Visible Manifestations of Social Change in Ulaanbaatar

By Julian Dierkes

It seems to me that social change has accelerated in Mongolia, or at least in Ulaanbaatar, or at least in central Ulaanbaatar in the past two years. I’ve had the food fortune to have visited Mongolia three times in the last half year. Here, I’m listing things and behaviours that are manifestations of such changes. Not terribly deep, but telling, I think.

What has arrived?

  • sadly, Louis Vuitton and KFC
  • Mini, Bentley
  • child seats
  • sidewalks
  • parks [these are closely linked to Bat-Uul’s election win in 2012]
  • farmers’ markets

What has disappeared, or at least nearly?

Note that some of these may be due to seasonal changes, as I hadn’t been in Ulaanbaatar in September before my last winter, really only in summer or winter.

  • stationary 80s-office-phone-looking old-granny cell phone booth
  • for-pay scales
  • free WiFi on Sukhbaatar, er Chinggis Khaan Square
  • Sukhbaatar Square
  • open gullys/missing manholes
  • street kids
  • packs of dogs
  • smoking
  • the sixth-floor souvenir shop at the State Department Store (though perhaps seasonal)

What will appear in the future

  • navigation systems
  • wheelchair accessibility
  • bike lanes
  • city park along the Tuul
  • new airport (apparently)
  • subway (really, I wish they had selected light rail instead)
  • sports cars
  • Harley-Davidson
  • urban renewal and historical restorations embracing district north of government house (National University of Mongolia, German embassy, etc.)
  • road signs in the countryside
  • street names and signs in the city
  • network of cross-country riding trails

What will disappear in the near future

I’m going out on a predictive limb here… 2-3 years is what I mean by “near future”.

  • stray dogs
  • stretched-out hand to signal for a car ride

What will disappear in the medium-term future

I mean around 5 years or so.

  • new (to Mongolia) cars that are right-hand drive
  • the neo-classical Ministry of Foreign Affairs building, with its Stalinist (if that’s an architectural style) spire
  • deels in the city
  • some of the downtown university campuses
  • buildings of 4 floors or less in the urban core.

Please feel free to nominate additions to the list via the comments function!

About Julian Dierkes

Julian Dierkes is a sociologist by training (PhD Princeton Univ) and a Mongolist by choice and passion since around 2005. He teaches in the Master of Public Policy and Global Affairs at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. He toots and tweets @jdierkes
This entry was posted in Change, Curios, Social Change, Ulaanbaatar and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Visible Manifestations of Social Change in Ulaanbaatar

  1. wl says:

    I hope when you said “stationary 80s-office-phone-looking old-granny cell phone booth”, you don’t mean this ? not surprised to see it go, but it was charming while it lasted.

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