In this ancient land of Mongolia, archaeologists have found remnants of a 500,000 year-old culture, one that in many ways parallels the nomadic tribes and lifestyles that still exist today in some of the outer reaches of the country.
The Xiongnu Empire was established by Toumen during the 3rd century, marking the beginning of statehood in Mongol territory. Once known as the Hun State, it rivaled the powerful Chinese states, extending north to Russia's Lake Baykal, and south to the Great Wall in China.
By 200 BC, Chinese interest in the region grew substantially, and a military campaign against the Xiongnus was launched. Consequently ambushed, Chinese Emperor Gao surrendered to the Xiongnus, and a treaty was signed determining new boundary lines between the two regions.
The Xiongnu empire weakened by 48 AD following a series of failed raids, and the Xianbei state garnered strength in their aftermath.
During the 7th-10th centuries, the area was occupied by Mongol tribes, all with individual territories and chiefs. One of those chiefs, named Genghis Khan, established the Mongolian State, which became one of the most powerful states in the world.
The Mongol Empire expanded quickly under Genghis Khan and his descendants as they commanded invasions in every direction. With the unification of large regions throughout Asia during their reign, the Mongol Empire created a lasting impact for many modern countries who still remain unified today (although under different leadership).
As the descendants of Genghis Khan feuded over the royal succession, the Mongol Empire began to dissolve, and a civil war ultimately broke out splitting the Mongols into four separate empires.
Eventually, the Mongolians were defeated by the Qing Dynasty of China, and many centuries of tragic war and political clashes followed.
For over 200 years the Qings controlled much of Mongolia and Inner Mongolia; however, Outer Mongolia retained a degree of autonomy.
Mongolia declared their independence in 1911 after the Qing Dynasty fell; although the new Republic of China saw otherwise, and still regarded the region as part of its own.
In 1924, Mongolia began the transformation of itself into a republic, and aligned with the USSR.
Despite the new regime, the country remained nearly 200 years behind the rest of the world. Industry was unheard of within its borders, and all of the wealth was controlled by nobility.
In July of 1990, the first democratic elections were held, and the country officially rid itself of communist rule.
The country's capital, Ulan Bator, is its largest city as well as the central connection point for all railroads and highways in the country. The city serves as the nation's cultural and political center, and the main entry point for tourists.
Recently, a mining boom of copper, gold and coal has led to a major economic surge, especially in Ulan Bator. Since 2003, the GDP has more than doubled and tourism is on the rise.
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