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Mongolia's Twentieth century

Introduction to:

by Tsedendambyn Batbayar

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Mongolia is a landlocked country sandwiched between Russia and China. Its territory is about the same size as Alaska. Mongolia has several mountain ranges, the highest being the Altai mountains, located in the far west. Much of southern and eastern Mongolia is occupied by a vast plain or grassland. The so-called Gobi region, Mongolia's semi-desert, lies in the south. It can go years without rain, but surprisingly it also has oases. Rivers are mainly in the north. The important Selenge river drains into Lake Baikal in Russia.
Mongolia has an extreme continental climate with long, cold winters and short, hot summers. Annual precipitation is usually less than 15 inches per year in the wettest areas. Mongolia is called the "Land of the Blue Sky" because it averages 257 cloudless days a year. On the other hand, Japanese call Mongolia "Sogen-no Kuni", which means the "Country of Grasslands". It is also true. Less than one percent of the land is arable, 8-10 percent is forested, and the rest is pasture including semi-desert.
Mongols have nothing in common with the Chinese. Not only is their language totally unrelated, but also their way of life is completely different. Mongolia's population is quite homogeneous. Over 90 percent of the population is made up of subgroups of the Mongol nationality, the largest being the Khalkha (70 percent of the total). They are mostly concentrated in the central and eastern areas of the country. Distinctions between the Khalkhas and other Mongols (including Buryads, Dorwods, Oolds, Bayads, Dzakhchins, Uriankhais, Uzemchins, and Bargas) are minor. The largest non-Mongol ethnic group is the Kazakhs (5.9 percent). They are pastoral, Turkic speaking Muslim people who live in extreme western Mongolia.
The modern Mongolian language, as the national language, developed after the establishment of the Mongolian People's Republic (MPR) in 1924 on the basis of the Khalkha dialect. The traditional Mongolian script, which originated from the Sogdian letters of Aramaic origin, was used in the MPR until 1941, when a new alphabet based on Cyrillic was adopted. After the democratic revolution of 1990 the use of traditional script was restored to a certain degree.
Today, the Mongolian language comprises several dialects, including Khalkha, Buryad, Oirad, Chahar, Kharchin, Khorchin, Ordos and others. Among all Mongolian scripts, traditional Mongolian is considered the most viable and is still used in the Inner Mongolian Autonomous Region of China. This is primarily because its graphical pecularities make it suitable for all Mongolian dialects.
Shamanism, Mongolia's "old-time religion", had originated in pre-historic times and played a crucial part in the spiritual life of the Mongols up to the sixteenth century. Buddhism was first introduced during the reign of Khubilai Khagan (1215-1294) but did not spread widely. Buddhism, in the form of Yellow Hat religion or Lamaism, made further inroads into Mongolia from the second half of the sixteenth century. Its large-scale penetration was encouraged by the Manchu court which was anxious to pacify its northern neighbors.
Lamaist monasteries soon gained popularity and prestige, promoting literacy and disseminating knowledge and sciences. Lamaism became an inseparable part of everyday life of Mongols. The Jebtsundamba Khutagts (religious leaders of Khalkha) and many other Khutagts were indeed influential personalities and enjoyed enormous popularity among their followers. Many of them were philosophers, historians, writers, physicians and some of them were also excellent handicraftsmen.


Mongolia Bookshop

Books on Mongolia and Mongolian Culture

Guide Books on Mongolia - Historical books
Mongolian Phrasebook - Eagle Dreams - Genghis Khan - Gobi by John Man
Morinkhuur: A self learning guide - Museum Highlights
DVD The Story of the Weeping Camel

Modern Mongolia From Khans to Commissars to Capitalists
Modern Mongolia: Reclaiming Genghis Khan

New: Travels in Northern Mongolia

Vanished Kingdoms: A Woman Explorer in Tibet, China, and Mongolia 1921-1925 - Mabel Cabot

A Testament to the Great Spirit and Success of a Remarkable Woman Explorer In the early 1920s, the last great age of world explorers, a remarkable young woman, Janet Elliott Wulsin, set out with her husband, Frederick Wulsin, for the far reaches of China, Tibet, and Outer Mongolia to study the people, flora, and fauna of the region. Janet�s strenuous, eventful exploration is detailed by a text enriched with excerpts from her candid personal letters. The journey proved to be a test of the Wulsins� endurance and of their relationship. While in Asia, the Wulsins took many extraordinary photographs, which form the heart of this richly produced publication. They documented tribespeople and sublime desert landscapes, and, perhaps most remarkably, were allowed to photograph the interior of several of the great Tibetan Buddhist lamaseries, many of which have since been destroyed. Several dozen rare, hand-painted lantern slides survived and are reproduced here in splendid color. The photographs from the Wulsin expedition are now in the collection of the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, in collaboration with which this volume is being produced.
Colloquial Mongolian - Alan J. K. Sanders... Mongolia - Claire Sermier Mongolia Bradt Guide - Jane Blunden Hearing Birds Fly - Louisa Waugh

The Khan's Daughter - Laurence Yep

A History of Inner Asia - Svat Soucek

In The Empire of Genghis Khan - Stanley Stewart

Eagle Dreams - Stephen J. Bodio

Lonely Planet Mongolian Phrasebook - Alan J.K. Sanders

Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World - Jack Weatherford

Trans-Siberian Handbook, 6th - Bryn Thomas

Women of Mongolia - Martha Avery

The Desert Road to Turkestan (Kodansha Globe) - Owen Lattimore

Bones of the Master - GEORGE CRANE

I Rode a Horse of Milk White Jade - Diane Lee Wilson


Mongolia Books
books on Mongolia and Mongolian culture