Preservation of unique and historic newspapers printed in traditional Mongolian script between 1936-1945 (EAP890)

Aims and objectives

The traditional Mongolian script, originating in the early 13th century by the order of Chinghis Khan, is one of the intellectual and cultural heritages of the Mongolian people. The script has stood the test of time henceforth and has served as a unifying factor for various Mongol speaking ethnic groups. The characteristic features of the Mongolian script include it being the only vertical script in human history, its easy and speedy way of documenting what is spoken orally and has, over centuries, produced a great number of variations to be used for different purposes. The Mongolian script is written top downwards, left to right and in the course of its evolution shorthand, calligraphy, stylised writing systems have been developed and applied. Most handwritten and printed books, administrative papers, family tree records, fairy tales, legends and Buddhist manuscripts were produced in the traditional Mongolian script until 1945 when Mongolia painfully and forcefully shifted to Russian Cyrillic alphabet under the Kremlin’s order. Democracy prevailed in Mongolia in the early 1990s and one of the efforts to rectify the mistake of the past was the effort to learn and study the Mongolian script, and to make Mongolian script the official script of the nation.

Efforts have been made since 1991 to shift back to the traditional script only with no striking results. In the 1940s, because the centuries-old Mongolian script was banned, people over decades were distanced from the writing culture and heritage. Today, although the Cyrillic script is used nation-wide, all the government seals starting with the Head of State, the Prime Minister and Cabinet ministers are all in the Mongolian script, which is a matter of pride. An international code of Mongolian script was approved in 2000 and registered with the international intellectual property. A law on Mongolian script was passed in February 2015 under which the traditional Mongolian script would become the national script in 2025. In February 2015, the Mongolian Parliament passed a law on shifting back to the centuries old national script by 2025. This call has made the whole nation rejoice and been met by the public with tremendous enthusiasm to learn and master the national script banned and purged since 1945 under communist rule.

The project aims to digitise between 900-950 editions of combined ARDYN ERKH and UNEN newspapers (the only government and national newspapers) covering periods from January 1936 to December 1945. As the target material has long been inaccessible to many and neglected under the communist rule, it is of great interest and importance lately to scholars, historians, researchers, university and secondary school students and to general public for unveiling the true history of the nation in the 1930s and 1940s. Currently, the material is kept in inadequate conditions and is in danger of being permanently lost. No archival boxes or containers are used and the material shows numerous sign of fading and general wear and tear. The material is also currently prone to moisture, dust accumulation and fire hazard. The project will aim to digitise this material so that it is preserved and there is a permanent accessible record that will help aid future research.

Outcomes

Guided by the recommendation provided by EAP, the entire target material was split into two Collection: Collection-1-ARDYN UNDESNII ERKH-1936-1941, and Collection-2-UNEN-1942-1945. Both collections are regarded the last national newspapers printed in the traditional Mongolian script before the forceful switch to Russian script, under the Kremlin’s order,starting from 1 January 1946.

As a result of the project, a combined 943 issues of ARDYN UNDESNII ERKH and UNEN has been digitised producing a total of 3717 images (pages). The project will definitely contribute to the nation-wide effort to shift back to the traditional Mongolian script and will help the public and academics to revisit the questionable time period, in the nation’s history, relying on true facts and numerious recorded evidence.

The original archival material has been rehoused in the Library  in fire-proof and acid-free specialised archival containers and boxes provided by the project to ensure suitable storage conditions for the material.
 

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