Mongolia (Монгол Улс — Mongol Uls) is a landlocked unitary sovereign state in East Asia. It mostly lies between latitudes 41° and 52°N (a small area is north of 52°), and longitudes 87° and 120°E. Its area is roughly equivalent with the historical territory of Outer Mongolia, and that term is sometimes used to refer to the current state. It is sandwiched between China to the south and Russia to the north. While it does not share a border with Kazakhstan, Mongolia is separated from it by only 22.84 miles (36.76 kilometers). At 603,909 square miles (1,564,116 square kilometers), it is the 18th largest country in the world and has a population of around three million people. It is also the world’s second-largest landlocked country behind Kazakhstan and the largest landlocked country that does not border a closed sea. The country contains very little arable land, as much of its area is covered by grassy steppe, with mountains to the north and west and the Gobi Desert to the south. Ulaanbaatar, the capital and largest city, is home to about 45% of the country’s population.
Approximately 30% of the population is nomadic or semi-nomadic; horse culture is still integral. The majority of its population are Buddhists. The non-religious population is the second largest group. Islam is the dominant religion among ethnic Kazakhs. The majority of the state’s citizens are of Mongol ethnicity, although Kazakhs, Tuvans, and other minorities also live in the country, especially in the west. Mongolia joined the World Trade Organization in 1997 and seeks to expand its participation in regional economic and trade groups.
The area of what is now Mongolia has been ruled by various nomadic empires, including the Xiongnu, the Xianbei, the Rouran, the Turkic Khaganate, and others. In 1206, Genghis Khan founded the Mongol Empire, which became the largest contiguous land empire in history. His grandson Kublai Khan conquered China to establish the Yuan dynasty. After the collapse of the Yuan, the Mongols retreated to Mongolia and resumed their earlier pattern of factional conflict, except during the era of Dayan Khan and Tumen Zasagt Khan.
In the sixteenth century, Tibetan Buddhism began to spread in Mongolia, being further led by the Manchu-founded Qing dynasty, which absorbed the country in the seventeenth century. By the early 1900s, almost one-third of the adult male population were Buddhist monks. After the collapse of the Qing dynasty in 1911, Mongolia declared independence from the Qing dynasty, and in 1921 established de facto independence from the Republic of China. Shortly thereafter, the country came under the control of the Soviet Union, which had aided its independence from China. In 1924, the Mongolian People’s Republic was declared as a Soviet satellite state. After the anti-Communist revolutions of 1989, Mongolia conducted its own peaceful democratic revolution in early 1990. This led to a multi-party system, a new constitution of 1992, and transition to a market economy.
Homo erectus inhabited Mongolia from 850,000 years ago. Modern humans reached Mongolia approximately 40,000 years ago during the Upper Paleolithic. The Khoit Tsenkher Cave in Khovd Province shows lively pink, brown, and red ochre paintings (dated to 20,000 years ago) of mammoths, lynx, bactrian camels, and ostriches, earning it the nickname “the Lascaux of Mongolia”. The venus figurines of Mal’ta (21,000 years ago) testify to the level of Upper Paleolithic art in northern Mongolia; Mal’ta is now part of Russia.
Neolithic agricultural settlements (c. 5500–3500 BC), such as those at Norovlin, Tamsagbulag, Bayanzag, and Rashaan Khad, predated the introduction of horse-riding nomadism, a pivotal event in the history of Mongolia and becoming the dominant culture. Horse-riding nomadism has been documented by archeological evidence in Mongolia during the Copper and Bronze Age Afanasevo culture (3500–2500 BC); this culture was active to the Khangai Mountains in Central Mongolia. The wheeled vehicles found in the burials of the Afanasevans have been dated to before 2200 BC. Pastoral nomadism and metalworking became more developed with the later Okunev culture (2nd millennium BC), Andronovo culture (2300–1000 BC) and Karasuk culture (1500–300 BC), culminating with the Iron Age Xiongnu Empire in 209 BC. Monuments of the pre-Xiongnu Bronze Age include deer stones, keregsur kurgans, square slab tombs, and rock paintings.
Although cultivation of crops has continued since the Neolithic, agriculture has always remained small in scale compared to pastoral nomadism. Agriculture may have first been introduced from the west or arose independently in the region. The population during the Copper Age has been described as mongoloid in the east of what is now Mongolia, and as europoid in the west. Tocharians (Yuezhi) and Scythians inhabited western Mongolia during the Bronze Age. The mummy of a Scythian warrior, which is believed to be about 2,500 years old, was a 30- to 40-year-old man with blond hair; it was found in the Altai, Mongolia. As horse nomadism was introduced into Mongolia, the political center of the Eurasian Steppe also shifted to Mongolia, where it remained until the eighteenth century CE. The intrusions of northern pastoralists (e.g., Guifang, Shanrong, Donghu) into China during the Shang dynasty (1600–1046 BC) and Zhou dynasty (1046–256 BC) presaged the age of nomadic empires.
Since prehistoric times, Mongolia has been inhabited by nomads who, from time to time, formed great confederations that rose to power and prominence. Common institutions were the office of the Khan, the Kurultai (Supreme Council), left and right wings, imperial army (Keshig) and the decimal military system. The first of these empires, the Xiongnu of undetermined ethnicity, were brought together by Modu Shanyu to form a confederation in 209 BC. Soon they emerged as the greatest threat to the Qin Dynasty, forcing the latter to construct the Great Wall of China. It was guarded by up to almost 300,000 soldiers during marshal Meng Tian’s tenure, as a means of defense against the destructive Xiongnu raids. The vast Xiongnu empire (209 BC–93 AD) was followed by the Mongolic Xianbei empire (93–234 AD), which also ruled more than the entirety of present-day Mongolia. The Mongolic Rouran Khaganate (330–555), of Xianbei provenance was the first to use “Khagan” as an imperial title. It ruled a massive empire before being defeated by the Göktürks (555–745) whose empire was even bigger.
The Göktürks laid siege to Panticapaeum, present-day Kerch, in 576. They were succeeded by the Uyghur Khaganate (745–840) who were defeated by the Kyrgyz. The Mongolic Khitans, descendants of the Xianbei, ruled Mongolia during the Liao Dynasty (907–1125), after which the Khamag Mongol (1125–1206) rose to prominence.
In the chaos of the late twelfth century, a chieftain named Temüjin finally succeeded in uniting the Mongol tribes between Manchuria and the Altai Mountains. In 1206, he took the title Genghis Khan, and waged a series of military campaigns — renowned for their brutality and ferocity — sweeping through much of Asia, and forming the Mongol Empire, the largest contiguous land empire in world history. Under his successors it stretched from present-day Ukraine in the west to Korea in the east, and from Siberia in the north to the Gulf of Oman and Vietnam in the south, covering some 13,000,000 square miles (33,000,000 km²) — 22% of Earth’s total land area — and having a population of over 100 million people. The emergence of Pax Mongolica also significantly eased trade and commerce across Asia during its height.
After Genghis Khan’s death, the empire was subdivided into four kingdoms or Khanates. These eventually became quasi-independent after the Toluid Civil War (1260–1264), which broke out in a battle for power following Möngke Khan’s death in 1259. One of the khanates, the “Great Khaanate”, consisting of the Mongol homeland and China, became known as the Yuan dynasty under Kublai Khan, the grandson of Genghis Khan. He set up his capital in present-day Beijing. After more than a century of power, the Yuan was replaced by the Ming dynasty in 1368, and the Mongol court fled to the north. As the Ming armies pursued the Mongols into their homeland, they successfully sacked and destroyed the Mongol capital Karakorum among a few other cities. Some of these attacks were repelled by the Mongols under Ayushridar and his general Köke Temür.
After the expulsion of the Yuan dynasty rulers from China, the Mongols continued to rule Mongolia homeland, known as the Northern Yuan dynasty. The next centuries were marked by violent power struggles among various factions, notably the Genghisids and the non-Genghisid Oirats, as well as by several Chinese invasions (such as the five expeditions led by the Yongle Emperor). In the early fifteenth century, the Oirads under Esen Tayisi gained the upper hand, and raided China in 1449 in a conflict over Esen’s right to pay tribute, capturing the Ming emperor in the process. When Esen was murdered in 1454, the Borjigids regained power.
In the early sixteenth century, Dayan Khan and his khatun Mandukhai reunited the entire Mongol nation under the Genghisids. In the mid-16th century, Altan Khan of the Tümed, a grandson of Dayan Khan — but not a hereditary or legitimate Khan — became powerful. He founded Hohhot in 1557. After he met with the Dalai Lama in 1578, he ordered the introduction of Tibetan Buddhism to Mongolia. Abtai Sain Khan of the Khalkha converted to Buddhism and founded the Erdene Zuu monastery in 1585. His grandson Zanabazar became the first Jebtsundamba Khutughtu in 1640. Following the leaders, the entire Mongolian population embraced Buddhism. Each family kept scriptures and Buddha statues on an altar at the north side of their ger (yurt). Mongolian nobles donated land, money and herders to the monasteries. As was typical in states with established religions, the top religious institutions, the monasteries, wielded significant temporal power in addition to spiritual power.
The last Mongol Khan was Ligden Khan in the early seventeenth century. He came into conflict with the Manchus over the looting of Chinese cities, and also alienated most Mongol tribes. He died in 1634. By 1636, most Inner Mongolian tribes had submitted to the Manchus, who founded the Qing dynasty. The Khalkha eventually submitted to Qing rule in 1691, thus bringing all of today’s Mongolia under Manchu rule. After several wars, the Dzungars (the western Mongols or Oirats) were virtually annihilated during the Qing conquest of Dzungaria in 1757–58.
Some scholars estimate that about 80% of the 600,000 or more Dzungar were destroyed by a combination of disease and warfare. Outer Mongolia was given relative autonomy, being administered by the hereditary Genghisid khanates of Tusheet Khan, Setsen Khan, Zasagt Khan and Sain Noyon Khan. The Jebtsundamba Khutuktu of Mongolia had immense de facto authority. The Manchu forbade mass Chinese immigration into the area, which allowed the Mongols to keep their culture.
The main trade route during this period was the Tea Road through Siberia; it had permanent stations located every 16 to 19 miles (25 to 30 km), each of which was staffed by 5–30 chosen families. Urga (present-day Ulaanbaatar) benefited greatly from this overland trade, as it was the only major settlement in Outer Mongolia used as a stopover point by merchants, officials and travelers on the Tea Road.
Until 1911, the Qing dynasty maintained control of Mongolia with a series of alliances and intermarriages, as well as military and economic measures. Ambans, Manchu “high officials”, were installed in Khüree, Uliastai, and Khovd, and the country was subdivided into numerous feudal and ecclesiastical fiefdoms (which also placed people in power with loyalty to the Qing). Over the course of the nineteenth century, the feudal lords attached more importance to representation and less importance to the responsibilities towards their subjects. The behavior of Mongolia’s nobility, together with usurious practices by Chinese traders and the collection of imperial taxes in silver instead of animals, resulted in poverty among the nomads becoming widespread. By 1911, there were 700 large and small monasteries in Outer Mongolia; their 115,000 monks made up 21% of the population. Apart from the Jebtsundamba Khutuktu, there were 13 other reincarnating high lamas, called ‘seal-holding saints’ (tamgatai khutuktu), in Outer Mongolia.
With the fall of the Qing dynasty in 1911, Mongolia under the Bogd Khaan declared independence. The newly established Republic of China considered Mongolia to be part of its own territory. Yuan Shikai, the President of the Republic of China, considered the new republic to be the successor of the Qing. Bogd Khaan said that both Mongolia and China had been administered by the Manchu during the Qing, and after the fall of the Qing dynasty in 1911, the contract of Mongolian submission to the Manchu had become invalid.
The area controlled by the Bogd Khaan was approximately that of the former Outer Mongolia during the Qing period. In 1919, after the October Revolution in Russia, Chinese troops led by Xu Shuzheng occupied Mongolia. Warfare erupted on the northern border. As a result of the Russian Civil War, the White Russian Lieutenant General Baron Ungern led his troops into Mongolia in October 1920, defeating the Chinese forces in Niislel Khüree (Ulaanbaatar) in early February 1921 with support by Mongols.
To eliminate the threat posed by Ungern, Bolshevik Russia decided to support establishing a communist Mongolian government and army. This Mongolian army took the Mongolian part of Kyakhta from Chinese forces on March 18, 1921, and on July 6 Russian and Mongolian troops arrived in Khüree. Mongolia declared its independence again on July 11, 1921. As a result, Mongolia was closely aligned with the Soviet Union over the next seven decades.
In 1924, after the Bogd Khaan died of laryngeal cancer or, as some sources claim, at the hands of Russian spies, the country’s political system was changed. The Mongolian People’s Republic was established. In 1928, Khorloogiin Choibalsan rose to power. The early leaders of the Mongolian People’s Republic (1921–1952) were not communists and many of them were Pan-Mongolists. The Soviet Union forcefully established a communist regime in Mongolia by later exterminating Pan-Mongolists. In the 1960s, Soviets recognized the Mongolian People’s Party as “real” communists, who took power after the suspicious death of Pan-Mongolist leader Choibalsan.
Khorloogiin Choibalsan instituted collectivization of livestock, began the destruction of the Buddhist monasteries, and carried out the Stalinist repressions in Mongolia, which resulted in the murders of numerous monks and other leaders. In Mongolia during the 1920s, approximately one-third of the male population were monks. By the beginning of the twentieth century, about 750 monasteries were functioning in Mongolia.
In 1930, Russia stopped Buryats migration to the Mongolian People’s Republic to prevent Mongolian reunification. All leaders of Mongolia who did not fulfill Russian demands to perform terror against Mongolians were executed by Russians, including Peljidiin Genden and Anandyn Amar. The Stalinist purges in Mongolia, which began in 1937, killed more than 30,000 people. Choibalsan died suspiciously in Russia in 1952. Comintern leader Bohumír Šmeral said, “People of Mongolia are not important, the land is important. Mongolian land is larger than England, France and Germany”.
After the Japanese invasion of neighboring Manchuria in 1931, Mongolia was threatened on this front. During the Soviet-Japanese Border War of 1939, the Soviet Union successfully defended Mongolia against Japanese expansionism. Mongolia fought against Japan during the Battles of Khalkhin Gol in 1939 and during the Soviet–Japanese War in August 1945 to liberate Southern Mongolia from Japan and China.
The February 1945 Yalta Conference provided for the Soviet Union’s participation in the Pacific War. One of the Soviet conditions for its participation, put forward at Yalta, was that after the war Outer Mongolia would retain its independence. The referendum took place on October 20, 1945, with (according to official numbers) 100% of the electorate voting for independence.
After the establishment of the People’s Republic of China, both countries confirmed their mutual recognition on October 6, 1949. However, the Republic of China used its Security Council veto in 1955, to stop the admission of the Mongolian People’s Republic to the United Nations on the grounds it recognized all of Mongolia — including Outer Mongolia — as part of China. This was the only time the Republic Of China ever used its veto. Hence, and because of the repeated threats to veto by the ROC, Mongolia did not join the UN until 1961 when the Soviet Union agreed to lift its veto on the admission of Mauritania (and any other newly independent African state), in return for the admission of Mongolia. Faced with pressure from nearly all the other African countries, the ROC relented under protest. Mongolia and Mauritania were both admitted to the UN on October 27, 1961.
On January 26, 1952, Yumjaagiin Tsedenbal took power in Mongolia. While Tsedenbal was visiting Moscow in August 1984, his severe illness prompted the parliament to announce his retirement and replace him with Jambyn Batmönkh.
The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989 strongly influenced Mongolian politics and youth. Its people undertook the peaceful Democratic Revolution in 1990 and the introduction of a multi-party system and a market economy.
A new constitution was introduced in 1992, and the “People’s Republic” was dropped from the country’s name. The transition to market economy has often been rocky; during the early 1990s the country had to deal with high inflation and food shortages. The first election victories for non-communist parties came in 1993 (presidential elections) and 1996 (parliamentary elections). China has supported Mongolia’s application for membership in to the Asia Cooperation Dialogue (ACD), Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) and granting it observer status in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.
Scott #1341 was released in January 1984, part of a set of seven Mongolian stamps depicting rodents. Printed using the lithography process and perforated 13½x13, the 30-mung triangular stamp portrays a long-eared jerboa (Euchoreutes naso) which is a nocturnal mouse-like rodent with a long tail, long hind legs for jumping, and exceptionally large ears. It is distinct enough that authorities consider it to be the only member of both its genus, Euchoreutes, and subfamily, Euchoreutinae.
Long-eared jerboas are found in the Palearctic ecozone. The specific palearctic ecozone areas they are found in are southernmost Mongolia to the Takla-Makan Desert, Mengxin, Aerijin Mountain, and Qing-Zang Plateau regions of north western China. Long-eared jerboas in most cases are nocturnal,
The long-eared jerboa’s head and body length measures 2.8 inches (70 mm) to 3.5 inches (90 mm) while its tail is double this size, between 5.9 inches (150 mm) and 6.4 inches (162 mm). Like its disproportionately long tail, its hind feet are also large, helping it to jump high, measuring between 1.6 inches (40 mm) and 1.8 inches (46 mm). It weighs 0.85 ounces (24 grams) to 1.3 ounces (38 g).
Long-eared jerboas usually eat insects. They use sound to locate and capture them by performing fast leaps into the air. The two lateral digits are shorter than the three central ones. The central metatarsals are fused for a small distance. The feet are covered with tufts of bristly hairs. Long-eared jerboas have ears that are 1/3 longer than their heads. The incisors are thin and white. A small premolar can be found on each side of the upper jaw. Females have eight mammae. Their fur is light reddish/brown with a white underside. Their tails are covered in fine hairs the same color as their body and have a black and white tuft on the end.