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Mongolia (Mongolian: Монгол улс, literally Mongol country/state) is a landlocked country in East and Central Asia. It is bordered by Russia to the north and China to the south, east and west. Although Mongolia does not share a border with Kazakhstan, its westernmost point is only 38 kilometres (24 mi) from Kazakhstan's eastern tip. Ulan Bator, the capital and largest city, is home to about 45% of the population. Mongolia's political system is a parliamentary republic.
The area of what is now Mongolia has been ruled by various nomadic empires, including the Xiongnu, the Xianbei, the Rouran, the Gökturks and others. The Mongol Empire was founded by Genghis Khan in 1206. After the collapse of the Yuan Dynasty, the Mongols returned to their earlier pattern of constant internal conflict and occasional raids on the Chinese borderlands. In the 16th and 17th centuries, Mongolia came under the influence of Tibetan Buddhism. At the end of the 17th century, all of Mongolia had been incorporated into the area ruled by the Qing Dynasty. During the collapse of the Qing Dynasty in 1911, Mongolia declared independence, but had to struggle until 1921 to firmly establish de facto independence from the Republic of China, and until 1945 to gain international recognition.
The country came under strong Russian and Soviet influence; in 1924, the Mongolian People's Republic was declared, and Mongolian politics began to follow the same patterns as the Soviet politics of the time. After the breakdown of communist regimes in Eastern Europe in late 1989, Mongolia saw its own Democratic Revolution in early 1990, which led to a multi-party system, a new constitution in 1992, and transition to a market economy.
At 1,564,116 square kilometres (603,909 sq mi), Mongolia is the 19th largest and the most sparsely populated independent country in the world, with a population of around 2.75 million people. It is also the world's second-largest landlocked country after Kazakhstan. The country contains very little arable land, as much of its area is covered by steppes, with mountains to the north and west and the Gobi Desert to the south. Approximately 30% of the population are nomadic or semi-nomadic. The predominant religion in Mongolia is Tibetan Buddhism, and the majority of the state's citizens are of Mongol ethnicity, though Kazakhs, Tuvans, and other minorities also live in the country, especially in the west. About 20% of the population live on less than US$1.25 per day. Mongolia joined the World Trade Organization in 1997 and seeks to expand its participation in regional economic and trade regimes.
In the chaos of the late 12th century, a chieftain named Temüjin finally succeeded in uniting the Mongol tribes (belonging to the Shiwei branch of the Mongolic Xianbei) between Manchuria and the Altai Mountains. In 1206, he took the title Genghis Khan, and waged a series of military campaigns - renowned for their brutality and ferocity - sweeping through much of Asia, and forming the Mongol Empire, the largest contiguous land empire in world history. Under his successors it stretched from present-day Poland in the west to Korea in the east, and from Siberia in the north to the Gulf of Oman and Vietnam in the south, covering some 33,000,000 square kilometres (13,000,000 sq mi), (22% of Earth's total land area) and having a population of over 100 million people. The emergence of Pax Mongolica also significantly eased trade and commerce across Asia during its height.
After Genghis Khan's death, the empire was subdivided into four kingdoms or Khanates which eventually became quasi-independent after Möngke's death in 1259. One of the khanates, the "Great Khaanate", consisting of the Mongol homeland and China, became the Yuan Dynasty under Kublai Khan, the grandson of Genghis Khan. He set up his capital in present day Beijing but after more than a century of power, the Yuan was replaced by the Ming Dynasty in 1368, with the Mongol court fleeing to the north. As the Ming armies pursued the Mongols into their homeland, they successfully sacked and destroyed the Mongol capital Karakorum among a few other cities, although some of these attempts were repelled by the Mongols under Ayushridar and his general Köke Temür.