Called the “Land of Blue Sky,” with incredible natural features such as mountains in the north and the Gobi Desert in the south, Mongolia is also famous for having more horses than people. It’s a landlocked country in East Asia, bordered by Russia to the north and China to the south. While it does not officially border Kazakhstan, it is considered a close neighbor, being only 37 kilometers away in some areas. Mongolia’s population of just 3.2 million makes it the world’s most sparsely populated country; there are only two people per square kilometer. About half the population lives in the capital city of Ulaanbaatar, while 30 percent of Mongolians remain nomadic and semi-nomadic, with horse culture playing an important role in daily life. Mongolia’s ethnic majority is Khalkh, with smaller groups including Kazak, Dorvod, Bayad, Buryat-Gouriates, and Zahkchin. Languages spoken include Mongolian (Khalkha dialect), Turkic, and Russian. About 50 percent of the population is Buddhist, in addition to Muslim, Shamanist, and Christian. Nearly 40 percent of Mongolians do not identify with a specific religion.
Mongolia has an ancient and rich history. The Mongol Empire, led by Genghis Khan, was once the largest empire in the world. Mongolia was absorbed by China but declared independence in 1921. By 1924, it had become a satellite of the Soviet Union. After anti-communist revolutions, a peaceful democratic revolution took place in 1990, and by 1992 Mongolia gained independence. Mongolia is rich in mineral deposits, such as copper, gold, coal, molybdenum, fluorspar, uranium, tin, and tungsten. The extractive industries helped switch the economy from primarily herding and agriculture, and now exports make up 40 percent of the Mongolian GDP. Education in Mongolia has greatly improved since 1921, when the country began building networks of public schools and providing free education. Since then, the networks of schools have expanded, and children are expected to attend school for at least 11 years. As a result, literacy is high, with 98 percent of the population over the age of 15 able to read and write.
Over the past 30 years, Mongolia has made tremendous progress in health indicators. There has been a sharp decline in maternal mortality, which is still improving annually. Child mortality has been decreasing steadily since 1990, while life expectancy has been increasing. Leading causes of death in Mongolia include ischemic heart disease, stroke, liver cancer, cirrhosis, stomach cancer, road injuries, lung cancer, self-harm, alcohol use disorders, neonatal disorders, and lower respiratory infections. The risk factors that contribute most to deaths and disabilities include high blood pressure, dietary risks, alcohol and tobacco use, high body-mass index, air pollution, high LDL, malnutrition, kidney dysfunction, and high fasting plasma glucose.
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