According to official figures there are 4,400 Mongolians living in Germany, most of them in Berlin. Many of them once studied in East Berlin in the communist era and later tried to make their way in reunified Germany. Some managed to find a profession, while others did not. But even those who returned to Mongolia often send their children to Germany for schooling or university studies.

At Home in Germany

The former West Germany established diplomatic relations with socialist Mongolia back in 1974 and a German-Mongolian Society was founded in Bonn to vitalize a cultural agreement between the two countries. Now the society is primarily concerned with academic relations. Its annual publication “Mongolische Notizen” provides analyses of Mongolian politics, economics and culture and reports about current German-Mongolian projects.

There are a number of other Mongolian and German-Mongolian associations that organize social gatherings, offer Mongolian language instruction and help Mongolians deal with German officials or promote cultural exchanges. However there is not much of a true Mongolian community. “Maidar”, an organization in Berlin, works to preserve Mongolian language and culture in Germany, but laments a lack of interest on the part of Mongolians. The group’s chairwoman Alimaa Amgalan thinks that is because many Mongolians are more interested in integrating into German society than in maintaining their own culture. Most Mongolian families in Germany speak German at home, she says. But there are some things that bring the community together, such as Berlin’s Tsog Mongol Sport Club.

To Learn from Mongolia …

…is to learn from nature. The Central Asian country is four times the size of Germany and with just over three million inhabitants is the most sparsely populated country in the world. Half of Mongolians live in the countryside and many are still livestock farmers and nomads. They move with their herds as necessary, picking up their tent-like homes, known as yurts or gers, and setting off in search of new pastureland. Mongolians brought the yurt to Germany. A number of Germans set them up in their gardens as alternatives to the conventional wooden shed. For others the yurt has become a symbol of a way of life emphasizing ecological awareness. There are entire forums devoted to yurts on the internet. Mongolians and their yurts were the inspiration for the Urban Nomads project, a German-Mongolian initiative that invited international researchers and artists to study modern nomadism in cities and take a social-critical view of urban development.

Anyone who would like to experience living or sleeping in a ger will find plenty of offers for yurt holidays in Germany.

Exploitation or Fair Cooperation?

Germany is Mongolia’s largest trading partner within the European Union. The two countries are committed to expanding their economic relations. In 2011 they agreed a partnership agreement in the raw materials sector. Mongolia has some of the richest mineral resources in the world, with huge reserves of copper, gold, silver, uranium and rare earth metals. The Mongolian government is hoping for knowledge transfer and aid in boosting its mineral processing industry. On 4 September 2014 the German-Mongolian Institute for Resources and Technology officially opened in Nalaikh near Ulaanbaatar. With the support of German experts, it will provide training for both German and Mongolian technical staff for the mineral resource sector. It’s being hailed as the start of a fair and sustainable partnership.

Authors: Julia Mittwoch and Hanne Kehrwald

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