Uliastai is the capital of the province of Zavkhan, in the Western part of Mongolia. It’s located 1115 kilometres (692,83 miles) from Ulan Bator, in a valley surrounded by mountains where the Chigestei River and the Bogd River meet. In 2010, Uliastai was the 10th most inhabited city of the country with 24.276 inhabitants, but its population has highly declined. Today it has only 16.000 inhabitants and it’s the 16th city of the country.
With Khovd, Uliastai is one of the oldest cities of Mongolia. It has been an important commercial centre in Central Asia for a long time. Until the 20th century, many caravans usually stopped there, because the city was connected to Urga (today Oulan Bator) at East, to Khovd at West, and to other cities like Barkol or Hohhot at South (in China) by many caravan roads.
The Manchus created the city as a military garrison in 1733, while the Qing ruled over Mongolia. At that time, Uliastai was the capital of “outer Mongolia”, because the general governor Qing Amban had set up its administration in Uliastai in order to keep watch on Mongolian Khalkhs at East and on Mongolian Oirads at West. At its height, the fortress housed 3500 soldiers and was surrounded by Chinese merchants’ camps.
During the Popular Revolution of 1911, the military governor of Uliastai, with his personnel and the military guardsmen, ran away from Uliastai’s fortress under the protection of Cossack troops.
Some traces of the Manchu reign can still be seen at Uliastai, notably the ruins of the fortress of the governor that are located on the banks of the Bogd River, not far from the city centre. Some shackles and torture devices used by the Manchus are shown at the National History Museum of Ulan Bator.