Mongolia, situated in the heart of Asia. Mongolia is the country of grass of the steppes, sand dunes, mountains. Mongolia is a land of nomadizm. Mongolia is the country of blue sky. Mongolia is a remarkable sunny country enjoying 262 sunny days a year. Come to Mongolia with Nomad Nation Adventure and find out what Mongolian hospitality means. You will be welcomed to share the nomad’s fire and food.
Capital Ulaanbaatar (Ulaanbaator, Ulaan-Baator, Ulan-Bator). 1,300,000 inhabitants.
Completely landlocked between two large neighbors – Russian Federation and China. It was immeasurably bigger during the period of Mongol conquest under Genghis Khan and Kublai Khan. Until the 20th century Mongolia was twice its present size and included a large chunk of Siberia and Inner Mongolia (now controlled by China).
Mongolia is ranked as the seventh largest country in Asia and the 18th largest in the world. Mongolia covers an area of 603,899 square miles (1,564,100 sq. km.), larger than the overall combined territory of Great Britain, France, Germany and Italy. Mongolia is the largest land-locked country. Mongolia lies between 87° 44’E and 119° 56’E longitude and between 41° 35′-44’N and 52° 09’N latitude in the North of Central Asia. The territory of Mongolia extends 1,486 miles (2,392 km.) from the Mongol Altai Mountains in the West to the East and 782 miles (1,259 km.) from the Soyon mountain ranges in the North to the Gobi desert in the South. The nearest body of ocean connected water to Mongolia is the Yellow Sea, 435 miles (700 km.) away in the East.
Mongolia is bordered with Russian Federation to the North, China to the East, South and West. Its total borderline is 5,072 miles (8,162 km.) long, 2,166 miles (3,485 km.) of which is with Russian Federation and 2,906 miles (4,677 km.) is with China.
Mongolia’s climate is extremely continental. The high central Asian mountain ranges surrounding Mongolia on practically all sides form a formidable barrier against the humid masses of air moving from the Atlantic and the Pacific, thus establishing the dominance of a continental climate in Mongolia. The typical climatic features are sharp temperature fluctuations with the maximum annual amplitudes reaching 90°C in Ulaanbaatar. Even the daily temperature may fluctuate by 20°C-30°C. The coldest month is January. In some regions, for instance in the northern part of the Khuvsgulaimag, the temperature drops to between -45°C and -52°C. Average winter: -24°C. The hottest month is July. On the greater part of Mongolian territory the air temperature rises to 20°C. In the south it is as high as 25°C-30°C. Average summer: +20°C. The mean annual precipitation is 200 – 300mm of which 80 to 90 per cent falls within five months (May to September). Mongolia is the land of winds and especially sharp winds blow in spring. In the Gobi and steppe areas winds often develop into devastating storms, reaching a velocity of 15-25 meters per seconds.
One of the highest countries in the world with one of Eurasia’s highest capitals.Mountains (40%) and rolling plateaus with vast semi-desert and desert plains in the center and a desert zone in the south. Average altitude: 1,580m above sea level. Ulaanbaatar: 1,380m above sea level. The highest point is the TawanBogd (4,374m) in the west and the lowest is the KhokhNuur lake depression in the east – a more 554m above sea-level.
The geography of the country is characterized by great diversity. Mongolia is divided into six basic natural zones, differing in climate, landscape, soil, flora and fauna. The principal mountains are concentrated in the west, with much of this region having elevations above 2,000 meters and the country’s highest peaks permanently snow-capped land covered with glaciers. Mountains and dense forests predominate central and northern Mongolia and grasslands cover large areas of this region. Across the eastern part of the country stretches the vast grasslands of the Asian steppe. The steppe grades into the Gobi desert, which extends throughout southern Mongolia from the east to the west of the country. The Gobi is mostly gravelly, but also contains large areas of sand dunes in the drier areas of the Gobi near the southern border.
The country is dotted with hundreds of lakes, the largest being Uvs-Nuur (covering an area of 3,350 sq.kilometers), Huvsgul (2,620 sq. kilometers), and Khara Us-Nuur (1,852 sq.kilometers). Lake Huvsgul is also the largest fresh-water lake in Central Asia. The Orkhon (1,124 kilometres), the Kherlen (1,090 kilometres) and the Selenge (539 kilometres) are the largest rivers.
Chalkha Mongol (85% of population), Kasach (7%), several Mongolian tribes (Burjat, Durwut, Bajat, Dariganga, Dsachtschin, Torgut). Four million Mongols live outside Mongolia.
Traditions and customs
Traditions and customs of Mongols have a wide range of common traditional practices and religious rituals.
When a visitor spots or approaches a ger he says “Nokhoi khorio”, which literally means “Tie the dog”. A hostess or a child usually comes out and invites the guest into a ger. The visitor should not carry a whip, hobble or weapon when he comes in and he hangs his knife from the belt. The visitor normally does not knock on the door. He crosses the threshold with the right foot. A guest greets inside, not outside. In Mongolia, the younger usually greets first and asks’ Ta sain baina uu?’ which means, “How are you?” Mongols living in the countryside are not used to shaking hands with visitors; instead, they greet by stretching their arms if they see each other for the first time in the year.
Government of Mongolia
Parliamentary type of Government, with President second in authority to state Great Hural (Parliament).
1921 final independence from China. 1990 Democratic reform and shift from dependence on the former Soviet Union.
It was adopted on January 13, 1992, put into force on February 12, and amended in 1999, 2001 and 2019. The new constitution established a representative democracy in Mongolia, guaranteeing freedom of religion, rights, travel, expression, unalienable rights, government setup, election cycle, and other matters. It was written after the Mongolian Revolution of 1990 and dissolved the People’s Republic of Mongolia. It consists of a preamble followed by six chapters divided into 70 articles.
It is very close to and/or inspired by Western constitutions in terms of freedom of press, inalienable rights, freedom to travel, and other rights.
Previous constitutions had been adopted in 1924, 1940 and 1960.
21 aimags (provinces), the capital city (Ulaanbaator), including 3 autonomous cities (Darkhan, Erdenet and Choir).The aimags are subdivided into soums, or district of which there are 298. The biggest aimag is Umnugobi which occupies an area of 116,000sq.km but due to its rigorous climatic conditions has the smallest population (only 42,400 people).
Ecology and Environment
Mongolia’s natural environment remains in good shape compared with many Western countries. The country’s small population and nomadic subsistence economy have been its environmental salvation. The great open pastures of its northern half remain ideal for grazing by retaining just enough forest, usually on the upper northern slopes, to shelter the abundant wildlife
However, it does have its share of problems. Communist production quotas put pressure on grasslands to yield more than was sustainable. The recent rise in the number of herders, from 134,000 in 1990 to 414,000 in 2000, and livestock numbers is seriously degrading many pastures. The number of wells has halved in the last decade due to neglect and the health of herds has started to decline.
Forest fires are common during the windy spring season. In early 1996 an unusually dry winter fuelled over 400 fires in fourteen of Mongolia’s twenty one aimags. An estimated one-quarter (about 80,000 sq km) of the country’s forests and up to 600,000 livestock (and unknown numbers of wildlife) were destroyed. Damage to the Mongolian local economy was officially estimated at a staggering US$1.9 billion. Serious fires hit again in 1999 and 2000.
Other threats to the land include mining (there are some 300 mines) and deforestation. Urban sprawl, coupled with a demand for wood to build homes and to use as heating and cooking fuel, is slowly reducing the forests.
Since 1991, the government of Mongolia has been pursuing on a program of economic stabilization and structural reform, and implemented a broad range of measures to expand the scope of market transactions. Privatization: Comprehensive privatization program was launched in early 1990’s. 100 percent privatization of the live-stock ensured preservation of traditional Mongolian economy. Under the law on privatization of housing, almost 100 per cent of housing has been privatized. Resolution of the property issue through privatization has dramatically decreased government’s involvement in economic life and boosted private initiatives. Currently, the private sector produces more than 60 per cent of GDP. Liberalization of foreign trade: Mongolia is one of the few countries in the world where for 2 years tarrifs and duties on imports, except for some items, have been abolished. Currently, the reintroduced tarrifs are being sustained at the level of 5 per cent. Exports are exempt from taxation.
Due to strict monetary policy, Mongolia managed to curb inflation, which has been aggravated by price liberalization. Thus, considerable progress has been achieved in transforming Mongolia’s economy into a market system.
In 1999, GDP growth was sustained at the level of 3.5 per cent, which significantly backs up stabilization of economic development. Growth was ensured mainly by trade, service, agriculture and mining sectors. Consumer price index by the end of 1999, increased by 10 per cent, but did not exceed 15 per cent. Unemployment rate was sustained at the level of 6 per cent. Budget revenues amounted to 259.4 billion tugriks and total expenditures 344.4 billion tugriks.
Money in Mongolia
Local money is the tugrik. It’s composed of 1, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 500 1.000, 5.000, 10.000 and 20.000-tugriks banknotes. The face of Genghis Khan or Sukhbaatar is represented on each banknote.
The exchange rate constantly varies. On the 1st of January 2020, 1 euro was 3150 MNT, 1 dollar was 2756 MNT, and one pound was 3920 MNT. You don’t need to change euros in US dollars before coming to Mongolia, euros can be changed directly in Ulan Bator.
Except Ulan Bator and a few other big cities, it’s not possible to use your internation credit card or to withdraw money. You’re adviced to have tugriks with you as soon as you’ll go far from the capital. The Visa card is accepted in more places than Master Card (that is accepted only by the Golomt Bank, Ulan Bator). You don’t need to change money at the airport or the hotel, your guide will come with you to the exchange offices whose commissions are more attractive.
Although Mongolia has a very low standard of living, it remains rather expensive regarding electronic goods, household equipment or farmproduce products. In effects, the country has a very low level of production and is very dependent from the imports.
For your stay in Mongolia, you’re recommended to bring between 100 and 150 euros per person for your personal consumptions. In Ulan Bator, a meal in a good restaurant costs about 15 euros and a beer (0,5 liter) costs between 1 and 1,50 euro (1,13-1,70 USD ; 0,74-1,12 GBP). Cashmere is a solid value. A pullover costs about 50 euros (56,71 USD ; 36,22 GBP), and a scarf 20 euros (22,67 USD ; 14,88 GBP).
Buddhist Lamaism (94%) since 14th century, Shamaism (in the north), Moslems in the West (Kasach groups).
Traditionally, Mongols practiced Shamanism, worshipping the Blue Sky. However, Tibetan Buddhism (also called Vajrayana Buddhism) gained more popularity after it was introduced in 16th century. Tibetan Buddhism shared the common Buddhist goals of individual release from suffering and reincarnation. Tibet’s Dalai Lama, who lives in India, is the religion’s spiritual leader, and is highly respected in Mongolia.
As part of their shamanistic heritage, the people practice ritualistic magic, nature worship, exorcism, meditation, and natural healing.
At the beginning of the 20th century, Mongolia had hundreds of Buddhist monasteries and about 30 percent of all men were monks. Communists led an anti-religious campaign in the 1930s, which nearly destroyed the extensive system of monasteries. Under Communist rule, atheism was promoted and monasteries were closed, although shamanistic practices survived. From 1945 to 1990, only one monastery (Gandan in Ulaanbaator) was allowed to operate.
Democratic reform that started in 1990 allowed freedom of religion; well over 100 monasteries have reopened, and Qazaq Muslims are allowed to practice Islam. Many young people are receiving an education through these traditional centers of learning, and the people are once again able to practice cherished traditions.
Religion mask dancing “TSAM” in Mongolia.
The script is Cyrillic due to Russian influence but a switch back to traditional script has begin in schools. Second language: Russian is spoken by many graduates, with many Mongolians formerly educated in Russia. English is replacing Russian as the second language. German is spoken by many graduates, and a little Spanish, France and Japanese is spoken. Chinese not widely understood except in border areas.
The Mongolian literacy is considered as one of the highest: approximately 90 per cent. Educated working force is already available. Most Mongolians speak and understand Russian as it was compulsory at secondary schools during communism. However, there is an urge for learning foreign languages, especially English, Japanese, Germany among young population.
Until the start of communism, education was solely provided by the hundreds of monasteries which once dotted the landscape. Since 1921, modern Mongolian education has been a reflection of its, dependence on the USSR.
On the one hand, elementary education is universal and free, with the result that Mongolia boasts a literacy rate of between 80% and 90%. Mongolians receive 11 years of education, from ages seven to 17. In remote rural areas where there are no schools, children are often brought to the aimag capitals to stay in boarding schools, returning home only for a two-week rest during winter and a three-month holiday in summer.
The Mongolian State University (originally named Choibalsan University in honour of Mongolia’s most bloodstained ruler) was opened in 1942. In the last 10 years private universities, teaching everything from computing to traditional medicine, have sprung up: the country currently has 29 state and 40 private universities, mostly in Ulaanbaator.
Unfortunately, education standards have plummeted since independence and literacy rates are starting to fall. Economic pressures have forced increasing numbers of students to drop out of school; the percentage of students completing compulsory education fell from 87% in 1990 to 57% in 1995. Tertiary students realise they will have to study abroad to gain a worthwhile, internationally accepted qualification. Corruption among low-paid teachers is reportedly rife; students can virtually ‘buy’ good marks at some universities.
An interesting gender imbalance is opening up in higher education (although if the reverse were the case it wouldn’t warrant reporting); in 1999 over 70% of university students were female. Around 77% of doctors and 60% of lawyers in Mongolia are women.
Distance education has always been important in Mongolia, as so many herders live in remote areas, but economic hardship and higher tuition fees force students to stay at home. A nationwide radio education program, supported by Unesco, teaches nomads everything from marketing skills to how to best care for Bactrian camels.
At present, the population of Mongolia is 3,000,000 (2015) and the population density is 4 persons per square mile (1.5 persons per sq. km). However low population density does not mean that this extensive area of open steppes is an uninhabited place. More than half of the population live in rural areas. 35percent of the total population live in capital city Ulaanbaatar. In 1918, 648,100 people lived in Mongolia. The population of Mongolia reached 772,000 between 1921 and 1950. The population tripled in size from 1950 to 1998. The population density varies considerably by aimags and cities. Some big cities of Mongolia are more densely populated. For instance, density by person per square mile is about 1275 in Darkhan, 369 in Ulaanbaatar and around 2665 in Erdenet. Umnugoviaimag has 63,861 square mile (165.400 sq.km) area and in 1998, its population was 46,200 and the population density was 0.72 person per square mile. This is the largest aimag, which comprises 10,5 percent of the country’s territory, but has the lowest population density. Selengeaimag has the highest population density of 6.7 persons per square mile. Generally, in 1998 population of aimags ranged between 13,100 and 123,600. In Mongolia, the ratio of men and women is about 100.
THE ETHNIC COMPOSITION
The ethnic composition of Mongolia is fairly homogeneous. In 1989, Khalkha Mongols constituted 79 percent of the population, Kazakhs 5.9 percent and other groups constituted the rest. At present, there are 15 nationalities in Mongolia, represented by the following ethnic groups: Khalkha, Durvud, Bayad, Buriat, Dariganga, Zakhchin, Uriankhai, Darkhad, Torguud, Uuld, Khoton, Myangad, Barga, Uzemchin and Kazakh. The percentage of Khalkha Mongols in the ethnic composition increased and the percentage of people of Russian and Chinese ancestry decreased. In recent years the emigration of about 60,000 Kazakhs to Kazakhstan has affected the percentage of Kazakhs in the overall population of Mongolia.
MIGRATION OF POPULATION
In 1956, the urban population constituted 21.6 percent and it increased to 54.6 percent in 1994. The center of urbanization is Ulaanbaatar City, where population growth is particularly high. Migration is especially intensive from the western parts of the country to the center. The Government will have to pay closer attention to the emigration issues if the trend towards the increase is remaining in the future.
It is estimated that the percentage of and the number of children in the population will decrease while the population of working age will increase. Also the number of the elderly is expected to gradually increase. According to rough estimates, Mongolian population will increase to reach 3.4 million in 2019 and the percentage of children of the age below 14 will decline to 27 percent. This also indicates that the population of working age will rise to 10 percent. There was a rapid growth in the birth rate in the 1960s, and the highest ever recorded was from 1970-1980. Since the 1980s the increase has been stable. However, the birthrate has been decreasing since 1990s and its ratio was 20.9 in 1998, which is higher than the world’s average. The death rate is decreasing and in recent years it has been 7.2 which is lower than the world’s average rate.