Mongolian Military History Museum


Despite the nationwide curfew, Captain Shin was able to get me a visit to the Mongolian Military History Museum.  Outside amungst the tanks, aircraft, and artillery, I spotted the venerable T-34/85 tank that I had missed at the Volgograd museum.  This tank was one of the most important military advancements of World War II.  While the T-34 was not as good as the German tanks it was a simpler design that was easy to produce.  The Russians mass produced this tank to the extent that the Germans were overwhelmed by their numbers.  And unlike the Sherman tank, America’s main battle tank that was armed with a 75 millimeter main gun, the T-34 had a 90mm main gun that could penetrate the thick armor of the German tanks.  I was very impressed to see this beautiful piece of history at this museum. The museum also had a wide range of historical military items including medeival torture devices like the finger cuffs below.


I was impressed by this bronze-age helmet that was excavated and added to the museum inventory.  I don’t suppose that the owner of this helmet survived the battle based on the massive axe gouge and crack that ran down the back.


The museum had some Iraqi Freedom (2003-current) displays from the Mongolian Army contingent that have served in Iraq.  One display had the schrapnel from a rocket that landed on the Mongolian compound at Diwaniyah.  Other impressive exhibits included many bronze-age knives, axe heads, and a large collection of bronze arrow heads.



The museum also had two rare examples of Mosin Nagant (7.62x54mm) Russian sniper rifles.  I have seen many of these rifles in museums around Eastern Europe but the sniper variant (with scope and down turned handle) are rare examples; I have never seen two different variants in the same museum.  After missing all of the other museums in Ulaanbaatar due to the quarantine I felt very privileged to have been able to visit this museum.


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Turk burial mounds

Chenggis Khan and his Mongolian armies came out of Mongolia and made the largest empire the world had ever seen.  But, before the Mongolians came the Huns best known for their greatest leader Atilla who conquered all the way to (and including parts of) Europe.  The Huns were a Turkic people, the same group who eventually conquered Turkey, most of Central Asia (Kazakhstan, Khergistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan), and parts of Russia to include the Tatars (who came from the Bulgar branch of the Turks; some went to Tatarstan in current Russia, others went to Bulgaria and were latter assimilated into the Balkan populations).

When Mongolia opened the western province to settlement and the Kazakh tribes accepted, it was really, in essence, a homecoming for them.  All throughout Bayan Ulgi, there are thousands of Turkic burial mounds, monuments, and grave markers like this one here.  This marker dates to the 6th or 7th century AD making it about 1300 years old.  The detail was extraordinary; this warrior’s face, hands, weapon, and clothing details can be made out in the carving on the grave marker.  Baatar tells me that this man was likely a tribe leader, great warrior, or other nobleman as more common people had simple markers.  In the following photo, you can see a row of lesser markers in line with this beautiful stone monument.

Just across the river I could see a more current Buddhist oovo, or stone prayer mound.  The Buddhists come to pray at these rock mounds and follow a precise set of rites or rituals.  On the way to the mound, they bring a rock, artifact, food, money, or something of (personal) value; I often saw lighters and cigarettes left on the mounds – no doubt a great sacrifice to a nicotine addicted, yet pious Buddhist.  Approaching the mound, the practicing Buddhist walks around the mound from left to right (clockwise) mirroring the movement of the sun across the sky (in the northern hemisphere).  The rock or artifact is placed on the mound and the pilgrim says his prayers.  I would come across many of these mounds as I traveled all over Mongolia.


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