Mongolia (region, Asia)

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Mongolia (region, Asia)

Mongolia (mŏn-gō´lēə, mŏng–), Asian region (c.906,000 sq mi/2,346,540 sq km), bordered roughly by Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, China, on the west; the Manchurian provinces of China on the east; Siberia on the north; and the Great Wall of China on the south. It now comprises the country of Mongolia (traditionally known as Outer Mongolia) and the Inner Mongolian Autonomous Region of China.

Mongolia is chiefly a region of desert and of steppe plateau from c.3,000 to 5,000 ft (910–1,520 m) high. Winters are cold and dry and summers are warm and brief. The Gobi desert, which is entirely wasteland, is in the central section. To the west are the Altai Mts., which rise to 15,266 ft (4,653 m). Rivers include a section of the Huang He (Yellow River) in the south and the Selenga, Orkhon, and Kerulen in the north. Rainfall averages less than 15 in. (38.1 cm) a year.

Economy

Mongolia has traditionally been a land of pastoral nomadism; livestock raising and the processing of animal products are the main industries. Wool, hides, meat, cloth, and leather goods are exported. Irrigation has made some agriculture possible; wheat and oats are the chief crops. Coal, iron ore, gold, and oil are important mineral resources. Mongolia is crossed north to south by a railroad linking Beijing with Russia. The region has an adequate system of roadways, although most roads are unpaved. Camels and yaks are often used in desert and mountain areas. Trade traditionally has been greater with Russia than with China, but this has been changing in recent years.

History

Great hordes of horsemen have repeatedly swept down from Mongolia into N China, establishing vast, although generally short-lived, empires. In the 1st cent. AD Mongolia was inhabited by various Turkic tribes who dwelt mainly along the upper course of the Orkhon River. It was also the home of the Hsiung-nu who ravaged (1st–5th cent.) N China. The Uigur Turks founded their first empire (744–856) with its capital near Karakorum in W Mongolia. The Khitan, who founded the Liao dynasty (947–1125) in N China, were from Mongolia. Many smaller territorial states followed until (c.1205) Jenghiz Khan conquered all Mongolia, united its tribes, and from his capital at Karakorum led the Mongols in creating one of the greatest empires of all time. His successors established the Golden Horde in SE Russia and founded the Hulagid dynasty of Persia and the Yuan dynasty (1260–1368) of China.

After the decline of the Mongol empire, Mongolia intruded less in world affairs. China, which earlier had gained control of Inner Mongolia, subjugated Outer Mongolia in the late 17th cent., but in the succeeding years struggled with Russia for control. Outer Mongolia finally broke away in 1921 to form the Mongolian People's Republic (now Mongolia). Inner Mongolia remained under Chinese control, although the Japanese conquered Rehe (1933), which they included in Manchukuo, and Chahar and Suiyuan (1937), which they formed into Mengjiang (Mongol Border Land). These areas were returned to China after World War II. In 1944, Tannu Tuva (see Tuva Republic), long recognized as part of Mongolia but under Russian influence since 1911, was incorporated within the USSR (now Russia). The Chinese Communists joined most of Inner Mongolia to N Rehe prov. and W Heilongjiang prov. to form the Inner Mongolian Autonomous Region in 1949.

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