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Mongol Uls

CAPITAL: Ulaanbaatar

FLAG: The national flag, adopted in 1946, contains a blue vertical stripe between two red stripes; in gold, on the stripe nearest the hoist, is the soyombo, Mongolia's independence emblem.

ANTHEM: Bügd Nayramdah mongol ard ulsyn töriin duulal (State Anthem of the Mongolian People's Republic).

MONETARY UNIT: The tugrik (t) of 100 mongos. There are coins of 1, 2, 5, 10, 15, 20, and 50 mongos and notes of 1, 3, 5, 10, 20, 25, 50, and 100 tugriks. t1 = $0.00084 (or $1 = t1,187.17) as of 2005.

WEIGHTS AND MEASURES: The metric system is the legal standard.

HOLIDAYS: New Year's Day, 1 January; Constitution Day, 13 January; Women's Day, 8 March; Mother and Children's Day, 1 June; Naadam Festival, 1113 July; Mongolian Republic Day, 26 November. Movable holidays include Mongol New Year's Day, in February or March.

TIME: 8 pm = noon GMT.


Situated in east-central Asia, Mongolia has an area of 1,565,000 sq km (604,250 sq mi), extending 2,368 km (1,471 mi) ew and 1,260 km (783 mi) ns. Comparatively, the area occupied by Mongolia is slightly smaller than the state of Alaska. The largest landlocked country in the world, Mongolia is bordered on the n by Russia and on the e, s, and w by China, with a total boundary length of 8,162 km (5,072 mi).


Mongolia is essentially a vast plateau with an average elevation of 914 to 1,524 m (3,000 to 5,000 ft). Mongolia comprises a mountainous section in the extreme west, where the peak of Nayramadlin Orgil (Huyten Orgil) of the Mongolian Altay Mountains rises to a height of 4,374 m (14,350 ft). Other mountain ranges are the Hentiyn, along the Soviet border, and the Hangayn, in west-central Mongolia. The southern part of the country is occupied by the Gobi, a rocky desert with a thin veneer of shifting sand. Explorations have uncovered large reservoirs of water 23 m (710 ft) beneath the desert surface. The largest lakes are found in the northwest. These include the nation's largest lake, Uvs Lake, a saltwater lake with an area of about 3,366 sq km (1,300 sq mi).


Mongolia has an arid continental climate with a wide seasonal range of temperature and low precipitation. In winter, it is the site of the great Siberian high, which governs the climate of a large part of Asia and gives Mongolia average winter temperatures of -21° to -6°c (-6° to -22°f) and dry, virtually snowless winters. In summer, remnants of the southeasterly monsoon bring most of the year's precipitation. Annual precipitation ranges from 25 to 38 cm (10 to 15 in) in mountain areas to less than 10 cm (4 in) in the Gobi.


Mongolia is divided into several natural regions, each with its characteristic plant and animal life. These regions are the mountain forests near the Soviet Siberian border; the mountain steppe and hilly forest farther south; the lowland steppe grasslands; the semidesert; and finally the true desert. Larch and Siberian stone pine are characteristic trees of the northern forests, which are inhabited by bear, Manchurian red deer, snow panther, wild boar, and elk. The saiga antelope and the wild horse are typical steppe dwellers. As of 2002, there were at least 133 species of mammals, 274 species of birds, and over 2,800 species of plants throughout the country.


Environmental problems facing Mongolia include desertification, inadequate water supply, and air and water pollution. Areas affected by deforestation and excessive grazing are eventually overtaken by the desert. After a winter of little snow, wildfires spread across northern Mongolia from March until June of 1996. The fires were the most extensive since records were first compiled in 1978, resulting in 26 deaths and nearly 800 people injured or rendered homeless. An estimated 20% of Mongolia's coniferous forest was damaged in the blaze. In 2000, only about 6.8% of the total land area was forested.

Water pollution is a particularly significant problem in Mongolia because the water supply is so limited. The country has only 35 cu km of renewable water resources. In 2002, only 87% of city dwellers and 30% of the people living in rural areas had access to improved water sources.

The country's air pollution problems are due to increased industrial activity within the country, including the burning of soft coal, and airborne industrial pollution from the former Soviet Union and the People's Republic of China. The heavy concentration of factories in Ulaanbaatar has polluted the environment in that area.

In 2003, about 11.5% of the total land area was protected, including six Ramsar wetland sites. According to a 2006 report issued by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), threatened species included 13 types of mammals, 22 species of birds, 1 species of fish, and 3 species of invertebrates. Przewalski's horse (also called takh) is considered to be the last existing ancestor of the modern domesticated horse. The species was extinct in the wild of Mongolia by 1970, but a special government project of breeding the remaining animals in captivity has resulted in more than 1,500 horses reintroduced to a nature reserve at Hustain Nuruu. Threatened species included the Bactrian camel, the snow leopard, and the saiga.


The population of Mongolia in 2005 was estimated by the United Nations (UN) at 2,646,000, which placed it at number 135 in population among the 193 nations of the world. In 2005, approximately 4% of the population was over 65 years of age, with another 31% of the population under 15 years of age. There were 100 males for every 100 females in the country. According to the UN, the annual population rate of change for 200510 was expected to be 1.6%, a rate the government viewed as satisfactory. The projected population for the year 2025 was 3,390,000. The population density was less than 1 person per sq km (1 per sq mi).

The UN estimated that 57% of the population lived in urban areas in 2005, and that urban areas were growing at an annual rate of 1.74%. The capital city, Ulaanbaatar, had a population of 812,000 in that year. Darhan has a population of 90,000; Erdenet, 72,300.


Few Mongolian nationals live outside the country, but 3.4 million persons of Mongolian extraction lived in the Inner Mongolia province of China. About 500,000 live in Russiain the Buryat and Kalmyk republics. Between 1955 and 1962, some 20,000 Chinese laborers entered Mongolia to work on construction projects, but in 1964 Mongolia expelled about 2,000 Chinese nationals who had refused to take part in an agricultural resettlement program. In addition, Mongolia expelled 7,000 ethnic Chinese between 1983 and 1993. Since the independence of Kazakhstan, many Kazakhs have emigrated.

Nomadic herders account for nearly half of Mongolia's population. Mongolia is one of the only developing countries where internal migration to rural areas exceeds migration to cities. The number of families formally registered as nomadic herders grew from an estimated 74,000 in 1990 to 170,000 in 1995. In 2000 the total number of migrants was 8,000, with virtually no refugees. There were no reports of refugees or asylum seekers in 2004.

In 2004 some 2,259 Mongolians sought asylum in Europe, mainly in France and the United Kingdom.

In 2005, the net migration rate was estimated as zero, a significant change from 2000 when the rate was -6.5 per 1,000 population. The government views the migration levels as satisfactory.


According to latest estimates, about 85% of the population are ethnic Mongols; they are primarily Khalkha, which account for about 90% of all Mongols. The remainder include Durbet Mongols of the north and Dariganga Mongols in the east. Turkic speakers (including Kazakhs, Turvins, and Khotans) account for about 7% of the population. Other groups include those of Chinese and Russian origin.


Khalkha Mongolian, the official language, is spoken by about 90% of the population. It is one of a large dialect group in the Mongolic branch of the Altaic language family. Early in the 13th century, the Mongols adopted an alphabet written in vertical columns from the Turkic Uighurs, and they retained that script until modern times. The literary language differed increasingly from the living spoken language and, in 1941, the Mongolian government decided to introduce a new phonetic alphabet that would accurately reflect modern spoken Mongolian. The new alphabet consisted of the Cyrillic letters used in Russian, except for two special characters needed to render the Mongolian vowels represented as ö and ü in Western European languages. After a period of preparation (194145), the new alphabet was introduced in 1946 in all publications and in 1950 in all business transactions, but, following independence, the traditional script was due to be restored in 1994.

The differences between the Khalkha language spoken in Mongolia, the Buryat language spoken in the Buryat Republic of the Russian Federation, the Chahar and Ordos languages of China's Inner Mongolian Autonomous Region, and other Mongolian dialects are comparatively small and chiefly phonetic. A characteristic phonetic feature of Mongolian is the law of vowel harmony, which requires that a word contain either the so-called back vowels, represented as a, o, and u in Western European languages, or the so-called front vowels, represented as e (ā), ö, and ü, but not an association of the two types of vowels. Turkic, Russian, and Chinese are also spoken.


Before the government's campaign against religion in the 1930s, there were about 700 Buddhist monasteries with about 100,000 lamas in Mongolia. During 193639, the Communist regime closed virtually all monasteries, confiscated their livestock and landholdings, tried the higher lamas for counterrevolutionary activities, and induced thousands of lower lamas to adopt a secular mode of life. In the mid-1980s, only about 100 lamas remained. Since the new constitution of 1992 established freedom of religion, Mahayana Buddhism has made a surprising resurgence. Former monasteries have been restored, and there is a seminary at Gandantegchinlen Hiyd. In 1992, Roman Catholic missionaries were also encouraged to come to Mongolia to continue the presence they had initiated earlier in the century.

A 2004 report indicated that about 50% of the population practiced some form of Buddhism, mostly Lamaist (or Tibetan) Buddhism. About 4% of the population were ethnic Kazakh Muslims. There were small Christian communities throughout the country, including Roman Catholics, Russian Orthodox, and Protestants. It is believed that some natives practice shamanism. About 40% of the population still claims no religious affiliation.

The constitution provides for freedom of religion and the separation of church and state. However, the government has reserved the right to place some restrictions on religious activities. For instance, the government can limit the number of churches and clergy allowed for each religious organization. Religious groups are required to register through the Ministry of Justice and Home Affairs.


The Trans-Mongolian Railway, about 1,496 km (930 mi) in length, connects Mongolia with both China and Russia. Ulaanbaatar has been connected to the Trans-Siberian Railway via Bayantümen since 1939 and via Sühbaatar since 1950, and to the Chinese Railways via Dzamïn üüd since the end of 1955. Choybalsan is also connected to the Trans-Siberian system via Ereenstav. Ulaanbaatar Railways has been linked to Nalayh since 1938 and to Darhan and Tamsagbulag since 1964. The Sharïn Gol Open-Pit Coal Mining Industry was connected to the Darhan industrial center during the third five-year plan (196165) by a 60-km (37-mi) rail line. A 200-km (124-mi) railroad line connects Erdenet, a copper-molybdenum mining and industrial center near the Russian border, with the Trans-Mongolian Railway. The total length of railroads in 2004 was 1,810 km (1,125 mi), all of it broad gauge.

Mongolia had 49,256 km (30,637 mi) of roadways in 2002, of which 1,724 km (1,068.8 mi) were paved. Although Mongolia, as of 2004, had 580 km (360 mi) of navigable waterways, only Lake Hovsgol (135 km) was in regular use. The 270 km (168 mi) Selenge River and the 175 km (109 mi) Orhon River, while navigable, carry little traffic. In addition, the country's lakes and rivers are only open from May through September due to freezing in winter. Although land-locked, Mongolia, as of 2005, had a merchant fleet of 65 vessels of 1,000 GRT or more, totaling 339,423 GRT.

There were an estimated 46 airports in 2004. As of 2005, a total of 14 had paved runways, and there were also two heliports. Mongolia's first air service began operating between Ulaanbaatar and Verkhneudinsk in eastern Siberia in 1926. Miat-Air Mongol is the principal airline. In 2003, about 295,000 passengers were carried on scheduled domestic and international airline flights.


Archaeological investigations show that the land now known as Mongolia has been inhabited since the Lower Paleolithic period, more than 130,000 years ago. By about 1000 bc, animal husbandry of the nomadic type had developed, and by the 3rd century bc, a clan style of organization based on horsemanship had emerged. The Huns, a Turkic-speaking people, driven westward during the Han dynasty in China (206 bcad 220), created a nomadic empire in central Asia that extended into Europe, beginning about ad 370. It reached almost to Rome under the leadership of Attila (r.433?453) and declined after his death. Mongolia first played an important part in world history in ad 1206, when the Mongol tribes united under the leadership of the conqueror Temujin, or Genghis Khan. The Mongols set up their capital at Karakorum and established a vast empire extending from the northern Siberian forest to Tibet and from the Caspian Sea to the Pacific. After the death of Genghis in 1227, his empire was divided among his sons into Mongol states, or khanates: the Great Khanate of East Asia, which included the Yüan dynasty of China, and reached its peak under Kublai Khan (r.126094), who established his capital at Cambaluc (now Beijing); the Khanate of Chaghadai (Djakhatai) in Turkestan; the Hulagid Khanate, founded by Hulagu Khan in Persia; and the Golden Horde in southern Russia, founded by Batu Khan, who invaded Poland and Hungary in 1240. Having crossed the Danube River, Batu withdrew in 1241. The Mongols' century of dominance in Asia allowed for great trade and cultural interchange but also led to the spread of the bubonic plague to Europe.

During the 14th century, the great Mongol states disintegrated. The Yüan dynasty in China collapsed in 1368, to be replaced by the Ming dynasty; the western part of the Turkestan Khanate was incorporated into the empire of Timur in 1390; Hulagu's Persian empire disintegrated after 1335; and the Golden Horde was attacked and shaken by the forces of Prince Dmitry Donskoy in Russia in 1380 but ruled South Russia into the 15th century. In 1369, at the age of 33, Timur, also called Timur Lenk ("Timur the Lame") or Tamerlane, proclaimed himself ruler of all the land lying between the Tien Shan and the Hindu Kush mountain ranges. The Mongols retired to their original steppe homelands, splitting into three major groups: the northern Khalkha Mongols, north of the Gobi Desert; the southern Chahar Mongols, south of the Gobi; and the western Oirat Mongols. Babur, a descendant of Timur, founded the Mughal (or Mogul) Empire (so called from the Farsi word for "Mongol") in India in 1526; it lasted until the 18th century. Buddhism, which had been introduced by Tibetan monks in the 15th century, became widespread in the 16th and 17th centuries.

A cleavage developed between the northern (outer) Mongols and the southern (inner) Mongols, who had been more closely associated with Mongol rule in China. In the course of conquering China, the Manchus subdued the southern Mongols in 1636, placing them under the eventual rule of China's Qing (Ch'ing) or Manchu dynasty (16441911). The northern Mongols, who had been fighting with western Mongols for supremacy, sought Manchu aid against their foes and accepted Manchu suzerainty in 1691. Finally, the Manchus destroyed the western Mongols as a historical force in 1758. The Russian-Chinese border treaties of Nerchinsk (1689) and Kyakhta (1727) confirmed Chinese rule over both the southern and northern Mongols but assigned the Buryats to Russia.

Following the overthrow of the Manchu dynasty by the Chinese revolution in 1911, northern Mongol princes proclaimed an autonomous Outer Mongolia under the rule of Bogdo Khan, the Living Buddha (Jebtsun Damba Khutukhtu) of Urga, an earlier name of Ulaanbaatar. A treaty with the tsar's government pledged Russian assistance for the autonomous state. After the Bolshevik Revolution, the Chinese exploited Russia's weakness, reoccupying Outer Mongolia in 1919 and ending its autonomy. In early 1921, the Chinese were driven out by Russian counterrevolutionary forces under Baron von Ungern-Sternberg. He, in turn, was overcome in July 1921 by the Mongol revolutionary leaders Sukhe Baatar and Khorloin Choybalsan, assisted by the Soviet Red Army. Under Soviet influence, a nominally independent state, headed by the Living Buddha, was proclaimed on 11 July 1921 and lasted as a constitutional monarchy until his death in 1924.

The Mongolian People's Republic (MPR), the second communist country in world history, was proclaimed on 26 November 1924. With the support of the former USSR, Communist rule was gradually consolidated. Large landholdings of feudal lords were confiscated, starting in 1929, and those of monasteries in 1938. A 10-year mutual assistance treaty, signed in 1936 and renewed for another 10 years in 1946, formalized the close relations between the former USSR and the MPR. In the summer of 1939, with Soviet support, the Mongolians fought invading Japanese along the border with Manchuria, ending with a solid defeat for the Japanese in September. After a virtually unanimous plebiscite by the Mongolians in favor of independence, the Nationalist government of the Republic of China formally recognized the MPR in 1945 (it withdrew its recognition in 1953) and the Nationalists on Taiwan still claim Mongolia as part of China. On 14 February 1950, the People's Republic of China and the former USSR signed a treaty that guaranteed the MPR's independence. In October 1961, the MPR became a member of the United Nations. Conflicting boundary claims between the MPR and China were settled by treaty on 26 December 1962, and on 30 June 1964 the MPR and the former USSR signed a 20-year treaty of friendship, cooperation, and mutual assistance. In June 1987, the MPR and the United States established diplomatic relations. With the growth of cities around the mining industry, Mongolian society shifted from being 78% rural in 1956 to being 52% urban in 1980 to 57% in 2005.

With their close ties with the former USSR, Mongolians were well aware of Soviet policies of glasnost (openness) and perestroika (restructuring) and of the democratic movements in Eastern Europe after the mid-1980s. The MPR initiated its own policy of "openness" (il tod ) and began economic reforms to serve as transitional steps away from a centrally planned, collective economy and toward a market economy. Following the first popular demonstrations calling for faster reforms, in Ulaanbaatar in December 1989, the ruling Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party (MPRP) opted for political as well as economic reforms. The MPRP's leadership resigned in March 1990 and in May the constitution (of 1960) was amended to allow for new, multiparty elections, which took place in July. The MPRP won a majority (85% of the seats) in the legislature, the People's Great Hural (PGH), which took office in September. The PGH elected as president a member of the MPRP, Punsalmaagiyn Ochirbat, but invited the opposition parties to join in forming the new government.

During 1991, the new government discussed Mongolia's economic and political transformation. It issued vouchers to all citizens for the purchase of state property as a step toward privatization. Economic reform was made more difficult by the economic collapse of the former Soviet Union. In 1991, Russia insisted on trade based on cash rather than barter and dramatically cut aid. By 1992, Mongolia faced severe energy shortages. In 1991, the PGH also discussed the writing of a new constitution, which took effect in February of the next year. Based on that constitution, elections in June 1992 created a new legislature (with a MPRP majority), the State Great Hural (SGH) and, in June 1993, President Ochirbat was reelected (but with the support of a coalition of new parties, not the MPRP) in the first direct presidential elections. By September 1992, some 67,000 former Soviet troops (in Mongolia since 1966 when Sino-Soviet tensions increased) completed a process of withdrawal begun in 1990.

In the 1996 parliamentary elections, discontent, especially among the young, led to the defeat of the MPRP. The leaders of the winning Democratic Union Coalition (DUC), mostly political novices, promised to intensify market reforms. The election results marked the first smooth transfer of power in Mongolia's modern history and one of the most peaceful among all the former communist nations. In the following years, however, the stability and effectiveness of Mongolia's democratic government were hobbled by disunity within the majority DUC and by the political stalemate between the DUC and the ex-communists of the opposition MPRP. In late 1996 and early 1997, the MPRP prevailed in local elections, and its candidate, Natsagiyn Bagabandi, was elected president. After the resignation of two prime ministers, the nation was left with an interim government in the second half of 1998, as Bagabandi rejected multiple DUC nominees for the post.

In October 1998 the country was shaken by the murder of Sanjaasurengiyn Zorig, a pro-democracy leader and government minister who had been tapped to be the next DUC nominee for prime minister. By August 1999, yet another DUC government had fallen, and Rinchinnyamiin Amarjargal, the 38-year-old former foreign minister, became Mongolia's third prime minister in 15 months.

On 2 July 2000, parliamentary elections were held that resulted in an overwhelming victory for the MPRP. The MPRP took 72 of 76 seats in the State Great Hural, with only 4 seats going to opposition members. Nambaryn Enkhbayar was named prime minister. On 20 May 2001, Bagabandi was reelected president with 58% of the vote, giving the MPRP control of both the presidency and parliament. The elections were characterized by international observers as free and fair.

In November 2002, the Dalai Lama visited Mongolia, a trip denounced by China. China warned Mongolian officials not to meet with the Tibetan spiritual leader, and briefly suspended train services with the country. Thousands of Mongolian Buddhists attended the Dalai Lama's speech on 6 November.

As of early 2003, the country continued to face problems of high unemployment, poor welfare and education systems, corruption, crime, and harsh winters. This was due, in part, to a steep drop in world prices for Mongolia's two largest exports, cashmere and copper. The severe winter of 2001 killed at least 1.3 million livestock; approximately 40% of Mongolians depend upon the country's 30 million livestock for their livelihood. Mongolia, though engaging in increased privatization of state-owned enterprises to speed the country's alignment with free market principles, has been careful to dedicate a percentage of the resulting revenues to social programs. Growth improved from 2002 at 4% to 2003 at 5%, due largely to high copper prices and new gold production, with the government claiming a 10.6% growth rate for 2004 that was unconfirmed. The unemployment rate for 2005 was 6.7%. Mongolia's economy continued to be heavily impacted by its neighbors, particularly since it imports a large majority of its energy and oil from Russia. Mongolian economy also largely consists or a 'black' or 'gray' market. The World Bank estimated that this underground economy is equal to or greater than the official economic statistics. Mongolia, which joined the World Trade Organization in 1997, seeks to expand its participation and integration into Asian regional economic and trade regimes.

Due to stagnant unemployment and poverty, Bagabandi made an increased effort to align Mongolia with the international community. Bilateral talks were held in China and the United States in 2004 which led to increased trade and cooperation. The United States is particularly interested in Mongolia due to its strategic geographical position and that it holds relations with North Korea. Mongolia also reopened relations with Russia, due mainly to the Russian decision to resolve a large portion of Soviet-era debt. This allowed Mongolia to fully pay off all debt to Russia in 2004.

MPRP candidate Nambariin Enkhbayar was elected president in May 2005. He won 53.4% of the vote, thereby avoiding a runoff election. His closest rival, Mendsaikhan Enkhsaikhan of the Democratic Party, took 20%. Enkhbayar's declared that the largest problem during his tenure would be the poverty experienced by many Mongolians; over of the population lives in poverty.


A new constitution went into effect 12 February 1992, replacing the 1960 constitution and completing Mongolia's transition from a single-party state to a multiparty, parliamentary form of government. At that time, the country's name was officially changed from "Mongolian People's Republic" to "Mongolia." Suffrage is universal at age 18. The unicameral legislature, the State Great Hural (SGH), has 76 members, who are elected by district to four-year terms. The SGH meets twice each year. It can enact and amend laws, set domestic and foreign policy, ratify international agreements, and declare a state of emergency.

A president, the head of state and commander-in-chief of the armed forces, is selected by direct, popular vote for a four-year term, with a limit of two terms. The president nominates the prime minister and can call for the dissolution of the government, initiate and veto legislation (subject to override by two-thirds vote of the SGH), and issue decrees which take effect with the signature of the prime minister.

A prime minister, the head of government, is nominated by the president and confirmed by the SGH to a four-year term. The prime minister selects a cabinet which must be confirmed by the SGH. The government dissolves when the prime minister resigns, when half the cabinet resigns simultaneously, or upon a vote for dissolution by the SGH.


The Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party (MPRP), which had been the single ruling party since 1924, legalized opposition parties in 1990. In addition to the MPRP, major parties prior to the 2004 elections included the Motherland Democratic Party (MDP), which included the Mongolian National Democratic Party (MNDP), the Mongolian Social Democratic Party (MSDP), the Green Party (NYAM), and the Mongolian Democratic Party of Believers (MDPB); Mongolian Conservative Party (MCP); Democratic Power Coalition, which included the Mongolian Democratic Renaissance Party (MDRP) and Mongolian People's Party (MPP); Mongolian National Solidarity Party (MNSP); Bourgeois Party/Capitalist Party; United Heritage Party (UHP), which included the United Party of Herdsman and Farmers, Independence Party; Traditional United Conservative Party, and Mongolian United Private Property Owners Party; and the Mongolian Workers Party.

In the first election for the State Great Hural (SGH) 28 June 1992, the MPRP won 56.9% of the vote and 71 of 76 seats in the SGH. In the first direct presidential election, 6 June 1993, President Punsalmaagiyn Ochirbat (first elected president 3 September 1990) was reelected with 58% of the vote. A former member of the MPRP, Ochirbat defeated that party's candidate, running as head of a coalition of the SDP and MNDP.

In the elections of 30 June 1996, the Democratic Union Coalition (which included the MNDP, the MSDP, and two smaller parties) defeated the MPRP, winning 50 of 76 seats (an increase of 44 seats). The MPRP won 25 seats, and the remaining seat went to the MCP. The DUC campaign platform included the Mongolia's Contract With Voters, which promised to cut government spending, reduce welfare, and reorganize the transformation of the government.

In the July 2000 parliamentary elections, MRPR candidates won 72 or the 76 seats, with the remaining 4 seats won (one each) by MNDP, the Civil Courage Party or Civil Will Party (CWP) in alliance with the Mongolian Green, the Motherland Alliance (the Mongol Democratic New Socialist Party and the Mongolian Labor Party), and an independent nonpartisan candidate.

General elections held in 2004 resulted in an impasse, as neither the MPRP or nor the main opposition, the Motherland Democratic Party (MDP), held the 39 seats required to form a government. The MPRP was dealt a devastating blow with a reduction in parliamentary seats from 72 to 36. Electoral fraud was suspected on the part of the MDC and a recount was ordered. Parliament was not able to meet for the first half of 2004 as neither side wished to pursue legislation while the electoral investigation was ongoing. In August, the MPRP formed a coalition with the MDC and Tsakhilganiin Elbegdorj retained his post of prime minister for a second term.


Mongolia administratively consists of 21 provinces (aymag ), divided into 334 counties (soums) and lesser administrative units called baghs, as well as one autonomous city, Ulaanbaatar, which is divided into districts and horoos. Each level of local administration has its own legislative body, or hural. These hurals nominate the provincial governors, who are then appointed by the prime minister.


Prior to the 1992 constitution, justice was administered through a Supreme Court elected by the People's Great Hural; province and city courts, elected by the corresponding assemblies of people's deputies; and lower courts. The 17-member Supreme Court remains the highest judicial body with a Constitutional Court vested with sole authority for constitutional review. The local courts (people's courts) handle most routine civil and criminal cases. Provincial courts hear more serious cases and review local court decisions. The Supreme Court hears appeals from the local and provincial courts. The old specialized military justice and railway courts have been abolished. All courts are now organized under a single unified national system.

The General Council of Courts nominates and the president appoints the lower and the Supreme Court judges. The new constitution provides for a completely independent judiciary. It also promises procedural due process rights to a fair trial, legal assistance, right to appeal, and access to requests for pardons.

A 1999 media law banned censorship of public information, and many independent newspapers and media outlets exist. However, to the extreme poverty in the country, the main source of news is the state-owned Radio Mongolia. Internet access and Western news media are available in all major cities and not hampered by government censorship. Parliamentary meetings are also broadcast to the public.

Trade unions are legal, although with the continued sale of many state factories, membership in trade unions has declined to approximately one-half the population in 2005. Strikes and collective bargaining are legal except in what the government considers "essential sectors", which are transportation, law enforcement and utilities.

The constitution bars arbitrary arrest, although this continued to occur. Prisoners also report beatings and torture while in detention. Deaths in prison are reported, although this is most likely due to disease exacerbated by poor conditions like lack of food, heat and medical services. Mongolia vowed to concentrate resources on prison reform by 2010.

Military service is mandatory for all men aged 1828 for 12 months. In 2003 the army had approximately 7,500 soldiers and the Air Defense Force had about 800 personnel.

Mongolia is a member of most international organizations including the United Nations, International Court of Justice and the World Trade Organization.


In 2005, Mongolia's armed forces had 8,600 active personnel, with reserves of 137,000. The Army had 7,500 personnel, whose equipment included 370 main battle tanks, 120 reconnaissance vehicles, 310 armored infantry fighting vehicles, 150 armored personnel carriers, and 570 artillery pieces. The Air Force had 800 personnel whose major equipment included 11 attack helicopters and 9 fixed wing transport aircraft. Paramilitary forces consisted of a border guard numbering 6,000 and 1,200 internal security troops. Mongolia's defense budget in 2005 totaled $17.6 million.


Admitted to the United Nations on 27 October 1961, Mongolia participates in ESCAP and several nonregional specialized agencies, such as the FAO, IAEA, ILO, IMF, UNESCO, UNIDO, WHO, and the World Bank. It is a member of the WTO, the Asian Development Bank, the Colombo Plan, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the ASEAN Regional Forum, the Pacific Economic Cooperation Council, and the G-77. Mongolia is a partner in the OSCE and an observer of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), an agreement signed in June 2001 between the leaders of China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan to fight terrorism and ethnic and religious militancy while promoting trade.

The principal ally of Mongolia was the former USSR, which provided substantial economic and military assistance over the years. In 1986, the MPR made efforts toward normalizing relations with China, which had become strained after the expulsion of Chinese laborers in 1983, by establishing the first five-year trade agreement between the two countries, restoring air service and improving rail service between them, and exchanging consular delegations for the first time. In the 1990s, Mongolia expanded its political and financial relationships with the United States, Japan, and the European Union. However, it remains dependent upon Russia and China for the development of its economy and trade. Mongolia is part of the Nonaligned Movement.

In environmental cooperation, Mongolia is part of the Basel Convention, the Convention on Biological Diversity, Ramsar, CITES, the Kyoto Protocol, the Montréal Protocol, and the UN Conventions on the Law of the Sea, Climate Change, and Desertification.


After 70 years as a centrally planned economy, Mongolia has undergone a difficult transition towards a free market system since 1990. With the help of active government promotion, the country's industrial sector grew steadily for several decades, expanding from 7% of the national income in 1940 to 35% by 1997, as agriculture's share of total production declined from 79% to 31%. Despite these changes, animal husbandry has remained a dominant sector of the economy, with live animals and animal products accounting for a major share of exports, and livestock providing much of the raw material processed in the country's industrial sector. Total Soviet assistance at the height of Soviet support amounted to 30% of GDP. A number of factors, including the sudden cessation of economic aid from the former Soviet Union and allied countries, the disruption of trade with traditional trading partners, as well as a severe winter in 1990/91, caused a steep decline in the country's economic activity in the early 1990s. The annual growth rate of the GDP dropped steeply from 8.3% to -9.5% in 1992, and -3% in 1993.

Despite these difficulties, the government continued its economic transformation program involving the privatization of most previously state-owned enterprises and other policy reforms. In 1994, GDP grew by 2.3%, followed by further increases of 6.3% in 1995, 2.6% in 1996, 4% in 1997, 3.5% in 1998, 3.2% in 1999, 1.1% in 2000 and 1.4% in 2001. Although the economy has grown steadily since 1994, the economic wellbeing of most people is still in decline. Inflation reached a peak of over 325% in 1992, accelerating faster than wages, but dropping to about 4% in 1995. In 1999, inflation jumped to 10%, and was at 8% and 8.1% in 2000 and 2001. Development of the country's rich oil and mineral resources continues to be a high priority, and negotiations for the exploitation of oil, gold and rare earth elements with foreign companies are being actively pursued.

The GDP growth rate was 6.0% in 2004, up from 5.1% in 2003, and 3.9% in 2002; in 2005, the economy was expected to expand by 5.5%. This growth was mainly fueled by higher commodity prices (for gold, copper, etc.) requested from Mongolia's main trading partnerChina. Inflation, reduced to insignificant levels in 20020.9%, started growing again in 2003 (5.1%), and 2004 (8.7%). The unemployment rate reached 14.2% in 2003, but it is believed that a large part of the jobless population is actually employed by the grey economy.


The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reports that in 2005 Mongolia's gross domestic product (GDP) was estimated at $6.0 billion. The CIA defines GDP as the value of all final goods and services produced within a nation in a given year and computed on the basis of purchasing power parity (PPP) rather than value as measured on the basis of the rate of exchange based on current dollars. The per capita GDP was estimated at $2,200. The annual growth rate of GDP was estimated at 5.5 %. The average inflation rate in 2005 was 11%. It was estimated that agriculture accounted for 20.6% of GDP, industry 21.4%, and services 58%.

According to the World Bank, in 2003 remittances from citizens working abroad totaled $56 million or about $23 per capita and accounted for approximately 4.4% of GDP. Foreign aid receipts amounted to $247 million or about $100 per capita and accounted for approximately 19.7% of the gross national income (GNI).

The World Bank reports that in 2003 household consumption in Mongolia totaled $894 million or about $361 per capita based on a GDP of $1.3 billion, measured in current dollars rather than PPP. Household consumption includes expenditures of individuals, households, and nongovernmental organizations on goods and services, excluding purchases of dwellings.

It was estimated that in 2004 about 36.1% of the population had incomes below the poverty line.


In 2003 (the latest year for which data was available), the workforce was estimated at 1.488 million people. Of that total that same year, 42% were involved in agriculture/herding, 4% in mining, 6% in manufacturing, 14% in trade, 29% in services, 5% in the public sector and 3.7% in undefined occupations. In 2003, unemployment was put at 6.7%. A shortage of skilled labor has required the procurement of a large supplementary workforce from the former USSR and Eastern Europe.

The right to organize trade unions and professional organizations is granted by the 1990 constitution. In that year, the Association of Free Trade Unions, (AFTU) which includes about 70 unions, was chartered. In 2002, there were 400,000 unionized workers, amounting to less than 50% of the workforce. Nonessential workers have a right to strike.

According to the labor code, the working week is fixed at 40 hours, and for those under 18, at 36 hours. Children as young as 14 or 15 may work with parental permission. In reality, regulations regarding child labor are not effectively enforced. The legal minimum wage was less than $25 per month in 2002, although most workers earned in excess of this amount.


As of 2003, cropland amounted to 1,200,000 hectares (2,965,000 acres), up from only 1,160,000 hectares (2,866,000 acres) in 1979; the cultivated area represents only 1% of potentially arable land. The high altitude, temperature extremes, long winters, and low precipitation provide limited potential for agricultural development. Crop production accounts for 3% of all employment.

Shortages of fuels and parts for agricultural equipment caused crop production to decline by 70% during the 1990s. Principal crops produced in 2004 (in 1,000 tons) included: wheat, 150; barley, 2.5; potatoes, 67; and vegetables, 44. Trade in agricultural products in 2004 consisted of $173.6 million in imports and $62.7 million in exports.


Animal husbandry is the backbone of Mongolia's economy, employing some 160,000 persons. After Mongolia became the world's second communist country in 1924, many nomads settled down to raise livestock on state-owned collectives. The end of communist rule in 1990 brought the resurgence of traditional animal herding methods. Pastures constitute about 75% of the national territory. In 2005 there were 11,686,000 sheep, 12,238,000 goats, 1,842,000 cattle, 2,005,000 horses, 257,000 camels, and some 6,000 hogs. The goat population increased by over one million in 1994/95, due to a boom in the cashmere industry. The meat produced in 2005 was 195,400 tons. Because of the harsh climate, Mongolians consume much fat and meat during winter, and dairy products in the summer.

Mongols claim that the Mongolian thoroughbred is the progenitor of many breeds of race horses worldwide; furthermore, its stamina and speed over long distances surpass Arabic and Akhaltec racers. The Mongolian Horse Association was founded in February 1989 in Zunmod to increase the population and preserve traditional horse-breeding techniques, which were largely being forgotten over the past three decades.

Hunting remains an important commercial activity, with furs and skins the chief products. In 2005, production of skins and hides was estimated at 19,800 tons from sheepskins and 11,200 tons from cattle hides.


Fishing is not a significant industry in Mongolia. The total catch in 2003 was 130 tons.


Forests cover about 6.8% of the total territory of Mongolia, mainly in the area around Hövsgöl Lake. It is estimated that the country's total timber resources represent at least 1.25 billion cu m (44 billion cu ft). Birch, cedar, larch, and fir trees predominate. In 2004, the timber cut was 6.631 million cu m (222.7 million cu ft), with 29% burned as fuel. The lumber industry yielded 300,000 cu m of sawn wood that year.


Mongolia was the world's third-largest producer of fluorspar and among the top three producers in Asia and the Pacific of copper and molybdenum. In 2004, Mongolia exported nearly all of its copper and molybdenum concentrates, while fluorspar was sent to Japan and Russia. Construction, mining (of coal, copper, molybdenum fluorspar, and gold), and oil were Mongolia's top three industries. Geological surveys have uncovered deposits of some 80 minerals, which were largely untapped. Also produced in 2004 were cement, hydrated lime, quicklime, varieties of stone, and silica. Most mining operations were in the eastern and north-central regions, including the Erdenet copper mining center.

Output in 2004 included (in metric tons): mine copper (metal content), 130,000; fluorspar (including acid grade and sub-metallurgical), 295,000; mine molybdenum, 1,411; gypsum, 25,000; and mine tungsten, 40,000 (estimated). Gold output for 2004 was 18,600 kg, up from 11,119 kg in 2003. Gold mining increased significantly in the 1990s, and the number of companies engaged in gold mining grew to more than 100; total reserves were estimated to be 2,000 tons gold in 17 regions, the most important being Naran, Tolgoi, and Zamar. No tin was mined in 1999 and 2000, or in 2004. Uranium production ceased after 1997. The Erdenet copper-molybdenum mine, completed in 1981, was developed by the state in cooperation with the former USSR, and was 51% owned by the Mongolian government and 49%, by the Russian government. Clay, gold, gypsum, limestone, molybdenum, salt, sand and gravel, silver, precious stones, and tungsten were also mined by small operations.

Mongolia's gross domestic product (GDP) in 2004 totaled $1.5 billion. The country's minerals sector accounted for around 17.3% of GDP that year. The government encouraged foreign investment and adopted a number of long-term programs to explore for and develop metallic and nonmetallic minerals. Ivanhoe Mines Ltd. estimated that the Oyu Tolgoy had as much as 750 million tons of copper and gold resources. The Tsagaan Suvraga porphyry copper deposit, in southwestern Sayanshand City, in the northern part of the Ulaan-Uul structural-formational zone of the south Gobi mineral belt, contained 240 million tons of sulfide ore at a grade of 0.53% copper and 0.018% molybdenum. The government was looking for investors to develop a 500-million-ton iron ore deposit north of Darkhan City.

Parliament-approved guidelines for 200104 would privatize 27 state-owned enterprises and restructure 25 state-owned enterprises and organizations. Copper mining remained state owned. In 1997, the government modified mining laws to increase the land open to exploration to 40%, change policies regarding exploration licenses, and grant tax incentives to promote mining.


Mongolia produces only a small amount of oil, no natural gas, and some coal.

In 2004, Mongolia's production of oil averaged 542 barrels per day, while demand and imports each averaged an estimated 11,000 barrels per day in that year. A small amount of oil, averaging an estimated 497 barrels per day, was exported that same year.

All of Mongolia's electricity is produced by conventional thermal power plants. In 2004, electric power output totaled an estimated 2.692 billion kWh, with consumption in that year, an estimated 2.209 billion kWh. Electricity exports and imports in 2004 came to an estimated 8.2 million kWh and 130.5 million kWh, respectively. In 2002, Mongolia's generating capacity was put at 0.901 million kW. Although about half the population is served with electricity, electric power outages in rural areas can last for months.

Mongolia produced 7,081,000 short tons of coal in 2002, of which 86% consisted of brown coal or Lignite, and the remainder bituminous.


Small-scale processing of livestock and agricultural products has historically been a mainstay of Mongolia's industrial sector. With the establishment of the Erdenet copper plant in the late 1970s, metal processing also became an important part of the economy. In 1996, industrial output was estimated at t239.3 billion, with production of metals accounting for 32.6%; energy production, 19.1%; processed foods, 15.8%; wool and woolen apparel, 11.5%; mineral fuels, 6.8%; chemicals, 6.7%; and other items, 7.5%. Much of the country's industrial activity is concentrated in four centers: Ulaanbaatar, Erdenet, Darhan, and Choybalsan. Industry employed approximately 74,100 persons in 1996.

Mongolia's industrial development has been severely affected by dwindling imports of fuel, spare parts, and equipment formerly obtained from the former USSR and allied trading partners. As a result, total output from the industrial sector generally declined in the early 1990s, falling by 2.5% in 1996. By 1997, the industrial sector had begun to recover, with growth estimated that year at 4.5%. Industrial growth in 2000 was 2.4%. Industrial production in Mongolia included about 40 different commodities. As of 2002, the production of food, leather, shoes, glass, and garments were on the decline, while production of copper and molybdenum concentrates, coal mining, and the food and beverage industries were increasing. About 72% of the economy had been privatized by 2000.

In 2003, industry made up 21.4% of the economy, with 4% of the labor force being engaged in mining, and 6% in manufacturing; 42% of the working population is still engaged in herding or agriculture. The industrial production growth rate was 4.1% in 2002, slightly higher than the GDP growth rate, and a sign that the industry is an important economic growth fosterer.


The Academy of Sciences, in Ulaanbaatar, was founded in 1921 and reorganized in 1961. It includes departments of agriculture, chemistry and biology, geography and geology, medicine, and technology; and numerous research institutes concerning agriculture, fisheries and veterinary science, medicine, natural sciences, and technology. The Natural History Museum in Ulaanbaatar features Gobi Desert dinosaur eggs and skeletons. The National University of Mongolia, founded in 1942 at Ulaanbaatar, has faculties of mathematics, natural sciences, physics, and biology, and undertakes research with the State Construction Research Institute in pursuit of knowledge related to nuclear physics, biophysics, mineral resources, energy, and communications. The Mongolian Technical University, founded in 1969 at Ulaanbaatar, has schools of power engineering, mechanical engineering, civil engineering, and geology and mining engineering. In 198797, science and engineering students accounted for 24% of college and university enrollments. In 2002, Mongolia's expenditures on research and development (R&D) totaled $11.868 million, or 0.28% of GDP. In that same year, the country had 710 researchers and 72 technicians per million people that were involved in R&D. High technology exports in that year totaled $1 million.


Prior to economic reforms of the early 1990s, consumer goods produced at Ulaanbaatar or imported from abroad were distributed by state marketing agencies to retail outlets in local administrative centers. Prices for all items except consumer services and some luxury goods were set by the government. With steady price liberalization undertaken since 1990, prices are now closely regulated for only a few staples, such as fuel, rice, and flour.

Because the rapid dismantling of the government's centrally planned distribution system proceeded without an effective alternative yet in place, severe supply shortages have been experienced especially in the country's urban centers. To reduce these shortages, a system of public markets has been developed where supplies in excess of targeted deliveries can be sold freely. Commodity exchanges, however, still retain some of the characteristics of a centrally planned economy. Bartering is still common among Mongolia's nomadic population.

As of 2002, wide-spread reform toward privatization was nearly completed and these privately-owned enterprises have begun to show growth in contributions to the economy. The government still seeks foreign investment as a major opportunity to boost and stabilize the domestic economy.

Business hours are generally from 9 am to 6 pm, Monday through Friday.


Minerals, mainly copper concentrates and molybdenum, were Mongolia's largest exports. In 1998, exports totaled $316.8 million. The second most important export category includes wool, hides, and skins, followed by consumer goods, mainly manufactured garments. The liberalization and expansion of free trade zones have promoted the export of manufactured goods such as spun wool and cashmere, carpets, leather goods, green tea, canned meat, and light consumer goods. In 1999, imports amounted to $472.4 million. Imports included machinery and equipment, fuels, rice, wheat flour, industrial consumer goods, chemicals, building materials, sugar, and tea.

Although Mongolia continues to depend on the republics of the former USSR (especially Russia) as its dominant trading partners, the country's trading profile has changed greatly since the mid-1980s. In 1985, communist countries, excluding China and North Korea, accounted for 95.5% of Mongolia's exports and 98.1% of its imports. In 1997 Mongolia joined the World Trade Organization. By 1998 Russia accounted for only 12.1% of exports, while their share of imports fell to 30.6%.

Country Exports Imports Balance
World 615.9 801.0 -185.1
China 284.2 172.4 111.8
United States 142.9 23.5 119.4
Russia 41.2 265.4 -224.2
Singapore 35.0 10.4 24.6
Australia 34.5 19.6 14.9
United Kingdom 26.1 3.9 22.2
Italy-San Marino-Holy See 9.1 3.3 5.8
Japan 8.5 63.4 -54.9
Korea, Republic of 7.5 67.7 -60.2
Germany 4.6 38.0 -33.4
() data not available or not significant.

In 2004, Mongolia's exports totaled $853 million (FOBFree on Board), while its imports grew to $1 billion (CIFCost and Freight). Export commodities included copper, apparel, livestock, animal products, cashmere, wool, hides, fluorspar, and other nonferrous metals, and they mainly went to China (which received 47.8% of total exports), the United States (17.9%), and the United Kingdom (15.7%). Imports chiefly came from Russia (33.3%), China (23.6%), Japan (7.4%), South Korea (6%), and the United States (4.6%), and included machinery and equipment, fuel, cars, food products, industrial consumer goods, chemicals, building materials, sugar, and tea.


Mongolia consistently imports more than it exports. The sudden discontinuance of grants and debt cancellations by the former

Current Account -158.0
     Balance on goods -156.2
         Imports -680.2
         Exports 524.0
     Balance on services -81.9
     Balance on income -4.5
     Current transfers 84.6
Capital Account
Financial Account 157.4
     Direct investment abroad
     Direct investment in Mongolia 77.8
     Portfolio investment assets
     Portfolio investment liabilities
     Financial derivatives
     Other investment assets -32.1
     Other investment liabilities 111.7
Net Errors and Omissions 14.1
Reserves and Related Items -13.4
() data not available or not significant.

Soviet Union devastated the balance of payments position. Subsequently, the IMF in 1993, 1997, and 2001 approved a series of three-year loans to Mongolia, the last due to expire in September 2004.

The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reported that in 2000 the purchasing power parity of Mongolia's exports was $466.1 million while imports totaled $614.5 million resulting in a trade deficit of $148.4 million.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) reported that in 2001 Mongolia had exports of goods totaling $460 million and imports totaling $549 million. The services credit totaled $86 million and debit $174 million.

Exports of goods and services reached $1.2 billion in 2004, up from $835 million in 2003. Imports grew from $1.1 billion in 2003, to $1.5 billion in 2004. The resource balance was consequently negative in both years, worsening from -$249 million in 2003, to -$303 million in 2004. The current account balance was also negative, slightly improving from -$99 million in 2003, to - $35 million in 2004.


Before 1924, Mongolia lacked its own banks and currency. Mongolians bartered, using such commodities as livestock, tea, and salt for exchange, or such foreign currencies as the US dollar, the Russian ruble, the British pound, and the Chinese Mexican dollar in commerce. Chinese and Russian banks offered credit, as did monasteries and private moneylenders. The government began to transform this chaotic monetary situation with a series of reforms, starting with the establishment of Mongolbank, or the Mongolian Trade-Industrial Bank, in June 1924. Mongolbank was founded as a Mongolian-Soviet joint-stock company. In February 1925, the tugrik was made the official national currency, and it was slowly introduced into circulation over the next three years. In April 1928, all other currencies were withdrawn from circulation. In 1929, the government drove private moneylenders out of business by establishing a monopoly on foreign trade and outlawing private lending.

In April 1954, the Soviet Union handed over its shares in Mongolbank, which was renamed the State Bank of the Mongolian People's Republic, which remains the official bank of Mongolia. However, economic reforms have allowed the formation of a commercial banking sector. The economic reforms were brought about by the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s.

Mongolia has a two-tier banking system where control of the money supply is invested in the central bank. The Bank of Mongolia has established lending rules the commercial banks must follow. Also, reserve requirements are set by the national bank. In 1991, commercial functions were separated from the Mongol Bank, and two commercial banks were created; by the late 1990s there were 18. On advice from the Asian Development Bank, the government closed a number of banks in 1999 and 2000, leaving 12 in operation in an effort to restructure the two-tier system. In 2000, the World Bank gave Mongolia a loan earmarked for restructuring of its financial systems. Also in that year, foreign exchange reserves reached $123 million. The International Monetary Fund reports that in 2001, currency and demand depositsan aggregate commonly known as M1were equal to $142.2 million. In that same year, M2an aggregate equal to M1 plus savings deposits, small time deposits, and money market mutual fundswas $301.6 million. The discount rate, the interest rate at which the central bank lends to financial institutions in the short term, was 8.6%.

The Mongolian Securities Exchange opened in August 1995. About 60,000 individuals have opened accounts on the stock market. By 1996, more than 7.8 million shares from 400 companies had been traded and 28,000 contracts concluded; average daily trade volume is 60,00080,000 shares.


In the 1980s, insurance was offered by the State Directorate for Insurance, or Mongoldaatgal, which was under the control of the Ministry of Finance. The government was planning to introduce health insurance in 1993 as a cooperative effort between individuals, government agencies, and the private sector.


The annual budget is submitted to the People's Great Hural for approval. Privatization did not begin until fiscal year 1990/1991 along with political upheaval. Privatization of large state businesses has begun, as has the implementation of tax reforms. Most small businesses were private as of 2001.

The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) estimated that in 2004 Mongolia's central government took in revenues of approximately $582 million and had expenditures of $602 million. Revenues minus expenditures totaled approximately -$20 million. Total external debt was $1.36 billion.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) reported that in 2002, the most recent year for which it had data, central government revenues were t403.22 billion and expenditures were t422.62 billion. Government outlays by function were as follows: general public services, 32.4%; defense, 5.9%; public order and safety, 3.9%; economic affairs, 21.2%; environmental protection, 0.3%; housing and community amenities, 0.3%; health, 4.7%; recreation, culture, and religion, 2.2%; education, 6.3%; and social protection, 22.8%.

Revenue and Grants 403.22 100.0%
     Tax revenue 207.3 51.4%
     Social contributions 69.92 17.3%
     Grants 19.31 4.8%
     Other revenue 106.69 26.5%
Expenditures 422.62 100.0%
     General public services 137.03 32.4%
     Defense 24.91 5.9%
     Public order and safety 16.69 3.9%
     Economic affairs 89.61 21.2%
     Environmental protection 1.47 0.3%
     Housing and community amenities 1.08 0.3%
     Health 19.7 4.7%
     Recreational, culture, and religion 9.1 2.2%
     Education 26.61 6.3%
     Social protection 96.41 22.8%
() data not available or not significant.


The turnover tax, for the majority of state revenues, is an indirect sales tax levied at the production stage on all manufactured commodities. Personal taxes consist of income taxes, paid by salaried industrial workers and office employees, and livestock taxes on private herders, based on the number of livestock owned. There is a ceiling of 40% on taxes levied on enterprises with foreign capital. There is also a 13% value-added tax (VAT). Exemptions from the VAT include financial and legal services, leases and rents for dwellings, religious organizations, and public transportation.


Mongolia collects a general import tariff of 5% and a VAT of 13% on most imported items. However, gold is subject to a 10% VAT, while imports of technological equipment and machinery imported under the country's Law of Foreign Investment are exempt. Customs duties have been insignificant, yielding less than 1% of total state revenues.


Prior to 1990, no private investments were possible in Mongolia; much of the country's investment capital was derived from government loans and grants provided by the former USSR and allied countries. New government policy and laws since the late 1980s, including the Foreign Investment Law of 1993, provide the legal basis and incentive for foreign investments. In 1994, Mongolia concluded a Bilateral Trade and Investment Agreement (BTIA) with the United States, in 1997 accessed to the WTO, and in 1999 was granted normal trade relations (NTR) status by the United States.

The Foreign Investment and Taxation Laws provide for tax incentives and exemptions for foreign investment. Total income tax exemptions are granted to businesses engaged in infrastructural projects like building power plants, thermal plants, power transmission networks, highways, railways, and air cargo transportation facilities. Mining operations, metallurgy operations, chemicals production, and machinery and electronics manufacturing receive a 10-year tax holiday, and 50% tax exemption for the next five years. Companies that export more than 50% of production receive a three-year tax holiday, and 50% tax exemption for another three years.

Thus far, private foreign capital remains a small source of investment in the country. Mongolia's lack of infrastructure remains an impediment to foreign investment. A north-south paved road running from Russia to China and through the capital was completed with finance from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) but Mongolia still lacks an eastwest highway. As of July 2000, cumulative foreign investment in Mongolia totaled $308.4 million. The biggest source has been China, including Hong Kong ($86 million), followed by Japan ($47.5 million), South Korea ($30.4 million), the United States ($27.1 million), Russia ($15.5 million), and Canada ($9.3 million). The sector attracting the most foreign direct investment (FDI) has been mining (24%), followed by light industry (19.6%); raw material processing, including cashmere (10.9%); trade and catering (6.4%); construction (6.3%); banking and financial services (5.4%) and telecommunications (5.0%). Leading investors include Sumitomo Corporation and Komatsu of Japan; Korean Telecom; and SOCO Oil, Caterpillar, and Nescor of the United States.

Although the Mongolian government openly welcomes foreign investments (albeit, it favors a series of key industries, like banking and cashmere production), there are reports of corruption at the level of individual agencies and the judiciary that hinder the free flow of capital.


In the past, Mongolia operated on the basis of a planned economy, with five-year plans implemented from 1947 until 1990, with assistance from the former USSR and China. In 1990, with the establishment of a new consensus government, there followed a three-year plan that aimed for achieving greater efficiency in the allocation of resources and a diversified economic base by undertaking a sustained transition to a free market economy. The change was a fundamental shift, as the government relinquished its role as the primary factor in the economy and began limiting itself to policies supporting a market-oriented economy. Main components of the government's program include privatization of state enterprises, price liberalization, changes in national law, and an action plan for environmental protection. Current plans specify development of the country's energy and mining sectors, and further action in environmental protection as well as continued reforms in a number of areas including fiscal management, land tenure, and social benefit entitlements.

In 1996, the initial phase of privatization of state property was completed. According to the government, 100% of small- and medium-sized enterprises were privatized as well as 97% of the country's livestock. In 2000, the private sector accounted for 72% of GDP. At the end of the 1990s, however, the government's commitment to privatization and market reforms appeared to be weakening. However, the government that took office in August 2000 renewed the effort at gaining macroeconomic stability and restoring the momentum for reform. In September 2001, the administration entered into a three-year arrangement with the IMF under its Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility (PRGF) supported by stand-by funds of sdr28.49 million (about $40 million). In a 2002 review, the IMF commended the government on progress made to contain inflation, but noted that improvements were needed in fiscal transparency and accountability.

In July 2002, a pledge meeting of the Consultative Group (CG) for Mongolia, consisting of donors from 20 countries and 18 international organizations in addition to representatives of various civil and private organizations, agreed on the importance of the government's addressing governance issues: ensuring accountability, promoting transparency, controlling corruption, reforming the judiciary and strengthening the rule of law. Priority areas of action stressed were energy and information and communications technology (ICT), as well as preparation of a long-term strategy for rural development. The donors pledged $333 million in support of Mongolia's development efforts in 2003.

Economic development strategies were expected to be less successful if they focused only on the national economy of Mongolia, outside of the political, geographical, and economic context it finds itself in. The country was still heavily dependent on trade with its neighbors (most of the petroleum products and a substantial part of its electric power are imported from Russia, while most of its exports are going to China), and as such will find it hard to develop an endogenous growth strategy. The large gray economy (some specialists think this is almost as large as the real economy), corruption, and a weak law and regulatory system are some of the factors that could hamper the country's economic expansion. Market opportunities include mining, construction, tourism, and meat processing.


The social insurance program provides for free medical services, benefits for temporary disability, and pensions for permanent disability and old age.

Women have equal rights and freedoms under Mongolian law, with the exception of a law barring them from hazardous work. Women account for approximately half of the work force, generally receive equal pay for equal work, and many hold mid-level government and professional jobs. Domestic abuse and violence remain serious problems. New laws went into effect in 2005 to combat domestic violence.

Although the government generally respects the human rights of its citizens, there are reports of mistreatment of detainees and prisoners. Human rights organizations operate openly in Mongolia.


Health care is administered under state auspices and all medical and hospital services are free. The government gives special priority to increasing the number of physicians and other health personnel and expanding facilities in rural areas. Each province has at least two hospitals and each agricultural cooperative and state farm has a medical station. As of 2004, there were an estimated 267 physicians, 305 nurses, 18 dentists, and 31 pharmacists per 100,000 people. Most Mongolians had access to health services. In 2000, 60% of the population had access to safe drinking water and 30% had adequate sanitation. Health expenditures were 4.7% of the GDP.

Average life expectancy in 2005 was an estimated 64.52 years (up from 45 years in 1950). Pulmonary and bronchial infections, including tuberculosis and brucellosis, are widespread but are being brought under control through the use of ayrag, an indigenous drink brewed from horse milk and possessing demonstrated healing qualities. Cholera, smallpox, typhus, and other epidemic diseases have been virtually eliminated. Immunization rates for children up to one year of age were as follows: tuberculosis, 90%; diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus, 78%; polio, 87%; and measles, 80%. Rates for DPT and measles were, respectively, 94% and 93%.

The general mortality rate was estimated at seven per 1,000 people as of 2002. In 2005, the infant mortality rate was 53.79 per 1,000 live births. At least 30.4% of children had goiter. About 25% of children under five years of age were malnourished and 11% of births were of low birth weight. Maternal mortality in 2003 was 65 per 100,000 live births. The total fertility rate decreased steadily from 5.4 in 1980 to 2.6 per woman in 2000.

The HIV/AIDS prevalence was 0.10 per 100 adults in 2003. As of 2004, there were approximately 500 people living with HIV/AIDS in the country. There were an estimated 200 deaths from AIDS in 2003.


Although there are many stone and wood buildings in Ulaanbaatar and some of the larger provincial centers, the traditional housing structure is the ger, a tent-like wooden frame structure covered in woolen felt. In 2002, about 49% of the population lived in gers. Approximately 57% of the population lived in Ulaanbaatar, where large apartment-house complexes with stores, services, and cultural facilities were being built to house the growing urban population. Apartments are the primary residence for urban dwellers.

The Asian Development Bank has sponsored a loan program to support housing construction in the nation. Within the country itself, groups focusing on housing issues include the Citizen's Representatives Meeting of Ulaanbaatar, the Tsast Impex Company, and the joint Mongolian-Chinese Bogda Holding Company.


The 1991 Education Law introduced a number of changes in the system. The traditional Mongolian script was to be introduced from the first grade, and teaching of English in all schools was made compulsory. Nonformal education offered by private institutions was also given due importance and recognition.

Eight years of schooling is compulsory starting at age eight, and free of charge. Primary school covers four years of study, followed by four years of junior secondary school and two years of upper secondary school. There are technical and vocational schools, which admit students after their primary education is complete. Many children in rural areas are withdrawn from school in order to work at home. An absence of heat in many rural schools is also a problem that may contribute to poor enrollment levels. More than 70% of students from rural areas reside in dormitories adjoining the schools. The academic year runs from September to July.

In 2001, about 31% of children between the ages of three and seven were enrolled in some type of preschool program. Primary school enrollment in 2003 was estimated at about 79% of age-eligible students. The same year, secondary school enrollment was about 77% of age-eligible students; 72% for boys and 83% for girls. It is estimated that nearly all students complete their primary education. The student-to-teacher ratio for primary school was at about 31:1 in 2003; the ratio for secondary school was about 22:1.

While higher and professional education is not free, tuition fees for poor students are subsidized by the government. The Mongolian State University, in Ulaanbaatar, was founded in 1942 and includes faculties in the social sciences, trade, and philology, as well as in science and technology. The Ministry of Science, Technology, Education and Culture (MOSTEC) is responsible for higher education. In 2003, about 37% of the tertiary age population were enrolled in some type of higher education program; 28% for men and 47% for women. The adult literacy rate for 2004 was estimated at about 97.8%.

As of 2003, public expenditure on education was estimated at 9% of GDP.


The Mongolian State University has a library of 350,000 volumes. The State Central Library of Mongolia, which is under the jurisdiction of the Academy of Sciences, contains four million volumes in Mongolian, Chinese, English, French, German, Manchu, Russian, Tibetan, and other languages. It also has a collection of valuable Buddhist manuscripts, including a 335-volume Buddhist encyclopedia. In 1991, the country opened a college of business and commerce, which houses a library of 21,000 volumes. Also that year, it opened the College of Economics with 40,000 volumes. The Library of the State Great Hural of Mongolia, established in 1992, serves the members of parliament, with holdings of about 40,000 volumes and subscriptions of over 100 periodicals per year. Ulaanbaatar City Central Library was established in 1980 and has over 500,000 items.

The State Central Museum, containing art treasures and antiquities, the Museum of National History, the Ulaanbaatar Museum (a public affairs museum), the Fine Arts Museum, and the Museum of Religion, all in Ulaanbaatar, are under the jurisdiction of the Academy of Sciences. Also in the capital are the Mongolian National Modern Art Gallery, opened in 1989, and the Palace Museum, in the home of Bodg Geegen, former head of state and leader of the Buddhist Church of Mongolia. The Zanabazar Museum of Fine Art features collections of native artists. The Theater Museum opened in 1991.


In 2003, there were an estimated 56 mainline telephones for every 1,000 people; about 35,600 people were on a waiting list for telephone service installation. The same year, there were approximately 130 mobile phones in use for every 1,000 people.

Radio broadcasting began in the MPR in 1934. Radio Ulaanbaatar broadcasts programs in Mongolian, Russian, Chinese, English, French, and Kazakh. Mongel Telev 12, which transmits locally produced programs, and a satellite station are also located in Ulaanbaatar. There are several independent stations. In 2004 there were 7 AM and 62 FM radio stations. In 2003, there were an estimated 50 radios and 81 television sets for every 1,000 people. About 20.5 of every 1,000 people were cable subscribers. Also in 2003, there were 77.3 personal computers for every 1,000 people and 58 of every 1,000 people had access to the Internet. There were five secure Internet servers in the country in 2004.

The newspapers of the MPR (together with the organizations that publish them) include Unen (Central Committee of the MPRP, 1999 circulation 170,000); Ardyn Erh (Mongolian Great Hural and Cabinet, circulation 77,500); Novosti Mongoliy (the Mongolian News Agency); Hodolmor, the organ of the trade unions; Dzaluuchuudyn Unen (Central Committee of the Mongolian Revolutionary Youth League); Shine Hodoo (Ministry of Agriculture and the Supreme Council of the Federation of Agricultural Cooperatives); Utga Dzohiol Urlag (the Union of Mongolian Writers and the Ministry of Culture); and Ulaan Od (Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of Public Security). Also published are 41 periodicals, including Namyn Am'dral, a journal of the Central Committee of the MPRP, and Shinjleh Uhaan Am'dral, a bimonthly publication of the Mongolian Academy of Sciences.

The constitution provides for freedom of expression, including free speech and a free press, and the government is said to respect these rights in practice.


The Mongolian National Chamber of Commerce and Industry is in Ulan Bator.

Mongolia's mass organizations, all of which work closely with the MPRP, include the Mongolian Revolutionary Youth League (founded in 1922), Mongolian Pioneers' Organization, Committee of Mongolian Women (founded in 1933), and Mongolian-Soviet Friendship Society (founded in 1947).

Other youth organizations include the Union of Mongolian Students, Junior Chamber, and the Scout Association of Mongolia. There are several sports associations in the country promoting competition amongst amateur athletes. Another nongovernment women's organization is the Women's Information and Research Center.

Professional and cultural organizations include the Mongolia Academy of Science, the Union of Mongolian Artists, the Union of Mongolian Composers, the Mongolian Association for Lawyers, the Union of Mongolian Journalists, the Union of Mongolian Writers, and the Union of Mongolian Philatelists.

Social action organizations are the Mongolian Committee for Afro-Asian Solidarity, Mongolian Union for Peace and Friendship Organizations, and Mongolian Committee for the Defense of Peace. There are national chapters of the Red Cross Society, Amnesty International, Habitat for Humanity, and Caritas.


Points of interest include the largest monastery in Mongolia, Gandan Lamasery in Ulaanbaatar, and the ruined city of Karakorum, once the capital of the Mongol Empire. Mongolia offers abundant and varied scenery, including forests, steppes, lakes, and deserts, and a wide variety of wildlife. The national sports of Mongolia are wrestling, archery, and horse racing. Mongols also participate in boxing and sumo wrestling.

A valid passport is required for entry into Mongolia, an onward/return ticket, and a visa if staying of more than 90 days. In 2003, about 201,000 tourists visited Mongolia. Tourist expenditure receipts totaled $154 million that same year. Despite the birth of multiparty democracy in the 1990s, Mongolia has not encouraged tourism. Tourist facilities are in short supply, and prices are high.

According to the US Department of State, the estimated cost of staying in Ulaanbaatar in 2004 was $200 per day.


A long line of Mongol khans have left their mark on history ever since Temujin, or Genghis Khan (11621227), set up the first Mongol empire in 1206. Outstanding among them were Kublai Khan (121694), a grandson of Genghis, who conquered most of China; Hulagu Khan (121760), a brother of Kublai, who conquered Persia and Syria; Batu Khan (d.1255), Kublai's cousin, who overran Russia, Poland, and Hungary; Timur, also known as Timur Lenk ("Timur the Lame") or Tamerlane (1336?1405), a descendant of Genghis, who extended his military power for short periods into southern Russia, India, and the Levant; and Babur (Zahir ad-Din Muhammad, 14831530), a descendant of Timur, who established an empire in India.

In recent times, two national leaders were Sukhe Baatar (18941923) and Khorloin Choybalsan (18951952). Yumjaagiin Tsedenbal (191691), intermittently general secretary of the Central Committee of the MPRP since 1940, became chairman of the Council of Ministers in 1952, was elected chairman of the Presidium of the People's Great Hural in 1974, and was named the MPRP general secretary in 1981. Jambyn Batmunkh (192697) became chairman of the Council of Ministers in 1974 and was elected chairman of the Presidium and general secretary of the MPRP in 1984. Natsagiyn Bagabandi (b.1950) was the president of Mongolia from 1997 to 2005; he was succeeded by Nambaryn Enkhbayar (b.1958), who was prime minister from 200004.

The founder of modern Mongolian literature is D. Natsagdorj (190637). Tsendyn Damdinsuren (190886) is one of the most important writers. Leading playwrights are Ch. Oydov (191763) and E. Oyuun (19182001). Other prominent writers are B. Rindhen (190578), D. Namdag (191182), U. Ulambayar (b.1911), and Ch. Lodoydamba (191770). B. Damdinsuren (191992) and L. Murdorzh are noted composers. Jugderdemidiyn Gurragcha (b.1947) became the first Mongolian in space in 1981, when he was carried into orbit aboard the former USSR's Soyuz 39.


The MPR has no territories or colonies.


Hanson, Jennifer. Mongolia. New York: Facts On File, 2004.

Hoare, Jim and Susan Pares. A Political and Economic Dictionary of East Asia. Philadelphia: Routledge/Taylor and Francis, 2005.

Kotkin, Stephen and Bruce A. Elleman (ed.). Mongolia in the Twentieth Century: Landlocked Cosmopolitan. Armonk, N.Y.: M.E. Sharpe, 1999.

Mongolia in Transition. Surrey, England: Curzon, 1996.

Nordby, Judith. Mongolia. Santa Barbara, Calif.: Clio, 1993.

Poverty and the Transition to a Market Economy in Mongolia. New York: St. Martin's, 1995.

Sanders, Alan J. K. Historical Dictionary of Mongolia. 2nd ed. Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow, 2003.

Soucek, Svatopluk. A History of Inner Asia. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2000.

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Major City:

Other Cities:
Choybalsan, Darhan, Erdenet, Hovd, Shbaatar


This chapter was adapted from the Department of State Post Report dated June 1994. Supplemental material has been added to increase coverage of minor cities, facts have been updated, and some material has been condensed. Readers are encouraged to visit the Department of State's web site at for the most recent information available on travel to this country.


Genghis Khan's warriors galloped out of Mongolia's fertile grasslands and windswept desserts to sack both Peking and Moscow. But the far-flung empire they built crumbled, and Manchu overlords tamed the once ruthless horsemen by fostering Buddhist Lamaism. Half of Mongolia's males were monks when a Russian-aided revolution overthrew Chinese rule in 1921.

Today only two monasteries remain in operation. Other changes profoundly alter the nation's ways. Growing industry calls former herdsmen to new skills ranging from flour milling to movie making. In the developing nation, Russia and China vie for influence. But most Mongols still wander north of the sandy Gobi with their herds of sheep, cattle, camels, and goats. They sleep in felt-covered tents, drink fermented mare's milk, and hold 30-mile cross-country horse races.



Ulaanbaatar, the capital of Mongolia, is located in north-central Mongolia, some 420 miles (675 kilometers) from the Chinese border at Erlian (by train), and 180 miles (290 km) from the Russian border at Ulan Ude. Its altitude and continental location make Ulaanbaatar the world's coldest capital city.

Ulaanbaatar ("Red Hero") has been so named since the Socialist revolution in 1921. It was formerly called Urga and Ikh Huroo ("Big Circle") when it was the center of the government of its last non-Communist ruler, the living Buddha Bogda Khan. Of the many monasteries extant in 1920, only one remained open during the Communist period.

The present city of some 666,000 inhabitants is typified by wide streets, large, concrete government structures, movie theaters, cultural facilities, and apartment buildings. The focal point of Ulaanbaatar is Sukhbaatar Square, which is surrounded by Government House, art shops, the new stock exchange, the central Post Office, and two cultural halls, as well as Ulaanbaatar's main thoroughfare, Enkh Taivan Gudumj (Peace Avenue). The Hotel Ulaanbaatar and the Ministry of Foreign Relations are close by. Sukhbaatar Square is dominated by a statue of this Socialist Revolutionary hero, who is buried in a tomb modeled on Lenin's Tomb in Moscow's Red Square. It is a popular place for wedding photos, and easily accommodates 100,000 people.

To the north and south lies the Bogda Khan mountain range, which is trisected in Ulaanbaatar by the Tuul and Selbe Rivers. Train travelers from Russia will pass through the valleys of the Selenge, which ends in Lake Baikhal, and Orhon Rivers, passing through rolling steppe country, covered by wild flowers in the early summer, and larch trees in the valleys and hollows. Those traveling on to China by train will soon enter the Gobi Desert, a predominantly flat steppe of scrubby grassland and roving sheep and camel herds.

An average of 236 days of the year are sunnyblue skies and sunshine make even the coldest temperatures seem pleasant.


Severe fuel shortages and problems with central heating and electrical systems may cause seriously reduced heating levels and power outages in Ulaanbaatar and the cities of Darham and Erdenet during the winter months of November through April. Smaller towns in the countryside may have no heat or electricity at all during these months.


Food supplies, such as imported canned goods, eggs, and meat can be purchased in local dollar stores on an irregular basis but are expensive. Local supplies of other food stuffs are limited.

Shipped foodstuffs available have included oranges, apples, bananas, grapes, potatoes, sweet potatoes, eggplant, cabbage, carrots, tomatoes, onions, garlic, green beans, bell peppers, cucumbers, and watermelon.

Meat is available at the butcher shop at the Bayangol Hotel in downtown Ulaanbaatar.


Because temperatures in Mongolia range from summertime highs of 90°F to wintertime lows of-30°F to-40°F, a wide range of clothing is necessary. Winter clothing needs are especially critical in order to avoid hypothermia. Every family member needs a warm coat, a warm hat, heavy gloves or mittens, a scarf, and boots. Fur coats, leather hats, cashmere sweaters and gloves, camel hair sweaters, cashmere scarves, and sheepskin lined boots are sometimes available in Ulaanbaatar. Quality varies. Summer rains warrant boots, umbrella, and a waterproof coat. Heavy snow is uncommon in the city, but for trips to the countryside, arctic boots, moon boots, or "pacs" are highly desirable. Thermal underwear, sweaters, a down vest, down booties, wool socks, silk underwear, and wool socks should be brought. If traveling to Ulaanbaatar in the late summer, include some of these items in your airfreight.

A heavy wool topcoat or dress parka for winter and a lighter topcoat for spring and fall are desirable. Warm gloves, boots, and sweaters are essential. Some buildings are uncomfortably warm in winter, while others are barely warm. During unheated months, cold temperatures may still be a problem. Sweaters, vests, and lightweight long underwear that can be worn under daytime wear are all useful.

Plan on wearing the same clothing you would in Washington, D.C. Good shoes and nylons under skirts, dresses, and suits are common. Although Mongolians tend to be formal dressers, a certain relaxation in styles is occurring in Ulaanbaatar. Slacks are increasingly common. Wool clothing for the winter, and cotton clothing for the summer are worn. A warm, fairly dressy overcoat (down or fur) and wool overcoat are sufficient for nonsummer seasons. Washable woolens and silks are recommended.

Bring clothing for outdoor activities, warm boots, thermal socks, warm gloves or mittens, and thermal underwear. For summer, bring sportswear and a bathing suit.

Bring warm, washable, sturdy play-clothes. Zippered snowsuits, arctic boots, mittens, waterproof mitten covers, face masks, thermal underwear, warm socks, underwear, scarves, hats, rain boots, tennis shoes, warm slippers, sweaters, and waterproof pants are recommended. Bring warm pajamas and a robe. Summer clothing should include jeans, shorts, and extra sneakers. Babies also need winter clothing. It is difficult to purchase quality clothing for children in Ulaanbaatar.

Supplies and Services

Since nearly everything is unavailable in Ulaanbaatar, you should plan on bringing all products you normally use, such as toiletries, cosmetics, prescription drugs and medicines, paper products, and household and kitchen cleaning supplies. Bring a large supply of hand/face lotion, sunscreen, and lip balm. Detergent, dish soap, and bar soap made in China are usually available in dollar shops, but may not be acceptable by U.S. standards. Bring a large supply of items that can be given as gifts, as there are a great number of adult birthday exchanges, and gifts are freely exchanged at New Year's.

Local dry-cleaning facilities are inadequate for valuable items. Drycleaning may be taken to Beijing.

Men and women use the local hair-dressers and barbers. Patrons provide their own hair care products.

The two operating hotels and the Cultural Palace have public restaurants. Privately owned restaurants are also in business. A restaurant offers cultural programs of folk singing, dancing, and music on a monthly schedule. Two of the restaurants will cater events both on and off their premises.

Religious Activities

There are a number of Buddhist monasteries, and informal Christian services are held weekly.


Several foreign schools are now operating in Ulaanbaatar. A new International School opened in September 1992 with grades kindergarten through grade 3. The school plans to add a grade each year.


No sports facilities are available for unlimited use by post personnel. There are three tennis courts operated by the Mongolian Government, but they have not been used, except by special invitation. The Sports Hall has a Universal Machine and the Lenin/St. Petersburg Club has weights. Several pools are available in Ulaanbaatar.

Members of the international community sometimes organize hikes, fishing trips, and picnics on an ad hoc basis.

Horseback riding is possible for members of the Mongol Horse Society (membership fee is approximately $10 a year). Some American students attending the university in Ulaanbaatar have joined a swimming club at an indoor pool.

Touring and Outdoor Activities

During the warmer months (May to October), tours may be taken to other parts of Mongolia. These trips are usually arranged through Zhuulchin, the Mongolian tourist bureau. A trip to the Gobi costs about $200 round trip for transportation and about $180 for a night's stay in a ger. Each ger will accommodate 1 to 3 people. A trip to the tourist camp outside Ulaanbaatar, Terelj, costs $100 for the hotel per person. By special request, Zhuulchin will attempt to make the 160 km round trip to Terelj and back in 1 day.

Ulaanbaatar offers a variety of museums and sites that may be visited. These include the Gandan monastery, Bogda Khan palace, the winter residence of Mongolia's last khan, the Central Museum with its dusty but outstanding collections of dinosaur bones, and the Fine Arts Museum, in which exquisite panel embroideries are on display.

Weekends are nice for trips to the country, where you can walk, climb rocks, birdwatch, fish (a license is necessary), picnic, and enjoy the fresh air. With proper clothing, outdoor activities can be enjoyed all year. The country has nearly limitless areas for camping. In summer months, it is wise to wear long pants to avoid flea bites. Fleas that infest the Mongolian marmot are known to carry bubonic plague.

Excellent cross country skiing and sledding are possible about 20 km from Ulaanbaatar. Because of the dryness and extreme cold, there is not much snowfall in the vicinity of the capital. Fishing, kayaking, and boating (small rubber boats only) may be done on the Tuul River near Ulaanbaatar.

Big game hunting is available in Mongolia, but it must be arranged through Zhuulchin Tours and is expensive.

Photographers find the extraordinary light and exquisite scenery make Mongolia an excellent place to enjoy their hobby. Color film is available locally, but is quite expensive.


Excellent ballet, opera, and symphonic programs are presented in Ulaanbaatar, both by local companies and by visiting performers. The folk song and dance troupe performs three times a week. The Mongolian Circus has a permanent venue where visiting circuses may be seen. Tickets are inexpensive and easy to obtain. One of the local restaurants offers cultural programs on a monthly schedule.

Movie theaters show films dubbed in Mongolian. TV programming has been in Mongolian and Russian; some English programming may also be available, as USIA has installed a World Net link at the TV station.

Social Activities

Social life is generally casual, with most informal entertaining done at home. Picnics and holiday activities are popular.

An International Club, established in 1991, occasionally sponsors activities. Visitors to Ulaanbaatar are able to attend functions on a temporary basis. An International Women's Club was established in May 1992. It meets the first Tuesday of each month.

Special Information

While tugriks are used for some transactions, hard currency may be used in most shops and in the Sunday market. Hard currency may be hard to come by, however, so travelers should bring cash and coins to Post. American Express or Barclays' Travelers Checks can be cashed at the Central Bank. Although banks, restaurants, and hotels will accept travelers checks and sometimes Diners Club and Amex credit cards, you will not be able to obtain a cash advance against a credit card. Currency can be exchanged by cashing travelers checks at the bank or at the dollar shops using the "parallel exchange rate." U.S. dollars may be transferred to a personal account at the Central Bank of Mongolia through its associated bank, American Express Bank, or through Chase Manhattan Bank in New York.


Located approximately 390 miles (625 km) east of Ulan Bator, CHOYBALSAN is one of Mongolia's major industrial cities. Choybalsan, known as Sainbeisn Hree until 1923, was once an important religious center. The city also benefited greatly from its location on Mongolia's main trading route with Manchuria, Siberia, and China and quickly became a major trading center. The town was renamed Bayan Tmen in 1923 and given its present name in the early 1940s in honor of revolutionary war hero, Horloyn Choybalsan. The city has roughly 39,000 residents. Today, Choybalsan is eastern Mongolia's leading industrial center, producing about 50% of the region's gross industrial output. The city has a diverse industrial base that includes a flour mill, a meat-packing plant, and a wool-scouring mill. Other factories in the city produce foodstuffs, building materials, and carpets. A coal mine near Choybalsan produces nearly 600,000 tons of coal a year. Most of this is consumed by the city's large electric power plant. Choybalsan is easily accessible by a major east-west highway which links the city with Ulan Bator and the western city of Hovd. An eastern branch of the Ulan Bator Railway links Choybalsan with Borzya, Russia.

The city of DARHAN (also spelled Darkhan), located 136 miles (219 km) northwest of Ulan Bator, is Mongolia's second largest city. Darhan is situated in a valley near the Hor Gol River and is nearly surrounded by mountains. The average mean temperature in Darhan is approximately 28°F (-2°C). In 2000, Darhan had a population of 90,000. Darhan is a relatively new city, financed and constructed in 1961 by the former Soviet Union and several Eastern European nations. The city quickly became a major industrial center specializing in the production of construction materials such as reinforced concrete, bricks, synthetic fibers, and wood and steel products. Other factories in Darhan produce consumer goods, carpets, foodstuffs, clothing, sheepskin, and textiles. The city's industries remain productive due to the ample reserves of coal, marble, limestone, sand, and clay located near Darhan. A huge power plant, fueled by coal from the Sharin coal mine, provides energy for the city's industries. In addition to industry, Darhan is the site of an important science institute. This institute, the Research Institute of Plant Growing and Land Cultivation, is dedicated to the improvement of agricultural production and farming techniques in northern regions of Mongolia. Cultural entertainment in the city is provided by the Darhan Music and Drama Theater.

ERDENET , with an estimated population of 58,200 (2000) is located in a mountain valley 230 miles (371 km) northwest of Ulan Bator. The city was founded in 1976 following the construction of a huge copper-molybdenum processing plant. This plant, funded by both the former Soviet Union and Mongolia, is the largest of its kind in Asia and produces 90% of Mongolia's total mining output. In addition to copper and molybdenum processing, several factories manufacture carpets, foodstuffs, and processed timber. Erdenet is connected via railway with Ulan Bator and is also accessible by air and a paved highway.

With a population of roughly 27,900 (1999 est.), HOVD is the major economic center of western Mongolia. The city is located on the Buyant River and is nearly surrounded by the Mongolian Altai Mountains. The origins of the city date back to the early 1800s when Hovd served as a strategic outpost for Mongolia's Manchu rulers. Merchants, eager to trade with the Manchu, soon arrived in the city. Over a span of one hundred years, Hovd developed into a thriving trading center for agricultural products, butter, and wool. These products are still actively traded today. During the twentieth century, several factories were built in Hovd. These industries include a woodworking factory, a food processing plant, and a wool-scouring mill. An agricultural college is located in Hovd and, in the past, the school has hosted international geological expeditions. One of Hovd's major attractions is the Local History Museum, which provides exhibits illustrating the ethnic groups and natural resources of Mongolia's western region.

The small city of SHBAATAR (also spelled Schbaatar or Skhbaatar), located near Mongolia's northern border with Russia, is 160 miles (258 km) north-northwest of Ulan Bator. Named for revolutionary war hero, Damdiny Sukhbaatar, Shbaatar is home to several small industries. These industries produce distilled beverages, matches, flour, and building materials. The Ulan Bator Railway connects Shbaatar with Ulan Bator and Naushki, Russia. In 1999, Shbaatar had 22,900 residents. A more recent population figure is unavailable.


Geography and Climate

Mongolia, a large, sparsely populated country located between China and Russia, has an area of just over 600,000 square milesslightly smaller than the combined area of Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, and Louisiana. The capital, Ulaanbaatar, is over 4,000 feet above sea level. Because of the elevation and distance from any ocean or sea, Mongolia has a continental climate. Marked seasonal, even daily, changes in temperature, numerous high pressure systems, and severe cold occur during much of the year.

The country is divided into three basic zones: the Gobi, a vast, dry grassland in the east and south; the low Hangai mountains of the north; and the high Altai mountains of the west and northwest. Mongolia's largest lake is in Hovsgol Aimag, in the Altai, where elevations range up to 15,000 feet. There are three major river systems: the Tuul, which runs through Ulaanbaatar; the Orhon, into which the Tuul flows and which, in turn, flows into Lake Baikhal; and the Selenge, in the northeast.


One-fourth or more of Mongolia's roughly 2.7 million people live in the capital citymany in "ger tent settlements" around the outskirts of Ulaanbaatar. Other cities are Erdenet, the site of a large copper mine, and Darhan. Both cities are north of Ulaanbaatar and served by the rail line that runs from Beijing to Moscow through Mongolia.

About 33% of the population is under the age of 15. The literacy rate is high, but unemployment has become a problem, particularly for young men.

Most Mongolians living in Mongolia belong to the Khalka Mongol ethnic group. A number of smaller, Mongol ethnic groups reside in scattered areas of Mongolia. About 3 million other Mongols, primarily of the Chahar ethnic group, reside in the Inner Mongolian Autonomous Region of China. Buryat Mongols live in north Mongolia and in the Buryat Autonomous Region of Russia, east of Lake Baikhal. Another Mongol ethnic group resides in the Kalmyk Autonomous Republic of Russia. Kazaks make up about 6% of the population and live mainly in the far west.

Public Institutions

Mongolia has 18 "aimags" (provinces) and three autonomous cities (Ulaanbaatar, Erdenet, and Darhan).

A new constitution, signed in February 1992, provided for a reorganization of the local government structure.

The primary legislative body, the State Great Hural, was elected in June 1992. A unicameral body, it has 76 members elected by secret ballot of the citizens for 4-year terms. The Hural will enact, amend, and supervise the implementation of laws; determine fiscal policies; set dates for elections of the Hural and the President; appoint the Prime Minister and other officials; and engage in other activities.

The President, subject to direct election for a maximum of two 4-year terms, is the head of State. He has veto power over legislation; he can propose, in consultation with the majority party or parties, names for Prime Minister; he can propose dissolution of the government, or instruct the government and issue decrees, which must be signed by the Prime Minister; he represents Mongolia in foreign relations, may enter into treaties subject to ratification by the Hural; he may propose legislation; and he serves as commander-in-chief and heads the National Security Council.

The State Great Hural appoints the Prime Minister who heads the government. If the Prime Minister resigns, the government is dissolved.

Independent judges are nominated by a General Council and confirmed by the President, and, in the case of Supreme Court judges, the State Great Hural. There are specialized courts for criminal, civil, and administrative matters, which are not subject to Supreme Court review. The Supreme Court does have power to act as court of first instance for certain criminal and other actions, examine lower court decisions by appeal, examine questions transferred to it by the Constitutional Court or Prosecutor General, provide official interpretations of all laws, except the Constitution, and make judgments on other matters assigned by law. Trials are open, in the Mongolian language, and with right to counsel.

The Constitutional Court's members are appointed by the State Great Hural for 6-year terms. The nine members are nominated by the Hural (3), the President (3), and the Supreme Court (3). The Court interprets the Constitution, acting upon the request of the President, Prime Minister, Hural, Supreme Court, Prosecutor General, or on its own motion. In addition to reviewing the conformity of treaties and legislative acts with the Constitution, the Court may invalidate any that are not in conformity with the Constitution. It may also examine breaches of law by the President, Prime Minister or other Minister, the Prosecutor General, and members of the State Great Hural or Supreme Court.

Aimags each have local legislative hurals in 4-year terms. Each aimag enjoys some rights of self-government. Governors for aimags and Ulaanbaatar City will be appointed by the Prime Minister, and will, in turn, appoint governors of the "soums" (subunits of the aimags, roughly equivalent to counties), and various districts of Ulaanbaatar. Local hurals will legislate local issues.

The new constitution was the outgrowth of earlier events. In the first half of 1990, Mongolian citizens held mass demonstrations in the capital, demanding an end to 70 years of Communist rule and the Socialist system. The government acquiesced, and the first free elections were held in July 1990. Although the Communist Mongolian Peoples' Revolutionary Party (MPRP) won the majority of seats in the national legislature, the reform movement gathered strength. Together with the MPRP, it formed a unity government, which undertook political and economic reforms, culminating in the new constitution described above. In February 1992 to symbolize the changes, the star at the top of the Mongolian flag was removed, and the state seal was changed to a modernist flying horse design.

Mongolia now claims 13 political parties, including the Mongolian Democratic Party, the Social Democrats, the Party of National Progress, the Free Labor Party, and the Green Party, as well as the MPRP.

Arts, Science, and Education

Eight years of education are compulsory, although dropout rates have recently increased. The literacy rate is about 97%.

In addition to the schools operated by the state, private schools are now permitted. In 1991, seven graduate institutes, one trade school, and one technical school began holding classes.

Commerce and Industry

Formerly, most supplies for Mongolian industry were obtained from the various republics of the former U.S.S.R. and members of COME-CON. Following the cataclysmic changes in the U.S.S.R. and Mongolia, the quantity and diversity of many supplies, particularly explosives, petroleum and petroleum products, wheat and other foodstuffs, have been insufficient.

Mongolia's own industries include production of cashmere, skins and leathers, furs and animal hair, coal, copper and minerals, and other raw materials.

Natural resources include coal, copper, molybdenum, iron, phosphates, tin, nickel, zinc, wolfram, fluorspar, gold, and uranium. Joint ventures with Western companies in oil exploration and gold mining are under negotiation.

The growing season for this high, dry, northern country is quite short, but wheat, oats, barley, fodder, and some vegetables are grown. The principal industry, however, is livestock production, in which about 45% of the population is engaged.

One major problem Mongolia faces in expanding trade ties with foreign countries is the shortage of bulk transport facilities. One railroad line traverses the country, having a broad Russian gauge track, which necessitates the substitution of wheels at the Chinese border. This rail route allows for shipments to Tianjin, China, in one direction, and to Moscow or Vladivostok in the other. Both Russian and Chinese rail lines are subject to lengthy delays in shipment. International air routes are via Beijing and Moscow, but the amount of freight that may be forwarded by this method is limited by space and high shipment costs.

Mongolia is actively seeking trading partners in the West and receives aid through a group of donor countries known as the Mongolian Assistance Group. A stock exchange recently opened in Ulaanbaatar, and privatization of publicly held companies and the establishment of private businesses should improve Mongolia's prospects for earnings over the middle term.



Ulaanbaatar and its environs are served by buses and trolleys. Prices are low, but the buses are generally very crowded and pickpockets are a problem.

Driving in the capital city of Ulaanbaatar can be extremely difficult due to poorly maintained streets, malfunctioning traffic lights, inadequate street lighting, and a shortage of traffic signs. There has been a dramatic increase in the number of vehicles on the road in recent years, but the knowledge and skills of the driving population has not kept pace with the influx of automobiles. There are few taxis in town and there is no regulation of the industry. Most people simply wave down a vehicle and negotiate a price with the driver. There are no car rental companies currently operating in Mongolia, but it is sometimes possible to hire a car and driver. A small donation (US$1-US$2) to the driver is expected.

There are few paved roads outside of the capital and driving can be hazardous, particularly after dark.


Transportation to other cities is by train for communities that abut the tracks, or by air and long-distance bus. Occasionally, you can rent automobiles.

Road conditions in Mongolia vary greatly. One major highway is predominantly paved, but the narrow road has no lane markings. Other roads are dirt. In most rural locations, there are no roads, but tracks across country. Rain makes many routes impassable.


Telephone and Telegraph

Telephone service in Ulaanbaatar is fair. Busy lines and crossed lines are common, and phones may ring when no one is calling. A call may be made to any location within Ulaanbaatar at no charge. An account must be established to book calls outside of Ulaanbaatar.

Phones for international calls are available at the Central Post Office and at the Ulaanbaatar Hotel. Delays of 2-12 hours are common in completing international phone calls. Improved international service occurred in late 1993. The country code for Mongolia is 976 and the city code for Ulaanbaatar is 1. Direct dial to the U.S. is available from some phones, but is still difficult.

Radio and TV

BBC, VOA, and Radio Moscow programming are somewhat available, although reception can be affected by weather and sunspot activity. Local programming is in Mongolian and Russian, but some English-language programming is offered occasionally. Mongolian TV programming is SECAM.

Newspapers, Magazines, and Technical Journals

An English-language newsletter, the Mongol Messenger, is published weekly. It has news of ongoing events, cultural opportunities, and interviews with Mongolian officials. No international English-language newspapers and periodicals are currently available locally.

Health and Medicine

Medical Facilities

Local hospital facilities may be used for a fee, but often the most basic medicines, equipment, and supplies are unavailable, and sanitation standards do not meet U.S. specifications. The U.S. Embassy recommends that health problems be treated outside Mongoliaeither in Beijing or Hong Kong.

Community Health

No unusual health problems or hazards exist. Tap-water may be rusty and is boiled and filtered for drinking and cooking, but dishes may be washed without ill effect. In warm months, flies and mosquitoes are a nuisance. Avoid flea bites in the summer by wearing long pants and socks in the country (fleas may carry plague germs). The German Embassy maintains a list of blood donors from the international official community.

Preventive Measures

Rabies, hepatitis B, gamma globulin, typhoid, tetanus, and Japanese B encephalitis immunizations are recommended. Boil water for 10 minutes and filter before drinking or cooking.


Passage, Customs & Duties

Most Americans visiting Ulaanbaatar travel through China and on to Ulaanbaatar by train or airplane. It is possible, but not recommended, to travel via Moscow. A short stay in Beijing is recommended, to allow for a break, especially important for train travelers, who face another 40 or more hours in transit before arriving in Ulaanbaatar. Winter train travelers should carry warm clothes, a cup and spoon and instant soup mixes, and one or more good books to enjoy on the train. A "mini booklight" is also a good idea. Five flights are offered between Beijing and Ulaanbaatar each week by Mongolian Airlines (MIAT) and Air China (CAAC). Flight time is about 2 hours.

Bring warm clothing with you. Snowflakes have been seen in the air, even in July. Airfreight from the U.S. can take up to 4 months to arrive due to limited space on flights from Beijing.

A valid passport and entry/exit visa are required. While it is recommended that visitors obtain the appropriate entry/exit visa prior to travel, visas may be obtained at the international airport in Ulaanbaatar and at train stations on the Russian and Chinese borders. Two photographs and a US$50 processing fee are required. Visitors planning to stay in Mongolia for more than 30 days are required to register with the police at the Citizens' Information and Registration Center. Visitors who stay longer than the time permitted by their visa may be stopped at departure, denied exit, and fined. A departure tax must be paid at the airport on departure. For current information on visa issuance, fees, and registration requirements, travelers should contact the Embassy of Mongolia at 2833 M Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20007, telephone: (202) 333-7117 or

Travelers arriving or departing Mongolia through China should also be aware of Chinese visa regulations. American citizens are not permitted to transit through China without a visa. For more information, see the Consular Information Sheet for China or contact the Embassy of the People's Republic of China, 2300 Connecticut Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20008, Tel: (202) 328-2500 or or the Chinese consulates general in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, New York City, and Houston.

U.S. citizens residing in or visiting Mongolia are encouraged to register with the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy, located in Micro Region 11, Big Ring Road, Ulaanbaatar, and to obtain updated information on travel and security within Mongolia. The telephone number is (976)-1-329-095, and the Embassy web site is


No quarantine period is required for cats and dogs in Mongolia. Bring a health certificate and proof of vaccinations. If the pet weighs less than 16 pounds, including carrier, it may be brought into the passenger compartment on most flights. Pets are not accepted for baggage compartment travel on flights from Beijing to Ulaanbaatar. Arrangements must be made for the Beijing transit, since pets are not allowed in Chinese hotels.

Neither adequate veterinary service nor pet food is available in Ulaanbaatar. Bring all grooming aids and a supply of commonly used animal medicines. There is a Department of Health where a health certificate may be obtained upon departure for reentry into the U.S.

Be cautious about taking your dog into the countryside. Local fleas may carry bubonic plague.

Currency, Banking and Weights and Measures

The local currency is the Mongolian tugrik. There are two exchange rates, the "official" rate, used by diplomatic missions and foreign businesses, and the "parallel" rate, used by individuals. The parallel rate is more favorable. U.S. dollars are generally accepted in most hotels and restaurants in Ulaanbaatar and other major tourist locations, despite an existing law that requires all commercial transactions to be conducted in tugriks. Some places even refuse to accept tugriks. Travelers may find it useful to carry some cash in tugriks, and visitors to areas outside of Ulaanbaatar should certainly do so. Traveler's checks denominated in dollars are accepted at some hotels and may be converted to dollars or Tugriks at several banks. Credit cards can be used at a variety of hotels, restaurants, and shops, almost exclusively in Ulaanbaatar. Cash advances against credit cards are available at one commercial bank, and international bank wire transfers are also possible.

Banking services are available at the State Bank of Mongolia and at the Trade and Development Bank. Individuals may open foreign currency or tugrik accounts. Exchanges from tugriks to dollars may be limited by frequent shortages of hard currency.

Mongolia uses the metric system.

The U.S. Embassy is located in Micro Region 11, Big Ring Road, Ulaanbaatar. The telephone numbers is (976-1) 329-095. Americans who register at the U.S. Embassy may obtain updated information on travel, security, and health problems within the country.


Jan. 1 New Year's Day

Feb. Tsagaan Sar (Lunar New Year)*

Mar. 1 Women's Day

Mar. 18 Men's Day

Mar. 18 Soldiers' Day

June 1 Mother and Child Day

July 11-13 National Naadam Festival (Independence Days)

Nov. 26 Constitution Day/Proclamation Day



These titles are provided as a general indication of the material published on this country. The Department of State does not endorse unofficial publications.

Akiner, Shirin, ed. Mongolia Today. New York: Routledge, Chapman & Hall, 1991.

Bawden, Charles R. The Modern History of Mongolia. 2nd ed. New York: Kegan Paul International, 1989.

Brill, Marlene T. Mongolia. Chicago, IL: Childrens Press, 1992.

Jagchid, Sechin and Paul Hyer. Mongolia's Culture and Society. Westview Press, 1979.

Major, John S. The Land and People of Mongolia, Lippincott, 1990.

Milne, Elizabeth, et al. Mongolian People's Republic, 1991: Toward a Market Economy. Washington, DC: International Monetary Fund, 1991.

Morgan, David. The Mongols. Cambridge, MA: Blackwell Publications, 1987.

Moses, Larry N. The Political Role of Mongol Buddhism. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1977.

Moses, Larry, and Stephen A. Halkovic, Jr. Introduction to Mongolian History & Culture. Bloomington, IN: Research Institute for Inner Asian Studies, 1985.

Phillips, E.D. The Mongols, London:Thames and Hudson, 1969.

Rahul, Ram. Mongolia: Between China & the U.S.S.R. Columbia, MO: South Asia Books, 1989.

Rossabi, Morris. Mongol Influence on World History.

Saunders, J.J. The History of the Mongol Conquest. London: Routledge, Paul Kegan, 1971.

Spuler, Bertold. History of the Mongols. New York: Dorset Press, 1989.

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Formerly known as Outer Mongolia, the Republic of Mongolia is a landlocked country located between the Russian Federation and the People's Republic of China. The country has an area of 1,565,000 square kilometers (604,246 square miles), slightly smaller than the state of Alaska. Mongolia's capital city, Ulaanbaatar, is located in the northeast of the country, 200 kilometers (124 miles) from the Russian border.


The population of Mongolia was estimated at 2,650,952 in July 2000. It has almost doubled since the 1960s, due to improved health and medical facilities, and longer life expectancy. In 2000 the birth rate stood at 21.53 per 1,000 while the death rate stood at 6.14 per 1,000. The estimated annual population growth rate is 1.54 percent; if the current trend remains unchanged, the population is expected to double once more within the next 25-30 years.

With ethnic Mongols making up almost 90 percent of the population, Mongolia is ethnically homogenous (uniform). Kazakhs make up 4 percent, and other ethnic groups, including Chinese and Russians, round out the total. The Mongolian population is young, with 34 percent below the age of 15 and just 4 percent older than 65. Urbanization started only in the 1960s, but by the late 1990s almost 58 percent of Mongolians lived in urban areas. Ulaanbaatar and its suburbs are home to 773,700 people, or nearly one-third of the country's total.

At the beginning of the 20th century, the Mongolians were under threat of extinction due to the absence of medical services, high infant mortality, diseases and epidemics, and natural disasters. After independence in 1921, the government in this sparsely populated country began promoting population growth. This policy reversed the decline and stimulated a rapid increase in the population during the second half of the 20th century. However, population density remains one of the lowest in the world, with about 1.6 people per square kilometer (3.9 people per square mile). The country's low population can be explained in part by its geographic and climatic extremes: Mongolia is home to soaring mountains and burning deserts, including the Gobi Desert in the southern third of the country; because of the country's high average altitude, winters are long and temperatures extreme.


Mining, agriculture, and the processing of agricultural products are the 3 main sectors of the Mongolian economy. For centuries, the Mongolians have been engaged in animal husbandry, raising horses, sheep, goats, cattle, and camels. Since the vast prairie land could support millions of cattle and sheep, but not sustain crop cultivation, the Mongolians often bought wheat, barley, and oats from their neighbors, and crop production was of secondary importance for them. Animal husbandry and hunting provided other important sources of livelihood and products for trade, such as marmot and squirrels found in the rich forests of northern Mongolia.

The Mongolians long had close relations with neighboring China, which historically was one of its biggest trading partners. However, relations between Mongolians and Chinese were often interrupted by devastating wars and military conflicts and, gradually, the Chinese Empire established political control over Mongolia. These wars damaged Mongolian economic and social development. Consequently, Mongolia entered the 20th century as an underdeveloped, feudal country.

Most of the major economic and social changes in the 20th century came as a result of communist revolutions in neighboring countries. The Chinese Revolution of 1911 and the Russian Revolution of 1917, which were directed against imperial regimes and promised social justice, had profound effects on the Mongolian elite. In 1921, with Soviet assistance, Mongolia established an independent provisional government and declared independence from China. In 1924 the Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party came to power, remaining in control for the next 70 years. It introduced radical political and economic changes, state control, and central state planning, modeled on the Soviet political and economic systems. With Soviet assistance, the Mongolian government introduced large-scale farming centered around state-controlled collective farms. It also established light industry and mining operations. As in most socialist countries, almost all economic activities in Mongolia were state-controlled, and private entrepreneurial initiatives were limited. Until the 1990s, the Soviet Union and its eastern European territories remained Mongolia's main trading partners, the main market for its products, and the main source of foreign aid. According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the Mongolian economy grew at an average annual rate of 6.0 percent between 1979 and 1989, which was one of the highest growth rates in communist countries.

Major changes came in the late 1980s with the introduction of democratization and market-oriented reforms. These changes were largely peaceful since they were started by the ruling class under the influence of the neighboring Soviet Union and China. In early 1990s, the Mongolian government formulated its program of radical economic change (the so-called "shock therapy" approach) with the assistance of international organizations such as the World Bank and the IMF. This program was based on 3 main strategies: rapid privatization , rapid price liberalization , and currency reform. According to the IMF, Mongolia's economy declined at an average annual rate of 0.1 percent between 1989 and 1999.

The modern Mongolian economy largely relies on the export of raw materials to international markets. The country's main exports are copper concentrate (which accounted for almost 47 percent of its total export earnings in 1998), cashmere (the country produces almost 30 percent of the world's cashmere), and textile and meat products. Mongolia depends heavily on imports of machinery, fuels, industrial and consumer goods , and food products. Because of the transitional recession and disappearance of aid from the former USSR, Mongolia's economy increasingly relies on foreign aid and credits. Total external debt has reached almost US$738.8 million (1998), quite a large figure for a nation of only 2.6 million people.


Since achieving independence from China in 1921, Mongolia has made consistent attempts to expand political participation beyond tribal and religious identities and affiliations. An attempt was made to build a Soviet-type political regime based on political parties, a parliamentary system, and Communist ideology. The Mongolian People's Party was founded in 1921, and renamed the Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party (MPRP) in 1924. Until 1990, Mongolia preserved a one-party political system in which the MPRP remained the main political force.

Influenced by the late 1980s reforms of USSR leader Mikhail Gorbachev, the Mongolian Constitution was amended in 1990, and the first multiparty election for the Great Hural (Parliament) took place that same year. The MPRP was challenged by the newly formed Mongolian National Democratic Party (MNDP), the Mongolian Socialist Democratic Party (MSDP), and several others. The MPRP gained almost 80 percent of the seats in the new Parliament and formed a government led by President Punsalmaagiin Ochirbat. Despite their overwhelming victory, the former Communists showed a great sense of tolerance toward the opposition and promoted genuine reforms in liberalizing the political and economic system, introducing a new constitution (1992) and a new unicameral (one house) Parliament. However, the MPRP had a serious setback when President Ochirbat broke with his party; in 1993 he won the first direct presidential elections as an opposition candidate. In 1996, the Democratic Coalition, led by the MNDP and the MSDP, defeated the MPRP, taking 49 of the 76 seats in Parliament. The Democratic Coalition advocated a greater opening up of the economy and full privatization. In the 1997 presidential election, President Orchibat, the Democratic Coalition candidate, lost to MPRP candidate Natsagiin Bagabandi, who came to power calling for greater social assistance and more balanced reforms. The MPRP further strengthened its position in the July 2000 Parliamentary election, taking 72 seats. This latest Mongolian transition was largely peaceful, and its military does not play any active role in its politics.

Throughout the 1990s, the government promoted market-oriented reforms, abandoning the centrally planned economy and focusing on privatization, price liberalization, and a new monetary system. However, the state's sudden withdrawal of subsidies led to a steep transitional recession affecting almost all sectors of the economy, especially construction and industries. The weakness of the legal system and the inability of state institutions to implement property rights and contract law undermined confidence among local and foreign investors.


During the Cold War (1945-89), Mongolia's transportation infrastructure enjoyed a relatively high level of investment to insure its military usefulness. Afterwards,

Country Newspapers Radios TV Sets a Cable subscribers a Mobile Phones a Fax Machines a Personal Computers a Internet Hosts b Internet Users b
1996 1997 1998 1998 1998 1998 1998 1999 1999
Mongolia 27 151 63 10.8 1 2.7 5.4 0.04 6
United States 215 2,146 847 244.3 256 78.4 458.6 1,508.77 74,100
China N/A 333 272 40.0 19 1.6 8.9 0.50 8,900
Kazakhstan N/A 384 231 N/A 2 0.1 N/A 1.42 70
aData are from International Telecommunication Union, World Telecommunication Development Report 1999 and are per 1,000 people.
bData are from the Internet Software Consortium ( and are per 10,000 people.
SOURCE: World Bank. World Development Indicators 2000.

investments in transportation infrastructure diminished considerably, and the quality of the roads is declining. The country is served by the 1,928 kilometer (1,198 mile) Trans-Mongolian railway, which connects it with both Beijing and Moscow. Mongolia also has 49,250 kilometers (30,603 miles) of unevenly distributed highways, of which only 1,674 kilometers (1,040 miles) are paved, mainly in the northern part of the country. In the south and southwest, horses and camels are still important modes of transportation. An international airport connects Ulaanbaatar with Beijing, Moscow, and other destinations, and there are 34 smaller airports, only 7 of which have paved runways.

Electrical power is supplied by the Central Electricity System (CES), which produces around 2.66 billion kilowatt hours (1998) of power. Five coal-fired power stations provide almost 85 percent of the total, with the balance imported from Russia. During the 1990s, attempts were made to renovate the CES with international aid and to build small hydroelectric and wind-powered stations. Power interruptions are common, and some remote areas remain without electricity, where diesel oil, wood, and dried horse and camel dung is used as fuel.

Telecommunication services in Mongolia have been under reconstruction since the early 1990s. In 1997, there were 93,800 telephone lines, 2,000 mobile-phone subscribers, and 13,000 personal computers. Internet access was established in 1996.


In 1999, Mongolia derived its GDP from 3 principal sectors: agriculture, fishing, and hunting (33 percent), industry (24 percent), and services (43 percent). Historically, livestock breeding and agriculture have been the cornerstones of the national economy. With Soviet assistance, Mongolia established an industrial sector based mainly on mining and the processing of agricultural products. Mongolian economic development is limited by its landlocked isolation, harsh continental climate, and small population. Significant economic potential lies in its unexploited natural resources including copper, molybdenum, tin, tungsten, and gold. Domestic reserves of coal can satisfy growing energy consumption, and the discovery of oil reserves in 1994 raises the possibility that Mongolia might eventually become a petroleum-exporting country.

During the 1990s, Mongolia experienced a deep recession with the disappearance of Soviet economic assistance and the disintegration of the Soviet-backed Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (CMEA), which had been a major market for Mongolian exports. The country increasingly relies on the export of raw materials to the international market, and it is extremely vulnerable to fluctuations in world prices for its major export products, copper and cashmere. Mongolia needs large foreign direct investments and international assistance to modernize existing technologies and to begin major economic changes. In the 1990s, the Mongolian government undertook a series of free-market oriented economic reforms focusing on privatization, internal and external trade liberalization, and promotion of private entrepreneurs. In 1997, because of its rapid and extended economic liberalization, Mongolia became one of the first of the former socialist countries to be accepted into the World Trade Organization (WTO), opening up Western markets for Mongolian goods.


The agricultural sector, which employs about half of Mongolia's population, underwent major deregulation during the 1990s. In September 1991, the negdels (state-controlled collective farms) were privatized and reformed into smaller units. A combination of mismanagement and harsh weather led to higher meat prices and a depression in the agricultural processing industries. Since 1991 many herders, having no experience outside their negdels, have struggled to adapt themselves to the new economic realities. Both animal herding and crop cultivation are extremely vulnerable to the region's harsh weather and climate changes, which include occasional drought. In 1996, forest and prairie fires caused damage estimated at $1.4 billion and seriously damaged the region's environment. In the winter of 1999-2000, approximately 2.4 million animals died as a result of extremely cold and icy weather, bringing poverty and hunger to many Mongolian farmers.


Animal herding is the most important sector of Mongolian agriculture, providing almost two-thirds of agricultural production. It provides a source of income, food, and a mode of transportation for a significant part of the population as well as being an important part of Mongolia's exports. Mongols still migrate around vast prairies, raising horses, sheep, goats, cattle, and camels. By the second half of the 1990s, the livestock population had reached a record high of 31.2 million, almost 90 percent of which was privately owned. With the liberalization of international trade, many herders turned to raising goats to produce valuable cashmere, and the number of goats almost doubled to 11 million between 1992 and 1998. In 1998 Mongolia produced 502.1 tons of cashmere, but fluctuations in the world price of this commodity have hurt profits. Overgrazing of pasture land, especially by goats, could potentially cause environmental degradation in the fragile prairie ecosystem, and there are limited resources available to reverse the trend.


In 1998 Mongolia produced 194,900 tons of cereals (down from 330,700 tons in 1994), 65.2 tons of potatoes, and 45.7 tons of vegetables. Crop cultivation is limited, due to the harsh continental climate (the growing season is just more than 100 days long) and a shortage of arable (cultivatable) land, though this sector plays an important role in sustaining self-sufficiency in foodstuffs. After the privatization of the large state-controlled farms in the 1990s, crop production fell sharply, a decline blamed on a lack of management skills, funds, and technologies, and on an ill-considered and ill-implemented privatization program. Other sectors of Mongolian agriculture include forestry, fishery, and fur production, all relatively minor.


Industrialization was introduced into Mongolia in the 1970s, with large investments from the Soviet Union, especially for mining and the processing of agricultural products. Through the 1970s and 1980s, the Mongolian government implemented an industrialization program that emphasized increasing investments and diversifying the country's exports. In the 1990s, because of prevailing conditions in the international market and the collapse of the traditional Soviet market, Mongolian industry underwent considerable restructuring. By 2001, Mongolia increasingly relied on export of its mineral resources, although there have been considerable efforts made to revive its manufacturing sector.


Copper, gold, molybdenum and fluorspar concentrates are the major natural resources of export significance in Mongolia. In 1998 Mongolia exported 485,000 tons of copper concentrate, valued at $124 million; around 12.5 tons of gold, valued at $117.2 million; and 4,131 tons of molybdenum concentrate, valued at $12.1 million. Export of these mineral resources provided around 60 percent of total export earnings in 1998. Mongolian coal reserves are estimated at approximately 100 billion tons, but the country extracts coal mainly for domestic consumption, at a level of around 5.1 million tons per year.

Mining is a relatively new sector in the Mongolian economy. Although the country is rich in various natural resources, until the 1970s they were under-exploited. Major mining plants were built in the 1970s with Soviet assistance. The biggest, Erdenet and Darhan, are situated in the north of the country, close to the Russian border. In the 1990s, the Mongolian government struggled to attract international investors into the mining sector. Mongolia still largely relies on Russian technology in this sector of the economy, although Russian involvement began to diminish during the 1990s as multinational corporations started to move into the mining sector.

In the mid-1990s, oil reserves were discovered, estimated at around 5 billion barrels, that could be used both for domestic consumption and for export to China. Extraction of oil from Tamsag basin began in 1997 and completion of an oil refinery is expected in Nalaikh, near Ulaanbaatar, in 2002. International investment is needed to develop its oil reserves at full scale.


Mongolia's manufacturing sector accounted for 24 percent of GDP in 1998, employing 12.4 percent of the labor force in the production of agricultural products, garments, leather goods, and carpets. During the era of state-controlled industry (1924-91), these goods were produced mainly in small and medium-sized, state-owned enterprises for export to the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. Russia was also the main market for Mongolia's food processing industry, which produced sausages and canned meat.

The manufacturing industry was one of the fastest growing sectors of the economy in the 1970s and 1980s, but because of excessive state control, it was relatively inefficient and made low quality products. In the 1990s, the government introduced a privatization program aimed at stimulating private initiative and increasing productivity, but the sector could not compete internationally because of a lack of management skills, lack of investments, and inefficient technologies. A steep recession, which threatened thousands of jobs and provoked social protests, followed. Between 1994 and 1998, production of leather footwear declined from 407,000 pairs to 33,000, leather coats from 35,000 to zero, sheepskin coats from 57,000 to 1,000, and woolen fabrics from 77,000 square meters to 5,000 square meters.


Between 1924 and 1991, Mongolia's services sector was heavily state-controlled and was significantly underdeveloped. Since the early 1990s, the Mongolian government has made considerable efforts to deregulate this sector, with special attention focused on reforming the financial services industry. The monopoly of the state bank was broken and commercial banks were allowed to compete. This sector was restructured with assistance from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). In 2000 there were 12 banks, 6 state-owned and 6 privately owned.

Tourism is an underdeveloped sector of the economy, limited by lack of accommodation facilities and transportation infrastructure. Thanks to the combination of Mongolia's landscape and its position on the old Silk Road (the trade route connecting China with Western Europe in medieval times), adventure tourism offers a high growth potential. Mongolia welcomed about 160,000 tourists in 1999, and the government passed a law establishing the National Tourism Development Program: 2000-2015 in order to boost this sector.

The retail sector is quite underdeveloped by Western standards, consisting mainly of small shops and restaurants. With the growth in tourism since the 1990s, the quality of the retail sector and diversity of services have been improving.


Mongolian international trade has fluctuated considerably during last 3 decades. After the collapse of both the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (CMEA) and trade with the former Soviet Union, Mongolian international trade experienced a dramatic decline that continued until the mid-1990s. Since then, Mongolian trade has started a slow recovery, boosted by growing exports of gold and other mineral resources. Mongolia joined the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 1997.

During the 1990s Mongolia managed to diversify its markets, and China became one of its fastest-growing trade partners. In 1998 exports to China amounted to 30.1 percent of total Mongolian exports, followed by Switzerland (21.5 percent), Russia (12.1 percent), South Korea

Trade (expressed in billions of US$): Mongolia
Exports Imports
1975 N/A N/A
1980 .403 .548
1985 .689 1.096
1990 .661 .924
1995 .473 .415
1998 N/A N/A
SOURCE: International Monetary Fund. International Financial Statistics Yearbook 1999.
Exchange rates: Mongolia
tughriks per US$1
Dec 2000 1,097.00
2000 1,076.67
1999 1,072.37
1998 840.83
1997 789.99
1996 548.40
SOURCE: CIA World Factbook 2001 [ONLINE].

(9.7 percent) and the United States (8.1 percent). In that year, Russia remained the primary source of imports (30.6 percent), followed by China (13.3 percent), Japan (11.7 percent), South Korea (7.5 percent), and the United States (6.9 percent.) In 1998 Mongolia exported a total of $316.8 million in goods and imported $472.4 million in goods.


During the era of state control (1924-91), the Mongolian tughrik had a fixed rate (4 to the U.S. dollar in 1989), and was not freely convertible. With the introduction of convertibility in the early 1990s, there was a sudden surge in hard currency demand and the tughrik depreciated (dropped in value) sharply (MT448.61 to the U.S. dollar in 1995 and MT1,072.37 to the U.S. dollar in 1999). The Mongolian government has tried to stabilize its currency and its economy by relying heavily on international assistance from the World Bank and the IMF. The annual rate of inflation , which soared to around 300 percent in 1993, was reduced to 15 percent in 2000. The Bank of Mongolia, the nation's central bank, seeks to maintain a tight monetary policy in order to stabilize the value of the currency and reduce inflation.


Reforms during the 1990s brought mixed results to the Mongolian people. While they removed state control over the economy, allowed private businesses, and diversified

GDP per Capita (US$)
Country 1975 1980 1985 1990 1998
Mongolia N/A N/A 479 498 408
United States 19,364 21,529 23,200 25,363 29,683
China 138 168 261 349 727
Kazakhstan N/A N/A N/A 2,073 1,281
SOURCE: United Nations. Human Development Report 2000; Trends in human development and per capita income.
Distribution of Income or Consumption by Percentage Share: Mongolia
Lowest 10% 2.9
Lowest 20% 7.3
Second 20% 12.2
Third 20% 16.6
Fourth 20% 23.0
Highest 20% 40.9
Highest 10% 24.5
Survey year: 1995
Note: This information refers to expenditure shares by percentiles of the population and is ranked by per capita expenditure.
SOURCE: 2000 World Development Indicators [CD-ROM].

international trade, they also brought widespread poverty, a diminishing social-welfare system , especially in health care and education, a rise in organized crime, and huge gaps in personal income.

In 1999, per capita GDP was estimated at US$2,320. According to the United Nations Development Program's Human Development Report, a statistical survey of the standard of living of the world's nations, Mongolia was ranked 110th, just behind China and Egypt, but just ahead of El Salvador and Bolivia. This is largely because of the strong education and health systems built during the single party (1924-1991) era, which remain strong despite declines in the 1990s. In 2000, the enrollment rate at primary and secondary schools stood at 84 percent, and most people had access to health care services. The government plans to increase spending in these areas, however, to return them to the levels the country enjoyed before 1991.


Since the abandonment of state guarantees of employment in 1993, the unemployment rate among Mongolia's workforce of 1.256 million has been rising, reaching an official rate of 4.5 percent in 1998. In 1998, there were 49,800 workers registered as unemployed, but some estimates put the figure as high as 200,000, especially in remote small towns and villages. Working conditions remain far from ideal because of low wages and harsh economic conditions. Until the 1990s, the trade-union movement was state-controlled; with the introduction of market-oriented reforms Mongolia's trade unions have struggled to gain membership, though they still maintain close affiliations with political parties.


1921. Mongolia declares independence from China.

1924. Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party (MPRP) comes to power, remaining the ruling party for the next 70 years.

1946. China formally recognizes Mongolia's independence.

1961. Mongolia joins the United Nations.

1987. Mongolia normalizes its relations with China and signs a treaty concerning the resolution of border disputes.

1990. Mongolian Constitution is amended, and the first multiparty election for Parliament takes place.

1992. New constitution is adopted by the Great Hural (Parliament).

1993. Punsalmaagiin Ochirbat is elected president in the first direct presidential election.

1993. Mongolian tughrik is made freely convertible.

1996. For the first time in modern Mongolian electoral history, the MPRP is defeated by a Democratic Coalition led by the MNDP and the MSDP.

1997. Mongolia joins the World Trade Organization.

2000. MPRP returns to power, taking 72 seats in parliamentary elections.

Household Consumption in PPP Terms
Country All food Clothing and footwear Fuel and power a Health care b Education b Transport & Communications Other
Mongolia 56 14 9 8 14 1 -2
United States 13 9 9 4 6 8 51
China N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Kazakhstan 37 10 20 9 6 6 12
Data represent percentage of consumption in PPP terms.
aExcludes energy used for transport.
bIncludes government and private expenditures.
SOURCE: World Bank. World Development Indicators 2000.


By 2001, Mongolia was able to achieve macroeconomic (large-scale, overall) stability, although at the very high cost of growing poverty and inequality. It will likely take another decade before the country achieves full recovery from its transition from state control to private control of the economy. Mongolia's future is uncertain because of its geographical isolation, difficulties in attracting foreign investors, growing debt, and increasing dependence on international humanitarian assistance. Global climate changes may threaten the very existence of agriculture and animal husbandry in Mongolia. However, Mongolia should be able to depend on its strengths in exporting raw materials, and it has potential oil fields that could also contribute to export earningsif oil field development receives the necessary investments. Moreover, private enterprise has proved surprisingly strong, outperforming state-controlled industries in head-to-head competition. As more private businesses gain experience and financial strength, the Mongolian economy should become more diversified and stable.


Mongolia has no territories or colonies.


Akiner, Shirin, editor. Mongolia Today. London: Routledge,1991.

Economist Intelligence Unit. Country Report: Mongolia, November 2000. London: Economist Intelligence Unit, 2000.

Fletcher, Sanjay, Catriona Purfield, and Sergei Dodzin. Mongolia. Statistical Annex. Washington, D.C.: World Bank, January 2000.

Human Development Report Mongolia 2000: Reorienting the State. Ulaanbaatar: UNDP and Government of Mongolia, 2000.

Mongolia: Toward a Market Economy. Washington, D.C.: WorldBank, December 1992.

The Mongol Messenger. <>.Accessed February 2001.

Nixon, F.I., B. Walters, B. Suvd, and P. Luvsandori, editors. The Mongolian Economy: A Manual of Applied Economics of an Economy in Transition. Aldershot, UK: Edward Elgar, 2000.

UB-Post. <>. AccessedFebruary 2001.

United Nations in Mongolia. <>.Accessed February 2001.

U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. The World Factbook, 2000. <>. Accessed June 2001.

Rafis Abazov


Ulaanbaatar (formerly spelled Ulan Bator).


Mongolian tughrik (togrog) (MT), equal to 100 mongos. There are coins of 1, 5, 10, and 50 mongos. Paper money comes in notes of 1, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 500, 1,000, 5,000, and 10,000 tughriks.


Copper, gold, non-ferrous metals and animal products, including cashmere, wool, livestock.


Machinery and equipment, chemicals, industrial consumer goods, fuel and food products, including sugar and tea.


US$6.1 billion (1999 est.).


Exports: US$454.3 million (1999 est.). Imports: US$510.7 million (1999 est.).

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Basic Data

Official Country Name: Mongolia
Region (Map name): East & South Asia
Population: 2,650,952
Language(s): Khalkha Mongol, Turkic, Russian
Literacy rate: 82.9%

Mongolia (Mongol Uls) has moved from being a largely agricultural and nomadic society, to being split between a nomadic and an urban population. One-third of all Mongolians reside in the capital city of Ulan Bator (Ulaanbaatar). Just larger than Alaska in size, 90 percent of its land is pasture or desert wasteland; 9 percent is forested; and 1 percent is arable. There is scant rain and large seasonal climate fluctuations occur.

Mongolia, with Soviet backing, gained its independence from China in 1921, but as of 1990 dropped its Soviet styled single-party state and began movements toward democratically oriented governance. Currently, 18 parties are active in the Mongolian political system. However, the Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party (MPRP)the former party of Soviet rulestill has significant influence, including the support of current president Natsagiyin Bagabandi and a strong showing of 72 out of 76 seats in the 2000 parliamentary elections.

This has created some directional uncertainty concerning the political future of Mongolia. As with many countries experimenting with new systems of political governance, Mongolia's economic situation has been a struggle. While new avenues are being sought, there continues to be an inability to create and sustain a viable economy. Being landlocked and losing significant trading prospects with the collapse of the Soviet Union, they have been aggressively pursuing relationships with all countries, but have yet to find an economic niche that can provide any consistency and growth. Mongolia's precarious economic and still new political activities have lent themselves both positively and negatively to press and broadcast media situations.

Mongolian press began in 1920 under the Mongolian Communist Party (equivalent with the MPRP at the time) with Unen (Truth )similar to Soviet Pravda being the oldest newspaper published in the country; and Dzaluuchuudyn Unen (Young People's Truth ), founded by the Central Committee of the Revolutionary Youth League; and Ulaan Od (Red Star ) founded by the Ministries of Defense and Public Security following respectively in 1924 and 1930.

During those years the government directly oversaw all publishing. However much has changed since then. In a May 22, 2001, press conference newly elected Bagabandi iterated that he would seek to ensure press freedom through legal guarantees. However, while a Law of Press Freedom passed August 28, 1998, and enacted January 1, 1999, exists it has yet to obtain the necessary guarantees to assure its full implementation. In fact, soon after the MPRP regained power, the Ministry of Justice and Home Affairs closed three newspapers without legal authority. Further, while the 1998 law forbids state ownership or financing of media or of their organizations, the majority of radio and television stations are still state-owned and there continue to be problems in transferring this state-owned material to private hands. Government reticence also extends to allowing access to information.

The government, while taking no official actions against the media except in a couple of fairly justifiable cases, continues investigations into local media and press operations thatwhether accurate or notseem to these organizations negative and threatening.

As of a 1991 decree, The Ministry for Justice and Home Affairs is in charge of issuing licenses for all newspapers and can also confiscate them if newspapers break any ordinances. Additionally, the government has attempted to use moral rules and tax laws to keep tight rein on the "free" media. In many senses this has led to much self-censorship by the press. Even with these legal hurdles existing 1,150 newspapers were reported registered in 2001. With newspaper circulation essentially limited to Ulan Bator and only one-third of the country's 2.4 million people living there, this is a large figure. One factor in the high number of registered papers has to do with the fact that many of the papers are small circulation presses, some being literally one-person operations. There are only four dailies in Mongolian. Still, overall newspaper circulation stands on average at about 27 per 1,000 people.

Government has relinquished control of newsprint, but costs fluctuate dramatically due to shortages of paper and fuel supplies. Thus, the process of buying privately is prohibitive for many of the small presses. Also hindering newspapers is the fact that 90 percent of the advertising market is obtained by government television and radio leaving the press with little to exploit for income. Therefore, they are primarily dependent on circulation sales for income, but this presents an extra challenge in a country with per capita income of about $400 U.S. dollars per year. While there is lack of capital working against the press, one favorable aspect of the population is an average 97 percent literacy rate for both males and females. According to a 1998 poll more than 68 percent of Mongolians favor newspapers as their favorite form of mediaone of the highest percentages in the world.

Dailies include: Odiriyn Sonin (Daily News ; independent; succeeded state paper Ardyn Erh ; founded 1990), Onoodor (independent; largest newspaper with regular 12-page issues and advertisements; founded 1996), Zuuny Medee (independent; succeeded state paper Zasigyn Gazryn Medee ), Mongolia This Week (independent; first and only daily in English), and Unen (Truth ; organ of the MPRP). Circulation figures are still generally not reported and at least one editor suggested this is one major problem that needs to be resolved in order to begin facilitating a freer press. However, before their name transition Onoodor and Zuuny Medee were among the largest circulations. An interesting variation from some of the other publications available is Ger Magazine (published online with guidance from the United Nations Development Program, UNDP), which is concerned with Mongolian youth in cultural transition. The name of the magazine is meant to be ironic because a ger is the Mongolian word for yurta yurt being traditional nomadic housingbut the magazine is about urbanization and globalization of Mongolian youth.

Broadcast media runs in a similar vein with the press. Private radio and television stations exist alongside state-owned operations, but lack of funding and lack of general infrastructure tend to limit the capacity for private ventures (this is the downside of the media law not allowing the government to fund media). What privatization has occurred is primarily limited to Ulan Bator with others only having access to state television and radio for news and a few private stations that primarily play music (music is cheaper than live programming). However, according to the International Journalists' Network, even state-owned television and radio stations are now required to be run as a "self-funding national public broadcasting system." This is still much more the ideal than the actual.

One state-owned radio broadcast station, The Voice of Mongolia, began in 1965, is operated by Mongolian Radio and Television. It broadcasts eight hours a day in Mongolian, English, Chinese and Russian, and remains the sole international radio broadcasting station for the government of Mongolia. Overall, 2001 estimates suggest there are seven AM, nine FM, and four short-wave radio broadcast stations in the country. They broadcast to 155,900 radios (according to 1999 estimates).

Mongolteleviz is the state-owned television station under Mongolian Radio and Television and broadcasts nationwide. Other private stations include Eagle (Bürged) TV, MN Channel 25, and UBSTV. As of 1999, there were four television broadcast stations with 18 provincial repeaters and numerous low power repeaters. They broadcast to 168,800 televisionsapproximately 50 to 60 percent of households possessing a television. Mont-same is Mongolia's state-owned news agency.

The Internet is a relatively new medium for Mongolia with its first connection established in 1995, but it is up and coming. There is no direct infringement by the government concerning private Internet use by citizens. As of 2001 there were five Internet service providers in the country and between 10,000 and 15,000 subscribers. The United Nations Volunteers and United Nations Development Programme are currently running a major program in partnership with the Open Society Institute-Mongolia and with funding from the government of Japan to increase ICT access and utilization.

There is respect for the academy in Mongolia and journalistic training can be gained there. Perhaps one of the most prescient statements offered about Mongolia in recent years comes from the head of DataCom and board member of the Open Society Institute-Mongolia. D. Enkhbat says, "Mongolia cannot solve the task of creating [an] open society without creating mechanisms for the free flow of information."


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Clint B. Thomas Baldwin

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Official name: Mongolia

Area: 1,565,000 square kilometers (604,247 square miles)

Highest point on mainland: Orgil, also called Huyten Orgil or Mount Huyten (4,374 meters/14,350 feet)

Lowest point on land: Hoh Nuur Depression (518 meters/1,709 feet)

Hemispheres: Northern and Eastern

Time zone: 8 p.m. = noon GMT

Longest distances: 2,368 kilometers (1,471 miles) from east to west; 1,260 kilometers (783 miles) from north to south

Land boundaries: 8,161.9 kilometers (5,072 miles) total boundary length; Russia 3,005 kilometers (1,867 miles); China 4,673 kilometers (2,904 miles); also touches Kazakhstan at westernmost point

Coastline: None

Territorial sea limits: None


Mongolia, the world's largest landlocked nation, is located in east-central Asia between China and Russia. It covers an area of 1,565,000 square kilometers (604,247 square miles), or slightly more than the state of Alaska.


Mongolia has no territories or dependencies.


Mongolia has two climatic zones: the continental zone in the north, and the desert in the south. The country's high altitude results in inhospitably cold, dry, and harsh weather. Temperatures can fluctuate radically each day, dropping drastically at night, and they differ greatly from season to season. Winters are especially long, with freezing temperatures from October to April. The temperature can plunge to as low as -52°C (-62°F) in January. Mongolia's average winter temperature is -24°C (-13°F) with an average range of -21°C to -30°C (-5° to -22°F). Spring is a brief windy and stormy transition period of five to six weeks around May. Summer lasts from June to August, with an average temperature of 20°C (65°F), ranging from 10° to 27°C (50° to 80°F). Autumn is a five-to six-week transition period around September. Mongolia's average humidity is 65 percent in summer and 75 percent in winter.

Most of Mongolia's rainfall occurs from May to September. The country usually has at least 250 sunny days each year. Rainfall is considerably heavier in the north, and nearly nonexistent in the southern Gobi Desert. Mongolia's annual average rainfall is a low 20 to 22 centimeters (8 to 9 inches), receiving an average of 36 centimeters (14 inches) in the north and fewer than 10 centimeters (4 inches) in the south. The country experienced devastating heavy snowstorms in the winters at the start of the twenty-first century.

Less than 70 percent of Mongolia's land has a consistent supply of water. Winter freezes often cut off access to surface waters and wells. Melted snow and ice then become the water sources during the winter for residential and commercial use. The water situation is relatively better in the north, because it has major rivers and heavier precipitation.


Mongolia has five topographic regions: the Altai range (the largest mountain system); the Great Lakes Depression (lakes and plains); the Hangayn-Hentiyn Mountains (medium-altitude older mountains with gentle slopes and valleys); the uplifted eastern plains (smooth and rolling terrain, sprinkled with pastures, forests, and rivers); and the Gobi Desert (hilly in the west with salt lakes and marshes in flat lowlands and sand desert).


Mongolia is a landlocked nation. The closest ocean is the Pacific's Yellow Sea, which is 700 kilometers (435 miles) to the east across northeast China.


More than four thousand lakes, mostly of glacial or volcanic origin, relieve the dry landscape of Mongolia. For the most part, the lakes are located high above sea level and they freeze over every winter; those with outlets usually have fresh water. Most of the sixteen biggest lakes are found in the northwest. The country also has developed more than two hundred sites of hot and cold natural mineral water springs.

The Great Lakes Depression of northwest Mongolia contains at least three hundred lakes, as well as high waterfalls and springs. Uvs Lake, a saltwater lake at 759 meters (2,490 feet) above sea level in this region, is Mongolia's largest, with a surface area of 3,366 square kilometers (1,300 square miles). Also in the Great Lakes area, the Har Us, Hyargas, and Dörgön Lakes are a trio of connected, large, shallow lakes within Har Us Nuur National Park. Mongolia contains many salt marshes and a variety of lake-centered wetland environments. The basin of Uys Lake is subject to extremes of cold and warm weather. It is one of ten worldwide locations being studied in the International Geosphere-Biosphere Program, which is researching global climate change.


With more than twelve hundred rivers, Mongolia has three drainage systems: to the Arctic Ocean, to the Pacific Ocean, and to the desert or salt lakes. Rivers draining north to the Arctic Ocean include the Selenge River, as well as the Shishkhed and Bulgan Rivers. The Selenge River arises in the Hangayn uplands of northern Mongolia, and flows north into Russia's Lake Baikal; it has a total length of 992 kilometers (616 miles), about 595 kilometers (370 miles) of which is within Mongolia. Among the Selenge's numerous tributaries are the Orhon which, at a length of 1,126 kilometers (698 miles), is the longest river entirely within Mongolia, and the Tuul (703 kilometers/437 miles), on the banks of which is located the nation's capital, Ulaanbaatar.

The Kerulen, Onon, Uldz, and Halhïn Rivers of northeast Mongolia flow into the Amur River of Russia, which continues east to the Pacific Ocean. The longest of these rivers is the Kerulen, which is 1,086 kilometers (675 miles) long. Mongolia's other river systems are found in the Great Lakes Depression and in the Central Asian basin, including the Dzavhan (804 kilometers/500 miles), Tesiyn (563 kilometers/350 miles), and Khobdo (499 kilometers/310 miles) Rivers.

The river system in the Gobi region is negligible; the few small rivers of the northern portion of the desert zone rise in the Hangayn range but vanish into salt lakes.


The great Gobi Desert occupies one-third of Mongolia, and it extends far south into China's Inner Mongolia region. It is the world's largest cold-climate desert. Less than 5 centimeters (2 inches) of rain falls in the Gobi each year, with no rainfall occurring at all in some parts of the desert. There are two types of desert within the Gobi. One is a scrubland with coarse, stunted bunchgrass and hardy bushes, which is dry but can be used for camel grazing. It contains numerous plant species, many of which bloom in the summer if they receive enough moisture during the year. The other type of desert in the Gobi is a landscape of sand dunes mixed with stone or gravel, with little to no vegetation.


Mongolia's elevations decline from northwest to southeast, decreasing gradually from alpine snow peaks to rolling contours, mesas, ridges and low hills, and eventually to completely flat plains. The foothills of the Altai Shan (Mountains) stretch south and east into the Gobi, forming a terrain of bare desert hills. Mongolia is famous for its beautiful grasslands. The southeast is an area of particularly extensive grasslands, known as steppes in Central Asia. The steppe hills and plains are covered with many varieties of grasses, and are grazed by domestic animals including sheep, goats, horses, cattle, yaks, and camels, as well as wild antelopes, including enormous migratory herds of gazelles.


The high mountains of Mongolia rise mostly in the west. Some of the peaks are long-extinct volcanoes. The lofty Altai Shan range is part of a chain that continues over the border into China, Russia, and Kazakhstan; it runs northwest to southeast in Mongolia. Some two hundred glaciers cascade through the Altai range. Mongolia's highest mountain is Nayramadlïn Orgil (Huyten Orgil or Mount Huyten, also called Mount Nayramadlïn) rising 4,374 meters (14,350 feet) in the Tawan Bogdo group of the Altai at Mongolia's westernmost extension, where the country meets Russia, Kazakhstan, and China. The second-highest mountain in Mongolia, Mount Chajrchan Uul, 4,362 meters (14,311 feet), is in the central Altai range. The Hangayn (Khangai) range in central Mongolia has generally lower mountains. The highest peak in this range is Otgon Tenger (3,957 meters/12,982 feet). Another chain of low mountains is the Hentiyn (Khentei) range in north-central Mongolia, sprawling along and across the Russian border.


In the Dalanzadgad region of the Gobi Desert, Gobi Gurvansaikhan National Park contains winding canyons of colorfully streaked sandstone, including Yolym Am (Yol Canyon), which surrounds a permanently frozen stream. Also within the National Park are the Flaming Cliffs, overlooking the Nemegt, Khermiin Tsav, and Bayanzag Canyons.


With an area of approximately 2,600,000 square kilometers (1,000,000 square miles), the Mongolian plateau spans both the independent nation of Mongolia (also called Outer Mongolia) and the Chinese province of Mongolia (called Inner Mongolia). The Gobi Desert separates the two regions. The plateau has an average elevation of 1,580 meters (5,184 feet), with passageways between mountain ranges varying in length from 1,931 to 3,218 kilometers (1,200 to 2,000 miles).


Mongolia has few bridges or paved roads. One of the few Buddhist monasteries that survived Soviet military invasions during the twentieth century is found in Kharakhorum, the Mongolian capital under the rule of Genghis Khan in the late twelfth century. Located within a large, walled compound, the monastery contains the remaining two of four giant turtles carved out of the rock.

Ovoos, large ritual mounds made from rocks piled into a low pyramid, can be found throughout Mongolia. In many places, objects such as coins, bottles, animal skulls, and pieces of fabric are thrown onto ovoos. In northern Mongolia, the mounds are covered with wooden poles, creating a structure that resembles a teepee.


The canyons of the Flaming Cliffs contain archaeological sites that were first excavated in the early twentieth century. Early examples of dinosaur eggs have been found there, as well as many significant dinosaur skeletons from the late Cretaceous period.



Lawless, Jill. Wild East: The New Mongolia. Toronto: ECW Press, 2000.

Man, John. Gobi: Tracking the Desert. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1999.

Novacek, Michael. Dinosaurs of the Flaming Cliffs. New York: Anchor Books, 1997.

Web Sites

Destination Mongolia. (accessed April 24, 2003).

Mongolia World. (accessed April 24, 2003).

Visit Mongolia. (accessed April 24, 2003).

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Mongolia (country, Asia)

Mongolia (mŏn-gō´lēə, mŏng–), republic (2005 est. pop. 2,791,000), 604,247 sq mi (1,565,000 sq km), N central Asia; historically known as Outer Mongolia. Bordered on the west, south, and east by China and on the north by Russia, it comprises more than half the historical region of Mongolia; the other part forms China's Inner Mongolian Autonomous Region. The capital and largest city is Ulaanbaatar.

Land and People

A high country, Mongolia has an average elevation exceeding 5,100 ft (1,554 m); the central, northern, western, and southwestern areas are covered with hills, high plateaus, and mountain ranges, reaching 15,266 ft (4,653 m) at Tavan Bogd Uul (Tabun Bogdo) in the Altai Mts. Much of the Gobi desert lies to the south and east; at no point is the elevation less than c.1,800 ft (550 m). Numerous lakes fill the depressions between the mountains; the largest, Uvs Nuur, or Ubsu Nur (c.1,300 sq mi/3,370 sq km) is saltwater. The main rivers are in the north and include the Selenga (Selenge Mörön), with its long tributary the Orkhon (Orhon), which flows into Lake Baykal in Russia; and the Kerulen. Navigability is limited—the rivers are swift and rough; they freeze in the winter, and many dry up during droughts.

The country's climate is dry continental, with little rain or snow and great extremes in temperature. Winters are severe, with low temperatures and high winds that blow away the light snow cover, causing the ground to freeze deeply; summers can be very hot.

The population is predominantly Khalkha Mongol. Minorities include Oirat Mongols, Kazakhs, Chinese, and Russians. Khalkha Mongolian, the official language, was until the 1940s written in the old Uigur Turkic script; it now uses the Cyrillic alphabet. Turkic, Russian, and Chinese are also spoken by some. The dominant religion has long been Lamaist Buddhism, but it was harshly repressed under the Communist regime. It was not until the waning of Communist power in the early 1990s that religious freedom reemerged. There are also small Muslim and Christian minorities.


The paucity of snow in Mongolia permits year-round grazing, and nomadic herding has been the major occupation for centuries. Animal husbandry is still the mainstay of the Mongolian economy, and Mongolia has the world's highest number of livestock per person. The growth in livestock populations in the 21st cent. has led to overgrazing and land degradation in some areas. Sheep and goats constitute most of the livestock, followed by cattle and horses; yaks are raised in the higher altitudes, and camels are extremely important in the desert and semidesert areas. Agriculture is limited since only 1% of the land is arable. Wheat is the chief crop, followed by barley, oats, corn, millet, rye, legumes, and potatoes.

Hunting is a source of revenue; the country abounds in wildlife, and sable, fox, lynx, marmot, snow leopard, squirrel, and wolf are all trapped for their furs. Mongolia has valuable timberlands, especially in the northern mountainous area; logs are shipped down the Selenga, Orkhon, and Kerulen rivers. Mineral resources are abundant. The extensive coal deposits have been exploited since 1913. Copper, molybdenum, tin, tungsten, gold, iron ore, fluorspar, uranium, zinc, lead, silver, and salt are also mined.

Industry, which was developed with Soviet aid, is centered chiefly in Ulaanbaatar. It is based largely on the country's livestock resources, with dairy products, packed meats, leather and leather goods, and woolen textiles and related items (clothing, blankets, carpets) the chief manufactures. The building-material, copper-smelting, lumber, and oil industries are also important. Choybalsan and Darhan near the Russian border have become industrial centers.

The country has one railroad line running north and south from the Russian border through Ulaanbaatar to the Chinese frontier, with a few spur lines to mining or industrial points. Although the number of motor vehicles is increasing, there are few paved roads and beasts of burden are still used, notably in the south, where camel caravans are common. There are also numerous airports.

Mongolia's main exports are copper, apparel, livestock, animal products, cashmere, wool, hides, fluorspar, and nonferrous metals; imports include machinery and equipment, cars, fuel, foodstuffs, consumer goods, chemicals, building materials, sugar, and tea. Most of its foreign trade is with China, Russia, the United States, Canada, and South Korea.


Mongolia is governed under the constitution of 1992. The president, who is head of state, is popularly elected for a four-year term and is eligible for a second term. The government is headed by the prime minister. The unicameral legislature consists of the 76-seat State Great Hural, whose members are popularly elected for four-year terms. Following legislative elections, the leader of the majority party or majority coalition is usually elected prime minister by the legislature. Administratively, the country is divided into 21 provinces and the capital district.

Modern History

For the early history of Mongolia, see Mongols. The area was under Chinese control from 1691 until the collapse of the Manchu dynasty in China in 1911, when a group of Mongol princes ousted the Manchu governor and proclaimed an autonomous Mongolia with Jebtsun Damba Khutukhtu (the Living Buddha of Urga) as ruler. The new state was reoccupied by the Chinese in 1919. The Chinese were driven out by White Russian forces under Baron von Ungern-Sternberg in early 1921, and the Whites in turn were ousted by Red Army troops and Mongolian units under the Mongolian Communist leaders Sukhe-Bator and Khorloin Choibalsan.

Mongolia was proclaimed an independent state in July, 1921, and remained a monarchy until the Living Buddha died in 1924. The establishment (Nov., 1924) of the Communist-led Mongolian People's Republic was followed by a struggle to divest the old privileged classes of their capital (largely in the form of land and livestock) and persecution of the Lama priests; this in turn led to the Lama Rebellion of 1932, when priests led thousands of people, with some 7 million head of livestock, across the border to Inner Mongolia.

In 1936 the USSR signed a mutual aid pact with the republic, thus formalizing the existing close relations between the two countries. A constitution adopted in 1940 consolidated the power of the Communist regime. During World War II the Mongolian army joined the USSR in Manchuria in the last, brief stage of the war against Japan. In 1945 a plebiscite was held under a Sino-Soviet agreement, and the republic overwhelmingly voted for continued independence. Khorloin Choibalsan, the prime minister from 1938 until his death in 1952, was succeeded by Yumzhaggiin Tsedenbal. A new constitution came into force in 1960, and Mongolia was admitted to the United Nations in 1961.

In the ideological dispute between the Soviet Union and China, Mongolia traditionally supported the Soviet Union. Mongolia's position shifted during the 1980s, however, and it established diplomatic relations with China in 1986 and with the United States a year later. After a series of demonstrations in the late 1980s calling for freedom and human rights, the Communist party voted to relinquish its constitutional power, which led to the election by the parliament of Punsalmaagiin Ochirbat as president in 1990. In the same year a multiparty political system was also instituted, and in 1991 the country was renamed the State of Mongolia.

In 1992, Mongolia opened its first stock exchange and adopted a new democratic constitution; the Mongolian People's Revolutionary party (MPRP—the former Communists) overwhelmingly retained control of parliament in elections that year. However, Ochirbat, running as a non-Communist, won Mongolia's first free presidential election in 1993. In the first half of 1996, Mongolia was beset by wildfires that raged for more than three months and scorched 41,000 sq mi (106,000 sq km) of forest and rangeland. In the 1996 parliamentary elections the opposition Democratic Union Coalition won a stunning upset, gaining nearly two thirds of the seats. Following a downturn in the economy, Natsagiyn Bagabandi, the candidate of the MPRP, won a decisive victory against Ochirbat in the 1997 presidential elections.

Parliamentary elections in 2000 resulted in a nearly total win for the MPRP, which won 95% of the seats; Natsagiyn Enkhbayar became prime minister. Bagabandi was reelected in May, 2001. In the 2004 parliamentary elections the opposition alliance, now called the Motherland Democratic Coalition, won two fewer seats than the MPRP, but also claimed two seats that MPRP contested in court. The unexpected turnabout led to weeks of wrangling and a delay in inaugurating parliament. In August, however, the MPRP and the opposition agreed to form a unity government, and Democrat Tsakhiagiyn Elbegdorj became prime minister. Elbegdorj had previously held the office for seven months in 1998.

In the 2005 presidential elections, MPRP candidate Nambaryn Enkhbayar won; Enkhbayar had served as prime minister in the early 1990s. In Jan., 2006, the unity government collapsed when the MPRP withdrew. The MPRP formed a new government with support from minor parties and some Democrats; Miyeegombo Enkhbold, the former mayor of Ulaanbaatar, was named prime minister. Enkhbold resigned in Nov., 2007, and was succeeded by fellow MPRP member Sanjaagin Bayar. Parliamentary elections in June, 2008, resulted in a majority for the MPRP. Although international observers called the vote free and fair, the opposition alleged that there had been electoral fraud, and a riot in the capital led to a brief state of emergency.

In the May, 2009, presidential election, former prime minister Elbegdorj defeated Enkhbayar. Bayar resigned as prime minister in Oct., 2009, and was succeeded in the post by Sukhbaatar Batbold, the foreign minister and a wealthy businessman. A severe winter in 2009–10 killed more than a sixth of Mongolia's livestock, with more than 30,000 families losing half or more of their animals. In the June, 2012, parliamentary elections the Democratic party won a plurality, and the Mongolian People's party (MPP; the main body of the former MPRP) placed second. The Democrats formed a coalition government with Enkhbayar's splinter MPRP and other small parties, and Democrat Norov Altankhuyag became prime minister. In August, Enkhbayer was convicted of corruption, on charges that he asserted were politically motivated; the manner of his arrest in April and his subsequent jailing was questioned by Amnesty International. Elbegdorj was reelected president in 2013. Economic issues and corruption charges contributed to Altankhuyag's dismissal as prime minister in 2014; Chimed Saikhanbileg succeeded him.


See O. Lattimore, Nomads and Commissars: Mongolia Revisited (1962); R. A. Rupen, The Mongolian People's Republic (1966); A. M. Pozdneev, Mongolia and the Mongols (Vol. I tr. 1971); S. Akiner, ed., Mongolia Today (1989); C. R. Bawden, The Modern History of Mongolia (1989).

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Basic Data
Official Country Name: Mongolia
Region: East & South Asia
Population: 2,650,952
Language(s): Khalkha Mongol, Turkic, Russian
Literacy Rate: 82.9%

Mongolia is a landlocked country of 2.65 million inhabitants living in an area of 1.565 million square kilometers. The country is sandwiched between Russia and China, each of which also has a Mongolian population (.5 and 3.5 million, respectively). Thirty-four percent of the population is under the age of 14. About 25 percent of the population resides in the capital city, Ulaanbaatar, 25 percent resides in other urban areas, and most of the remainder is nomadic. Estimated 1999 per capita gross domestic product (GDP: purchasing power parity) was $2,320 distributed as follows: 33 percent agriculture, 24 percent industry, and 43 percent services. Real GDP growth was about 3.5 percent in 1999. Forty percent of the population was living below the official poverty level (CIA World Factbook 2000).

The People's Government of Mongolia was declared in 1921 under a single-party government that held power until 1990. The Mongolian People's Republic was established in 1924 as the world's second communist country. Mongolia maintained close political and economic ties with the USSR but was never one of its constituent republics. At the peak of this relationship, almost a third of Mongolia's GDP was provided by the Soviet Union; this included significant support (e.g., books, equipment, training of academics and researchers) for Mongolian education. Following the fall of the Soviet Union in 1989, the external financial support coming from the Council for Mutual Economic Cooperation (CMEC) evaporated. A new, political structure was established with the passage of a constitution in 1992 to guide the country's transition to a democratic government and a market rather than a command economy (Weidman and Bat-Erdene 2002).

The Mongolian education system has several components:

  1. preschool and kindergarten;
  2. 4 years of primary education, beginning at age 8;
  3. 4 years of lower secondary education, with compulsory education ending after Grade 8;
  4. 2 years of upper secondary education;
  5. postsecondary and higher education; and
  6. technical education and vocational training (TEVT).

The TEVT component comprises specialized upper secondary schools as well as postsecondary diploma programs housed in higher education institutions. The vestiges of its Soviet heritage remain in a separate science and technology component under the Mongolian Academy of Sciences, though there continue to be efforts to bring the research institutes and advanced degree granting authority of the Academy under the universities. Most Ph.D. programs have been moved into the universities, but the Academy retains control over the advanced research degree, the doctor of science. Nonformal and distance education activities cut across the entire system (Mongolia Education Sector Strategy 2000-2005).

The gross enrollment rates in 2000 were: 96.6 percent for the 4-year primary education cycle, with a total of 253,441 students; 80.2 percent for the 4-year lower secondary cycle, with 195,511 students; 46.9 percent for the 2-year upper secondary cycle, with 49,083 students; and 11.6 percent in technical and vocational education, with 12,177 students. For higher education, the gross enrollment rate was 35 percent, with 84,970 students. At each succeeding level of education, females outnumber males, resulting in higher education enrollments in which there are twice as many females as males (Statistics from the Ministry of Science, Education, Technology and Culture of Mongolia).

Enrollments in primary and secondary education have leveled off and are, in fact, dropping due to reduced population growth and entrance rates. Higher education has been expanding rapidly, with public sector enrollments more than doubling since 1992. In addition, the government has allowed the development of a private higher education sector that is approaching half of the total students in Mongolian higher education. Commerce and business administration degree programs enroll the largest numbers of students in private institutions, and more students are studying law in private than public sector higher education institutions (Mongolia Education Sector Strategy 2000-2005).

Ongoing reforms in Mongolian education have been designed to change from a highly specialized and compartmentalized system of education based on the Russian model to a more flexible system, including improving efficiency and effectiveness of education at all levels through rationalization and decentralization. Since 1990, there has been a relaxation of state control over curriculum in Mongolia with efforts at diversification based on local community needs. This includes eliminating the ideological content that had been prevalent, especially in social science and humanities disciplines, and shifting from a teacher-centered to a more student-centered curriculum.

Administration of schools at all levels has been decentralized and less reliance placed on national planning approaches to the allocation of spaces for students in various types of curricula. The government has introduced measures aimed at cost sharing with parents and students so that education funding can be supplemented by sources other than the central government. Legislation has also been passed allowing private sector provision of education at all levels.

A student fee structure was introduced for public higher education institutions in 1993, but unlike most other countries, student fees in Mongolia are expected to cover the full cost of faculty salaries, instructional costs, and other expenses. Initially, the government provided funds for utilities as well as building maintenance and upkeep, but since 1997 only heat, water, and electricity costs are covered. Despite these shifts, the 1997 annual tuition cost has remained at the same inflation-adjusted level as when the fee structure was first introduced, about four months' salary of a university senior lecturer or senior government employee (Weidman and Bat-Erdene 2002).


The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). The World Fact-book 2000. Directorate of Intelligence, 1 January 2000. Available from

Government of Mongolia, Ministry of Science, Technology, Education and Culture. Mongolia Education Sector Strategy 2000-2005. Ulaanbaatar, 2000.

Weidman, John C., and Regsurengiin Bat-Erdene. "Higher Education and the State in Mongolia: Dilemmas of Democratic Transition." In Higher Education in the Developing World: Changing Contexts and Institutional Responses, eds. David W. Chapman and Ann E. Austin. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2002.

John C. Weidman and
Regsurengiin Bat-Erdene

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Mongolia (region, Asia)

Mongolia (mŏn-gō´lēə, mŏng–), Asian region (c.906,000 sq mi/2,346,540 sq km), bordered roughly by Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, China, on the west; the Manchurian provinces of China on the east; Siberia on the north; and the Great Wall of China on the south. It now comprises the country of Mongolia (traditionally known as Outer Mongolia) and the Inner Mongolian Autonomous Region of China.

Mongolia is chiefly a region of desert and of steppe plateau from c.3,000 to 5,000 ft (910–1,520 m) high. Winters are cold and dry and summers are warm and brief. The Gobi desert, which is entirely wasteland, is in the central section. To the west are the Altai Mts., which rise to 15,266 ft (4,653 m). Rivers include a section of the Huang He (Yellow River) in the south and the Selenga, Orkhon, and Kerulen in the north. Rainfall averages less than 15 in. (38.1 cm) a year.


Mongolia has traditionally been a land of pastoral nomadism; livestock raising and the processing of animal products are the main industries. Wool, hides, meat, cloth, and leather goods are exported. Irrigation has made some agriculture possible; wheat and oats are the chief crops. Coal, iron ore, gold, and oil are important mineral resources. Mongolia is crossed north to south by a railroad linking Beijing with Russia. The region has an adequate system of roadways, although most roads are unpaved. Camels and yaks are often used in desert and mountain areas. Trade traditionally has been greater with Russia than with China, but this has been changing in recent years.


Great hordes of horsemen have repeatedly swept down from Mongolia into N China, establishing vast, although generally short-lived, empires. In the 1st cent. AD Mongolia was inhabited by various Turkic tribes who dwelt mainly along the upper course of the Orkhon River. It was also the home of the Hsiung-nu who ravaged (1st–5th cent.) N China. The Uigur Turks founded their first empire (744–856) with its capital near Karakorum in W Mongolia. The Khitan, who founded the Liao dynasty (947–1125) in N China, were from Mongolia. Many smaller territorial states followed until (c.1205) Jenghiz Khan conquered all Mongolia, united its tribes, and from his capital at Karakorum led the Mongols in creating one of the greatest empires of all time. His successors established the Golden Horde in SE Russia and founded the Hulagid dynasty of Persia and the Yuan dynasty (1260–1368) of China.

After the decline of the Mongol empire, Mongolia intruded less in world affairs. China, which earlier had gained control of Inner Mongolia, subjugated Outer Mongolia in the late 17th cent., but in the succeeding years struggled with Russia for control. Outer Mongolia finally broke away in 1921 to form the Mongolian People's Republic (now Mongolia). Inner Mongolia remained under Chinese control, although the Japanese conquered Rehe (1933), which they included in Manchukuo, and Chahar and Suiyuan (1937), which they formed into Mengjiang (Mongol Border Land). These areas were returned to China after World War II. In 1944, Tannu Tuva (see Tuva Republic), long recognized as part of Mongolia but under Russian influence since 1911, was incorporated within the USSR (now Russia). The Chinese Communists joined most of Inner Mongolia to N Rehe prov. and W Heilongjiang prov. to form the Inner Mongolian Autonomous Region in 1949.

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1,566,500sq km (604,826sq mi)



capital (population):

Ulan Bator (691,000)


Multiparty republic

ethnic groups:

Khalkha Mongol 79%, Kazakh 6%


Khalkha Mongolian (official)


Tibetan Buddhism was once the main religion; reliable recent information is unavailable


Tugrik = 100 möngö

Republic in central Asia; the capital is Ulan Bator.

Land and Climate

Sandwiched between China and Russia, Mongolia is the world's largest landlocked country. High plateaux cover most of Mongolia, with the highest plateau in the w between the Altai Mountains and Hangai Mountains. The Altai Mountains contain Mongolia's highest peaks, rising to 4362m (14,311ft). The land descends towards the e and s, home to part of the Gobi Desert. Ulan Bator lies on the n edge of a desert plateau in the heart of Asia. It has bitterly cold winters, dropping to −50°C (−58°F). Altitude moderates summer temperatures. Mongolia has large areas of steppe grassland. Plants become increasingly sparse to the s.

History and Politics

In the 13th century, Genghis Khan united the Mongolian peoples and built up a great empire. Under his grandson, Kublai Khan, the Mongol Empire extended from Korea and China to e Europe and Mesopotamia. The Empire broke up in the late 14th century, and in the early 17th century Inner Mongolia came under Chinese control. By the late 17th century, Outer Mongolia had also become a Chinese province. In 1911, the Mongolians drove the Chinese out of Outer Mongolia and established a short-lived Buddhist kingdom. China re-established control by 1919, and established the Mongolian People's Republic (Inner Mongolia remains a Chinese province) in 1924. The Mongolian Peoples's Revolutionary Party (MPRP) became the sole political party. The revolution in ownership prompted the Lama Rebellion (1932), which saw the migration of thousands of peoples and millions of livestock into Inner Mongolia. From the 1950s, Mongolia supported Soviet policies, especially in relation to Sino-Soviet disputes. In 1961, Mongolia joined the United Nations (UN). Popular demonstrations led to multiparty elections in 1990, won by the MPRP. In 1992, a new constitution confirmed the process of liberalization, enshrining democratic principles and establishing a mixed economy. In 1993, President Ochirbat was re-elected, despite the MPRP refusing to endorse him as a candidate. In 1996, the Democratic Union Coalition formed the first non-communist government for more than 70 years. In 1997, Natsagyn Bagabandi, leader of the MPRP, ousted Ochirbat. Bagabandi was re-elected in 2001.


Mongolia is a lower-middle income developing country (2000 GDP per capita, US$1780). Communism disrupted traditional nomadic life, and forced collectivization placed many nomads in permanent settlements. However, nomads still exist, mainly in the Gobi Desert. In the mid-20th century, Mongolia rapidly industrialized, especially the mining of coal, copper, gold, and molybdenum. Minerals and fuels now account for c.50% of Mongolia's exports. Livestock and animal products remain important. Lack of labour and poor infrastructure hampers economic development.

Political map

Physical map


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Mongolian languages

Mongolian languages, group of languages forming a subdivision of the Altaic subfamily of the Ural-Altaic family of languages (see Uralic and Altaic languages). The Mongolian languages are spoken by about 6 million people, mainly in the Republic of Mongolia, in the Inner Mongolian Autonomous Region of China, and in the region of Lake Baykal in Siberia. There are also some speakers of Mongolian tongues in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region and in Manchuria, both in China. The Mongolian languages fall into two principal divisions: Western Mongolian, to which Kalmyck belongs, and Eastern Mongolian, which includes Buryat, Khalkha, and others. Khalkha, or Mongol proper, is the most important Mongolian language. The official tongue of the Republic of Mongolia, it is native to more than 2 million people. Like the other Uralic and Altaic languages, the Mongolian tongues exhibit vowel harmony and are agglutinative. They lack grammatical gender and use postpositions instead of prepositions. For many centuries the Mongols had their own system of writing, which was ultimately derived from the Aramaic script, a Semitic alphabet. After 1941 the traditional Mongol script yielded to a modified Cyrillic alphabet in the Republic of Mongolia. In Inner Mongolia, owing to the policy of the People's Republic of China, the traditional Mongol script is being replaced by a writing based on the Roman alphabet.

See N. N. Poppe, Introduction to Mongolian Comparative Studies (1955) and Mongolian Language Handbook (1970); J. E. Bosson, Modern Mongolian (1964).

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Culture Name

Mongolian, Mongol

Alternative Names

Formerly called Mongolian People's Republic (19211989)


Identification. Genghis Khan banded the Mongolian tribes together for the first time in 1206 and formed a unified state. The steppe empires and nomadic culture created by the ancient Mongols hold a unique place in world history, and modern Mongols are very proud of this particular heritage.

Location and Geography. Mongolia is a large landlocked country in Central Asia, and is bordered on the north by the Russian Federation and on the south by the People's Republic of China. Measuring 604,100 square miles (1,565,000 square kilometers) in area, the country is larger than Western Europe, encompassing several geographical zones: desert, steppe, and mountainous terrain. Mongolia's climate is extreme, with low precipitation and long harsh winters where temperatures can dip to -50 degrees centigrade. The capital city is Ulaanbaatar, meaning "Red Hero."

Demography. With only 2.6 million people as of July 2000, Mongolia is one of the world's most sparsely populated countries. The nation also has an extremely young population, with over 70 percent of people less than thirty years old.

Linguistic Affiliation. Khalkha Mongolian is the official language and is spoken by 90 percent of the people. Minor languages include Kazakh, Russian, and Chinese. Khalka Mongolian is part of the diverse Uralic-Altaic language family, which spread with the ancient Mongol Empire and also contains Korean, Manchu, Turkish, Finnish, and Hungarian. Each of these languages features a highly inflected grammar. Khalkha Mongolian may be written in traditional Uighur (vertical) or Cyrillic script.

Symbolism. The national symbol is the soyombo, featured on the Mongolian flag. Each aspect of the complex design is meaningful and there are components representing fire, sun, moon, earth, water, and the yin-yang symbol. The soyombo dates to at least the 17th century, and is associated with Lamaism.

History and Ethnic Relations

Emergence of the Nation. The name "Mongol" first appears in historical records in the 10th century c.e. Until the late 12th century, the Mongols were a fragmented group of warring clans. In 1162, a Mongol named Temujin was born who eventually became the leader of the Borjigin Mongol clan. After twenty years of warfare, he united most of the Mongol clans and was given the honorary title Genghis Khan ("Universal King") in 1206. The unparalleled conquests of the Mongols under Genghis Khan enabled them to expand their empire far beyond their own territories in Asia, as far as central Europe. The Mongol Empire lasted approximately 175 years, until internal conflicts caused its power to wane. In the 17th century, the former empire lost its independence and was ruled by the Manchus for 200 years. In 1911 the Manchu government was overthrown; the Mongols spent the next ten years freeing themselves from Chinese domination with Russian assistance. A decade of political and military struggles led to the Mongolian-Soviet treaty of 1921, which recognized Mongolia's independence. In 1924, the Mongolian People's Republic was officially established as the second socialist nation in the world after the U.S.S.R. Major democratizing political and economic reforms began in the late 1980s following the disintegration of the U.S.S.R. This democratic movement resulted in the emergence of multiple political parties and the beginnings of a free market economy by 1990.

National Identity. National cultureincluding societal organization, governance, land management, cultural customs, and material culturewas largely shaped by the nomadic pastoral lifestyle. The legacy of Genghis Khan's empire is a rallying point for Mongol nationalist pride today.

Ethnic Relations. Approximately 78 percent of people are Khalkha Mongols. Minority groups include Kazakh, Dorvod, Bayad, Buriad, Dariganga, Zahchin, Urianhai, Oolld. and Torguud. The largest of these minority groups, Kazakhs make up 4 percent of the total population. Small numbers of Russians and Chinese permanently live in Mongolia. While relations between Mongols and Russians are generally warm, widespread resentment exists among Mongols for the growing presence of entrepreneurial Chinese in their country.

Urbanism, Architecture, and the Use of Space

Rapid urbanization and industrialization accompanied extensive Soviet aid following World War II and in the 1950s, the country adopted a new economic strategy that added industrial activities and more extensive farming to its mainstay of livestock production. Many people migrated from rural to urban areas to work in the new industrial centers, and a population that was 78 percent rural in 1956 was 58 percent urban by 1990. Many urban settlers continued to live in traditional nomadic gers, round tents made of folding wooden walls and heavy felt outer coverings.

Food and Economy

Food in Daily Life. Approximately twenty five million head of livestock supply the staples of the diet; meat and dairy products feature prominently in this cuisine. Mongolian cooking is generally very simple and does not use many spices, flavorings or sauces. Common dishes include steamed meatfilled dumplings (buuz ), mutton soup with noodles (guriltai shul ) and fried meat pasties (huushuur ). Mongolians drink copious quantities of milk tea (suutei tsai ), which frequently contains salt and a generous spoonful of fresh or rancid butter.

Food Customs at Ceremonial Occasions. Food is an important element of the Mongolian hospitality tradition. When guests arrive, each household sets out a special hospitality bowl containing homemade cheeses, flour pastries (bordzig ), sugar cubes and candy. The fattest animals are slaughtered to be eaten. Meat-filled dumplings are traditionally served to guests. Vodka shots are served at regular intervals during a celebration.

Basic Economy. Primary to the economy are the "five types of animals:" sheep, goats, cattle (mainly yak), horses, and camels. From these livestock numerous animal products are harvested, including meat, dairy products, hides, and wool. 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.

The national currency is the tugrik.

Land Tenure and Property. Before socialism, a quasi-feudal system existed in which local aristocratic families and monasteries primarily governed: they administered pastureland, settled disputes between herding households, and collected taxes. Herders mostly owned their animals but paid taxes to the nobility for using pastureland. In the 1920's, the U.S.S.R. forced rural collectivization of herds within the Soviet Union and encouraged the Mongolian government to follow suit. However, widespread resistance by herders delayed the implementation of nationwide herding collectives until after World War II. Under the socialist system, the numbers of private animals that could be owned was tightly restricted, but these restrictions began to be lifted in the late 1980's.

Major Industries. A number of manufacturing plants were built under socialism which continue to operate today. Industries include food and beverage processing, leather goods, textiles, carpets, chemicals, cement, and mining operations, especially coal mining.

Trade. Under socialism, the country participated in Comecon, the U.S.S.R.-led, Communist-bloc trade organization. Approximately 85 percent of foreign trade was with the Soviet Union. In the early 1990's, the abrupt loss of foreign aid from the U.S.S.R. along with new trade policies among the former Soviet satellite nations resulted in major economic disruption. Since then, the country has been developing its free market economy and products now being exported include livestock, animal products, cashmere, wool, hides, copper, and fluorspar and other nonferrous metals. The country maintains trade relations with over 25 countries and joined the World Trade Organization in 1997.

Division of Labor. In rural areas of the country, livestock production still predominates followed by crop production. In herding households, people of all ages are involved in safeguarding, caring for, and increasing the herds on which they subsist. While both young men and women participate in herding activities, older persons may help with caring for animals at the campsite and doing household chores including repairing tools, preparing hides, sewing, cooking, and childcare. By contrast, in urban areas manufacturing, industrial, and service-oriented jobs are the norm. For these jobs, specialized abilities and training are more frequently required.

Social Stratification

Classes and Castes. Like many nomadic pastoral cultures, the Mongols had a segmentary society, originally organized into a hierarchy of families, clans, tribes, and confederations. While social classes including nobility, herders, artisans, and slaves existed, the social structure was not completely rigid and social mobility was possible. Under socialism, economic and social equality increased as variation in herd size and wealth levels was reduced. Economic expansion and rapid industrialization also contributed to increasing social mobility. The post-socialist period has been marked by increasing wealth differentiation. While certain segments of the population, such as new entrepreneurs, have prospered in the 1990s, others have become rapidly impoverished.

Symbols of Social Stratification. In ancient times, material cultural objects including headdresses, clothing, horse-blankets and saddles, jewelry, and other personal objects were visual symbols of tribal affiliation and social status. Today emerging wealth is often shown by purchasing and displaying expensive imported goods from Western countries.

Political Life

Government. As a socialist nation, Mongolia modeled its political and economic systems on those of the U.S.S.R. For seven decades, the Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party (MPRP) governed, working closely with the Soviet Union. A major transition in governmental structure and political institutions began in the late 1980s in response to the collapse of the U.S.S.R. Free elections in 1990 resulted in a multiparty government that was still mostly Communist. A new constitution was adopted in 1992. In 1996, the Communist MPRP was defeated for the first time since 1921 by an electoral coalition called the Democratic Alliance. However, after four turbulent years and a series of prime ministers, the MPRP regained control of the government in 2000.

The highest legislative body is a unicameral parliament called the State Great Hural with 76 elected members. A president serves as the head of state and a prime minister is the head of government. After legislative elections, the leader of the majority party is typically elected prime minister by the parliament. The president is elected to a four year term by popular vote. Local government leaders are elected at the aimag (provincial) and soum (district) levels.

Social Problems and Control. The original Mongolian legal code was the yasa, a body of laws created after Genghis Khan's death but greatly influenced by his system of state administration. This legal code dealt with military discipline, criminal law and societal customs and regulation. The modern legal system is closely related to that of the Soviet Union. Under socialism, crimes committed against the state and/or socialist owned property were treated particularly harshly. In the post socialist era, emerging poverty has resulted in an increase in crimes such as property theft and robbery, especially in the major cities.

Military Activity. Situated in the geographically strategic location between Russia and China, the country is deeply concerned with national security issues. Mongolian and Soviet troops have generally been closely allied throughout the 20th century. These armies fought together in the 1921 Mongolian Revolution and in the 1930s against Japanese border incursions. Under socialism, both Soviet and Mongolian military bases existed in the Gobi region where the Mongolian border with China was heavily guarded.

Social Welfare and Change Programs

An elaborate social welfare system was established under socialism, providing all citizens with access to health care, education, and pensions. The government received significant subsidies from the U.S.S.R. to pay for these generous programs. Following the withdrawal of Soviet aid, funding these programs has been a major challenge. New social problems, such as the existence of several thousand street children, have arisen as fallout from the ongoing economic crisis.

Gender Roles and Statuses

Division of Labor by Gender. For many centuries, there was a customary gender division of labor in this nomadic pastoral society. Men typically handled external affairs including military, administrative, and trade matters. Men were primarily responsible for herding animals, hunting, slaughtering animals, and maintaining animal shelters. Repairing carts, tools, and weapons were also considered men's work. Women were mainly responsible for housework, milking animals, making dairy products, cooking, washing, sewing, and nurturing children.

Relative Status of Women and Men. Unlike their counterparts elsewhere in Asia, Mongolian women historically enjoyed fairly high status and freedom. Since fertility was valued over virginity, the Mongols did not place the same emphasis on female purity as found in the Islamic societies in Asia. Although women had legal equality with men under socialism, they were burdened with the responsibilities of housework and childcare as well as their labor for wages.

Marriage, Family, and Kinship

Marriage. Traditionally, families were the main unit of production in this herding society. The kinship system was patrilineal and sons generally established households in a common camp with their fathers. Marriages were arranged by parents and a bridal dowry (usually consisting of animals) was negotiated based upon the social status of the families. The 20th-century norm became for children to choose their own marriage partners with less extensive parental involvement.

Domestic Unit. Several generations of families customarily live together in a nomadic camp known as a khot ail ("group of tents") and share herding tasks. This camp, generally consisting of two to seven households, serves as a way of pooling labor for herding and has numerous social and ritual functions. Besides the khot ail, a larger neighborhood group called neg nutgiinhan ("people of one place") generally consists of four to twenty khot ails that frequently move and work together.

Inheritance. Historically, the cultural pattern of old age support was ultimogeniture and the youngest son would typically inherit the largest share of the parent's animals. Today, there is greater variation in inheritance depending on personality considerations and the economic and living circumstances of different family members.


Child Rearing and Education. Children have always been treasured in Mongolian culture, and large families were historically the norm. Large families were considered desirable because many children ensured extra help and security in old age. Although family size is changing today, the country is still so sparsely populated that some people still believe it is advantageous to have "as many Mongolians as possible." Attitudes about child rearing are generally quite relaxed and all family members participate in the supervision and moral education of children. Under socialism, a high value was placed on elementary education and literacy. While education was limited to monks in Buddhist monasteries before the 20th century, under socialism the adult literacy rate rose to over 90 percent.

Higher Education. The Mongolian State University was founded in 1942. Much of the teaching was originally in Russian due to a lack of Mongol language texts in specialized fields. Under socialism, the higher education system provided opportunities for promising students from all regions of the country to participate in advanced study in the Soviet Union or in Eastern Europe and education was closely linked to upward social mobility.


Hospitality has always been extremely important in Mongolian culture. Since visitors often travel great distances, there are many ritual ways of showing politeness, especially to guests. One such custom that remains from feudal times is the snuff bottle ritual a guest and host offer each other their snuff bottles to examine as part of a greeting ritual. It is customarily expected that guests will be served the finest food possible and that vodka will also be plentiful.


Religious Beliefs. The main religion is Lamaism, which is the Yellow Sect of Tibetan Buddhism. Until the 16th century, shamanism was the dominant religion in Mongolia. Lamaism was introduced to the populace by the leader Altan Khan (150783). In the 18th century, the Manchus further encouraged Lamaism since they preferred Mongol 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 own childhoods. Approximately 5 percent of the total Mongolian population are Sunni Muslims, mainly ethnic Kazakhs in the western region. After 1990, Western missionaries arrived in Mongolia and began to proselytize; there may be as many as several thousand Mongolian Christians today.

Religious Practitioners. As the importance of Lamaist temples grew in the society, each Mongol family was encouraged to provide one son to be raised in a temple and become a lama. Fewer women became nuns although there were some who pursued this career. Training for lamas focused on theological studies and learning to perform elaborate ceremonies to be carried out for the people. Since many temples had extensive libraries, some lamas were also trained in subjects including astronomy, astrology, mathematics, and medicine. While a small percentage of temples were preserved intact under socialism, the majority were dismantled and the lamas returned to the work force at large. In the post-socialist era, those who are familiar with Lamaist traditions are now in great demand to educate younger people who have received no formal religious training.

Rituals and Holy Places. For centuries, Lamaist temples played a central role in community life and were a major gathering place for nomads living considerable distances apart. Although many temples were destroyed under socialism, a number remained standing including three major temples that were preserved as showcases of traditional culture: Gandan Monastery (Ulaanbaatar), Erdene Zuu Monastery (Ovorkhangai), and Amarbayasgalant Monastery (near Darkhan).

Death and the Afterlife. Funerals were traditionally an important and costly event for Mongolian families. They would customarily give lamas substantial monetary gifts to pray for the well-being of the spirit of the deceased. Receiving the lamas' consultation about the handling and disposition of the body was considered very important to prevent future misfortune from occurring to the family. Others in the community would typically provide gifts of animals and money to assist the family at the time of the funeral.

Medicine and Health Care

While basic healthcare became available nationwide under socialism, specialized care remained concentrated in cities. Along with Western-style medicine, herbal medicine, acupuncture, and massage are widely practiced in Mongolia. Based on the Soviet and Eastern European tradition, therapeutic spas became very popular. Although the primary healthcare system operated quite efficiently under socialism, providing adequate healthcare resources in the post-socialist era has proved challenging due to the ongoing economic crisis. Thus, the long-term impact of this major societal transition on health indicators is unknown. In 2000, the estimated life expectancy at birth for the total population was 67.25 years, with male life expectancy being 64.98 years and female life expectancy being 69.64 years.

Secular Celebrations

Major public holidays are New Year's Day (1 January); Lunar New Year or Tsagaan Car, meaning "White Month," a three-day holiday with variable dates in late January to early February); Women's Day (8 March); Naadam, anniversary of 1921 Mongolian Revolution (1113 July); and Mongolian Republic Day (26 November).

The Arts and Humanities

Literature. Since the Mongols were always highly mobile, most art forms that became popular were portable and involved little or no equipment, such as epic poetry, literature, music, and dance. The most famous epic poem of all time is "The Secret History of the Mongols," a long poem describing Genghis Khan's rise to power and the creation of the Mongol Empire. This poem was written down in the mid- to late-13th century and was supposed to be hidden from non-Mongols. Folktales also played a major role in oral literature and their subject matter ranged from love to heroism to supernatural acts. Modern literature has been heavily influenced by Western literary styles, especially Russian literature.

Graphic Arts. The nature and types of graphic arts found in Mongolia were also influenced by the nomadic heritage. Articles of daily use including saddles, horse blankets, storage chests, and knives were often highly decorative. Painting and sculpture could be found in permanent buildings, such as temples, throughout the country. Religious themes dominated traditional painting and sculpture because these art forms were largely produced within Lamaist temples. The Museum of Fine Arts in Ulaanbaatar has an extensive collection of Lamaistic paintings, sculpture, and other religious objects from different periods. Scroll paintings called tanka that depicted the various gods and saints of Lamaist Buddhism decorated every temple. These paintings were both imported from Tibet and created locally by lamas. Tanka came in a variety of sizes and were often painted on cotton or silk. In the post-socialist period, it has become increasingly popular for Mongol families to own tanka and display them in their homes. Under socialism, local artists produced their own substantial body of Soviet-encouraged socialist art, which is less in favor today.

Performance Arts. Performing arts have been widely practiced in Mongolia for centuries. Today there are many professional and amateur theaters and musical organizations both in the capital and in other provincial towns. In both the socialist and post-socialist eras, the government has been supportive of performing arts and has subsidized traveling shows of operas, plays, ballets, folk music and dancing, and circuses. The most important folk instrument is the morin khuur (horse-head fiddle), a stringed instrument whose name comes from the horse head carved above the tuning pegs. The morin khuur has a trapezoid-shaped body, leather sounding board, and two strings that are played with a bow made of wood and horsehair. Playing from a seated position, the musician rests the morin khuur on his knee. In many areas of the country, men were traditionally expected to know how to play the morin khuur. It is often played together with the tovshuur and the shudraga (two banjo-like stringed instruments). Other instruments used in folk music include transverse and vertical flutes, drums, cymbals, gongs, and tambourines. Like poetry, vocal music is very important in this culture and there are multiple types of folk songs. Herding songs and work songs are most typical and these songs can have specific purposes (e.g., a herding song to call back animals that have strayed or a work song sung while setting up camp). Other types of folk songs include yurol (songs of blessing), maatgal (songs of praise), urtyn duu ("long songs" performed by professional singers with operatic training), and khoomei (harmonic singing in which one performer combines humming and whistling to sound like several people singing at once). In the post-socialist era, the country's youth have embraced Western music and there are quite a few nightclubs in the major cities where one can dance to the same pop music topping the charts in the United States, Europe, and elsewhere in Asia. A growing number of local rock groups are now performing whose music is mainly sold in Mongolia but can also sometimes be found in other Asian countries.

The State of the Physical and Social Sciences

Based on the Soviet model, under socialism the country established specialized research institutes that were separate from the academic departments which taught science in universities. The Mongolian Academy of Science was founded in 1961 and had at least 14 working research institutes by the 1980s. In the post-socialist period, the Mongolian Academy of Science fell upon hard times during the national economic crisis. However, funding from a variety of international organizations enabled some Mongolian scientists to study abroad and have access to state-of-the-art equipment. The Academy also has Internet access, allowing scientists to easily communicate with their scholarly peers in other nations.


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Sherylyn H. Briller

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Almost 90 percent of the population of Mongolia are Mongols. The Kazaks are the leading minority group, making up about 6 percent of the population. People of Russian and Chinese origin are about 2 percent each. For more information on the Kazaks, see the chapter on Kazakstan in Volume 5; on the Russians, the chapter on Russia in Volume 7; and on the Chinese, the chapter on China in Volume 2.

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Mon·go·li·an / mänˈgōlēən; mäng-/ • adj. of or relating to Mongolia, its people, or their language. • n. 1. a native or national of Mongolia. 2. the Altaic language of Mongolia, written in an unusual vertical cursive script; related forms are spoken in northern China.

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Mongolianantipodean, Crimean, Judaean, Korean •Albion •Gambian, Zambian •lesbian •Arabian, Bessarabian, Fabian, gabion, Sabian, Swabian •amphibian, Libyan, Namibian •Sorbian •Danubian, Nubian •Colombian • Serbian • Nietzschean •Chadian, Trinidadian •Andean, Kandyan •guardian •Acadian, Akkadian, Arcadian, Barbadian, Canadian, circadian, Grenadian, Hadean, Orcadian, Palladian, radian, steradian •Archimedean, comedian, epicedian, median, tragedian •ascidian, Derridean, Dravidian, enchiridion, Euclidean, Floridian, Gideon, Lydian, meridian, Numidian, obsidian, Pisidian, quotidian, viridian •Amerindian, Indian •accordion, Edwardian •Cambodian, collodion, custodian, melodeon, nickelodeon, Odeon •Freudian • Bermudian • Burundian •Burgundian •Falstaffian, Halafian •Christadelphian, Delphian, Philadelphian •nymphean • ruffian • Brobdingnagian •Carolingian • Swedenborgian •logion, Muskogean •Jungian •magian, Pelagian •collegian •callipygian, Cantabrigian, Phrygian, Stygian •Merovingian • philologian • Fujian •Czechoslovakian • Pickwickian •Algonquian • Chomskian •Kentuckian •battalion, galleon, medallion, rapscallion, scallion •Anglian, ganglion •Heraklion •Dalian, Malian, Somalian •Chellean, Machiavellian, Orwellian, Sabellian, Trevelyan, triskelion •Wesleyan •alien, Australian, bacchanalian, Castalian, Deucalion, episcopalian, Hegelian, madrigalian, mammalian, Pygmalion, Salian, saturnalian, sesquipedalian, tatterdemalion, Thessalian, Westphalian •anthelion, Aristotelian, Aurelian, carnelian, chameleon, Karelian, Mendelian, Mephistophelian, Pelion, Sahelian •Abbevillian, Azilian, Brazilian, caecilian, Castilian, Chilean, Churchillian, civilian, cotillion, crocodilian, epyllion, Gillian, Lilian, Maximilian, Pamphylian, pavilion, postilion, Quintilian, reptilian, Sicilian, Tamilian, vaudevillian, vermilion, Virgilian •Aeolian, Anatolian, Eolian, Jolyon, Mongolian, napoleon, simoleon •Acheulian, Boolean, cerulean, Friulian, Julian, Julien •bullion •mullion, scullion, Tertullian •Liverpudlian •Bahamian, Bamian, Damian, Mesopotamian, Samian •anthemion, Bohemian •Endymion, prosimian, Simeon, simian •isthmian • antinomian •Permian, vermian •Oceanian •Albanian, Azanian, Iranian, Jordanian, Lithuanian, Mauritanian, Mediterranean, Panamanian, Pennsylvanian, Pomeranian, Romanian, Ruritanian, Sassanian, subterranean, Tasmanian, Transylvanian, Tripolitanian, Turanian, Ukrainian, Vulcanian •Armenian, Athenian, Fenian, Magdalenian, Mycenaean (US Mycenean), Slovenian, Tyrrhenian •Argentinian, Arminian, Augustinian, Carthaginian, Darwinian, dominion, Guinean, Justinian, Ninian, Palestinian, Sardinian, Virginian •epilimnion, hypolimnion •Bosnian •Bornean, Californian, Capricornian •Aberdonian, Amazonian, Apollonian, Babylonian, Baconian, Bostonian, Caledonian, Catalonian, Chalcedonian, Ciceronian, Devonian, draconian, Estonian, Etonian, gorgonian, Ionian, Johnsonian, Laconian, Macedonian, Miltonian, Newtonian, Oregonian, Oxonian, Patagonian, Plutonian, Tennysonian, Tobagonian, Washingtonian •Cameroonian, communion, Mancunian, Neptunian, Réunion, union •Hibernian, Saturnian •Campion, champion, Grampian, rampion, tampion •thespian • Mississippian • Olympian •Crispian •Scorpian, scorpion •cornucopian, dystopian, Ethiopian, Salopian, subtopian, Utopian •Guadeloupian •Carian, carrion, clarion, Marian •Calabrian, Cantabrian •Cambrian • Bactrian •Lancastrian, Zoroastrian •Alexandrian • Maharashtrian •equestrian, pedestrian •agrarian, antiquarian, apiarian, Aquarian, Arian, Aryan, authoritarian, barbarian, Bavarian, Bulgarian, Caesarean (US Cesarean), centenarian, communitarian, contrarian, Darien, disciplinarian, egalitarian, equalitarian, establishmentarian, fruitarian, Gibraltarian, grammarian, Hanoverian, humanitarian, Hungarian, latitudinarian, libertarian, librarian, majoritarian, millenarian, necessarian, necessitarian, nonagenarian, octogenarian, ovarian, Parian, parliamentarian, planarian, predestinarian, prelapsarian, proletarian, quadragenarian, quinquagenarian, quodlibetarian, Rastafarian, riparian, rosarian, Rotarian, sabbatarian, Sagittarian, sanitarian, Sauveterrian, sectarian, seminarian, septuagenarian, sexagenarian, topiarian, totalitarian, Trinitarian, ubiquitarian, Unitarian, utilitarian, valetudinarian, vegetarian, veterinarian, vulgarian •Adrian, Hadrian •Assyrian, Illyrian, Syrian, Tyrian •morion • Austrian •Dorian, Ecuadorean, historian, Hyperborean, Nestorian, oratorian, praetorian (US pretorian), salutatorian, Salvadorean, Singaporean, stentorian, Taurean, valedictorian, Victorian •Ugrian • Zarathustrian •Cumbrian, Northumbrian, Umbrian •Algerian, Cancerian, Chaucerian, Cimmerian, criterion, Hesperian, Hitlerian, Hyperion, Iberian, Liberian, Nigerian, Presbyterian, Shakespearean, Siberian, Spenserian, Sumerian, valerian, Wagnerian, Zairean •Arthurian, Ben-Gurion, centurion, durian, holothurian, Khachaturian, Ligurian, Missourian, Silurian, tellurian •Circassian, Parnassian •halcyon • Capsian • Hessian •Albigensian, Waldensian •Dacian • Keatsian •Cilician, Galician, Lycian, Mysian, Odyssean •Leibnizian • Piscean • Ossian •Gaussian • Joycean • Andalusian •Mercian • Appalachian • Decian •Ordovician, Priscian •Lucian •himation, Montserratian •Atlantean, Dantean, Kantian •bastion, Erastian, Sebastian •Mozartian • Brechtian • Thyestean •Fortean • Faustian • protean •Djiboutian •fustian, Procrustean •Gilbertian, Goethean, nemertean •pantheon •Hogarthian, Parthian •Lethean, Promethean •Pythian • Corinthian • Scythian •Lothian, Midlothian •Latvian • Yugoslavian •avian, Batavian, Flavian, Moldavian, Moravian, Octavian, Scandinavian, Shavian •Bolivian, Maldivian, oblivion, Vivian •Chekhovian, Harrovian, Jovian, Pavlovian •alluvion, antediluvian, diluvian, Peruvian •Servian • Malawian • Zimbabwean •Abkhazian • Dickensian •Caucasian, Malaysian, Rabelaisian •Keynesian •Belizean, Cartesian, Indonesian, Milesian, Salesian, Silesian •Elysian, Frisian, Parisian, Tunisian •Holmesian •Carthusian, Malthusian, Venusian

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Mongoliamyalgia, nostalgia •sporangia •florilegia, quadriplegia •Phrygia • Thuringia • loggia • Borgia •apologia, eulogia •Perugia •Czechoslovakia, Slovakia •Saskia •clarkia, souvlakia •rudbeckia •fakir, Wallachia •Ischia •Antalya, espalier, pallia, rallier •shilly-shallyer • Somalia •hotelier, Montpellier, sommelier, St Helier •Australia, azalea, bacchanalia, Castalia, dahlia, echolalia, genitalia, inter alia, Lupercalia, Mahalia, marginalia, paraphernalia, regalia, Saturnalia, Thalia, Westphalia •Amelia, camellia, Celia, Cordelia, Cornelia, Delia, Elia, epithelia, Karelia, Montpelier, Ophelia, psychedelia •bougainvillea, Brasília, cilia, conciliar, familiar, haemophilia (US hemophilia), Hillier, juvenilia, memorabilia, necrophilia, paedophilia (US pedophilia), sedilia •chanticleer •collier, volleyer •cochlea • haulier •Anatolia, magnolia, melancholia, Mongolia •Apulia, dulia, Julia, peculiar •nuclear, sub-nuclear, thermonuclear •buddleia

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