Recommended Reading on Mongolia

A Brief History of Mongolia
How Lake Hovsgol Came To Be Named Map of Lake Hovsgol
Map of Lake Hovsgol
Recommended Reading Mongolian
On-line Resources
"Hard Ride in Mongolia" - National Geographic Oct. 2003 - this excellent article on nomads in the Hovsgol area is well worth while tracking down - the photos are stunning!

A Brief History of Mongolia

In the 13th century, the Mongol Empire founded by Ghengis Khan stretched from Korea, China, India and Vietnam to the Middle East and into the heart of Central Europe. Moscow and Budapest were among the conquered cities. Beijing was founded by Genghis Khan'grandson. To this day it was the largest Empire ever built.

The extreme violence and calculated tactics by which this was achieved are an intriguing contrast to the friendly and nomadic Mongolia of today. The Mongolians remain a fiercely proud and independent people who have effectively managed to preserve their sovereignty and cultural identity despite being enveloped by two huge neighbors, Russia and China. Mongolia experienced an extended period of control by China from the 15th century to the 1910s and most recently with satellisation by Soviet rule. Mongolia achieved true independence in 1993 with the coming to power of the Democratic Coalition that won the elections over the old Communist Party. Mongolia is now a multiparty democracy showing an astonishing mix of free press, private ownership and old traditions.

This landlocked country is three times the size of France and has an average elevation of 1,500 meters (5,000 feet). It supports a population of 2.5 million, half of which lives in urban areas, with the rest following a nomadic lifestyle that has not changed since the time of the Great Khans. With the exception of mineral resources (mainly copper, uranium, gold and oil), the economy is based on agriculture and some natural textile activities (cashmere, leather).

The Mongolians follow the Tibetan Buddhist faith and age-old Shamanistic beliefs. They are amazingly generous and have a deep appreciation for the natural environment that has traditionally supported their livestock-based economy.

Mongolia today is fast becoming one of the world's premier adventure and eco-tourism destination - wild, immense, beautiful and pristinely clean. Much of the country is still relatively unknown and unexplored except by the sparse population of friendly steppe and mountain nomads.

How Lake Hovsgol Came To Be Named

According to traditional oral history recounted in the Lake Hovsgol region:
"Many years ago, what is now known as Lake Hovsgol was a large lake surrounded by beautiful mountains and lush forests and fields full of flowers. The people who lived there thought it was the best place in the whole world. One bad day, a huge one-eyed ogre came to the lake. He did not like water, he did not like flowers, and he did not like people. He ate all the people and animals and drank all the water from the lake.
The ogre left, but without water, everything died and there wasn't anything left even to make shadows. Then one day and old woman came to the area. She had only her shadow and her horse for a friend. As she traveled around looking for water and a place to live, she stumbled across a small child. A very small boy who was no bigger than a thumb. The old lady and child decided to become a family and together they traveled looking for water and a home.

For three days and three nights they traveled without resting. They traveled over an ocean of sand until they spied a big, angular rock. The old lady lifted the rock and a little water trickled into the sand. The old lady and the boy decided to make their home near the water. She dug some of the sand away from under the rock to make a well and she was always careful to replace the rock, so the water would not escape.
The child grew amazingly fast and very soon became a normal sized boy. There wasn't much to do and he was a little bored so he sang songs every day. Once while he was singing, a beautiful girl appeared and then suddenly vanished. The boy wished he could find this girl and hoped that she would come. Finally, after three years had passed, the girl appeared again and this time she stayed with the old lady and the boy.
They were a happy family until one day they forgot to cover the well with the rock and water poured out causing a flood. This flood caused another ogre to arrive (ogres hate water) and he drank up all the water. The boy, who was very strong, killed the ogre and cut off a mountaintop to cover him up. The water still poured from the well, so the old lady dove down under the water and put the rock back over the well. Unfortunately, this took all her strength and she couldn't make it back to the shore and she drowned. The lake stopped getting bigger thanks to the old lady. The boy and the girl were very sad and they started to call the lake "Mother" in honor of the old lady. Today in Lake Hovsgol, you can still see the mountain top which covers the ogre as it is the biggest island in the lake. The smaller island is the rock that covers the well. So, Lake Hovsgol is the Mother Lake."

Hovsgol National Park Map

Source: Lake Hovsgol National Park
A Visitor's Guide (Discovery Initiatives)

Recommended Reading

Lake Hovsgol National Park - A Visitor's Guide
We highly recommend this excellent booklet which provides a very comprehensive introduction to Hovsgol National Park and includes background information on the lake, local culture and color plates of local flora and fauna. The guide is available for £7.50 for UK postage and US$12.00 for international postage. UK account holders can make checks payable to Discovery Initiatives Ltd. Please contact:
Julian Matthews
Discovery Initiatives
21 The Bakehouse
119 Altenburg Gardens, London, SW11 1JQ (insert Visitor Guide image)
United Kingdom
Tel +44 20 7978 6341
Fax +44 171 738 1893
The guide can also be purchased in Mongolia.

Lonely Planet Travel Survival Kit: Mongolia
Second edition, June 1997.
Click here for the Lonely Planet Guidebook "upgrade" for Mongolia and here for the Lonely Planet Web Site Mongolia Page.

Lonely Planet Mongolian Phrasebook
Click here for the Lonely Planet Web Site Mongolia Page.

Mongolia in Transition. Old Patterns, New Challenges
Ole Brunn and Ole Odgaard - collection of essays about social change in Mongolia since 1991

Mongolian Folktales
Hilary Roe Metternich - provides great insight into Mongolian culture

The Modern History of Mongolia
C.R. Bawden - academic history of Mongolia since 1910s

Men and Gods in Mongolia
Henning Haslund - fascinating account of a 1935 trip through Mongolia (now back in print)

The Last Disco in Outer Mongolia
Nick Middleton - great account of visits to Mongolia in the late 1980s and early 1990s
Very well made documentary on life and crafts of Mongolia.

Mongolian On-line Resources

Click here to access our links page.

Photos 1 and 4 in "Hovsgol National Park Visitors Guide", Photos 2 and by Armin Schirmaier