Religion in Mongolia

Population and ethnography

The population was estimated at 3.2 million in 2019, but the task is uncertain. With a population density of 2 residents per km2 , Mongolia is one of the world’s sparsely populated states. In 2019, 68 percent of the population lived in cities, and the dominant one among them is Ulaanbaatar with 1.4 million residents (2019). Next are Erdenet (99,500) and Darchan (84,700). To a large extent, the former nomad families have become settled, although the shepherds with their herds still have to move over vast pastures. It is common for families to move temporarily between cities and rural areas, and the number of residents in the cities can therefore vary considerably between years.

Mongolia’s population is fairly uniform and comprises 81.5 percent of ethnic Mongols (2000), a people who, however, live in a larger number in neighboring parts of China. Of the minorities, Kazakhs are the largest (4.3 percent), despite the fact that 20,000 Kazakhs left the country in the 1990s with the hope of a better life in Kazakhstan. Other minorities in Mongolia are the villagers (66,700), the Bayad (50,800), the Burjats (40,600), the Darnagna (31,900) and the Zahchinians (29,800), all of whom speak Mongolian languages, as well as the Uriangchas (25,200), who at least some speak Turkish (Tuvinian) languages.

There are even more minor ethnic groups such as khotons, squads and sartorials, but their number is unknown. Russians have left Mongolia to a large extent since the beginning of the 1990s. Instead, many Chinese have moved in. Regarding Mongolian folk culture, see Mongols.

People in Mongolia


About 90% of the population speak different dialects of Mongolian, mainly Khalkha. In addition, the Mongolian languages are spoken uniratic (60,000) in the west and Burjatic (70,000) in the northeast. These languages are officially regarded as dialects by Mongolians, and since khalkha is the official language and language of instruction in schools, they are now approaching khalkha. In the far west, the Turkic languages are spoken Kazakh (about 100,000) and Tuvinian.


The oldest religion of the Mongols was a form of shamanism, in which the blue sky was worshiped along with a variety of spirit beings, e.g. a kind of protective spirit, often made as cult objects in the form of dolls or statues. During the 1100s-1200s, the Mongols came into contact with both Nestorian Christians and Muslims and Buddhists, but none of these religions seems to have gained any major spread.

Only after the downfall of the Mongol dynasty (Yuans) in 1368 did the long-term conditions for the (partly politically motivated) “second conversion” to Buddhism, which began in the 16th century, were created. It was the Tibetan form of Buddhism (Lamaism), dominated by the so-called dGe-lugs school, which spread in Mongolia. In it, many shamanistic elements eventually came into being. The Lamaist mission was actively supported by the emperors in Beijing, who saw it as an effective means of pacifying the Mongols. According to thesciencetutor, after the Communist takeover of power in Inner and Inner Mongolia, Lamaism was suppressed with its extensive monasticism; most of the monasteries were closed or destroyed. Communism’s fall in Mongolia has led to a much more liberal attitude to Lamaism.

Mongolia Religion