In the 13th century, through the great Genghis Khan's rule, the Mongolian Empire stretched all the way up to Europe.
However, six centuries later, Mongolia was simply a landlocked country lying between Russia and China. In 1921, Mongolia won its independence from China with Soviet backing. The newly self-ruling country then initiated a communist system of government.
In 1990, the 70-year old one-party communist system was overturned through a peaceful revolution, and democratic reforms were introduced. In the first democratic elections in 1990, the formerly Communist Mongolian People’s Revolutionary Party (MPRP) won power. It won again in 1992. The party was defeated by the Democratic Union Coalition (DUC) in the 1996 primary election. The next elections in 2000 brought back MPRP to power, but the 2004 elections saw the decline of the party’s representation. In the most recent elections in 2008, the MPRP won the majority but still created a coalition with the democratic party.
A large portion of Mongolia's people – nearly one-third – lives in the capital Ulan Bator. The rest of the population is spread out across the vast land, sometimes leading a nomadic lifestyle, dependent on livestock and impacted by extreme temperatures. Drought and harsh winters are the reality of Mongolian rural lifestyle.
Mongolia's economy is still tied to Russia and China, its two biggest trading partners. South Korea, Japan and the US also maintain trade and financial relations with Mongolia. According to some estimates, Mongolia has large reserves of minerals, which remain unexploited.
Last updated: July 7, 2010
Sources: BBC, International Crisis Group, CIA World Factbook.