The country has an area of 604,247 square miles and a population of 2.7 million. Buddhism is closely linked with the country's cultural traditions. When the Government ended bans on all religious practices in 1990, Buddhist activity increased. Local scholars claim that more than 90 percent of citizens subscribe to some form of Buddhism, although practice varies widely. Lamaist Buddhism of the Tibetan variety is the traditional and dominant religion.
Ethnic Kazakhs, most of whom are Muslim, are the largest ethnic minority. They constitute approximately 5 percent of the population nationwide and 80 percent of the population of the western province of Bayan-Olgiy. The Mongolian Muslim Association estimates that there are 135,000 Kazakh Muslims, fewer than last year due to migration to Kazakhstan. Muslims operate approximately 40 mosques and seven Islamic student centers, and there are an estimated 3,000 students of Islam. An Islamic cultural center is under construction in the capital of Ulaanbaatar. The mosques and Islamic centers receive financial assistance from religious organizations in Kazakhstan, Turkey, and the Gulf States.
There is a small but growing number of Christians. Church officials estimate more than 4 percent of the population practices Christianity, of which an estimated 90 percent are Protestant and 9 percent are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons). Roman Catholics and members of the Russian Orthodox Church together account for the remaining 1 percent. Some citizens practice shamanism, often in tandem with another religion, but there are no reliable statistics on their number.
Throughout the country, there were 457 registered places of worship, 239 of which were Buddhist, 161 Christian, 44 Muslim, and five each were Baha'i and shamanistic. During the reporting period, the Ministry of Justice and Home Affairs (MJHA) registered 18 churches, 20 mosques, and three shaman temples. Evangelical Christians estimated there were 250 unregistered evangelical churches throughout the country.