Square and Monument to Sukhbaatar
"Who's that guy on a horse?" is the common question one gets asked when heading into Sukhbaatar Square.
Probably due to Mongolia's insistence on naming and building everything in honour of Chinggis Khan. Many people assume that the character on a horse is either Genghis or one of his sons.
As the title suggests, it is Mongolia's revolutionary hero Sukhbataar. Not only is the city square named after him, but his face is also on the lower currency notes, there is even a provincial capital Sukhbaatar.
Damdin Sukhbaatar (axe hero) was born to a local labouring family in Ulaanbaatar (then Niislel Khüree), one of four children.
Life at this time was tough, as the country was under the brutal occupation of the Chinese Qing dynasty. Living near the Russian consulate Sukhbaatar was able to learn some Russian which would stand him in good stead for his later years. Being an accomplished horse rider, he was to conscripted into the of the then Bogd khans army rising through the ranks rapidly.
At the age of 21, Sukhbaatar had already become embroiled in politics, campaigning against the adverse living conditions of soldiers. From 1912 through to 1915, Mongolia experienced its first taste of independence as the army rose against the weekend Chinese rule. Sukhbaatar himself was to lead many battles against the Chinese across the country. Many countries, including imperialist Russia, concerned that Mongolia may destabilise the entire region pushed for watered-down Mongolian independence, and in 1915 a treat for autonomy was signed.
1917 saw the bolshevik uprising in Russia which was to have long-lasting results for Mongolia. Sukhbaatar was one of the first seven revolutionists responsible for setting up an underground group to rebel and partition for Mongolian independence. He visited the Soviet Union establishing ties and requesting continued help for their revolutionary cause.
In 1920 after returning from Russia (his military training complete), Sükhbaatar was appointed commander-in-chief of the Mongolian People's Partisans. He rallied to the cause of recruiting soldiers, successfully attacking Chinese garrisons. He aided the Soviet red Army in its rout of the White Russians who had also crossed into Mongolia under Lieutenant General Baron Ungern.
On the July 11th 1921, a new Mongolia government was proclaimed and Sükhbaatar given the somewhat symbolic title Minister of the Army. The path to independence wasn't easy, and the new government's position unsure. The constant threat of anti-communist uprisings and a possible coup in 1932 was all to take its toll on Sükhbaatar. Sükhbaatar was to collapse on February 14th passing away five days later. The official cause of his death was pneumonia although event today many Mongolians believed poisoned more likely.
After his passing in 1924, the capital city Niislel Khüree was to renamed Ulaanbaatar ("Red Hero").
The central city square named Sükhbaatar Square. 1954 a mausoleum was built on Sükhbaatar square which housed his exhumed body, removed in 2005.
Today in Mongolia the highest award someone can earn is The Order of Sukhbaatar.
Sukhbaatar Square lies at the heart of Mongolia's capital Ulaanbaatar.
As the name suggests, the Square was named after the revolutionary hero Damdin Sükhbaatar after his death in 1923. At the centre of the Square is the equestrian statue built in honour of Damdin Sükhbaatar.
To the northern end sits the Government Palace which houses the offices of the countries president. Initially built in 1951 the building was almost completely reconstructed in 2006 when the now unmissable monument to Genghis Khan, was added.
This massive monument has Chegghis khan front, and centre flanked on either side by his 3rd son Ögedei Khan and his grandson Kublai Khan. They are protected on both sides by two horsed warriors Muqali and Bo'orchu. Muqali and Bo'orchu were two of Cheghiis khans most loyal generals.
Around the Square is located numerous city buildings many still exist since their Soviet construction in the 40s. Not to be missed especially as the current government have made moves to have many demolitions in favour of glass and steel structures.
In 2013 to the honour of Genghis Khan, the government blindly changed the name of the Square to Genghis Khan square. This move did not prove popular, and after continued pressure, the name reinstated in 2016.
The Square today is a great place to start any city exploration, from ancient history to modern people watching it has it all. Not only surrounded by interesting Soviet architecture, but it also has some interesting museums such as the Mongolian history museum and the national art gallery. If your in the capital square during national the holidays it is also the scene of pop/ rock concerts, parades and fireworks.
Built in 1946 this equestrian monument celebrates 25 years of the revolution. It depicts the young revolutionary rider Sukhbaatar sitting atop a rearing horse. He is pointing to the sky, summoning his people to fight.
Significant as when Sukbatar did travel to Russia he carried with him a secret letter for Lenin concealed within a hollow whip, the note asked for help in Mongolia's struggle for independence. On the base of the monument it is inscribed;
"If we an entire people unite in a common effort and common will, there is nothing in the world that we can not achieve, learn and succeed in."
These are the words Sukhbaatar is to have said upon driving the Chinese from Mongolia.
These days the Square will be deserted until midday when it then becomes popular with locals and tourists alike.
Mongolians will still visit for photographs in workgroups and families. There are always camera carrying entrepreneurial locals, willing to snap a picture for a price, as well as sell a painting or two. The statue is surrounded by colourful electric children's car rentals, bicycles and courting couples.
I always like to think Sukhbaatar would be happy seeing a vibrant young Mongolia, although I am not so sure about Chinggis though.
Check the location of your hotel before you jump in a taxi, as a majority of the cities hotels are located 10-15 minutes walk away. Ulaanbaatar is also a wonderful city for walking (just watch the traffic), If you are using a map or app just head for the centre and you'll find the Square.
If using a taxi, remember to use the name Sukhbaatar, not Chinggis Khan as many locals seem to have erased the brief name change from their memories.
Some taxis may gesture for you to get out and walk don’t be offended this means the traffic is so bad you'll get there quicker on foot.