I remember being shocked during my first trip to Mongolia in 2008 when walking along Peace Avenue, I saw a car belong to the unofficial political group/gang Blue Mongol (Хөх Монгол) sporting a prominent and rather taboo swastika. After asking around, I learned that this was one of several ultra-nationalists groups to be found in UB. At the same time, graffitti on various walls through the city featuring a swastika with the initials М.Ү.Н. (Монгол Үндесний Нам/Mongolian National Party) was readily visible to even the most inattentive observer. In 2009, such vandalism and the same Blue Mongol car could be spotted almost daily, and I remember hearing news reports of Chinese business men attacked, Korean tourists beat, and Mongolian women having their head shaved as punishment for dating a foreign (i.e. Chinese) man. Still other cars and vans with similar messages started popping up, and in the center of the city one could readily spot groups of young men with the tell-tell tattoos and hairstyles readily associated with ultra-nationalist gangs. In the same year, the BBC featured a couple of stories on another nationalist group, Даяар Монгол (roughly translated, Worldwide Mongolians). In 2010, not much had changed. However, as I was telling this story to friends, they asked what the situation was today and I realized an important development: not only have I seen far less М.Ү.Н. tagging, nor have I seen more than a couple of (admittedly hastely profiled) nationalists, I have not once seen that notorious Blue Mongol car that started my casual observations on this topic 5 years ago.
My feeling is that the visibility of such groups have declined in the past couple years, and perhaps some of their political activities have been checked by the authorities to ensure a secure environment for the upcoming elections. At the same, less visibility does not mean the end to xenophobic voilence. Random attacks against foreign business men and women, NGO workers, and so on are still to be heard, and anti-Chinese statements make up a significant proportion of graffitti. So, the question remains: What happened to the visibility of such groups? Have they spintered apart as such de facto gangs are prone to do? Do they lack any larger support structors to maintain themselves? Obviously these questions are not easy to answer, but the observations above might have a lot to say all on their own.
For an extended blog posting on ethnic nationalism in Mongolia as tied to fears of ethnic survival, visit: