One of the most frequent responses I received when I told people that I’d be serving in Mongolia was ‘Where is that?’ For reference here’s a map of Asia with Mongolia highlighted. As you can see, it’s nestled between Russia and China.
It’s not surprising that Americans don’t know much about Mongolia seeing as its membership in the U.S.S.R. made it inaccessible to the West until the fall of the Soviet Union in 1989.
The second most common response I received was ‘Isn’t that where Genghis Khan was from?’ Yep. The most powerful man ever to live was born in Mongolia, although the country itself did not exist as we know it at that time. His rule over the largest empire the world has ever seen has received mixed reviews, and rightfully so. However, his legacy in the West as a ruthless conqueror does not do justice to the progressive and innovative policies he implemented. He truly transformed the art of war and government. If you’re interested in reading about his rise to power, his rule, and his legacy, I highly recommend reading Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World by Jack Weatherford. Or you can listen to this podcast which was recommended to me by a friend.
Population: ~3,042,511 (as of 2015). That’s roughly 5 people per every square mile, making Mongolia the least densely populated country in the world.
Language: The official language is Mongolian, but Kazakh is also spoken. Mongolian is primarily written in the Cyrillic script (think Russian), but since independence from the Soviet Union there has been a resurgence in the traditional script. Today it is taught in Mongolian classes and you can find it on government seals, various signs, and in decorations.
Religion: Buddhism (53%), Shamanism (4%), Islam (3%).
Government: Mongolia functions as a unitary semi-presidential republic. The current president is Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj. Chimediin Saikhanbileg is the current prime minister. The next presidential election will be on June 15, 2017.
- The capital and largest city of Mongolia is Ulaanbaatar (Ulan Bator). Its name means Red Hero and it’s known as the ‘coldest capital in the world.’
- People are outnumbered 13 to 1 by horses and 35 to 1 by sheep.
- Mongols were traditionally nomads and a large population continues that lifestyle. Mongolia is known as the land of five animals for the five animals traditionally herded by Mongolian nomads: yaks, sheep, goats, horses, and camels.
- Mongolia is the only native home to bactrian camels (two humps).
I’m by no means an expert on Mongolia, but I look forward to sharing with you more intimate knowledge of the country and my own personal observations as I settle in.
-This page is a work in progress. Please check back for updates.-