By Kamilya Salina ,
The post-war summer of 1946 in Moscow. Dark and stuffy communal apartment. The echo of a birthday party somewhere at the end of the corridor. Faintly discernible smell of food in the air – the dinner was too frugal. No one can now imagine that this is how the legendary life story of one of the most powerful first ladies in Soviet history began. That summer evening was the turning point for Mongolia’s future, because for Yumjagiin Tsedenbal, its then General Secretary, it brought a real love at first sight with the strong-willed Russian girl (who defended him from the policeman!), making him propose to marry her only three days after they first met.
This girl was Anastasia Filatova, thanks to whom today her husband is named the best Mongolian leader of the last century. In hindsight, anyone would say that this was a pure luck for both, but in the summer of 1946 nothing seemed as bright. For her it was a difficult decision: at that time Nastya (Russian shortened version of Anastasia) with all her heart loved another man, whom she had been waiting for since the war. Of course, little Mongolian political worker could not win over her heart when compared to the romantic image of the strong and brave Russian soldier. But that was one of those moments in the history of the human race when the Fate forces great personalities to face a choice between their personal happiness and making their names glow through the ages… Anastasia, who believed that she could change the life of the whole nation, whose savagery was described with all the horrors in the USSR, chose the latter.
She cried out all her tears for the years ahead on her wedding night, after which she promised herself to do whatever it takes to make her people and her husband happy. Tsedenbal truly deserved that, embodying all the best qualities and virtues: friendliness, calmness and honesty. His gentle character eventually gave Mrs. Filatova undivided power over the country, making it an exceptional case in history, when such a power was used for good. In March 1948, their first-born son died, leading Anastasia to devote her life to the children, and not only her own, but to every child in Mongolia.
During the time that their family was in power, the infant mortality has decreased three-fold, most of the existing nowadays schools and kindergartens were built, and her Children’s fund had become the key organisation in the country and the first one of such a kind in entire Asia. Knowing how much the future of her country depends on the Soviet Union, she built warm relations with the leaders of the USSR, making Brezhnev himself truly admire her: according to Filatova’s memories during his visits to Mongolia, Brezhnev used to recite her Esenin’s poetry. Of course, he could never say no to this fairy-like woman.
All these in the end, thanks to Anastasia’s assertiveness and the complaisance of her husband, led to the huge inflows of Soviet money triggering the age of industrialization in Mongolia. However, no woman can fulfill her purpose on earth, regardless of how much she has done for the whole country, without having a strong and happy family, but here again the life of the Mongolian first lady shows the best possible example: she raised two sons, whom she loved wholeheartedly, and turned the marriage, which initially was not a love one, into a strong alliance based on mutual respect, friendship and her full commitment to the husband. This was especially apparent in the last years of their reign, when the health of the prime minister was getting worse each day. This incredible woman found time to take Tsedenbal herself to all the treatments, to travel to Moscow and back several times just to help her sons with getting the best positions (worthy of the children of the first person of the state), and, on top of all that, to rule the country on behalf of her weakening husband.
The respect of the country that became her homeland, the opportunity to change the destinies of the whole generation of children (who immortalized her name by establishing her a monument in Ulaanbaatar) and, more importantly, peace and love inside the family – what more is there needed to describe a wonderful life of the woman who sacrificed herself for a greater idea? Thinking about the country, we involuntarily associate it with its leader: Putin’s Russia, Trump’s America. However, the importance of the woman behind each such leader has been forgotten recently, so the only thing we can now wish for the future President of Mongolia (with the forthcoming presidential elections taking place this summer) is for him to have someone as bright and passionate as Yumjagiin Tsedenbal’s wife to help with bringing back their country’s Golden age.
(Kamilya Salina is student at London School of Economics (LSE)