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Northbound, Visiting Friends

April 9, 2011

I headed north at the tail end of our spring break to visit some friends in another town here in the Gobi. We got to do a little sightseeing, and our best day of that was the remains of a Russian town just outside the main city.

Courtesy of my friend Justin, I got a little background into why things like this existed. Back in the 70s, the Mongolian government actually requested that Russian troops be stationed throughout Mongolia. Part of the thinking was that after the Sino-Soviet Split, Mongolia could be a hotspot for growing tensions between the PRC and the USSR. The result was the rapid construction of military bases throughout the country, one of which you see in this post–or the ruins of one anyway. When communism fell, and the Russians packed up to leave Mongolia, they bulldozed most of these little towns that existed alongside the towns of the natives. The bases were closed to most nationals, and largely self-sufficient; there was evidence of little commissary supply shops, doctors and pharmacies, housing for families, and even sidewalks, which are sort of a rarity outside of Ulaanbaatar. Evidence of the military presence was laying around too, spent AK-47 shell casings were common, and the largest standing structure still had writing on the wall describing the site as a “Mobile Military Readiness Base,” or something to that effect. Essentially, it had been a garage for Russian military vehicles in Mongolia.

My friends and I took a long walk through what was left of the base, mostly digging through trash in search of interesting souvenirs. The friends that live in this town have found remains of military uniforms, lots of spent shell casings, and even an old piece of departmental paperwork describing a soldier’s complaint against one of his senior officers; amazing that things like that can blow around in the sand for 20 years and still be legible today.

It was overall a spectacular trip; wonderful to get a break from soum life, and to get just a glimpse of good American conversation over good home-cooked food. Our menu for the weekend included, but was not limited to: fajitas with nacho cheese, biscuits and gravy, fried chicken, fresh vegetable salad, and sticky toffee pudding. For more on the food, check out my host and hostess’ blog.

Enjoy the pictures.

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