The ACMS has developed several study tour options to help university faculty, students and interested persons gain insight into this dynamic region. The establishment of the Mongol Empire is one of the most important events in world history, representing the zenith of Central Asian cultural dominance on the Eurasian continent. Mongolia has been the location of numerous Turkic and Mongolic empires, as well as a strategic buffer zone between empires, including the modern states of Russia and China. It is the only former Soviet-bloc state in Asia to have successfully developed a functioning democratic political system and market economy. In spite of its historical and geopolitical importance, the role of Mongolia both historically and in the present day is often understated and dismissed out of hand. The predominant and persistent view of the Mongolians remains one of barbaric conquerors, which unfortunately stems in part from a lack of opportunities for people to learn firsthand about Mongolia from Mongolian Studies researchers and original sources. Providing educators the opportunity to learn about Mongolia firsthand can contribute to a more nuanced portrayal of Mongolia’s role in history, as well as a greater understanding of the dynamics of historical and contemporary Asian geopolitics and an appreciation of Asian cultures generally.
In Mongolia, visitors will find a society in transition. Over half the population of 2.5 million people still live in traditional Mongolian tents (yurts), herding goats, sheep, camels, yaks and horses. Mongolia contains the largest common property grazing land in the world, with a sparse population and almost no fences. The landscape includes the Gobi desert in the south, rich grassland steppes in the center, and forested taiga areas in the north.
Mongolia contains the largest populations of many animals in Asia, including snow leopards, cranes, wild horses, vast herds of gazelle and others. Mongolia is famous for its paleontological sites, including the Flaming Cliffs where Roy Chapman Andrews first found dinosaur eggs, and has numerous archeological sites from the civilizations that have ruled the area. Economically and politically Mongolia is the most open country in the region, and China’s appetite for resources is driving a boom in mining and resource development in the country, led by US, Canadian and other international companies. The boom has led to problems with income inequality, as well as threats to the environment.
A visit to Mongolia can easily be combined with a visit to China or eastern Russia. Beijing was established as the capital of China by the Mongols in the Yuan Dynasty, and the legacy of the Mongol city can still be seen in the oldest sections of central Beijing and several museums. The Great Wall was built to prevent Mongol incursions. These sites can be used to introduce groups to the role the Mongols played in history, and the interactions between the people of the grassland steppes north of Beijing, and the agricultural societies to the south. Groups can then travel by train or plane to Hohhot, Inner Mongolia, to learn more about Mongol ethnic minority within China, or directly from Beijing to Ulaanbaatar, the Mongolian capital. The Trans-Mongolian Railway travels from Beijing to Moscow through Mongolia. Areas of Siberia close to Mongolia include Lake Baikal, the world’s largest freshwater lake, Irkutsk, Tuva, and Buryatia. All are accessible by rail or air.
Sample Seminar Topics
The following are a selection of sample seminar topics. Itineraries can be arranged to fit the needs of specialists focused on one topic, or a series of lectures on different topics for groups that want a general overview of the country. General lectures can be supplemented with one-on-one meetings to allow individual scholars to pursue topics of interest. The ACMS works with high quality local travel agencies and service providers for travel and accommodation arrangements.