Mongolia's Urban Youth: Between Tradition and Globalization
“It’s all going so fast” sighs Gerelkhuu , a 26 year old artist living in Ulaanbaatar. “We have to remember who we are and to be careful not to lose our soul. If we don’t know who we are, we don’t know where we’ll go.” As Mongolia is changing at a frantic pace and finding itself at the forefront of globalization, its young urban generation is trying to keep up and figure out its identity.
Although the country is now experiencing an economic crisis, over the previous years Mongolia, a landlocked country sandwiched between Russia and China, has known an unprecedented economic growth, driven by the massive development of mineral mining. The country’s rapid transformation gives rise to enormous social and ecological challenges.
Half of Mongolia’s 2.8 million live in the country’s capital and largest city Ulaanbaatar, or UB as it is called locally. With more than half of Mongolians under the age of 30, the country not only has a very urban population but a young one as well.
A whole country is changing and its young urban generation is searching for an identity, trying to negotiate the difficult balance between globalization and preservation of tradition.
Almost 25 years after the democratic revolution that ended the communist era when Mongolia was a satellite state of the Soviet Union, young people grow up in a very different world than their parents’ generation. If in Soviet times their parents lived in an isolated country and looked up to the Soviet Union as an inspiring example of a developed nation, the young generation is globally connected, and looks to the West and neighboring Asian countries like South Korea, for inspiration.
While passionate about change, young Mongolians are also clinging to the past. The post-communist period brought a revival of nationalism and Mongolian traditions, some of them previously banned by the communist regime. Buddhism, Shamanism, national hero Gjenhis Khan and traditional music, among others, are all embraced as part of the Mongolian identity.
The photo story documents the lives of young people in the Mongolian capital Ulaanbaatar. It shows the life of a young generation, trying to balance globalization and tradition against the backdrop of a rapidly changing urban society.