Country Listing

Mongolia Table of Contents


Religious Survivals

Buddhism survives among the elderly, who pray and attend services at the Gandan Monastery; in the speech of the people, which is rich in Buddhist expressions and proverbs; and in the common practice of including statues or images of the Buddha on families' special shelves with photographs of relatives and other domestic memorabilia. Mongolian Buddhism, which restricted full participation in the ritual to monks and kept Tibetan as the language of ritual and sacred texts, was more vulnerable to persecution than a religion more widely dispersed among the populace would have been. Studies done among the Buryat Mongols of Siberia by Soviet ethnographers in the 1960s and the 1970s found that elimination of the complex and conceptually sophisticated culture of Tibetan Buddhism had led to a growth of the decentralized and flexible folk practice of shamanism. Similar survival or adaptation of folk religion in Mongolia would be possible, although Mongolians have published no comparable studies of religion at the local level. Approximately 4 percent of Mongolians, primarily those living in the southwest, are Muslims, as are many of their kin across the border in China. Freedom of religion is guaranteed by the 1960 Constitution.

Data as of June 1989