As alluded to in the introduction and housing sections, the first of Mongolia’s modern buildings were constructed during the nation’s communist era, with the help of Russian expertise and some extra assistance in the form of Chinese labor. This fact, when combined with the economic stagnation that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union, means that the face of Mongolia today is still a very Soviet one. Russian construction still accounts for the vast majority of buildings in Ulaan Baatar while in other cities and towns it appears to be the only kind of construction at all. It is only just recently, after a nearly two-decade caesura that construction has resumed, and now only with the help of Chinese and Korean investment.
So what happened, then, in the intervening 20 years? What happened after privatization, when Mongolia had to transition from a planned economy to one of free enterprise? It seems a law of human nature that poverty breeds resourcefulness, and Mongolia is no exception. Throughout Ulaan Baatar, Erdenet, and other towns of Mongolia, Soviet-style apartment blocks, now privately owned, have been repurposed to suit the needs of small businesses. One can find apartments and other government buildings turned into coffee shops, beauty salons, restaurants, and, especially in Ulaan Bataar, hotels.
Communist-built apartment blocks and government buildings which two generations ago meant modernity and progress — a step into the future for a nomadic people — housing between their now-crumbling walls a crouching and weak petite-capitalist enterprise thrust in abruptly by history. It may or may not be poetic, but it is, in a small way, a testament to human ingenuity and endurance.