I prepared a joint statement that was delivered to the People’s Great Khural, Council of Ministers, and the Central Committee. We also drafted a letter urging the Ministry of Defense, the Armed Forces and the Intelligence Agency not to use firearms against the demonstrators. The Mongolian Student Union then copied the letter, using a typewriter, and put it up on the streets of Ulaanbaatar. “The 20th Century,” a student movement, actively participated in this work.
A special conference was organized by the Mongolian Student Union on March 2 and L.Bold (the current Minister of Foreign Affairs), who was the leader of the student union at that time, gave a speech to participants. The student representatives ratified the new ideology of the Mongolian Student Union, agreed on the action plan, and announced the declaration of the rights of Mongolian students.
On March 4, we organized a demonstration involving hundreds of students in front of the Zaluuchuud (youth) Center and read out our declaration of student rights before paying respect to the Chinese students who lost their lives during Tiananmen Square protest for freedom. Afterwards, we marched to the Yalalt (victory) Square and joined the demonstration for democracy. In the afternoon we circled around Sukhbaatar Square and were officially disbanded after reaching the place where the statue for the victims of political repression stands today. We were not permitted to hold a public demonstration in Sukhbaatar Square that day. However, the number of people that gathered at Sukhbaatar Square gradually increased until it became a larger group. The bells of that moment rang for freedom and human rights. Soon after that, the political bureau was disassembled, the State Khural was held and the new Constitution was passed.
The bells of this decade have been ringing with a totally different chime. Our dear students of the present day, you are the ones who will decide what Mongolia will look like in 2020. The foremost mission of yours is to develop “innovation” economics, strengthen democracy, and reinforce the free market. The combination of these three achievements will bring peace and flourishing development to any country.
It is sung that everyone gets their moment. Everyone does and when it happens, the chance you get is as little as mouthful of water on a hot summer day; and it happens faster than a bullet travelling at full speed.
I obtained my master’s degree in business administration from the University of Denver, USA, after two years of study. As someone who spent 10 years as a student, I am very familiar with what students go through, what challenges they have, what joys they relish and the benefits they can get from studying. I am now calling for you to seize your moment completely.
You must desire tturning information into knowledge and using that knowledge to create values. In this globalized, flattened world, you will be in competition with people from every country in the world. It will not be relevant where you were born, what your nationality is or what city you come from. The only important thing will be what skills and knowledge you possess, how you use them and what language you express yourself in.
During the time when you are a student, you develop your lifelong skill to learn. You must acquire strong discipline, sharp focus and the ability to listen to others. You are living in an era that is characterized by brand new, advanced communication technology. It is important to take advantage of this to improve your labor productivity.
I want you to dream about becoming the next Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg rather than the next President or Prime Minister. You must be the change you wish to see.
Dear students, I wish you great success in your studies!
Speech delivered at the 70th anniversary conference of the Mongolian Student Union
D.Jargalsaikhan, former representative of the Mongolian Student Union to the International Union of Students
Translated by B.AMAR
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