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Country Profiles: Mongolia


Flag, map and facts courtesy of CIA World Factbook 2002

Background The Mongols entered history in the 13th century when under Genghis Khan they conquered a huge Eurasian empire. After his death the empire was divided into several powerful Mongol states, but these broke apart in the 14th century. The Mongols eventually retired to their original steppe homelands and came under Chinese rule. Mongolia won its independence in 1921 with Soviet backing. A Communist regime was installed in 1924. During the early 1990s, the ex-Communist Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party (MPRP) gradually yielded its monopoly on power to the Democratic Union Coalition (DUC), which defeated the MPRP in a national election in 1996. Over the next four years the DUC put forward a number of key reforms to modernize the economy and democratize the political system. However, the former Communists were a strong opposition that stalled additional restructuring and made implementation difficult. In 2000, the MPRP won an overwhelming victory in the legislature - with 72 of the 76 seats - and completely reshuffled the government. While it continues many of the reform policies, the MPRP is focusing on social welfare and public order priorities.
Location
Map of Mongolia
Northern Asia, between China and Russia
Area total: 51.565 million sq km
land: 1,555,400 sq km
water: 9,600 sq km
Area - comparative slightly smaller than Alaska
Climate desert; continental (large daily and seasonal temperature ranges)
Terrain vast semidesert and desert plains, grassy steppe, mountains in west and southwest; Gobi Desert in south-central
Elevation extremes lowest point: Hoh Nuur 518 m
highest point: Nayramadlin Orgil (Huyten Orgil) 4,374 m
Natural resources oil, coal, copper, molybdenum, tungsten, phosphates, tin, nickel, zinc, wolfram, fluorspar, gold, silver, iron, phosphate
Land use arable land: 0.84%
permanent crops: 0%
other: 99.16% (1998 est.)
Natural hazards dust storms, grassland and forest fires, drought, and "zud", which is harsh winter conditions
Environment - current issues limited natural fresh water resources in some areas; policies of the former Communist regime promoting rapid urbanization and industrial growth have raised concerns about their negative effects on the environment; the burning of soft coal in power plants and the lack of enforcement of environmental laws have severely polluted the air in Ulaanbaatar; deforestation, overgrazing, the converting of virgin land to agricultural production have increased soil erosion from wind and rain; desertification and mining activities have also had a deleterious effect on the environment
Geography - note landlocked; strategic location between China and Russia
Population 2,694,432 (July 2002 est.)
Age structure 0-14 years: 32% (male 438,176; female 422,960)
15-64 years: 64.1% (male 864,033; female 865,172)
65 years and over: 3.9% (male 45,080; female 59,011) (2002 est.)
Population growth rate .48% (2002 est.)
Infant mortality rate 51.97 deaths/1,000 live births (2002 est.)
Life expectancy at birth total population: 64.62 years
female: 66.87 years (2002 est.)
male: 62.47 years
Ethnic groups Mongol (predominantly Khalkha) 85%, Turkic (of which Kazakh is the largest group) 7%, Tungusic 4.6%, other (including Chinese and Russian) 3.4% (1998)
Religions Tibetan Buddhist Lamaism 96%, Muslim (primarily in the southwest), Shamanism, and Christian 4% (1998)
Languages Khalkha Mongol 90%, Turkic, Russian (1999)
Literacy definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 97.8%
male: 98%
female: 97.5% (2000)
Government type parliamentary
Capital Ulaanbaatar
Independence 11 July 1921 (from China)
Legal system blend of Russian, Chinese, Turkish, and Western systems of law that combines aspects of a parliamentary system with some aspects of a presidential system; constitution ambiguous on judicial review of legislative acts; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction
Suffrage 18 years of age; universal
Flag description three equal, vertical bands of red (hoist side), blue, and red; centered on the hoist-side red band in yellow is the national emblem ("soyombo" - a columnar arrangement of abstract and geometric representation for fire, sun, moon, earth, water, and the yin-yang symbol)

Flag of Mongolia
Economy - overview Economic activity traditionally has been based on agriculture and breeding of livestock. Mongolia also has extensive mineral deposits: copper, coal, molybdenum, tin, tungsten, and gold account for a large part of industrial production. Soviet assistance, at its height one-third of GDP, disappeared almost overnight in 1990-91, at the time of the dismantlement of the USSR. Mongolia was driven into deep recession, prolonged by the Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party's (MPRP) reluctance to undertake serious economic reform. The Democratic Coalition (DC) government has embraced free-market economics, easing price controls, liberalizing domestic and international trade, and attempting to restructure the banking system and the energy sector. Major domestic privatization programs were undertaken, as well as the fostering of foreign investment through international tender of the oil distribution company, a leading cashmere company, and banks. Reform was held back by the ex-Communist MPRP opposition and by the political instability brought about through four successive governments under the DC. Economic growth picked up in 1997-99 after stalling in 1996 due to a series of natural disasters and declines in world prices of copper and cashmere. In August and September 1999, the economy suffered from a temporary Russian ban on exports of oil and oil products, and Mongolia remains vulnerable in this sector. Mongolia joined the World Trade Organization (WTrO) in 1997. The international donor community pledged over $300 million per year at the last Consultative Group Meeting, held in Ulaanbaatar in June 1999. The MPRP government, elected in July 2000, is anxious to improve the investment climate; it must also deal with a heavy burden of external debt. Falling prices for Mongolia's mainly primary sector exports, widespread opposition to privatization, and adverse effects of weather on agriculture in early 2000 and 2001 restrained real GDP growth in 2000-01.
GDP - per capita purchasing power parity - $1,770 (2001 est.)
Population below poverty line 36% (2001 est.)
Labor force 1.4 million (2000)
Unemployment rate 20% (2000)
Industries construction materials, mining (coal, copper, molybdenum, fluorspar, and gold); oil; food and beverages, processing of animal products
Agriculture - products wheat, barley, potatoes, forage crops; sheep, goats, cattle, camels, horses
Exports - commodities copper, livestock, animal products, cashmere, wool, hides, fluorspar, other nonferrous metals
Imports - commodities machinery and equipment, fuels, food products, industrial consumer goods, chemicals, building materials, sugar, tea

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