Mongolia - A short introduction
Friday, 20 August 2004
In between the giants China and Russia the fascinating country of Mongolia really is something else. It brings to mind the times when the Mongols were feared for their extraordinary fighting skills that delivered them the largest empire ever known to mankind. But these times are long gone. What we call Mongolia today is a country of about twice the size of Texas inhabited by peaceful people. Excluding the capital Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia has an amazingly low population density of half a person per square kilometer (less than one person a square mile).
Still Mongolians have a rather distinct way of life, which they have been living for hundreds of years. Nomadic herdsmen wonder around the country in their advanced movable dwellings called gers and face temperatures from 30° C down to -50°c. The diet is for a great deal based on mutton and dairy products; the things given to them by the animals. The preferred local drink is airag, fermented mare's milk.
In the last century the nomadic society did come under threat by the destructive ideals of communism. When in 1990 Mongolia became a democracy, many people left the town and cooperatives and went herding again. Not withouth risk. A lot of the traditional knowledge had faded and only slowly did some of them readapt to the nomadic way of life.
Nowadays Mongolia is modern country where people drive their fancy landcruisers, while talking to their trendy mobile phone. Economic growth has been encouraging, while the elections of 2004 shows that democracy is really ruling the country.
Facts and Figures
Full name: Mongolia
total: 1,564,116 sq km
Population: 2,791,272 (July 2005 est.)
Mongol (mostly Khalkha) 94.9%
Turkic (mostly Kazakh) 5%
other (including Chinese and Russian) 0.1% (2000)
Capital: Ulaanbaatar, population - 690,000
Darhan - 75,000
Erdenet - 65,000
Choybalsan - 40,000
Khalkha Mongol 90%
Buddhist Lamaist 50%
Shamanist and Christian 6%
Muslim 4% (2004)
Political system: mixed parliamentary/presidential
GDP: purchasing power parity - $5.332 billion (2004 est.)
GDP per head: purchasing power parity - $5.332 billion (2004 est.)
Annual growth: 10.6% according to official estimate (2004 est.)
GDP - composition by sector
services: 58% (2003 est.)
Inflation: 11% (2004 est.)