Mongolian nomads and globalization

By Larisa Rusu

With the advent of capitalism and the free flow of people and goods there has been an intensifying globalization which has made possible certain changes, prominently in the fields of world trade, international policy agreements, and politics. In this turmoil fueled by low-cost air transportation, the on-growing tourism industry, multinational companies and the Western supremacy, something called the “clash of civilizations” has been given birth to.

Harvard professor Samuel Huntington predicts that “The fundamental source of conflict in this new world will not be primarily ideological or primarily economic. The great divisions among humankind and the dominating source of conflict will be cultural. Nation states will remain the most powerful actors in world affairs, but the principal conflicts of global politics will occur between nations and groups of different civilizations. The clash of civilizations will dominate global politics”.
In this gap between cultural identity and globalization, national identity, the preservation of one’s own states’ values and war-leading national pride collide with the principles of no boundaries and worldwide acceptance of the same life principles.

In search for a speaking example of the clash between tradition and the growing globalization I found the Mongolian nomads. They are one of the last remaining nomadic cultures nowadays. Tradition of thousands of years of wandering the Mongolian steppe is now at risk as a consequence of the changing economic and environmental landscape. Sitting on a vast gold, coal and copper resources, Mongolia has seen an increasing westernization after the fall of the communist regime in ’92. Many of the traditional pastoral herders and cattlemen have chosen to give up the nomadic lifestyle and move to Ulaanbaatar’s impoverished yurt slums.

The following short documentary by the Journeyman Pictures shows how ancient nomadic practices are swapped with the more Western style of life.

Herders often chose to sell their belongings and live off underpaid coal mining jobs. The risk is the abandonment of millennia-old traditions. As Dagvadorj, one of Mongolia’s richest businessmen and sustainer of their culture sai about children born and/or raised in towns: “They seem less and less to know about the 5 ‘muzzles’ (horses, cows, goats, sheep, camels). The Westernization and increasing stagnation of our recent times are a real concern in our nomadic culture”

Young nomad herds by motorcycle

eagle hunter

Eagle hunter- Asher Svidensky

Naadam Mongolian Festival


Samuel P. Huntington- The Clash of Civilizations