Human Geography


The present population of Bayan Ölgiy aimag is approximately 92,000. The vast majority (89%) is Kazakh, with the remaining population made up of Tuvans, Uriankhai, Dövöd , Khalka, and Khoshuud. Kazakh is the language most frequently encountered throughout the aimag while Mongolian or one of the other languages is secondary.

Economic Life

The majority of Bayan Ölgiy's possessive are herders, dependent on sheep and goats, cattle and yak, horses and camels. In the present as in the past, families move in groups about four times a year in order to seek fresh pasture for their animals. In general, the trajectories followed in these moves accord with traditions established over many decades. An increasing number of herders spend winters within the sum centers or in Olgiy and rely on young members of the family to stay with the animals in their winter pastures. Herders depend on traders for a great variety of goods from the sum centers and from Olgiy. Over the last decade, many herders have turned to trucks and jeeps for transport; but with the increasing world-wide energy crisis, one now sees a reverse trend: camels used again for carrying loads and horses for basic transportation. Another aspect of the changing economic life in Bayan Ölgiy, as throughout Mongolia, is the significant desertification attendant on global climate change. Where this trend, with its underlying loss of streams and browning of pastures, leads Mongolia and the herders of Bayan Ölgiy is still unknown; but its potential threat to a herding economy is of considerable concern to all involved, those in the countryside and those in the towns.


Kazakhs are nominally Muslim, while the other groups follow traditions of Lamaistic Buddhism, shamanism, or a combination of the two. Although one sees mosques and Buddhist shrines within the aimag’s population centers or in the countryside, religion is a quiet part of the herders’lives. The ovoo seen ubiquitously on ridges and at passes reflect persistent beliefs in indwelling nature spirits; these structures are regularly re-consecrated by individuals passing by.