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IN BRIEF:

The name 'Mongolia' has always stirred up visions of the untamed and exotic- the warlord Genghis Khan, camels wandering in the Gobi Desert and wild horses galloping across the steppes. Even today, Mongolia seems like the end of the earth - outside Ulaanbaatar you begin to wonder if you haven't stepped into another century, rather than another country. It remains one of the last great adventure destinations in Asia.

Mongolia's survival as an independent nation is little short of miraculous. For the first time in centuries the Mongolians, once rulers of the vast Eurasian steppe, are no longer colonial subjects of the Russian and Chinese empires. Only a century ago, so few Mongolians were left that it seemed their ancient, nomadic civilization might disappear altogether. Now the country has a democratic constitution, multiparty elections.

Area: 1,566,000 sq km (610,740 sq mi)
Population: 2.8 million (51% live in urban areas)
People: Khalkha Mongols (86%), Kazaks (6%), Chinese (2%), Russian (2%), about a dozen other ethnic groups
Regions: 21 Aimags (provinces). Aimags subdivided into Soums.
Capital: Ulaanbaatar
Languages: The official language, Mongolian, is spoken and understood throughout the country. Russian is the other major language used. However, other foreign languages, primarily English, are becoming more popular.
Religions: Tibetan Buddhism, Shamanism, Muslim
Government: Parliamentary with a president elected every 4 years
Economy: Traditionally based on agriculture, livestock breeding (camels, bovine, goats, horses and sheep); mining (coal, gold, copper and uranium).
Time: GMT + 8
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