I’m not the biggest fan of Mongolia’s capital city, Ulaan Baatar (which translates to Red Hero in English), but one question I should address is this: Who is the “Red Hero?”
Damdin Sukhbaatar. Sukhbaatar, of course, translates into English as “Axe Hero.”
The short story is that he’s a hero of the revolution that brought Mongolia it’s independence from China in 1921. He was a soldier and general, but died at a young age, well before the main square in Ulaan Baatar was given his name.
Sukhbaatar Square, the central square that hosts the government building of Mongolian parliament, was christened shortly after the revolution and Sukhbaatar’s death. A large statue of Sukhbaatar on horseback was placed in the square. The hero faces north, instead of the traditional “forward” direction of south. This was to show Mongolia’s respect and dependence on/unity with Russia at the time. In the 1950’s, the government placed a mausoleum in Sukhbaatar Square to host the remains of the Red Hero. They exhumed the remains from their original burial site in Gov-Altai and brought them to UB.
In 2005, they removed the mausoleum and the remains and put the now iconic Chinggis statue in the square. Now, interestingly enough, Sukhbaatar salutes a large statue of Chinggis, a perhaps iconic shift from the Soviet system. One has to wonder if the new Chinggis-fication of Mongolia will see the Soviet heroes marginalized, or perhaps re-imagined as heroes who gave Mongolia its independence, with them not necessarily wedded to the revolutionary ideas that pushed them to action.