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Mongolia today

Mongolia is an independent republic in East Asia. The landlocked country is the 18th largest country in the world and the most sparsely populated one a population of around 3 million people. It is a mountainous country with an average altitude of 1580 meters above sea level, which makes Mongolia one of the highest countries in the world. There is very little arable land, much of Mongolia is covered by grassy steppe, with mountains to the north and west and the Gobi Desert to the south. The capital city is Ulaanbaatar - one of the coldest capitals in the world. Other major cities include Darhan and Erdenet. Mongolia's neighbor in the south, east and west is China, in the North it shares a boarder with Russia. Approximately 30% of the population is nomadic or semi-nomadic with a distinct culture. The majority of Mongolians are Buddhists. The international time zone in Mongolia is GMT +8 hours and GMT +7 hours in the western provinces of Bayan-Ölgii, Uvs and Khovd.

Mongolian People

The Mongols are an East-Central Asian ethnic group native to Mongolia and to China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, bound together by a common heritage and their ethnic identity. For 3 000 years, people of the steppes have adopted a semi-nomadic way of life, moving in search of best pastures and campsites. Different kind of livestock, especially horses, still play an important role in the vast plains of Mongolia. Today, approximately one third of Mongolia’s population is still living in gers and moving their camps several times a year on the grounds with no fence. Nature is more forgiving in summer when nomadic life thrives but it is very harsh in winter both for mankind and livestock. However, Mongolians have developed for centuries such qualities as strength and resilience that are essential for survival in this harsh nature.

Mongolian History

In the 13th century a Mongolian chieftain named Temujin succeeded in forming the Mongol Empire, the largest contiguous land empire in world history. He took the name Genghis Khan and ruled over a kingdom of over 100 million people. After his death in 1227 the empire broke up into four kingdoms and his descendants continued to rule.

Especially Kublai Khan, a grandson of Genghis Khan, is well known for ruling over the Mongol Homeland and China, known as the Yuan dynasty. Several conflicts with neighbors gave the upper hand sometimes to the Mongols, sometime to other dynasties. By 1636 most of Inner Mongolia had submitted to the Manchus, who founded the Qing dynasty in China. In 1691 also outer Mongolia submitted to Qing rule.

Until 1911, the Qing dynasty maintained control of Mongolia with a series of alliances and intermarriages, but granting them relative autonomy. With the fall of the Qing dynasty in China in 1911, Mongolia regain independence under Bogd Khaan. Conflicts with the Chinese and the Russians finally lead to the establishment of a communist Mongolian Government in 1921. In 1990 people of Mongolia undertook the peaceful Democratic Revolution forming a multi-party system and a market economy.

Mongolian Economy

For centuries the most important economic activity in Mongolia was herding. Later, the discovery of mineral deposits emerged as a driver of industrial production. Today mining contributes more than 20% of GDP and agriculture only around 10% of GDP. Other dominant industries are wholesale, retail trade and service. The mining industry contributes significantly to exports, nevertheless Mongolia still runs a trade deficit. Mongolia is ranked as lower-middle-income economy by the World Bank. Because of a boom in the mining sector, Mongolia had high growth rates in 2007 and 2008. In 2009, sharp drops in commodity prices and the effects of the global financial crisis caused the local currency to drop 40% against the U.S. dollar. Growth rates stabilized (6.9% in 2018) but continuously eroded by a high inflation rate (7.6% in 2018). Mongolia made a significant improvement on the ease of doing business in 2018, moving up to rank 74 out of 190 in the "Doing Business" report by the International Finance Corporation (IFC).

 

National Flag

The Flag of Mongolia consists of three equal bands, of alternating red, blue and red, with the soyombo national symbol centering the first red band in yellow. The central blue band is described as the eternal blue sky, while the side red bands represent the ability of Mongolia to thrive in its harsh environment. The "Soyombo" is a columnar arrangement of abstract and geometric representations of fire, sun, moon, earth, water, and the Taijitu or Yin-Yang symbol. The current flag was adopted on February 12, 1992, after the transition of Mongolia to a democracy. It is similar to the flag of 1949, except for the removal of the socialist star on top of the Soyombo.

Mongolian Holidays and Festivals

Naadam is an age-old celebration of courage, strength, dexterity, and marksmanship of the nomads. It is held annually in July throughout the country. There are many ceremonies all over the country, with the most famous on from 11th until 13th in Ulaanbaatar. The three major games are horse racing, wrestling and archery. The horse race is over 30 km in distance, raced by young riders some as young as six years old. Each wresting contest starts with traditional “eagle dance” that is supposed to lift the spirit, takes several rounds and hours until finally one winner emerges. Archery dates to the times of Chinggis Khaan’s warriors and is still popular in modern Mongolia. People also compete in ankle bone shooting.

For more than 2000 years Mongolians have celebrated Tsagaan Sar or the White month, to mark the end of winter and the beginning of spring. It takes place between January and February according to the lunar calendar. Tsagaan sar is the celebration of new life and symbolizes wealth and prosperity in the family. The holiday is celebration for three days where the elderly and most respected and close family members are visited by their family members. It provides the opportunity for people to gather, celebrate and exchange news and gifts. Families prepare for the holiday a month in advance by making plenty of food and gifts. In rural areas, due to distance and weather conditions, the celebrations may last longer than a month. Buddhist monasteries and temples hold rituals to pray for the wellbeing of the worshipers.