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Mongolia: The Urban Population
Country Study > Chapter 2 > The Society and Its Environment > Population > The Urban Population


The city system is dominated by Ulaanbaatar -- a classic primate city far larger than the second-ranking or third-ranking cities -- in which all important political, economic, and cultural functions are centralized. In 1986 Ulaanbaatar had 500,200 people, or nearly 25 percent of the nation's population. Its dominant position was demonstrated by the transportation system, which radiated out from Ulaanbaatar. The industrial center of Darhan, on the main railroad line north of Ulaanbaatar, had 74,000 people in 1986; Erdenet, founded in 1976 and built around a major copper and molybdenum mining complex, had 45,400. Fourth place went to Choybalsan, the industrial metropolis of eastern Mongolia in Dornod Aymag, which had 28,600 people in 1979. Fifth through tenth places were occupied by a set of aymag seats with populations in the 16,000-to-18,000 range in 1979. The lowest rung of the urban hierarchy was occupied by the headquarters of state farms or herding cooperatives, which usually featured administrative offices, primary schools with boarding facilities, clinics, assembly halls, fodder storage facilities, and the cooperative's motor pool and truck maintenance centers.

During the 1980s, the pace of urban residential construction was rapid, and an increasing proportion of the urban populace was housed in Soviet-designed, prefabricated four-story or high-rise apartment complexes. Such housing complexes -- equipped with heat from central plants and served by planned complexes of shops, schools, and playgrounds as well as by bus routes -- represented the zenith of modernism and progress. Many people in cities continued to live in the traditional Mongolian round felt tents called ger. Mongolians do not regard ger as backward or shameful, even in Ulaanbaatar, but urban planners considered that the much higher population densities afforded by high-rise housing would permit optimum use of often-scarce flat ground and would afford the most efficient utilization of public transportion and public utilities such as water and sewer lines.

Data as of June 1989

Last Updated: June 1989

Editor's Note: Country Studies included here were published between 1988 and 1998. The Country study for Mongolia was first published in 1989. Where available, the data has been updated through 2008. The date at the bottom of each section will indicate the time period of the data. Information on some countries may no longer be up to date. See the "Research Completed" date at the beginning of each study on the Title Page or the "Data as of" date at the end of each section of text. This information is included due to its comprehensiveness and for historical purposes.

Note that current information from the CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State Background Notes, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Country Briefs, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Country Profiles, and the World Bank can be found on

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