The capital, Ulaanbaatar, is run as an independent municipality
Bounded by Russia to the north and China to thesouth, Mongolia is a vast country and sparsely popu-lated –larger than Western Europe, but with a popu-lation of under 3m people. The country of wind-sweptsteppes, plains and deserts is famous for its nomadictradition, still influential despite rapid development.However, stable and democratically-ruled Mongolia isalso emerging as a key centre for mining investment,with important mineral reserves and a number of major projects due to enter production soon.
Mongolia, covering a surface area of 1.56m sq km, is the 19th largest country in the world.The country is entirely land-locked, with land bordersthat stretch 8220 km. Its geography is characterisedby plains, steppes and deserts –notably the Gobidesert in the south of the country –while parts of thenorth, far west and south-west are more mountain-ous. The far west hosts the country’s highest peak, the4374-metre-high Huyten Orgil (Khüiten Peak), whichsits astride part of the western frontier where Mon-golia, Russia, China and Kazakhstan come together.The capital, Ulaanbaatar, has a population of around1.1m according to the 2010 census and is locatedslightly north-east of the centre of the country. Themountainous northern province of Khövsgöl, namedafter a lake with the same name, is known for itsdynamic population, as well as for being a strongholdof shamanism and related practices.In the south of the country, the Gobi desert, despitethe images of endless sand conjured by the name, isknown for its diverse scenery and landscapes, includ-ing glaciers, canyons and oases, as well as for host-ing the country’s largest mineral deposits.
Present-day Mongolia has been inhabitedby modern humans for approximately 40,000 years,with major political systems developing in the firstmillennium BC. A succession of nomadic tribal con-federations, including the Xiongnu, Xianbei, Rouran,Khitans, and Khamag Mongols, ruled over large partsof the steppe between 200 BC and 1200 AD. The Mon-gols burst onto the global stage, however, with theEurasian empire established by Chinggis (Genghis)Khan in the 13th century. At its height, Chinggis’ empirestretched from Poland to Vietnam and held over 100mpeople. Upon his death, however, Chinggis’ territorywas divided into four
(a political entity ruledby a khan), which gradually crumbled, although oneachieved fame as the Yuan Dynasty of Kublai Khan. TheMongols eventually retrenched to their original home-lands, and by the late 17th century submitted to therule of the Chinese Qing dynasty.The Bogd Khan, Mongolia’s Buddhist spiritual leader,declared the country’s independence in 1911 uponthe fall of the Qing dynasty. The new Chinese govern-ment, however, still considered “Outer Mongolia” aspart of the republic and used the Russian Revolutionin October 1919 as a pretext to occupy the territory.Bolshevik Russia supported the formation of a com-munist Mongolian government and army, whichexpelled the Chinese forces. The Mongolian People’sGovernment was declared in 1921, and after the BogdKhan’s death in 1924, the full independence of theMongolia’s People’s Republic was declared.The new republic was strongly influenced by the Sovi-et Union. The dictator Khorloogiin Choibalsan, whoruled from 1928 to 1952, collectivised livestock,destroyed Buddhist monasteries, and purged tens of thousands of citizens, mainly monks. Mongolia con-tinued to side with Moscow even after the Sino-Sovi-et split in the 1960s, with tens of thousands of Sovi-et troops stationed in Mongolia in the 1980s.With the advent of glasnost and perestroika in thelate 1980s, however, the first cracks in Mongoliancommunism began appearing. Protests and hungerstrikes orchestrated by the Mongolian DemocraticUnion toppled the communist government in 1990.The constitution was amended to allow oppositionparties, and multi-party elections were held in thesame year. The former state party, the Mongolian Peo-ple's Revolutionary Party, retained power until 1996,
Old traditions join modern life in this resource-rich country