When Munkhtsetseg Enkhbat, a Mongolian language instructor at the National University of Mongolia, wanted to expand her knowledge in the related field of Manchurian linguistics, she decided to go abroad. But instead of heading to China, she enrolled in a doctoral program in Russia.
That decision might seem strange on the surface, but it made perfect sense to Enkhbat. “This is a center of Mongolian studies, and a Manchuria expert works here,” she said, referring to St. Petersburg State University, where she is doing her doctoral work. “Many famous scholars in this field spent their whole lives doing research in this university.”
Russia has traditionally been a magnet for Mongolian students seeking a higher education. Since 1922, over 60,000 Mongolians have obtained degrees in Russia, according to the Kremlin-sponsored Russian Center of Science and Culture in Ulaanbaatar. But since the collapse of communism, these ties have frayed, as a growing number of Mongolian students headed to Asia and the West for their higher education. Russia is no longer Mongolia’s only ally and link to the outside world.
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Matthew Kupfer is a freelance writer specializing in Central Asia.