Digitisation and preservation of rare historical sources of Mongolia written in the 19th and early 20th centuries (EAP927)

Aims and objectives

The aim of this project is to digitise the rare, unpublished and endangered historical documents kept in the Mongolian Academy of Sciences (MAS), the National Library of Mongolia and in private collections. More than 3000 documents have been identified, mostly type-written in Uyghur Mongolian script dating from the 18th century to the early 20th century. Copies of extremely unique old sources are also available for digitisation including the Mongolian translation of the Yuan Empire's law (1271-1368). The original historical texts have unfortunately been lost; therefore digitisation of the copies will provide a valuable resource for scholars.

These documents are currently fairly inaccessible to researchers and are not available outside of the country or in any other collections. They represent different periods of Mongolian history: the end of the Manchu State, the formation of the sovereign Mongolia, the period of war against the Chinese with the White Russians, and the building of socialism after 1921. The documents are significant sources of Mongolian history, politics, economy, society, literacy, and religion. The material is currently endangered by various causes including decay of the paper, fading away of the script, modern pollution, heat and moisture, improper storage, mishap, stealing, etc. Only a very small part of the written heritage of Mongolia is kept safely and available for national and international research. The aim of the project is to save these unique materials for the future as they can complete or even change present knowledge about Mongolian history.

Mongolia is a treasure-house of manuscripts containing important but partly unknown and unpublished materials. The history of the first scholarly institute of the "modern" (socialist) Mongolia traces back to 1921 when the predecessor of the MAS was founded in order to collect, copy, and store the most special books and documents related to Mongolian history, religion and culture. As the successor of the institute, the archives of the Department of History and Archaeology, MAS contain the most such copies. However, only a very small part of this cultural heritage is kept safely, or was made available for research. With the foundation of a separate library and a separate academy, the historical collection was also divided. The project will connect the two collections and makes their historical documents accessible for everyone. Researchers will be able to get a complex picture about the operation of the Mongolian, Manchu and Chinese administrative systems at the turn of the 20th century; the political and social role of the Buddhist Church until and after 1921; the first measures of the Bolshevik government in the 1920's; and the gradual suppression and final annihilation of religion and out of date institutes in the 1930's. Parallel to the destructive measures several reforms took place, for instance the foundation of schools and the first scholarly institute, the experts of which saved and copied numerous recent and even old historical sources. These include the aforementioned Yuan Empire's law, as well as other sources documenting important episodes of Mongolian history such as the opinions of the Barga Mongolian people (living in Eastern-Mongolia) about the activity of Manlai Baatar Damdinsüren (1871-1921), who was a Pan-Mongolist military commander and diplomat leading Mongolia's struggle for independence in 1911.