DOES THE PAST REPEAT ITSELF?
“The only purpose to remember the past is to create a better future.”
Recently a friend from Mongolia told me about the Mongolian National Festival, called Naadam, and has a celebration that takes place in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. I was intrigued. Growing up in Riga, Latvia, Mongolia was commonly known as one of the countries with a very deep connection to the former Soviet socialist way of life. I have seen performances of the national dances in very colorful dresses and this time I wanted to photograph the festivities.
Mongolia is a relatively small country of 2.9 million people. But in 1206, it was known as the Mongol Empire, which under the ruthless leadership of Genghis Khan, and then later by his grandson, dominated large parts of Asia and Europe. After the collapse of the Yuan Dynasty in 1368, the Empire crumbled. The Mongols returned to earlier patterns of internal strife. Today, one third of the population maintains its nomadic life, which was very well documented in the beautiful movies “The Story of the Weeping Camel”, “The Cave of the Yellow Dog”, and others.
A few years ago, our daughter Alona went on a trip to the wilderness of Mongolia on horseback. It was a life changing experience.
Throughout the world history, many countries tried to create Empires by capturing other territories. The Assyrians, Babylonians, Greeks, Romans, Tatar-Mongolians, Spaniards, Portugese, and of course the British. The United States limited its role to the consolidation of the areas, which is what are now the 50 states. As we have seen during the world history, boundaries changed, as well as political and religious affiliations after many conflicts and wars. What we see happening now in Syria and Iraq, which was once part of the Great Babylonian Empire is a good example of how people who do not have common interests and have different religious interpretations can destroy a country and kill each other.
We cannot forget the past, but can we learn from it? Karl Marx once remarked,
“History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce”.
The Naadam celebrations gave me the opportunity to photograph and connect with some of the participants. (Those of my generation spoke excellent Russian.) Though I did not stay to watch the traditional wrestlers, I tried to capture traditional costumes worn by women, men, and adorable children.
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