Mongolia has the lowest population density of any independent country, with only 1.7 people per square kilometer, and it is this vast and majestic emptiness that is the country’s enduring appeal, bringing the traveller into close communion with nature and its nomadic inhabitants. Mongolia is a landlocked country sandwiched between China and Russia. With good reason, the country is known as the “Land of Blue Skies.” Each year, the sun is said to shine for about 250 days. Winters are bitterly cold, with temperatures as low as -40°C in some areas. The weather in the summer varies from region to region, but is generally hot, thanks to the diverse terrain, which ranges from desert to verdant mountains. This time of year is marked by many rains in some areas outside of the Gobi desert, and it can get quite cool at night.
The ISO 9 standard transliteration of Cyrillic is not widely used for several letters, and there is no consensus in Mongolia or on Wikivoyage. The letter “” is transliterated “ô”, “ö”, “o” or “u”, but Latin “o” is also the transliteration of Cyrillic “о”, and Latin “u” is also the transliteration of Cyrillic “у” and “y” (the latter should be transliterated “ù” according to ISO 9, but this is rarely done). So, if you can’t find a name written exactly as you want it, try different spellings.
Mongolia is nearly the same size as Alaska and more than twice the size of Texas. It covers 1.6 million square kilometers (603,000 square miles), more than four times the size of Japan and nearly twice the size of Eastern Europe.
Mongolia is the sixth-largest country in Asia and the nineteenth-largest country in the world, but its population is only 2,727,966 (as of November 9, 2009), making it one of Asia’s least densely populated areas.
When you consider that Ulan Bator, or Ulaanbaatar (“UB”), is home to 40% of the population, there is plenty of room for you to explore the countryside. Gobi, on the other hand, is even less dense.
With their 56 million sheep, goats, cattle, horses, and camels, almost another 40% of Mongolia’s population is dispersed across the country. Aimag refers to the 21 provinces that make up the country. You’ll know which aimag and which soum you’re in because each aimag has a central city or town and about 15-22 sub-provinces called soum.
Mongolia’s population is 70% under the age of 35. The male-to-female ratio is close to one-to-one. 84 percent are Khalkha Mongols, 6% are Kazakhs, and 10% are from other ethnic groups.
More than half will claim to be Buddhists, a religion that is heavily influenced by Shamanism, close to ten percent will claim to be Christians in any form, four percent will claim to be Muslims, and the remaining half will claim to be atheists. Bayan-lgii province is home to almost all Kazakhs and Muslims.
Geography and climate
Mongolia is the world’s 18th biggest nation, with 1,564,116 km2 (603,909 sq mi) (after Iran). It is far bigger than Peru, the next-largest nation. It is mainly located between 41° and 52°N (with a tiny region north of 52°) and 87° and 120°E longitudes. Mongolia’s northernmost portion is approximately on the same latitude as Berlin (Germany) and Amsterdam (Netherlands), while its southernmost part is generally on the same latitude as Rome (Italy) and Chicago (USA) (USA). Mongolia’s westernmost region is approximately parallel to Kolkata (India), while its easternmost region is parallel to Qinhuangdao (China) and Hangzhou (China), as well as the western edge of Taiwan. Mongolia does not share a border with Kazakhstan, although it is just 36.76 kilometers (22.84 miles) away at its westernmost point.
Mongolia is renowned as the “Land of Eternal Blue Sky” or “Country of Blue Sky” because it boasts over 250 sunny days each year (Mongolian: “Mönkh khökh tengeriin oron”).
Mongolia has a diverse topography, with the Gobi Desert in the south and frigid, mountainous areas in the north and west. Mongolia is mostly made up of steppes, with wooded regions accounting for 11.2 percent of the total land area, which is greater than the Republic of Ireland (10 percent ). At 4,374 meters, Mongolia’s highest peak is the Khüiten Peak in the Tavan bogd massif in the extreme west (14,350 ft). The Uvs Lake basin, which is shared with Russia’s Tuva Republic, is a natural World Heritage Site. The majority of the nation is scorching in the summer and very cold in the winter, with January temperatures as low as 30 degrees Celsius (22 degrees Fahrenheit). In the winter, a large front of cold, heavy, shallow air arrives from Siberia and accumulates in river valleys and low basins, resulting in very cold temperatures on the mountain slopes owing to the effects of temperature inversion (temperature increases with altitude).
During the winter, the Siberian Anticyclone affects the whole country of Mongolia. Uvs province (Ulaangom), western Khovsgol (Rinchinlhumbe), eastern Zavkhan (Tosontsengel), northern Bulgan (Hutag), and eastern Dornod province are the areas most impacted by the cold weather (Khalkhiin Gol). Ulaanbaatar is also badly impacted, but not as badly. As one travels south, the cold becomes less severe, with the hottest January temperatures recorded in Omnogovi Province (Dalanzadgad, Khanbogd) and the Altai mountain area bordering China. The rich grassland-forest area of central and eastern Arkhangai Province (Tsetserleg) and northern Ovorkhangai Province (Arvaikheer) has a distinct microclimate, with January temperatures that are on average the same as, if not greater than, the hottest desert regions to the south. The Khangai Mountains contribute to the formation of this microclimate. Nighttime January temperatures in Tsetserleg, the hottest town in this microclimate, seldom drop below 30 °C (22 °F), whereas daytime January temperatures range from 0 °C (32 °F) to 5 °C (41 °F).
Zud, or severe climatic conditions, occur on occasion throughout the nation. Ulaanbaatar is the coldest capital city in the world, with an annual average temperature of 1.3 °C/29.7 °F. Mongolia is a mountainous, cold, and windy country. It has a continental climate with long, cold winters and brief summers, when the majority of the year’s precipitation falls. The nation has an average of 257 cloudless days each year and is typically in the middle of a high-pressure area. The north gets the most precipitation (an average of 200 to 350 millimeters (7.9 to 13.8 in) per year, while the south receives the least (100 to 200 millimeters (3.9 to 7.9 in) each year. The greatest annual precipitation of 622.297 mm (24.50 in) was recorded in the woods of Bulgan Province near the Russian border, while the lowest was recorded in the Gobi Desert at 41.735 mm (1.64 in) (period 1961–1990). The sparsely populated far north of Bulgan Province gets an average of 600 millimetres (23.62 in) of annual precipitation, which is higher than Beijing (571.8 mm) or Berlin (571.8 mm) (571mm).
The word “Gobi” comes from a Mongol phrase for a desert steppe, which is a kind of dry rangeland with enough flora to sustain camels but not enough to support marmots. Outsiders unfamiliar with the Mongolian environment may not be able to tell the difference between the Gobi and the desert proper. Overgrazing may quickly damage Gobi rangelands, resulting in the development of the real desert, a rocky waste where not even Bactrian camels can thrive. The Himalayan rain shadow effect is responsible for the dry conditions in the Gobi. Mongolia was a thriving home for important species before the Himalayas were created by the collision of the Indo-Australian plate with the Eurasian plate 10 million years ago, although it was still relatively dry and chilly owing to its distance from evaporation sources. Apart from the more well-known dinosaur fossils, sea turtle and mollusc fossils have been discovered in the Gobi. Even now, tadpole shrimps (Lepidurus mongolicus) may be found in the Gobi. The Amur river basin, which drains into the Pacific Ocean, includes the eastern half of Mongolia, including the Onon and Kherlen rivers, as well as Lake Buir. The Eastern brook lamprey, Daurian crayfish (cambaroides dauricus), and Daurian pearl oyster (dahurinaia dahurica) may all be found in the Onon/Kherlen rivers, while the Siberian prawn (exopalaemon modestus) can be found in Lake Buir.
Mongolia’s overall population was estimated by the United States Census Bureau to be 3,000,251 persons in January 2015, placing it approximately 121st in the world in terms of population. However, the United States Department of State’s Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs relies on UN estimates rather than Census Bureau estimates. Mongolia’s overall population, according to the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs’ Population Division, was 2,629,000 in mid-2007 (11 percent less than the U.S. Census Bureau figure). The UN figures are similar to those of Mongolia’s National Statistical Office (2,612,900, end of June 2007). Mongolia’s population is expected to increase at a pace of 1.2 percent each year (2007 est.). Around 59 percent of the population is under the age of 30, with 27 percent of them being under the age of 14. Mongolia’s economy has been strained by its relatively youthful and increasing population.
In 1918, the first census of the twentieth century was conducted, with a population of 647,500 people.
According to current UN estimates, Mongolia’s total fertility rate (children per woman) has declined at a faster pace than any other nation in the world after the collapse of socialism: in 1970–1975, fertility was projected to be 7.33 children per woman, falling to approximately 2.1 in 2000–2005. However, that tendency has recently been reversed, and between 2005 and 2010, the projected fertility value rose to 2.5 before stabilizing at about 2.2–2.3 children per woman.
Ethnic Mongols make up approximately 95% of the population and are divided into Khalkha and other groups, all of which are differentiated by dialects of the Mongol language. 86 percent of the ethnic Mongol people are Khalkha. Oirats, Buryats, and others make up the remaining 14%. The Turkic peoples (Kazakhs and Tuvans) make up 4.5 percent of Mongolia’s population, with the remainder coming from Russia, China, Korea, and the United States.
According to the 2010 National Census, Buddhists made up 53% of Mongolians aged 15 and above, while non-religious people made up 39%.
Mongolian shamanism has been practiced extensively throughout the history of what is now Mongolia, with comparable beliefs held by Central Asian nomads. They lost way to Tibetan Buddhism throughout time, but shamanism has remained a part of Mongolian religious tradition and is still practiced. The Kazakhs of western Mongolia, as well as certain Mongols and other Turkic peoples in the nation, practice Islam.
Throughout most of the twentieth century, the Mongolian people’s religious activities were largely suppressed by the communist government. It was aimed at the Mongolian Buddhist Church’s clergy, who were closely linked to the old feudal government institutions (e.g. from 1911 on, the head of the Church had also been the khanof the country). Khorloogiin Choibalsan’s government liquidated nearly all of Mongolia’s 700 Buddhist monasteries in the late 1930s, killing at least 30,000 individuals, including 18,000 lamas. From 100,000 in 1924 to 110 in 1990, the number of Buddhist monks has decreased dramatically.
The collapse of communism in 1991 allowed for the reintroduction of public religious activity. Tibetan Buddhism, which had been the main religion before to communism’s emergence, has once again risen to become Mongolia’s most commonly practiced religion. Other faiths were able to spread in the nation when religious persecution ended in the 1990s. The number of Christians increased from four in 1989 to approximately 40,000 in 2008, according to the Christian missionary organization Barnabas Fund. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church), which has 10,900 members and 16 church buildings in Mongolia, conducted a cultural event in May 2013 to commemorate 20 years of LDS Church history in Mongolia. Mongolia has around 1,000 Catholics, and Mongolia’s first Catholic bishop was appointed in 2003 by a missionary from the Philippines.
Mongolia’s economy has historically been focused on herding and agriculture, but the discovery of large mineral reserves of copper, coal, molybdenum, tin, tungsten, and gold has become a major source of industrial output. Apart from mining (21.8 percent of GDP) and agriculture (16 percent of GDP), wholesale and retail commerce and service, transportation and storage, and real estate activities are the most important sectors in the GDP composition. According to estimates, the grey economy is at least one-third the size of the formal economy. Mongolia exported 68.4% of its exports to the PRC in 2006, while the PRC imported 29.8% of Mongolia’s imports.
The World Bank classifies Mongolia as a lower middle-income country. On a daily basis, 22.4 percent of the population lives on less than US$1.25. The GDP per capita in 2011 was $3,100. Despite the fact that the population has grown, the percentage of people living in poverty has risen from 35.6 percent in 1998 to 36.1 percent in 2002–2003 to 32.2 percent in 2006.
Mongolia had strong growth rates in 2007 and 2008 due to a mining boom (9.9 percent and 8.9 percent , respectively). The local currency fell 40% versus the US dollar in 2009 due to significant declines in commodities prices and the impact of the global financial crisis. Two of the sixteen commercial banks have been placed under receivership. GDP growth is projected to reach 16.4 percent in 2011. Inflation, on the other hand, has continued to erode GDP increases, with Mongolia’s average rate of 12.6 percent anticipated by the end of 2011. Despite the fact that GDP has been gradually increasing since 2002, at a pace of 7.5 percent in an official 2006 estimate, the government is still trying to close a large trade imbalance. The Economist projected that Mongolia’s 14 percent GDP trade deficit will turn into a surplus in 2013.
Mongolia was never classified as an emerging market country until Citigroup researchers decided in February 2011 that Mongolia was one of the “global growth producing” nations, which are those with the most promising development prospects for 2010–2050. The Mongolian Stock Exchange, based in Ulaanbaatar, was founded in 1991 and is one of the world’s smallest stock exchanges in terms of market capitalization. After quadrupling from US$406 million in 2008, it has 336 businesses listed in 2011, with a total market value of US$2 billion. Mongolia improved its ease of doing business significantly in 2012, rising to 76th place from 88th place the previous year in the International Finance Corporation’s “Doing Business” report (IFC).