Yesterday we visited the Victims of Political Persecution Memorial Museum here in Ulaanbaatar. The museum was opened in 1996 by G. Tserendulam, only daughter of P. Genden (1892-1937), an illiterate horse thief who joined the MPRP and became Prime Minister of Mongolia in 1932. The museum is located close to the Choijin Lama Temple, in Genden’s 1930’s house, today situated between the WHO building and the white Wedding Palace.
The museum displays the aggressive campaign by Joseph Stalin to eliminate ‘counter-revolutionaries’ in the 1930’s. These ‘counter-revolutionaries’ often being members of the Mongolian People’s Revolutionary Party (MPRP) or trade unions. They were intellectuals sent to Siberia or shot. Mongolia lost many of its writers, thinkers and scientists during the 1930’s.
PM P. Genden refused Stalin’s order to carry out a purge against Buddhist lama monks. At a vodka infused reception in the Mongolian Embassy in Moscow, in 1935, Genden and Stalin clashed, quite literally. Stalin kicked Genden’s walking stick. Genden answered by slapping Stalin’s face and smashing his famous pipe on the floor.
Genden was subsequently kept in house arrest until 26 November 1937 when, falsely accused of being a Japanese spy, he was executed by the KGB. His family was sent back to Mongolia in a cattle car, banned from work and school, living with Tserendulam’s grandmother in her ger. They only learned about Genden’s fate in 1989, after his wife died still believing he would come home.
1937 is a very bloody year in Mongolian history. P. Genden was succeeded by Deputy Prime Minister Kh. Choibalsan (1895-1952), an MPRP member and protégé of Stalin. Nearly 30 000 people ended up dead or missing, most of the lama monks. In the museum there is a display of skulls found at an ovoo site with 600 others, some lama clothing, lama hats and Russian made tin mugs. All of the skulls had bullet holes in the head. More than 700 monasteries were destroyed.