Herdsman to Statesman: The Autobiography of Jamsrangiin Sambuu of Mongolia
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This compelling autobiography encapsulates the profound changes that transformed the underdeveloped world in the twentieth century. Jamsrangiin Sambuu, born in 1895 to a herder family in a remote region of Mongolia, rose to become ambassador and eventually president of a haltingly industrialized and urbanized Communist country. In the process, he came to know Joseph Stalin, Mao Zedong, and other leading figures. Sambuu relates horrifying vignettes of the harsh and oppressive rule over Mongolia by the Chinese, the Manchus, and the Mongolian nobility and lamas until 1911. Yet his stories of exploitation and torture are balanced by a lively, picturesque, and informative portrait of traditional herding life, including diet, popular religion, marital ceremonies, and medicine.
Sambuu relates how his visceral hatred of the avaricious Mongolian Buddhist monks and nobles prompted him to join the Communist movement in the early 1920s. Valued for his education and work ethic, he rose rapidly in the Party bureaucracy, becoming ambassador to the Soviet Union during World War II and to North Korea during the Korean War. Recounting his eventful diplomatic career, Sambuu paints vivid portraits of Stalin, Anastas Mikoyan, and other prominent Soviet leaders. Enriched by a thoughtful introduction by leading scholar Morris Rossabi that sets the historical stage, this life story of a still-beloved Mongolian illuminates a world few in the West have seen.
(1893–1923) and Kh. Choibalsan, two heads of state, were buried in a monument in front of the Khural building, or Government House, in Sükhbaatar Square. Sambuu, not the head of state, was the only other leader buried in Sükhbaatar Square, north of Government House, a remarkable indication of Sambuu’s popularity. In 2006, as part of a commemoration of the eight-hundredth anniversary of Chinggis Khan’s unification of the Mongolian people, a huge sculptural panel, with images of Chinggis, his son
taught me that they would produce newborns without birth defects. If the grass had dew on it in the morning, don’t pasture the herds in the narrow ravines and mountain ridges until they were dry. If their feet got wet, the fetlocks of the sheep and the hooves of the goats would soften and leave them open to necrobacillosis. Cows prefer places with soft soil, moss, and green grass, while the sheep and goats prefer different types of pastures. If the cows have no access to wormwood and corispermum,
was substituted for the Manchu calendar, Ikh Khüree became the capital, and the government was divided into five Ministries: Internal, External, Military, Treasury, and Judiciary. After this, the Uriyangkhai from Lake Khövsgöl in Western Mongolia joined together with other people and agreed to make up one country, which would include the Great Dornod Khan aimag with twelve banners, the Zunghars— left and right—with four banners, Zavchin aimag with two banners, the seven Altai Uriyangkhai banners,
who had protected the city of Tula now had to protect and keep the boundary lines of Moscow. On the twenty-fourth anniversary of the Great October Socialist Revolution, the Moscow Soviet of Workers’ Deputies and the Moscow Communist Party and many public organizations had a warm and welcoming meeting in the Mayakovskii metro station. At this meeting, I. V. Stalin, the leader of the National Committee of Defense, said that the German Fascists had been smashed and the Soviet people and our great
rule for shooting. The captured German soldiers said that since they were taken by the Russian military, they would not be affected by the cold, and could rest in a warm room and eat good food. From there our representative delegation of the best division went to the battle line where a tank brigade arrived. Help came from the Mongolian people in the form of many gifts, and congratulations were issued. After that, our representatives went to many places and met with the military units, wishing