Landlocked between Russia and China, Mongolia is a huge, isolated, and sparsely populated nation. Over two-thirds of the country is part of the Gobi Desert.
Geography: A mountainous steppe plateau in the north, with lakes in the north and west. The desert region of the Gobi dominates the south.
Climate: Continental. Mild summers and long, dry, very cold winters, with heavy snowfall. Temperatures can drop as low as –22°F (–30°C).
People and Society: Mongolia was unified by Genghis Khan in 1206 and was later
absorbed into Manchu China. A majority of ethnic Mongolians live within China in Inner Mongolia. Tibetan Buddhism dominates. The traditional, nomadic way of life has been eroded as urban migration continues, spurred by ferocious winters, known as zud, which can devastate the rural economy.
The Economy: Rich deposits of oil, coal, copper, uranium, and other minerals remain largely untapped. Cashmere exports. Democracy, from 1990, brought a shift toward a market economy, but also rising poverty. State involvement in mining is an issue. Agriculture uses 40% of workforce, mainly as herders.
Insight: Horseracing, wrestling, and archery are the national sports.
Official Name: Mongolia
Date of Formation: 1924
Capital: Ulan Bator
Population: 2.67 million
Total Area: 604,247 sq. miles (1,565,000 sq. km)
Density: 4 people per sq. mile
Languages: Khalkha Mongolian*, other
Religions: Tibetan Buddhist 96%, Muslim 4%
Ethnic Mix: Khalkh 82%, other 9%, Kazakh 4%, Dorvod 3%, Bayad 2%
Government: Mixed presidential–parliamentary system
Currency: Tugrik (tögrög) = 100 möngö