Wedged between Russia, China and a stone’s throw from Kazakhstan, Mongolia’s westernmost province of Bayan-Olgii seems to be influenced more by life in the Central Asian plains than the vast Mongolian Steppe that expands to the east.
The most obvious influence is seen in the demographics with around 90% of the province’s population being of direct Kazakh decent. This is mainly as a result of a decision made in 1931 to divide what was known as Chandmandi province into three parts, creating Bayan-Olgii and declaring it a homeland for the ethnic Kazakhs living in the region.
The geography of the province and the severe lack of infrastructure in Mongolia has also played a role in preserving the Kazakh heritage. Being over 1,600 km — and a timezone — away from the capital, it is quicker to travel and trade with the surrounding countries than to take the three day, non-stop roadless journey to the Mongolian capital of Ulaanbaatar. …