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Nomadic Civilization in Mongolia

Insightful study of the nature of nomadic life can affect the understanding of all civilizations and the appraisal of history. Some 14,000-10,000 years ago, human beings transformed into socially organized groups which took seven main forms: small-scale societies, unclassified societies, subsistence societies, classified societies, city-states, nation statesand local societies, which distinctively shaped life and cultural development.

Nomadic society was not the "barbaric", "savage" and uncivilized society described by some Chinese and European historians of the seventeenth century. On the contrary, as regards civilizational form, this society emerged at the end of the subsistence period and undertook the first two major divisions of labor in the world, animal husbandry and agriculture. The nomads were pioneers in the dispersion of ancient tangible and intangible cultural forms.

Emergence of nomadic civilization By 2000 BC it has become the main method of food production for cultivation or agricultural societies. From this period onwards the human society has gone by the two completely different roads of development . With cultivation introduced the part of human society started to change the landscape, thus pursuing so called “holding” type of adaptation to the nature. Agricultural revolution is basically originated in river valleys or in the most fertile land strips with favorable climate and gradually led to the over-production of food in these areas. Though a food, produced by a land cultivator unit is comparatively higher to the other methods of production, the amount of the time and labor is much higher as compared to the animal husbandry or hunting, fishing. Gradually the surplus production of food in cultivation societies has led to the creation of trading.


Some scholars believe that the nomadic civilization, which comes into existence in dry severe conditional areas, was the transitional period from pre-historic society into a settled civilization. In reality the nomadic civilization was just an another type of human civilization, adapting in its own way to the environment. Since human groups choosing niche pattern lived on the products of nature, the number of humans were limited depending on the availability of products in the system, while they dominated vast lands. If during the Hun empire the population of great eastern steppe was 300-400 thousand, during the Great Mongolian empire – 1 million 300 thousand, in 1935 population of Mongolia was only 750 thousand.

Nomadic civilization neither elaborated clear understanding of land ownership, nor created an institute private land ownership, but created collective psychology of group ownership over vast land area. For example the psychology of pasture ownership of nomads has distinct characters. The main wealth of society –cattle can be bred in certain natural conditions, thus general direction of nomadic movements are set through the same climatic zone and nomads do not has considerable interest to change their pattern of migration.

 

Nomadic cattle breeding affected social psychology seriously. In nomadic civilization personal ownership, developed through “cattle-man” line, group ownership pattern developed through pasture-clan line. Nomadic and half-nomadic people do not spend a lot of time and labor in tackling with the environment as compared to the settled civilizations.

In dry steppes, which were not suitable for cultivation at the level of that time agricultural technology, the nomadic way of life has come into existence corresponding to the extreme climatic conditions and led to the symbiosis with certain animals. In Mongolia nomadic civilization created symbiosis with horse.

Since cattle breeding did not require daily time-consuming labor like cultivation, nomads used to spend the rest of time for hunting and military exercises, their military experience, coupled with mobility of horse or camel, firepower of bow constituted formidable military power. There is every possibility to believe that most of advanced military strategies were developed by nomads, their forces, maybe few in numbers and armed inferior way. Nomadic society was not able to produce the goods other than basics, so cloths, silk, teas, tobacco, iron items, were obtained from settled neighbors. Nomads sold animals, products of animal husbandry, hunting trophies to settled societies.

Statehood formation

Mongolian nomads live in small family groups related to each other by kinship relations. Higher system of organization of tribal confederations went along the line of leaders of tribes and led to the development of psychology to follow the leader with good name, ability. The basis for the formation of statehood in nomad society was an oath given to obey the leader and leaders of clans and tribes, were called during special necessity of great hunting or war. Strong statehood among nomads was created only at the need of life or mainly at the face of external threats.

Mongolian nomads achieved a considerable success in durability and traditions left, but they have used management systems of settled civilizations. Generally, starting from the third generation, rulers started to accepting the norms, culture, traditions, of settled nations, gradually assimilating with them and those, not assimilated were driven out into their original lands, like Mongols.

The Hunnu nomads made significant impact on human civilization and the development of city-states at the end of classical civilization. They invaded China at the beginning of the fourth century BC, then sacked the Gunta Empire and caused the collapse of the Roman Empire , determining the fate of Indians and Europeans for centuries after. The great push of Mongolian nomads, which continued until the eleventh and twelfth centuries AD, played an important role in the foundation of Mongolian nomadic civilization. The period of the Hunnu Empire gave birth to Mongolian nomadic civilization's traditions of statehood, nomadic cultural development, trade exchanges, writings and customs.

Reforms of Chinggis khan introduced new principles of governance, among Mongolian nomads. But the reforms of the Chinggis khan was not able to change the psychology of nomads to follow the strongest and ablest and subsequent centuries Mongols tended to concentrate around the ablest of Chinggis. Chinggis Khan's policy was to radically reform the society, to enrich Mongolian nomadic civilization with the achievements of sedentary civilizations, to be open to the rest of the world, to develop comprehensive trade, economic, cultural and scientific relations, to establish an effective state administrative apparatus, to use the knowledge of scholars and scientists in state policy and activities, and to establish the most reliable and operative transport and communication system.

Mongolians created the horse transportation network, which was the most expeditious means of communication throughout the territory of the Empire. Western and eastern traders, tourists, monks, and political and military figures used this network, and the relations between Asia , Europe and the Mongolian Empire flourished as never seen before. Western goods went east; eastern goods went west; coin and paper currencies in circulation increased; and trading centers and ports were created. The free trade policy of the Mongolian Empire strongly influenced interaction among different civilizations, cultures and nationalities.

Nomadic society had a few strata such as lord, shamans, blacksmiths, cattle breeders and exc. Though there is difference in the society by wealth, such difference is not that clear like the settled society and accumulation of wealth in the nomadic society happens in the hand of lords and shamans. The contradiction in nomadic society was not class struggle, but national, tribal domination.

 

Culture

Findings of nomad civilizations are usually confined bone or wood-carvings, precious metal crafts, sewn items and it is deeply connected to their way of life. Not only culture, but also dwellings of nomads were engendered by their way of life: Thus yurts and tents are predominant among them. They designed wears suited to their way of life, so pants, perhaps, were invented by the nomads. Mongolian nomads were the first to invent saddle, breaches, stir-ups, enriching the human civilization. The weaponry used by nomads varied from region to region: sword, bow and arrow dominated in central Asia.

Nomadic science was more concentrated rather on biotechnology (veterinary science, genetic selections etc) than technological sciences. The major technological revolutions in nomadic civilization are domestications of animal, milk production, invention of saddle and stirrup.

The basic economic unit of nomadic society-family and clan are self-sustaining, thus technological revolution was not on cards. Nomads made more progress in genetic science improving the qualities of their herds. Since the biotechnology requires much more time to identify the results the speed of change was corresponding.

A branch of science, which was developed significantly among nomads, was military science and such development was necessitated by the frequent wars, they fought.

Nomadic culture and literature was conveyed from generation to generation orally, sot he tales, stories, songs, aphorisms and other oral folklore are common among them. Written culture was introduced to nomads later and no centralized system of education was created thus experience was conveyed from generation to generation orally.

Shamanism is the first dominated religion for nomads, because this religion's powerful god is the nature and blue sky. So thus means such religion is connected with severe climate and nature. Mongols, who had few palaces or military fortications earlier, started building monasteries under the influence of Buddhism and city information went around monastic centers.

 

Today's Mongolian nomads
Few centuries passed since the introduction of settled society in Mongolian steppe. Russians started disseminating European civilization in Mongolia around 100 years ago and even cattle breeding, was turned into more settled type. Mongols, traditionally afraid of cutting the grass, were forced to learn prepare fodder, build stables, European veterinary science was introduced.

The fact is that today Mongolia 's cattle breeding has become half settled and people are turning into more settled nation. But Scholars are debating concepts and definitions of the further development of civilizations in era of globalization.

Mongolian nomads live in small family groups related to each other by kinship relations. Higher system of organization of tribal confederations went along the line of leaders of tribes and led to the development of psychology to follow the leader with good name, ability. The basis for the formation of statehood in nomad society was an oath given to obey the leader and leaders of clans and tribes, were called during special necessity of great hunting or war. Strong statehood among nomads was created only at the need of life or mainly at the face of external threats.

Mongolian nomads achieved a considerable success in durability and traditions left, but they have used management systems of settled civilizations. Generally, starting from the third generation, rulers started to accepting the norms, culture, traditions, of settled nations, gradually assimilating with them and those, not assimilated were driven out into their original lands, like Mongols.

The Hunnu nomads made significant impact on human civilization and the development of city-states at the end of classical civilization. They invaded China at the beginning of the fourth century BC, then sacked the Gunta Empire and caused the collapse of the Roman Empire , determining the fate of Indians and Europeans for centuries after. The great push of Mongolian nomads, which continued until the eleventh and twelfth centuries AD, played an important role in the foundation of Mongolian nomadic civilization. The period of the Hunnu Empire gave birth to Mongolian nomadic civilization's traditions of statehood, nomadic cultural development, trade exchanges, writings and customs.

Reforms of Chinggis khan introduced new principles of governance, among Mongolian nomads. But the reforms of the Chinggis khan was not able to change the psychology of nomads to follow the strongest and ablest and subsequent centuries Mongols tended to concentrate around the ablest of Chinggis. Chinggis Khan's policy was to radically reform the society, to enrich Mongolian nomadic civilization with the achievements of sedentary civilizations, to be open to the rest of the world, to develop comprehensive trade, economic, cultural and scientific relations, to establish an effective state administrative apparatus, to use the knowledge of scholars and scientists in state policy and activities, and to establish the most reliable and operative transport and communication system.

Mongolians created the horse transportation network, which was the most expeditious means of communication throughout the territory of the Empire. Western and eastern traders, tourists, monks, and political and military figures used this network, and the relations between Asia , Europe and the Mongolian Empire flourished as never seen before. Western goods went east; eastern goods went west; coin and paper currencies in circulation increased; and trading centers and ports were created. The free trade policy of the Mongolian Empire strongly influenced interaction among different civilizations, cultures and nationalities.

Nomadic society had a few strata such as lord, shamans, blacksmiths, cattle breeders and exc. Though there is difference in the society by wealth, such difference is not that clear like the settled society and accumulation of wealth in the nomadic society happens in the hand of lords and shamans. The contradiction in nomadic society was not class struggle, but national, tribal domination.

Narrated by tour guides of Blue Mongolia Tour

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