Impressions from a Recent Trip to Ulaanbaatar


All photographs were taken in Ulaanbaatar between February 28, 1995, and March 3 of the same year. The camera is a Nikon FM2 with a Nikkor 55 mm lens, aperture 1:1.2. The usual shutter speed was around 1/1000 sec with average apertures between 1/11 and 1/16. A Fuji brand 400 ASA film was used, the paper prints were printed on Kodak paper. The pictures were then scanned with an AGFA true color scanner, the raw image data were processed by Photoshop on a Mac down to a definition of 150 dpi and 256 colours. The number following the name indicates the size of the data in bytes.

There was virtually no time at all to take pictures which is well visible from many of the shots. Either the horizontal and vertical lines are not properly balanced or sections of the pictures were badly selected. These pictures here do not make any artistic claim - they have only been taken for documentary purposes.

O. Corff, April 12, 1995.

Downtown [289730 Bytes] On the way from Sansar to Sukhbaatar Square one has to cross the river Selbe. The banks of the river Selbe are fairly empty and though this area can be considered downtown Ulaanbaatar it is pretty void. There are many empty spaces like that in Ulaanbaatar creating a unique feeling of openness.

Gandan Monastery (I) [259646 Bytes] The Gandan Monastery is the one remaining huge "working" monastery, if Russian terminology is permitted once in this place. It consists of several buildings. The stupa visible on the right side is a fairly recent addition to the compound and was erected in 1992 (as far as I know). The main building underwent thorough reconstruction in 1991 and 1992. It once housed a huge Buddha statue which disappeared in 1906 and is supposed to be in Russia. This building is at present not used for public religious services.

Gandan Monastery (II) [345679 Bytes] Southeast of the main temple there is a smaller compound within the Gandan monastery where religious services are held. People come here for prayer, meditation and sacrifices.

Prayer Tower of Smaller Monastery [197621 Bytes] In 1990/1991, a smaller monastery was built near the old circus and the dormitories of the National University. The monastery compound was not built in one step. Elements like the wooden tower from which the horns are blown were added in 1993/1994, and new buildings are being added.

Smaller Monastery [275660 Bytes] This small structure which belongs also to the new monastery houses a huge prayer mill. In the background on the left side the entrance to the Foreign Student's dormitory of the National University can be seen.

October 1994 Fire at MONTSAME (I) [301637 Bytes]

October 1994 Fire at MONTSAME (II) [352282 Bytes] The fire which ruined MONTSAME in 1994 did not do great damage to the building if seen from the outside. Inside the building was more or less destroyed as can be seen from the second picture which shows the staircase between the 2nd and 3rd floors. Some of the operations of MONTSAME have been relocated to other buildings in the neighbourhood, e.g. the Central Post Office, others are crammed into tiny remaining offices.

State Central Museum [280805 Bytes] The State Central Museum (Ulsyn Töw Muzei) of Ulaanbaatar houses a wide variety of exhibits from dinosaurs, wildlife and plants to all aspects of Mongolian culture including script and games but excluding fine arts and religious art which are found in the Museum of Fine Arts. A tour through this Museum can be warmly recommended to everybody. There is even a piece of modern art in front of the museum in the shape of a semi-abstract bronze sculpture.

An Owoo on Mt. Zaisan [321359 Bytes] This is maybe the most intriguing picture of this series. In the mountains directly south of Ulaanbaatar (Bogd Uul) there is a little peak named Zaisan which bears a huge Soviet- style monument shaped as a concrete ring on its top. Next to this piece of Socialist/Communist art is a small but growing owoo which started back in 1990/1991. I still remember at about a fifth of its present height. In communist times it was prohibited to erect owoos, and this one has grown well in the last years. People make an owoo grow by placing stones on it. I did not find a single loose stone lying on the ground around the owoo which implies that people brought the bigger stones from at least some distance (maybe from the surroundings of Mt. Zaisan).

Powerplant No. 3 [277906 Bytes] Ulaanbaatar is populated by a total of four power plants of which no. 1 and no. 2 (located downtown) have been switched off for a long time. Electricity and heat are now produced by plants no. 3 and no. 4. The picture shows plant no. 3 and the significant amount of environmental pollution caused by it. Plant no. 3 is located near the road from Buyant Uxaa (the airport) and the city.

Sansar [241828 Bytes] Sansar (literally "cosmos") is a hill in the eastern part of Ulaanbaatar where many East German experts used to live. From the high-rise buildings one should have a fine view of the city were it not for the pollution caused by the power plant.

Air Force Monument [260076 Bytes] At the eastern end of the main street of Ulaanbaatar there is a monument erected in honour of the Mongolian air force participating in WW II. The concrete ring bears an inscription in Mongolian and Russian:



The plate at the west side of the monument shows the following Mongolian inscription:


1985 ON

Culture Palace [239639 Bytes] The huge white building on the east side of Sukhbaatar Square is the Culture Palace, a fairly recent building which was finished in the end of the 1980s. The front part facing the square houses a huge stage while the the tower in the back houses the Academy of Sciences, the International Association for Mongol Studies, and other institutions. The statue in front of the building to the left side is Sukhbaatar's statue. The pink building on the right side is the Opera theatre which was constructed after WW II.

Ulaanbaatar, seen from Mt. Zaisan [296234 Bytes] This is a view of Ulaanbaatar taken from Mt. Zaisan. The white band in the foreground is the river Tool covered by ice. Vaguely, the following structures can be identified: the ring on the right side is the stadium for the Naadam games, the two towers further north are the Bayangol Hotel, the dark brown building to the right is the government building, the blue dome in the centre is the new Circus, and the black block north of it is the Ulsyn Ix Delguur (State Department Store). To the left, in the north, the Gandan Monastery can be identified.

Ulsyn Ix Xural [237749 Bytes] This is the government building of Mongolia, also known as Ulsyn Xural. It is located at the northern side of Sukhbaatar Square with Sukhbaatar's mausoleum directly in front of it. Other than in similar buildings in Moscow or Beijing there is no macabre display of a preserved hero. In this mausoleum there is only a very sobre marble plate covering the ground. In former times the government building was also used by the ruling party, MAXN (MPRP), as headquarter. The MAXN had to move in 1990 to a new building in the immediate neighbourhood which was formerly intended to house the City Comitee of the party only. The car on the left side is supposed to be an insider joke for friends of Tuva.