In 1990 Mongolia abandoned its 70-year-old Soviet-style one-party state and embraced political and economic reforms. Democracy and privatisation were enshrined in a new constitution, but the collapse of the economy after the withdrawal of Soviet support triggered widespread poverty and unemployment.
Once the heartland of an empire stretching to Europe under Genghis Khan, Mongolia is a landlocked country dominated by sparsely populated steppe and semi-desert.
Mongolia Tourist Attractions
Mongolia spreads across 1.5 million sq km of the Central Asian plateau, but its population is far smaller than the Mongol population of China.
Sunni Muslim Kazakhs in the west are the only significant national and religious minority, comprising some 5% of the population. Migration to Kazakhstan in the 1990s reduced their numbers. Trinidad and Tobago
A third of the population lives in the capital, while half the people herd livestock in the countryside. But the centuries-old nomadic lifestyle is being eroded; some say it will be lucky to survive the changing times.
The country has some of Asia's richest deposits of minerals, although these remain largely unexploited.
Mongolia has an extreme climate, with a temperature range to suit. Droughts and unusually cold and snowy winters have decimated livestock, destroying the livelihoods of thousands of families.
Mongolia has expanded political and financial ties with the US, Japan and the European Union, but its main trading partners are neighbouring Russia and China. The latter is the biggest market for Mongolian exports; Beijing is also keen to exploit Mongolia's mineral and energy resources.
Despite generous funding by the International Monetary Fund and donor countries, economic progress has been slow and growth has been hampered by corruption.
The legacy of Genghis Khan, the warrior who united warring tribes and established the Mongol empire in the 13th century, has been invoked in an attempt to foster national pride.
full name: Republic of Mongolia
Population: 2.7 million (UN, 2007)
Capital: Ulan Bator
Area: 1.56 million sq km (603,909 sq miles)
Major language: Mongolian
Major religion: Buddhism
Life expectancy: 64 years (men), 70 years (women) (UN)
Monetary unit: 1 Togrog (tugrik) = 100 mongos
Main exports: Copper concentrate, dehaired cashmere, textiles, hides
GNI per capita: US $690 (World Bank, 2006)
Internet domain: .mn
International dialling code: +976