Mongolia – A Glimpse
Located in the landlocked plateau between Russian Siberia and the plains of northern China, Mongolia presents a geographically and culturally dramatic impression. Within this enchanting country’s borders, you can plan to enjoy boundless wonders of nature. Mongolia’s pristine mountains, unspoiled Gobi desert and sweeping grasslands are home to a vast natural heritage – snow leopards, wild horses and camels, Gobi bears, wild sheep and goats, antelope and more. The crystal clear rivers and astonishingly blue lakes are abundant with fish and hundreds of species of endemic and migrating birds. If you are in search of a retreat or a creative charge, you will surely find it in the peace and serenity of the Buddhist culture and rich heritage of the nomadic lifestyle.
Mongolia enjoys a rich and thrilling history. The first existence of human beings on the territory of present-day Mongolia dates back to the Stone Age. At the beginning of the 13th century, Chingis Khaan (known as Genghis Khan in the West) founded the Mongolian Empire, which by the end of the century extended from China to the Caspian Sea. After the collapse of the empire, Mongolia was subjugated by the Manchu Dynasty for several centuries, and in 1911, the Mongol Monarch was established. The struggle of D. Sukhbaatar and his associates against the Chinese Manchu brought about complete political and territorial independence in 1921. After Sukhbaatar’s death in 1923, the country of ancient nomads remained a socialist member of the former eastern block of communist countries until its transition to a present-day democracy.
Mongolia’s economy is based primarily on mineral processing industries and its livestock. Its main resources include coal, copper, tungsten, fluorspar, gold, uranium and molybdenum. Other industries include textiles, chemicals, and cement. Mongolia is currently experiencing high economic growth due to the development of the mining industry.
Size and Population
Mongolia’s total land area is 604,250 square miles. Covering an area of the size of Alaska, Mongolia is the fifth largest country in Asia and the seventeenth largest country in the world. With a population of approximately 2.8 million, the overall population density of the country is only 3.6 persons per square mile. The population is about evenly split between urban and rural dwellers. The country is divided into 21 provinces or aimags. Mongolia’s three largest cities include the capital, Ulaanbaatar, with a population of over million people, Darhan, and Erdenet.
Based on Mongolia’s history, particularly the tales of Chingis Khan, visitors sometimes tend to expect modern Mongolian to be unfriendly, or even hostile towards foreigners and strangers. Nothing could be further from the truth. The precarious and challenging nature of nomadic life has in fact shaped the need for the unique hospitality and genuine warmth extended to all travelers and pilgrims. Mongolians understand instinctively the courtesy and welcome offered a stranger today would surely be repaid in the future. This concept is at the very root of Mongolia’s centuries-old culture.
The official language is Mongolian. English, Russian and Japanese remain the most widely spoken foreign languages. Mongolia is proud to have one of the highest literacy rates in the world.
Buddhist Lamaism is undergoing a revival within Mongolia. Traditionally, Shamanism was also practiced in ancient Mongolia.