Mongolia lies between Russia to the north and China to the south. At 1,564,116 square kilometres (603,909 sq miles) – roughtly the size of Alaska – Mongolia is the 19th largest and the most sparsely populated independent country in the world, with a population of 2.8 million people. It is also the world’s second largest landlocked country after Kazakhstan. The country contains very little arable land, as much of its area is covered by Steppes, with mountains to the north and west and the Gobi Desert to the south. Approximately 30% of the population are nomadic or semi nomadic and 45% of the population live in the capital city Ulaanbaatar. Mongolia takes pride in its nomadic roots; as befits its tradition, there are no other major cities in the country – the country’s next largest cities – Erdenet and Darhan, only have populations of 100,000 and 80,000 people respectively. The highest point in Mongolia is Nayramadlin Orgil (also known as Mt. Khuiten), at 4,374 metres (14,350 feet). The lowest point in Mongolia is Hoh Nuur, at 518 metres (1,700 feet).
Mongolia has a harsh continental climate, with very little rainfall and wide seasonal temperature variations. Warm short summers, contrast with long, dry and very cold winters. Known as “land of the blue sky”, Mongolia usually has over 250 sunny days a year, but the majority of these are between September and May.
In the coldest months of December to February, some areas of the country drop to temperatures of
-50ᵒC, with Ulaanbaatar, the coldest and windiest capital city in the world often seeing temperatures of -35ᵒC.
The majority of the population of Mongolia are Khalkha Mongols, but minority groups include Kazakh, Dorvod, Bayad, Buriad, Dariganga, Zahchin, Urianhai, Oolld, and Torguud. The largest of these minority groups, Kazakhs make up about 5% of the population. Small numbers of Russians and Chinese permanently live in Mongolia. While relations between Russians and Mongols are generally warm, widespread resentment exists among Mongols for the growing presence of entrepreneurial Chinese in their country.
The nation has an extremely young population, with over 70% of people less than 30 years old and 30% of people under the age of 14.
Historically, Mongolia’s economy has been based on 5 sacred animals; sheep, goat, cattle (mainly yak), horses and camels. From these livestock, numerous animal products are harvested, including meat, dairy products, hides and wool – especially cashmere. Agricultural production takes place in some regions where grains (wheat, barley, oats), animal fodder, potatoes, and other vegetables are grown.
The country is rich in natural resources including coal, copper, gold, fluorspar and molybdenum, and has prospective areas for oil extraction that are currently being explored. It is the influx of foreign investment and the recent deals with the mining companies Ivanhoe and Rio Tinto, in particular the Oyu Tolgoi site in the South Gobi, that is shaping Mongolia’s current boom and economic future.
Mongolia is one of the world’s fastest growing economies, driven by this foreign direct investment. It reported a 17% growth rate in 2011, and 16.7% in the first quarter of 2012. Mongolia has expanded its political and financial ties with the US, Japan and the European Union, but its main trading partners are neighbouring Russia and China. The latter is the biggest market for Mongolian exports.
HISTORY AND POLITICS
1206-63 - Following unification of the Mongol tribes, Genghis Khan launches a campaign of conquest. His sons and grandsons create the world's biggest land empire.
1267-1368 - Weakened by disunity, the empire implodes. Ming troops oust the Mongols from Dadu - present-day Beijing.
1380 - The Golden Horde is defeated by the Russian Prince Dmitriy Donskoy. Ming troops destroy the Mongol capital, Karakorum.
1636 - The Manchu (Qing) empire conquers the southern Mongols, creating Inner Mongolia.
1691 - The Qing empire offers protection to the northern Mongols, creating Outer Mongolia.
1727 - The Treaty of Kyakhta fixes the western border between the Russian and Manchu empires, confirming Qing dominion over Mongolia and Tuva.
1911 - The Qing dynasty falls and Outer Mongolia declares its independence. Russia and the Republic of China recognise its autonomy.
1919 - The Chinese army occupies Outer Mongolia.
1920 - Mongolian revolutionaries found the Mongolian People's Party and open contact with Bolsheviks in Siberia.
1921 - With Red Army support, Mongolian revolutionaries drive out Chinese and Tsarist forces and install the Mongolian "people's government".
1924 - The People's Party chooses Lenin's "road to socialism bypassing capitalism" and renames itself the Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party (MPRP). The Mongolian People's Republic is proclaimed.
1928-32 - "Rightists" who want private enterprise are ousted. "Leftists" who want communes are ousted. A "counter-revolutionary uprising" against the confiscation of monastery property is suppressed.
1937 - Mongolian Prime Minister Genden is arrested in the USSR and shot for spying for Japan. The Minister of War Marshal Demid is poisoned aboard a Trans-Siberian train. Monasteries are destroyed and lamas murdered.
1939 - Mongolian and Soviet troops commanded by General Zhukov defeat an invasion by Japanese and Manchukuo forces in the Battle of Halhyn Gol (Nomonhan).
1939 - "Mongolia's Stalin", interior minister and new Minister of War Choybalsan, is appointed prime minister. Ex-PM Amar is tried in the USSR and shot for spying for Japan.
1945-46 - Yalta conference agrees to preserve the status quo - Soviet control - in Mongolia. Mongolians vote for independence in a UN plebiscite. Mongolia is recognised by the Republic of China.
1949-55 - Relations established with the People's Republic of China. Railway built across Mongolia linking Russia and China.
1952 - Choybalsan dies, and is replaced as prime minister by Tsedenbal, the MPRP general secretary since 1940.
1961-63 - UN Security Council approves Mongolia's UN membership.
1984 - "Mongolia's Brezhnev", party General-Secretary Tsedenbal, head of state since 1974, is forced out of office by the MPRP Politburo.
1990 - Street demonstrations force resignation of the MPRP Politburo. Political parties are legalised. Elections to the Great Hural (parliament) are won by the MPRP, but 19 of the 50 seats in a new standing legislature go to non-communists.
1992 - Mongolia's new constitution gives first place to human rights and freedoms. In the first democratic elections the MPRP wins 71 of the 76 seats in the new single-chamber Great Hural.
1993 - The first direct presidential elections are won by Ochirbat, nominated by the National and Social Democrats.
1997 - MPRP candidate Bagabandi wins presidential election.
2009 - Former Prime Minister and candidate of the opposition Democratic Party, Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj, wins presidential election, defeating incumbent Nambaryn Enkhbayar by a narrow margin.
2012 June - Parliamentary elections. Democratic Party wins most seats and goes on to form a coalition with the Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party.
2012 August - Former president Nambaryn Enkhbayar is sentenced to four years in jail for corruption.
2012 December - Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party quits coalition over sentence on its former leader Enkhbayar.
Mongolian culture is largely shaped by the nomadic pastoral lifestyle. This combines with the legacy of the Genghis Khan empire, which is a rallying point for Mongol nationalist pride today. External regional influences are abound – from Tibet, China and Russia.
Gers, animals, families, Buddhism, shamanism and mother nature feature prominently in Mongolian art, music, folklore, daily customs and etiquette. The most traditional of instruments is the morin huur or horse head fiddle. With two strings made from horse hair and a carved horses head it is most often used to accompany singing.
One of the highlights of the Mongolian cultural calendar is the Naadam Festival. Naadam translates directly as ‘games’. Although Naadams can be held on any date at various locations, occasions or events, the annual main ones are held in Mongolia throughout the month of July. Ulaanbaatar holds the nations biggest Naadam Festival between 11-13 July. The festival involves horse racing, archery and wrestling.
For families the most important festival is Tsagaan Sar (‘white month’), which is roughly equivalent to Chinese New Year and usually falls into January and February. Family members and friends visit each other, exchange presents, - very popular presents for all opportunities are the khadag – and huge quantities of buuz are drank.
The main religion is Lamaism, which is the Yellow Sect of Tibetan Buddism. Until the 16th Century, Shamanism was the dominant religion in Mongolia. Lamaism was introduced to the populace by the leader Altan Khan (1507 – 1583). In the 18th Century, the Manchus further adopted Lamaism, because they preferred males to become monks rather than warriors.
Paralleling the Stalinist period in the Soviet Union, communists held massive religious purges in the 1930s. More than 700 monasteries were destroyed and thousands of monks were killed.
In the post-socialist period, Buddhism is experiencing a resurgence and young people are again learning Buddhist practices from their elders who still remember them from their childhoods. Approximately 5% of the total Mongol population are Sunni Muslims, mainly ethnic Kazakhs in the western region. After 1990, western missionaries arrived in Mongolia; there may be as many as several thousand Mongolian Christians today.
MONGOLIA COUNTRY PROFILE
Full Name: Mongolia
Population: 2.8 Million (UN, 2011)
Area: 1.56 million sq km (603, 909 sq miles)
Density Population: 1.76 per km squared
Life Expectancy: 65 Years (men), 73 Years (women)
Currency: Togrog (tugrik), abbreviated to MNT or T
GDP per capita: $4,056,40 USD (2013)
Major Language: Mongolian
Major Religion: Buddhism
International Dialing Code: +976
Timezone: GMT +8hrs
DID YOU KNOW?
Mongolia is the most sparsely populated country in the world. There are only 4.3 people per square mile.
There are 13 horses to every human in Mongolia and sheep outnumber the human population by 35 to 1.
Mongolia is the second largest landlocked country on earth with an area of 603,909 sq miles ( 1,564,116 sq. km.)
The Mongolian Stock Exchange is the smallest in the capitalist world. It is housed in a refurbished children’s cinema.
The two bumped Bactrian camel is native to Mongolia. Sadly the population of this iconic animal has been steadily declining for the past 12 years.
Genghis Khan was born in Deluun Boldog, Mongolia in AD 1162. His original name was Temujin. At the age of 20 he became leader of the Borjigin Mongol clan and over the ensuing 20 years of internal warfare he succeeded in uniting most of the Mongol clans. In 1206 Temujin was named Genghis Khan which means ‘King of the Oceans’ or ‘Universal King’.
Genghis Khan also known as ‘The Mongolian Warlord’ was voted in Time Magazine as one of the 25 most important political icons of all time.
When Genghis Khan died in 1227 his empire stretched from Beijing to the Caspian Sea.
With over 260 sunny days a year Mongolia is referred to as ‘The Land of The Blue Skies’.
An astonishing 17 million number of Mongolians are estimated to be the descendents of Genghis Khan.
The American acting legend John Wayne played the Mongolian warlord Genghis Khan in the 1956 Dick Powell directed film The Conqueror. The film was a box office flop.
A number of Mongolians are still living in the traditional ‘ger’ or ‘yurt’ which is a type of tent known for its portability. Traditionally the Mongolian nomads used these tents are their home as they roamed throughout the steppes of Central Asia.
Harold Lamb’s book Genghis Khan Emperor of All Men published in 1927 is still acknowledged to be the best-selling biography of the Mongolian warlord.
Despite being admitted to the United Nations in 1961, Mongolia was not formally recognised as a country by the United States of America, along with another 100 countries, until 1987.
The snow leopard is native to Mongolia with over one third of its population living in the country. Contrary to modern conception, the snow leopard can neither purr nor roar!
Part of the Gobi desert, the fifth largest desert on earth, lies in Mongolia.