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1. Preliminary Notes

1.1 About this FAQ

Archive-name: mongol-faq Version: 7.00

Copyright: Oliver Corff 1994..2000 Berlin, Ulaanbaatar, Beijing, Macau

Anyone wishing to contribute to or improve this document should not hesitate to send the edited part(s) to me, i.e. Oliver Corff, or

Translations into other languages are welcome and appreciated. The author kindly requests to receive a proof copy prior to publishing the translated version in order to make sure that the translated version is based on the most recent original.

Thanks to Christopher Kaplonski, Peter Crandall, Mingan Choct, Ariunaa, Peter Lofting, Ken Beesley, Wolfgang Lipp, Noreen Palazzo, Solongowa Borzigin, Purevdorj, Darima Socktoyeva, Prof. Dr. Yondon (+), Mykel Board, Dominik Troger, David Methuen, Peter G. Campbell, Katherine Petrie, Laurent Amsaleg, E. Bulag, Graham Shields, Jakub Paluszak, Mark Chopping, Kent Madin and all others who have contributed by submitting facts, corrections or suggestions on what to include. Contributions of all kind are so numerous that the FAQ compiler lost track of who contributed what a long time ago.

Technical Note: This text is now maintained on the basis of an sgml master in Latin1 encoding. The master document is converted into plain text form (for feeding into the newsgroups) and HTML form (for presentation in the WWW).

If you want to redistribute this FAQ (which you are free and welcome to do as long as the document is not modified and the copyright and author lines remain intact) please contact the FAQ source if you require the FAQ in sgml format.

Without contacting the author, you are only entitled to store, mirror and reproduce the text version as found in the newsgroups or the HTML version found at the official Mongolia FAQ URL. Incorporation of this FAQ in commercial distributions, no matter which media (CD-ROM, books, etc.) requires written permission by the FAQ compiler.

1.2 How is this text compiled?

Back in 1994, the maintainer of this FAQ thought it would be nice to have a FAQ on Mongolia. He collected some of the original questions (mainly questions like: how to obtain visa, where to find software, etc.), circulated the idea in the then newly founded Mongolia-related newsgroup soc.culture.mongolian and within a few days a number of contributors and ideas came together to form the first Mongolia FAQ. Since then, this text saw a considerable increase in detail and range of questions.

People still tend to ask the same questions, even this one: How was this text compiled? Well, the answer is right here. As far as possible, the FAQ maintainer tries to use first-hand experience and information to answer questions. Over the years, the maintainer visited Mongolia and Southern (Inner) Mongolia in various functions. The maintainer hopes to be able to share his, not always objective view, with the readers. Sometimes, if not frequently, the information is provided by readers of the before-mentioned newsgroup or readers of this FAQ. The list of contributors speaks! You are always welcome to share your ideas, suggestions, criticism and updated information with the maintainer since this offers the best chance for improving this text. Join the ranks!

Information is updated in two ways: if major changes become necessary, the document is changed immediately and redistributed as soon as possible, usually within a few days. Other questions of not such an urgent nature take more time to make it into this document, and then the document receives its updates at greater intervalls, but also at the benefit of greater chunks.

1.3 How can I get a copy of this Frequently Asked Questions list?

You are holding a copy of this document in your working memory! Save it now. A copy of this document is always kept in Infosystem Mongolei (see below) but here again is its URL:

1.4 Can I receive regular updates of this document?

Yes and no. Of course you are entitled to receive updates, and you can send a mail to requesting an updated version, but due to the nature of how the FAQ is generated, it cannot be regular. Whenever a new version is out, it will be announced in soc.culture.mongolian and the mailing list.

1.5 I see all these irritating spelling variants in Mongolian Names. Which one is right?

Given the name of the Capital of Mongolia, one can find it written in several forms: Ulan Bator, Ulaan Baatar, Ulaanbaatar and even Ulaganbagatur (where the ``g'' sometimes is --- strangely enough! --- spelled by a Greek gamma).. Which one, then, is the really correct form?

As with every non-Latin script, there is a problem of rendering this script into Latin which involves a choice between two methods: transliteration and transcription. The first method tries to reproduce the original writing while the second method tries to indicate its pronounciation. The process is further complicated if another language and/or script is inserted between the original and the target. Hence, Ulaanbaatar is the transliteration of the name in Mongolian (using the Cyrillic alphabet), Ulan Bator is a spelling derived from the Russian transcription of the name (though Russians and Mongolians use the same writing system, the Russians preferred to make a transcription of the Mongolian name rather than accepting it unmodified into Russian), Ulaan Baatar is the transliterated spelling of the Mongolian words ``Red Hero'' (the literal meaning of the name), and Ulaganbagatur finally is an approach to transliterate the name from the Classical Mongolian writing.

The whole methodological problem is explained in detail in the section on Mongolian and computers towards the very end of this FAQ.

Due to the difficulties of rendering names etc. for postal, news and other services some more or less ``official'' ways of spelling exist, in addition to several transliterations and common spellings which are not correct in the strict sense but enjoy a broad acceptance.

1.6 Is there a key to the romanization used here?

The FAQ maintainer uses the MLS system for romanizing Mongolian. The MLS system offers round-trip compatibility (Cyrillic texts can be transliterated, the romanized version can be retransliterated and will be identical with the Cyrillic original). Software for MS-DOS and UNIX based computers is available at no charge.

The basic principles underlying MLS are simple: if ever possible, use one Latin character for one Cyrillic letter, and if not possible, use an unambiguous digraph. Vowels are classified as front (female) or back (male); front vowels are all marked with diacritics. It is a fact that Mongolian *has* seven basic vowels, and it is not possible to avoid these in writing.

Furthermore, if ever possible, one transliteration symbol should be used for Cyrillic *and* Classical Mongolian letters of the same linguistic origin.

The following simple table tries to avoid graphics and foreign character sets but uses conventional names and positions to identify Cyrillic letters.

Name Romanization Notes
1 A A/a
2 Be B/b
3 Ve W/w (1)
4 Ge G/g
5 De D/d
6 Ye E/e
7 Yo Yo/ë or yo (2)
8 Je J/j
9 Ze Z/z
10 Ih I/i
11 Xagas I (I kratkoye)I or Ï/ï(3)
12 Ka K/k
13 eL L/l
14 eM M/m
15 eN N/n
16 O Ö/o
17 Front (barred) OÖ/ö
18 Pe P/p
19 eR R/r
20 eS S/s
21 Te T/t
22 U U/u
23 Front (Straight) UÜ/ü
24 Fe F/f
25 Xa X/x (4)
26 Ce C/c
27 Che Q/q
28 Sha Sh/sh
29 Shcha Qh/qh (5)
30 Xatuu Temdeg (Hard Sign)`(6)
31 61-Y Y/y (7)
32 Zöölön Temdeg (Soft Sign)'(6)
33 E (not Ye)Ä/ä
34 Yu Yu/yu (8)
35 Ya Ya/ya


  1. W was chosen over v because v serves a slightly different purpose in the transliteration of Classical Mongolian. And, there is no w, only b, in Classical Mongolian.
  2. Small yo can be written as e+diaeresis (#137 in the good old IBM cp437 codepage) or as yo. Pick what you like. Actually, for ISO 8859-1 users, there is also a capitalized Ë available. (Not so for IBM cp437 users). The converter software is lenient and accepts both; so should humans.
  3. Xagas i (lit. ``half i'') can be entered as #139 by IBM cp437 users; a capitalized version of this letter is available for ISO 8859-1 users only.
  4. X may look strange at first glance but is optically close to its Cyrillic partner; H could not be used because it is reserved for Buriad (e.g.: hain baina uu) where it coexists with it/x/.
  5. Yes, Qh for Shch is odd. However, this letter never occurs in genuinely Mongolian words, so it should not be too insulting to the eye. And, unlike shch, it is round- trip compatible!
  6. Both hard and soft signs are expressed by simple accents, the transliteration does not make a difference between uppercase and lowercase letters. It is possible to judge by context.
  7. Why ``61-...''? In Mongolian called jaran-nigän, lit. ``sixty-one'', reproduces the hand-written image if this letter.
  8. Yu and yu can also be written as and so as to avoid things like *yuülüür. yüülüür looks nicer!

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