Ca. late 1920s. Oblong Quarto album (ca. 19,5x31,5 cm). 16 card stock leaves. With ca. 150 mounted gelatin silver snapshot photographs, including six large photos from ca. 11x21 cm (4 ½ x 8 ¼ in) to ca. 11x16 cm (4 ½ x 6 ¼ in); the rest are from ca. 8,5x11,5 cm (3 ¼ x4 ½ in) to ca. 3x5 cm (1 ¼ x 2 in). The majority of photos with period ink captions in Russian on the mounts (related to individual images or groups of images); several photos also numbered in negative. Period mauve cloth album with a paper title label on the front board; the title reads “Mongolia” in Russian. The same pencil-written Russian title and number “4” on the inner side of the front board. Album slightly weakened on hinges, a couple of images mildly faded, traces of several erased pencil captions on the mounts, but overall a very good album of interesting images.
A rare collection of lively original photos showing the Mongolian capital Ulaanbaatar and its residents just a few years after the establishment of the socialist Mongolian People’s Republic in 1924. Ruled by Quing China since the end of the 17th century, Mongolia started its struggle for independence during the 1911 Xinhai Revolution. After a tumultuous decade, when the country experienced a short-lived theocratic Bogd Khanate (1911-19 and 1921-24), Chinese occupation and the Mongolian Revolution of 1921, the Soviet Red Army assisted local revolutionaries in establishing the socialistic Mongolian People’s Republic in 1924. The country’s capital, known to Europeans as Urga, was renamed Ulaanbaatar the same year. Throughout the 20th century, the country developed under the heavy influence of the Soviet Union. China officially recognized Mongolian independence only in 1946.
The album offers a fascinating peek into Ulaanbaatar's life and urban development in the early years of the socialistic rule in Mongolia and before the massive Soviet-style reconstruction in the 1950s and 1960s. The photographer was likely a Soviet traveller or resident in the Mongolian capital. The album opens with a large panoramic view of Ulaanbaatar, showing the Chinese quarter and “several European buildings.” Other views of the capital show a military parade on the Sükhbaatar Square featuring the “teacher’s school,” the “Green Domed theatre” (built in 1926 and burned in 1949, now space is occupied with the Mongolian Government palace), the first building of the Government palace, narrow streets and wooden dwellings of the Chinese quarter, a temple of the Jindandao (Red Turban) sect, a temple of the guardian of the Bogdoul Mountain, interior and exterior of the Bogd Khan’s Winter Palace, several views of the city Zakhadyr (market), various city carts and carriages run by Chinese, etc. A dozen thoroughly annotated photos show the details of Ulaanbaatar yurts and houses, with modifications for winter and summer. Eight photos depict the “City public services, or rather the lack of them” (residents carrying water from the local river where sewage flows in, carts of water sellers, people voiding in the middle of the city streets, stray dogs who eat the feces, etc.). Photos titled “The first steps to civilization” show an ophthalmologist in his office, interiors of an Ulaanbaatar orphanage, and three Mongols in a canteen. Over a dozen photos document the summer Naadam festival (horse riding contesters, archers, scenes of Mongolian wrestling and “giving Kumis to the winners,” spectators from the Khudan province, festival tents, Mongolian chess players, musicians, etc.). Three photos portray the Bogd Khan (ca. 1869-1924), Gonchigjalzangiin Badamdorj (Bogd Khaanate’s prime minister in 1919-1920), and “one of the Chinese officials.” An uncaptioned photo shows Manlaibaatar Damdinsüren (Mongolian notable military leader and Bogd Khaanate’s Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs). About thirty photos detail Mongolian costumes and hairdos from different regions, including famous women’s horn-style hairdo from the Khalka region (with a detailed manuscript note on making it). There are also photos of beds, dishes, details of saddles, various cattle (cows, sheep, camels, goats, yaks), women milking cows, drying wool, a device for making milk vodka, etc. The last photo is an interesting snapshot of “costumed men on stilts at the 1st of May parade.” Overall a lively visual source on the early years of socialistic Mongolia.