Mongolia

Why Cher Couldn't Survive in Mongolia

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Via Arts & Letters Daily comes this Globe and Mail report on the continuing difficulties of reintroducing surnames in Mongolia:

For more than 80 years, everyone in Mongolia was on a first-name basis. After seizing power in the early 1920s, the Mongolian Communists destroyed all family names in a campaign to eliminate the clan system, the hereditary aristocracy and the class structure….

In 1997, a new law required everyone to have surnames. The law was largely ignored, but then a system of citizenship cards was introduced. Slowly the country of 2.5 million began to adopt surnames.

Today, however, there are still 10,000 people without surnames. So the government is trying to solve the problem with a mixture of incentives (a discount on the registration fee) and heavy-handed pressure (a threat of financial penalties on anyone who fails to get a citizenship card before the June 27 national election).

Whole thing here.

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  1. But it would be fun to see her try.

  2. You must take a surname and pay for the privelege! But we'll give you a discount if you do it before the national elections; if you do it after, you must pay more!

    How do you say "Fuck you" in Mongolian. I want that for my surname.

  3. There is nothing new about this. The same thing happened in Europe in the nineteenth century...you don't think the Mongolians invented modern statism, do you? You can make snooty comments all you want, but it was the western countries that set that standard, long ago.

    The Jews of Europe traditionally didn't have last names, they had patronymics, like the Scandanavians. So the German administrators made them all take last names, so they could be tracked and taxed. The Jews showed up for registration and didn't really care much about it, since they had no intention of using the names. It was just another thing the government did that didn't really affect them. The German bureaucrats found themselves in a position of having to pick names for them, which they did, giving us a snapshot of the beliefs that were held about the Jews in the mid-nineteenth century. Hence the number of German-Jewish surnames that have "gold" in them. Some of the German administrators amused themselves by making up more openly derogatory names for the Jews that showed up for registration.

    One could make the logical link between this and the Holocaust, but that's only an extreme example of statism. The more common one is that of a man I know who required a federal license for his job as a tugboat operator, and found it held up because of a felony conviction he had as a juvenile, twenty-four years ago. As the Honeydogs put it, "they might not have a file, but they're keeping tabs on you."

  4. James,

    Interesting. The Russian peasantry, likewise, had only given names and patronymics before the emancipation of the serfs. When they took surnames afterwards, they often adopted the local lord's name or some other famous name, on the same pattern as American slaves after emancipation. Nikita Khrushchev, for example, was descended from an emancipated serf who belonged to somebody named Khrushchev. Grigory Romanov, obviously, inherited his name from some ex-serf who thought it would be cool to have the same name as the tsar--much like emancipated American slaves who took the name Washington.

  5. I don't care about her name. I just want to see her head crack in half from all the tension those weird facelifts of hers must be putting onto her skull.

  6. "Father, where did your last name come from?"

    "Well son, back in the mid 2000's the government had everybody choose their own last names. As my parents walked down to the prefecture clerk's office, they say a beautiful hawk swoop down from the sky to chase a rabbit, so they named me 'Sung Lan Prettyhawk'. But why do you ask,
    Ran Qong Twoyaksfucking?"

  7. Much ado about nothing.

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