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Remembering S.Zorig: A Leader of Mongolia’s Democracy

October 2 will mark exactly 17 years since the dark day when the leader of Mongolia’s democracy movement, Sanjaasuren Zorig, was brutally killed at his home on October 2, 1998.  He was then 36 years old, three times elected Member of Parliament and Minister of Infrastructure.

S.Zorig during a break between sessions of the 1990 Parliament, reading the history of Mongolian parliament in the 1920s.

Zorig’s assassination came as a shock to our society that had seen a peaceful democracy movement in 1990 and successful transition thereafter for 25 years now.  It’s a pity the investigation into Zorig’s murder has not had any results for so many years, and therefore continues to be a black spot in the light of Mongolia’s achievements in regard of the rule of law and other democratic values.

Many people have spoken to me about this tragedy since and most of them felt much the same way as many Americans felt after JFK’s assassination.  Zorig believed in the great potential of Mongolia to become a flourishing democracy and strong economically, where people have the strongest voice in society.  He emphasized that a person’s priorities should be “nation first, group interest next, and self, last.”

A large crowd in the main square was picketing the Government House on April 27, 1990, and surrounded by police and the army.  When tens of thousands of people pushed forward and the danger of a stampede was approaching, S.Zorig shouted the now famous phrase, "If you support us, please sit down!"  The crowd listened to him and thus prevented the possible loss of human lives.

I would like to finish with a quote from Zorig: “I believe in the bright mind of Mongols.”

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Sanjaasuren Bayaraa

Director and Advisor of IRI’s Mongolia office (1998-2003) and Mongolia’s Ambassador to India (2012-2015)