City on the Steppes

Transmission date: December 1975




Photo by Lightscape on Unsplash

The Mongolian Republic is the size of the whole of western Europe yet the population is only 3.17 million. The climate of the country, situated on average more than 4000ft above sea level, is often inhospitable. Northern regions are mountainous and forested while the south is dominated by the Gobi desert. Nomadic herding of horses, yaks, cattle and sheep forms the basis of Mongolian economy though this is determined by the key to contemporary Mongolian life—the collective or negdel, developed as an integral part of the socialist state established in the early 1920s.

Between 1950 and 1970 there was a radical change in the Mongolian style of housing. Until that time most Mongols , lived in highly mobile felt tents called yurts. These gave way to permanent houses and apartment blocks. The vital element of their nomadic life-style was thus removed. Nowadays more than half the working population is in non-pastoral employment and the drift from the country is increasing daily.

The first excerpt is a Buddhist chant. Much secular music is made at festivals and other collective gatherings where people congregate to hear familiar songs and instruments played in almost western-style concerts. The most popular instrument is the morinhur (horse fiddle) heard in the final song.

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