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TOWNS AND CITIES OF NOMADIC MONGOLS

Blog | published: 2019-11-18

Do you have any imagination about the town and cities of steppe nomads? Mongols are nomadic lifestyle people, who are living in portable Ger dwelling and taking care for the livesticksL sheep, goats, horses and camels…

Between 3BC and 1AD Huns (ancestors of steppe mongols) were building some small cities and towns in steppe and in mountains. The towns and cities were the place, in where nomads gathered from different parts and held  some meetings of the royal families and shamanic ritual ceremonies for the heaven. This kind of small cities and towns were kept until 13century, where Chinggis Khan decided to build a big city as a capital of Mongolian Empire.

The Khara Khorum city is the biggest metropolitan city, which was the capital of Mongolian Empire between 1227 and 1260 and until 1440. The Khara Khorum city was established under the order of Chinggis Khan and it was at the another branch of Silk road- world economic main canal and located in Orkhon valley. The Orkhon valley was a centre of the Huns, Blue Tureg and Uigar empires.

Khara Khorum town was including several beautiful buildings and constructions such as Palace of Myriad Peace,Silver Fountain, The Royal Palace of  Khan, Royal garden, merchant’s street, shaman gers, Christian churches, muslim mosques, Buddhist temples, Buddhist stupas, construction factories, generals’ stations and so on…   the Parisian goldsmith, Guillaume Bouchier, design the Silver Tree in the reception hall of Royal palace and the fountain was used as a drink serving area for the guests at the royal palace. Even this beautiful palace is built for the Kings residence, but Nomadic Khans didn’t use the residence often, they preferred to move in the steppe with their big royal gers on tens of ox cart.

The approved historical information said that many of travelers, tourists and merchants were visiting to this city and residing in there for some time. Some of them were William Rubruck, Marco Polo and Giovanni Del Carpini, messengers from Roman Empire. There are some interesting books about the Mongols and visit to Khara Khorum city written by these travelers and tourists.     

When Khubilai Khan claimed the throne of the Mongol Empire in 1260—as did his younger brother,Arig Bohe -he relocated his capital to Shangdu, which is present territory of china, just as very close to present Beijing. But the Khara Khorum is still used as town and cities of royal families and their nieces and nepnews.  After the collapse of the Mongolian Yuan dynasty in China in 1368, Karakorum became the residence of  Bilegt Khan in 1370. In 1388 Chinese Ming troops occupied and later razed the capital Khara Khorum.

In 1586 Abtai Sain Khan, who was the young generation of Chinggis Khan, decided to build a first Buddhist monastery in Mongolia in the Orkhon Valley. The city ruins was used as a small village for Buddhist monks until 1937.

The history of Ulaanbaatar, the capital city of modern Mongolia, begins long after the collapse of the Mongolian Great Empire founded by Chinggis Khan. Royal family members including khights and dukes of central Mongolia gathered in the assembly-Khuraldai in 1639. Mongolian Lords proclaimed five-year-old Zanabazar, the son of Chingis khan’s descendant Tusheet khan Gombojav, as the head of all Mongolian Buddhists with the title of Bogd khan and decided to establish a settlement for infantile khan and named it as Urgoo, which means a Palace. The Shireet Tsagaan Nuur –White lake, where Urgoo was established, as far as 250 kilometers (155 miles) away from the modern Ulaanbaatar.

In its history, Ulaanbaatar has changed location 22 times and was known as Urgoo, Nomyn Khuree, Ikh Khuree, Niislel Khuree in different historical periods. Even foreigners called the city in different names. Russians and Europeans - Urga, Chinese - Kunlun, Tibetans – Chonmo, Manchurians – Da Khuree.

Perhaps, there is no other city in the world that has changed its name and location so many times. The architecture of the moving city with hundreds of white gers (Mongolian traditional portable round felt dwellings) was unique. In 1778 the travelling city come to rest in its present location behind the Bogd Khan Mountain in the Valley of Tuul River. Chronicles stated that when the city moved last time, almost 94 temples were transported. It is difficult to imagine that the great move with caravans of 20500 Bactrian camels.

In the same year, the beautiful Bogd khan mountain received its designation of the protected area; reputed to be the first in the world. By the way, the symbol of modern Ulaanbaatar is mythological bird Khangarid – lord of the Bogd khan mountain.

Soon, the first buildings, first buddhist temples and ger districts, royal palace area settled in the city were made by wood, stone and bricks and built as an original mixture of Mongolian, Tibetan and Chinese architecture of Ikh Khuree, which was so attractive. Sincce that time Heads of Buddhism- Bogd Khans were living in this valley and leading the country of Mongolia. Not only the Bogds, but also the young generation of Chinggis Khan families and Mongolian lords were living in this area and some gathered in this valley for meeting. The city became bigger by year and year and Chinese tea road is heading from Beijing to Urgoo at the Tuul river. With connection of economic relationship with Russia and China and merchants’ caravans’ moves made the city more inhabited day by day. Lots of Chinese merchants, Russian, german, dutch, French, American travelers were visiting to Urguu town and they opened their own restaurants, shops, small clinics, show theatres, soon Russian delegates opened their embassy room in Urguu, which was with population of only 50 thousand.  

In 1911-1921 Mongolian People’s Party liberated Niislel Khuree town from Chinese troops and merchants and then troops of White Russians- General Baron von Ungern Sternberg with support of Soviet’s Red army. Mongols and Sukhbaatar general gathered in the middle of Niislel huree and declared the Mongolian independence, so they made the main squire of Sukhbaatar. After that Niislel Huree- ger dwelling town name is changed into Ulaanbaatar city –Red Hero and it was developed in the way of socialism with the help of Russia. Lots of Russian styled concrete and brick buildings were built, schools, hospitals and kindergartens, bread factories and museums and wester styled restaurants are opened in the city. However, the socialism did not allow to stay as open for Buddhist monasteries and temples, so many temples are closed and used as storages.

After the World War II, the population of Ulaanbaatar reached to 500 thousands. Opera and Ballet Theatre, science centers, universities and lots of apartment districts were opened in the town and becoming the capital city of Mongolia. In 1989 and 1990 Ulaanbaatar was the main arena of the democratic revolution demanding from the communist leadership of Mongolia political and economic reforms. After the socialist system failed, Mongolia and it’s Ulaanbaatar city was open to half of the world. So lots of foreign countries’ merchants and travelers started to visit Ulaanbaatar. Construction was booming and cranes and other construction technics were everywhere. In downtown, modern high glass buildings of banks and corporations were built. In all corners of UB coffee cafes and restaurants offering Mongolian, Chinese, Russian, French, Italian, Turkish, Korean, Japanese, even Ethiopian cuisine suddenly appeared.

Ulaanbaatar is the starting point for all tourists coming to see Mongolia. Foreign tourists visit the city usually in the summer warm seasons from April to September. Ulaanbaatar is the coldest capital city of the world with a drop in temperature to minus 30 degrees Celsius in January. Foreigners also notice that Ulaanbaatar is a quiet city, and there is no fear of terrorist attacks or other threats. Therefore, almost 400 year-old sunny city of Ulaanbaatar-the urban heart of the nomad’s land, welcomes everyone all year round.

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