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4. M. Onuki: Nüüdliïn Mal Aj Axuïn Niïgmiïn Orqin Üe

The third book deserves a broader audience in the West than it probably enjoys at the moment. Originally translated from Japanese and published in Mongolian 1990, the book is a collection of field research reports, the earliest field work having been conducted in Bürd Sum, Öwörxangaï Aimag, in 1983 by Masao Onuki who is a professor at the Osaka University of Foreign Studies (Osaka Gaikokugo Daigaku). Onuki is a specialist for contemporary Mongolian history and nomadism. In its Mongolian form, the book does not exist in Japanese; the first part is a translation of the Japanese publication ``Yuubokushakai no Gendai'' (``Contemporary Nomadic Society'', Aoki Shoten, Tokyo 1985); the second part is a selected translation of important articles which appeared later. Besides the parts gleaned from other publications, Onuki's book has two original contributions, an epilogue and a collection of materials related to Onuki's research expeditions. The epilogue is slightly off focus, compared to the rest of the book, and highly personal. It features two essays, one of which deals with ``What We Can Learn 50 Years After the Battle of Xalxyn Gol'' (Xalx Golyn Daïnaas xoïsh 50 Jil Öngöröxöd ... Öngörsön surgamjaas iräädüï äxälnä ...). The material section shows the correspondence between Onuki and Mongolian authorities when preparing the expeditions, and lists all participants on the Japanese and Mongolian side. As such it is a small Who is Who of Japanese and Mongolian agro-economical studies and a valuable record of science history.

The research was prompted by a decrease in animal productivity during the early 1980s. The graph on page 64 (I.15, Total number of livestock in the MPR) shows a significant drop in 1983 after a longer period of relative stability. Only a few years later, the decrease in economic efficiency would become a key target of discussion within the ruling party. Onuki shows that restructuring in the observed area lead to an increased production load on the herders who in return were not always able to meet the new goals.

The research report of Part I of this book is pleasant to read because it displays a lot of material for the interested reader and uses illustrations whenever feasable. These illustrations stand in the tradition of Japanese dictionary illustrations: they are reduced to the essentials yet omit no detail by which the object can be safely identified. Thus are the illustrations of the winter camps of Bürd (II-1, p. 74), the summer camp (II-9, p. 95) and the spring camp (II-10, p. 97), as well as the distribution of grazing plants (II-5, p. 82--83) or the types of plants (II-6, p. 84--85) which show xiag, shiräg, and many others.

Besides the illustrations, a lot of information is presented in tabular form: these include tables on the composition of workforce in Bürd (II-14, p. 103; compare this with Table IV, p. 154 of Schmidt's ``Mongolia in Transition''), the structure of local government (II-7, p. 89), or the annual calendar of economical activities (III-1, p. 116).

There is only a minor comment necessary. On p. 63, in the chapter about the historical development of the nägdäls in Mongolia, the author uses the famous oil painting by N. Cültäm, ``An Unforgettable Meeting'' depicting a scenery showing Lenin and Sübaatar together. The two men probably never met in this way despite the lore that Lenin gave instructions about the political work concerning Mongolian herders to Süxbaatar in Moscow.

Though the book is a good introduction into the study of Mongolian nomadism, a useful source of data and a thorough case study as well, it may be due to the original languages of publication that this book was ignored by the authors and contributors of the above-mentioned books. Beyond its intrinsic value as a research report, I consider this book an excellent teaching material for advanced students studying Mongolian and Mongolian affairs. The illustrations make it easy to understand concepts like the seasonal camps and environmental conditions as well as the vocabulary that goes with them.

In a way this book can well be compared with Schmidt's book on transition in rural economy. Both authors chose a similar outline as both go into the history of rural organization (the nägdäls). Though both authors conducted their field work in different areas at different historical periods; Onuki's research was done in the 1980s and reveals the conditions and circumstances prior to the profound changes in 1989/1990; Schmidt's work takes a high-resolution snapshot of the first years of transition. Schmidt shows the beginning of a new era and she also gives evidence of a deep uncertainty: nobody is aware of the exact nature of what this new era is supposed to be.

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