Wednesday, June 16, 2004
Mongolian's ancestral names
The Globe and Mail: "Mongolians seek to make a name for themselves
After more than 80 years without surnames, picking one is as much about personality as it is ancestry
By GEOFFREY YORK, Saturday, June 12, 2004 - Page A3 "
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.
Within a few decades, most Mongolians had forgotten their ancestral names. They used only a single given name -- a system that eventually became confusing when 9,000 women ended up with the same name, Altantsetseg, meaning "golden flower."
By the mid-1990s, Mongolia had become a democracy again, and there were growing worries about the lack of surnames. One name might be enough when most people were nomadic herdsman in remote pastures, but now the country was urbanizing. The one-name system was so confusing that some people were marrying without realizing they were relatives.
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).
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