Population and Ethnic Groups
The population of Mongolian is 3.120.000 (official estimate 2017), out of which 40% are nomadic herdsmen. Most of Mongolia’s large land is very sparsely populated. The average population density is 1.5 per square kilometer, making the country one of the sparsest populated nations in the world. In the southern Gobi it is as scarce as 0.3 square kilometer.
Although this small population of Mongolia is scattered across the vast steppe, the urbanization rate is high. During the last two decades, migration from the rural areas has accelerated, with the proportion of the population living in urban areas rising to 54%. More than a third of the entire population or over a million people live in Ulaanbaatar. The population is homogeneous, with Mongol-speaking people constituting 95% of the total. The only substantial non-Mongol group, representing over 5% of the population, is the Kazaks, a Turkish-speaking people dwelling in the far West. A Chinese minority lives in Ulaanbaatar. Mongolians can be subdivided into more than 20 different ethnic groups, which are scattered across the country, these groups can be distinguished by their individual customs, histories and dialects.
The largest ethnic group is Khalha, which accounts for over 75% of the total population mainly live in central, eastern and southern Mongolia.
The Oirats are a group of ethnic western Mongolians, which includes smaller groups, Durvud, Torgud, bayad, Uuld, Zakhchin, Myangad and Uriankhai. Since the early history of Mongolian Oirat people have resided around Siberia’s Lake Baikal, the Sayan Mountain Ranges in Northern Mongolia and forested areas within the Altai Mountain Range. The name Oirat translates as forest people. After the fall of the Mongol empire in the 14th century, Oirat became an independent state, known as Dzhungarian Kingdom. It covered western Mongolia and the eastern Chinese steppe and only became part of the Mongolian Republic during the Manchurian conquest in the 1600’s. Northern Mongolian ethnic groups include the Darkhat, Tsaatan, and Khotgoid. They inhabit the dense forests of Huvsgul lake area, near the Russian border. The Buryat are the only group who originates from the vast eastern steppe.