|Wrestlers at Naadam entering the competition
area with their arms raised in their traditional birdlike dance.
Ulaanbaatar is the capital city of Mongolia. Its recorded history
goes back some three hundred and fifty years. The term 'city' was
an unfamiliar concept in Mongolia during most of this period, however,
and the nomadic settlement moved some thirty times after its founding
in 1639. Temporary locations were along the valleys of the Orkhon,
Selenge, and Tuul rivers in north-central Mongolia. The city finally
settled in its current location in 1778, when the Tea Road, the
overland trade route from Peking to St. Petersburg, made it an important
The name of the city has also changed a number of times. From
1639 to 1706 it was known as Orgoo, from the Mongolian word for
palace. From 1706 to 1911 the name was Ikh Khuree, and from 1911
to 1924 it was Niislel Khuree. For most of this time the West knew
the city as Urga. Since October 29, 1924, the name has been Ulaanbaatar,
which means Red Hero in the Mongolian language. Sites not far from
the city have been great battlegrounds in past centuries; the current
name reflects the 70-year period of Russian-dominated 'revolutionary'
|The Ministry of Culture
building looms over the center of Ulaanbaatar.
At 1,350 meters above sea level, almost
5000 feet, Ulaanbaatar sits in a basin surrounded by four mountains:
Bogdh Khan, Songino Khairkhan, Chingeltei and Bayanzurkh. These
mountains are part of the beautiful and pristine Khan Khentii mountain
range. Their foliage marks the southernmost boundary of the great
Siberian taiga. The mountains have been considered sacred for many
centuries, and the mountain range to the south of Ulaanbaatar, Bogdh
Khan Uul, has been a protected area since 1778. This makes Bogdh
Khan perhaps the oldest national park in the world, and reflects
traditional Mongolian priorities in preserving the landscape.
Ulaanbaatar's climate is sharply continental
and experiences great extremes. Temperatures fluctuate between 38
degrees C in summer (93 degrees F), and minus 49 degrees C in winter
(-46 degrees F). The average annual precipitation is only 236 mm
(10.7 inches), and there are on average 283 sunny days in the year.
Early evening outsidethe State Opera Theater on Sukhbaatar
At least one quarter of Mongolia's population now lives in Ulaanbaatar.
The city's population currently stands at over 700,000, of whom
two thirds are children and young people under the age of twenty-five.
Educating these young people about the importance of environmental
conservation is one of the key responsibilities of the only environmental
NGO (non-governmental organization) in China, an organization called
the Mongolian Association for Conservation of Nature nd the Environment
|Ulaanbaatar from the west, with
encampments of people arriving for Naadam, the festival celebrating
Mongolia's "three manly sports," horseracing, wrestling and
archery. The Russian poworstation dominates the west of Ulaanbaatar.
From it the city buildings are centrally heated through huge
pipes. But the powerstation is in poor condition, and each winter
it threatens to fail. Rural gers (yurts) are well able to handle
Mongolia's intense cold, but a power breakdown during winter
would be catastrophic for people living in Ulaanbaatar's modern
Ulaanbaatar is close to two environmentally
significant sites, Bogdh Khan Uul, and Hustain Nuruu. Brief descriptions
follow; more information can be obtained by clicking these locations
on the Homepage map.
Bogdh Khan Uul: This unique mountain area,
south of the city, was proclaimed a protected area in 1778 by leading
citizens of the city. Looking south from Ulaanbaatar today one sees
virgin landscape and a horizon unmarred by construction or development.
This farsighted policy was recently reinforced by specific legislation,
approved by Parliament, hat controls the land use of the region.
Hustain Nuruu: This protected reserve
is one hundred kilometers west of Ulaanbaatar, and is the home of
the takhi, or wild Mongolian horse. Set in the midst of rolling
steppe terrain, the area also represents a pilot ogram for steppe
conservation in Mongolia. Avery Press [hot] can assist with more