Mongolian Culture

Religion in Mongolia

Religion in Mongolia

Religion in Mongolia

Historically, Mongolian Shamanism and Buddhism have been the two dominant religions in Mongolia with most indigenous Mongols adhering to these religions. In the 13th century, Mongol Empire’s rule in the region, foreign invasions by the empire exposed the Mongols to Islam and Christianity. However, none of these religions managed to have a significant impact on the religious scene in the region.

Religious practices in Mongolia were greatly suppressed during the socialist period in the country between 1924 and 1992. Later, however, with the emergence of a parliamentary republic in the 1990’s, religious practices were revived in Mongolia.

Religious Beliefs of Mongolia

The latest survey was conducted from 2015 to 2017 by the Philosophy department of Mongolian Academy of Science. According to the census, the majority religion was Buddhism with 53% of the total population of Mongolia.
We have included the minority religious groups by percentage:

RankReligionPercentage of Population
1Buddhism53%
2Non-religious38.6%
3Islam3%
4Mongolian Shamanism2.9%
5Christianity2.1%

Mongolian Buddhism

The Buddhism became popular in the country when the Mongolian emperors of the Yuan dynasty converted to this religion in the 12th and 13th centuries. After the fall of this dynasty, Buddhism lost its importance in the region till it was revived once more in the 16th and 17th centuries.
From the 16th century, the Buddhism practiced in Mongolia is heavily influenced by Tibetan Buddhism.
In the early 20th century, Mongolia had over 115 thousand monks all over the country and practiced Buddhism in over 750 monasteries and temples. Over time manufacturers and traders started settling around these religious buildings.
Buddhist teachings became part of people’s lives throughout Mongolia. Along with religion, philosophy, astrology, medication, culture, linguistics, printing and science greatly developed. However, political repression started in 1937 and over 17 thousand monks were arrested. These monks were penalized depending on their status. High ranking wealthy monks were executed and others were prisoned for 10 years. Monks under 20 years old were forced to denounce their religious belief and become regular citizens. Over 700 monasteries were destroyed and any religious sutras, works, arts were destroyed along with them. When Mongolia became democratic country in 1990, Buddhist religion was restored and people became free to practice any religion.

Mongolian Shamanism

The Mongolian Shamanism refers to the indigenous folk religion of the people of Mongolia. It is the oldest religion practiced in the country. The polytheistic religion is associated with the worship of a number of gods or tengri with one of them, the supreme deity, reigning above all others. Genghis Khan is highly revered by the followers of this religion who worship him as one of the embodiments of the supreme God. The Mausoleum of Genghis Khan serves as an important center of worship for believers of Mongolian Shamanism. Over the years, the religion has mingled with Buddhism to result in Yellow shamanism. The type of shamanism not influenced by Buddhism is known as black shamanism.

Other Religions in Mongolia

Christianity became popular in the country quite late in its long history. It was only after the end of the Communist rule in Mongolia in 1990 that the number of Christians in the country started growing.
The majority of Christians are Protestant; other Christian groups include The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Roman Catholic Church, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and the Russian Orthodox Church. Other religious groups such as the Baha’i Faith and the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification (Unification Church) also have a presence.
Muslims in Mongolia are mainly ethnic Kazakhs. The Kazakh community, located primarily in the Western Mongolia. The Mongolian Muslim Association states there are approximately 130,000 Kazakh Muslims.
Other religions have a small presence in Mongolia.