(Mongol Uls). State of Central-Eastern Asia (1,564,160 km²). Capital: Ulan-Bator. Administrative division: provinces, ajmag, (22). Population: 2,682,416 (2008 estimate). Language: Mongolian. Religion: Buddhists 95.8%, Muslims 4.2%. Monetary unit: tughrik (100 möngö). Human Development Index: 0.720 (112th place). Borders: Russia (N), China (E, S and W). Member of: EBRD, UN and WTO.
The Mongolian people implement a lifestyle characterized by the strong nomadic tradition that has characterized the past centuries. Most of the cultural expressions practiced today are also of nomadic origin. Music and songs accompanied by traditional instruments (such as the morin khuur, a stringed instrument similar to a viola) and characterized by choreography and techniques developed in connection with deep religious and mystical beliefs (shamanism has always been widespread in Mongolia). The same from which derives the large amount of proverbs and popular sayings handed down orally through the stories that men made in the evening, inside the tents (gher) placed in the middle of nowhere of the endless steppes. The Tibetan Buddhist tradition was added to the nomadic tradition, preserved in the monasteries of the country that survived the destruction carried out by the communist regime in the first half of the twentieth century. The monasteries are among the main cultural testimonies of Mongolia, rich in temples, works of art, manuscripts. Many examples of the national artistic heritage are preserved in the main museums, first of all in Ulan-Bator, where the Natural History Museum is located, where the complete skeletons of two dinosaurs are found, the Zanabazar Museum of Fine Arts, dedicated to artist of the same name, perhaps the most representative of Mongolian art, inside which there is a large exhibition of sculptural and pictorial works, and, again, the Winter Palace, which housed at the beginning of the twentieth century the last ruler of Mongolia, Bogd Khaan.
In the capital there is also one of the most important monasteries in the country, the Gandantegchinlen Khiid, where about 150 monks live. In addition to the capital the most important center from the cultural point of view is Karakorum, capital of the empire of Gènghiz Khān in the thirteenth century, is home to another extraordinary Buddhist monastic complex, Erdene Zuu, which today retains many of its ancient splendors. Also worth mentioning is the Orchon Valley Cultural Landscape, which UNESCO included in the World Heritage Site in 2004. Approaching the more recent era, Mongolia’s artistic landscape has been enriched with arts and institutions ranging from theater, with the State Drama Theater, founded in 1931 and promoter of both national and classical shows, to dance, with the State Opera and Ballet Theater, to modern music, with the birth of rock groups and artists who revisit classical harmonies with modern sounds and styles. The love for animals, horses in particular, reverberates in the success that the Mongols give to the State Circus. Among the popular and practiced sports are table tennis, motorcycling, boxing, sumo (Mongolian is one of the most popular wrestlers, Asashoryu, born in 1980), martial arts. The first years of the 2000s also saw cinema appear on the international scene, after the suggestive scenarios of the country have been the location for numerous international productions (from Urga, by the Russian Mikhalkov winner of an Oscar and the Palme d’Or in Venice, in Khadakh, also awarded in Venice and at the Sundance Festival). The merit of this leap in quality must be ascribed above all to the works of Byambasuren Davaa (b.1971), a young director trained in Germany and on the Mongolian state television, and author of The Story of the Crying Camel (2003), candidate for a Oscar and winner of numerous awards at international festivals, and The Yellow Dog of Mongolia (2005), another award-winning film.
The Mongolian region, which has hosted man since the Paleolithic, is considered the irradiation center of the Mongoloids; in the heart of north-central Mongolia, artifacts referable to no less than five successive levels of cultures have been found. According to 800zipcodes, the current population is mainly composed of Mongols of different groups, among which the dominant is that of the Khalkhs (81.5%), the Buryats (1.7%) live in the Selenga valley, the Oirates in the western provinces and the Kazakhs (more exactly Turkish-Mongolian 4.3%) are concentrated in the province of Bajan-Ölgiy. There are also minorities of Russians (in the capital and other urban centers) and Chinese. Mongolia is the least densely populated country in the world: the density is only 2 residents / km², although the population between the mid-twentieth century and the beginning of the new millennium has practically tripled, thanks to improved sanitation and elimination of lamaism, which affected a very high percentage of the male population. The Altai series of ridges and the hills that slope down to Baikal represent the most favorable environment for human settlement, while the southern provinces, included in the Gobi desert basin, are practically uninhabited. The capital Ulan-Bator, where a third of the population is concentrated, it is an important industrial and cultural center; for the rest, these are towns that are mainly enhanced by the administrative functions of provincial capitals, such as Choybalsan, on the Herlen, in eastern Mongolia, and Erdenet in the small province of Orhon, seat of the copper industry. Along the railway line that connects the capital to the Trans-Siberian, the centers of Sühbaatar, almost on the border, and above all of Darhan have had considerable development. In the southern belt the most active center is Saynshand, which arose like many others following the railway connection between Ulaan-Bator and Beijing. The radical transformations carried out in the country, especially of an economic nature (but also cultural, health care, etc.), have favored the progressive sedentarization of the population, which to a large extent is still nomadic (although perhaps more than real nomadism, it would be more correct to speak of a vast movement of transhumance). Parallel to the transformations taking place in the country, was undoubtedly the increase in the urban population: at the beginning of the century. XXI the percentage of residents concentrated in urban areas corresponds to more than half of the total.