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Mongolia at a Glance


The history of Mongolia spans more than 500,000 years.  Archaeological excavations throughout the country have revealed artifacts from the Stone and Bronze Ages. The prehistoric inhabitants of Mongolia are culturally linked to Central Asia, not China, in that they were nomadic herders, not settled cultivators. Mongolia today embraces the heartland of Chingiss Khan’s empire, but it was the homeland of other nations long before the Mongols were first mentioned in the annals of the emperors of China. Recent investigations support the hypothesis that the Mongols originated from the Huns (Hunnu in ancient Mongolian), nomads who created a state in the area of what is now called Mongolia in 200 B.C., the first of many peoples to do so. (“Hun” translates as “man” and “nu” translates as “sun.”) Until its collapse in A.D. 98, the Hun state was the most powerful nomadic state in the sprawling Central Asian steppe and mountains. The Hsien-pi replaced the Huns as the ruling group in A.D. 95. Between 95 and 1125 A.D., a succession of nomadic, feudal tribes occupied and ruled the area: Sumbe, Toba, Nirun, Turkic, Uighur, Kirghiz, and Khitan.

In 1190, Temuujin, from the Esukhei tribe, took advantage of weak individual tribal territories and waged 35 battles against other tribes. By 1206, he had succeeded in uniting 81 tribes to form the Great Mongolian State, or Mongol Empire. His success in these battles led to his being named Chinggis Khaan (universal ruler). The Mongol Empire of the 13th and 14th centuries was the largest land-area empire in history. At its greatest, it stretched from Korea to Hungary and included most of Asia, except for India and the southeast part of the continent. After Chinggis Khaan’s death in 1227, the Mongol Empire was divided into dominions, expanded into Russia and China, and ruled first by his sons and then by his grandson Kublai Khaan (1260–1294) of Marco Polo fame. After 1294, however, the Mongol Empire slowly disintegrated, beginning with the loss of China in 1368 to the rulers of the Ming dynasty.

In 1644, the Manchus, rulers of the Ching dynasty, conquered China and southern Mongolia (a territory later renamed Inner Mongolia) and the remainder of Outer Mongolia, consolidating the Mongol Empire under Manchu rule by 1691. The Manchus penalized the Mongolians for any act of insubordination, and their 220-year rule is considered the harshest period in Mongolian history. During this time, Mongolia became isolated from the outside world, the power of the Mongol Khans was destroyed, and Tibetan Buddhism was introduced.

The revolutionary sentiments in Russia and China at the beginning of the 20th century also existed in Mongolia. It declared itself an independent state in 1911 as the Manchu dynasty in China collapsed and the Manchus withdrew from Mongolia. Gegeen Javzandamba Hutakht was declared Bogd Khan, the secular and spiritual leader, and formed a new government. However, China and Russia refused to recognize it, so the Tripartite Agreement that established Outer Mongolia as a politically and territorially autonomous state remained unacknowledged until 1915, when Russia agreed to sign it.

In 1920, two small underground revolutionary groups joined forces to form the Mongolian People’s Revolutionary Party (MPRP) to defend the Mongolian nation (against China) and to protect the interests of Mongolian herdsmen. Under the leadership of military commanders Sukhbaatar and Choibalsan and with the help of the “Red” Russians, the MPRP army defeated both “White” Russian and Chinese armies. On July 11, 1921 (commemorated today as People’s Revolutionary Day), Mongolia proclaimed its independence again and became a constitutional monarchy with Javzandamba as the head of state. After he died in November 1924, the Mongolian People’s Republic became the world’s second communist state.

The emergence of a democratic movement in December 1989 brought swift and peaceful change to Mongolia as the government adopted a positive approach toward reform. The dramatic changes toward a free-market economy and fully democratic society began in 1990 and continue to the present day. A new constitution, adopted in early 1992, changed the official name of the country to Mongolia.

I. Mongolian Education System

Mongolia is currently transitioning to a 12-year education system.  Beginning in 2008, students start school at six years of age and will graduate at 18.  Mongolia's education system does well in terms of getting children and youth through school. Overall 81 percent of adolescents complete lower secondary school, which is associated with the end of basic education, grade 5 or age 12-13, and 55 percent complete upper secondary school (age 17).  Students whose families live in the countryside often live in dormitories or with friends while they study at secondary school in the aimag center.

Education quality is strongly correlated with location.  The best schools and teachers are located in UB, with small towns having the worst quality.  Most students from small towns are excluded from opportunities in higher education by low test scores. 

II. Higher Education in Mongolia

Higher education in Mongolia was founded during the communist period.  The first state higher education institution (National University of Mongolia) was established in 1942 with three faculties in Ulaanbaatar: medical, pedagogical and veterinary.  Under the communist system, all costs of higher education were fully subsidized by the government. The government was involved in policymaking, planning and development of the entire higher education system from the date of its foundation.  A number of ministries shared responsibilities for education and all educational institutions were subject to applicable laws, regulations, policies and plans. University graduates were fully employed in accordance with the plan.

The 1991 Education Law of Mongolia, a series of education laws adopted in 1995 and amended in 1998, 2000 and 2002, and numerous executive orders by the Ministry of Science, Education and Culture (MOSEC) were clearly responses to changes in the higher education environment.  Since the adoption of the first Education Act, there has been a significant expansion of private higher education providers.  Rapid growth has occurred in a number of non-traditional providers of education, offering predominantly foreign languages, business courses and non-degree programs.  Today, about 240 public and private institutions of higher education operate in Mongolia. 

Even at public universities, students now pay tuition, which is an important source of income for universities.  The state offers loans to help students.  The state also provides low cost dormitories to students.  
There are 86 accredited universities in Mongolia, both state and private.  Among them, there are seven major state universities: National University, Mongolian University of Science and Technology, University of the Humanities, National Medical University of Mongolia, University of Education, University of Agriculture, School of Finance and Economics.


A. Medical facilities

Mongolia has many well trained physicians; however, health care is generally not up to western standards due to lack of both health care resources and training for allied health professionals. Hospital accommodations can be inadequate throughout the country and advanced technology is lacking. Shortages of routine medications and supplies may be encountered. In the event of a serious medical condition, a medical evacuation to Seoul, South Korea, Thailand, or Japan may be necessary. A medical evacuation flight out of Mongolia can cost over $80,000USD. Purchasing adequate medical evacuation insurance should be a high priority for anyone planning to visit Mongolia. 

B. Contact information for SOS medical clinic

For After-Hours Medical Help

SOS Medica International Clinic :976-11 - 464325/6/7
SOS Medica International Clinic (24 Hr/On Call) 9191-3122
SOS Medica International Clinic – Fax:  976-1145-4537
SOS Medica Clinic Hours: 09.00-18.00, Monday – Friday
SOS Medica Clinic

The SOS Medica Clinic is located on Big Ring Road north of the Khan Palace Hotel and 3 blocks east from the U.S. Embassy on the south-east side of the roundabout.  A map is included in this packet. 

C. Medical Insurance

Even if you have medical insurance in the States, it may not be valid in Mongolia. Buying basic travel insurance - either before you leave or after you arrive - is an absolute must. Most travel policies provide coverage only for emergencies, not for routine or outpatient care, and will typically reimburse you only after you have paid, so make sure you keep all receipts and records. With that in mind, a good policy should include emergency evacuation coverage in the event that you need to be flown to a neighboring country for treatment; it should also provide for repatriation of remains in case of death.

As a Fulbright grantee, you are provided with medical insurance. Doctors and hospitals in Mongolia expect immediate cash payment for health services. Make sure you read the policy and reimbursement procedure sent to you from IIE. Any questions you may have should be directed to the insurance provider.