Country name:  Mongolia  (Local short form: Mongol Ulus, formerly known as Mongolian Peoples Republic and until 1924 was called Outer Mongolia).


Capital:  Ulaanbaatar (means Red Hero), population 1,699,000 people (1.6 Million)(2024). Situated on the Tuul River. From 1639-1706 was known as Urga or Da Khuree.


Size:  604,826 square miles (1,566,00 square km)


Area comparison:  Four times the size of U.K., Three times the size of France, or about the size of western Europe. Mongolia is the world's largest landlocked nation and is the 18th largest country in the world.


Location:  Northern Asia, situated between the People's Republic of China and the Russian Federation.


Population:  3.0 million (2015) More than half the population is under age 30. About two thirds of the total population is under age 30, 36% of whom are under 14.


Population Density:  4.7 persons per square mile (1.7 persons per square km) Approximately 65% of Mongolians live in urban centers, 35% are pastoral nomads.


Languages:  Khalkh Mongolian (90%), Turkic,                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Russian. Cyrillic script is used in writing.


Literacy Rate:  98.4%


Religions:  Mahayana Tibetan Buddhism (96%), Shamanism,


Government:  Parliamentary Democracy


Mongolia has 21 Aimags (provinces) which are divided into 343 Sums (districts) and smaller sub-districts known as Baags.  


Climate:   Extreme Continental (large daily and seasonal temperature changes)

Summer averages +68F degrees. Winter averages '13F degrees. Winter season runs from October till April. Annually Mongolia has more than 260 sunny days on average.


Average Elevation: More than 5,180 feet (1,580 meters) Average altitude in Mongolia is one mile above sea level.


Major Rivers & Lakes: The Orkhon River is the longest river in Mongolia at 698 miles (1124 km). Lake Hovsgol Nuur is Mongolia's largest lake and holds 2% of the world's freshwater supply.


Terrain:  Desert steppe, Desert plains, Grassy steppe terrain is found in most parts of Eastern Mongolia, Mountainous zone covers 5% of Mongolia's territory, Mountain forest, Taiga forest region in the north is 5% of Mongolia's total landmass.


The Gobi Desert is the world's northernmost desert and has a mostly gravel surface with low-lying rocky hills. One of the earth's great deserts it ranges through most of southern Mongolia and comprises 17% of Mongolia's total landmass. Annually desertification in the Gobi Desert area is increasing due to overgrazing primarily.


Mountain Ranges: Altai Nuruu Mountains ranging northwest to southeast, Khentii Nuruu Mountains in the northeast and Khangai Nuruu Mountains in Central Mongolia.


Highest peak:  Khuiten Peak14,350 feet (4374 meters)  in the Altai Tavanbogd Uuul range.


Currency:  Tugrik (Tughruk), U.S. $1 = 3,450; (January, 2024)


Main Exports: Copper, Textiles, Cashmere and cashmere products, Fluorspar, Wool, Livestock and livestock products.


Public Holidays: New Years Day - January 1st, Tsagaan Tsar (Lunar New Year) Usually early February depending on phases of the moon, International Womans Day March 8th, Mothers and Childrens Day - June 1st, Naadam (National Games) July 11th - 13th, Independence Day November 26th.



                                                                                                     Mongolia Today


Mongolia is a country imbued with the glimmer of a legendary past of epic proportions and a place full of immense possibilities today. Modern day Mongolia is a nation building a new place for itself in a world transformed by technology, global economics, large political changes and rapid regional development. 


Despite massive industrial and technological development in nearby countries, Mongolia is maintaining much of its ancient traditional culture while steadily adapting to an enormously changed world. Once famous mainly for being the launch point of the colossal Mongol Empire and its founder Chinggis Khan, Mongolia is going through yet another remarkable transformation.


 Modern Mongolia is now viewed by many as a prime destination for adventure-travel, natural resources development and new business and investment opportunities. In Mongolia foreign travelers often witness the ancient ways of Mongolia's nomadic culture balanced between progressive perspectives and older deep-rooted traditions. With a wealth of undeveloped territory and a proportionately small population, Mongolians are in a good position to reap the benefits from their country's great potential.


 While the country is still finding its way through the difficult transition from a socialist system to a market economy, there have been significant indications of positive economic progress for Mongolia as a whole. Mongolia's GDP has risen steadily for the last few years and inflation which was high in the 1990's has declined. Along with economic growth there has also been a reduction in social services that were available to Mongolians during Mongolia's socialist era when financial aid was given to Mongolia by the Soviet Union. Changes bought about by Mongolia's privatization process, industrial development and cutbacks in social support systems have caused hardships for many Mongolians who were dependent on government assistance for support. It remains to be seen if the growing gap between those in need of aid and wealthier Mongolians will be addressed with the assistance of social support programs.


 Commercial ventures such as mining, lumbering and large-scale hunting operations are having a negative impact on Mongolia's relatively pristine environment and wildlife. Industrial development and commercial hunting have taken a toll on the country's environment due to insufficient monitoring of regulations that could prevent environmental over-exploitation. Recent revelations about the decline of forest cover and wildlife have compelled the government to pass new regulations to ensure better protection for Mongolia's environment and wildlife.


 Mongolians generally have a strong sense of connection with the unspoiled vast open spaces of their homeland and wish to protect their environmental and cultural heritage. Time will tell if Mongolia will be able to develop its economy and industries without expending too great a price environmentally.  It is hoped by many Mongolians that this current situation is just a necessary phase of economic growth that all developing nations undergo, and will improve over time.


 Some positive recent developments have made the government's social support networks steadily more efficient. There has been a steady rise in government workers salaries, which had been outpaced by inflation earlier.  Mongolia will most likely continue to face the challenges of many other emerging countries that have had to struggle to find an acceptable balance between making sacrifices for the sake of development and yet safeguarding its cultural and social heritage.


 Mongolia's capital city Ulaan Baatar, has its share of cosmopolitan amenities like internet cafes, department stores, supermarkets, art galleries, nightclubs, all-night kiosks and fancy hotels. During Mongolia's national celebration of traditional sports called 'Naadam' held each July, all work activities come to a halt as Mongolians focus on the archery, wrestling and horseracing competitions. These traditional sporting competitions are a reminder of the cultural importance and esteem in which these ancient skills are still held by Mongolians. 


Just a few miles away from the streets of Mongolia's urban centers are the horses and livestock of traditional pastoral nomads living a life mostly unchanged for centuries. Many Mongolian business tycoons, politicians and urban dwellers still take time in the summer months to relax by living in the countryside with their relatives in the traditional portable round nomad homes called 'Gers'. The fortitude needed to survive artic cold in a felt lined 'Ger' and the graciousness required to welcome all visitors to the nomad's home are essential foundations of Mongolian society and an integral part of the Mongolian peoples character.


 Despite great personal hardships including extreme weather conditions and limited financial resources more than a third of all Mongolians make their living raising livestock. Riding hardy Mongolian horses and moving their 'Gers' from one pasture to the next, the nomadic culture of Mongolia is probably the last of its kind still surviving in Asia.


 The future of Mongolia's nomadic lifestyle though is precarious due to recent land privatization, pasture depletion, disastrously severe winters, and large-scale rural population migration to cities. If pastoral-nomadism were to die out in Mongolia as some have predicted, then it could begin the decline of a deep level of personal involvement many Mongolians still have with their land. It is also possible that Mongolians will not allow economic development to jeopardize their homeland's environment and traditional culture, which are an inspirational symbol of self-reliance and independence for Mongolians.




                                  Brief History of Mongolia


In the 13th century epic chronicle of Mongolian history titled The Secret History of the Mongols the story of the Mongol peoples origins begins thus:


"The origins of Chinggis Khan,

There was a blue-grey wolf which was born having his destiny from Heaven above.

 His spouse was a fallow doe.

They came, crossing over the Tenggis Sea.

 Batachiqan was born to them while they were camped at the source of the Onan      River,

At Mount Burkhan Khaldun."1


That is how the creation story of the Mongol people begins in the opening lines of the 'Secret History of the Mongols', the earliest known and most important primary source on Mongolian history. The deep relationship that Mongolians have with Nature and their homeland is clearly conveyed in this historical narrative. 


Mongolia today is an independent nation that was unified and created by the will and vision of Chinggis Khan (Genghis Khan), the founder of the Mongol nation. Chinggis Khan was born into Mongol tribal nobility in approximately 1162; his given name was Temujin. When Temujin was nine years old his father Yesugei Khan, was poisoned to death by his tribal enemies, the Tartars. Temujin then went on to survive abandonment by his clansmen, near starvation, capture by enemies, war wounds, betrayals and the kidnapping of his wife Borte. Temujin was able to rescue Borte and later attracted a band of followers from many different tribes who saw in him signs of a visionary leader destined for greatness.


 Temujin fought and overcame the Dorbets, Tartars, Seljuits, Tonkaits, Merkits, Keraits, Naimans, and other Turkic and Mongol tribes in Mongolia as his power grew. After these successful campaigns he was formally recognized as the supreme leader of the tribes of Mongolia in 1206, and given the title of Chinggis Khan, which means 'Universal Ruler' and this was the basis for the formation of the nation of Mongolia.


 Chinggis Khan then proceeded to conquer the Central Asian kingdom of the Khwarazmshah in 1220, defeated all the tribes of northern China by 1226 and laid the foundation for the birth of the massive Mongol Empire. Before Chinggis Khan died in 1227 he chose his son Ogodei as successor and advised his sons to expand the empire, recognize Ogodei in writing, and to serve each other for the sake of unified strength.2


Today Chinggis Khan is recognized by many as a military and political genius3 without parallel whose empire endured for generations while in comparison Alexander the Great's empire crumbled as he died.4


  One of the enduring legacies of the Mongol Empire was its facilitation of vigorous cultural exchange, knowledge, personnel and technology between the East and West over several centuries.  Chinggis Khan's court tolerated all religions as did the courts of his descendents within their domains of the Mongol Empire. The Mongol Khans helped promote the development of many art forms including Chinese schools of art during the Yuan Dynasty and miniature Persian illustrated royal histories called 'Shahnameh'. The patronage and artistic vision of the Mongol rulers of Persia refined the miniature illustration technique and this art form became one of Persia's greatest claims to fame. The Mongol Empire bred remarkable hybrids and innovations in many fields of endeavor including architecture, military science, diplomacy, communications, commerce, and political administration. The Mongol Empire's great legacy developed through the Mongol peoples energetic exploration, natural curiosity and promotion of artistic, technological and philosophical cross-pollination.


The Mongol Empire at its greatest extent spanned most of Asia with its dominions reaching from Korea to Hungary and down to the Indus. The Mongol Empire Khans and their generals defeated the armies that controlled the territories of the nations we know of today as China, North and South Korea, Myanmar, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgystan, Tajikistan, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Afghanistan, northern India, Hungary, Transylvania, Bulgaria, eastern Germany, Russia, Ukraine, Poland and others.


 The lands that make up modern day Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan were conquered and ruled by the Mongol Empire's Golden Horde Dynasty from 1237 until 1382. One of the greatest military battles of all time unfolded in 1223 when the armies of Russian nobility engaged the Mongols at the Battle of Kalka River. The Mongols outfought and destroyed the armies of the overly confident Russian princes and sent a collective shockwave that reverberated throughout Europe for centuries. The Golden Horde's rule endured in Kazan and Astrakhan till 1554 and lasted in Crimea until 1783. Some historians5 have reasoned that the Mongol Golden Horde Dynasty helped unite the Russian princely states and aided Muscovy's development as a regional power, which ultimately led to the creation of czarist Russia and its consolidation of Central Asia.


 Mongol armies had conquered and occupied all of northern China by defeating the Chin Dynasty in 1234, which gave rise to Mongolian rule of China. The greatest Mongol ruler of China was Khubilai Khan who came to the throne as predicted by his grandfather Chinggis Khan6. Khubilai Khan's reign over China, from 1261 till 1294, brought about a period of great innovation and enlightened development throughout China. Khubilai Khan allowed China, a closed-off nation, to be opened up to foreign trade, and promoted the export of Chinese goods and culture. In 1264 Khubilai Khan established his capital at Peking (Beijing) the city Chinggis Khan had conquered in 1215. By defeating the Southern Sung in 1279 the Mongol Yuan Dynasty unified China for the first time since 970 B.C. and ruled the reunified state of China till1368. The sudden outbreak of the plague caused China to lose between one-half to two thirds of its population by 13517 and this situation also contributed to the weakening of the Yuan Dynasty of the Mongols.  A Han Chinese peasant named Zhu Yuanzhang led a peasant rebellion and forced the weakened Mongol Yuan court to leave China and he became the first Ming Dynasty ruler in 1368.


 Warfare between the western Oirod Mongols and the eastern Khalkh Mongols from 1400 to 1454 led to an extended and tumultuous division between the Mongols.  Esen Khan the Oirod Mongol chief reunited the Mongol tribes and captured the Chinese Ming ruler Yingzong in 1449. In 1552 the Mongol prince Altan Khan defeated the Oirod and reunited Mongolia. Mongolians largely adopted Tibetan Buddhism during Altan Khan's reign, 1543-1583. The Ming Dynasty itself was gradually weakened by its long wars with the Mongols, internal political conflicts, feuding Chinese court eunuchs, corruption, and other regional campaigns.


 In1644 the last Ming ruler Ch'ung-Chen was toppled by yet another Chinese peasant uprising. At that very moment a nomadic tribe called the Jurchen, later known as the Manchu swept into northern China, seized the imperial throne and claimed the Mongol's 'Mandate of Heaven' as their divine right to rule all China. The Manchu adopted many of the sovereign traditions of the Mongols8 and tried to present themselves as being related to the Mongols through several means including marrying into Mongol royalty as an effort to gain legitimacy and prestige.


  During the Manchu tribe's Qing Dynasty in China (1644 ' 1911) Mongolia was split into Inner Mongolia and Outer Mongolia and was administered by Manchu rulers. Outer Mongolia declared independence in 1911 after the Manchu government in China finally collapsed and the Manchu themselves were rooted out and scattered.


 With Russian assistance Mongolia was able to expel Chinese troops trying to reassert Chinese rule in Mongolia in 1921.  From 1924 till 1990 Mongolia was known as the Mongolian Peoples Republic and was governed by a Communist single-party system under the influence of the U.S.S.R. During the Soviet-style Communist period Mongolia was largely inaccessible to visitors from the West. Until the 1990's Buddhist monasteries were mostly closed, industrial development was limited, private land ownership was not allowed and there was no official recognition of Chinggis Khan.  In 1990 Mongolia had a peaceful transition to a democratic multiparty system of government with democratic elections successfully held in July of 1990.



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This Mongolia country information and historical summary page was compiled by the Indo-Mongolian Society of New York in 2007.




1  'The Secret History of the Mongols'  adapted from the Cleaves translation.

2  Genghis Khan, His Life and Legacy by Paul Ratchnevsky, pg. 140, footnote 192 Boyle, vol. 1, p. 182, Cf. Collected Chronicles, vol. 1 / 2, p. 232. Kirakos of Gandzak maintains that it was on this occasion that Ogodei was nominated as Genghis Khan'


3 Something New Under the Sun: The Mongol Empire's Innovations in Steppe Political Organization and Military Strategy by Thomas J. Barfield
Boston University for The 8th International Congress of Mongolists
Ulaan Baatar, August 5-12, 2002


4 H.G. Wells (1866'1946).  A Short History of the World.  1922

5 Cross-Cultural Influences on the Steppe Frontier, 1304-1589 by Donald Ostrowski
Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, England, 1998.



6 'The Devil's Horsemen' by James Chambers, pg. 50 'His last words were recorded by Ssanang Setzen, the Prince of Ordos, ' 'It is clear now that we must part and I must go away. Listen to the words of the boy Kubilai, they are wise; he will one day sit on my throne and he will bring you prosperity as I have done.'


7 'Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World' by Jack Weatherford, pgs. 242-243

8 'The Manchus' by Pamela Kyle Crossley, pg. 98.