What You Need To Know
Ulaanbaatar, formerly romanized as Ulan Bator literally “Red Hero”) is Mongolia’s capital and largest city. A municipality, the city is not part of any aimag (province). Located in north central Mongolia, the municipality lies at an elevation of about 1,310 metres (4,300 ft) in a valley on the Tuul River. It is the country’s cultural, industrial and financial heart, the centre of Mongolia’s road network and connected by rail to both the Trans-Siberian Railway in Russia and the Chinese railway system. The city was founded in 1639 as a nomadic Buddhist monastic centre. In 1778, it settled permanently at its present location, the junction of the Tuul and Selbe rivers. Before that, it changed location twenty-eight times, with each location being chosen ceremonially. In the twentieth century, Ulaanbaatar grew into a major manufacturing centre.
Area: 4,704 km²
Population: Estimate 1.4 million
The tögrög or tugrik (Mongolian: ᠲᠥᠭᠦᠷᠢᠭ᠌, төгрөг, tögrög; sign: ₮; code: MNT) is the official currency of Mongolia.
As the main industrial center of Mongolia, Ulaanbaatar produces a variety of consumer goods and is responsible for about two-thirds of Mongolia’s total gross domestic product (GDP). The transition into a market economy in 1990, which has led to a shift towards service industries making up 43% of the city’s GDP, along with rapid urbanization and population growth has so far correlated with an increase in GDP. Mining makes up the second largest contributor to Ulaanbaatar’s GDP at 25%. North of the city are several gold mines, including the Boroo Gold Mine, and foreign investment in the sector has allowed for growth and development. However, in light of a noticeable drop in GDP during the Financial Crisis of 2008 as demand for mining exports dropped, there has been movement towards diversifying the economy.
Mongolia’s government has made great efforts to provide modern medical care to the inhabitants. In the 1980s, medical care was free and was provided through a hierarchy of clinics and hospitals. In rural areas, the lowest level of the system was a medical station, staffed by a physician’s assistant, serving people within a thirty- to forty-kilometer radius. Above this was a somon medical station, staffed by a physician, serving a forty- to sixty-kilometer radius; an inter-somon hospital, serving a seventy- to eighty-kilometer radius; and an aymag general hospital covering a 150- to 200-kilometer radius. The higher the level in the system, the more numerous the medical specialties and the more sophisticated the diagnostic equipment available. The lowest levels concentrated on acute care, public-health work, and screening and referring cases up the hierarchy.
It is also the see of the Apostolic Prefecture of Ulaanbaatar, the Roman Catholic missionary circonscription for all (Outer) Mongolia. The apostolic see is the Saints Peter and Paul Cathedral, consecrated in 2003 from cardinal Crescenzio Sepe.
Ulaanbaatar is served by the Chinggis Khaan International Airport (formerly Buyant Ukhaa Airport). It is 18 km (11 mi) southwest of the city. Currently, the Chinggis Khaan airport is the only airport in Mongolia that offers international flights. In order to serve increased projected passenger numbers, the New Ulaanbaatar International Airport (NUBIA) is being constructed south of the city with plans to replace the Chinggis Khaan airport. Flights to Ulaanbaatar are available from Tokyo, Seoul, Paris, Frankfurt, Berlin, Ulan-Ude, Moscow, Irkutsk, Hong Kong, Beijing, Bishkek and Istanbul. There are rail connections to the Trans-Siberian railway via Naushki and to the Chinese railway system via Jining. Ulaanbaatar is connected by road to most of the major towns in Mongolia, but most roads in Mongolia are unpaved and unmarked and road travel can be difficult. Even within the city, not all roads are paved and some of the ones that are paved are not in good condition. Existing plans to improve transportation include several major road projects such as a 1,000-kilometre-long (620-mile) highway to link Ulaanbaatar to the regions of Altanbulag and Zamyn Uud, plans to upgrade existing regional airports and roadways, and Mongolian Railway projects that will connect cities and mines. Planned Ulaanbaatar subway. The central 6.6 km (4.1 mi) will be underground while remaining sections will be elevated. The national and municipal governments regulate a wide system of private transit providers which operate numerous bus lines around the city. There is also an Ulaanbaatar trolleybus system. A secondary transit system of privately owned microbuses (passenger vans) operates alongside these bus lines. Additionally, Ulaanbaatar has over 4000 taxis. The capital has 418.2 km (259.9 mi) of road, of which 76.5 are paved.
Urga and the Kyakhta trade
Following the Treaty of Kyakhta in 1727 Urga (Ulaanbaatar) was a major point of the Kyakhta trade between Russia and China – mostly Siberian furs for Chinese cloth and later tea. The route ran south to Urga, southeast across the Gobi to Kalgan and southeast over the mountains to Peking. Urga was also a collection point for goods coming from further west. These were either sent to China or shipped north to Russia via Kyakhta because of legal restrictions and the lack of good trade routes to the west. By 1908 there was a Russian quarter with a few hundred merchants and a Russian club and informal Russian mayor. East of the main town was the Russian consulate built in 1863 with an Orthodox church, post office and 20 Cossack guards. It was fortified in 1900 and briefly occupied by troops during the Boxer Rebellion. There was a telegraph line north to Kyakhta and southeast to Kalgan and weekly postal service along these routes. Beyond the Russian consulate was the Chinese trading post called Maimaicheng and nearby the palace of the Manchu viceroy. With the growth of Western trade at the Chinese ports the tea trade to Russia declined,some Chinese merchants left and wool became the main export. Manufactured goods still came from Russia but most were now brought from Kalgan by caravan. The annual trade was estimated at 25 million rubles, nine tenths in Chinese hands and one tenth Russian.
Ulaanbaatar is located at about 1,350 metres (4,430 ft) above mean sea level, slightly east of the centre of Mongolia on the Tuul River, a subtributary of the Selenge, in a valley at the foot of the mountain Bogd Khan Uul. Bogd Khan Uul is a broad, heavily forested mountain rising 2,250 metres (7,380 ft) to the south of Ulaanbaatar. It forms the boundary between the steppe zone to the south and the forest-steppe zone to the north. It is also one of the oldest reserves in the world, being protected by law since the 18th century. The forests of the mountains surrounding Ulaanbaatar are composed of evergreen pines, deciduous larches and birches while the riverine forest of the Tuul River is composed of broad-leaved, deciduous poplars, elms and willows. As a point of reference Ulaanbaatar lies on roughly the same latitude as Vienna, Munich and Orléans. It lies on roughly the same longitude as Chongqing, Hanoi and Jakarta. Owing to its high elevation, its relatively high latitude, its location hundreds of kilometres from any coast, and the effects of the Siberian anticyclone, Ulaanbaatar is the coldest national capital in the world, with a monsoon-influenced, cold semi-arid climate (Köppen BSk, USDA Plant Hardiness Zone 3b) that closely borders a subarctic climate (Dwc) and warm-summer humid continental (Dwb). The city features brief, warm summers and long, bitterly cold and dry winters. The coldest January temperatures, usually at the time just before sunrise, are between −36 and −40 °C (−32.8 and −40.0 °F) with no wind, due to temperature inversion. Most of the annual precipitation of 267 millimetres (10.51 in) falls from June to September. The highest recorded precipitation in the city was 659 millimetres or 25.94 inches at the Khureltogoot Astronomical Observatory on Mount Bogd Khan Uul. Ulaanbaatar has an average annual temperature of −0.4 °C or 31.3 °F, making it the coldest capital in the world. The city lies in the zone of discontinuous permafrost, which means that building is difficult in sheltered aspects that preclude thawing in the summer, but easier on more exposed ones where soils fully thaw. Suburban residents live in traditional yurts that do not protrude into the soil. Extreme temperatures in the city range from −42.2 °C (−44.0 °F) in January and February 1957 to 39.0 °C (102.2 °F) in July 1988.