How the rural Ulaanbaatar was affected by urbanization

The expansion of urbanization and urban migration in Ulaanbaatar undoubtedly created problems in the city center and the Ger district. However, the effect to the rural areas of Mongolia shall not be neglected when there is a big shift of population moving away from their original residency. One of the most immediate cause of this mass migration is the fall of the Mongolian People’s Revolutionary Party (MPRP) and the Soviet Union. This incident turned the Mongolian society from socialism to market economy, and created social problems like inflation, unstable food supply, hence caused different difficulties to nomads maintaining their living standard, especially if they live in the rural region (Sneath, 2006).

In the past, peripheral area surrounding Ulaanbaatar was occupied by nomads living a collective pastoral lifestyle. Such that communities, or negdels, enjoy the economies of scale during production and livestock rearing. Under the Soviet’s support and financial aid, nomads were able to produce with machinery and practice labour division, which is favourable in making decent income through trading. However, after the changes of political environment, equipment and land were privatized and production unit were rearranged back to individual households (Sneath, 2006). Not only do the nomads loss the benefit of large-scale production, they also became weaker in bargaining on imports and exports deals. Without the stability in trade, maintaining the standard of living became difficult and poverty occur, further created social problems like the lower literacy rate due to incapability of providing education etc.

As mentioned, decollectivization occurred in the Mongolian rural society, such that individual households had less capacity in dissolving and recovering from unexpected loss of animals or crops (Elbewgdorj, 2006). As a result, some nomads will choose to accumulate livestock for food, instead of using livestock trading as investment or exploring more economic potentials. Although the number of national herd increased by over 20% (Mongolia, 2003), the efficiency of pastoral rearing is lowered, referencing to the decreased survival rate of newborn and the count of animals consumed and traded. The new mode of living also changed the residential pattern since nomads could not afford further risks. Therefore, some chose to become sedentary pastoral farmers, which led to questionable effects to the pastureland ecosystem and regeneration rate of grassland.

In the Soviet era of Mongolia, the country received plenty of support from the Soviet Union, such that infrastructure and energy supply was heavily dependent on aids and imports. After the change in economic mode, fuel supply was cut down and became more expensive and unaffordable to the rural residents (Diener & Hagen, 2013). As a result, public transport services was also cut down, which brought inconvenience to people, especially in urgent circumstances like trade goods transportation and animals in need of immediate medical treatment. The incompatible networking system hence made nomads’ lives harder and cause casualties even more severe.




Diener, A. C., & Hagen, J. (2013). City of felt and concrete: Negotiating cultural hybridity in Mongolia’s capital of Ulaanbaatar. Nationalities Papers, 41(4), 622-650.

Elbewgdorj, T. (2006). Zud Natural Disaster, Prevention and Recovery. Speech.

Mongolia, N. S. (2003). Mongolian Statistical Yearbook 2002. Ulaanbaatar.

Sneath, D. (2006). The Rural and the Urban in Pastoral Mongolia. In O. Brunn, & N. Li, Mongols From Country to City (pp. 140-161). Copenhagen: NIAS Press.

2 Comments on “How the rural Ulaanbaatar was affected by urbanization

  1. Very interesting read, especially with the difference of lifestyle that us metropolitans are used to experiencing in contrast to the rural, farming lifestyle of those in Mongolia.

    However, I think the titular statement is slightly misleading – there is little mention of how ‘urbanization’ affects the nomads, and if I am to understand correctly, the deciding factor in the change in the lifestyle of those people hinges more on the influence of the Soviet Union rather than urbanization of the community.

  2. Agree with johnny , interesting reading with misleading title.

    However , as I know , despite of the city centre, there are lots of khasha villages , it would be good to have a master plan showing all the villages location and what kind of program are they suppose to do before and after 2006 .

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