The population of Mongolia (1997 estimate) is 2,538,211, 75 percent
of whom are Khalkha Mongols. Other groups are Buryat Mongols and
Kazaks. Many people speak Mongolian, an Altaic language, although
Russian was formerly taught in the schools.
The Mongolian language is one of the Altaic languages. Khalkha Mongolian
is the official language. Kazak is spoken by 5% of the population.
There are also many Mongolian dialects.
The traditional faith in Mongolia is Lamaist Buddhism, which the Communist
government began suppressing in 1929. In 1992 the country adopted
a democratic constitution that established the separation of church
and state. Some monasteries have since reopened, and Buddhists are
again openly practicing their faith. As a result of the years of government
suppression of religion, however, many Mongolians are now thought
to be nonreligious or atheistic.