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DISLOCATION
OUTER MONGOLIA

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GER DISTRICT / ULAANBAATAR
HOME TO OVER A MILLION PEOPLE LIVING MOSTLY IN GERS OR PREFABRICATED DWELLINGS

 
 

Mongolia is said to be the last great nomadic nation left in the world. Like any country, Mongolia has its share of problems. Large numbers of nomads migrate to the capital only to find high unemployment, few prospects and no way back. Many turn to alcohol and are forced on to the streets or underground to keep warm next to the city’s heating pipes.

Nevertheless, Mongolians are proud and optimistic. With large amounts of precious minerals attracting foreign investment they are hoping for a brighter future.

 
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ULAANBAATAR / MONGOLIA
BEYOND THE CITY LIMITS

 
 

'THE LAST GREAT
NOMADIC NATION'


Mongolia’s capital city Ulaanbaatar is home to a third of the country’s population. The vast Ger District slum surrounds the city on three sides and is home to around a million people. Most families live in a Ger, or a Yurt as it is known in the West, but they must claim their land before someone else does. 

Troy Tvrdik an American NGO, takes me on his ‘Ger District Tour’. “Everyone has a fence, there are fences around everything,” he says “One reason for this is privacy. Most Mongolians don't want people to know what they're buying, what they have, or what they're doing”.

 
 

GER DISTRICT / ULAANBAATAR
NO RUNNING WATER SUPPLY, EACH FAMILY MUST WALK TO A 'WATER STATION' WHICH CAN BE FAR FROM HOME

 
 

Tvrdik continues: ”In the countryside there are no fences. Tradition dictates that if I was travelling a couple of hundred kilometres into town on my horse and I became tired, I could stop at anyone's Ger. And even if they weren't home I could make myself tea, eat any food and rest. The idea is that if someone else was coming in the opposite direction they could do the same in my Ger, even if I wasn't there.
 

"IF THEY HAVE 50 LITRES OF WATER, I COULD ASK FOR 25"


“In the city this wouldn’t work, everyone would steal from one another. If I was working the previous night, forgot to get water and today the water-station is closed, Mongolian culture says I should be able to go to my neighbour’s house and if they have 50 litres of water I could ask for 25 and they would give it to me.”

Troy explains why there are so many fences in the Ger district: “Behind every fence is a dog. Mongolians are afraid of dogs, so it’s  the perfect security system.

“So with fences I have to knock first and they have to put their dog away. Then I can come in. It also gives them time to hide everything so I can't see what they own and ask for it.

The other reason for a fence is that every Mongolian is entitled to 700 square metres of land. You can claim your land but if you don't put up a fence, someone else could put one up next to your Ger and claim your land as theirs.”

 
 

GER DISTRICT / ULAANBAATAR
MORE STURDY, BUT COLD SOVIET-BUILT BLOCKS

 
 

"WINTER CAN BE LONG
AND MERCILESS"


In some areas of the Ger district tower blocks provide more solid living conditions, but most are poorly built, badly maintained and often lack basic heating systems. With temperatures falling to -40C, the winter can be long and merciless. At least a Ger can be heated easily and cheaply
by comparison.


Each high-rise has an Orts. This is a cupboard under the stairs, or a basement where the heating system and pipes are. Often whole families live in these tight spaces suffering all the stresses associated with raising a family in a ‘home’ often no bigger than a large wardrobe.

A Mongolian woman agreed to show me where she and her husband live. It is a cupboard under the stairs with a small space for sleeping, washing and cooking. She said they were poor and did not receive support from the government. She had nothing.

 
 

GER DISTRICT / ULAANBAATAR
FAMILIES ARE OFTEN FORCED TO LIVE IN THESE TIGHT CONDITIONS

 

GER DISTRICT / ULAANBAATAR
ESSENTIALLY A SMALL CUPBOARD UNDER THE STAIRS

 
 

Under the current government each Mongolian is given 21000 togrog, the equivalent of £10.60 ($16) per month in allowance. Like many others, the woman was unable to claim the money because she did not have access to relevant documents. Many people do not have a birth certificate and cannot afford to pay for one. Often their identification has already been taken for political reasons.

As I was leaving the woman began to weep. It was as if she had realised how bad things were.

 
 

ULAANBAATAR, MONGOLIA
ONE OF MONGOLIA'S ELITE SHOPS - JUST A KILOMETRE FROM THE DESTITUTE OF THE GER DISTRICT

 

GER DISTRICT / ULAANBAATAR
MONGOLIA'S SMALL AND CONCENTRATED CBD IN THE DISTANCE