Mongolia is a country in the Northern Asia, just between China and Russia, which is slightly smaller than Alaska. It's a land of steppe, snowy mountains and taiga in the north and dry grassland of the Gobi Desert in the south. Birch and larch forests, alpine passes, brilliant green tundra carpeted with wildflowers, blue lakes that reflect the snowy summits of the highest peaks of Mongolia, camels wandering the Gobi Desert and wild horses galloping across the steppes, sudden thunderstorms and icy winds appearing from nowhere even in summer, - all these breathtaking views and surprises will make indelible impression on you!
Mongolia is one of the highest countries in the world, with an average elevation of 1580m (5180ft). Its highest mountains are in the far west. The Mongol Altai Nuruu are permanently snowcapped, and their highest peak, Tavanbogd Uul (4370m/14,350ft), has a magnificent glacier that towers over Mongolia, Russia and China. The stark deserts where rain almost never falls are between these peaks. Mongolia has numerous saltwater and freshwater lakes. The largest lake is the Khovsgol Nuur. It contains two per cent of fresh water all over the world.
Mongolia is known as the 'Land of Blue Sky'. And that's the truth, because it boasts over 260 sunny days a year. In spite of it the climate of Mongolia is extreme. Long subarctic winters are the norm and you can see snow in the Gobi Desert as late as April; some lakes remain frozen until June. There's a short rainy season from mid-July to September, but showers tend to be brief and gentle. Because of the high altitude, evenings are cool even in summer. In Ulaan Baatar, the winter (October to April) is long and cold, with temperatures dropping to -30°C (-22°F) in January and February. Horrific dust storms kick up during the short spring (May to June).
Archeological digs have uncovered human remains in the Gobi Desert and other regions of Mongolia dating back nearly 500,000 years. Mongolians are nomadic herders. Even in the cities, most Mongolians continue to live in gers, large, white felt tents that can be moved easily. Traditionally Mongolians are Tibetan Buddhists, the links between Mongolia and Tibet are old and deep. Every devout Buddhist Mongolian tried to reach the holy city of Lhasa at least once during his life; the Tibetans in turn relied on various Mongolian tribes to sustain their power. Muslim (primarily in the southwest), Shamanism and Christian take place here too.
Music, literature and paintings of Mongolia are dominated by Tibetan Buddhism and nomadism. Tsam dances are performed to exorcise evil spirits and are influenced by Nomadism and Shamanism. Outlawed during communism, they are performed again. Traditional music involves a wide range of instruments and styles of singing. In Mongolian khoomi singing, carefully trained male voices produce harmonic overtones from deep in the throat, releasing several notes at once.
Now it's a parliamentary country consisted from 21 provinces (or aimags) and 1 municipality (UlaanBaator). But there was time when it was the largest empire in the world! It stretched from Korea to Hungary and Vietnam in the south during the period of Mongol Conquest under Genghis Khan and Kublai Khan:
The Mongols had little inclination to ally with other nomadic peoples of northern Asia. They remained little more than a loose confederation of rival clans until the late 12th century, when a 20 year old Mongol named Temujin emerged and managed to unite most of the Mongol tribes. In 1189 he was given the honorary name of Genghis Khan, meaning 'universal king'. Genghis set up his capital in present-day Kharkhorin, and launched his important cavalry - built on Mongolia's prized takhi horses - against China and Russia. By the time of his death in 1227, the Mongol empire extended from Beijing to the Caspian Sea.
The Genghis Khan imprinted in the memory of the west has little relation to the Chinggis Khaan revered by Mongolians. Not only the spelling is different: for the Europeans this name is associated with mercilessness and warmongering; but for the Mongolians it's directly connected with strength, unity, law and order.
The grandson of Chinggis Khaan, Kublai Khaan (circa 1216-94), completed the subjugation of China, finished the Song Dynasty (960-1279) and became Emperor of Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368) in China. Kublai soon realised that the Mongol Empire had reached the limits of its expansion. And instead of looking for more wars to fight, he concentrated on keeping the vast empire together. It was the very top of the Mongols' glory.
After Kublai Khaan's death in 1294, the Mongols were deeply resented as an elite, privileged class exempt from taxation. The empire became ridden with fictions vying for power. The Mongols were expelled from Beijing by the first emperor of the Ming Dynasty in the middle of the 14th century. The collapse of the Yuan Dynasty caused over 60,000 Mongols to return to Mongolia. Their unity dissolved and frequent clan warfare with a long period of decline followed. Manchu rule over China was reasonably benign until around 1800; thereafter the Qing emperors became increasingly corrupt and despotic.
In 1911 Qing Dynasty crumbled in China. The Mongols quickly saw their opportunity and declared independence from China on 1 December 1911 with a theocratic government under the leadership of the 8th Jebtzun Damba (Living Buddha). On 25 May 1915, the Treaty of Kyakhta, which granted Mongolia limited autonomy, was signed by Mongolia, China and Russia.
The Russian Revolution of 1917 shocked aristocracy in Mongolia. Taking advantage of weakness of Russia, Chinese warlord occupied the capital of Mongolia in 1919. In early 1921, retreating White Russian anticommunist troops entered Mongolia and expelled the Chinese. The brutality of both the Chinese and Russian forces inflamed the Mongolians' desire for independence. As the Russian Bolsheviks were steadily advancing against the White Russian forces in Siberia, Mongolian nationalists asked the Bolsheviks for help. Together they recaptured UlaanBaatar in July 1921. The country's Buddhist leader was retained as a figurehead and the newly formed Mongolian People's Party (the first political party in the country's history, and the only one for the next 69 years) took over the government. On 26 November 1924, the Mongolian People's Republic (MPR) was declared and Mongolia became the second communist country in the world.
Mongolian communism remained fairly independent of Moscow until Stalin gained absolute power in the late 1920s. The Stalinist purges that followed swept Mongolia into a totalitarian nightmare with the ruthless campaign of the government against religion and a reign of terror against monasteries. There had been 110,000 lamas (monks) living in about 700 monasteries in Mongolia by the time the communist came to the power in 1921. In 1937 thousands of monks were arrested and sent to Siberian labour camps. Nobody ever heard from them again. Monasteries were closed and ransacked and all religious worship and ceremonies outlawed.
As the Soviet regime faltered in the early 1980s, Mongolia came under the leadership of Jambyn Batmonkh, a decentraliser heartened by the Soviet reforms under Mikhail Gorbachev. Batmonkh instigated a cautious attempt at perestroika and glasnost in 1986. By 1989 full diplomatic relations were established with China. The unravelling of the Soviet Union resulted in decolonisation by default. Few in Mongolia were ready for the speed of the collapse or prepared to seize the moment.
In March 1990, large pro-democracy protests erupted in the square in front of the parliament building in UlaanBaator and hunger strikes were held. Things then happened quickly: Batmonkh lost power; new political parties sprang up; and hunger strikes and protests continued. In May the government amended the constitution to permit multiparty elections but, ironically, rural areas voted overwhelmingly to stay under the protective shelter of the communist party. The communist party were forced into making concessions that snowballed into the election of the Mongolian Democratic Coalition on 30 June 1996, ending 75 years of unbroken communist rule. Not until 1990 was freedom of religion restored. Since then, there's been a phenomenal revival of Buddhism (and other religions). Monasteries have been reopened. Monasteries and temples (sum) always have Tibetan names. There's a significant minority of Sunni Muslims in the far western regions of Mongolia, most of whom are ethnic Kazaks.
Over the next few years, successive Mongolian governments pursued western-style policies of reform and privatisation and courted foreign investment but by 1998 poverty was still on the rise. Foreign aid relieved some of the economic burden but Mongolia is still struggling with the fiscal implications of its new-found freedom. Mongolia joined the World Trade Organization in 1997 but membership didn't make much of an immediate dent in the country's wide-scale poverty and famine.
You are welcome to Mongolia!