President: Tsakhiagiyn Elbegdorj (2009)

Prime Minister: Chimediin Saikhanbileg (2014)

Total area: 604,247 sq mi (1,565,000 sq km)

Population (2014 est.): 2,953,190 (growth rate: 1.37%); birth rate: 20.88/1000; infant mortality rate: 23.15/1000; life expectancy: 68.98

Capital and largest city (2011 est.): Ulaan Baatar, 1.184 million

Monetary unit: Tugrik

National name: Mongol Uls

Current government officials

Languages: Mongolian, 90%; also Turkic and Russian (1999)

Ethnicity/race: Khalkh 81.9%, Kazak 3.8%, Dorvod 2.7%, Bayad 2.1%, Buryat-Bouriates 1.7%, Zakhchin 1.2%, Dariganga 1%, Uriankhai 1%, other 4.6% (2010 est.)

Religions: Buddhist 53%, Muslim 3%, Christian 2.2%, Shamanist 2.9%, other 0.4%, none 38.6% (2010 est.)

National Holiday: Independence Day/Revolution Day, July 11

Literacy rate: 97.4% (2011 est.)

Economic summary: GDP/PPP (2013 est.): $17.03 billion; per capita $5,900. Real growth rate: 11.8%. Inflation: 8.2%. Unemployment: 9%. Arable land: 0.39%. Agriculture: wheat, barley, vegetables, forage crops; sheep, goats, cattle, camels, horses. Labor force: 1.037 million; agriculture 33%, industry 10.6%, services 56.4%, (2011). Industries: construction and construction materials; mining (coal, copper, molybdenum, fluorspar, tin, tungsten, and gold); oil; food and beverages; processing of animal products, cashmere and natural fiber manufacturing. Natural resources: oil, coal, copper, molybdenum, tungsten, phosphates, tin, nickel, zinc, wolfram, fluorspar, gold, silver, iron, phosphate. Exports: $4.294 billion (2013 est.): copper, apparel, livestock, animal products, cashmere, wool, hides, fluorspar, other nonferrous metals. Imports: $5.696 (2013 est.): machinery and equipment, fuel, cars, food products, industrial consumer goods, chemicals, building materials, sugar, tea. Major trading partners: China, Canada, U.S., Russia, South Korea, Japan (2012).

Communications: Telephones: main lines in use: 176,700 (2012); mobile cellular: 3.375 million (2012). Broadcast media: following a law passed in 2005, Mongolia's state-run radio and TV provider converted to a public service provider; also available are private radio and TV broadcasters, as well as multi-channel satellite and cable TV providers; more than 100 radio stations, including some 20 via repeaters for the public broadcaster; transmissions of multiple international broadcasters are available (2008). Internet Service Providers (ISPs): 20,084 (2012). Internet users: 330,000 (2008).

Transportation: Railways: total: 1,908 km (2010). Roadways: total: 49,249 km; paved: 4,800 km; unpaved: 44,449 km (2013). Ports and harbors: 580 km (the only waterway in operation is Lake Hovsgol) (135 km); Selenge River (270 km) and Orhon River (175 km) are navigable but carry little traffic; lakes and rivers freeze in winter, they are open from May to September) (2010). Airports: 44 (2013).

International disputes: none.

Major sources and definitions

Flag of Mongolia

Geography | Government | History


Mongolia lies in central Asia between Siberia on the north and China on the south. It is slightly larger than Alaska.

The productive regions of Mongolia—a tableland ranging from 3,000 to 5,000 ft (914 to 1,524 m) in elevation—are in the north, which is well drained by numerous rivers, including the Hovd, Onon, Selenga, and Tula. Much of the Gobi Desert falls within Mongolia.


Parliamentary republic now in transition from communism.


Nomadic tribes that periodically plundered agriculturally based China from the west are recorded in Chinese history dating back more than 2,000 years. It was to protect China from these marauding peoples that the Great Wall was constructed around 200 B.C. The name Mongol comes from a small tribe whose leader, Ghengis Khan, began a conquest that would eventually encompass an enormous empire stretching from Asia to Europe, as far west as the Black Sea and as far south as India and the Himalayas. But by the 14th century, the kingdom was in serious decline, with invasions from a resurgent China and internecine warfare.

The State of Mongolia was formerly known as Outer Mongolia. It contains the original homeland of the historic Mongols, whose power reached its zenith during the 13th century under Kublai Khan. The area accepted Manchu rule in 1689, but after the Chinese Revolution of 1911 and the fall of the Manchus in 1912, the northern Mongol princes expelled the Chinese officials and declared independence under the Khutukhtu, or “Living Buddha.”

Chinese-Russian Treaty

In 1921, Soviet troops entered the country and facilitated the establishment of a republic by Mongolian revolutionaries in 1924. China also made a claim to the region but was too weak to assert it. Under the 1945 Chinese-Russian Treaty, China agreed to give up Outer Mongolia, which, after a plebiscite, became a nominally independent country.

A 20-year treaty of friendship and cooperation, signed in 1966, entitled Mongolia to call on the USSR for military aid in the event of invasion. Thus allied with the USSR in a dispute with China, Mongolia began mobilizing troops along its borders in 1968 when the two powers became involved in border clashes on the Kazakh-Sinkiang frontier to the west and at the Amur and Ussuri rivers.

Mongolian Democratic Revolution

In 1989, the Mongolian democratic revolution began, led by Sanjaasurengiyn Zorig. Free elections held in Aug. 1990 produced a multiparty government, though it was still largely Communist. As a result, Mongolia has moved only gradually toward a market economy. With the collapse of the USSR, however, Mongolia was deprived of Soviet aid. Primarily in reaction to the economic turmoil, the Communist Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party (MPRP) won a significant majority in parliamentary elections in 1992. In 1996, however, the Democratic Alliance, an electoral coalition, defeated the MPRP, breaking with Communist rule for the first time since 1921. But in 1997, a former Communist and chairman of the People's Revolutionary Party, Natsagiyn Bagabandi, was elected president, further strengthening the hand of the antireformers. Then, in 1998, Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj, a pro-reform politician, became prime minister, but parliamentary cross-purposes led to his resignation, and a succession of prime ministers followed.

In 2005, Nambaryn Enkhbayar of the former Communist party MPRP became president, and Miyeegombo Enkhbold, also of the MPRP, was elected prime minister in 2006. Enkhbold resigned in Nov. 2007 after the MPRP ousted him as chairman of the party, citing his weakness as a leader. Sanj Bayar succeeded Enkhbold as both party chairman and prime minister.

Unprecedented violence and rioting followed June 2008's parliamentary elections, prompting the government to declare a state of emergency. Five people were killed, hundreds were injured, and more than 700 people were detained. Preliminary results gave 45 seats to the governing MPRP and 28 seats to the opposition Democratic Party. International observers did not report any irregularities in the voting, but the Democratic Party accused the MPRP of fraud. Meanwhile, Mongolia continues to be plagued by poor economic growth, corruption, and inflation.

In presidential elections, former prime minister, Tsakhiagiyn Elbegdorj (opposition Democratic Party), defeated incumbent Nambaryn Enkhbayar Won (MPRP) in a 51% to 47% victory. Elbegdorj took office in June 2009. Prime Minister Bayar resigned in October 2009, citing health reasons. He was succeeded by Foreign Minister Sukhbaataryn Batbold.

Mongolia's Economy Grows and So Does Worry Over China

In recent years, Mongolia has shown signs of economic growth. In February 2011, Citigroup placed Mongolia on its list of Global Growth Generators, one of the countries with the most promising growth prospects from 2010—2050. Also in 2011, the Mongolian Stock Exchange, had a total market capitalization of $2 billion (in U.S. dollars), quadrupling from $406 million in 2008.

However, Mongolia continued to be vulnerable to China's near monopoly over the country's exports and was still forced to take 30 percent less than their goods would be worth on the open market. In April 2012, news broke that Ivanhoe Mines of Canada was going to sell its majority share of a Mongolian coal mine to a Chinese state-owned aluminum manufacturer. The announcement forced Parliament to pass long-standing legislation prohibiting foreign enterprises from purchasing a majority of the country's industries without approval from the government. To balance its reliance on China, Mongolia has reached out to the United States, sending its troops to Afghanistan, Iraq and Alaska where they train with the National Guard.

In June 2012, President Elbegdorj was honored as a Champion of the Earth for his commitment to environmental protection. The award came from the United Nations Environmental Programme. In July 2012, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton visited Mongolia and commended Elbegdorj on his efforts to end corruption and on the country's democratic progress. In August 2012, Norov Altankhuyag assumed office as the country's new prime minister.

Elbegdorj Wins Reelection in 2013

On June 26, 2013, Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj was reelected president. He received 50.23% of the vote. Badmaanyambuugiin Bat-Erdene, the Mongolian People's Party candidate, came in second with 41.97% of the vote. Elbegdorj was inaugurated for a second term on July 10, 2013.

The day after Elbegdorj's reelection, President Obama released this statement: "President Elbegdorj has been an important leader in advancing democracy and freedom in his country and a key partner for the United States in Asia and globally. Through its impressive democratic achievements and its progress on economic liberalization, Mongolia serves as a significant example of positive reform and transformation for peoples around the world."

In Nov. 2014, Prime Minister Norov Altankhuyag was ousted by parliament in a no-confidence vote of 36-30. Parliament elected Chimediin Saikhanbileg as the new prime minister later that month, by a vote of 42-2. Thirty-two members of parliament were not present at the time of the Saikhanbileg vote. A member of the Democratic Party, Saikhanbileg has previously served as leader of the Democratic caucus in parliament.

See also Encyclopedia: Mongolia.
U.S. State Dept. Country Notes: Mongolia


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