Thursday, May 21, 2009

City Pride

Every so often a musical group produces a song that is a fitting homage to a city. I think the Lemons on their most recent album have done this with their song "1983...1986" which is a light tribute to Mongolia's city. The video is particularly fun for its historical footage of Ulaanbaatar before the frenetic and unfettered development of the last two decades. An idyllic reminiscence of much simpler times gone by.

It is easy to sometimes forget that Ulaanbaatar has a storied past as a crossroads and cosmopolitan destination for Eurasian explorers, travelers, merchants, and spiritual pilgrims. Recently the ACMS library purchased a book that was published in 2006 in commemoration of the 800th Anniversary of the founding of the Great Mongol State. It is a fairly thorough photographic and pictorial history of the city, and includes some amazing archival pictures such as the dedication ceremony of the Sukhbaatar statue on Sukhbaatar Square when the square was an huge open patch of dirt and there was no parliament building. The photos are supplemented with passages describing different aspects of the city's development overtime, which for those unaware, has been going on for 370 years! I would encourage anyone with curiosity about Ulaanbaatar's history to stop by the center and look at the book. It is also available at Internom bookstore at the unbelievable price of 30,000MNT.

Ulaanbaatar can be an eyesore much of the year, but with the budding of spring leaves on the trees the city is becoming greener by the day. The Lemons song, the book, and the reemergence of natural colors outside the center windows does remind me that for all its faults Ulaanbaatar is a unique city that each citizen can find pride in. It is a 370 year work in progress, and, for all its supposed isolation, it has certainly never been a utterly boring place to live.

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