Mongolia, Outer Mongolia the centre of the earth, designated by some because it is the furthest place on earth from any sea. Is still known for its ruthless leader Genghis Khan as the he known to the west, Chingiz to the Mongols, who united the nomadic tribes into one of the greatest fighting forces of the twelfth century.
Recently my interest turned to Mongolia and its far western province of Bayaan Ulgii where the majority of the population are Kazakh's.
Although the whole of the country had been dominated by the Soviet Union for decades the Soviets had failed in converting these proud nomadic people into collective farmers, as they had done in other satellite Central Asian countries.
Mainly because Mongolia is largely dust and rock and just a slightly better bet in agricultural prospects to the surface of the moon.
The Soviets to their credit, realised that the Mongolians had figured this long ago and their traditional nomadic herding was the only system that worked for the country. By leaving the nomads to their way of life saved most of their culture, and as for the Kazakh's in the west this meant their love of hunting with eagles.
I had dreamed of these people of Central Asia for most of my life. Early records pointed mostly towards Kyrgyzstan, but as the Soviets pulled out of these countries and they opened up to the west, it became clear that the Mongolian Kazakh's and their traditions had survived the best.
My first visit was in 2000, and one begins to agree with the “centre of the earth” designation, in time and difficulty that is required to get to the capital Ulaan Baatar, let alone the province of Bayaan Ulgii.