Ulan Bator is the present capital of Mongolia. It’s located at a height of 1351 metres (0,84 mile), between the banks of the Selbe, the Tuul and the Uliastai Rivers, in the Southwest of the Khentii mountains. It stretches over 30 kilometres (18,64 miles) from East to West, and over 15 kilometres (9,32 miles) from North to South.
It is surrounded by four sacred hills : Bogd Khan Uul, Chingeltei Uul, Bayanzurkh Uul, and Songino Khairkhan. The city was settled in this place to be close to the most sacred summit, the Bogd summit.
Ulan Bator today
Today about 1,3 million inhabitants live in Ulan Bator (45 % of the total population of Mongolia). Ulan Bator is a modern city that mixes Soviet architecture and new buildings. It’s the cultural, political, scientific, and economic centre of the country. About 55 % of the gross national product comes from 30.000 enterprises, among which 70 % belong to service sector, 29 % to manufacturing sector, and 1 % to agricultural sector.
We can also find some cultural places, like the national circus, the drama theatre, the academy of ballet and opera. To know the fauna, flora, history, traditions and customs of the Mongolian people, some rare and precious objects are exposed in several museums of the city, such as the National History Museum, the Natural History Museum or the Dinosaurs’ Museum.
We can easily visit the city centre by foot. The city is centralized around Genghis Khan Square (ex Sukhbaatar Square), where have been built a statue of the revolutionary hero Sukhbaatar and, in 2006, a colossal statue of Genghis Khan.
The city is divided between nine districts, each of one composed of many sub-districts. Mongolian people rarely use the occidental system of streets’ names and numbers, so looking for an address can turn out to be difficult.
History of the city
The history of Ulan Bator is closely linked to the Mongolian political life in the 17th century. Then, Mongolia was afraid of the booming Manchu dynasty, which was threatening to invade the Khalkha territories located in the North of the country.
In order to continue the Mongolian centralist policy, Tusheet Khan Gombodorj, the most influential khan among the three Khalkha khans, made his son Zanabazar the religious leader of Mongolia, in order to propagate the Buddhist religion in the country. In 1639, the Khans assembly and the noyods (lords) proclaimed Zanabazar head of State. The Khalkhs khans prepared Zanabazar’s headquarters and gave him their own subjects as disciples and novices. These headquarters were located on the place of the future Örgöö, which later will become Ulan Bator.
The construction work began in 1654 and finished in 1680. The city had several names during its history. Its first name was Ikh Khuree, “the big camp”, then Örgöö, from the Mongolian word örgöö meaning “the palace”. Mongolia was under Manchu domination during the 18th and 19th centuries. Then, 50.000 inhabitants lived in this important administrative, religious and commercial centre.
The Manchu domination came to an end in 1911. This hugely put a brake on the development of the city that changed its name into Nislel Khuree and became the capital of the country by Khans’ law. This was decided because the government and the palace of the Bogd Khan, the new political leader, were set in this city.
In 1923, after the popular revolution and in honour of its hero Sukhbaatar, the city changed its name into Ulaanbaatar (Ulan Bator in English), “the red hero”.