About Mongolia

Mongolia is a landlocked country located in Central Asia, bordered by Russia to the north and China to the south. It covers an area of 1,564,116 square kilometres with a population of just 3.3 million, making it the most sparsely populated sovereign nation in the World. Ulaanbaatar, the capital and the largest city, is home to roughly half of the country's population. The country has a dry continental climate, with long cold winters and short cool-to-hot summers. Much of its area is covered by grassy steppes, semideserts, with high mountain ranges to the north and west and the Gobi Desert to the south.

Brief History

Mongolia’s most well-known leader, Genghis Khan, founded the Mongol Empire in 1206, which became the largest contiguous land empire in history.

Genghis Khan is known as the founding father of Mongolia since he conquered and united the Mongols. A united Mongolian state of nomadic tribes was formed in the early 13th century by Genghis Khan, and his successors controlled a vast empire that included much of China, Russia, Central Asia, and the Middle East. The Mongol Empire eventually collapsed and split up, and from 1691 northern Mongolia was colonized by Qing (Manchu) China. With the collapse of Qing rule in Mongolia in 1911/12, the Bogd Gegeen (or Javzandamba), Mongolia’s religious leader, was proclaimed Bogd Khan, or head of state. He declared Mongolia’s independence, but only autonomy under China’s suzerainty was achieved. Shortly thereafter, the country became a satellite state of the Soviet Union, which had aided its independence from China. After the anti-communist revolutions of 1989, Mongolia conducted its own peaceful democratic revolution in early 1990s. This led to a multi-party system and a new constitution of 1992, and transition to a market. The Mongolian People’s Republic was proclaimed in November 1924, and the Mongolian capital, centred on the main monastery of the Bogd Gegeen, was renamed Ulaanbaatar (“Red Hero”).




Mongolia can be divided into three major topographic zones: the mountain chains that dominate the Northern and Estern areas, the basin areas situated between and around them, and the enormous upland plateau belt that lies across the Southern and Eastern sectors. The entire country is prone to seismic movements, and some earthquakes are extremely severe. Their effects, however, are limited by the low population density.

The mountains

There are three major mountain ranges in Mongolia: the Mongolian Altai Mountains, the Khangai Mountains and the Khentii Mountains. The Mongolian Altai in the west and wouthwest constitute the highest and the longest of these ranges. Branching southeastward from the main Altai range at the northwestern border with Russia, the Mongolian Altai stretch southeastward for some 400 km along the Chinese border before turning slightly more eastward for another 725 km in outhwestern Mongolia. The range — the only one in the country where contemporary glaciation has developed — reaches an elevation of 4,374 metres at Khuiten Peak at the western tip of the country, Mongolia’s highest point.

The Khangai Mountains, also lying from northwest to southeast, form a solid mountain mass near the centre of the country. The range’s peaks reach some 3,700 metres, with Otgontenger, the highest, rising to some 4,025 metresin the northwest. Characteristics of the Khangai are gentle slopes covered with fine pastureland.

The alignment of the third mountain range, the Khentii Mountains of northeastern Mongolia, is southwest to northeast, extending into Siberia. The highest peak is Asralt Khairkhan, which reaches about 2,800 metres, but, in general, maximum elevations are about 2,130 metres. Ulaanbaatar lies at the southwestern edge of the range.


Animal life

The varied natural conditions, the interior location, and the sparse human population of Mongolia all contribute to a rich and diverse wildlife that has attracted international attention and has commercial importance. Lying on the borders of several distinct zoogeographic regions (the Tibetan, the Afghano-Turkistani, the Siberian, and the North-Chinese-Manchurian), the country has a fauna combining species from each of them. The northern forests harbour lynx, maral (a subspecies of elk), roe deer and musk deer, in addition to brown bears, wolverines, wild boars, squirrels, and sables. The steppes are the home of the marmot —once widely hunted for its pelt but now somewhat protected by restrictions on hunting — and the Mongolian gazelle. The Mongolian Altai Mountains are the haunt of wild sheep known as Argal and snow leopards. Clustering around water holes in the semidesert and desert region may be found Khulans (Asiatic wild asses), wild camels (called Khavtgais in Mongolia), and Gobi bears (Mazaalais), all of which are extremely rare. The wild Przewalski’s horse, known to Mongolians as takhi, was reintroduced into the country from European and North American stock after having become extinct in its former habitat.

Domesticated animals of economic significance—which, collectively, vastly outnumber Mongolia’s human population—are sheep, camels, cattle (including yaks), goats, and horses. Birdlife includes larks, partridges, cranes, pheasants, bustards, and falcons in the steppes; geese, ducks, gulls, pelicans, swans, and cormorants in the rivers and lakes; and snowy owls, golden eagles, and lammergeiers, which frequent some areas. The rivers and freshwater lakes contain some 70 fish species, including Asian species of salmon, trout, grayling, perch, and pike. Hunting and fishing, for sport and for commercial purposes, are still of some importance, but the government has introduced stringent hunting regulations and other conservationist measures, including establishing national parks and nature reserves.

Ethnic background and languages

Archaeological remains dating to the earliest days of prehistory have attracted the attention of Mongolian and foreign scholars. The Mongols are quite homogeneous, ethnically. Within Mongolia, Khalkha Mongols constitute some four-fifths of the population. Other Mongolian groups — including Durvud, Buryat, Bayad, and Dariganga — account for nearly half of the rest of the population. Much of the remainder consists of Turkic-speaking peoples — mainly Kazakhs, some Tuvans (Mongolian: Uriankhai), and a few Tsaatans — who live mostly in the western part of the country. The government has given increased attention to respecting and protecting the languages and cultural rights of Kazakhs, Tuvans, and other minorities.

The vast majority of the population speaks Mongolian. In the 1940s the traditional Mongolian vertical script was replaced by a Cyrillic script based on the Russian alphabet. In the 1990s the traditional script was once again taught in schools, and store signs appeared in both Cyrillic and traditional forms.

Rural patterns

The distinctive feature of the countryside is the ger (yurt), the traditional Mongolian dwelling still used widely by herders, which provides warmth in winter and coolness in summer. It is a circular wooden lattice-walled structure with felt insulation and a broad conical roof resting on poles, the whole covered with white canvas. It is light, strong, and easy to assemble, transport, and reerect. During the socialist period the nomadic population was encouraged to adopt a settled way of life, and clusters of gers along with more permanent buildings surrounded the centres of livestock cooperatives and state farms. After 1990 rural unemployment and hardships among herders drew an increasing number of families to Ulaanbaatar and other towns, each of which is surrounded by ger encampments.

Urban patterns

The first Buddhist monastic establishments were nomadic, but gradually permanent monasteries grew in importance. During the period of Qing rule, the Manchu built fortified administrative centres and garrison towns. After 1920 many small settlements developed to meet the administrative needs of the socialist regime. It is in the towns, however, that Mongolia presents its modern aspect. Towns grew rapidly in the second half of the 20th century, increasing their proportion of the total population from about one-fourth in 1950 to more than half by the early 1980s.

The capita, Ulaanbaatar, by far the largest and most important urban centre, has grown dramatically into a sprawling city of more than one million people — some two-fifths of the population of the entire country. The old town — which numbered some 60,000 people in 1921 — consisted mainly of monasteries, a few timber buildings, and clusters of gers. By the late 20th century, however, the “city of felt” had been transformed into a modern metropolis with broad avenues, high-rise office towers in the central business district, apartment complexes, and massive governmental, cultural, and educational buildings. In spite of this development, a large majority of the city’s population lived in the outlying ger districts.

Two other important towns – Darkhan, between Ulaanbaatar and Mongolia’s northern border, and Erdenet, west of Darkhan — are examples of planned urbanization. Darkhan’s foundation stone was laid in 1961, and within 20 years the population exceeded 50,000, and it has continued to grow. The new

city became the hub of a major industrial complex during the socialist period, second only to Ulaanbaatar itself. Erdenet grew up in the 1970s on the basis of a copper mine developed as a joint with the Soviet Union.

Livestock and Agriculture

Livestock raising, based on millions of head of sheep, goats, cattle, horses, and camels — often referred to as the “five animals” (tavan khoshuu mal) in Mongolia – accounts for some four-fifths of the value of agricultural production. Herding cooperatives (negdel) were first formed in the 1930s, but the main campaign by the revolutionary party to organize the livestock herders into large cooperatives took place in the years 1955–59, when most of the livestock belonged to the cooperatives. The cooperatives were disbanded during the democratic reforms, and private ownership of livestock was encouraged, although the pastures continued to belong to the state. The high market value of cashmere boosted the herding of goats, which became the most numerous of the five animals. Consequently, there was a considerable growth in the total size of the herds. The Tsaatan ethnic group keep small herds of reindeer in the northern part of the country.

Only roughly 1 percent of Mongolia’s land area is used to grow crops. Production is concentrated in the wetter northern parts of the country, particularly in the broad lower valleys of the Orkhon and Selenge rivers. Because of the long cold winters, only a single annual crop is possible. About three-fourths of the cropland is sown with grains — primarily spring wheat but with some barley and oats — and the rest with potatoes, fodder crops, and such vegetables as cabbage and carrots. Yields are relatively low and vary greatly from year to year. In most provinces, hay is produced for feeding livestock in winter, and emergency stockpiles are maintained. During the socialist period, production of grains and vegetables was centred on the larger state farms, which also kept some livestock. These farms were disbanded in the 1990s and largely replaced by machinery-owning agricultural companies for grain production and private farmers for growing vegetables for the main urban areas.


Much of Mongolia’s manufacturing still centres around processing domestic raw materials. Products include foods (meat, beverages, dairy products, and flour); clothing made from cashmere, wool, hides, skins, and furs; and wood products such as ger frames and furniture. Brewing, distilling, and bottling of

soft drinks have grown, as has the manufacture of construction materials (including cement). Early in the post-1990 conversion to a market economy, several of the clothing manufacturers were converted to making textiles and garments from imported materials for reexport. Among the manufactured products that have started to be produced since 2000 are rolled copper sheeting, copper wire, and zinc concentrates.


Urbanization and modernization inevitably have had a heavy impact on nomadic traditions in Mongolia, but many of the distinctive old conventions have continued.


The Mongolian yurt, the ger, is part of the Mongolian national identity. The Secret History of the Mongols mentions Genghis Khan as the leader of all people who live in felt tents, called gers, and even today a large share of Mongolia's population lives in ger, even in the capital city Ulaanbaatar.

The word “ger” means one's place of residence in Mongolian. The ger is a wonderful cultural heritage of the Mongolian nation and is the basis of Mongolian architecture and craftsmanship created by the nomads. In 2013, the traditional craftsmanship of the Mongol Ger and its associated customs were registered as a UNESCO cultural heritage and recognized as a unique and valuable heritage of mankind. Ger is a traditional eco-house of nomadic Mongolians, which is comfortable to live in and is made of natural materials. Ideally suited to Mongolia's harsh terrain and lifestyle, the ger has been perfected to meet the demands of nomad’s life.

Nomads need to move across the country in all four seasons, so ger that could be packed onto the back of their livestock were designed. The materials of the ger are lightweight that makes it easy for herders to transport it either on the back of a camel or on a yak pulled cart.

The average Mongolian ger is small but spacious enough to provide adequate living space for a family, is wind resistant and has good ventilation. Its key components are latticed wood walls (khana), the central support columns (uni) and a round opening in the center of the roof (toono).

Eighty eight separate wooden poles each measuring around 1.5 meters are used for the ger walls, with just two central columns supporting the entire structure. A lattice walls of narrow birch and willow laths is held together by leather strips. The sections are about 2 meters long and are bound together to form a large circular structure. The walls (khana) can have various sizes creating small gers with 3 walls to large gers with 10 walls, with six wall gers being the most popular size. Once the wooden walls (khana) are lashed together, it is covered with layers of felt and waterproof white canvas. The felt helps the ger retain heat and the canvas over it sheds the rain. The two central columns are the only things propping up the whole structure and no matter how many people are in ger no one ever leans against either of the support columns. This is considered very bad form. The ceiling formed from an umbrella-like framework of slender poles called uni, which are lashed to the khana on one end and slotted into the toono, a circular frame, at the top. Because the toono is located at the top, fresh air regularly circulates through the ger as cold air flows down and hot air flows upward. Because the toono is located in the middle of the roof, the air coming through it reaches every part of the interior, providing fresh air for everyone regardless of where they are in the ger. A herder can easily tell what time of the day it is according to how the light comes through the toono. In the center of the toono is a small hole which allows the smoke from a metal stove to escape.

The door frame is a separate unit, which traditionally was a felt flap attached to the door frame, but most nomads now use a carved or painted wooden door. Due to winds mostly from North and Northwest, the door is always on the southern side facing the sun, providing light inside the ger.

The average ger is divided into three areas. There are male and female sections and khoimor area at the rear of the ger. The north is the place of honour, where valuable objects are stored, as well as a small Buddhist shrine and family photographs are displayed. This is the most important part of the ger and guests are often invited to sit at the khoimor. The west side of the ger is considered the man’s domain, where his saddle and bridles are stored, as well as a skin bag of airag (fermented mare’s milk), hanging from a wooden stand. Women traditionally have the eastern side of a ger, where food is prepared and kitchen utensils are stored, as well as their own and children’s belongings. The stove stands at the centre, its chimney passing through the

roof. It is customary for a man entering a ger to step the western side and women to the east.


The traditional garment of the Mongols, the deel, has a rich history spanning many centuries. It truly is one of the most convincing cultural indicators that defines the uniqueness of the Mongolian nation. The traditional clothing is well-adapted to the Mongolian environment and climate, and meets the various needs of life in the steppe and daily activities of pastoral nomads. "It is amazing how this nation invented clothes that can fit all seasons and needs, well thought off and used in many different ways" wrote Medieval travelers from Europe.

The deel is rich both in color and design. Every ethnic group has created and developed its own unique style, design and decorations, embodying specific features of their culture, origins and historic background.

Deel is a long, loose gown made of one piece of material with long sleeves. It has a high collar and widely overlaps at the front. Mongolian deel always closes on the wearer's right and traditionally have five fastenings. The deel is worn by both men and women, have the same cut, but men add a sash of contrasting colour around the waist.

There are basically three types of deels, each worn during a particular season. The "Dan Deel" is made of light, bright materials and is worn by women during the late spring and summer. The "Terleg" is a slightly more padded version for both men and women to wear. And the winter Deel has a woolen lining.